Thursday, November 29, 2012


I've mentioned this before, but I'm on a mission to become the healthiest HomeValley, and I'm blogging about it here.

I'll still be updating QITNM, but would love for you to visit me at

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mom Stays in the Picture.

We got family photos done last Saturday.  Here is a sneak peek:

Have you read this?  I think about this ALL THE TIME.  I think the title of the article has become my new mantra.  I find myself repeating it in my head any time I feel uncomfortable with my body.

The mom stays in the picture.

And looking through the shots of our family - at this point in time - well, we are genuinely happy, numbers on a scale be damned.  I look at my face and I don't see extra baby weight.

I see JOY.  Pure joy. 

Why would I ever not allow a camera to capture that?


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Two Months

I never wanted a girl.

That's not to say that I did not want a girl.  I just never pined for a daughter.  I figured I'd be a great mama of boys, and if I had a daughter, wonderful!  If not, I was okay with that.  I didn't need the frilly dresses and bows, the fairy princesses, and the teenage drama.  My life would still be complete.

I was utterly, completely mistaken.

Though I sensed that Ailie was a girl early on in my pregnancy, I never really expected her.  J and I were quite stunned when she arrived, all nearly ten pounds of her, a shock of black hair atop her head.  They put her on my chest and she didn't cry initially.  She just looked, and I held her, stammering through my tears: "I can't believe it's a girl!  I can't believe it."

Those first two nights in the hospital - with both of my children - were pure magic.  Despite all of the other less-than-delightful things I was going through as my body began the recovery process, I just stared at my babies and thanked God and smiled and cried and thought about how miraculous this whole process is.  Plus, since we elected not to find out the sex, I began to adjust to the idea of our new life and dynamic. 

Today, you are two months old, BG.  From the moment you were born, precious Ailie Eden, I think daily (and say almost as often to your father): I can't believe we are so lucky to have this girl.  I can't believe we have a boy and a girl.  I can't believe we get to experience both. 

Every day, you amaze me.  You were born smiling and now you smile constantly.  You coo and speak and hold your head up like a champion.  You melt hearts with your big grin, your perfectly round face, your huge blue eyes.  Those cheeks!  That fabulous hair!  You are a revelation, my love.

Barely eight weeks old, and you are already teaching me many things.  I am reconsidering the woman I want to be for you.  I want to be healthy, accomplished, involved, and self-confident.  I want your dad and I to be an example of a strong and loving marriage for you and your brother.  I want to right the missteps I may have made in the past, and show you that you can be anything you wish to be.  In the distant future, I want to be the inspiration for you to do whatever it is that makes you happy.  I want you to be limitless. 

I want you to know that you make your father and me so happy.  We love to snuggle your warm little body as you wiggle and snort and stretch.  You are lovely and perfect. 


Those delicious cheeks.

Falling asleep during tummy time, you fantastic angel.
Your ridiculous bedhead.

Relaxing with Dad.

Humoring Mom.

With your bro, who adores you these days.

Thanks for these last two months of newborn bliss, Ailie.  We can't wait to see what's next.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Hey Y'all!


Yes, I am still alive.  Doing quite well, just busy as all get out.  Seriously?  Two kids?  No JOKE.  Some of you may already be aware of this, but I even forget to pee most of the time.  I'm all, remember two hours ago, when I meant to run to the bathroom?  And then I remind myself that it is okay to put down the baby and pee; just do it lightning quick, lest the toddler chucks a car at her delicate head.

(Yep, that happened.  And I lost my mind and starting sobbing.  Things are better now, I swear.)

So I have approximately a second before one of these little miracles wakes up.  A few things:

  • H started preschool. PRESCHOOL. He goes twice a week for five hours a day. He has had three FANTASTIC days and one day where he bit a dude and pinched the other kids' bellies for no reason. That was a stressful day; but he's coming around. He has "goals" (Be gentle! No hitting!) and he now carries around papers ripped from his coloring books, scribbling on them and muttering about said goals. Last week, he asked his 20 month-old buddy: "Christopher? What are your goals?" My heart could explode with love for him.

This shot was taken shortly before he tried to throw his sister down the front steps. 

He perked up though.
  • He knows more about pop music than any other two year-old on this planet.  Seriously, somebody get this kid on Ellen.  He is a man obsessed: each time a new song plays on the radio or the iPhone, he demands: "Who sings dis song?"  And once told, he repeats to himself, "Edward Sharpe sings dis song."  And then he never forgets that.  Ever.  To date, he can correctly identify Pink, Rihanna, Neo, Edward Sharpe, The Lumineers, Johnny Cash, "5 Maroon", Taylor Swift, "Jepsen" (for Carly Rae Jepsen), Jason Mraz, Gavin DeGraw, and likely some I'm forgetting.  My boy is wicked smart. 
  • Ailie Eden is a dream.  She is so expressive and smiley and lovely, despite the fact that, this weekend, she started balding and developed an awful case of baby acne.  So despite looking like a middle-aged man/pubescent teenager at present, she is the most gorgeous lady that was every birthed.  Naturally.  She is also not quite fitting into big bro's cloth diapers (which are essentially destroyed, despite my best intentions) and so she poops and pees on me regularly.  It's still wonderful. 
  • I've been cheating on you guys, a bit.  Check out my new venture, , which is a fitness/lifestyle type thingie.  I don't know exactly where I am headed with it yet, and the look of the site is also under major construction.  But I feel compelled to write about health and wellness and exercise and finances and happiness and pop music, so I thought I better start a new blog in that vein.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This is Your Life Now.

Hey! I had a baby two weeks ago today.  At this time on August 16th, I was getting contractions that were only mildly uncomfortable!  

Oh, labor: how I don't miss you at all.

The amazing Ailie is adjusting well to the world.  She sleeps a whole lot during the day; and a bunch at night too. We're doing a few good 2 - 3 hour stretches, with an hour or so of delicious alert time through the evenings.  She is wetting and stinking up diapers like a true champion, and breastfeeding is going great this time around.  I busted out the nipple shields for one day only; and then the girls just adapted.  My heartfelt thanks, girls.  

I hear often that girl babes are a bit easier than boys, and up to this point, I would have to concur.  We are now at the two-week mark and I'm on edge waiting for a complete personality change.  So far, so good.  She's a doll, and we adore her.

Her bro is... adjusting.  He seems to like her alright, but he's very grabby and sometimes smothers her and JC, when did his head get SO BIG?  He asks a million times per day to "see baby", which always involves manhandling baby.  I play a lot of defense.  It's frustrating.  It's difficult to be patient when you're perpetually sleepy.  But we're trying.  I know this is a huge adjustment for him; and so far today has been much better than the days prior.  

I'm recovering too.  In fact, this recovery is much easier than the last.  I've kept my postpartum tears at bay, only really feeling the urge to cry a few times since Ailie came into our world.  (And this was mostly because I watched A League of Their Own, which is a movie I decided I now fucking hate as it made me horribly cranky and distraught.  What were you thinking, Dottie?  The game made you come alive!  And then The Scene with Betty Spaghetti, you guys.  And then suddenly, we blink and everyone is 80 and all the husbands and Jimmy Dugan are dead.  I just had a beautiful baby girl, and now I have to lament that her life will fly by in an instant?  Thanks a lot, Penny Marshall.  And the final kicker: Madonna starts singing that maudlin tune that gets stuck in your head for 18 years.  The end.)

(Sorry.  That movie really messed me up last weekend.)

Where was I?  Physically, I'm feeling great.  I can't wait to get out there and start exercising again.  I've lost 26 pounds thus far.  My belly is rapidly shrinking.  I have no idea when I shall stop wearing maternity tanks; or when my rings will fit again, but still.  Oh!  And I drank some pumpkin ale beers.  They were as glorious as I remembered.    

So things are going well.  I've been alone with the kiddos the last three days, and I've managed to hold down the fort and get H out of the house a bit.  I can't complain, though it's been fairly exhausting making sure H doesn't accidentally kill his sister.  I told J as much yesterday, to which he replied: "This is your life now."

Indeed.  And I wouldn't change a thing.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Ailie Eden

I started this post on the morning of the 16th:


Just: ugh.

I had my 39 week prenatal on Tuesday.  As I suspected: nothing doing.  Cervix completely closed, no dilation.  I mentioned to my doctor that I still sometimes suspect that Newbie's head is creeping up on my right side.  

When my doc examined me, she couldn't even FEEL the head, it was so high.  This was new.  She ordered an ultrasound on the spot to see if baby was in position.  I texted J that we were obviously having a headless child.  

Luckily, Newbs head is down, though where the hell is it in there?  I know I have a long torso; but damn, child - how high could you possibly be?  

Still feeling fine, the ultrasound tech of doom said, "Whoa!  I have the baby at NINE POUNDS AND THIRTEEN OUNCES."  

Two weeks ago, she clocked Newbie at 7-13.  

One would assume baby's head is so high because it is so ENORMOUS there is nowhere else for it to be.  

I left the room.  I was put in the hall so I could reconvene with the doc.  I promptly commenced crying.  

How am I supposed to deliver you, Newbs?

So my doctor and I discussed my options.  My due date was 8/19, and with no signs of labor AT ALL, plus the baby's position, she didn't believe an induction would be successful.  Factor in the projected size of our beloved, and terms like "shoulder dystocia" were tossed about.  I cried some more.

My doc assured me that sonograms were notoriously wrong when attempting to predict the baby's size, but she still thought Newbie was at least 8 1/2 pounds by now.  She assured me my baby was safe and sound, and that if I wanted to wait for labor to begin, I could.  But she didn't want me to wait too long.  I could schedule a c-section for Thursday (8/16) or Monday (8/20).  I'm still a bit flummoxed that a c-section is so easy to schedule.  Welp, this kid might be pretty large.  Slice me open!  

I struggled.  My first baby was 7 lbs, 13 ounces.  He was 10 days early, but still.  What was going on with this new kid?  What was the right thing to do?

After much thought and discussions with J, my mom, my sister-in-law, and Koos, I decided that I would wait until my due date to go into labor, but schedule the c-section for the following week in the meantime.  I scheduled my 40-week prenatal for Monday, 8/20, and the c-section for 8/21.  I reasoned that even if I didn't go into labor, my body would start working its magic by Monday's appointment, and I hoped an induction would then be possible.  (Even though in some respects, induction makes me more nervous than surgery.)

As I was working all of this out on Thursday morning, I noticed some changes had happened overnight.  I felt a telltale heaviness in my belly that hadn't been there the day before.  I told J about it that AM.  We were both pleased that I was making some progress.

The morning wore on, and as I was getting ready to hop in the pool with H and my brother Ry (who got into town the previous Saturday), another labor sign miraculously appeared, of the - forgive me, squeamish readers - mucus variety.

I was ridiculously excited!  I called Koos, who gently reminded me that it could still be a few days to weeks. Undeterred, I was sure that the two signs together meant baby was on the way.


Around noon, I started timing the contractions.  Just for fun, as they weren't yet painful.  At first they were 20 minutes apart, then 10.  They started to get uncomfortable.  I put H down for his afternoon nap, and then escaped to the bathroom to shower and get dolled up.  I knew it was time, and I wanted to ensure I looked good.  That could help, right?

I took one last belly pic.  I texted J that things were getting very "labor-y" over here, but I didn't even call him.  My first labor and delivery lasted 40 hours (seriously, you guys), so I figured I had plenty of time.  Ry and I retreated to the playroom and watched the end of Cinderella Man.  I kept timing contractions, and they were less than 10 minutes apart now.  Still, not quite painful.  I called J, as he hadn't responded to my text.  As it turns out, he hadn't seen it.  He told me he was on his way home.  I told him to be sure to pick up pizzas; I was going to want to eat before we left.

And then, at 3 PM, it turned.  It had happened like that with Hendrik.  With H, I had been having contractions since 10 PM on Saturday night, and at 3 PM on Sunday it got REAL.

I called J.  I needed him to get home quickly, to help me.  By this time, H was awake, and Ry was distracting him in the playroom.  I was laboring in our bedroom, crouching and moving and trying to find a comfortable position to tolerate the painful spasms.  By 4, I called J again.  "Get home," I said through gritted teeth.  "We're leaving as soon as you walk in the door."  The contractions were 5 minutes apart.

An excited J walked in the door soon after.  H and Ry came downstairs, and he swept up our toddler to tell him "Mommy is having a baby today!"  H was unimpressed.  I was moaning in a ball on the couch.

We made it to the hospital around 5, and after the roughest cervical check I have ever encountered, a nurse determined I was ONE centimeter dilated.  ONE.  So they thought I was a fraud, as they do.  Did I mention my doctor was out of town?  Yes, she had a one-day conference, and she had told me she was leaving town on Thursday night.  The doctor on-call told me to walk.  For an hour or two.  And then they would check me again.

You guys? I couldn't IMAGINE being sent home.  I couldn't imagine that I could be in so much pain for a measly one centimeter.  I labored at home with H (after being sent home initially, most decidedly not in active labor, but contracting calmly) until 4 centimeters, and the pain was not this great.

So J tried to get me to walk, as I tried not to murder him.  I begged him to tell them that this baby was huge, it was going to rip through my abdomen and thus I needed a c-section.  He tried to talk me down, but after about an hour I was wild with pain.  He went to get the nurse to check my cervix.

Four centimeters.  Finally, they began to take me seriously, and ordered my epidural.

The anesthesiologist, the aptly-named Dr. Fox (who was a breath of fresh air for both his drug-giving abilities and his resemblance to Dermot Mulroney) arrived soon after, as everyone tried to get the epidural ball rolling.  In the midst of this, my screams of pain and the fast and furious contractions probably enticed them to do another check.

Seven centimeters.  In about two hours.

Oh, friends: the epidural at seven.  It just wasn't my friend.  It took an hour for it to begin to work on the pain.  I tried to breathe, and failed spectacularly.  They had to administer so much that my legs were completely numb, which made me panicky.  Eventually I calmed, and I surmise I enjoyed just under two hours of a working epidural.  I floated in and out of consciousness at first.  Then, J and I had a nice chat and confirmed the spelling of our girl's name.  I spoke to Koos and Gina (I think) and my mom on the phone.  J kept everyone up to date via texts and calls.  (He was almost killed once when he texted during a contraction.)

Before 11, my back started to ache a bit.  I couldn't feel it completely, but I thought I should let them know. I hadn't felt anything like this since the epidural kicked in.  They thought the baby might be "sunny-side up", and so they decided to turn me on my right side to get the baby to move.

I'm not sure what finally killed the epidural for me, but I'm guessing it was that turn.  In a matter of minutes, my back radiated with pain, that soon worked it's way to my abdomen.  I was yelling again.  Dr. Fox came back and tried to help.  Soon, the back labor subsided but the abdomen pain remained.  I was ready to push, and the on-call doc assured me the pushing would help that pain.  It did.

I looked at the clock as we began.  I had pushed for three hours with Hendrik, the most grueling workout of my life.  I tried to mentally prepare for two hours of pushing, still hoping it would go much quicker.

The pushing began, and I did well!  I couldn't feel anything in that region (a huge solid, epidural).  The pain was completely concentrated in my abdomen, and the only relief was the strongest pushes I could muster.

This time, I felt like I could actually feel the baby moving through me, making progress.  After a few minutes, the doc got ready to "catch", as they do.  Seeing her in her garb assured me Newbs was almost here.  I was doing it!  I felt incredible.

J was by my side, and really watching the process this time.  "You're doing so great," he kept telling me.  "I can see the baby every time you push!"

And right before those final attempts, he asked, "Last chance: boy or girl?"

"Girl," I told him.

And then she was here.

The most beautiful, GIGANTIC baby you have ever seen.  They put her on my belly, and I prodded her to cry.  She did, and it was once again the most glorious sound you could ever imagine.

J and I cried too, and just repeated, "A girl!  A girl?  I can't believe she is a girl!"

I never knew how much I wanted her until she arrived.  A whooping bundle of perfection at NINE POUNDS, THIRTEEN OUNCES (see: exactly what the sonogram predicted), and 22 inches long!

How did I deliver her?  I have no idea.  My body did its magic, despite my lack of faith.

And she is here and she is ours and she is absolute perfection.  It's amazing how your heart expands.  It's incredible how these babies are worth every minute of that suffering we go through to bring them here.

J and I had named this little girl during our 2006 trip to Colorado, when we learned my great-grandmother's name was Aili (EYE-li).  I told my grandmother how much I loved it.

Just weeks ago, during what was to be the last conversation I would ever have with my Far-Mor, I asked her if she had any idea what the baby was.

"It's hard to say," she told me seriously.  'But, if it is a girl, I would love for her to have my mother's name."

Consider it done, Far-Mor.

Welcome, Ailie.

Monday, August 13, 2012

How Am I Still Pregnant?

You guys?

I'm still pregnant.  REAL, real pregnant.

I didn't make it to 39 weeks with Snooze.  He arrived 10 days before his due date, so naturally I believed Baby #2 would be early; perhaps even earlier than my beloved first born.

And then?  Nothing.

There is pretty much zero happening in the old cervix.  At week 36, Newbie was nearly transverse breech, and I wonder if that has something to do with his/her reticence to come out.  We ended up with an ultrasound the following week, and thankfully baby had turned head down.  At week 38, the head that is growing to NOW EPIC PROPORTIONS was still high.  I have another appointment tomorrow.  Fingers crossed for some dilation, y'all!

People keep asking me how I am doing, and in truth, I feel better than I have in a long time.  To be sure: it's still difficult to maneuver myself out of bed for 87 pee breaks per night, and I'm much puffier than I was with my spring pregnancy.  My wedding rings haven't fit since late May; but last go-round, I had a few rings I could wear.  This time?  Not so much.  It is Texas in August, and because our energy bill is roughly the size of the national deficit, I'm not as uncomfortable as you might think.

I'm happy to have made it through my summer semester without my water breaking during the final, and I am indulging in lots of sweets.  I registered for the Dallas Half-Marathon (December 9th), so as soon as have this baby I'll have to nearly immediately get back on the fitness band wagon.  THE WEIGHT, you guys.  SHE IS VERY, VERY HIGH.  To which I say: meh.  Pass me the Milano cookies.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Strangeness.

Just finished watching my grandmother's memorial service online.  It was streamed live from their mega-church in Colorado Springs.

It was... weird.

I don't have the time (or frankly, the mental energy) to expound on some of the issues that go on with the HomeValleyian clan.  Suffice it to say: there are issues.  We've all got 'em.  You know how it goes.

But I must mention that my grandfather, whom I love dearly, was the first to speak.  He presented a slide show of my grandmother's life.

As it began, I dutifully jotted down his explanations, made notes about which pictures I wanted to be sure to ask him for.  I had never seen many of them, and in several my grandmother looks absolutely stunning.  Why had I never known these?  Who was this woman?

As the slide show wore on, meandering into 1980s and 90s territory, I found myself willing him to include a photo of me.  A photo of any grandchild.  A photo of my grandmother with a grandchild.  There are nine of us.

A photo with family (other than distant relatives she rarely visited in Sweden and Finland), though I was grateful there was one photo of Far-Mor with her only brother, Kurt.

And then, the show was over.  My grandfather had included exactly three photos of my grandmother with two of her sons (all taken in the late 50s, early 60s).  He had included zero photos of her youngest son.  Nor any photos Far-Mor with any grandchild.  Nor any of her with their only great-grandchild.

It made me very sad, is all.

It sort of underscores the issues.  It made me question my place in her life.  And I imagine my sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles and stepmother and father - all sitting in the front rows, having flown to Colorado from the east coast this week - were wondering much the same.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

This Is You Drill Bit.

On Tuesday the kind folks at J's place of business threw us a baby shower.  I had known for about a week, but kept the secret from J.  Hendrik and I excitedly got ready for our rare trip into Dallas, and J's assistant met us at the door and led us to a conference room where J was leading his staff meeting.  We told Hendrik to knock on the door, but that's not his style.  He busted through the door, catching his father completely off-guard, exclaiming, "Hi Daddy!" as he jumped into J's arms to give him a hug.

Looking across the table, H spotted a familiar face.  "That Mr. Clint," he said, matter-of-factly, before running around the table to greet him with a fist bump.  J and I looked at each other stunned: he had met Clint exactly twice.  The first time was a brief lunch ages ago, and the second time was about two months ago, when J was in a car accident on his way home from work, and Clint drove him home and stayed for dinner.  How does this child remember names better than we do?

J went around the table making introductions, as I began to sweat trying to remember who I'd previously met.  A few minutes later several people had to leave; when Hendrik noticed, he innocently asked, "Where's other Mark?"  Yes, the second of two Marks had left the conference room.  I could not have told you that, but apparently my two year-old's knack for detail is unprecedented.  He misses nothing at this stage in life.  It's incredible.

A snapshot of his morning routine: He wakes in the morning, climbs out of his queen-sized bed, and undresses down to his diaper (he is careful not to take his diaper off, as he knows all that poop would create quite the mess).  Then, he picks out his shirt and shorts, grabs a diaper, and gingerly places the wipes (opened) next to the other things.  Now that everything is prepared to his liking, he heads to the doorway, which is blocked by a baby gate.  "Mommy!  Want Mommy to come change you diaper! Come on, Mommy!  Come upstairs!"

This is how I am roused each morning, as I need more sleep than he does these days.  It is so difficult to move, it usually takes me about 10 minutes to get out of bed.  "Coming, Snooze!" I yell up groggily.  "Mommy just needs a minute to wake up."

Eventually, I lift my swollen limbs and belly out of our cozy bed, throw on some shorts and head up to his room.  He greets me with a warm "Hi Mommy!" as I take down the gate, and then proceeds to tell me some of his plans for the day. Usually something like: "You want milk and a vitamin.  Only one vitamin a day! Want to go downstairs and eat a waffle."  Then I'll brief him with the day's agenda (you know: library story time, grocery shopping, My Gym camp), change his diaper, and stand back as he insists on dressing himself in the clothes he's selected.

Sometimes I can't believe what I am seeing.

He's a boy.  At two and a quarter, he's a little man who knows what he likes (Gotye, Adele, waffles, granola bars, and any activity that involves his buddies).  I'm astounded at just how smart he is; what he retains.  He is a SPONGE, and can recall details that both J and I have long forgotten.  He's always busy busy busy, planning trips (typically to California) and selecting activities ("Want to go build with Mommy!").  He identifies lots of emotions ("Mommy yelled!  Mommy's frustrated!") and is quick with a silly face or some nonsense chanting and giggling to lighten the mood.  He loves to make us laugh.

Yesterday morning, as I took the gate down, he noticed the nail J had put in the door frame to keep the gate in place.  "Need to hammer this!" he said, before running to the playroom and returning with his drill and hammer.  And then he worked on the nail, first with the hammer, then with the drill (which he explained, "This is you drill.  This is you drill bit.").  Where did he come from?

We just adore him; and still sneak upstairs before we go to bed many nights just to catch a glimpse of him sleeping peacefully.  He's so exquisite, sometimes we just giggle and recount the things he's said.  "Can you believe him?" we ask each other, as we have since the day he was born.  He will be 35 someday and will leave our home with his wife and babies and we'll turn to each other and repeat, "I still can't believe we made him."

And soon (well, not too soon since there are no signs of ANYTHING going on in the old cervix), we'll have another one.  A little boy or little girl, who will make our family even more complete.  Only this time around, he or she will have a Hendrik.  Who tells me often "I can't WAIT for baby to come!" and really, really has his heart set on taking baby to the airplane museum almost immediately after delivery.

We can't wait to meet you, Newbie.  To see who you are and marvel at your face and repeat daily, "Can you believe we made this?"

Monday, July 30, 2012

Keeping Up Appearances

Last night one of my more erudite Facebook friends posted about the death of British actor Geoffrey Hughes.  She mentioned that while he was best known for his role on Coronation Street, to her he was Onslow on Keeping Up Appearances.

Why did the latter show sound so familiar to me?  I wondered, as I typed the name into the Google search field.

When I reached its Wikipedia page, I remembered.  I smiled.

On the sole trip J and I made together to Colorado Springs to see my grandparents, my Far-Mor had been giddy with delight over this show.  She insisted we would love it; and so we settled down one night on the family room couches to watch.  J and I were not exactly enamored with this brand of British humor, but we chuckled gamely with my grandparents.  The main character, Hyacinth Bucket, insisted her last name was pronounced "Bouquet" and always answered the telephone grandly in a sing-song voice: "Bouquet residence!  The lady of the house speaking!"

For months after our trip, I would answer the phone like this when my grandmother called, and we would giggle together.  At some point, however, I had forgotten our inside joke.

Last night, as I brushed my teeth, I laughed.  I wondered if it wasn't my grandmother reminding me of all the fun we'd had.  And then I felt a crushing sadness, and I was sobbing, unable to catch my breath.  When I finished brushing, I climbed into bed with J, unable to tell him what was wrong initially.

"That show," I gasped.  And when I finally got the words out, I laughed again through my tears.

"It's easy to forget she's gone," I tell him.  We didn't speak every day.  She lived 2000 miles from me for most of the last 22 years.  "But then, when it hits me..." I begin, a fresh wave of weeping consuming me as J holds me.

I think: I miss my friend.  

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Oh Hey! I'm Pregnant!

It's amazing how quickly and interminably slow your second pregnancy goes.  Whilst I feel like I have been pregnant since the beginning of time (we found out the first millisecond we could possibly have conceived), I can't believe I am inching towards 30 weeks.  Since I assume I will go a little early (H was 10 days early, and I always measure a bit large), this could mean 8 - 10 more weeks of baby-carrying.  I'll blink and I'll be in labor once again.  How did we get here?

I've banished any "second-child syndrome" chatter from the house.  (It was getting out of hand, from lots of sources.  I feel for you, second children.  We firstborns apparently steal all of your parents' attention, all of your toys, your ability to think independently, your ability to speak as quickly as us, and probably will end up drop-kicking you a lot during your formative years.  We're pretty treacherous; but I promise you this, Newbie: not on my watch.  We'll figure it out together.)

(Also, your big bro is pretty spectacular.  Just keep an eye on him around your puffs.)

I've been nesting like crazy this week, and I hope that continues through delivery.  I've never been so productive, y'all.  I still haven't hit the third trimester wall, so I've got a lot of energy to make lists, clean out drawers, read Economics, attend playgroup, and read for pleasure.  I've been waking up at 6 AM each morning to jump-start the day (it is always wise to remain a few steps ahead of a two year-old), and it's actually been some wonderful bonus time.  By the time H stirs around 7ish, I've already checked several things off of my ever-expanding To-Do list.  

Hey!  Let's talk about weight gain.  Yeah...  Well, I am just pleased that I didn't put on TWENTY pounds in TWO months like I did the last go-round.  The weight has come on slow and steady, and I'm now up 30 pounds.  I can handle gaining 40 this time.  If we go for a third, perhaps I can actually stay in the normal weight-gain range!  But I've made my peace with it.  This is my body on pregnancy.  I feel good; I exercise; I eat my veggies.  (And all of the Klondike bars, but LAY OFF ME I'M STARVING.)

Where is all the weight going this time around?  My belly is GINORMOUS.  People say incredibly rude and/or presumptuous things to me all the time. ("Two more weeks, right?  "You must be counting the days, huh?" "You got two in there?"  "I can't believe you have that long - you look much further along!") Last night, I'm fairly sure my Econ prof thought my water was about to break in his class.  (It very well might, y'all.  It's a long semester.)

When class ended, a girl I hadn't met smiled at me and said, "Can I just tell you - I think you look beautiful!"  How kind.

And thank you, stranger, for reminding me what's really going on here.

Friday, June 01, 2012

La La Land

Things I did not do on our recent trip to Los Angeles:

  1. Get drunk. (Crap, I miss drinking. I consoled myself thinking that before the end of the summer, I will get to drink a martini.  And a mojito.  And a vat of wine.  Sorry, baby.)
  2. Sleep in, or even through most nights.  (We ended up bunking with our little man when we had to abandon our charming Santa Monica bungalow that reeked of CAT.)
  3. Read a whole book.  (I did download a book on my Kindle though!  That's something right?)
  4. Sunbathe in Malibu. (Instead, I sat on the beach with pants, a sweater, and a towel wrapped around me, rereading The Happiness Project.  The Pacific is cold, yo!)
  5. Visit Hollywood Boulevard and the Chinese Theater to take a million more gratuitous snapshots of my hands in Jean Harlow's and Clark Gable's.
  6. See Flavor Flav at a taping of Kimmel.  But any excuse to use this photo:

Things I did do on our recent trip to Los Angeles:
  1. Got inspired!  I got to spend some real QT with this lady, who has been a source of inspiration for me since I saw her speak at a Pennsylvania Women's Conference years ago (I didn't know then that we had a mutual friend).  Plus, She is from Delco, my beloved county of origin. 
  2. Journeyed to Manhattan Beach to meet one of J's good friends from high school and her husband. (Incidentally, also from Delco.  We're everywhere.)  She's also slowly taking over the world, and we may start working together soon.  Exciting prospects!
  3. Spent lots of quality time with two good friends who are getting married in Greece this summer.  
  4. Spent lots of time lamenting that we're missing the wedding and a bonus trip to Greece this summer.  (I swear I won't bring it up every birthday, Newbie.)
  5. Attended a fancy cocktail party with a jet-lagged toddler who behaved like a true gentleman.  He was contained, engaging, and didn't break anything.  (He did ruin the look of the cheese plate by devouring all of the grapes, though.)  Aside: He probably was on his best behavior because Jeff Franklin was there, and likely sensed that this man could propel him into fame with a few key catchphrases.  (Now I might be projecting a little.  But squee!  Jeff Franklin!  A man who brought us so much joy on Friday nights as wee ones.  You got it, dude?)
  6. Hightailed it out of the party by about 8 PM, discreetly running for the exits past a group of Deal or No Deal models when H blew out his diaper.  Ah, parenting.  Remember to keep a sense of humor and hyper-vigilance and you're golden.  
  7. Drove through UCLA's campus, Bel-Air, Beverly Hills, Sunset Boulevard, and the Hollywood Hills.  I am a nerd for the Hollywood sign, and seek it out every time we visit for tons of photo opps.  I can't help it:

We also had great dinners out; enjoyed decaf coffee from The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and regrouped.  I'm so glad J and I agree that vacations are absolutely essential to a happy life.  I always come back refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to take over the world again.  What more can you ask for?  

Oh, it helps when toddlers behave on planes (Hendrik did great this go-round).  You can ask for that too.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


This morning you woke at 3:30.

"Mommy!  Mooommmmyyy?"  you yelled.

Thankfully your father bolted up to attend to you; he came back after ten minutes or so.

"Is he okay?" I asked sleepily.

"Yeah, he's just awake."

At 5 you yelled out again.  This time it was my turn.

"What is it, buddy?" I asked, stumbling in the dark.

"Want to go city," you said.  "Want to go airport."

Sweet boy.  We've been talking about our upcoming vacation so much, you can't sleep with anticipation.

Then you looked at me.  "Mommy put you hair up."  Typical.  You are very particular about my do, even at 5 AM.

I picked you up from your crib and noticed your PJs were wet.  I wrestled with you through a diaper change.  (You've been fighting a mean rash, which makes diapering a challenge these days.)  Then I picked you up again and we sat down in your chair to rock.

"Were you dreaming, bud?  What did you dream about?"

"GiGi go bye-bye," you said.  "I miss GiGi."

"It's okay," I tell you.  "We'll see her soon."

Within a few minutes, you are snoring.  Your thirty-two pound, 36-inch frame is crushing your baby brother or sister, who is wiggling inside my swollen belly.

And in that moment, I think: Thank you.

Thank you, sweet boy, for teaching me what it means to be a mother.  For showing me how to put your needs before my own.  For opening up my world to another level of joy; one in which I get to experience everything fresh through your eyes.  Thank you for being the brilliant, gregarious, charismatic, life force that you are.  Thank you for challenging me in new ways each day, forcing me to adapt, expand, grow, and be better.  Thank you for teaching me to slow down, to appreciate every solitary minute.  I'm aware every waking moment that time is fleeting - you're growing fast and there will come a time when you don't run to me for every boo boo  ("Mommy, kiss it!  That better now, Mommy.") and you don't stop what you're doing spontaneously and say, "Want to give Mommy hug."

Thank you for the games, the laughs, the tantrums, the frustrations, the daily routine.

Happy birthday, Hendrik.  Mommy and Daddy love you so very much.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Devil in Blue and Yellow

This past weekend we went to Ikea. I was really, really determined to get to Ikea. Since my precious baby will soon be ousted from his crib by Li'l Wanya, we need some big boy furniture, and quick. And because toddlers are super destructive little beasts, we don't want to spend a lot of cash.

Enter Ikea. My whole weekend: built upon getting to Ikea. Did I mention I really was completely batshit crazy about getting to Ikea this weekend? In addition to bargain, minimalist furniture, I romanticized that Hendrik could connect with his Swedish roots. Look, baby! Lingonberries!

(I spoke a lot about lingonberries as we got closer to Ikea. They remind me of being a child at my Far-Mor and Far-Far's house. After I mentioned them for the fifth time, J said: "You know they're just like cranberries, right?" God, he is so not Scandinavian.)

We finally arrived at Ikea late Saturday afternoon. We are still at the mercy of the child's afternoon nap, which is approximately 12 - 3 on any day we wish to go somewhere at a certain time. So we entered Ikea's massive parking lot around 4 PM, and I was taken aback by all of the cars.

"God, don't these people have anything better to do than be at Ikea on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon?" I remarked to J, without irony.

Oh my God, guys. Ikea. It is a fucking soul-sucking, hellish pit of soul-suckiness. There were 8008709 people there. They were everywhere. And the signage! There are like, secret passages to get where you are going. And we couldn't find them! And we were walking in circles! And H was running away! Our stress-levels escalated quickly. We grabbed a $10 wooden train set for H and decided to high-tail it out of there. Only, in Ikealand, they don't let you high-tail ANYWHERE. They make you work for it and walk past the miscellaneous stuff. You know, all the crap you don't really need but they somehow seep into your fragile psyche at this point and you find yourself loading up on wooden salad bowls and trays.

We followed signs for the checkout. We walked for miles, and Hendrik was agitated by now, and every mile marker I would spot an idle employee in yellow, and beg, "Please? Where is the checkout?" And they would smile malevolently and tell us we were headed in the right direction.

And then we arrived - at the SELF checkout. The lines were hideously long, and these animals had more than 15 items in their carts! We had two things. My gallant husband put these things down and said: "We can order this online - we need to get out."

But wait! They seriously had the exits blocked and locked and fixed with ALARMS. The only way out was through the checkout line. Evil Swedes!

We made it out alive. My pregnant feet were aching. We had survived.

When we arrived home, J got to preparing the turkey burgers (and hard drinking) and I told him I needed to lay down for a moment. Hendrik followed me into the living room imploring: "Choo choo? Want choo-choo train? Wanna play choo choo train!"

J and I glanced at each other, panicked, and I grabbed my son's hands and said, as calmly as possible: "Honey, I'm so sorry; Mommy and Daddy didn't get the choo choo. We'll have to wait a little bit longer, but we will get you the choo choo."

The boy collapsed in a swell of tears and naked emotion. "NOOOOOOOOOOO!" He writhed on the floor. "WANT CHOO CHOO!" He sobbed.

I couldn't help it: I started sobbing too.

For the first time in his 22 months, we had let him down. We had been so irritated, we hadn't bothered to tell him we weren't going to buy him the choo choo. We hadn't done it to avoid a tantrum; we had acted impulsively and hadn't considered our son's expectations and feelings.

He was just so: hurt. I saw the future: there will be other hurts, and they will be heart-crushing for his parents to witness. I love him so fiercely; perhaps I should just keep him inside the house for the rest of his life? I will make him a whole room full of choo choos.

He calmed down. It took me much longer to stop crying. We sat on the couch watching airplane videos on YouTube while I hugged him and apologized and told him how much we love him. I vowed in my mind to never blindside him again. I suppose, in the end, it was a worthy lesson.

This post brought to you by Ikea: Where Dreams are Dashed and Families Are Torn Apart.


Monday, March 19, 2012

March Madness

I swear: I just wrote last week. But alas, the days seem to move more quickly now. Life with a toddler is INTENSE, y'all. One moment that kid is rubbing my shoulders and picking me flowers; the next, he is throwing "amby-truck" at me in a fit of rage and collapsing in tears of fury.

In. Tense.

Plus, there's that whole second pregnancy thing. I'm 18 weeks now! Huzzah! I am in the sweet spot where I am actually feeling semi-human, and also eating all of the ice cream in sight. So naturally, I'm packing on the pounds, but I'm still hopeful that I can reign it in soon. Enjoying my third bowl of Breyer's last night, I did tell J I should probably stop buying this stuff. Probably.

Li'l Wanya (hereby christened after I met Boyz II Men last week at the House of Blues), is doing great. I've got another highly-mobile baby, but all looks healthy and strong. And, a little secret between friends: methinks this is a lady-child. Something about this pregnancy feels different. I know, dudes, they are all different. But if I were a betting woman, my money would be on lass. We've got our 20-week ultrasound on April 3rd, but of course we are waiting til Li'l Wanya makes his/her painless and joyful arrival sometime in mid-August. Stay tuned.

What else? We're planning a trip to Los Angeles in a few months, shortly after H's 2nd birthday. I've also got to plan his birthday party, which is bittersweet. Our little boy is growing up so quickly; I wish our close family and friends could help us celebrate. Alas, we will celebrate with them in spirit, with a whole lotta candy and Elmo and trucks and cars up in here.

The blessed child is now awake and we've got to run to the Nissan dealership and then dinner and then I'm out into an adult world known as marketing class. The fun never stops, y'all! I'm just totally producing endless blog fodder these days, like did you want to discuss how I'm now freaked out by microwaves and I'm heating up leftovers on the stove and in the oven all damn day? We'll talk. I'm interesting!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Weekend Notes

Ah: Monday. I typically avoid Monday bitchery but today I woke with a headache that would not be banished by Tylenol, and some very terrible news about a close family friend. I knew a trip to the gym would provide a mood boost, but I was not prepared to enter the normally bucolic, child-free shower stall to see a used sanitary napkin strewn in the corner. May have to rethink bathing at the gym, y'all.

But despite this Monday blahness, we three had a wonderful weekend, complete with an actual night out for moi with some Dallas friends. Erin has been my cultural touchstone since moving to the DFW area. We met rather unconventionally, when our temporary apartment digs were apparently under seige by a lone gunman in an adjacent building (it was thankfully more boring that it sounds, guys). Erin was our neighbor, whom we'd never seen, and we started chatting as we gawked at the 20 or so odd police cars, bomb squad vehicles, and fire engines lining the block. I probably would not have invited her in for a beer (I'm just normally not that forward), but J had been living alone in Texas for weeks and weeks, and was sick of talking only to me.

And for that I am forever grateful to him, because Erin has been such a rockstar friend from day one. She is one of those people who truly enjoys life, and is thus up for anything. She's always inviting me to do interesting things: mojito-making classes; a weekend trip with her college chums to Lake Texoma complete with a spa visit and a night of karaoke and hard drinking at the GREATEST dive bar one could ever imagine, affectionately named: Ankles Up. She also hosts "Wine Night" at her place quarterly, to which she invites her amazing network of intelligent women to drink, eat, and talk about things unrelated to child-rearing. (Books! And academia! And other things!) Next month we're going to see Boyz II Men at the House of Blues. You see why I love this lady, right?

This past weekend it was a terribly erudite trip to the Dallas Museum of Art to see one of our favorite authors, Jeffrey Eugenides. If you haven't read him, I highly suggest picking up Middlesex and The Virgin Diaries. He was engaging, charming, and refreshingly funny. It was a great session followed by a book signing. Followed by me learning that David Sedaris is coming in April and OHMYGOD we have to see him, and the like. Being in a new place, away from family and friends, I can't tell you how much a night away like this means. It recharges me, allowing me to be a better mother and wife; and it reminds me of the person I used to be every weekend, when I could roam the city with a notebook, scribbling ideas; wandering into a museum if the mood struck, or perhaps seeing a movie in the middle of the afternoon.

It's nice to reconnect with that girl. I quite liked her, and I take comfort in the fact that she's never gone for good.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Nerd Alert.

I've told myself that I will write at least one post per week here. I know I have told you this before, but I am a dreadful multitasker. When I feel like my brain should be focused on my studies, I tend to laser-focus on my studies. This is good and bad. Good, because I just received an unsolicited LinkedIn recommendation from last semester's accounting prof, who wrote that I was one of the best students he's had in years! He went on to say that after struggling initially, I finished with the second highest average in a class of 67 students. It was such a wonderful confidence boost; I still can't believe that someone could be so kind.

Conversely, my obsession with graduate school is troubling because I am, well: obsessed. Last semester I logged a ridiculous amount of hours preparing for weekly accounting quizzes. (I know exactly how many hours, too, because I ACTUALLY LOGGED THEM.)

Though I am partly concerned with my GPA (and this is because, frankly, I'm not working. When I do re-enter the fray, I'd like to have something to boast about besides expert cloth diaperer and competent sleep-trainer); I am more consumed with gaining knowledge. It saddens me to become so proficient in one subject and know full-well that without daily practice, my skill level will plummet dramatically. So I attempt to squeeze out every last drop I can; to read every last sentence in the text several times if I must while I attempt to nudge the vast expanse of Saved by the Bell trivia in my brain, and make way for statistical regression and one-way ANOVA.

(You guys, I told you: OBSESSED.)

(And seriously? Ask me anything about SBTB.)

I need to come back to the blogosphere to unwind. I miss writing; I miss creating; and I miss recording our daily lives here, mundane as they can sometimes be. Mostly, I miss you, dear readers. It is lovely to know that there are still a few of you out there.

I feel lighter already. Now, important matters to discuss: what can we rename this here space? HomeValley Does Dallas?

Also, a few updates: I have removed America's Next Top Model from the DVR. You have no idea how many times my hormonal ass CRIED during eliminations and thought This isn't the end, girl! Go for your dreams!

Besides, when I started showing my 21 month-old son how to do a fierce runway walk, I think we reached an unsettling tipping point.

Oh! And yesterday, I ran into a woman at our play gym who asked how old Hendrik was ostensibly so she could tell me her ENTIRE birth story. Twas in a birthing center, which I deeply admire, and afterwards, I romanticized my next birth in my head. I could do it, I thought. I know what to expect from contractions, if I can just learn to control the pain, I could really do it.

And then, I slammed my finger in the laundry room doors while good old Hank was vacuuming (yes, yesterday marked a great turning point in my life when he actually took the vacuum from me and was pretty efficiently doing his business). I slammed my finger so hard in those doors that I was splayed on the floor in the adjacent dining room, holding the injured digit and WAILING in pain. Then I was running around the entire first floor, yelling and willing the pain to stop. I finally made it back to the kitchen and grabbed ice as a perplexed Hendrik stared at me (while continuing to vacuum, mind you).

"Mommy hurt her finger," I croaked. "Everything's all right."

Annndddd - we're going with the epidural, folks.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hello? Y'all?

I've been away for what feels like eons. I don't know that I can pinpoint one reason. Is it the pregnancy, complete with hormonal bouts of the mean reds, nausea, and an alarming new muffin top? The demands of a ridiculously energetic and brilliant toddler, who counts complex sentences as his bitches and spends his days asking me for things like "a bit more milk?" The holiday season, complete with a two-week world tour of the greater Philadelphia region? The Advanced Stats course that began in earnest in January? The fact that I write on a blog called Queens is the New Manhattan, despite having not resided in New York City since - er - 2006? The fact that I can't get the italics to work in Blogger right now, and it is driving me MAD?

Lo, tis a devastating combination of all of these things. I am in desperate need of a rebranding (good thing I am also taking Marketing this semester, eh?), but I can't quite bear to leave all of my incoherent ramblings here behind. The time has come though, though the mama seems to have little time now that We or Oxygen or one of those dreadful women's channels runs complete seasons of America's Next Top Model every other day. And I am tired you guys: so, so tired. And drinking while pregnant is generally frowned upon, which is just incredibly unfortunate all around.

But never fear! Your HomeValley shall prevail in the second trimester, and we will - together - generate some great blog fodder. I just know it.