Yo Shorty, It's Yo' Birfday

Today is my nephew Joey's first birthday -- yaaaaaaaaaaaay!

Om Nom Nom

It's been a crazy year, what with the growing and noisemaking and teething and whatnot, but it's been super awesome.

Blow Out The Candle

And believe me, kid, you've earned the right to go bananas! Stick your fingers in that delicious icing and fall face first into that cupcake.

Mmmm Cake

Or crawl around on the floor chewing on a cup and pretending you're an elephant. Do whatever you want to do -- it's your special day.

Party Like It's Yo' Birfday

Yo shorty, it's yo' birfday, and we gonna party like it's yo' birfday. Party up, little man. (*raises the roof*) And then groove it on down.


Freaky Friday


We never got the OK to dress in drag ... I mean, costumes for work today, so I'm just wearing an orange turtleneck and black pants and Halloween-themed socks and saddle shoes. And I'm giving out goodie bags to the rest of my team, because I'm cool like that. Plus, it's not like I'm ever in a million zillion years going to use those 10-for-$1 Jr. Frosty coupons before they expire otherwise.

The official cutie pies of Halloween 2009.
(Note Shae's blue frosting mouth from the birthday party.)

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not just because of my nephew Joey, either. Long before he was a twinkle in my sister's eye, while he was still swimming in the milk river (what does this family euphemism even MEAN, anyway?), I loved Halloween. It's like the second biggest day of the year to a kid, right after Christmas. The theatricality of it all, the chance to be someone else for a few hours, the candy and the treats and the bags of salty snacks that could last until New Year's if they were budgeted properly.

Now that I'm a mom, it's different. Now I worry about the apples with razor blades and the poison Bit-O-Honeys and the sugar and the artificial colors and flavors and the blahblahBOOORING. But also, it's a chance for me to live vicariously through Shae, to dress her up as things I never was but that I always wanted to be. Although I suspect it's only going to get progressively harder, because this year she will be absolutely the most perfect thing ever for a cheery happy cute little brunette to be:

Dress Rehearsal

How can I top this? HOW? She is this damn cute already, and it's ONLY DRESS REHEARSAL. Just wait until I get the pictures from the Halloween parade at school!


Cheap Trick at Budokan

Oh, will you look at that ... an Illinois reference AND a Japan reference, all in the same title, to head up a blog post about our Great Big Giant-Ass Family Dinner at Benihana in Schaumburg! Sadly, the title is the best part of this entry, because I used the crap-cam to take pictures at the restaurant, because who the hell wants to lug that humongous Nikon out for supper? (HINT: Not this pathetic-ass lazy blogger.)

Anyway ... who's hungry?

Onion Volcano

Did anyone bring anything for heartburn? Hardy-har-har.

We've been to Benihana for dinner before, when we went to Florida on vacation in February. For whatever reason -- perhaps it is the Nannypop factor, or the Joey factor, or the Silly Paper Chef Hat Menu factor -- this dinner was more memorable.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Don't let anybody tell you my kid doesn't eat vegetables, because she does. She loves salad. When we have dinner at home, sometimes she will sweet-talk individual pieces of lettuce before she chows down. I don't even bother wondering whether this is normal behavior any more, because ... really, is there anything that 2½-year-olds do that can be considered "normal"? (HINT: Hells naw.)


This is a Japanese pop-pop. Totally gratuitious, but I guess we all know where Shae's cuteness comes from.


Eat. Play. Love.

You might remember last summer's marvelous misadventures with Cupcake eating cupcakes ... and you also might have noticed that we have loosened up some since then, regarding food. I mean, we still try to keep her from eating nothing but Jello, fruit snacks, and crackers for every meal -- we throw in the occasional handful of grapes and some string cheese -- but there are days when we will settle for pretty much whatever. It's not worth it to argue. All she wants to eat one night for dinner is applesauce and bread? OK, fine, but then she's going to eat all of it.

Delicious Birthday Cupcakes

Still, cupcakes are one of her favorite treats. And who can blame her, really? Sugar. Butter. Vanilla. Artificial coloring. Sprinkles. Frosting eyeballs. Possibly the world's most perfect food, all in a little paper wrapper.

Joey's Birthday Cupcake
Charlie Chaplin on Acid

And when they're decorated like Cookie Monster, and leave a moustache like some kind of grease pencil on acid? All the better.


Shock and Awww!

So, it's possible you might have heard mention of my kid, and how she's part goldfish, and she really likes to swim. Have I mentioned that before at all?


It's going to be a long drive home tomorrow, and we wanted to wear her out before bed so she sleeps well, so we let her run around all day without a nap, and the just before we tucked in for the night, Shae and my sister Shelleybeans! went swimming in the hotel pool.


Of course we're staying at a hotel with a pool. Listen, I know my target deomographic.


And it was a nice chance for my daughter and my sister to get in some quality face time. It's been a busy weekend, a lot of running around and stuff going on, and even though my entire family was together for the last couple days, there really wasn't much time for us to hang out.

Soppy Wet Kisses

Guess it all works out in the end.


Brat Pack

Shae wouldn't take a nap today, and we are probably thisclose to nuclear freaking meltdown. We attempted to avert disaster by going to the playground. Things started well ...

Bundled Up

... and stayed okay for a little while ...

Sliding Board
Digger Thingy

... but they started to take a turn for the worse ...

Hide and Seek

... and eventually we ended up in Midwestern Bratistan ...


... which is where we are right now. But we're having Benihana for dinner, and I plan to have a mai tai or two, or possibly several Blue Hawaiians, or maybe rotgut straight from the bottle. Whatever's on special. No sense in being fiscally irresponsible just because we're going through the terrible twos.


3AM Eternal

I feel like I've been doing this blog post for about a million years. It's taken me FOREVER to upload pictures to Flickr and then crop them and remove the red-eye, and plus I have a toddler who REFUSES to go to sleep in this hotel room, and I have heartburn and jetlag and a screaming headache, so you'll have to forgive me if I end up not being funny (assuming that I ever was). I think I'm tapped out at the moment.

Oh: and another thing. There is an age range, probably 18-25 or so, when road trips seem like a good idea. But before age 18 you're probably taking said road trips with your parent(s), which makes them decidedly un-fun, and after age 25 it's just NOT COOL to stay up all night trying not to crash into the rear ends of tractor trailers on the interstate in Indiana in the rain. Which is what we did last night, which is why G and I are pretty much dead men walking right now.

Someday Shae will maybe consider driving to Florida or somewhere with friends from college for Spring Break, and once I take a handful of Valium with a Stoli chaser, and once I check her bag to make sure that she has packed plenty of underpants, I will probably let her. In the meantime, this particular road trip has also wiped her right out of charm and she was just NOT HAVING her picture taken, so I was able to get lots of pictures of my nephew.

I present these without comment, because it's pretty much not needed, except: NOM. Delicious baby!

Joey & Nana
My Father's Face
Evil Genius Grin

Shae and G are both asleep, and I will be soon too. Hopefully tomorrow we'll all feel better and we'll get some more adorable snaps of the two of them together, like we did back in June.


Here We Go Again

image via Deadspin / Gawker Media

You might have noticed that I'm a baseball fan. Can't help it; it's a congenital defect that I get from my father. And maybe my grandfather on my mother's side, but mostly it's from my dad.

You might also have noticed that I haven't had much to say about baseball since we saw the giant inflatable hot dog. There is a reason for this: I am incredibly superstitious, and I didn't want to jinx anything.

There are big and small ways that the Phils have been part of our lives all summer long, but for the most part, I have tried not to focus on them too much, tried not to get fixated, tried not to know about all of Lidge's blown saves and Howard's late inning heroics and Ibañez's astounding season and Victorino's hot head and big mouth and Feliz's butt ...

... but of course these things are a part of me, part of my DNA, part of what makes me who I am, and so even though they've been at the back of my mind, they've always been on my mind. And they'll stay there. I might not be watching, but I'll know what's going on.

And, like always, I'll have high hopes. (Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.)


Farmer in the Dell

Is there anything more quintessentially all-American than a pretty little girl on a tractor? Blonde pigtails and freckles and overalls and a ratty straw hat, maybe, but I assure you that when I was in that kind of getup I was never this cute. Clichéed as all hell, yes, but never this cute.

Lawnmower Man

Oh, and this? This right here is why I hesitate to get rid of that ridiculous and stupid Japanese red maple in my own backyard: someday, maybe, if the conditions are just right and I have been drinking enough, someday I might find that tree pretty enough to take a picture like this. In the meantime, my grandparents' tree will have to do.

Japanese Red Maple

And this picture is just here because it's cute. Shae loves this cat, and the day we went to Ikea to get furniture for her bedroom, she demanded we buy it for her.


Hard to argue with that kind of convincing logic, right?


WTF!? Friday PLUS Trivia: Bring Out Yer Dead - ANSWERS

So ... we're not dead yet. Here are my answers to last Friday's trivia quiz (as always, other answers were acceptable):
  • Dread diseases: black plague, smallpox, yellow fever
  • Now-OTC medications: Claritin, Zyrtec, Prilosec
  • Immunizations: measles, hepatitis, polio
  • Non-medicinal remedies: chicken soup, Sprite/7-Up, popsicles
  • Generic symptoms: headache, fever, rash
  • Antibiotics: penicillin, Cipro, azithromycin
  • "House" diseases: toxoplasmosis, leprosy
How did YOU do? Thanks for playing!

Free Bird

Almost every other mother I know tells me that they have certain benchmarks, particular milestones that they use to judge how they're doing as parents. For some people, these indicators come from books or pediatric development charts. For others, it's healthy competition -- "my sister's kid did XX at YY months, so if my kid does it by ZZ months, then I'll know we'll be okay."

I try to be a little more laid back than that, even though I myself am your classic Type A overachiever stress case heart attack waiting to happen. I mean, I still worry about stuff -- did we get her shots on time? are we feeding her enough? how long are her naps at school? dear God, what is that smell? -- but our main priority, really, is that she is happy. The rest of it will work itself out.

Which is why I am proud to announce that we have reached the absolute pinnacle in quality parenting over the weekend, and not only that, I actually managed to get it on "film" for once:

RNMFR, Bitches!

HELLS YEAH! ROCK AND ROLL! My work here is done.

Oh, and before I forget, here is the "prize-winning" picture that Shae and G (and apparently everyone else in the world except me) liked the best of the three school portraits:

School Pic Fall 2009-3

This is a cropped version of the "real" picture, which is essentially the same except it's full-length and HER TEACHERS SENT HER INTO THE ROOM WITH HER SHOES UNBUCKLED. And I really can't talk about that any more without giving myself a stroke, so I'll stop now. (It doesn't look bad at all cropped, though, and in fact I like it better like this because you can see more of her face.)

My God, this kid is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. How in the hell did we get so lucky?


2nd Runner Up

This the second-runner-up (or is that 2nd loser?) in the 2009 Miss "Which Of These School Pictures Is The Least Terrible?" Pageant.

School Pic Fall 2009-2

Of course this is not really a bad picture, as school pictures go -- oh, believe me, I had some doozies, especially back in the day when my grandmother used to give me Ogilvie home perms in her kitchen sink -- but I am not all together thrilled with it, either; there's the booger thing, for one, and I assure you, this is not the way her hair was done up when we sent her to school that morning.

It's kind of ridiculous to get agitated over a day care picture for a 2½ year old, I know, but still I can't help but wonder: every teacher in that school is a woman except for the one dude who teaches kindergarten and has to wear the creepy Easter Bunny costume. The mother of one of the kids in her classroom is a teacher at the center. Honest to God, would it have killed any of them to straighten out her hair and wipe her frickin' nose? The boogers are one thing when I take her picture at home for free with my own camera, but they expect me to pay for pictures that include absolutely un-Photoshop-able snot pockets? Is that like a special early bird bonus or something?

(Also: Blogger went wonkers and this originally went up early. This is supposed to be the Sunday post. Sorry if this screws up anyone's blogreels.)


Be True To Your School

First in a series -- this year's school pictures. This one is my favorite.

School Pic Fall 2009-1

I got outvoted, though -- G and Shae like a different one (which I'll put up tomorrow or Monday). This jumper was one of My Anonymous Mother's yard sale finds, and I absolutely adore it. It's so cute and happy, and it fits her so nice.

I'm a little frustrated with the little things about this picture that aren't perfect -- her boogery nose, for one, and how her hair is all frizzy. But oh my goodness, compared to last year? So much growth. She's hardly even a little girl any more, just a ... fully-formed person living in my house.


WTF!? Friday PLUS Trivia: Bring Out Yer Dead

So ... swine flu, eh?

You may remember way back to the uncharted backwaters of time, when I wrote about the swine flu before. It's gotten worse, of course -- people are going batshit butternuts crazy over it now. Not sure why exactly, as most reasonable, reliable metrics show that seasonal flu is far more likely to turn you into a flesh-eating zombie than the swine flu. Sorry, "H1N1 Influenza A."

But then again, it is kind of fun and exciting to cook up a bunch of bacon and ham and pork BBQ and Spam-infused foam reduction served three ways* and make up little canapés and hors d'oeuvres and other foreign words and throw a "swine flu party," so maybe people are onto something.

Oh ... you mean that isn't what a "swine flu party" is? Wait, what? People are deliberately exposing themselves and their children to an unpredicable, uncontrolled, rapidly-mutating, potentially fatal pathogen in the comfort of their own homes? For real? Hmm. Maybe we sort of all deserve to be turned into the eternally hungering undead scourge.

Anyway. Look, get the flu shot and the H1N1 vaccination, or don't, I don't care -- it's a personal choice. There are always risks, and there are always rewards, and it's a cost-benefit analysis that everyone has to make at one time or another. Like, I can't get tetanus shots any more, because I am allergic to something in the vaccine, so I make it a personal goal to get through each day without stabbing myself (intentionally or inadvertently) with rusty nails. Q.E.D., or quid pro quo, or something in Latin.

I can't tell you what to do, and I wouldn't want to. Be careful out there, is all that I am saying. As The Refreshments sing: "Everybody knows the world is full of stupid people." Don't be one of them.

= = = = =

Oh, the trivia portion? It's all about sickness and health. You're welcome. Can you name ...
  • Three diseases (besides influenza) that killed a lot of people at one time
  • Three over-the-counter medicines that once required a prescription
  • Three vaccinations that many people receive as kids
  • Three non-medicinal treatments for flu-like symptoms
  • Three generic symptoms of no particular illness at all
  • Three antibiotics (brand name or chemical name OK)
  • Two diagnoses that once appeared on "House (hint: it's never lupus**)
Standard trivia rules apply: no Google, no cheating, no calling your readers who are pharmacists and/or infectious disease researchers and/or nurses for hints, etc. I'll post my answers on Monday night after 5pm. Good luck!

* Guess who watches "Top Chef" and rolls their eyes right out of her head whenever anyone serves "infusions," "reductions," "foams," or anything "three ways"?
** Except when it is.


Fake It Till You Make It

Secret confession time: I'm a total fraud.


I was in choirs and musicals throughout middle school, high school, and college. I actually auditioned for many of these things. I've sung classical Masses with organs and strings and brass quintets, a capella medieval madrigals, medleys from Broadway shows. Beethoven, Bach, Sondheim, Gilbert & Sullivan, Irving Berlin. All of it, without ever once having a "proper" voice lesson, or even without being able to read a single note of music.

My very favorite music teacher, Mr. Milisits, told me once that I lacked skill, but not talent, and that anyway, I had the most important thing of all: a real love of music. Of course, I think he said that to all his altos to keep us around, but perhaps he had a point. I can't read music, but I can hear it, and when I hear choirs singing, especially at Christmastime, I can hear the different voice parts, and I appreciate them.

Because, listen: it's hard work, being one of maybe a dozen girls trying to sing harmony over what seems like three hundred sopranos shrieking the melody with no earthly idea of the concept of volume control. Just like the rest of life, I suppose.

Keyboard Kitty

Mr. Milisits finally got around to retiring last year. They had a banquet for him in May or June, I forget which, but I didn't go. I hope it is not one of those things I end up forever regretting. I don't know if I ever told him, but he was one of the best teachers I had in high school. Kind of like a musical Mr. Grier -- he knew what we were capable of, even if we ourselves didn't, and he demanded nothing less that our best.


Things I'll Never Get Tired Of

I don't think I will ever get tired of this ...

Shae 10-11-09 183

... or this ...

Shae 10-11-09 204

... or this ...

Shae 10-11-09 155

... or this.

Shae 10-11-09 189

Now, Dora and her vaguely encephalitic head? Her, I might get tired of. But not you, never you.

(These pictures were also taken Sunday, after a "costume change" -- she didn't want to put her sweatshirt back on once she took it off, but she did agree to put on this "new" sweater from My Anonymous Mother, the Yard Sale Diva.)


What A Day For A Daydream

I can hardly believe that the pictures I took yesterday are only a week later than pictures from Phil & Kim's party -- it looks like a whole different season already. It's weird.


I didn't know the park up the street from my grandparents' had a name. It was always just "the playground" to us when we were kids, and we would be "banished" there for half an hour or so after lunch, so our parents could get some freaking peace. The old metal sliding board is gone, and the merry-go-round that I fell off of once and gave myself a giant brush burn on my shoulder that scabbed over and then the scab turned green from chlorine and gave me a scar. But the ancient old swings are still there, and the basketball court, and all the trees.

Big Swings

We're once again in one of those in-between stages, where Shae is probably too big for the baby swings, but she's still too little for the big swings. One of us has to hold her, and she wanted to go on the swings with her daddy, because he's the cool parent I guess (I have to be the Bad Cop, which sucks). He also has more lap, because he's taller. But he is not perfect, because he doesn't let her call him "babe," and he can't get the swings high enough for her to grab leaves off the trees. (Neither can I, of course, but she doesn't know that.)

Yellow Flower

There are probably thirteen dandelions left in bloom in Pennsylvania -- it's gotten cold at night, and even the tenacious wild strawberries in my yard are about ready to call it a year -- but wherever they are, my kid will find them and pick them. She can spot yellow flowers from a hundred paces.


I'm starting to really look forward to our road trip to Chicago at the end of next week -- it will be nice to see my sister and nephew and brother-in-law*, of course, and I am hoping for weather that isn't too cold so we can run around outside, but mostly I am keeping my fingers crossed for nice views along the interstate.

* This originally said "bother-in-law." Because I am a dumbass. Thanks, My Anonymous Mother!