2 Years, 11 Months, 30 Days

Dear Shae,

It's been a while since I last wrote you a letter, so I better get this one in quick before it's too late. Tomorrow is your birthday, and for the next couple of days we're going to be busy celebrating and basking in the glow of your awesomesauce. And also eating cupcakes and ripping open presents and looking for eggs and overindulging because your third birthday only comes around once.

Oh, kid ... so much to tell you, so little time. This has been a really huge year for all of us, but especially for you. You've gotten so much taller and smarter and more talkative, and now you're using the potty and getting your own cheese out of the fridge and demanding peanut butter sandwiches and just generally bossing us around and getting your own way.


Wait, I guess that isn't much different than before, huh? Except for the potty, which I am convinced you are taking your sweet ol' time with just because you can. I have to admit, I kind of admire your ability to milk your grandmother for every possible bribe there is.

Anyway, I spend so much time being your mom that sometimes I forget to tell you how I'm also you're biggest fan. If I didn't live with you every day, I'd totally have a giant poster of you hanging in the living room. I love how you know what "herbivores" and "carnivores" are and how you love everything that's yellow and how you reach out your hand in the car and say, "Do you trust me?" like you're Aladdin.

Glamour Girl

I love how you're a ham and a prankster and how you are always running and dancing everywhere and how you already understand sarcasm. I love how you tolerate my putting Christmas gift bows in your hair while you're trying to eat pudding and how your know all the words to "Poker Face" and how you still think "chickenbutt" is the funniest thing in the world.

Oh, and have I mentioned lately how much it warms the cockles of my heart when you point at the picture of the crab in your book of animals and say, "Dinner" every time? That is stupendous.


Like I said, we're going to be caught up in birthday and Easter-related festivities, but I just wanted to take a few minutes to let you know how wonderful I think you are. You remain the best thing that ever happened to us, and I hope we never let you forget it.

Have a great birthday, Cupcake, and have a great every day.
Love xoxo, Mommy.


What's the Matter with Kids Today?

You've heard the song before: "Kids! I don't know what's wrong with these kids today! ... Noisy crazy dirty lazy loafers!" I mean, really, this is what passes for an "egg hunt" these days:

Um ... Not Exactly Hard

How are we supposed to build character in our children if we can't even properly hide Easter eggs any more? I fear very greatly for the children who have a hard time finding these eggs. Probably they'll end up in Congress or something instead of having a real job.

Phat Lewts

I kid, I kid. We had a great time. Shae likes running around outside, and it was cold on Saturday morning, but sunny and clear, so it wasn't so bad. We got a lot of eggs, and she won 3rd prize, which is a giant chocolate rabbit that I swear is a foot high. (She won't be eating that.)

Easter Bunny, Shae & Nana

While we wouldn't sit on the Easter bunny's lap directly, Shae at least got bunny-adjacent. I suspect this is because this bunny is not nearly as creepy and Donnie-Darko-looking as some of the other bunnies I've seen. I'll take what I can get.

Goody Bags

And of course there were goody bags. I don't even know what was in them besides a juice box. We went to my grandmother's after the egg hunt and Shae was very generous in sharing her prizes. She's great like that.

Crazy Nana

This is My Anonymous Mother. She went down a sliding board. And took her purse with her. Because OF COURSE SHE DID. "Kids! They are just impossible to control! ... Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way? What's the matter with kids today?"


Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

I'd better finish up with the pictures from LAST weekend before this weekend is over.

Ducks 2

We went to a different park to run around and feed the ducks. We had a box of mangy old cereal that seriously went stale more than six months ago, and with things being how they are, I hated to just throw it in the trash. So, we took that cereal and some bread crusts and headed for the river.

Ducks 1

Shae had never fed the ducks before. A long time ago we went to watch the ducks at a different park, but this was the first time we actually tried to engage the animals. She loved it, of course, because she loves (1) ducks and (2) throwing things.

Ducks 3

It was a fun afternoon. She got to run around a while and we found a section that had a bunch of small yellow flowers, which of course we had to inspect and examine until we found the very most perfect one to keep for ourselves.

Obligatory Yellow Flower Photo

And today it is 35°F and rainy and gross and it's like spring never even happened. Awesome!


Camptown Ladies

There's no denying it now: I'm officially deep into one of my downward spirals, one of my heavily proto-emo moods, where I'm going to end up wearing black all the time and dying my hair green and listening to The Smiths and The Cure and Depeche Mode on repeat for six years. Just like high school, but now ... with a blog!

And this masochism is only going to get worse, because after Shae's birthday next week I'm going to have to start throwing myself into what is maybe the most passive-aggressive thing that one could possibly do, to wit: I am going to start planning our upcoming camping "vacation." There are not enough rolly-eye emoticons in the world.

August 1984

We're a camping family, or at least we were once. I remember when I was a kid, and how I used to look forward to our annual trips to the 1000 Islands, in upstate New York. Although why I looked forward to it, I can't really say, because even way back then, I hated bugs and dirt and humidity. And especially worms, which are a big part of the action, because fishing figures prominently.

Campsite - 1970's-ish?

People think I'm kidding when I say it, but now that I have experienced the joy and wonder that is the all-inclusive resort hotel with swim-up bar and poolside beverage service, my idea of "roughing it" is staying at a Motel 6. It's been a very long time since I've slept in a tent. In the dirt. In the outdoors. With the daddy longlegs and the 100-yard trek to the public toilets in the middle of the night. Sometimes it's hard for me to wrap my head around voluntarily participating in an activity that has not gotten much more technologically advanced in the last 30 years, unless you count recent advances in air-mattress-inflation-speed technology as "progress."

I mean, really, does that sound like a "vacation" to you? To me it sounds more like a penance.

Mikey Greg & Sally

Then again, a lot of big family moments can come out of getting back to nature. Little things, unnoticed at the time. So we're going to do it, and I am going to do my best to try to enjoy myself. It's probably going to require copious amounts of toasted marshmallows and wine coolers, but these are risks I am willing to take, I suppose.

Rocks 1

I am not the least bit concerned about whether Shae is going to like camping -- I think that is pretty much a given. She likes fresh air, she likes grass and trees, and already she is showing an aptitude for climbing over rocks, which is the second most popular activity in Wellesley Island State Park, after "fishing" (which is really just drowning worms, but let's not tell her that, okay?).


Actually, there's no doubt in my mind that she'll have a great time. There are lots of places to explore, and lots of swimming to be done, and we're making it a family reunion of sorts, with lots of my relatives coming along. There will be maybe half a dozen little kids there, and already I can hear the happy screeching and the laughter and the endless refrains of "The Littlest Worm."

Rocks 2

I can say that camping was highly educational for me once. I learned to cook sunny-side-up eggs, I used an Epilady for the only time, I saw my very first dirty limerick on a bathroom wall, I caught minnows in a net, I kissed a boy, I watched my dad try to master the PogoBall. It wasn't always all bad.

And if they could figure out a place to put a tiki bar, and hire some hot young things to peel me grapes and bananas and bring them right to my campsite? Maybe we'll talk.


I Can Has Cheezburger?

So, here's the thing about being pretty starkly depressed at the moment: I don't much feel like eating. Like, I've only had two full meals in the last three days, and one of those was a grilled cheese sandwich with a "salad" made of croutons and borderline-expired light ranch dressing, so make of that what you will. Hypothetically, I'm hungry, but I don't want to exert the effort of actually consuming the food. Bizarre, I know, especially for me, because I am the girl with the most Tastykakes, but ... eh.

Still, I think maybe the tide is turning, because lots of things are starting to look good right now, even this:

Family Friendly Food Pr0n

And that is saying something, because I don't really like Burger King very much. I'm fully on board the Five Guys train, now that there's one near my parents', but even still, I was pretty much ruined for your standard East-Coast-fast-food burgers once I experienced the joy and wonder that is In-N-Out.

That Is A Frikkin' Raw Onion!

Shae, on the other hand, LOVES Burger King. She loves cheeseburgers, especially when they come with ketchup and pickles and, apparently, raw onions. I'm more of animal-style gal myself.

Mm'onion Rings

We're in agreement about the onion rings, though. I might prefer Wendy's burgers and McDonald's fries and Chick-Fil-A's nuggets, but Burger King has always had and will always have the best onion rings in the business.

Gratuitous Adorability

(There is no reason for this picture to be here. I am just trying to change the subject away from food.)


Take This Week and SHOVE IT

Yesterday can KISS MY ASS and ROT IN HELL for all I care. Yesterday was entirely an EPIC FAIL. It was like "Castaway," except longer. Like "The English Patient," but without Ralph Fiennes and Sayid from "Lost." If anyone found themselves in the midst of plagues of flies or frogs or locusts or boils, or riots or fires or mudslides or sushi in the mall, that was probably tangential to my problems, because yesterday was just a bad day of Biblical proportions.

Honestly, it was so bad that I don't even want to recap, but it does appear that I my "Litany of Worries" was not entirely fashioned out of whole cloth. Some of these things, I have reason to be worried about, and indeed, some have already come to pass.

Also, I am thinking of maybe changing my name to Job, except I am afraid I will be mistaken for an "Arrested Development" character, and while that could be cool, for right now my sense of humor has gone off on walkabout without me.

Also: I am not yet 800 years old. Or a man. Or particularly interested in being named after a book of the Bible.

So, hey! Quick! Look at these pictures of my kid!

Right Stuff

We're starting to let her pick out her own clothes. Well, partly -- she picked out this shirt and we did the rest. I bought the shirt. Circle of life, or something.


Doesn't it look like she's on a photo shoot for America's Next Top Model here? Miss Tyra's "smizing" has nothing on my kid's.

Commando Crawl

No idea. I try as much as possible to go with the flow. This might be one of those times when she was pretending to be a cat. I don't know. Kids don't make sense.

Little Miss Gladys

GLADYS LEIBOWITZ LIVES, BITCHES! My parents got Shae a new bubble mower. We can't figure out how to make it work, but does this kid know how to work it, or what?


Godspeed, Little Man

With pets, as with children, you're not supposed to have a favorite, but I have to admit that ever since he showed up on our porch that cold November night back in 2002, I've always loved Owen the best. The girls are haughty, as female felines often are, but Owen was more like a puppy, always so grateful to have us around. Even that first time we met him, he greeted us at the front door.

Whether he ran away from or was abandoned by his previous family, we never knew, and after he stuck around that first night, it never again mattered. He spent the first 24 hours of his life with us on the front porch of the townhouse in Harleysville, wrapped in one of my husband's childhood blankets. That was right after we decided we wanted to start trying to have a baby. We got him instead, and never once regretted it.


I can't remember where his name came from, but it suited him. Owen is an earnest sort of name, and Owen was an earnest sort of cat. He was slightly neurotic, and would follow us all over the house. He was always underfoot, looking for approval, even after more than seven years with us. He put up with a lot of crap from the girl cats, who treated him like a stepchild. But as long as we left food in his dish and room in our bed, he was satisfied.

Oh, and how Shae loved him! And how he loved her right back! When I was home with her, right after the placement, she crawled everywhere after him -- in fact, when she started walking, it was because she couldn't keep up with him on all fours any more. One day she got up and toddled after him, and she's been running after him ever since. She always wanted to know where he was, but it was almost never a question, because he was where she was. Her room was his favorite place in the house, and he tolerated endless tail-pullings and accidental eye-pokings to be there.


I never had pets before I lived with my husband, and Owen was the first thing we had that was truly ours, that we loved unconditionally and that loved us back likewise. There were never any strings with this guy, never any obligations except to love and be loved. He was our baby, our guildmate, our friend, our mouse-catcher, our foot warmer, our sometime-babysitter.

He found us. He loved us. He nuzzled us and purred at us and rescued us and saved us when we were at a very low point. He made our great days that much better, and our happy times so much sweeter. And there are not words, never will be words, for how much I will miss him.

He died earlier today, and a very big, soft, mushy, fuzzy, noisy, sweet, green-eyed piece of my heart died with him.

Owen Collage

We love you, Buddy, and we miss you already. Always will.

Godspeed, little man
Sweet dreams, little man
My love will fly to you each night on angel's wings
Godspeed, sweet dreams ...
-- Radney Foster


From The Mouths Of Babes

I learned a couple of highly instructional things from my daughter over the weekend. For one thing, she knows when her birthday is -- in the abstract, anyway. She knows her birthday is "April 1st." But ask her when April 1st is, and she'll only say "my birthday." Like, she has NO IDEA when April 1st actually is. Could be tomorrow, could be next week, could be a hundred and one days from now. In any case, she knows when her birthday is, and she is very proud of this fact.

Loot Survey

(Oh -- that scab on her poor widdle face! The other day at school she was jumping and shrieking and monkeying around and somehow tripped and fell and did a faceplant right into the carpet. Yes, she has her a rugburn on her face, because if there is one thing I have managed to teach that kid, is it that we do NOTHING half-assed in our family.)

Totally Over Being A Spokesmodel

She also has the let's-pretend-to-be-shy act down around My Big Fat Slovak-or-Something Family, let me tell you. Everybody but Brittany, she hides from at first. Except the boys, pretty much -- my cousin Brian, the so-called Mayor of Bath, swooped in and picked her up and she was all giggles and sunshine for the rest of the day. We're going to have trouble with that one.

Me & Easter Bunny

Also, we're still afraid of the Easter Bunny. She wanted NO PART of the Rabbit, excuse to reach into his basket and swipe a quick piece of candy. She claimed she was going to give the Easter Bunny a kiss and a high five, but no such luck. So you're all stuck with me. HA.


March Madness

I couldn't possibly care less about college basketball, seriously -- I can tell you more about the Syracuse University lacrosse program than its basketball team, and that is truly sad (10 time and reigning champs, woot woot!) -- but yet I still put in my $5 for the pool at work. Because I am a joiner, you know?

And ALREADY my brackets are borked because of the frakkin' Big East. *shakes fist at Georgetown and Marquette and Notre Dame* Damn you! Damn all of you to hell! Although that's what I get for picking Notre Dame, I suppose. We get what we deserve.

(True fact: Every time I typed "Notre Dame" in this post so far, I actually typed "Notre DAMN" and had to go back and fix it. From now on, typo stays.)


Here are some pictures from St. Pat's that make me happy and temporarily stop me from thinking about who I need to bribe to change my picks and basically disown most of the Big East. Please to enjoy.

Sparkle Shamrocks

Go 'Cuse! And if not them, then go Pitt and Louisville and West Virginia. And if not them ... well, go everybody except Kansas and Kentucky and Duke, basically. (Sorry if you're a fan, but if you can't have loyalties during March Madness, then when can you have loyalties?)

(And I'm sorry, but to me, a Penn State wife, "Notre Damn" is pretty darned funny. My seat on the bus to Hell is pretty much reserved, no?)


Litany of Worries

I worry about everything all the time. I worry that my spring bulbs aren't going to bloom this year. I worry that my summer flowers will not survive the choking weeds in my back flower beds. I worry that we're going to have grubs in the front yard.

I worry about how much I worry. I worry what people think of me when I wear my Crocs in public. I worry that I will never again be able to wear a pair of stretch pants without looking like a homeless former circus clown.

I worry that I am not getting enough sleep. I worry that I am not getting enough calcium. I worry that I am not getting enough fiber. I worry that I am eating too much red meat. I worry that I am not getting enough fruits and vegetables. I worry that a grown-ass woman with a full-time job shouldn't eat Lucky Charms for dinner two nights a week.

I worry that I am ever-so-slowly but ever-so-surely losing my mind. I worry that I spend too much time playing World of Warcraft. I worry that I will never get my Loremaster achievement. I worry that I will never again be fully happy at work. I worry that my husband will never find a job. I worry that when he does I will have to do laundry again. I worry whether it is possible to die under a pile of unmatched socks.

I worry that maybe I need a vacation. I worry that maybe my only vacation this year will feature tents, worms, and my cousin Jason's stinky shoes. I worry that I will never again stay in a hotel with a swim-up bar. I worry that I will never see Paris. I worry that I will never see Dublin. I worry that I will never see Rio de Janeiro. I worry that I will never see Cairo. I worry that this perpetual hum of barely-controlled panic is probably not healthy.

I worry that I might have toenail fungus. I worry that I will lose my toenail before sandal season. I worry that I will lose my toe. I worry about a couple of freckles that look funny. I worry that I can't remember when I last had a Pap smear. I worry that this sinus thing is actually brainworms. I worry that maybe I watch too much "Fringe." I worry that maybe I should be on anti-psychotics or at least anti-depressants.

I worry that my frown lines and crow's feet are turning into worry furrows. I worry that we'll never get around to making the repairs we need to make to the house. I worry that we'll be stuck there forever. I worry that my daughter won't be able to get into a good college because we live in a crappy school district. I worry that we are not giving her the life she deserves. I worry that we are not giving ourselves the life we deserve.

I worry about not being able to take care of our parents as they get older. I worry about my grandparents. I worry about my sisters. I worry about the cats. I worry about that stupid mouse and whether we're ever going to catch him before he gives us all hantavirus. I worry about gingivitis and when it's time to get my oil changed. I worry about global warming and world peace and gay rights and birthers and wingnuts and moonbats and loonballs.

I worry about what the hell the world is coming to. I worry that maybe I shouldn't have gotten out of bed this morning. I worry that it's all worse than I thought. I worry that it actually isn't.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!

May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
Angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.
 -- Irish Toast


Baubles Bangles and Beads

For reasons that are not readily apparent even to me, I have approximately eleventy metric tons of Mardi Gras beads in a drawer in my hutch. I don't know know where most of them came from -- as far as I can remember, I've only attended a "Mardi Gras"-themed event once in my life, and I am pretty sure that I left my shirt on for most of it.

Mardi Gras Beads

Not all the necklaces are plain old beads. One of them features plastic Dos Equis bottle caps, one of them has a giant car-emblem-sized Nittany Lion pendant, and of course one has the little shiny red lobster on it, a piece of one of my old Halloween costumes.

Lobster Necklace

I tried to take pictures with my fancy prime lens but I haven't yet learned how to focus with that sucker, plus Shae doesn't exactly sit still ever, so we're a little fuzzy. Probably I should take a class or something, but I'm cheap and I'm lazy and I like having stuff to bitch about.

Stupid No-Autofocus

Instead ...

Mama es la Dorkorita

... you get a bunch of pictures that look like this, where Shae makes the beginnings of her "bishplz" face.


Over My Head

It was a putrid weekend, rain and wind and power outages and water in the basement, and I spent Saturday night and most of yesterday at my parents', because if you're going to be bored, you might as well do it somewhere with heat and TV and a working refrigerator. Shae found the whole thing terribly exciting -- "The lights went OFF!" she told everybody, awestruck -- plus when she is around my family there is that whole issue of spoilage.

(Don't deny it, Mom: you let her play with a jump rope at 10:00 at night, and then you gave her ice cream. Way to make me look like the Wicked Witch of the West Ward, there.)

I'm too tired to grump about it, really -- I just want my stinkin' hour back already, and also I would really love it if my house did not at present smell quite so much like basement and wet litter box -- so here are some pictures of Shae practicing somersaults on my sofa. You're welcome.


(The matching shirt-and-afghan combination are purely coincidental.) Gotta say, she's made great progress in the last 9 months. I mean, I'm not crazy about the fact that she comes thisclose to kicking my monitor off my desk, but her form is definitely much improved. And I really can't blame her for not wanting to do somersaults on a hardwood floor, can I?


Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

It's raining today, and it's supposed to rain all weekend -- yaaaaaay! -- so now I'm really glad we went to the park the other day and let Shae run around. Even though I took a whole buttload of pictures that look like this mess:


This kid, you guys. She's made of Jello and rubber bands and hair and, apparently, Energizer batteries. Gogogogogogogo! She ran the bases on the ball field, ran through open grass, ran to look at the ducks, just runrunrun everywhere, nonstop.

Still & Quiet

And even here, even though her feet are not moving, you can practically see the gears in her brain churning away, while she tries to figure out how she can get in the water. "What if I keep my jacket on, Mommy? Will it be warm enough then?"


The only way we could keep her "under control" (if you could even pretend to call it that) was by asking her to do silly things that required her to run somewhere else. Like, when we asked her to hide behind a tree, she took off for the one furthest away.




On Training a Very Small Ninja

Know what this is a picture of?


This is my kid, eating chocolate shavings off the side of a birthday cake over the weekend. Where would she the idea that something like that is OK in polite company?

The Master

From her great-grandfather, who was taking the chocolate shavings off and handing them to her. Because hey, why not?


I mean, really, it's totally fine to stick your fingers in somebody else's birthday cake if your Poppy says it's OK, right? *shrugs*


Kids these days, with their mouths full of chocolate and giggles and kisses. I don't know where they learn this behavior.