Monday, January 31, 2011

Project 365 - Day 31 - A Year Ago Today...(part 1)

I awoke abruptly in the darkness, my heart pounding as if I’d been plagued by a nightmare. I couldn’t remember dreaming, yet something had startled me out of my restless slumber. But what?

I held my breath and listened.

The silence was broken by a low, muffled moan.

“Stevie, did you hear…” I began, but when I looked, the bed beside me was empty.

I flinched in surprise as the moan suddenly erupted into a scream.

I struggled to sit up, planting my hands on the mattress beneath me, then hefting my very pregnant body upright. My stomach tightened as Cadence flipped and rolled as if she too had been startled awake. I glanced at the clock. 2:54 a.m. Rolling onto my left hip, I worked my swollen legs over the side of the bed, and sat for a moment, catching my breath, before pushing myself up off the bed.

A thin shaft of light spilled into the hallway from the space beneath the bathroom door. I knocked softly.

“Stevie?” I said quietly. “Are you okay?”

No answer. I could hear him panting heavily.

I twisted the doorknob, and cracked open the door slightly.

“Stevie, what’s wrong? I thought I heard…”

“Aaaah! AAAAH! OW! Oh my God, it huuuuurts!” Steven screamed so loudly that I recoiled, bumping into the wall behind me.

My heart began to pound harder, thumping painfully against my ribcage. I stepped forward and knocked again, before pushing the door open wide enough to see Steven crumpled on the floor near the toilet.

“Steven, are you okay?

He looked up. His face was nearly as white as porcelain, and his eyes were glassy and half-closed.

“Yeah…yeah…okay. I’m okay. I just…need a minute,” he panted, resting his forehead against the toilet. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

I closed the door and retreated to the bedroom. Steven screamed once more, and then everything was quiet again. I heard the toilet flush, and the splashing of water in the sink. Then, he shuffled back into the bedroom and fell heavily on the bed beside me. He pulled the covers up over his head, and moaned.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked, pulling the blankets down so I could see his face.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It just hurts. Oh holy shit, it hurts so bad.”

“What hurts?”

“My stomach, like all the way down here,” Steven said, rubbing his hand over his lower abdomen. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

“Maybe it’s just something you ate,” I said. “Just try to get some sleep, and hopefully you’ll feel better when you get up.”

Steven didn’t reply. I reached out and touched his hair. It was damp with sweat. He didn’t move, and I guessed that maybe he’d fallen back asleep.

I eased myself back onto my pillow. Cadence was still kicking and stretching, punching me twice in the bladder in the midst of her intricate gymnastic routine. Beside me, Steven was breathing slow and steady. Every so often, he would grimace in his sleep and moan.

I closed my eyes and fidgeted, trying to get comfortable enough to lull myself back to sleep, but it was useless. My brain wouldn’t shut itself off.

From the beginning, my pregnancy had been so easy. The first trimester I was exhausted most of the time, and I’d been completely nauseous for three months straight. Otherwise, I had absolutely no complaints about being pregnant. I never had any crazy mood swings or bizarre food cravings (except the day that I absolutely had to make pancakes at 2:30 in the afternoon). Besides some back pain and swollen ankles in my 9th month, I’d sailed through the entire pregnancy completely unscathed. Every time I visited my doctor, he would remark that I was absolutely the most laidback and healthy pregnant woman he'd ever seen, and I was excited that everything was going so smoothly.

As I neared my due date of January 25, I visited my doctors every week, and every week they kept telling me that I had not progressed. The baby wasn't dropping. I wasn't effacing or dilating. I blew past my due date, and still nothing. Finally, just when I was beginning to think that I was going to be pregnant forever, my doctor scheduled an induction. At 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 31, I was to report to Chandler Regional Medical Center. My doctor promised that I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital again without my baby girl in my arms.

What surprised me most about the pregnancy is how calm both Steven and I had been. I’ve always been pretty laidback and easygoing, and had simply taken the idea of becoming a parent in stride. Steven, however, tends to be a bit on the overly anxious and downright anal side, so I was genuinely shocked at how calm and collected he’d been. Now, lying there in the darkness, as he writhed and sweated in the bed beside me, I wondered if this just might be the moment when he would begin to fall apart.

Maybe he’s just having a panic attack, I wondered, staring up at the ceiling. Maybe he’ll be okay once we get up and start getting ready to go to the hospital. Maybe it’s not really as bad as he’s making it out to be.

Somewhere, in the midst of my musings, I managed to fall asleep.

I was jarred awake again when Steven tumbled out of the bed and ran for the bathroom, crying out in pain as he went. I grabbed for my glasses and looked at the clock, 6:15 a.m. There was no going back to sleep for me at that point, so I rolled out of bed. Electra followed closely behind, her toenails clicking on the wood floor as she ran toward her food bowl to wait for her breakfast. Behind me, I could hear Steven moaning loudly.

The rest of the day was a blur.

Somehow Steven and I had managed to put off a dozen things that we wanted to get done before Cadence arrived. When the pregnancy began to seem like it was going to stretch on forever, I guess we just got lazy. We had dozens of photos we wanted to frame and hang in the nursery, baby clothes that needed to be folded and put away, shelves to hang, and books to put away on shelves. I’d wanted to pre-make a couple meals and casseroles to freeze for later, when we were both sleep-deprived parents of a newborn and didn’t really feel like going to the trouble of cooking. You’d think being given the induction date would have kicked our butts into gear to get everything done, but we spent our last few days vegged out on the couch, watching movies, and just enjoying some lazy time together. We’d promised ourselves that we would get everything on our To-Do List done that Sunday. It was perfect. We didn’t have to leave for the hospital until 10 p.m., so we would have plenty of time. What could possibly go wrong with our plan?

While Steven spent the day migrating back and forth between the bed and the bathroom, I did a final check of our hospital bags, to make sure we hadn’t forgotten to pack anything. I brought him a bowl of chicken broth, and a glass of water, but he didn’t want either. I managed to talk him into taking a few sips of water and a dose of Pepto Bismol between waves of pain. Around noon, he fell asleep again, and I prayed that somehow he would feel better when he woke.

He didn’t.

Foerth arrived around 2 p.m. with his ugly dog, Indy, and his suitcase. He’d agreed to housesit and watch Electra for us while we were gone. Foerth and I chatted while he flipped through the channels looking for something to watch and I worked on getting the photos for Cadence’s room framed.

Steven wandered out of the bedroom around 4 p.m., still looking pale and disheveled. He sat down on the couch, said hi to Foerth. A few moments later he clutched his stomach and grimaced. He got up off the couch and headed quickly for the bedroom. He barely made it through the door before crumpling to the ground and screaming.

“Honey, I think it’s time to go to the hospital,” I said. I leaned over as far as my protruding belly would let me and put a hand on Steven’s shoulder. His shirt was soaked with sweat. I touched his cheek and was surprised at how cold and clammy he was.

“Oh God. Ow! Oh shiiiiiit it huuuuurts! And I’m gonna miss it. I’m gonna miss my daughter’s birth!” Steven cried, grabbing my hand and pressing it against his sweaty face. “What am I gonna do? Aaah! OW! OW! Shit, it HUUURRRTTTSSS!”

I could feel the first stinging wave of panic threatening to overtake me. I swallowed. Took a deep breath. And another. I squeezed Steven’s hand.

“You’re not going to miss it,” I said, surprised at how calm I sounded. “We’re going to the hospital now. Get in the shower if you can. It might help you feel a little better. I’ll have Foerth help me load the bags in the car, and then we’ll go.”

“But…but…” Steven panted, lifting himself slowly off the ground. “Is it time already? Aw Jesus, I’m so sorry babe. I just want to feel better. I don’t want to miss it. I can’t miss it…”

“You’re not going to miss anything,” I said. “It’s not time for my appointment yet. We’re going now and you’re going to the Emergency Room. Everything’s going to be fine.”


“No buts,” I said. “Get in the shower, get dressed, and we’ll go.”

I didn’t think it was possible for Steven to look any worse, but when he emerged from the bedroom after his shower, his skin had turned from pale white to ashy gray beneath the three-day growth of patchy brown stubble. Behind his glasses, his eyes were bloodshot and sunken. In his delirium, he’d managed to dress himself in a pair of navy blue South Park pajama pants, a neon tie-dye Concordia College t-shirt, white socks, and flip flops. When I said it was time to go, he pulled on a gray hooded sweatshirt, then put on his blue NY Mets hat and his black leather sport coat.

I stood for a moment, staring at him. If he hadn’t been in so much pain, I think I would have burst out laughing. He looked like a hobo. I wondered if there was any way I might be able to get him to change, or at least to take off the leather jacket. But I didn’t say anything. I just watched him shuffle out the door and climb into the minivan.

We pulled out of the driveway at 6:15 p.m., and I called Momma Dawn.

“Hey Momma, it’s me,” I choked when she answered. Somehow I’d managed to hold it together all day, but I finally broke and cried when I explained to her how sick Steven was, and that we were on our way to the Emergency Room. “Do you think you can come? Please? In case…in case Steve doesn’t get to come with me when Cadence is born?”

“Oh baby girl, of course I’ll come,” Momma Dawn said. “I’m getting in the truck now, and I’ll be right behind you.”

“Jesus, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Steven moaned when I hung up the phone. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I’m so sorry!"

“It’s okay babe,” I said. I wiped my eyes, and took a long, deep breath. “Let’s just get you there and figure out what’s going on before this baby gets here.”

The 45-minute drive to the hospital seemed to take no time at all. I parked the van as close as I could to the ER entrance, and I held Steven’s hand tightly as we entered. We approached the desk, and Steven leaned heavily against it as he described his symptoms to the attendant. She took his information, and told us to take a seat and someone would be with us soon.

We found two empty seats, and waited. I absently rubbed my hands over my belly, feeling Cadence squirm beneath my skin. I tried not to think about the fact that she might be arriving soon, and that her Daddy might not be there with me to see it.

How the hell am I going to do this alone? I wondered. I pushed the thought away.

Beside me, Steven squirmed in his seat, clutching his stomach. Every few minutes, he would lean forward, and I would feel his body clench tightly. I watched as beads of sweat popped out on his forehead and trickled down his face. He wiped them away with the sleeves of his sweatshirt and shivered.

Finally, a nurse called his name. He squeezed my hand once before he left. Luckily, Momma Dawn arrived a few minutes later, so I didn’t have to sit alone and let my racing thoughts turn to panic.

We sat and waited and I filled Momma Dawn in on the events of the day. When Steven returned, I watched Dawn’s eyes widen for a moment in shock at the sight of him, and not just because of his outfit.

“Holy shit, Stevie!” she exclaimed, when he flopped in the chair next to me. “You don’t look so good.”

“Yeah, I don’t feel so good either. They said they want to run some tests, but I gotta wait awhile.”

“What kind of tests?” I asked.

Steven shrugged. “I don’t know. They didn’t say.”

“Did they say how long it might be?” I asked.

Steven shook his head.

I glanced at the clock. 8:32.

“I probably have to go around 10 to get checked in,” I said. “I guess you’ll have to come later if you’re not done yet.”

Steven just nodded, clutching his stomach again. He inhaled deeply, held it for a moment, and then let it out slowly. Inhaled again. And exhaled. And again, until the pain subsided.

At 9:15, Steven was called back for his tests. As Dawn and I sat talking, I kept hoping that he would suddenly return, good as new, just in time for us to go get checked in at Triage and begin the induction.

No such luck.

10:15 came and went with no sign of my husband. Dawn and I gathered our things and headed down the hall, following the signs for the Labor and Delivery Unit.

It was late, and the lights had been dimmed. The Triage center seemed to be pretty much deserted. I gave my name to the nurse behind the desk, filled out a few papers, and then followed her to my bed. She told me to undress and slip into the gowns, and then she would be back to get things started. She and Momma Dawn stepped outside the curtain and left me alone to change.

Well, this is it, I thought, as I folded my clothes neatly and tied the thin, cotton gown around my neck and waist. I pulled the curtain open to let Momma Dawn and the nurse know I was finished, then I climbed onto the bed and rested my hands on my round belly.

The nurse returned to explain the procedure. She would administer a prostaglandins gel, then I would have to lie as still as I could and rest for an hour. I would go walk the hallways for 30-40 minutes to try and help jumpstart my labor. Afterward, I would come back, the nurse would check for any progress, and we would go another round of gel and walking as needed.

As the nurse administered the first round of gel, and then left me to rest, I wondered how quickly my labor would begin, and how quickly Steven would be joining me.

Damn, he really might miss this! I thought.

“Hey Momma, can you hand me my phone?” I asked. “I want to text Stevie to let him know where we are and see if he’s found anything out yet.”

“Sure baby girl,” Dawn said, digging my cell phone out of her purse and handing it to me.

Hey babe. We got checked in and started the induction, so come find us in Triage when you’re done. How are you feeling? Find anything out yet?

I held my phone and waited. No answer.

I must have drifted to sleep, because the next thing I knew, the nurse was waking me.

“Okay, you ready for your walk?” she asked.

I rubbed my eyes. Momma Dawn closed her book and smiled at me.

“Yeah, I’m ready,” I said.

“Okay,” said the nurse, checking her watch. “It’s just about midnight, so head back here around 12:30, and we’ll see how you’re doing.”

As Momma Dawn and I pushed open the doors and stepped into the hallway, my cell phone beeped with and incoming message.

“Hey, maybe it’s Stevie with some good news,” I said. I pressed the button to unlock my phone, and then tapped the screen to open the message. I read it once. Twice. I stopped walking, squinted my eyes, and read it a third time.

“Well, what did he say?” asked Momma Dawn.

I looked at the message again, and then, laughing, I read it aloud.

“Morphine and C-Span.”

Momma Dawn looked at me, puzzled.

“That’s it?” she asked, beginning to laugh too.

“Yeah, that’s it. ‘Morphine and C-Span.’ What the hell does that mean?”

To be continued...

One of my last pregnancy photos taken in January 2010.

Because we didn't really manage to take many photos during the craziness, Steve had to recreate the outfit he wore when we went to the hospital. Beneath the hoodie is a tie-dye Concordia College t-shirt. Use your imagination.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

365 Project - Day 30 - It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time

There are few things that can evoke memories of childhood faster than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you grew up in America, odds are that you have eaten enough peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to fill a medium size U-Haul trailer. Or, in my case, a plain peanut butter sandwich, because there is just something about jelly that makes my stomach churn.

It's not the taste so much (though I don't really care much for the sickly sweet taste of the stuff either), but the texture. The texture will get me every time. It's just too gooey, too slippery, too much like thick, gelatinous mucus for me to handle. Doesn't matter what flavor it is, or if you call it jelly or marmalade or jam, it's just nasty. I hate it. Loathe it. Dislike it. Detest it. Abhor it. If I could come up with a dozen more synonyms, it wouldn't even be enough to express my distaste for the stuff. I simply won't have it ruining an otherwise delicious sandwich, thank you.

My husband, on the other hand, loves peanut butter and jelly. Grape jelly is his weapon of choice. Sometimes in the evenings, just before bed, Steven will get a hankering and disappear into the kitchen. I'll hear the soft thud of the pantry door opening and closing, the clinking of the knife against the plate. Moments later, he'll return, usually with a stack of two sandwiches and a tall glass of milk.

Steven likes to slather on the jelly as thick as the peanut butter. Sometimes, he'll smack his lips and give a loud "Mmmm..." after a bite, knowing that I'll glance over just in time to see a great big blob of purple jelly fall from the corner of his mouth and plop onto his plate. I try not to gag. He thinks it's hilarious that I get so grossed out by jelly, and I swear he started slathering it on extra thick after we started dating. I just do my best to ignore him. Isn't that the key to a good marriage, after all?

For me, it's the simplicity that really makes a great peanut butter sandwich. Two slices of wheat bread, a generous layer of creamy peanut butter, and I'm in heaven. It doesn't matter if you're four, fourteen, or forty-two, there's nothing quite like a peanut butter sandwich to make you feel like all is right with the world.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to one of America's most famous sandwiches. However you like it, it's just plain good.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Project 365 - Day 29 - Holy Taxes, Batman!

Paying taxes is just one of those things you have to deal with when you become an adult. It's inevitable, and it sucks. But we do it because we have to. Well, unless you want to say "Damn the man" and try to buck the system, but you can only do that for so long before it comes back to bite you. Just ask actor Wesley Snipes, who recently began serving a 3-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

So, we hand over billions of our hard-earned dollars every year, but we don't have to like it.

When Steve and I started my photography business this past year in Arizona, we learned more than we ever wanted to about sales tax. As consumers, we paid the balance due without ever giving a whole lot of thought to the additional taxes on the ticket. Sure we noticed the numbers, but we never really took the time to dissect it and figure out how much we were actually being charged, and by whom. When we opened the business and had to figure out how much to charge ourselves, we began to understand just how out of control taxes are, especially in Arizona.

For every sales transaction, the state of Arizona collects 5.6% in taxes. Pinal County (where we lived), tacks on another 1% tax. Cities also have their own tax rates, and our little hamlet of Coolidge weighs in at a whopping 3%! Add it all up, and you're paying an additional 9.6% on every purchase. For a state that had so much trouble trying to balance and pass its budgets recently, it makes you wonder just where all the tax dollars are really going.

Of course, there are plenty of taxes in Nebraska too. We didn't escape them completely when we moved. However, we have been pleasantly surprised with our grocery bills. You'd think that after the years I spent working in the grocery store while in high school, I'd remember that, in Nebraska, food items are tax exempt. Boy, what a difference that makes when you load up the cart to stock the pantry for the month!

Steven and I like to play a little game when we go grocery shopping--Guess the Grand Total. We play with Price is Right rules. Whoever guesses closest to the actual price without going over is the winner. I think the game first began as a way to keep ourselves from letting the number freak us out, especially when we were first married and trying to survive from paycheck to paycheck. There is never a tangible prize, just bragging rights. Today, for the second time since we moved to Nebraska, we both lost for grossly overestimating the total. Let me tell you, losing has never felt so good.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to the lovely people who blessed us Nebraskans with tax exempt groceries.

Friday, January 28, 2011

365 Project - Day 28 - I Can See Clearly Now...

I was one of the unlucky kids that ended up having to get glasses in elementary school. To make things worse, it was the 80's, and optical fashion was, well, rather unfashionable. Glasses then were big and bulky, with eyepieces roughly the size of television screens. Being the 80's, bright colors were popular, even in eyeglasses, so it wasn't uncommon to see people sporting enormous brightly-colored plastic frames.

I got my first pair of glasses in 1987. The plastic frames were a light lavendar color, the eyepieces so large they covered my face from my eyebrows to the bottom of my nose. My eyesight was obviously deteriorating because I picked them out myself and thought they were very cool. I wore them proudly until my sister, Lindy, accidentally sat on them while we were on vacation in Texas visiting my Uncle Harry and Aunt Jean. I remember being so mad at her, partially because she didn't even seem sorry that she broke them, and partially because I had to walk around the whole rest of the trip in a pair of lopsided eyeglasses with only one temple piece.

I was even madder when we got home and I found out I wasn't even going to get to pick out a new pair of glasses. I was doomed to wear and ugly old pair of Lindy's glasses that never would quite sit right on my face. They were round as an owl's eyes and a light powder blue color. I hated them.

When I finally got to choose my own frames again, I decided to make a bold statement, and chose a pair of dark red frames. They were slightly smaller, though not much, and I wore them every day, until I finally convinced my parents to let me get contact lenses.

In middle school, I had a brief affair with wire frames, which I only really wore in the evenings at home, or on days when my eyes were bothering me and I couldn't put in my contacts. With nearsightedness like mine, wire frames are almost never a good idea since the lenses always protrude from the frames, making you look as blind as Mr. Magoo.

Finally, when I went to college, I decided it was time to find a pair of glasses that I really liked. I chose a small, charcoal gray plastic frame, and began wearing them almost as often as I wore my contacts. They lasted me through college, through my first working years, through my wedding, and through the birth of my first child.

Only after Cadence was born, when I started getting frequent headaches, I decided it was probably time to visit the eye doctor and get a new pair of glasses. My prescription hadn't changed much, but my eyesight had actually improved just enough to make my old pair of glasses unbearable to wear for a length of time. I walked through the store, looking at row after row of frames. I picked one up, tried it on, put it back down. Picked up another, tried it on, twisted my head to the right, to the left, took them off, and held them as a maybe. Picked up another pair, tried them on, grimaced in disgust, put them back quickly, and glanced around to make sure no one actually saw me try them on.

Finally, after about forty-five minutes, I settled on my newest pair. They are slightly larger than my last, black plastic frames, and I like them so much I usually wear them at least a couple days a week. My dad says Steven and I wear "nerd" glasses, but after taking a walk down my memory lane of optical fashion, I certainly think I've made improvements. Funny thing is, after all the "nerd" glasses comments, Duane went out and got himself a pair last week.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to all my four-eyed friends. Here's to wearing our nerdy glasses with pride! For your viewing pleasure, I've included a few photos from my own eyewear museum. Try not to let my lovely hairdos keep you from enjoying the trendy eyeglasses.

My first pair of glasses. So stylish.

My second pair were Lindy's hand-me-down glasses. I don't know what's the most exciting thing about this photo--my ugly glasses, my poorly crimped hair, or the see-through phone I was so excited to get for Christmas.

My third pair of glasses, which I retired when I got contacts. My next pair of wire-rim glasses looked a bit like the pair Lindy is wearing in this photo. You'll need to look past my big hair and the ugly outfit Lindy is modeling to see them.

My current, and favorite, pair of glasses. These days, it's only fashionable to wear sunglasses the size of TV screens. Oh, how far we've come.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Project 365 - Day 27 - Mangia! Mangia!

If you even occasionally watch or read the news, you've probably seen a story on the rising obesity rates in this country, or seen an advertisement touting the amazing results of the newest diet drug or exercise program. Approximately 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and over 8 million Americans have diagnosed eating disorders. We just can't seem to find the happy medium between binging, starving, overindulging, depriving, or just plain being happy with ourselves and our eating habits.

We've got a seriously screwed up relationship with food in this country.

People like to blame all sorts of things. Some people say runway models and skinny, airbrushed actresses make girls anorexic. Others blame television and video games for our expanding waistlines. Just last month, a lawsuit was filed against McDonald's by a woman claming the fast food giant is using Happy Meal toys to market unhealthy food to small children (to read more about this ridiculous story, click here). But in the end, all we can really blame is ourselves.

If we are every truly going to solve our body image issues and really enjoy food again, then it's time to get back to the basics.

Have you ever watched babies eat? They eat when they're hungry. They stop when they're full. They take their time and enjoy their food. Heck, Cadence can spend a full fifteen minutes sucking every last bit of sauce off one macaroni noodle before finally popping it in her mouth and chewing it up. How many of us take that kind of time to really explore and enjoy our meals? I know I'm certainly guilty of wolfing down my dinner because I'm in a hurry, and then not even being able to remember how it tasted.

It doesn't matter what it is, Cadence is game to try it once, as long as I put it down on her tray where she can look at it, pick it up, put it back down, pick it up, give it a tiny taste, put it back down, pick it up, give it a longer taste, twist it around in her fingers, change hands, and finally pop it in her mouth. If only we were all so adventurous with new foods, we just might find a whole lot more things we enjoy eating. For instance, until just this past year, I never thought I would ever try (let alone enjoy) Vegan food. Yet I was game to give it a try when I was asked to write an article on a popular Vegan restaurant called Loving Hut in Glendale, AZ. I ended up loving every plate the chef brought out of the kitchen. Have I decided to become a Vegan? No. But am I glad I tried it and willing to try more? Absolutely.

In addition to their culinary adventurousness, babies also don't spend time worrying about dieting or keeping up with crazy exercise regimens. They explore their worlds with unadulterated excitement--bending, stretching, reaching, walking, climbing and crawling every chance they get. Most of us consider ourselves intelligent, rational adults, yet we can waste a good 20 minutes just cruising the parking lot to find a spot closer to the entrance. You don't need a celebrity spokesperson or any fancy high tech equipment to help get yourself in better shape, you just need to find ways to get up off the couch and get active. Channel your inner toddler and just get out and start enjoying the fine art of walking again.

So let's stop obsessing over this unrealistic ideal that says all men should look like steroid-shooting beefcakes and all women should fit comfortable in a pair of size 2 jeans. Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to embracing our beautiful bodies and learning to enjoy our lives, and our food, again. Bon appetite!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

365 Project - Day 26 - Caught in the Act

It wasn't long after Cadence cut her first tooth and began pulling herself up into a standing position that we began noticing tiny little nicks in the varnish along the top edges of her crib. Somehow, we were never able to actually catch her gnawing on her crib, and yet each day the unsightly grooves seemed to grow in number and size.

Today, I set up the camera on the tripod, and waited for her to wake up from her nap.

Someday, long after her crib has been converted into a big girl bed, perhaps she'll ask why her bedroom furniture looks like it's been nibbled on by a hungry rabbit. I do hope she tries to deny her involvement, because I'll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Nom, nom, nom...

What? Who me? No, I wasn't chewing on my crib!

Haha! Momma, you're so silly!

Aaah! Okay! I confess! I did it!

You wanna see it again?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Project 365 - Day 25 - What's for Breakfast?

I love cereal, and  I'm pretty sure there were a couple periods in my life when I practically lived on it. The best thing about cereal is that it can satisfy almost any craving. Looking for something hearty to fill you up? Try Shredded Wheat or Grape-Nuts. Need a chocolate fix? Grab a box of Cocoa Puffs. Just feel like a good old fashioned overdose of sugar? Pour yourself a bowl of Lucky Charms or Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  

I can't really say that I have a favorite. My tastes change depending on my mood and my particular craving. There are a few though, that make regular appearances in my pantry. I am cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. I tested Kix as a kid, and now approve them as a mother. Frosted Flakes are grrrrreat. And some days, I just gotta have my Corn Pops.

I rediscovered Cheerios a few months ago when I introduced them to my daughter. I must admit, with the hundreds of choices in the cereal aisle these days, I'd forgotten just how deliciously simple a bowl of Cheerios can be.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my favorite breakfast cereals. Which ones top your favorites list?

Monday, January 24, 2011

365 Project - Day 24 - Everyone's Favorite Modeling Compound

Did you know that Play-Doh was originally invented in the 1930's as a wallpaper remover? I guess it didn't work so well. But hey, at least the manufacturers were able to make their money back when they began marketing it to children.

Very few Americans escape their childoods without getting their hands on some Play-Doh. I've probably gone through at least a dozen containers of it myself. It doesn't matter what age you are, Play-Doh is hours of fun. The cool kids had the accessories, like the coveted Fun Factory or the Burger Builder Playset. I didn't have either, but my friends did, so I was cool by association.

I always loved Play-Doh, but I tended to prefer the homemade stuff because the smell wasn't as overpowering as the storebought brand. Seriously, that stuff can asphyxiate you if you're not in a well-ventilated room. I don't know what it is they add to give it that odor, but you'd think after 50 years, they could have tweaked the recipe and toned it down a little.

You haven't lived until you've made your own Play-Doh. If you're looking for a good recipe, click here and give it a try. Don't have kids? Who cares? It's fun for all ages. If someone happens to stumble upon your stash, you can always lie and say you made it for your neice, or nephew, or younger sibling, or the neighbor kid who lives two houses down. Or hell, just tell the truth, say it's yours, and ask them if they want to help you make a Play-Doh pizza. You might be surprised at how many people will take you up on the offer.

Squish it. Roll it. Flatten it. Build it. Cut it into shapes. But, for the love of all that's good and holy, don't mix the colors. I don't really consider myself an uptight or anal person, but watching kids mash different Play-Doh colors together and shove them willy nilly into containers makes me cringe. The containers come with colored lids for a reason people.

My daughter is still a little too young for Play-Doh. At this point, she is still picking up every random piece of lint and scrap of paper from the floor and putting it in her mouth. Just yesterday I caught her chewing on a wad of cardboard that she pulled off the corner of the box our new vacuum came in. Imagine what she would do with a fistful of Play-Doh, odor and all! But it won't be long and we'll be breaking open a container together, and the legacy will continue.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to everyone's favorite modeling compound. Thank you, Play-doh, for over 50 years of fun.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Project 365 - Day 23 - Hoarders

Last night, while flipping aimlessly through the television channels, Steve and I stumbled upon an episode of the show "Hoarders" on A&E. Just five minutes, and we were hooked. We watched in horrified fascination as people filled their homes from floor to ceiling with clothing, canned goods, dishes, full boxes, empty boxes, used containers, old newspapers and magazines, and any other sort of useless junk you can imagine. In the extreme cases, there was barely a thin pathway to maneuver through the mess.

A few of the hoaders even "collected" animals. Cats, rats, chickens, rabbits, dogs, ducks--the hoarders were often quickly overcome when the animals began to breed and multiply. Many animal hoarders live in conditions that aren't even suitable for the animals, let alone humans, and yet many of them vehemently deny that there is a problem. One man in an episode last night had adopted three pet rats to keep him company after his wife died suddenly. By the time he appeared on the show, asking for help to get his life back, his "pets" numbered in the thousands and had systematically destroyed his home from the inside out.

Watching the show, I began to wonder how this sort of extreme hoarding begins in the first place. Is it a sickness? Something clearcut and diagnosable? Or is it just a personality quirk that spirals out of control? Is it something a person is born with? Or something that develops slowly with age? Or could it simply be a byproduct of this materialistic world we're living in?

I like to think that I would never end up on one of these shows. I like to think that I am not so attached to any of the "things" I own that I would refuse to part with them even if they were broken or empty or useless. Yet, I must admit, there are times when I wonder if this compulsive hoarding behavior simply varies by a matter of degrees.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to that little hoarder in all of us. What are you collecting?

My name is Lori, and I am a book addict.

A small sampling from Steven's stash of Modern Drummer's.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

365 Project - Day 22 - Walking After You

Funny how the first signs of independence come so suddenly, and so subtly. We are just shy of a year since my daughter was born, yet she has already begun to assert herself into the world, discovering and defining her own identity. She is already testing her self-sufficiency, even if it is something as simple as holding her own bottle.

I know I'm very new at this whole parenting thing, but I think that this might be one of the most difficult parts of all--watching our babies slowly pull away from us. To me, parenting seems to be a very delicate balancing act between being a source of strength and comfort for my child, and also being able to give her the gentle nudges she needs to become independent. It's a very natural instinct to want to protect her, to want to grab on tightly and never let her go. Yet it's my job to let her go, to let her find herself...and I take my job very seriously.

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to all the babies who are growing up too fast, and to the parents who must learn to let them go.

Friday, January 21, 2011

365 Project - Day 21 - Deliver Us From Idiocy

"What did we ever do before we had cell phones?"

Usually the question is meant to demonstrate the usefulness of the devices, for they have certainly made some parts of our lives easier. When you head to the mall with a group of your friends, you no longer have to stay together or synchronize your watches and plan a specific time and location to meet up before you leave. Teenagers heading out on a Friday night no longer have to worry about carrying a pocketful of change or finding a pay phone to call Mom and Dad in an emergency, or to ask if they can stay out just an hour past curfew. And it's certainly easier to stay in touch with friends and family nowadays, even if they live halfway around the world.

You can also reach someone instantaneously by texting. People spend hours sending short bursts of misspelled acronyms back and forth to one another when they either can't talk on phone, or simply don't feel like it. Texting is great when you're stuck in an endless meeting at work, or when you see a guy at the gym who looks exactly like Brad Pitt and you want your best friend to hurry up andcome see for herself. You can even include photos or short videos to help illustrate your point.

If that wasn't enough, cell phone manufacturers have blessed us with a whole line of phones that can also keep us connected to the internet 24 hours a day. That's right kids. Access your email instantly, and carry your Facebook friends and Twitter followers with you wherever you go!

Yet, for all their virtues, it is becoming increasingly apparent that cell phones are also contributing to our social and intellectual demise.

If you have ever been out drinking with a group of friends, you have inevitably witnessed a case of Drunk Dialing--some poor, inebriated fool deciding that 3 a.m. is a great time to call the girl he has a crush on and impress her by singing a short selection of his favorite Dave Matthews songs. The scenario gets worse when one of his sober buddies records the slurred serenade and posts it one YouTube for the rest of the world to see.

To avoid this kind of embarrassment, you must be proactive. When you are planning to go out drinking with friends, be sure to take the battery out of your phone and carry it in your pocket. That way, if you get the urge to call and profess your love to the hot new guy that got hired in your office or to curse out the professor that gave you a D- on your midterm, you will have at least 5-10 minutes to reconsider while you try to replace the battery and turn on your phone. Most drunks would lose interest long before they finished the job. However, if you should succeed, you should know ahead of time that the "Damn-I-was-too-wasted-to-realize-what-I-was-doing" defense will not hold up in any court of law.

Anyone who still argues that our obsession with cell phones is not interfering with our daily lives has obviously not seen the recent video of the woman who fell into a fountain at a mall in Pennsylvania while texting on her cell phone, or the subsequent videos with her and her lawyer as they discuss whether or not they are going to sue the mall (to see her interview on ABC's Good Morning America, click here).

Personally, I don't know what is more disturbing about this story--the fact that this woman was so involved in her texting that she was completely oblivious to the ENORMOUS fountain directly in her path, or the fact that she is seriously contemplating suing someone else for her own stupidity. Don't get me wrong, I love my cell phone, and I do my share of texting, tweeting, emailing, and updating my Facebook status, but I have never even tripped over a curb while texting, let alone falling into a fountain. And we're not talking about a small, kiddie pool size fountain. This thing was the size of an Olympic swimming pool. I am actually looking forward to the outcome of this case. If she wins, it just might be time for me to lawyer up. I have done some seriously stupid things in my life, and if it is possible to reap some sort of financial benefit from it, then I am certainly on board.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to one of the modern guilty pleasures we can't seem to live without. LOL!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

365 Project - Day 20 - All Play and No Work Makes Jack a Dumb Boy

It wasn't until I became a teacher myself that I realized what a great education I received. Of course, I didn't recogize it at the time. What student ever does? Like my peers, I was convinced that my teachers were giving homework assignments just to torture us, and that they were quizzing us over and over on boring information for no other reason than to make us miserable.

At some point between the day I graduated from high school and the day I first walked back into the classroom as a teacher, the educational system in this country took a hard and deliberate dive right into the toilet.

I'm not even going to get into the issues with classroom discipline or administrative red tape--that's a topic all its own. What shocked me more than anything was how watered down...oh hell, I might as well just say dumbed down the academic curriculum is in this country. Students are not quizzed anymore, not like they used to be. They are not forced to learn names and dates and rules of grammar by rote memorization.

No, these days, learning has to be fun. Teachers are brainwashed into believing that they have to make a game out of the lesson in order for students to learn. These days, being a teacher is more like being an actor or a stand-up comedian. Teachers are evaluated on how well they are able to perform, and how engaging they are to their mean their students.

One of my friends, and former colleagues, posted links to two articles on Facebook today, and it was these articles that inspired today's post. You can read the full articles here and here if you like. One section in particular caught my eye, when writer Alexander Nazaryan recalls his days as a teacher, and how he forced his students to memorize facts, read difficult pieces of literature, and then quizzed them over and over on the information. "I apologize for none of this. Princeton researchers have found that making material harder to learn 'has been shown to lead people to process information more deeply, more abstractly, more carefully, and yield better comprehension, all of which are critical to effective learning.'"

Why then are we coddling our students, and turning our classrooms into three-ring circuses? Why are we sending our students home without textbooks? Why are children no longer required to spell correctly or diagram sentences or learn facts by rote memorization? And what the hell ever happened to phonics?

It really hit me that something was wrong when I began teaching college English and discovered that over half my students were not able to write an analytical essay or use basic punctuation correctly. Yet somehow, each one of these students managed to get promoted through elementary school and graduate from high school without ever mastering these skills.

So, am I shocked that a top-performing New York City high school is under investigation for doctoring grades and transcripts?

No. And I would bet my life savings that it is happening in every city in America.

What can we do to stop our academic decline? That's easy.

We need to start valuing education again. We need to start giving our hardworking teachers the respect (and the paychecks) they deserve. We need to start holding our children accountable. Parenting is a difficult job. You have to be the responsible one. Always. Even when it makes you unpopular. But don't we owe it to our children to lock up the cell phones and video games and turn off the televisions and the Ipods if that is what it will take to get our kids to start learning again? If instilling a good work ethic and teaching the value of a good education to my daughter means that I'm a "Tiger Mom", so be it. One day, she will thank me for it.

Today's 365 Project is dedicated to all the wonderful teachers I had the pleasure of learning from as a student, and all my fabulous colleagues who continue to fight the good fight.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

365 Project - Day 19 - Zzzzzz....

It amazes me how much time my daughter spends fighting sleep. You wouldn't know it from today's photo, but she's a regular insomniac. Sadly, that means I am also an insomniac. The only one getting any regular sleep in this house is the the dog. Electra sleeps enough for all of us combined, and if you ask me, that just isn't fair.

I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Cadence doesn't sleep much. Her Daddy doesn't either. He is a self-proclaimed non-napper, and is one of the only people I have ever met who literally jumps out of bed in the morning. Seriously. He jumps. The moment the alarm clock breaks the silence, he bolts upright, Exorcist-style, then leaps out of bed and heads to the shower. The first few months of our marriage I was startled awake by this routine every morning, and I required an extra cup of coffee just to take the edge of my frazzled nerves.

I, on the other hand, loooooove to sleep. I love to be snuggled up warm beneath the blankets. I love to pull the drapes shut tight so the room is nice and dark. I like to sleep in and roll out of bed slowly and drink a cup of coffee before I have to officially turn my brain on for the day. I'm also snooze button abuser--hitting it four, five, even six or seven times before finally giving in reluctantly and climbing out of bed.

It became apparent early on in my pregnancy that Cadence just might have quite a bit of her Daddy's personality. From the moment I first felt the first fluttering movements in my belly, I was amazed at how much Cadence moved, how much she was always moving. She would kick, stretch, roll from one side of my belly to the other, and punch me regularly in the bladder.

At our second ultrasound, halfway through my pregnancy, the sonographer even seemed impressed by her acrobatics. "Wow!" she said, watching Cadence bounce across the grainy black and white screen. "This is definitely the most active baby I have ever seen!"

The bigger she got, the more she to moved, though I don't know how she managed it in such close quarters. I guess she was just waiting to stretch her legs in the outside world, because it has been go, go, go ever since.

Everyone says it's a phase, that these sleepless nights won't last forever, and I think it's that promise that helps other new parents like me survive our sleep-deprived stupor. One day, my little girl will grow up and instead of fighting to stay awake, she'll be fighting me to sleep just a few more minutes before she has to get up for school. Until then, I can just try to do my best, catching a quick catnap when I can and savoring the quick pick-me-up from a hot cup of coffee.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my little insomniac. Sleep tight baby girl.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

365 Project - Day 18 - Heart Attack in the Box

I think it must have been a very special sort of psychotic mind that first created a Jack in the Box, and deemed it a suitable toy for children. I mean, a "toy" that plays a catchy little tune and then scares the bejesus out of kids is something that you think might just be banned here in the United States. We've seen fit to ban all sorts of great toys for one reason or another, and yet somehow the Jack in the Box keeps getting granted a pardon.

Slap bracelets that were so popular in the late 1980's and early 1990's were banned in a number of schools and then seemed to disappear altogether because apparently a few kids ended up with lesions and other injuries after what was either blatant misuse or an unfortunate malfunction.

And what about those awesome Kinder Eggs made and sold all over Europe? They have been banned from store shelves here in the U.S. because apparently they are a choking hazard (though the package specifically indicates they are not suitable for children under 3) and because the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 prohibits the embedding of non-food items completely enclosed inside food items.

And let's not forget the legendary hover boards that caused kids to drool after seeing them in Back to the Future Part II. Rumor has it that Mattell was nice enough to make them, but they never managed to make it to store shelves. Would I be shocked if they existed and were banned by some overzealous parent group in this country? Why no, no I wouldn't.

And yet, here is Mr. Jack in the Box, still sitting smugly on store shelves, waiting for his next victim. While I wasn't scared of him, I just never cared for him much. Apparently Cadence doesn't either, for each time he popped out of his lair to surprise her, she looked at me with a mixture of fear and awe, forcing out a high-pitched fake laugh and trying desperately to shove him back into cage.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated our old pal Jack, and the generations of children he has frightened.

Monday, January 17, 2011

365 Project - Day 17 - Television

I love television, and before you go all judgemental on me and start ranting about how television is the root of all evil and poisoning the minds of our youth, allow me to explain.

I've never been what you could call a couch potato. As a child, I enjoyed watching cartoons. I loved Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry, and Loony Tunes. I watched G.I. Joe, The Real Ghostbusters, and Jem. And yet, if you add it all up, I spent at least three times as many hours playing outside with my friends or reading books than I ever did watching TV.

As I got older, my TV habits matured, and while I still enjoy the occasional cartoon, I tend to gravitate these days toward shows that require me to use a bit more of my brain. I love Gilmore Girls for its frequent literary and pop culture allusions. I enjoy X-Files' appreciation of the paranormal, and the way it urged the viewing audience to seek the truth. Twin Peaks and Lost--my two favorite shows of all time--blend different philosophical, psychological, and religious ideas with literary and cultural themes. They are shows I can watch over and over again because I see something and discover something new every time. I love that.

Now, there are many people who argue that television is evil, that is is rotting our brains and turning our children into flabby, unimaginative lumps on the sofa. These are the same people who might argue that violent television causes people to be violent. I have to say, I do not agree with this logic. Television can only rot your brain and make you flabby if you do not have a life outside of it. Violent television can only incite violence if you do not understand the difference between fantasy and reality. And if that is the issue, then it is a personal one. Don't go blaming television for your problems. Own up and take responsibility for your own actions (or inaction).

In the end, television is entertainment, and these days, there are hundreds and thousands of channels to do just that. Whether you want to leave your brain at the door and watch the train wreck that is The Jersey Shore, cheer on your favorite celebrity on a show like Dancing With the Stars, or get hooked on a gritty homage to the post 9/11 FDNY in a drama like Rescue Me, there is something on the tube for everyone.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to the shows I enjoy relaxing and watching with my hubby. Thanks for the entertainment.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

365 Project - Day 16 - Deja Vu

As a parent, you want to protect your child from any sort of harm, whether it be a broken bone or a broken heart. That first injury, that first glimpse of blood against creamy baby skin, nearly stops your heart.

When Cadence started walking three months ago, we realized that her first bumps and bruises wouldn't be far behind, and she's already had her share. There was a black eye from a faceplant against the file cabinet, and a fat lip from falling down while trying to swig from her sippy cup. Last night, she slipped on a book and fell face first against the metal corner of a trunk. She only cried for a few moments, but wasn't lucky enough to escape unscathed.

Looking at my baby's bleeding face, I had a brief moment of deja vu, and had to go digging through some of my old albums to find photos of myself at the same age. If the photos of me with all my owies are any indication of what is to come, then we are in for a whole lot more!

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my tough girl and her first big booboo.

Cadence - 11.5 months

Me - 12 months

Saturday, January 15, 2011

365 Project - Day 15 - The Boots Are Made For Walkin'

I'ver never been a stereotypical girl, or at least not a girlie girl. As a child, I was more interested in climbing trees and building forts than dressing up as a princess or playing with dolls. As a teenager, I didn't subscribe to any fashion magazines, and my wardrobe mostly consisted of comfortable Levi's jeans and t-shirts. Even today, I don't wear much makeup except for the bit of concealer dabbed beneath my eyes (to hide the dark circles when my young daughter has kept me up most of the night) and a light dusting of powder to dull the shine.

My one "girlie" indulgence, however, is my love of shoes.

I'm not your typical female shoemonger though. I don't go on crazy shoe-buying binges. I don't have a closet full of the latest styles and colors to match every outfit. Hell, I don't even own a pair of high heels anymore.

What I do have is a pair of running shoes (though I never really do much running), a new pair of the Skechers Shape Ups (to help tone my post-childbirth body), a couple pair of comfortable leather loafers (both brown and black) that I used to wear in my early teaching days, and a pair of black leather boots to wear when I feel like dressing up.

But none of them even come close to my favorite.

I don't know how many miles I've put on these boots since they were first given to me as a gift my sophomore year in college. The mother of one of my dearest friends found them on the shelf at a thrift store. They were brand new, and the price tag said $5.00. How could she possibly resist? They were too big for her, but she thought I would like them.

Like them? I wish I could somehow have them permanently attached to my feet.

Since the day I got my flowered Docs, I have worn them everywhere--to class, to church, to work, on dates. I was even planning to wear them under my wedding dress until my Mom vetoed the plan. (I did, however, manage to wear them to my "fake" wedding, but that is another story for another time).

These days, the soles are worn almost smooth on the outer edges where I have a tendency to walk on the sides of my feet, and the toes are scraped and scuffed. But like all Doc Martens, they were made to last. All these years later, the stitches are still holding tight and even walking through a foot of wet snow, my feet stay warm and dry. The leather is still soft, and the flowers still bright enough to attract comments and curious glances from people I meet on the street.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my flowered Docs--the best darn pair of shoes I have ever, and will ever own. Thank you Nancy!

Friday, January 14, 2011

365 Project - Day 14 - Keep Writing, Keep Writing, Keep Writing...

I fell in love with writing the moment I first held a pencil in my hand and began forming words on paper. I would sit for hours with my writing book open on the table in front of me, copying the letters over and over and over again until they were just right. I was one of the only students in my first grade class who didn't groan when Mrs. Smith would announce that it was time to practice our penmanship.

In second grade, I began writing my first "novel". It was a mystery story, sort of a Nancy Drew type caper. Using my classmates as characters, I penned six chapters and nearly forty pages before I put it aside to work on another project.

Despite all the technological advances, I still prefer a pen and paper. People think I'm crazy that I handwrite everything first, before typing it up on the computer.

"Why the hell would you do that? You realize you're doing twice as much work that way? It's must faster to just type it all out in the first place."

But there is just something about a crisp, clean sheet of blank paper, something about the weight of the pen in my hand that opens the floodgates of my imagination the way a keyboard and screen never could. Somehow, the words just seem to flow from my pen, effortlessly, on their own. With a pen in my hand, I am just along for the ride.

There was nothing I ever wanted more than to be a writer. Yet sometimes, even now, I have difficulty calling myself that--a writer. I have never written a bestseller. I have never made a million dollars. I have never sold a manuscript to be made into a blockbuster movie. Oprah has not yet called to interview me, or added any of my writing to her Book Club.

Yet, I keep writing, keep writing, keep writing, every chance I get. I write blog entries and editorials, short stories and poetry, blurbs and feature articles. In my file cabinet, I have half-a-dozen folders filled with notes and ideas for novels, and even one full-length memoir that I just can't seem to stop editing. I've been fortunate enough to be published, and to even make some money doing it. But even if I never publish the next great American novel, I won't stop writing. I can't stop writing. It's in my blood. It's who I am.

I couldn't decide whether I liked the color or black & white conversion of the photo better, so I posted both. Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to all the other writers out there. Whatever you do, keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

365 Project - Day 13 - A Cup of Joe

"Damn good coffee! And hot!" - Special Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks.

I always loved the smell of brewing coffee. As a little girl I remember taking a sip from my Mom's cup one morning, then promptly spitting the hot liquid in the sink. Somehow, the delicous aroma just didn't quite match the bitter, watery flavor, and I wondered why anyone would voluntarily drink such nasty stuff.

It wasn't until I went to college that I began to develop a taste for coffee. Most days, the thick, black coffee brewed in the dining hall resembled motor oil, but I quickly learned how to cut the bitterness with splashes of cream and packets of sugar. I began experimenting with different flavors and roasts, purchasing cups of coffee wherever I went--restaurants, diners, gas stations, coffee houses. Much to my surprise, I found that I was enjoying the taste of coffee--real, unaltered, unsweetened coffee. I was hooked.

I love coffee (and I'm talking real coffee, not that mochaccino, machiatto frappuccino imposter stuff). I love the smell of coffee as it brews. I love the taste of coffee. I love the warmth of the mug in my hand. I love the way a good cup of coffee can perfectly accompany almost any situation the way it brings people together. It is served at weddings and funerals, recovery meetings and bible studies, breakfast tables and late night diners. People meet for coffee to make up, to break up, and to wake up. Whether you're cramming for a test, traveling a great distance, or catching up with an old friend, there is nothing like a good, hot cup of coffee.

Today's 365 Project Entry is dedicated to my addiction.!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

365 Project - Day 12 - The Sockless Gene

My daughter is in the middle of a sock strike. Hate is not even a strong enough word to describe her aversion to socks. She hates, loathes, abhors them. We've never been able to keep a pair of socks on her, even when she was just a few weeks old.

Back then, you could never quite catch her taking them off. Like all newborns, she followed a very predicatble schedule of sleeping, eating, pooping, and making jerking, uncoordinated movements with her head and limbs. Yet somehow, she could still manage to covertly remove her socks. We don't know how she did it. We would turn our heads for a split second, and then next thing we knew, one of Cadence's socks would be lying next to her, while the other would be tossed halfway across the room or stuffed between the couch cushions.

An accomplice perhaps? Electra makes an unlikely candidate for such a ruse.

Was Cadence pretending to be a helpless, uncoordinated infant?


Was she using the Force?

Sock fairies?

We may never know for sure.

These days, however, there is no mystery to how she gets the job done. Countdown from five from the moment we put the socks on her feet.


Cadence reaches down and grasps the toes of her left foot firmly.


She pulls, stretching the sock longer and longer, working it slowly down her chubby leg.


The sock is yanked off with a flourish, and Cadence stares at it for a moment, smiling in satisfaction.


Cadence looks at me, pursing her lips and squinting her eyes, her little nose wrinkled in disgust.


She throws the sock into my lap with a delighted "Aaaahhh!" and starts the show all over with the right foot.

I have to admit, after watching Steven pull his socks off in the exact same fashion (minus tossing them in my lap with a victory cry), I've given up trying to keep socks on Cadence. Obviously, this is some genetically-coded behavior inherited from her Daddy, and who am I to try and fight nature? Let the two of them go sockless together.

Besides, who can resist chubby baby feet?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

365 Project - Day 11 - Longing

We've all had one of those moments, when we are so close to something we want that we can almost taste it. Yet, there it sits, just beyond the reach of our outstretched fingertips.

I watched Electra have one of those moments today as a fat, brown squirrel taunted her from his perch on top of the fence. I could see her bristling in anticipation, her eyes locked on her target, while Mr. Squirrel sat smugly on the fence swishing his tail and chattering loudly.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to my hopeful hound, and her squirrely tormentor.

Monday, January 10, 2011

365 Project - Day 10 - Snow

It's funny how people keep apologizing to Steven and I about the winter weather here in Nebraska. It's even funnier how they keep giving us strange looks when we tell them we just moved from Arizona.

Yes, we moved to Nebraska in the middle of winter. Yes, we knew it was going to be cold. No, we don't mind it. In fact, after a long, hot summer of record-breaking heat in Arizona (with temperatures still in the 100's in late-October), the cold actually feels pretty darn good!

After spending several winters without it, I'd forgotten how much I love the snow. I love the silence of a snowfall, the way the world itself seems to stop and stand still in awe it. I love the way a good snowfall can turn a boring view into a work of art. Most of all, I love the way a snowfall gives us a glimpse of God's grandeur in the midst of a long, dead winter.

For today's 365 Project entry, I had to share two photos of the snow. The first, a close up of the view from out patio. The second, Electra keeping an eye on the accumulation from her warm spot inside the door.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

365 Project - Day 9 - Anxiety

My dog has anxiety issues. Don't let that sweet, droopy hound dog face fool you. Electra is a bonafide basket case.

Don't get me wrong, I love my dog, and in every other way, she is absolutely perfect. She is super sweet, an excellent snuggler, and a champion napping partner. She doesn't bark, she doesn't lick, and she doesn't even have the ability to snarl, let along try and bite someone. She's patient as a saint when Cadence climbs on her or accidently pokes a finger in her eye.

But then, we try and leave the house, and our sweet little Jekyll goes seriously Hyde on us.

After four dog beds destroyed, three shredded towels, two torn up blankets, the paint clawed off our bathroom door, and dozens of land mines left in our absence, we decided to set up a video camera to see just when the hell was going on while we were gone.

We could only bear to watch the first fifteen minutes of the footage. The whining begins shortly after we close the door. By the time we pull out of the driveway, the whine becomes a full-blown howl. If she is kenneled, she claws and bites at the cage. She paces and pants so hard that she nearly passes out.

We've tried every solution we can think of. We left out articles of our clothing for her to sniff. We left dog cookies and treats around the house for her to find. We bought a hollow ball that we fill with a handful of dog food so pieces fall out randomly as she pushes it around the house. We tried filling another hollow toy with peanut butter to keep her occupied. We installed a dog door so she could have access to both the house and the yard in our absence. We even tried giving her a dose of Benadryl to calm her frazzled nerves. Yet, the only thing that transforms her back into our sweet, doe-eyed dog is for all of us to be home together.

There is a fine line between love and obsession, and Electra just might have crossed it.

But just look at that sweet face!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

365 Project - Day 8 - Indecision

With the promise of our first heavy snowfall in the forecast, I was excited to try my hand at some snowflake photos for today's 365 Project entry. The flurries began shortly after we woke this morning, but the snowflakes were falling in large, jumbled clumps on the porch. I figured, "What the heck, I might as well practice," and took my camera out on the porch to see what I could get. I wasn't happy with the results, but figured I would post one of the photos anyway.

When the flurries subsided, I kept playing around with my camera, trying out different lenses, taking random shots while Steven and I waited for the next load of laundry to finish while watching episodes of Rescue Me. I love my camera. I love the heft of it in my hand. I love the distinct snap of the shutter when I take a photo. I love seeing the moments that I capture frozen in time.

As I snapped a dozen different photos, I caught one of Cadence that I decided to add to today's 365 Project entry. She had walked over to the TV, and ever so gingerly placed her finger on the corner of the screen. Anticipating her Daddy's order of "No touch!" she turned to look at him. I caught her, mid-glance, and I love her expression.

So, for today's 365 Project, I'm posting two photos in honor of our first real snowfall of 2011, and my daughter's clever defiance.

Friday, January 7, 2011

365 Project - Day 7 - Train of Thought

People say that everything changes when you have kids. I have to admit that I don't quite agree with that. 

As a whole, my life is pretty much the same as it was before Cadence came along. I still enjoy writing and taking photographs. I still enjoy watching movies and reading good books. I still love my husband and enjoy just hanging out and goofing off with him. I still enjoy taking long drives and people-watching and singing along (loudly) to music.

Yet, for all the things that have endured, there have been many changes.

It takes a lot more planning and a lot more time to get out of the house these days, and though I am still anti-purse, I've had to come to terms with carrying a very purse-like diaper bag wherever I go. I've developed a whole new appreciation (and damn near love affair) with showering. I've learned that it is possible to function on just two hours of sleep, as long as there is a cup of coffee involved in the equation. 

The biggest change of all though is in my mind--for it's hard to think about much of anything these days without also thinking about my beautiful little girl.

It seems strange that a year ago, I hadn't even officially met her yet. These days, I have a hard time remembering what life was like without her. Perhaps that is just the price of motherhood--having your thoughts completely derailed and rerouted by this little person that you love more than anything in the world. If there was ever such a thing as a good obsession, I think parenthood might be it.

Today's 365 Project entry is dedicated to all the parents who have had their hearts and minds highjacked by their children.