Friday, March 29, 2013

Champagne Friday: Letting it All Hang Out

First of all, Happy Bubbles in Your Glass Day to You! It has been Monday all week around here...until today. Good Friday, indeed! Also, Happy Easter!! We didn't do Easter bunny pictures or an Easter basket this year because all Blue wants to do is eat the fake grass out of the bottom, so we'll probably be somewhere incredibly lame this Yorktown. But next year it is ON!

So, let's talk a minute about post-baby body. And if you are a family member of mine, go to church with a family member of mine, or just don't care to consume your lunch while looking at photos of my uncooked-chicken-skin-belly-fat, then close this window and I'll see you next week. For everyone else, let's do this.

So, this is me:
Or was me. This photo was taken during our first trip together after Neal returned home from Iraq the first time. At the time this was taken, we had been dating for all of about 17 minutes. I was a fitness director at the local YMCA and taught an average of 20 aerobic classes/week (most of which were advanced like jump rope interval, spinning, and my very own version of kickboxing in the pool). The only reason I had any body fat at all was because of this:

*photo taken at the Richmond Children's Science Museum just last month...which tells me they are still preaching this...which tells me our children are destined to be obese*

Also, there may have been a fair amount of wine and perhaps some vodka consumed on the weekends, which is why I only have a 4-pack and not a 6. But, in general, I was smokin' hot and Neal, being 10 years older, was that guy.

Fast forward 8 years. I've delivered 2 babies (albeit one was just ounces and I only gained about 10 lbs with him, it still added to the total), one of which was 8 lbs. even. With a big head. And he loved McDonald's cheeseburgers, Sonic sweet potato tots, Wendy's Frostys (or Frosties?), pretty much anything from Chick-fil-a, and chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Sometimes he loved fruit, but mostly he liked chocolate and cheese. And that bring us to this:
And this is beautiful, too. It's the creation of life and the very essence of fertility in the flesh. It's also Photoshopped stretchmarks and not really fitting into any of my clothes anymore...even the maternity ones. These photos were taken about a month before Blue was born.

Then I had a baby. Then I hobbled around the house for almost 2 months, trying not to pee on myself every time I coughed, sneezed or laughed and I used a squirt bottle instead of toilet paper for probably about 6 weeks too long because I was terrified of rubbing something raw. It wasn't until I went back to my OB for my post-delivery exam and she said, "I can't even tell where your stitches were" that I even dared to look down there. Up until then, it was the final frontier that I had no interest in settling.

My final weight at delivery was something like 225 lbs. When I got pregnant, I was an exercising/Paleo goddess and weighed in around 170 - which is very normal for my Amazon height of 5'7" and sturdy German physique. By the time I was healed and ready to stop wearing panty liners on the regular, I was 206. Today, I'm 205. I'm stuck at 205.

Let me tell you something about being 200+ lbs and wearing size 16 pants. First of all, we ordered a step ladder from Amazon after Christmas because we had to go vertical in this apartment and we can't reach anything. It came with a sticker that very plainly said, "person plus materials cannot exceed 200 pounds." Neal argued that it meant I just couldn't stand on the top rung. But that's still pretty damn depressing. Even without my paintbrush, I can't stand on the top step because I'm too heavy. Ouch. Also, all of my jeans are size 12's. I have one pair of capris that, if I wear them for 2 or more days, I can stretch them out to a 14, but that's it. And February in Virginia is not capris weather. So I've been buying jeans at the Goodwill to get me through (because if I had to wear maternity jeans until I fit back into my old ones, so help me God...). So, now in my cedar chest, I have the entire spectrum of sizes. But I'm stuck at 205.

Let me tell you something about being married to a full-time Soldier. He is surrounded by very fit women all day long. Women who can run a mile in 6 minutes and do one-arm push-ups and carry a 30-lb rucksack on a 10 mile road march without ever busting a sweat. Right now, I can do none of those things. I used to be able to do 1 or 2 of them. I could carry my own against the GI Janes in his unit. But now I'm fat and flabby and stretchmarked and paranoid. So, so paranoid. I never thought I would say it...I'm suffering from a major crisis of self-confidence. Neal places a high price on eating well and being fit. I've been picking the chocolate chips out of his trail mix and forfeiting my gym time so that I can check Facebook and drink wine. And that brings us to this:

*Please excuse the ABC shower curtain. Blue's bathroom was the best place for this project.*

There it is...the nasty, flabby, stretched out, jellyroll, butt-in-the-front truth. I have somewhat improved upper body strength from lugging a 20+ lb child around for much of my day, but that's about it. There's no definition, no curves, just round and rotund...which would be awesome if it was the early 1800's. But it's not. And this has got to GO.

So, I have a plan. I have 30 minutes each day to work out, give or take (really just take, not give). And I have complete freedom to cook anything I desire for all of my meals. I have a college degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion. And I have fit and trim women running around my husband all day*. In short, I have motivation. I am on week 2 of the C25K program, plus I'm lifting every other day and throwing some Pilates in there twice a week. We are trying to be exclusively Paleo**, but a) it's Easter, the season of sugar, and b) I still want my Friday night pizza and c) I'm fairly certain that coffee and red wine are not Paleo but whatever...I refuse to die and have my tombstone read "she should've just had the damn wine." So, this will probably take longer than the average bear. I don't have hours upon hours to devote to the gym. And I don't have a personal chef. Some days I only brush my teeth once. But I can do this. I can once again get to a healthy weight and, in the process, reinstate the infamous Ally self-confidence.

Here's where I'm starting:
right arm: 15 1/2"
left arm: 15 1/2"
bust: 42"
waist: 39"
hips: 44"
right leg: 25"
left leg: 25"

First of all, hey look, I'm proportional! And secondly, something tells me those are not Barbie's measurements. Even the fat Barbie they put out in the early 2000's.

I think I will update every 3 months as this could go on for awhile. I don't plan on being a model or even in the single digit jeans sizes. I want to be able to feel my hip bones when I'm laying down again and I would like to climb stairs, with or without Blue, without getting lightheaded and wheezy. So tonight I raise my single-serving bottle of champagne to you. I will still have bubbles...maybe just not the big mama size.

*To Neal's credit, he is oblivious to every feminine charm except mine and he tells me so frequently.
**My biggest weakness is between the hours of 9:30 PM and 1:30 AM, after everyone has gone to bed and I'm working. Any helpful hints you may have to keep me from snacking as I type, read, and bead are greatly appreciated. Nothing goes with a nice set of Swarovski drop earrings like a half of a loaf of bread and some Nutella, unfortunately.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sacrificing the Status

Mardi Gras (and, by default, Ash Wednesday) sneaks up on me every year. I mean every year. I'm still reeling from my holiday hangover when BAM! Now I must take down the tree and begin thinking about my Lenten sacrifice (yes, I took our tree down on Fat Tuesday...and  I would have left it up if we didn't desperately need that 5 square feet of space for living. Related: no more apartments. Not ever. Seriously.). And because I'm caught unaware by Lent, I almost always pick something cliche to sacrifice for 40 days and 40 nights. Chocolate. Wine. Clothes (buying them, not wearing them....although that would certainly be thinking outside of the box). I've never attempted Facebook but by the number of fans I lose on the business page during Lent and then magically regain again at Easter, I would assume this is a popular one. But I can't make it stick because I love chocolate and wine and clothes and Facebook.

So, this is the part where you say "sacrificing what you love is actually the very purpose of Lent. Keep on keepin' on, sister." Normally, I would agree with you. But I gave it a bit more thought this year and decided that not only should my sacrifice mean something to me, it should mean something to others, too. Not that I want to stand outside of my house and clang my cymbal for the Lord so y'all know I'm doing Lent, but because I want to be better and do better. I want to be a productive and inspirational force for as long as I'm here.

I'm starting with Facebook.

I decided to only post status updates that are informative and/or educational. I have been doing this naturally for a year or so - which is about how long it has taken my husband's FB habits to rub off on me. But also because, in my Facebook Utopia, updates are used as a way to convey information that will be useful to others. Opportunities to volunteer. How to provide aid to a family in need. Thought-provoking questions about politics/government/religion/education that are meant to inspire discussion, not become a forum for name-calling and bullying. But intermingled with my NY Times articles shares and blog posts about my favorite small business products has been a smattering of food photos, fakebooking posts about our great our lives are, and a fair amount of complaining about the Army. I find all of these things annoying when other people do it so why should I be spreading my stupid sauce around the Internet?

There has been an unintended consequence to this whole thing, though. I quit checking Facebook. Apparently, I only read my newsfeed as a consequence of logging on to post my own update. Also, I've quit updating. Not because there isn't anything educational or informative to share, but because that requires a certain amount of effort. And, as it turns out, I do most of my sharing when I'm sharing other people's updates...which I'm not seeing if I'm not checking Facebook.

Here's the thing, I have basically (and accidentally) given up Facebook for Lent. And I don't so much miss it. I do try to get on in the morning and post the happy birthdays (because my personal 8 September is so much brighter when I get, literally, hundreds of birthday wishes and I want to pass that on), but I don't miss the cartoons, the political snark, the ads for businesses that I should "like" based on my taste in music, and so on and so forth. I feel a little out of the loop when it comes to my friends and I do miss that. If I could filter updates the way I can filter people, I think it would be a much more enjoyable experience, overall. But then we are what we post. Sometimes I am a gouda pizza-eating, slow jam music listening, impatient driving fool. Other times I am a wealth of historical factoids. If you want me, you gotta take all of me. And I think that goes for all of us. But for 40 days and 40 nights, I'm trying not to share so much of me with so much of you.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Favorite Things: Newborn to 3 Months

I've been asked several times now which baby items I have used the most...what do I think a new mom must have? Admittedly, every baby is different. And every parenting style is different. Also, you may go into it thinking I will never co-sleep/put baby anywhere but in the crib/swaddle/not breastfeed/give baby a pacifier, etc. But then, when you're in the thick and nasty of it all, you find yourself doing one or all of these things. And that's perfectly OK. As someone very wise once told me during the first month of baby being home, you just do what you gotta do to make it through. Don't feel guilty about it. Don't feel like you have to justify it. Just survive. Because babies are squishy and kissable and delicious to have...but they will also make you think you are losing your damn mind. And that you will, perhaps, manslaughter your husband in his sleep.

So, these are the little things that got us through that mysterious "4th trimester." For the record, I completely believe in the missing fourth trimester. Those first three months are a blur of nighttime feedings and crying (that will make a mama physically ache all over) and charting feedings and poopings. But it gets better. And if it doesn't, there's vodka.

(All photos are from Google Images searches. Here's hoping I don't get sued as I try to provide you with the most accurate information possible)

1. The Happiest Baby on the Block
by Dr. Harvey Karp, MD
I didn't know about this book until Baby Blue had been home for about a month. There had been a surprising amount of screaming and crying...and Baby Blue wasn't very happy, either. The worst time of the day, between 5 PM and 9 PM (the "witching hour" they call it), left me and Neal at our absolute wits' end. There had to be a better way (one that involved eating dinner before 10:30). When I was originally told about this book, it was explained as a reference for colicky babies...but Baby Blue wasn't colicky. He just took really short naps and had trouble during those early evening hours. He wasn't crying all the time (or even fussy in general) for no reason. Basically, I did not consider him colicky. But holy moly macaroni, was it tough to get him to go down for a nap. After one particularly awful night of tears and self-doubting, I downloaded the book to my Nook and read the 3 most important chapters, which outline the 5 S's of putting a newborn to sleep: Shh'ing, Swinging, Swaddling, Side-lying, and Sucking ( in that order, I don't think. They HAVE to be done in order). Big Mama and I tried it that weekend while Neal was out of town drilling with the unit. Voila! Baby Blue off-switch! I taught Neal the steps and within a couple of days, we had a soundly sleeping baby. If you are pregnant, read this book. Your sanity and your marriage will thank you. 

2. Summer Infant Swaddleme Swaddles

This is not Baby Blue...although they have similar cheekbone structure. So, because "swaddling" is part of the 5 S's, it's important to have a swaddle. The nurses at the hospital made it look so easy breezy with that little flannel striped blanket that they brought him in. And, actually, Neal picked up on the technique rather quickly so I let him do most of the swaddling until we came home. But Baby Blue is a mini-ox with an iron will so he would often work those little hands and arms out of the blanket swaddle in 2 minutes flat. He got so good at it, we decided he liked to have his arms out and so we started wrapping him that way (or as much as you can call it swaddling when it's only from the armpits, down). As it turns out, he was waking up constantly because he didn't have any control over those little arms that we just left to move about at will and he was hitting himself in the head. The Summer Infant Swaddleme is easy to use and has velcro to keep the swaddle tight. Newborns are used to being confined (hello, womb-like conditions) so the swaddles really are like fabric gold. Plus, it made him all bundled and a little easier to carry about as I was still healing (which took 300% longer than I thought it would...which is a blog post for another day). 

3. Sleep Sheep/Giraffe/Turtle...whatever
To give you an idea of how greatly we relied on this little fella during the first 5 months, I will tell you that we've worn one out. We received 2 as gifts and decided to keep them both so we could put one in the townhouse, but we never made it that far. One died so we got out the second, bigger one. The mini version has 3 or 4 sounds...rain, creek, ocean, and seagulls I think (which we never used because just hearing it through the monitor made me want to stab my own ears). The larger version also has the mother's heart...which we used once, but made me feel like Edgar Allen Poe was sleeping in the other room. Also, Baby Blue hated the ocean sounds...until we spent a weekend in Hilton Head and he took several naps on the beach over those 3 days. He came home wanting only ocean sounds. It made this Bahama Mama so very happy. 

4. Fisher Price Deluxe Newborn Rock n Play Sleeper 
"He is going into his crib on day one." I said these words. And I meant them. But on day 2, it was clear that he needed something a little more snug to sleep in. I was also literally losing sleep over the idea that he might aspirate while we were all sleeping. We got this as a shower gift and I thought, "that's nice. Maybe he can lie in it while I shower." But from day 3 until New Year's Day (so roughly 4 months), this is all he slept in. He was cozy and inclined (helping both of us sleep better) and he was portable. I did the 10 PM to 2 AM feedings and then carried him, rocker and all, into our bedroom so Neal could do the 2 AM to 6 AM shift. I also kept him in it for naps, while I was in the shower, and when I needed to get some housework done but he was still awake. It collapses (although still quite bulky for travel) and the insert can be laundered. The rocking motion was helpful on those nights that my back just wouldn't let me swing him anymore. If we hadn't gotten this at the shower, I feel fairly certain that we would have ended up buying it before the end of the first week. 
5. Graco Duo 2-in-1 Swing and Bouncer 
"We don't need a swing. What a waste of money." We said these words. And we meant them. Until the end of the first month. When Shana came down for a visit around the end of September, I made a comment about needing to run to Target to look at swings. Then she said, "I thought you got one at the shower. Had I known you didn't have one, I would have gotten you one. You have to have a swing." Truer words have never been spoken. We had to have a swing. We chose this particular one because it was on sale at Target and got decent review on Amazon. It has 6 speeds, we never used anything above 3. It increased Baby Blue's naps by almost 45 minutes...which is a lot, really. And when you're done with the swing (which we are now), you can remove the seat and use it as a bouncer (which we still do). My only complaint is that it only swings in one direction and if I had it to do over, I would probably buy this one:
the Fisher Price Cradle n' Swing because it swings both front to back and side to side. But the footprint is enormous...way too large for the 1970's Brady Bunch ranch in Georgia or the 1300 square foot apartment where we are now. 

6. Avent Bottle System
In my rainbows-and-unicorns-pregnancy-brain, I was going to breastfeed. I mean only breastfeed. Nothing with powder or a rubber nipple was touching that child's lips. Then a string of events lead my doctor to insisting on supplementation. So, we had to open the box of bottles that we got at the shower. We had registered for this set (which shows everything we have except for the bottle warmer. Babies R Us has the full system, with bottle warmer) in an off-hand, oh let's get some bottles just in case, kind of way. And while we were at it, we should just register for the full meal deal so we don't have to buy other pieces and parts later. Thank God we did. Just 24 hours after being released from the hospital, we were learning all about powdered scoops, goal ounces, and at what temperature all of that milk will come back up, curdled. Most bottles today are BPA-free and designed to reduce gas and colic, so, really it just comes down to picking the one that you fancy the most. I fancy this one. 

7. Genius Babies anything 
I'm showing this particular activity play mat because we have spent a lot of time here. Even during the first month, I would put Baby Blue on his back and he would frantically wave his arms and legs, trying to bat whatever I had suspended from the rings. We were introduced to the Genius Babies brand by my dad and stepmom. As it turns out, babies can only see contrast for quite a long time. They love the high contrast between red, white, and black...even if they can't see that red is, well, red. If I had it to do over, I would do the entire nursery in these 3 colors. As much as I adore his little nautical nursery with its sailboats and sea life, I think he would have enjoyed it more with contrast he could see. Sadly, he's too big (not necessarily too old, but literally too physically large) to play with this anymore. The toys hit him in the nose and he bends the poles when he pulls on them now. But what a great 6 months we had on this thing! 
We also got this from Genius Babies:
the Bear View (hardy-har-har) Infant Mirror. This has been so popular with the little prince that we shuffle it between the cars instead of using the Brica mirror that we bought for the Pathfinder. But gah, y'know that mom with the child-themed car? That's so me. 
So, that's it for the "must haves" on my list. There are, of course, others. We have the Chicco KeyFit car seat and stroller and have never regretted it. The installation of the car seat is easy enough for a caveman to do it and the stroller has enough space for my double-size diaper bag plus jacket plus purse to fit. When we take the all-terrain stroller, I really miss all that storage space. 

There are, however, some luxuries that I must share. These are items that we've been given or I've stumbled upon. And I simply adore them. 

#8 Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddle/Blanket

I was first introduced to Aden + Anais when we received one swaddle/blanket and a burp cloth from our friends. And to be honest, when I first opened them, I thought they were a bit stiff and not something we would use very often. But then one night I was behind in laundry and out of blankets and swaddles. I grabbed this blanket from the top of the closet. It was large...large enough to swaddle Baby Blue tight enough to get him to sleep. And, so soft. But then I washed it and it came out of the dryer feeling like a cotton candy cloud of awesome. I've spent a lot of time wishing Aden + Anais would come out with an adult-sized version of Baby Blue's blankets. And as if I had rubbed a lamp, they just announced they have one. I mean, it's a fairly pricey item, but it's on my Christmas wish list. Baby Blue has about 7 of these blankets now and I cherish every single one. We are never without at least 2 in the diaper bag. They provide a perfect first layer in the winter and now that it's warming up, I can cover him without worrying if he'll get too hot.  Also, the burp cloth is a perfect everything size. Need a washcloth/burp cloth/pillow/cover/something to wipe the spit/drool/pee/poop/tears? It's perfect for that.

#9 Llama Llama, Mama Llama, and their Llama Drama
Hello, my name is Ally and I'm addicted to Llama Llama. We were given 3 in the series: Llama Llama Red Pajama, Llama Llama Mad at Mama (where Mama Llama drags Baby Llama all over something like Walmart on a Saturday afternoon when he would rather be playing with blocks in the sun), and Llama Llama Misses Mama (the story of Baby Llama's first day at Llama School). Then for Christmas, we got Llama Llama Holiday Drama. I love this series for 4 reasons: they rhyme, the llama is a boy, mama seems to be a single parent and while I never want to purposely exclude Neal, it makes for some nice bonding reading, and they say "llama drama." Baby Blue wasn't wild about reading at first, but we've been at it since he was a week old. Although we've given up on the pacifier, the not sleeping in our bed, the not watching TV (PBS and college basketball, I'm afraid), and an attempt to not continuously buy top-rated toys, we've kept up the reading. Now he enjoys other books besides Llama Llama (which will be covered in the 3-6 months post), but for awhile there, it was nothing but llama drama for him.  

10. Gerber Side-Snap Shirts
A word about clothes: changing them was a screaming, crying, flailing hot mess for at least 2 months. Even after he got used to actually getting dressed, it took months for him to not come apart any time it took me more than .008 seconds to get something over his head. So, newborn clothes are sweet, there is no argument here, but we ended up giving a lot away that had never been worn...simply because I didn't have it in me to cause one more crying fit. Also, come to find out, the umbilical cord really needs to be getting air in order to dry up and fall off. It can't breathe under your standard onesie. So these shirts saved us from having to put anything over his head and they allowed his little stump to breathe. It took almost a month for that nasty thing to fall off, but it would probably still be attached if we hadn't switched to these shirts. (OK, that's not true, but it definitely feels like it sped up the process.) Also, he kind of looked like a little zen baby and who doesn't love that? I wish I could find these in 12 months. It would be his only item of clothing during the summer. 

And that's my Top 10 for newborn - 3 months (now I'm going to have to look up a bunch of toddler-related items because Amazon thinks I just had a baby in the last hour). It felt like those first 12 weeks lasted a lifetime, but at least all of this made it a bit easier.

Have I forgotten anything? What would you add?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Longest Birthday Card Ever

Today is Neal's birthday. I won't say how old he is because I'm a true southern lady who doesn't believe in unnecessarily revealing a person's age. But here are forty-five reasons why I adore him so.

#45 On the day of our wedding, instead of saying "I do," he said "Sure." He also took a shot of bourbon with his best man before walking down the aisle. He thought both of these were hysterical. Now, 7 years later, I find them pretty funny, too.

#44 He has no idea who Taylor Swift is but he could spot Mitch McConnell from at least 100 yards.

#43 His teeth.

#42 He finds himself much funnier than anyone else does. And that alone cracks me up.

#41 Last weekend, he watched an entire movie with Clive Owen and a baby (which they never stopped to feed or change, by the way) just to see how ridiculous it was going to get.

#40 As long as it's no longer moving, he will eat anything I set in front of him. Even if it has been on fire. Even if it looks like a family of spiders just moved out. Thank you, US Army, for priming the pump.

#39 He treats every idea I have like it's the best one he's ever heard. And then adjusts his schedule/routine/life to make it happen.

#38 He has a clothes hamper. He knows how to use it. Likewise, he has a full working knowledge of the washer and dryer.

#37 He started cleaning the litter box when I was pregnant. He still does it.

#36 For him to make a decision takes anywhere from 5 seconds to a week. He may have researched the Prius for 2 weeks before buying it. We will never be that couple that took 6 months to pick out a dishwasher.

#35 Ally: "Let's watch that 18 hour documentary about the Lewis & Clark Expedition."
        Neal: "Sounds great!"
He completes me. Obviously.

#34 When I mentioned once that a friend's husband was all bent out of shape about some paint colors she had chosen for the living room, his first response was, "why does he even have a say in it?"

#33 He didn't divorce me when I accused him of cheating on me with some skanky whore who left her thong in the back of my wardrobe. He even laughed when we realized it was my cousin's from when she owned the furniture before me.

#32 When he received orders to deploy to Kuwait just 11 months after we were married, he stood in the kitchen with me and cried.

#31 He can whistle all of the ridiculous synthesized songs that Baby Blue's toys play.

#30 He purchased not one, but two, sets of cordless headphones for the TV. Because we're old and deaf and never really learned to read lips.

#29 For the first week of Baby Blue's life, I didn't change a single diaper (for realz, that circumcision is intimidating like a grizzly bear).

#28 If I've had too much to drink at the manager's reception, he talks me out of doing stupid going to a restaurant where the entree prices are fixed at $50+. His theory is that we may as well go to Taco Bell. I won't remember it in the morning anyway. He's absolutely right.

#27 Ally: " I need new jeans/bedding/stand mixer/wine glasses/haircut/career/cell phone/townhouse."
       Neal: "OK."

#26. Three of his favorite musicians are Josh Groban, George Michael and the BeeGees. He worked out on the weight machine in our spare bedroom to the BeeGees once. It was the funniest damn thing I've ever seen.

#25 We talked about purchasing an inscription for Shepherd on the Memorial for the Unborn in my hometown. Come to find out, he went ahead and bought it.

#24 He didn't divorce me when I called the florist that was listed on his Visa bill to find out why a $75 arrangement of flowers had been sent to some lady in Mississippi. As it turns out, he was the "money collector" for the entire unit and they were purchased for the commander after the untimely death of her sister.

#23 He says things like "Well, of course the University of Richmond Spiders are going to have a lame motto. What else can they say? 'We're going to stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp all over you?'"

#22 He takes calculated risks: skydiving with an instructor, flying me to London to meet him face-to-face for the first time, purchasing a townhouse sight unseen after our realtor, mom, and I had all agreed on it, and joining the AGR program although it would mean moving every 3 years. They have all paid off. He would say that he "would rather be lucky than smart." But I think he has the perfect mix of both.

#21 He took his own man-cave furniture to Goodwill when we downsized.

#20 His phone is larger than my entire hand. Shana calls it "the large print edition" and he doesn't mind a bit.

#19 He comes home from war with better habits: drinking coffee (this is a plus in my book because now he can't be all gloom and doom on my bean obsession), shaving his head (when your hairline begins to resemble the IMAX, y'know it's time), and working out consistently. But he believes in PTSD.

#18 When I call, he answers with "hey beautiful." Every. Single. Time. Even though I'm all stretched out and fairly flabby.

#17 He won his war on the squirrels in Georgia. But not until many battles were fought...some of which he lost. And it was all quite entertaining to everyone else. My husband...AKA Drummond Jr.

#16 Ally: "I was thinking...we could have a New Year's Eve party here at the house. And everyone could bring a dish. I could pick up some pimento cheese from the Mousetrap."
       Neal: "Sounds great. I'm surprised you haven't already sent out the invitations."

#15 The key to a happy marriage is double sinks in the bathroom. But when we had to share one in GA, he kept it clean of beard fur, toothpaste droppings, and anything else that falls off of a man in the course of his grooming routine.

#14 He didn't divorce me when I woke him up at 1:30 AM (after he had been asleep for about 4 hours) to capture and kill a palmetto bug that had scurried under the bed. Trapping said bug involved moving the bed, the cedar chest and an enormous stack of laundry. But in the end, he got his man.

#13 Every plan has been examined from all angles...even if it sounds like he just hatched it seconds earlier.

#12 He almost never says "I'm sorry"...but that has translated into me realizing that I say it too often and too quickly.

#11 He remembers the day we got engaged. I know if it's Memorial Day Weekend, we're getting close.

#10 There is a lot of kissing and hugging on Baby Blue. And it makes Baby's eyes light up and huge smiles flash across his face. He feels loved by his daddy every minute of every day. He will never question it.

#9 Previously a dog person, he has learned to embrace (and dare I the whiskered babies in our house.

#8 He hasn't divorced me over all the business I give him on my blog.

#7 Three weeks after we lost Shep, he took me camping in the woods, dragged me along miles of trail, gushed over my campfire-toasted pizzas, and told me I should write a book about Kentucky vineyards. It was exactly what I needed and I have no idea how he knew that.

#6 He has financed more girls' trips, bloggers' trips, and pedicures than he probably cares to think about.

#5 The first week we had Baby Blue home, he made me sleep between him and the wall so I wouldn't lie there and watch the monitor all night.

#4 He manages my expectations and understands my need to control. And when the situation calls for it, he calls me out on both.

#3 When he returned from his first deployment, we had been "dating" via email and phone chats for about 4 months. A week after he got home, he bought a his/hers desk from Haverty's and the fanciest coffee pot I've ever seen a non-coffee drinker buy. I knew then that someday we would be married.

#2 And then of course, there's this:
 Right?? This is the first picture I ever saw of Neal. It convinced me to email him that very first time. And they lived happily ever after.

#1 But then there's also this:
(applying knuckle pressure at 3 AM before epidural was ordered)

and this:
and that makes this the easiest list of 45 things that I've ever written.

Happy Birthday, oh captain, my captain. I would follow you anywhere and stand beside you through anything. I'm so glad you chose me to be on your team.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In My Defense (or why I don't read chicklit)

Yesterday, Shana wrote a (delightful and insightful) blog post about all of life's little annoyances that she's going to quit stressing over. It was inspired by how awfullyhorriblebad her workday was, but she realized there were other small things she had been sweating, too. Her 101 list, for example. Her list made me want to do a list so we're in the same boat here...we have just a handful of weeks to finish something like 80 tasks. Also, blogging. She is stressed about blogging and reading other peoples' blogs and commenting and following back. (I, too, put off blogging if I haven't been regularly reading and commenting on others' blogs. Ironically, reading others' blogs is usually not why we start blogging in the first place. Most of us started writing because it's what we love and something we would do even if our moms were the only ones reading.)

She also mentioned that she is stressed about how much she enjoys reading chicklit. And then, I'm pretty sure, she referenced me. Because she mentioned that one of her besties reads brainy books, like Condoleeza Rice's autobiography. Admittedly, I did attempt to read Ms. Rice's long-winded and detailed explanation of the Bush years. I gave up around page 350. Neal listened to the whole thing on Audible. Since then, I've read Bob Woodward's account of the debt crisis and I'm getting ready to start a David McCullough book about the American expats in Paris between 1830 and 1900. Her point being that she feels guilty for reading Jen Lancaster and Stacey Ballis during her commute instead of expanding her mind with autobiographies of great leaders and epic novels about the history of the Panama Canal. She shouldn't beat herself up over that. And I wasn't always this way.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom not that far away, I had a rather painful string of dating mistakes. Riddled with cheaters and liars and the occasional alcoholic and drug user, it left me fairly jaded and extremely wary. I would lie in bed for hours at night, reading about girls in big cities with big asshole boyfriends who pulled themselves up by their bra straps, kicked the guy to the curb, and made their lives better. My life was just as crappy as theirs and by page 300, they had turned everything around. Surely, I could do the same.

And then I did. I married a loving, kind, generous, and hysterically funny man who considers my happiness in every decision. He treats me like an equal partner and a princess, simultaneously. He has never knocked up my best friend, stolen all of the money out of our bank account, lied about poker night, or watched porn on my laptop. My life has less drama than any chicklit out there. And I love it that way. But if I read chicklit, I then begin to internalize the plot. What would I do if I discovered Neal had been staying late to "work" with his coworker? How would I handle it if I came home early to find Neal chatting with an ex-girlfriend? (Yes, the theme is cheating. For some reason, embezzling money or a gambling addiction wouldn't phase me so much.) Then, it all kind of goes to Hell. I begin reading way too much into every situation, into everything he says. I question too much, trust too little. And it snowballs until I'm scrolling through his text messages, looking for proof of anything. Then we have The Talk where he explains for the 763billionth time that I'm the one for him, forever and for always.

If I read The History of New York (or pretty much anything by Erik Larson), I'm good and, more importantly, we're good. I have a very active imagination. As a teenager, it won me some awards in creative writing contests and if I ever put my mind to it, it would probably make me a decent novelist. Shana reads it for the same reason she watches Duck Dynasty: to flip the off-switch at the end of the day. Unfortunately, for me, that off-switch turns on something else much darker.

What do you read at the end of the day?