Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On Your First Birthday

Dear Hannah,

Last year on your birthday, I wrote to you about all the hopes and dreams and wonders I had for you. The days surrounding your birth were pretty incredible, and I should have known that you were going to come into this world guns a'blazing. And did you ever!

In the hospital, I tried to rest up before your arrival. You had other plans. You kept kicking the external monitors, making them thump, and then rolling over to the other side so the nurses had to come in and adjust the monitors. All that movement meant no rest for Mommy.

Your arrival into the world was more of an "eviction process", since you found me to be a hospitable living environment. You came out squirmy and scared, screaming until you and I met for the first time. You were so beautiful and warm, exactly the same temperature as me. You were my perfect little girl.

When you did arrive, you were so tiny! Every nurse and doctor warned me about the potential complications at birth, but I should have known then who you were going to be, because you came on your own time, in your own way, proving me wrong every step of the process.

For the first few weeks of your life, you were an average baby: eat, sleep, gassy smile, poop, repeat. At 5 weeks, you made eye contact with me and smiled for the first time. You recognized me! At 8 weeks, you stopped being a newborn and you became A Person. Tummy time, infant rattles, mirrors, it all became the stuff of infants. You had more interesting and important things to take care of. Ever since, you have been trying to stand, roll, laugh, crawl, walk, play, and have fun.

You love to laugh, and it's my greatest joy to be the master behind the giggles. Everyday I tickle you, make faces and weird noises, and make sure you go to bed having  laughed a great big belly laugh. Your smile lights up a room. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't think your smile can't melt a cold, black heart.

You are spunky, determined, sassy, and independent. You don't let anything, or anyone, stand in your way. You have quite the personality on you. Everything you say, every word and baby babble, is said with great importance and earnest. You quickly figured out that we grownups used sounds to communicate, and you wanted in on that action. You have been babbling and talking forever, and it will likely never stop. I just know that you are going to have questions that demand answers.

You despise nap time and always have. No amount of begging, pleading, feeding, and praying would get you to go down. Just when we thought we had you fooled, we had to come up with another way of convincing you to sleep during the day, because you hate to miss out on anything. Nothing gets past you, and if you think there's fun to be had in another room, by golly, you'll find it!

You are also crazy smart. You get that from your dad. You can follow commands and say words and sign signs. You can crawl so fast, stand on your feet, push up on your tippy toes, and reach for what you want. You know where we keep things and hide things, and we can't ever count on being able to hide things from you, because you automatically go looking for what you want. Blockades be damned! You WILL find it! You say Dada, Mama, book, touch, tongue, kittykitty, pretty, milk, more, buh-bye, nice....the list goes on. When we sing "Teenage Dream", and I say, "Just one touch, now baby I believe!" you reach out and touch me, all while saying, "Toooooooooooooooooouch!" When Jane walks into the room, you light up and say, "Kittykitty!" You recognize us and yourself, and when your favorite toy or puzzle piece goes missing, you aren't satisfied with a substitute. You want YOUR Mr. Dog, not another's!

You love music. On Thanksgiving Day, while watching the Macy's parade, you stood still, completely enamored by the Broadway performances during the pre-show. When Daniel Radcliffe danced, so did you. You love singing and dancing and always sing along in the car. Christmas music is your absolute favorite. We dance everyday, and your little head-bob gets me every time.

You love to eat, and you'd eat all day, everyday if we let you. You have days when you're picky, but eventually they pass and you're back to nom-nom-noming on everything in sight.

You, my dear, are a big, big fan of moi. You are always climbing towards me, crawling at me, pulling up my legs and wanting to be held. Sometimes you reach out and just want to hold me or hold my hand. When Daddy tickles me and I say, "Noooooooooooooo!" in my funny voice, it upsets you. Each time it happens, you cry and come to Mommy's side. You are always reaching for me. It won't always be this way, and I want to enjoy it for as long as possible.

Your comedic timing is impeccable. You can make me laugh for hours with just a look or smirk. You know exactly when you shrug your shoulders or give me "that face". Your laugh is infectious.

You love to do so many things. You know exactly what you love and you don't care who knows it. More importantly, you are loved by so many people. Everyone who's met you thinks you're the bee's knees, kiddo. You will never stopped being loved for who you are, and who you are becoming.

It might be a little heavy, maybe even a little unfair, to tell you that you saved me. Even when I didn't want to be saved, when I didn't think I was capable of loving anyone more than I love myself, you were the one who  turned me around. You made me a Mom, and you, sweet baby, are the only one who could have made that happen--it was a job meant for you alone.

Hannah, before I met you, I was just breathing. Inhaling and exhaling. I didn't realize it, but I was. Now I savor every moment with you. I breathe you in and squeeze you tight before you wriggle away and find something else to get in to. I love watching you play and learn and grow. When you smile at me, you light up my whole world. The worst part of my day is leaving your sweet smile

Baby, the day I met you was the day I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. You've helped make me complete, and it was you who made me realize that I always wanted to be your mom. I love you to the moon and back, and I am honored to be your mommy. You are, and always will be, the daughter I always wanted. Baby, no one loves you like me.

Happy Birthday, Presh.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween!

 Happy Halloween, from Twink, Rainbow Brite, and Red Butler!

Stay safe, eat some candy, and get your ghostie on!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Life's Lessons: The Damn-Its-Cold Edition

Aaaahhhh.....Friday. It's about damn time. Normally I'm ready for Friday, but not completely desperate. Today was another story entirely. Today alone made me want to hit the reset button and climb back in to bed until Friday rolled around again.

So. Where are we these days?

1. Camping with a baby? Easy peasy.

2. Just be sure to bring extra....everything.

3. And watch out for the baby who wants to eat everything in sight. Like leaves and sticks.

4. Speaking of sticks, we learned last week that walking sticks (bugs) are evil and deserve to be killed without mercy. Especially when they execute sneak attacks!

5. Graham learned that I really, really, really don't like bugs.

6. Meanwhile, at work this week, I've been battling with a software program that someone effed up. Not fun.

7. It leaves me wondering why I'm the one that had to go to training for this, when I know what I'm doing and the person who didn't know...just didn't go? Who knows?

8. So....this means extra busy work for Angie. Oy. I'm not looking forward to our department status meeting on Monday when my big boss asks why certain things weren't done. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. I hate that feeling. That "I forgot to do my homework" feeling.

9. Blah. I can't wait until this day is over. I missed my train because of a douchebag who decided to "test" the emergency button on my first train, so I was an hour late for work. Then my online training didn't load, and now I've got broken software to deal with.

10. Who's gonna be drinking a big ole beer tonight? THIS girl.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

PYHO: Mine

I don't like Taylor Swift. Her songs are cute and very catchy, but I can't listen for too long. Girlfriend writes a song about everyone she's ever met, and unless there's some good dirt to hear, I really don't want to listen to a self-righteous song about her 6th grade math teacher or the lady who stole her parking spot at Target. Part of me really wants to shake that girl. She has awful taste in men. I mean really, Taylor? You dated John Mayer, of all people. What about him made you think he wouldn't be a douche? And then he dumped you? GASP. Wait wait! I have a brilliant idea....let's write another song about this! Yeah! That'll learn him!

Maybe I'm being mean, but for as mature as this girl comes off in her interviews, her songs are all very...young. She's taking real-life situations, some of which are very personal and painful for her and the other people involved, and she's essentially making bank off break up #6948. If she were my ex, I'd be pretty pissed.

There's one song, though, I can't get out of my head. I'd like to, but I can't, and I think it's because every time I hear that line, I think of my baby girl. The rest of the song has absolutely nothing to do with us, or my life, or my situation, but when she sings about "the best thing that's ever been mine", I can't NOT think of Hannah.

I can be proud. I'm vain. This weekend my sister-in-law and I were comparing stretch marks (we party hard) and she said she was proud of them; they're her battle scars. Me? No way. I don't like them. Not that I'm waving my stomach back and forth for the world to see but if there was a way to erase them completely, I would.

Over the last few years, I've assembled a short list of things that I've been most proud of. My college diploma. My wedding ring. My singing voice. My house. My small-but-mighty collection of aging books. My large collection of books in general. That one pair of jeans that makes my butt look really good. But the fact is that out of all of them, there isn't one I'd trade for my baby girl. There is nothing that can make a bad day better like she can. And while she means many things to many people, and while she's so loved by so many, she's mine. (Okay, and her dad's, too. But dammit, she came a'screamin' outta ME, so I get first dibs!) Hannah Grace is my daughter, my baby girl.

I'm not wild about Taylor Swift. I'll probably never go to her concerts, and unless she starts singing big girl songs I won't go out of my way listen to her music. But I will always have a space in my heart for this song, because without a doubt, Hannah is the very best thing that's ever been mine.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Life's Lessons: Downtown Edition

Life With Baby Donut

Hello, Friday! How ya been? I've been forgetting to link up to Life Lessons the last few weeks, and now that I'm in the swing of things with my new job I finally have the time to do it! (Andohya I remembered, too.)

1. I've been commuting to the Loop everyday for software training. It's nice because I only take one train and I'm in the Loop for a total of 3 stops before I get off and walk a block to my building. Software training for work can be incredibly boring.

2. It can also be pretty interesting and exciting when you're a nerd such as myself.

3. 9-5 training over a 5 day period, however, is far too much. Me no likey.

4. I am fully convinced after the last two weeks that liking your job makes all the difference in the world. From now on, I will never work in any job I don't like for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

5. Last weekend we went to a birthday party, a baby shower, a meet & greet with Hannah's future prom date (Hayden), and my cousin's wedding. (Not necessarily in that order.) That was way too much for one weekend. #stupidness

6. Going back to software training, I've been struggling to make time to pump during the training because the 15 minute breaks they allow us (two of them) are not long enough. So I've been taking 25 minute breaks. My instructor is cool with it.

7. It is not, however, easy, because my daughter is self-weaning so my supply is dropping and her EIGHT TEETH have made the girls a little sensitive as of late.

8. My not-yet-ten-month-old has eight teeth. Eight individual pearly whites. Ochocinco. That makes my head and boobs very hurty.

9. Eight teeth also means she's incredibly interested in Big People Food and she's quickly losing interest in purees. She'll eat the purees, but only if she's still hungry and there's nothing left. Kind of like how I'd only marry a Packers fan if we were the last two humans left on earth, and there were no sheep. Are there sheep?

10. Everyday I look at my bitty baby and I can't get over how BIG she is. She's got her dad's build and height for certain. She doesn't like to wait for anything--a trait she gets from me. She's so ready to be a toddler. The next two months are merely a formality as far as she's concerned.

11. Speaking of Big People Food, we discovered this week that Hannah likes, nay, LOVES pasta! I made Pasta alla Norma a few days ago and she nomnomnom'd on penne after penne until she was full. Carbo loading? She really IS my daughter!

12. Pasta alla Norma, if you don't know, has eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onion. Hannah tried each vegetable, except for the onion. She ate all of them and loooooooooved it. I'm calling it a parent win!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Yes. Yes, I am. Exhausterpated. It's my made up word, yo!

All week I've been in training for a software program for work. I'm actually learning it this time instead of being self-taught like at my old job, and unsurprisingly if I learned nothing else this week it's that I was doing a lot of things wrong. All that time = wasted.

The fun part of all my training is that it's downtown so I can take the L everyday and my commute is less than 30 minutes. THIRTY. MINUTES. Amazing!! I don't mind my hour+ commute, but having a short distance to travel is super fun.

Work is really heating up. My school's annual Homecoming celebration this weekend so I'm going to be gone a total of 20 hours or so on Saturday and Sunday. Booooooooooooooooo! BUT BUT BUT! What makes it worthwhile is that I really like my job. Really. I'm super happy at work. I am excited about going to work each day, and the time passes quickly because my brain is engaged, I'm not just hiding out, hoping I won't piss anyone off before I go home. Miracles happen, people.

So...my blogging has taken a back seat this week because I'm short on time between work and home. I will be back with a vengeance next week, though! I've still got to post Hannah's 9 month update, photos from the apple orchard, etc.

Monday, September 26, 2011

These Things I Want To Remember

Hannah's first year is quickly coming to an end. In a few months, my sweet baby will be one! As each day passes, I realize that I'm starting to forget some things, and I want to write them down so I can look back at them some day, and maybe even share them with her when she's older.

1. One of the first things I said after she was born--if not the first thing--was "She has back hair." She was white and gray and covered in goo, and she still had a fine layer of lanugo on her in some spots. I guess after the rush of labor and pushing my baby out of my body, words and emotions escaped me.

2. One of the most amazing, shocking things when she was born? That her body temperature was exactly the same as mine.

3. The small, soft noises she'd make as a newborn, and how even moving her head back and forth required so much effort.

4. The first time she smiled at me. On purpose.

5. As she became more aware of her surroundings, and hearing her test out her vocal cords to make sounds to communicate with us.

6. Hearing "ba ba ba" and "da da da" for the first time, and hearing her repeat it back to me.

7. The first time she sat up and got onto her hands and knees after I laid her down to bed, complete with shit-eatin' grin and a that "Screw you, big people!" look in her eyes.

8. The way she laughs when she learns something new.

9. Her smile and giggle when she bounces in her jumperoo.

10. The way she reaches for me when she falls down (or when the floor falls up) because she's hurt and all she wants is a little comfort.

I'm going to miss this stage.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PYHO: I am enough.

I had a friend for a while in college and afterwards. We don't talk much anymore, it's been well over a year since our last conversation. Like every good creeper human old friend (?) occasionally I'll find myself looking for her blog in my bookmarks to see what's new, if there's anything worth reading up on. And lo and behold, I find her blog has changed. Again. There's usually a final post directing readers to a new blog designed to reflect a new position or outlook on life, and that is only if the blog hasn't been deleted entirely from the Internet's memory. I've gone back and forth over this pattern in my head, and while part of me admires the visual change, the new blog commemorating this new start or outlook, the commitment to "the new me her", the other part of me is left scratching my head. I've seen her blog frequently over the last few years, and much like Madonna sans entourage and strange British accent, she goes to lengths to completely reinvent herself and find a purpose in life. If Carrie Bradshaw were here, she'd probably say, "I can't help but wonder...what about her isn't good enough?"

I've blogged before about the struggle to keep it all together. It's hard to balance everything in life. Quite frankly, there aren't enough arms on my body or hours in the day to make it all work. How can I go to work (and perform well!), bathe and feed my baby, and keep the house in decent shape? How can I find time to fit in piles of dirty dishes, laundry, go over the budget with Graham, and still watch Glee and play on the interwebs? How can I remember to make time for myself in all of this?

I can't. Something's gotta give.

With my new job, there's a definite balancing act we're working on these days. We're trying to find a new routine that works for us and is best for Hannah. It hasn't been easy. I've been dealing with a lot of guilt over the last week, wondering if we made the best decision. What if I was staying home? Then Boops and I would be together all the time, and I wouldn't miss her all day. But if I did that, our income would take a hit, and I'd feel guilty about that. And, knowing myself as I do, I'd eventually tire of being alone with Hannah all day. I'd crave adult interaction.

I keep feeling like I need to be more, do more. I look around and feel like a bad grownup because the house is a mess. I clean but then feel like a bad mom because Hannah wants my attention and is starting to cry and crawl towards me. I play with Hannah on the floor and Jane comes scrambling over as she's been recently diagnosed with ADD--Affection Deficit Disorder. If I devote my time to Hannah and the cat, it's only a matter of time before my husband starts to feel neglected. And if I throw myself into everything else, I start to deteriorate.

It's really easy, looking at blogs, to compare yourself and feel less than. SAHMs make me feel guilty for working. Working moms make me feel guilty for not making more money, or making enough. But then I have to stop myself and say, "You ARE enough, dammit."

My family doesn't need a super woman. They don't need me to rearrange my life and priorities. I don't need to delete my blog and start over to convince myself that this reinvention is going to fix some or all of our problems. What my family needs is for me to be me. They need me to be a mom who plays with her baby when the dishes need to be done. They need me to know when to stop blogging because laundry is piling up. But what they need more than anything is me. Me & my undivided attention.

I'm enough. I'm good enough. My working-mama-laundry-slackin'-commuting-back-and-forth-self is enough.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Work Update: One down!

Why hello there! It's been a few days. I've been thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire in my new job this  past week, leaving me little free time.

Overall, I really enjoy it. I love some of the work I'm doing. I was annoyed at the start of the week when I had to do some clean up left behind by the woman I replaced. She was given a few assignments that never got done...so what the hell was she doing? Who knows?

Regardless, I'm glad to be there. I'm happy, and that's huge. I'm not earning any more or less than I was earning before (though the drive/travel up there does require a little more spending on our part), but I don't dread every step of the way. I don't have a huge knot in my stomach each morning. I don't feel worthless when I talk to my boss. In my previous job, I felt those things everyday. Not fun! My apprehension at the end of my maternity leave in March was...awful. I didn't want to leave my baby, but I didn't really want to return to work there, either. After being on basically a second maternity leave all summer, I knew it would be hard to return to work. I was afraid I'd have the same apprehension I had in March, but surprisingly (and refreshingly) I didn't!

I don't want to go into too much detail...maybe some day. But for those who aren't "in the know", my old workplace was so terribly toxic for me. I came home everyday tired and grumpy. I complained about everything there. It began to affect my whole outlook--my life, my marriage, my car....my cat! I started to look for a new job over a year ago, and then we found out I was pregnant. There was no point to leave. I had time built up and days set aside for my maternity leave. I couldn't very well begin working at a new school or new company and then have to take a maternity leave after four months. I knew it'd be best to stick it out and just deal with all the crap I had to deal with. And I did, or at least, I tried. And it wasn't terrible...I knew my last day was coming, and I left my classroom in excellent, more-than-capable hands. I had almost 4 months to stay at home and far, far away from my job.

When I returned, I thought that maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Maybe things had gotten better? Wrong. Terribly wrong. There were major issues with the leadership there that were causing, in my uneducated opinion, a functional breakdown in the course of the school. When I came home at the end of a day, I'd be tired and worn out. I was so angry all the time. I realized it wasn't fair to keep working in this environment. It was affecting my marriage, my daughter, my home....even my cat. I couldn't keep doing that to myself, let alone the rest of my family.

Once I made the decision to leave, I felt so much better. I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The day I turned in my keys and pulled out of the parking lot was a good day indeed. Hannah was in the backseat and I told her to take a long look because we wouldn't be back anytime soon. A good friend of mine was really encouraging and helped me sort out all my conflicting emotions. In an email, she told me, "One day you'll drive past that place and you'll say to Hannah, 'I used to work there, and I got out. I left so I could go back to school and make life better for all of us.'" That was pivotal, and so, so right.

I was nervous to begin working in my new job. I was afraid that perhaps I'd made myself look too good on my resume. Perhaps I'd misrepresented myself in my interviews...what if I wasn't as awesome as they thought I was? But after a week, I'm feeling much more confident about my job, my abilities, and the co-mingling of the two. I really like what I've done so far, and everyone I work with has been exceptionally friendly. And, major bonus: I eat for free on campus. WINNING!

I know there will be days and weeks and months where I am not honeymooning on my job. There will be days where I come home angry and tired. As long as the good days outnumber the bad, I'll be alright.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My first day: Who else would like to see the girls?

I started my new job yesterday. So far, so good. It was, naturally, a lot of orientating and learning about the school and my department. I think I'm really going to like it there, and I can see myself staying there until I get my degree completed. Or, another great opportunity could come my way next year! Who knows?

I spent the day getting familiar with the computer and the programs on it. I spent a good chunk of the afternoon yelling at MS Outlook because it wasn't doing what I wanted it to do. Good to know that some things never change, yes?

I've got quite a bit to accomplish this week, but allow me to tell you a story.

I am sitting in my new office. Pumping. The office door won't shut completely because it's old and warped. Throw in some humidity and it just doesn't close. I was able to close it by propping up some old computer towers in front of the door to keep it shut.

I was warned that Big Boss doesn't acknowledge closed doors. A few people told me Big Boss will see a closed door and walk right in, seemingly unaware that the door might be closed for a reason. I thought Big Boss might stop by today to see how things were going, but I figured I had some time. I set up my pump and got to work.

Weeeeeeeeellllllllll......a few minutes in, I see the door jiggle. I say, "Hello? Please don't come in!"

A few moments pass. I feel a tingle on the back of my neck. My spidey sense tells me it would be wise to turn around. I move my swivel chair around so I'm facing the wall. (For reference, my pump was set up on the desk, which is L shaped and faces the door. If you're at all familiar with breast pumps, you'll know that this was an awkward set up once I turned.)

Mere seconds after I turn around, I hear the door jiggle again. The computer towers jump forward, and Big Boss sticks his head in the office!

Quick thinker that I am, I ducked down and asked for a moment to compose myself. I turned off the pump, buttoned up my blouse, and stepped out of the office to have a lovely, jovial conversation with Big Boss. He seemed to be completely unaware of what just happened, though he did ask if I had Hannah with me in the office, so I think he may have figured it out.

SO. Since the Hilarious Gods Of Awesome keep doing this to me....who else wants to see my boobies? I might as well just put that out there since the universe keeps putting me in this oh-so-OSSUM situations. Between the UPS guy and Big Boss, it really can't get any more mortifying.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why I Never Have To Sign For UPS Ever Again, or Why Our UPS Driver Doesn't Come Back

I can't believe I'm about to share this story.

Back at the end of May, when I was still at work, I picked up Hannah from the babysitter's and walked home. Graham had a meeting after work and took the car. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and as soon as we got home I left the door open and opened up some windows to let in some light and air.

As soon as I took Hannah out of the car seat, she started rubbing her face in my shirt and headbanging my boobs. Much like me, she makes her motives clear. I said to myself, "Screw it!" I unbuttoned my shirt completely, dropped it on the bed, and walked into the living room so I could nurse Hannah and spread out on the couch.

About 10 minutes in, I hear a truck outside. I glance over my shoulder and see a UPS truck out front. The driver approaches the door, holding a small box.

The doorbell rings.

The screen door opens.


He says,

"UPS!" As friendly as he could possibly be!

Cut to....

Me. On the couch. Nursing.

Shirtless. Boobies and stretchmarks on display. Child slurping hungrily.

Me: (smile) Oh, just drop it on the couch! I'd greet you, buuuuuuuuuuuuut.....

UPS guy: (white face, open-mouthed)(backs away)

He runs down the walk and hops into his truck, never to be seen again.

No, really. We have the same UPS guy in this neighborhood. Hannah's sitter has lived around here since 1998 and has always had the same driver. Since that day, anytime UPS comes to the door, or anywhere near our block, it's a DIFFERENT DRIVER. And they all just drop the packages and run. I am. not. kidding. We are officially "that family".

I don't know how to feel about this. On one hand, GOOD! He shouldn't ever come 'round these parts again! Who just walks into someone's house?

On the other hand....what the hell??? Did my stretch marks scare him off? Is there something off-putting about my home? Or was it the mere sight of a topless, stretch-marky woman relaxing on the couch with a suckling infant a bit too much for him to handle?

I imagine he thought his, "Dear Hustler, I never thought this would happen to me" letter would have ended much differently.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

PYHO: Ten Years Later

In lieu of a PYHO this week, I'm posting my own 9/11 story. A brief PYHO is at the end, reflecting on what it means now that I'm a mom.

Let's be honest: We've all been waiting for this coming September 11th since the first awful one ten years ago. In the early years, the first few anniversaries, historians and pundits all wondered and asked the same questions. "What lessons will we learn from this? What will Americans take away from this? In ten years, twenty years, what will we know about this day?"

Ten years ago, I was a high school senior. My priorities were simple. Keep dating Graham, find a college to attend in the coming fall, and find a way to convince my dad to let me take my car with me to college. I had simple needs and wants, concerns that most 17 year old girls have.

That morning, I woke up conscious of the crisp air, the warmth of the sun on my arm as I drove to school, and acutely aware of how blue the sky was in Chicago. It was a perfect fall day. Driving to school we listened to the radio and I laughed as I heard about someone flying a plane into the World Trade Center. Hadn't someone flown a twin engine into the Empire State Building a few months back? "Morons who can't freakin' fly! It's probably raining and cloudy over there, too." I had no idea.

When I got to school, most girls were already buzzing with the news. I walked into my first period class, Chamber Singers, and Ms. Cunningham had the TV going. It was an old model TV mounted to the wall, black and white with a relatively fuzzy picture. I remained fairly unconvinced that this was a "major, catastrophic event" until I saw Ms. C's face. I looked up at the TV and could see a split screen. Both towers were on fire, and the Pentagon was also in flames. I heard Tom Brokaw's worried voice and prayed to God it was just a bad news day, a freakish series of events that this was all happening today.

We, the Chamber Singers, were preparing for some event....a school liturgy or some performance. I can't remember that detail now, but I do remember Ms. C positioning her piano so that she could see the TV so she could watch while we sang. I remember Sherri Devereaux gasping, her face white, and pointing to the screen. I remember all of us singing and staring at the TV as the first tower fell. I remember praying that everyone got out, doing my best to be optimistic that the tower hadn't yet opened for the day so that no one would be inside, then knowing full well that at 9:00 Chicago time, lower Manhattan would be filled with tourists and New Yorkers alike.

I remember going to Ms. Cruse's American Government class next. I remember the smell of the building that day, the heat of 900 girls crammed into an all-girls Catholic school. I remember rushing out toward the marble lobby because it was cooler, and looking out the front entrance expecting to see.....I don't know what. I remember the rush of cool air on my skin when I walked into Ms. Cruse's classroom with all her west-facing windows wide open. I remember my polo shirt clinging to my back and my polyester skirt hot on the back of my knees. I remember Ms. Cruse coming in to our room in a blue and white sleeveless dress, saying, "Okay, let's talk about what we know." I remember our Principal, Ms. Nolan-Fitzgerald, coming over the PA to pray and encourage students and teachers not to dwell on the events of that day, and to focus on school work. She cancelled all after school activities that day, and our theatre director, Ms. B, was pissed. "We have rehearsal!"

I remember going home, listening to the radio, and hearing the DJ on US 99 choking back tears, encouraging everyone to fly their flags no matter what, even if they weren't properly illuminated at night. I remember passing house after house with a flag out front. I remember talking to my friend Katie later that night, and I remember wanting to not talk about it anymore. It was too confusing, too overwhelming. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn't as bad as we all thought. Maybe they'd find more people alive than dead.

A year later, my family drove to New York City. Not just to see the damage, which at that point was basically two large holes in the ground. We also went to see my mom's cousin, Nunzio, who lived in NYC with his wife and kids. Nunzio, by the grace of God, skipped a work meeting that morning to have breakfast with his kids. He would have been in the towers had he not gone home.

I'll never forget the silence at Ground Zero. In a city of millions, surrounded by traffic and buses and noise, there was a perfect silence. I wasn't sure how to process what I was seeing. I wasn't looking at a smoldering pile of rubble. I wasn't looking at a cemetery. I was looking at what appeared to be a construction zone. I didn't feel reverent or overwhelmed by emotion, just....uneasy. Instead, I paused and swallowed a lump in my throat whenever I passed a board with a handout, a picture, a "Have You Seen Me? Last seen in the north tower!" My heart dropped for those families. They will never know exactly what happened to their loved ones, and I don't know if that's for the best or not.

Shortly after Hannah was born, hours after they'd stitched me up and wheeled us downstairs, I looked at her and held her close. Maybe it's strange, and perhaps I can chalk it up to the post-labor euphoria and adrenaline I was feeling, but I'll never forget looking at her and thinking, "He's still out there." I was so sad that I had brought a child into this world and the mastermind behind That Day was still out there. Ten years ago, we never would have imagined that he'd still be alive. "Mission Accomplished", right? Wrong. Of course, Hannah and That Man only lived in the same world for a matter of months. She will never know the fear of watching the nightly news and seeing a poorly cut video of him released by his minions. She won't ever have to look at him and wonder what exactly he's orchestrating next, and for that I'm so very thankful.

But....in all the unfortunate aftermath, even ten years later, and ten years from now, she'll never know what we lost. On that day, she will never know what each American lost as we watched the towers come down. And she'll never be able to fully realize it. She'll always have to take off her shoes at airport security. When she goes on her first plane trip without me, I won't be able to walk her to the gate and say goodbye. She'll never be able to get on or off a plane with her mom and dad waiting at the gate. She'll never be able to get on an airplane, with our without me, without me sending up a prayer. She'll never know what it means to "fly the friendly skies".

I am glad that I don't have to explain the events of That Day for quite a while. I have a little more time to mentally prepare myself for that conversation. I hope, for the sake of all of us, that she never feels indifferent towards 9/11. I hope that no matter what, no matter how we talk to her about it, that she knows exactly what that day means to everyone who lived it. I want her to know why we remember it. I want her to know that it's more than just a day of service and remembrance, though service is an excellent way to celebrate the lives lost That Day.

Funnily enough, Hannah was born on December 7th, Pearl Harbor Day. I hope that as she grows, she understands the importance of 9/11 and December 7th and her place in American history.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A note for my newest followers...

Hey! I've got new followers! Sweeeeeeeeeet.

I'll get along to checking out all your blogs soon, but I thought it best to post a few things about myself first, sort of a "get to know ya" (which might be completely pointless if you've already creeped on the rest of our blog).

Feel free to comment and add your own tidbits about yourself.

1. I curse a lot. Fair warning.

2. I'm working on it, though.

3. Currently battling postpartum depression. Hence #1.

4. I already swore a lot before then. Just as my husband!

5. I'm mildly obsessed with my cat and may subject you to photo essays (such as this) with cat-ese captions from time to time. Fair warning.

6. I'm a mama to a sweet baby named Hannah. You'll see a lot of her 'round these parts.

7. Married to Graham, who is incredibly tolerant of.....me.

8. I've got a raging caffeine addiction.

9. I have a nephew! I finally get to live my dream of being a super cool hippy aunt. Someday, I'll take both kids to the state fair, feed us all nothing but junk food all day, buy all-day-midway passes, and end the day with a puke session of epic proportions.

It's the right thing to do.

10. I also tend to do things like this. And this. And this. I.....might need a new hobby.

Thanks for visiting! XO

Friday, September 2, 2011

Life's Lessons: End of Summer Edition

Life With Baby Donut

I cannot believe it's September. Wow. I can't even wrap my mind around this.

1. Summer passes much more slowly when you're unemployed. But not nearly as slow as if I was unemployed through forces other than my own.

2. Speaking of employment, I start my new job on the 12th. Wahoo!

3. This summer has given us time to relax as a family, have some day trips and a mini-cation, and enjoy the lazy days as they come.

4. It's also given me time to make ice cream. Homemade. Ice Cream.

5. Which, btw, isn't exactly "easy".

6. But once you get the hang of it, it's not all that hard, either.

7. Speaking of summer and the end, pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks. Oh geez....

8. Those are the death of me every year. Oh, I do love them.

9. As I'm writing this, I'm listening to The Warblers. Hannah? Oh, she's rocking out.

10. I need to keep my camera handy for moments such as these.

I Heart Family Picnics 2011

I am terrible at taking photos every year at the family picnic. Some year I'll get better at it.

Anyway, in July, we all got together in Plainfield for the annual Foley Family Fiesta, a.k.a. I Heart Family Picnics #something or other. It's a good time to see everyone, and this year was special not only because it was Hannah's first outside picnic (after last year's car accident/t-shirt fiasco), but because our second cousin Peggy is engaged to her long-time boyfriend Jeremy. 

Not too many photos of this year's picnic, but it was a good time. Hannah got to swim in a legitimate pool (i.e. not the 6-incher we have in the garage), we got to eat some food, and we had a great time relaxing with the fam.

Really unsure of this "swimming" thing.


Hannah and Daddy

Aw crap...Justin lost the baby.

Me, sucking at bags.

Who took this photo? I think that's Justin, Graham, Mary, and maybe Hannah.

Mary and Justin, head to head

Hannah and Gramps

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hannah says....I've got a cousin!

When we explained the concept of  "a cousin" to our daughter, she was totally pumped. Someone to hang out with and have fun with? Someone to play with? Someone to cause mischief and mayhem with? Yessssssss! So, aside from the little guy's parents, no one was more excited to welcome Declan to the world than Hannah.

We hope you're listening, dude!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

PYHO: The "C" Word

For too long, I've not been truly honest.

I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Bible. I believe Christ died for my sins. I believe in Heaven and Hell. I believe in the power of prayer, and I believe that if I do it right, I'll go to Heaven when I die.

Why yes, actually. I do. I do! And I'm not ashamed of it, either.

It's hard for me to say these things out loud sometimes. It's not that I have doubts or don't believe. Quite the contrary. I do believe in Christianity. It's just awkward for me to "admit I'm a Christian" in secular company. It's frustrating to be "outed" in the company of friends who then stare at you, aghast, and say, "You? You believe in that stuff? But....but you don't seem like 'one of them.'" And I'm not sure how I feel about that. Am I "one of them"? Or not? Because you can't be both.

Sometimes I don't do the best job of living my faith out loud, let alone speaking it. I curse. A lot. I'm lazy and prideful and stubborn. I definitely don't pray like I should, attend church each Sunday, think before I speak (or type), or put others before myself. I'm really, really stubborn, and I like getting my way. Often. I try, but I fail at it each and everyday. I'm not exactly the best, most shining example of what a "Godly woman" should be.

With friends who don't believe, I keep my mouth shut. SURPRISING, I KNOW. Me? Who is widely opinionated on every other topic ever? Yes. I suppose that's because religion is such a sensitive topic. I've found you can't just storm the castle of unbelief with your Bible and your pitchfork and expect to transform and enlighten your friends. It's a big turnoff.

I'm often asked by friends who don't believe, "Why? Why bother?" Sometimes that's accompanied by "...because there's no proof!" or some other such statement, reminding me that they think it's all just a nice story, a way of telling people how to be good human beings. A way of scaring ancient societies into playing nice with each other. A way of exacting control over weak-minded individuals who are scared of the here-after.

So why believe? Why put myself out there and put my faith in someone I have never seen? Why believe in the invisible when the visible is around me each and everyday? It's simple, really.

Because I have seen God.

I've seen God in small children exploring their world and speaking honestly. I've seen God in teenagers passing out granola bars to Chicago's homeless, using a strength and honesty most adults will never have. I've seen God in my legs, when I walked away from a car accident that should have killed me. I've seen God in my daughter, who is a miracle I get to wake to each and everyday. I've felt God in the love my husband has for me, and in the selflessness he brings to our home each day. I see God everyday, even if I don't realize it when I see it.

Most of my friends don't believe at all. It's not really something that's affected our friendship since faith doesn't  always come up in casual conversation. When it does, the topic is usually "The Church" and "Churchy People", and that's where a number of their frustrations and turn offs lie. I understand. I've been a member of a dozen different churches and no matter what--no matter how wonderful or full or empty and sad--churches always get it wrong. I like where I'm attending church these days, and I loved my college church. Both buildings and congregations have been integral parts of my faith formation. But still, churches--man made bodies--get it wrong. How can they not? Women and men are fallible. We all make mistakes, even if they're well-intentioned.

Church members get it wrong. Pastors and priests get it wrong. Casual Bible readers get it wrong. Bible scholars get it wrong. Politicians get it wrong. Average bloggers and blog readers get it wrong.

I disagree with most of the "moral majority" in this country. I don't consider myself anywhere close to the religious right. I voted for Obama. I am pro-life, but I believe in pro-choice. I don't think that Muslims are evil or that Jews are going to Hell. I like gay people and I don't believe they're all going to hell, either. I don't believe in any "gay agenda", and I'm pro-marriage for everyone, not just the heteros. I believe in science. I don't believe in using religion as a scare-tactic to scare voters and swing the population to the right, and I believe that when you do that, God gets pissed. I don't believe God wants us to be scared of Him, and I don't believe He's sitting up there, A-OK with people using His name to scare, shame, and threaten.

I believe. I go to church. I call myself a Christian. And yes, I still believe in all of the above. And I think--with the exception of the pro-choice thing--God's probably okay with that.

But so many of those people who get it wrong? Sometimes they also get it right.

How can I not believe when I've seen churches power together to rebuild a home for a member after he lost it in a tornado? How can I not believe when strangers provided a home-cooked meal for 30 college students each Sunday--often without a thank you? How can I not believe when someone quotes the Bible in a way that passages I've heard my entire life are suddenly made clear? How can I turn away from God when How can I deny the existence of something greater when I've been so richly blessed through no doing of my own? How can I look at my daughter and chalk her up to a happy accident of science? Even if I don't see the beautiful creation that I am, I can't deny that my daughter isn't made up of more than a meeting and division of cells.

There's a lot of crap in this world. There's a lot gone wrong everywhere you turn. There's a lot that can't be explained, and it's hard to look someone in the face and talk to them about your God, the one who's loving and kind and who fixes all things....especially when they've been dealt an awful, unfathomable situation. And sometimes, I just can't explain why I believe in Christ when faced with something like that.

But what I can do is live my life. I can continue to be an example, the best example I can be, of God's love and goodness. I can continue to improve on myself and continue to pray. I can continue to have faith, because I know what's waiting for me when my life is over. And maybe someday I won't have to answer when someone asks me why I believe, because just by looking at me, they'll know.

We're Aunt Angie, Uncle Graham, & Cousin Hannah!

Yesterday, at 5:44 p.m., my sister(-in-law) gave birth to a fabulous, beautiful, wonderful baby boy! I'm an AUNT! I've never been one before, and I'm ecstatic for them. (And for me! I'm an aunt! Woo hoo!)

Declan James weighs in at 8 lbs, 5.2 oz, and is 22 inches long. He's a gorgeous combo of his mom and dad. This is a picture of the happy family of three*:

*Artist's rendering

**I've seen a photo, and he's much cuter! (Not mine to post, though, not without parental consent.)

Congratulations to the new mommy and daddy! Your life is about to change, and parenthood isn't easy. Some days it's hard. Really hard. And some days, it's easy peasy and life is good. No matter what kind of day it is, it's a pretty awesome ride.

Welcome to the world, Declan! Aunt Angie, Uncle Graham, and your favorite cousin, Hannah, can't wait to meet you!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Welcoming Baby Robyn & Brian

In early July, we got the chance to shower Brian & Robyn, parents-to-be, with lots of presents and love for their little one. Working closely with Robyn's mom, we secured a location and a cake and date and time. All that was left was to have a little fun!

First, we all got together. The shower was held in Robyn's family church way up in Crystal Lake. It was....far.

Celebrity Baby Game
One of the first things we did was invite everyone to play in a "Guess the celebrity baby photo" game. I found pictures and wrote clues. I was....not successful. I'm no good at stuff like that. Some of the clues were a little to esoteric. Shower fail!

Celeb babies & coloring pages
Another "game" we played...when people arrived, they received a coloring page. Each page had a letter of the alphabet on top, as well as the ASL finger alphabet hand sign representing that letter. (Robyn is an interpreter for the Deaf, so his her mom. Robyn's brother is also Deaf.) Everyone was asked to color a picture or pictures that start with their given letter.  They were all put into a binder for "Declan's Alphabet Book".

I drew a very pathetic excuse for a panda.

We ate  some food....

The spread
 Played some games.....
Some prizes
 Ate some cake....
Dairy-free cake for the Mama
 And as Brobyn opened gifts, we all got to decorate a few onesies or t-shirts for their little baby. This, my friends, is a terribly fun activity.

My sister-in-law Mary couldn't make it to the shower because she was in Paraguay, visiting her bestie. Her mama took it upon herself to decorate a shirt for her.

"Aunt Mary went to Paraguay and all I got was this t-shirt. Que pasa?"
 Cousin Lindsey, with her sister Kim, made a kick-ass onesie for Hannah at my shower (photo TBA). Kimberly was off in the Caribbean for this shower, so Lindsey was on her own this time. Thanks to the magic of smart phones, Google, and the search term, "cartoon abs", she came up with this:

Because we live so far, I wanted to make sure my nephew gets to know and love me as much as he will his Aunt Mary. So, I told him what I want to hear:

This baby has great taste.

All told, it was a good day. The mama and papa to be had a nice time (I'm pretty sure), and we were glad to be able to celebrate with them and help them prepare for their little one. From here, it was less than two months before their lives changed forever!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Springfield Stay-cation Vacation

At the end of July, we went down to Springfield to visit my brother & sister (in-laws) one last time before they became parents (yay!), to get away for a few days and chill out, and to take in some of the sights downstate has to offer. If you're not familiar with central Illinois, let me tell you this: Lincoln is bigger than Jesus down there. Lincoln is everywhere.

Here are "just a few" photos from our trip. We had a blast, and while we didn't take pics of everything, let me also say this: We played Catan, and the Catan debate will live on. I think someday we might have to implement some house rules because the actual rules were a little confusing. (But Robyn will probably still win, regardless of whose rules we play by!)

First we went to the state capital building. It's really lovely. It's also probably best they built it 150 years ago. It's so gorgeous and ornate. Can you imagine the government trying to justify building a structure like that now? The taxpayers would crap themselves.

I paparazzi'd them outside the capital.

Cool architecture
 We spent quite a bit of time inside wandering around. It's a neat building if you ever get the chance to see it.

The State of Illinois welcomes YOU!

Hannah didn't have to go through security. Graham and I, however, looked shady.

I thought this was cool.

I love the dome.


Shock and awe

Every state needs a seal.
 There are statues everywhere inside. It's kind of ridiculous.

Some upstart politician. Can't remember his name.

Painting of gigantic proportions. 

Neat-lookin' and skinny skinny door.

IL's other favorite politician: Stephan Douglas.

Richard the First has a statue here, too. Dad, here are your tax dollars at work.
 The governor was not in that day. His office, however, was open.

Office of the Governor. No Blago here.

Custodian too? Times are tough!

Rules need to be followed.
 I like that he has an "open door policy". I wonder if that policy is in place when he's actually sitting behind his desk.

Governor's desk.
 I, clearly, cannot be trusted in nice places.

Rules need to be followed...by everyone but me!

From the second floor.
 It was a Friday afternoon, and everyone had cleared out for the day. Good to know that, should there ever be an emergency on a Friday afternoon, NO ONE will be around to handle it.

What makes him so special?

Supremely awesome.
 Except the Lieutenant Governor. She's got power. Kind of.

 Statues and artwork. All. Over. The. Building. There's an entire hallway dedicated to ex-gov's of IL.

John P. Altgeld. One of IL's governor's, and also the namesake of Graham's first school.
 Then we noticed that someone was missing......

Portraits of two of the last 3 governors. Note the lack of space next to George Ryan for Blagojedouche.

Let's play a game! Spot the corrupt governors!
 There's quite a bit to see in the capital building.

Hall o' Statues.

Carvings depicting IL's history
 We went off in search of our representatives, and found....no one.

Senate chamber

House chamber

Higher up. More dome.
 I know I took quite a few pics of the dome. I can't help myself. I'm a sucker for gorgeous glass work.

I'm not fancy enough to pee here.
 Afterwards, we walked around the exterior of the capital where there are still more statues and memorials.

Police and Fire memorial.

Being artsy.

Capital exterior

Sundial is not set to daylight savings time.
Okay, note the photo below. You can't quite see the kid in the picture (holding the hand of the lady in the red shirt), but note the composition. The woman at the back is....pushing an empty stroller. The woman at the front is....holding the hand of a kid who looks to be about 7 years old. TOO BIG FOR STROLLER.

I'm super judgy today.
 The next day, we hung out at Uncle Brian & Aunt Robyn's house. We took some photos....

 Then we told Hannah to get excited....Declan is going to be here soon!

 Later that day, we went to a few other Lincoln-ish spots. We started at the old capital building.

This building is interesting in that they took it apart, brick by brick, and rehabbed it. They put in central air, electricity, and even an elevator, all while trying to keep the integrity of the building.

The giant poles are holding up the senate chambers upstairs. Yes, really.

This cracks me up.

My heart, it goes pitter-pat.

We stopped for a chat with Mary Lincoln who was, sadly, not crazy.

Normal lookin'.

Always happiest in a library

 We took a tour of the building which I wrongly assumed would be boring. It didn't thrill me, but I did learn quite a bit about the state and the building. Color me surprised.

Lincoln's last state paycheck.

Wavy glass.

Even Hannah learned something!

Knowledge is power!

Check out Virginia.

Another cool map.

 Funny story: We're taking a tour in the old capital with a guy in period clothing. He keeps making eye contact with us, but I think that's because he asked a few nerdy questions and both Graham and I knew the answers (NERD ALERT). When we get upstairs, he stops in the Senate chamber, looks at us, and says, "Graham! That's it! That's your name."
We've met.....
 Turns out they worked together at New Salem in 2004. This guy was a high school student at the time, Graham was an intern in the summer camp program. This guy is hardcore with his Lincoln history. Hard. Core.

Neat architecture.

Ceiling designed to look like the sun rising in the East

More artsy.


Governor's old parlor


Governor's old office. Lincoln was in this room when he learned he'd been elected President.

Lincoln used this very elevator.

This is where you went to sign up for the Army.

House Chamber.
 On the last bit of the tour, we went to the House chambers, where Lincoln served. This was also the room where his body lay in state before burial. The ceiling in this room was also designed to look like the sun setting in the West. The architect designed it such to remind politicians that "the sun rises and sets with them." Pretty cool.

Lincoln laid on that stage up there, right below Washington.
 We made an attempt to visit the law office, but we got there after the tour had started, and by the time we caught up, Hannah let us know she was tired. Loudly.

The next day, we went to visit the Lincoln museum! It's really cool. Honestly. You can't take pictures except in the rotunda, so the pics you take have to count.

We wanted to take this seriously, so we started out by seriously posing with the Lincolns. Even the dead ones.

God don't think stuff's funny.
 When you start learning about things in the museum, you start off in Lincoln's youth. We met young Abe!


Every baby will be envious.

Contemplating things.

Being inappropriate. Again.
 When we were done, Hannah and I took a break in the gift shop.


Yeah! Chairs are awesome!
 We went home, got our stuff together, and took some final pics with Hannah's aunt and uncle. The next time they see her, they will be a threesome and Hannah will probably be driving cars and working at McDonalds. Gotta get those memories in.

Taking photos of a very cranky baby.

Yay family!!!
We had a great trip, and it was so nice to get away for a few days. We were very blessed to be able to stay with family--pregnant family, at that--and see not only Robyn and Brian (sometimes I call them Brobyn. Makes me feel like I chill with celebrities) but also Mary, Justin, and very briefly Mom G. We played games: Killer Bunnies (Yes, really), Catan, and Chicken Foot, the latter being the most important.

Next up.....Baby Brobyn!