Training for the Iditarod

Photograph by Alaska Stock Images

We have a dog, or at least what we think is a dog. When we bought her, in the boonies of rural Warner Robins, Georgia, the woman outside Petsmart told us she was a husky. At this point in the story it bears mentioning that our fur-baby was the last puppy left of the day. She was flopped down with all four legs and tongue splayed out when we stumbled upon her. The woman told us if we took her she would only charge 20 bucks, so we left with what we would from then on refer to as our “Clearance Puppy.”

Clearance Puppy is now five years old and much bigger, except her legs never really grew in proportion to her barrel sized body so she kinda looks like a huge corgi. One ear doesn’t really work so it flops over. Oh, and her front legs are shorter than her back ones so she is always walking downhill. How nice. She might be a chow chow since her tongue is spotted black. (My husband Googled this at least a hundred times thinking our dog had a weird form of doggie leprosy affecting only her tongue.) In reality we have no idea what breed she is, except that it has to be some combination of the fuzziest animals ever to live because she is so fluffy. Whenever we take her to the groomer the poor woman emerges after two hours, sweating, and apologetically tells us she did “all she could.” It’s like a scene from a soap opera where someone dies tragically after hours of surgery, and I always expect to go into the back and find Georgia rigor mortis style clutching lilies over her chest. Instead she bounces around happy to be a full four pounds of fur lighter. In time, we have come to the conclusion this Chow/Furby mix of ours must be at least part husky, as promised by Sally Sue from Petsmart, because all of our walks resemble some type of training for the Iditarod.

We tried everything with Georgia when she was little. She went to Doggie School. And Doggie Daycare. And Doggie Boot Camp. We tried choke-chains (I know, I know), Flexi-Leads, and most recently a “Gentle Leader” which really turns your dog into a donkey by clamping a harness over their head. All she needs is a bit to look like a complete ass (Haha. I crack myself up…). Each pet product we purchase promises to tame the unruly beast we cohabitate with, but every time we leave the front porch we are immediately hauling ass down the street seeing how many things we can pee on and how many times we can chase invisible squirrels around trees.

With baby arriving soon, we knew something had to be done if we were to even survive an outing with baby, buggy, and Husky Beast. We decided to practice walking Georgia with the stroller up and down our street; if she was going to insist on running 30 miles per hour down the road, I wanted to make sure I padded my baby with the right amount of bubble wrap, so these things needed to be calibrated prior to trying with actual baby. To ensure people thought I was legitimately crazy, I took the empty stroller and placed a big blue teddy bear swaddled in a blanket inside it–more realistic, I thought.

But then, a miracle happened.

There we were, braced for the ensuing chaos that was to strike as soon as we opened the door. I was pretty confident this experience was going to resemble that one time I walked Georgia while wearing my roller blades, so this time I was prepared with my wrist guards and a healthy dose of wide-eyed terror. Stroller in one hand, beast and leash in the other, I kicked open the door and winced. But then, nothing! My ferocious, precocious squirrel hunter was sitting pleasantly and waiting for me and the teddy bear buggy to go through the door first! Cautiously we set out, and by the grace of Bob our dog was walking, not mushing, alongside the teddy-bear laden stroller. I nearly cried.

This is now our daily ritual. We load up the stroller with bear (I keep adding accessories to the Bugaboo buggy… there’s now a hanging rattle thing on top. I think I saw a documentary like this where old cat-ladies pretend their dolls are actual babies and take them for walks and crap like that. But our neighbors already think we are crazy so whatevs). Stroller, with flair, dog, husband, and I set out each day on this trek in preparation for when there will be an actual baby in there, and so far, so good! She walks nicely alongside us. Who knew walking the dog could be a pleasant experience. I think even when our child outgrows the stroller we will still use it to walk the dog; it’s the only thing that has worked. I’m calling Petco. This is the next big pet product craze.

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The reason (in part) I have 23,529 unread emails

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This week let’s start by playing a little word association game. I will put down the name of a baby registry place, and I’ll tell you what comes to mind (this is less interactive than I had hoped).

1. Babies’R’Us: Gimmicky–something about offering parking for pregnant people right next to the handicap spaces. I saw a man with three fingers, an eye-patch, and a wooden leg get out of the car next to Suzie Cream Cheese who was approximately 3 months 4 days and 7 hours, give or take 12 minutes, with child. She nearly dismembered his remaining leg with the auto-spring door to her BMW/Hummer/Armored Tank in that neat little spot for those poor pregnant moms-to-be. Can those expectant among us really not walk that extra 30 feet? If not, get thee to thy healthcare provider and have them check for gestational diabetes complicated by excessive laziness.

2. Buy Buy Baby: Can you actually buy the baby? That sounds illegal and illicit. I’m intrigued.

3. Target: WalMart but with less obesity and really good cheese dip. Archer Farms, you have succeeded. Although something about shopping for cheese dip in aisle 6 and then a breast pump in aisle 9 has me hesitant.

4. Amazon: Newfandangled and techie, thereby “cool”. But I think older people will get confused when they google “Amazon address” trying to go to the Amazon store and find only this. That’s quite the distance to travel to buy a SwaddleMe.

5. Pottery Barn Kids – Pastels, an alarming lack of pottery, and preppy white people.

So, if you haven’t guessed it, we have been looking at baby registries. I have officially started like seven of them, immediately gotten overwhelmed, and quit. So now I get emails from each of the aforementioned places nine times daily and have taken to just not checking my email to see how many emails I can rack up before Google decides I am a robot or other form of internet safety hazard. I currently have 23,529 unread emails, no joke. I have a littttle problem with joining mailing lists–the free shipping’ll hook ya every time.

I think we are going to end up registering at Babies’R’Us and Amazon. I really do loathe the baby-in-a-can feel of Babies’R’Us, but I think we need an actual store on the list. Amazon is cool and I like that we can put anything on there from any website. All I want is that Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag and then I can call my life complete!

After deciding where we were going to register, we came to the problem of what to put on the registry. Let’s do a little math, but I’m not going to make actual calculations because that would mean getting off the couch which is not happening, so let’s say this is “Erika math”. A baby is like two cubic feet when born (sounds reasonable so far, eh?). That two cubic feet of newly formed life matter requires, according to baby-whoosie-whatsie-bloggy-bloggy-moms online, approximately 72,000 cubic feet of stuff (slightly less reasonable sounding, but go with it). That one little baby needs a crib, and diapers, and clothes, and bottles, and creams, potions, lotions, and goop. Then there’s bedding, and strollering, and bouncing contraptions that vibrate?… There are at least nine kinds of blankets these websites say I need lest I risk my baby staying warm in a blanket otherwise intended for an alternate purpose. Gasp! Is that a “receiving” blanket I see in your stroller?! And sleep sacks can’t be made from the leftover burlap Costco potato bag, I am told. So that option is gone.

Also, we just learned that newborns need the equivalent of “Kitten Mittens“, which is hilarious. We now have registered for baby kitten mittens in every color. Apparently it keeps them from clawing their own eyes out, or something like that.

Any advice mothers to be, mothers of old, mothers of mothers, or just people who have held two/plus babies before? (that would give you more experience with babying than myself. Double, to be precise. Again, not kidding.) If not, Kitten Mittens it is!

PS. Email count at the conclusion of writing this = 23,537. Bring it on, Google.

Pink and Blue BBQ

balloons

This past week at our ultrasound we learned whether we were to be spending our summers on the softball field or the baseball bleachers, and to celebrate the news, we threw a little party in our postage-stamp sized backyard. Lonnie was so excited to announce the gender (there’s even a Lebron James themed video, for your viewing pleasure), and he had been planning all the details for two weeks – and by “he had been planning” I mean he would email me midday with a new idea I was to execute upon arrival at home… I have never been to a craft store so many times. There are 1,500 miles on my car and I think 700 of those were from trips back and forth to AC Moore. Also, glitter has a habit of sticking to one’s unmentionables in a not-so-fun way.

The idea was this: invite all our friends in the DC area over for a summery BBQ. Require everyone to dress in either pink or blue, depending on what they thought we were having, then unveil the gender in some excitingly dramatic fashion. Turns out, nothing is more exciting and dramatic than cake pops (Google it. Cake pops = the most exciting thing ever), so that was the method through which we would convey the chromosomal identity of the little alien residing in my uterus.

Cake pops

It rained in the morning, and we freaked out about how we were going to fit people inside our tiny little townhouse. But nature had other ideas and brightened things up for us. It was beautiful, sunny, and pleasantly muddy by the time people started coming by.

We had so much fun (read, stress and panic) setting things up and getting ready. Lonnie iced down cases of St. Pauli’s Girl and Blue Moon (clever, eh?), I made a pink and blue pennant chain (as cutesy as I get), and we bought 900 pounds of fruit from Costco. Finding fridge space for 18 cantaloupes is really, really challenging and I feel like I should now be qualified to work as some sort of spacial engineer. Resume builder, check!

Pink Lemonade      Lonnie Grilling

Drink station   penants

Around 3 o’clock we were set for the big reveal. Everyone grabbed a cake pop and bit in to find out we were the proud, albeit terrified, future parents of a baby GIRL! Cue the special playlist Lonnie made (Beastie Boys “Girls” seemed appropriate at the time), jokes about a near-future trip to a gun store, and mazel tovs all around. My new job as a professional headband shopper has just begun!Jenny with Cake PopMe and Lonnie in front of tree

The Baby Name Game, or, how to hone the art of disagreement until the day your baby is born

            Vs.  

Choosing a name for our unborn child has been our topic of conversation as of late. And this feat has proved to be akin to choosing to embark on one of a thousand fancy looking Carnival Cruise liners but knowing that on some of those ships the toilets are going to stop working and the whole thing is going to smell like doo-doo; it’s just a matter of time. And then you have to try to figure out which ship everyone else is getting on because you don’t want it to be too crowded on the sun deck, but on the flip-side, being the only one chilling on your cruise ship is no fun either as it’s kinda hard to play bingo by yourself… I really need to stop with the drawn out analogies; yikes. Moral of the story is that there really is no right, or rather wrong, name, but the enormity of the decision has nearly paralyzed my poor pregnant mind.

I’m grateful we aren’t grappling with every name in the baby book, thanks to my husband’s Jewish culture. Judaism has a beautiful tradition of honoring a past life with the creation of a new. In keeping with this tradition, we will name our child after someone in our families who is no longer with us by using the first initial of their name. We get to give our baby not only a name but a legacy of the beautiful person after which he or she will be named.

After establishing the letters we were indeed going to use to bestow grace and good wishes upon the little snugglefish, we were all set for massive disagreement. Cue hours of “discussion” and a few (fine, a ton) of hormonal fits. Our home at times has entered into a state resembling the Cold War, only slightly less nuclear, and Lonnie only wishes he could rock spectacles Harry-Truman-style. Other than those things, pretty much exactly like the Cold War.

Maybe it’s the hormones, but I still don’t understand why “Waverly” is not a good option (our ultrasound tech literally laughed when we told her it was on the list), but plenty of tears were shed along the way to that decision… something about naming your child after a brand of curtains just isn’t sitting right with the hubster.

If you are also in the baby name market, you may have discovered nameberry.com. This is an awesomely overwhelming website.

PROS:

  • really cool stats on name popularity
  • name meanings
  • nicknames that go along with said name
  • at the top there’s a bar where you can see what name everyone else is searching for at that moment
  • names are grouped into “lists,” my favorite of which is “Mermaid Names” one of which my baby obviously needs. Shellina, anyone?
  • According the the site, Waverly is set to make a comeback (or a premier, I suppose?). I’ll get to say “told ya so” in twenty years; I can feel it.

CONS:

  • You can spend HOURS on this site
  • Those hours bring you no closer to finding a name and simply confuse you with the idea that your child is perfectly suited to have a mermaid name.
  • Waverly is on the mermaid name list (wait, shouldn’t this be a pro?).

Lonnie, being far more romantic than I on account of the fact that he possesses a human soul, wants to wait until our child is born to bestow a name. There’s also something about it being bad juju to name a child before it’s born (or perhaps more appropriately this would be bad “Jew-Jew”). So we will continue debating the virtues of different names until this baby makes an appearance. I can only hope in my postpartum hormonal drugged up state we choose the right cruise ship. And if the toilets stop working, well, there’s a whole ocean out there for that little mermaid, or merman, to use instead.

When you feel the baby move, it will feel like a unicorn farting into a pool of rainbows, and other lies

As I’m rounding the halfway mark of my pregnancy, I am being inundated by emails from Belly-Bumpy-Pregnancy-Tracker-Whoosie-Whatsies galore about feeling the baby move and the sensation I can expect on the receiving end. These sites and forums all promised me one of the following sensational (in the literal sense) options:

1. It feels like bubbles popping

2. It feels like a goldfish swimming around

3. It feels like butterflies

CORRECTION: It feels like a mini-human is inside my stomach punching me. Sometimes it feels like that mini-human has put on snowshoes and decided to forage around in my intestines searching for gold. But in no way does it feel like a goldfish. Or a butterfly. Or a bubble. Who makes this stuff up? This is the weirdest thing: it feels exactly like what you would expect it to feel like, so why all the weird analogies? How many of us have felt a goldfish swimming around in our stomach for that to be an accurate analogy anyway? Well there was that one time… but alas, I digress.

On a more nurturing note, it is like the coolest feeling in the world. That little mango moves All. The. Time. and it makes me oh-so-happy to know my baby is wriggling away the days safe and sound. But each time I get an email telling me I am going to feel a goldfish holding hands with a butterfly inside a bursting bubble, I have to laugh to myself.

On a fun note, we find out the gender in two weeks! I’m hoping it’s a dragon.

A Lesson in Physics

While grocery shopping yesterday, I was completely and utterly shocked, downright aghast, when I went to gracefully slide my oh-so-slender frame politely between two people also browsing for Double-Stuff Oreos in aisle 6, and managed to brush, nay, grind my ass against one old lady and my stomach against the display of Fritos cheese dip, knocking them to the ground. What the hell?! A polite “excuse me” hardly seems sufficient for what in some countries might constitute harassment. Oops. Grab Oreos and move on.

Hence we come to the subject of physics and the accompanying lessons learned while pregnant.

I’m in my fifth month and have managed to gain around ten pounds. I’m pretty sure it’s all in my boobs and butt, but those extra pounds have had a noticeable effect on things like my balance, and underwear drawer. Normal activities can suddenly turn in to something resembling the hula-hoop game on Wii Fit. Direct your attention to scenario A:

I’m standing around the work room, chatting with older colleagues who already think I should be on the next episode of “16 and Pregnant” (sometimes they forget I’m a teacher and ask me to show my student ID). There I am, filling up my water bottle and wearing the normal footwear of any high-school teacher: five inch heels. Also, it bears mentioning our school is pretty much made of tile mixed with mashed up Cheetos. And I’m pretty sure the cleaning team just started using castor oil to clean the floors. Suddenly, am I tipping forward? Are my boobs actually pulling me toward the ground? Why is the earth moving? Anyone else feel this? Cue the Wii Fit hula-hooping workout routine annnnd call it a normal day in the life of a pregnant person.

Furthermore, all previously adequately sized spaces immediately get smaller when you become pregnant. Each morning I pull into the parking garage at work and slide out the door with my softball bag, purse, and computer bag, all in the five inch heels and while managing to not knock a hole in the car door next to  me. These spaces got a hell of a lot smaller, and I’m pretty sure everyone got worse at parking because now when I get out I feel like a T-Rex playing dodgeball in a wind tunnel. Fun way to start the day? Mostly for the people who get to watch me get out of the car. So long pride and dignity! Fare thee well!

So, I put the baby in the crib naked, right? Immediate panic.

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So here I am, four months pregnant, a little fatter, and a lot gassier.

Four months have come and gone faster than my students on the Friday before Spring Break. What the heck happened? How did I get here already? I had a little panic attack this weekend reaching Week 15 (baby is an orange!) and realizing I had no idea what I was doing and how I was supposed to be doing it. I keep hearing women tell me, “your mother’s instinct will kick in honey,” or “don’t worry. It will all be natural once the baby comes.” I, however, am less than certain this will be true. Point in case to follow:

Lonnie and I were home over Spring Break to visit family, announce our pregnancy at Passover (what better time to answer “Who knows nine?), and get a rapid tutorial in mothering from the two people I know who have children (my mother and my mother-in-law).

While browsing the aisles of Babies’R’Us with my mom, sister, and husband, we stopped alongside the cribs. I proudly announced to my family that I knew how to put a newborn to sleep. I had just learned about when to start Tummy Time (a no-no until they can flip themselves over, I hear). So, I proceed to declare babies sleep on their backs. With nothing in the crib. And they should be naked. My mom and sister look at me, laugh hysterically, then freak out that I will be 3,000 miles away giving birth to this poor child whose mom is probably going to put it in its crib totally naked and make it fend for itself. This is the extent of what I know about parenting, and so begins this adventure.

I will probably be the only woman whose maternal instinct decides to malfunction for the first three years of my baby’s life. Poor kid.

So here’s to my learning curve, which will truly be more of a right angle. I plan to blog my way through it to mask my sheer terror, and it may prove an amusing read for all you other naturally maternal mothers out there. Rawr!