Hey Ana, What's Your Name?

My sister's birthday is February 1st and this year she will be 29.  She's got a lot going on this year, and I'm really excited for her and what she's accomplishing on her own.  We all got together tonight at my dad's house and had a birthday celebration for her.

I may call Adj and her on-again/off-again boyfriend Sammi and Ronnie, and I'll never stop busting her about her lack of use of lip gloss, but deep down inside she's a great person and my best friend and I know that this year is going to be her best yet.

It has to be--next year she turns 30, and we all know it's downhill from there.



Testing One, Two, Three

Leah is known for testing my patience to the point that I have to leave the room sometimes and scream it out at the dog.  She'll ask for something, let's say, for me to rub her back at night, and then I'll say, okay, lie down, and then she'll just sit there staring at me.  NOT lying down.  So, I'll say, you have until the count of three to lie down or no back rub, and then she'll just sit there staring at me.  Not slowly lying down.  Not waiting until I get to three and throwing herself down.  Just not doing it.  So, I'll go to walk away, and then she'll scream I NEED MY BACK RUBBED!  MOMMY COME BACK!  BACK!   NOW!!!   BWAAHHHH  BOOOO OOOOHHHH WWAAAHHHH!!!!

Now, if you can understand what the hell she is trying to do other than bury me early then kudos to you.  Because I can't for the life of me figure out why she will ASK for something then purposely take the steps that keep her from getting it. 

And finally yesterday, it clicked.  Not what she's thinking, because honestly?  I think that at these times she was put on earth to get me back for every single thing I did to my parents growing up.  I will never fully understand my child.  She's incomprehensible and unbelievable.  Like the shelf life of a Twinkie.  And Sarah Palin. 

No, what clicked was how I was going to handle it.

Now, brace yourself, because I am about to let you in on some genius-speak.  From now on when Leah asks for something, like say a snack, and I ask her to sit down at the table to eat said snack, and then she gives me the Carol-Ann stare, I walk away.  That's it.  Snack's over.  So sorry.  Cab's are here.  Gotta go.

And that's it.  She hates it, blows a gasket, has a fit, but then eventually gets over it.  And me?  I don't hate it, blow gaskets, or have fits, and I'm over it before it's even begun.

Lately, we've been working on cause and effect.  You throw something, you get it taken away.  You want me to give you something, you ask in a big kid voice.  You want lotion, then you don't jump off your changing table.  You want to take a 30 minute shower, then you get your own apartment.  I'm tired of treating her like some special-rainbow-cuddle-bunny, when I suspect she's old enough to know that she's getting special treatment and taking advantage of me.  She's a human being and life isn't always barbies and ponies.  Believe me, for Leah, life is quite often barbies and ponies, but occasionally, it's not, and it's best she start realizing this early on.

Last night, there were some shenanigans when I announced bed time.  Honestly, I don't even remember exactly what it was.  But on the nights that Greg works late, there are usually shenanigans at bedtime.  I did that warn/threat thing, (If you don't stop jumping off your bed, you will not get your teeth medicine*) and I watched her proceed to jump off the bed.  Twice.  And I had it.  So, I took the teeth medicine, put it on a shelf where she could see it**, and her told that she wouldn't be getting any that night.  She should try harder and listen better and perhaps tomorrow would be a teeth medicine night. 

Which she did.  And it was.  However, tonight we had the back rubbing issue.  There's always an issue.  We'll try again tomorrow.

*It's Orajel.  And she's not teething.  But she got it into her head over a year ago that she needs teeth medicine nightly.  I don't fight it.  I choose my battles.

**I learned this from an old co-worker Jon, who told me that when his wife Janine needed to take something away from their daughter due to naughty behavior, she made sure that she put the toy in a spot where their daughter would be sure to see it and be reminded of naughty behavior/punishment.  I've never forgotten it.



Letter Time!

Dear Horizon-

A $70 per month increase on my toddler's health insurance?  Really?  Does this sound like a normal annual increase amount?  TWENTY PERCENT?  Are you sure?  Our waste removal fee went up $5 one year and every senior citizen in Sparta picketed for months outside the post office.  Can you imagine if the increase was $70?  I now need a Xanax every time I open the bill.  MY health insurance is going to go up because of your greedy little ways.  I hope you're happy.

Dear Salerno-Duane Auto Plaza of Newton-

I swear to Hay-Zeus, thinking of you makes my blood boil.  I bought a car from you.  I took it home on the same day I visited just to test drive.  I played your negotiation games.  I agreed to your payment terms.  But when I brought my car in to have leather installed on the seats at 10 a.m. and returned at 8 p.m. to find 1) leather, 2) an empty tank, and 3) 300 miles on the odometer that weren't there that morning, I expected at the very least a SORRY.  Or a HOW CAN I MAKE THAT UP TO YOU?   But what I got was insulting, rude, wrong, and full of BS.  I will be coming to get my license plates soon.  If your attitude hasn't changed by then, I'll be bringing my two year old.  Don't know what that means?  Call the guys over at the Audi dealership and ask them how fun it was when we brought Leah to that visit.  Hope you like your showroom cars "jellied."

Dear JCP&L-

WHY DOES IT COST SO MUCH TO PUT LIGHTS ON??!!!  My god, what the hell, is electricity made of gold?????  Due to your exorbitant rates, I now scream at Greg for leaving things plugged in!  I yell when he leaves the TV on to go to the bathroom!  I wait by Leah's door for her to fall asleep so I can turn off the focacca light she mandates be left on in order to fall asleep at night.  I am a stingy, electric-saving scrooge!  You are turning me into my father!

Dear Wachovia-

I am happy that you got bought out by Wells Fargo.  I am NOT sad to see you go, I WILL help you pack, and I hope the door doesn't hit you on the way out.  It's been several years of horrible service, mistakes on your part that you blamed me for, and a really stupid name.  Good riddance!

**It was bill-paying night.  In case you couldn't tell.  Have a good one!



Steel Magnolias

I have a friend who, at 33, became a widow last week.

I have a friend who is 7 months pregnant with her second child and found out earlier in the week that her husband has leukemia.

I have a friend who is separated from her husband, has two children, and was just laid off from her job.

There are women in my life who have experienced death, disease, miscarriage, debt, infertility, drugs and more. 

There are times I look at any tragedy I've suffered, and I think, it could be worse, Dana.  It could be so much worse.  You may not have your mother, but you have your husband, your daughter, your family, your health.  Be thankful that it's not worse.

We often look at other people who have endured a horrible experience and think I could never go through that and live.  I could never handle that, and then something devastating happens to us, and we find ourselves automatically handling it, going through the motions, making it work, dealing with it, and before you know it, we've lived through it.  Through something we never thought we'd be strong enough to endure.  And we're still alive.  And at times perhaps thriving.  And we're stronger than we've ever imagined.

We will all go through our own tragedy.  And it will be something that we never thought we'd be able to handle.  And we will do it and surprise ourselves. 

To the women in my life going through these tough times: You can do it.  That's all I can say. 



Dear Mom...

It's been a long time since I wrote you a letter.  It's not because I've forgotten about you.  Believe me, I still think about you all the time.

We are chugging along in life, replacing hot water heaters, buying new cars, watching Angelina Ballerina, making an occasional BM in the toilet (you'll appreciate the use of "BM"), shoveling snow on a weekly basis, spending an exorbitant amount of money at Kohls, using Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons (we must--Linens and Things went out of business after you died--two events that I'm sure are related), getting extended bedtimes, vacuuming on a near-daily basis, getting a new stove, non-stop food shopping, making new friends, drinking lots of wine, creating new recipes, seeing shows, facebooking (you wouldn't get it), "working on the 'puter", paying bills, complaining about bills, making new bills, celebrating birthdays, yelling at Ruby for eating diapers out of the garbage, trying to keep Penny from scratching every piece of new furniture we bring into this house and anything and everything else involved with life.

But, please don't let the above paragraph make you think that I don't wish we could do every one of those things with you.



Disney On Crack

We took Leah to see those damn Princesses dance on the damn ice on Saturday.

As you can probably guess, she was very excited that we let her out of the house attend a show.

We went with our friends The Kelly Family, and thankfully they informed us that it's customary for attendees of the show to dress like princesses.   So, we came prepared.  (We were pretty sure that the adults didn't dress us, so Greg and I left our princess costumes at home.  We were right.)


The show--well, the show--what can I say about the show?  The show was a gem of cinematic beauty and awe-inspiring feats inspiring pleasure and jubilation beyond one's imagination.

Leah was in her glory.  She had a wonderful time.

Thank goodness for the beer.  That's how Greg and I feel.



Dirty Bit

Two nights ago, Leah colored* in the lines.**  It wasn't the first time she ever did that; she had colored in the lines a few months ago at Uncle Michael and Aunt Cheryl's house, but that appeared to be a fluke.  Two nights ago, she surely and truly colored in the lines.  I was so excited for her, as was she, that we took a picture of the coloring and sent it to very close family members.  People who would understand just how important and happy we were that she had colored in the lines.

My sister was not very happy with the picture she received of Leah's coloring in the lines...she thought it was inappropriate.  Perhaps that's because it took her a long time to learn to color in the lines and she's jealous of Leah.  Maybe she doesn't even color in the lines yet.  Who knows.

Last night, Leah decided she wanted to color again, and, sure enough, she did it in the lines!  This coloring was way more impressive than the first, and we were both surprised by how large a coloring she had been able to do in the lines.  I explained that when one colors, you never know what it's going to look like until it's complete.

Leah's grandmother wants to give her a dollar for every time she colors in the lines, but if Leah turns into someone who colors in the lines as often as her father, her grandmother is going to be a poor lady very soon.

As you know, we've been waiting for Leah to color in the lines for a while now and feel that these two occurrences are positive stepping stones to a life filled with in-line colorings.  We explained to Leah that Mommy colors in the lines; Daddy colors in the lines; many of her friends color in the lines.

I'm really proud of her for taking the initiative to attempt coloring in the lines and hope that this continues. 

Good job, Leah!

* poop


Leah's Faves

Like a G6
What's My Name
Muffin Man
Soul Sister (Blech)


Macaroni and Cheese

Anything that sparkles

Yes, please


Baby Jules (Oh yeah, her name changed.)

Despicable Me
Toy Story 3
Strawberry Shortcake Berry Kill Me Now Adventures (Or something)

Lip gloss

Excuse me, what do you call it?


TV Show
Barney (Leah and Barney-BFFE)
Special Agent Oso
Yo Gabba Gabba
Max and Ruby

*Just checking if you're paying attention.  Everyone who knows Leah knows she loves her some scotch.


Raising Dana

Growing up, one of my favorite things was going down the doll aisle at toy stores.  I would inspect and study each and every doll--what she looked like, what she wore, what she came with, what she could do, if she pooped, everything.  I would get so excited to visit toy stores because a trip always, always included a stroll down the doll aisle.  I would jump from doll to doll, narrating my moves: This one has diapers!  I saw this one on TV!  Oh, I love this one so much!  This one comes with a potty!

And, if we're being honest with each other, I still enjoy perusing the doll aisle.  Even before I had Leah, if a store I was visiting contained a doll aisle, I always made sure to take a glance before I left.

I don't know why it surprises me, and delights me to no end, but Leah is obsessed with the doll aisles, too.  The first few times she begged to be let out of the cart once we reached the aisle, so that she could get a better look at the merchandise, I thought it was only a fluke.  But it's been happening now for a while, and this characteristic, along with a few other select ones, are so similar to things that I did as a child and it just amazes me each and every time I see them.

Dis one has a ba ba!  Dis one has siddy hair!  I wike dis one!  Dis one is cwying for a ma ma!

I am so grateful that I had a daughter first.  I know you're not supposed to say that, but I don't care.  I am.  I feel like it was a blessing in disguise.  Having a daughter so soon after losing my mother taught me to not take for granted one single tiny minute in this life with her.  I will never be accused of not teaching her enough, or speaking to her enough, or giving her enough, because I know how important it is to create the mother/daughter bond, because I know what it's like to lose it. 

I am in a position where I can give her things--whether material or experience-based--and I do that as much as I can.  I don't care if other people thing she's spoiled, or that I should share the wealth with a second child, or if I am doing her a disservice.  Because I know what a daughter remembers about her mom when she's no longer around.  I know what a daughter is grateful and thankful for from her mother.  I know what a daughter cherishes and holds close to her heart about her mom when her mom has passed.

It's things like sharing the experience of walking the doll aisle.



33 Months Old

I wish I could freeze frame this age, and have Leah stay here forever.  This, by far, is the best age yet, and I love it so much. 

She talks all the time--can tell us what she wants and what she thinks.  But, she still says words funny; so listening to her non-stop chatter is adorable, because who doesn't think that "Despica-Me", "popcorns", and "Tan I have a tootie?"  are hilarious?

She's super dramatic, and everything that happens is such a big deal.  She throws her hands up in the air or throws her palms to her cheeks with an open mouth when something as harrowing as the cat running by her occurs. 

She cares.  Has a heart of gold.  Tells us we are special.  Hopes that my feet aren't chilly-willy.  Asks me if I'm okay if I bump my knee.

She has interests.  Loves to draw with markers.  Enjoys doing chores, like loading and emptying the dryer and dishwasher.  She's into movies--wants to put the disc in the DVD player herself; wants to press play.  Lives to turn on the vacuum for me.

She's got an awesome memory.  She'll remember her friend Ashlyn's glittery shoes, and why her friend Jackson wasn't at daycare that day.  She can tell you an entire story that occurred while you were at work, complete with dialogue that was spoken.

The tantrums are pretty much non-existent.  She adapts to change better than anyone I know.   Will choose "little bit of chub" over "skinny minnie" when you ask her what she wants to be.  Isn't jealous when Greg and I hold another baby.  Loves to spend time with me on the weekends.  Asks me every night if I have to go to work the next day and loves my answer on Friday nights best. 

Her memory is phenomenal.  Knows when it's Wednesday and she spends the day with my sister.  She loves babies and wants to hold them, kiss them, feed them, cover them, pacify them. 

She's perfect, and this is the perfect age.  We are having so much fun.



The Resolutions

Gabrielle has been pushing for me to set some resolutions and I haven't really given much thought to them.  They don't normally last that long--never through the whole year--and what's the point of making resolutions if you're only going to drop them the minute your period comes and you need a piece of cheesecake immediately?  Or, you have a bad day, open a bottle of wine, invite some friends over, and wake up the next morning with more empty bottles than people?

Hmm?  What you say?  Only me?  Oh, then let's carry on.

I could very easily sit here and list double digits of specific things that I hope to change or accomplish this year, but I'd rather just look at the big picture.  Rather make some vague large sweeps on what I hope happens this year, so that when we are looking back on this list in December I can persuade you all that what I did is what I meant to do and that I'm not a complete Resolution Failure.

Here we go.

1) Stay active.  Not necessarily through running, although I hope that I pick up running again soon.  I want to move, in as many different ways as I can.  I never want to be still, stale, immobile.  And I don't just want my weekend's activities to consist of cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, and going up and down the steps 56 times to do laundry.  So, this year I will be trying out cross country skiing, continuing with running and zumba, and throwing in some reformer pilates, or, as I like to call it, refinance pilates, because it's a leetle costly.  I'd like to find one more activity, and I have twelve months to do it, so that shouldn't be too tough.

2) Keep focus. No matter what the issue is, or what goal I need to achieve, or what I what to accomplish, I need to remember to focus on the endgame and move towards it.  Not get distracted along the way by trivial things.  Not let the bright lights veer me from my path.  I've often felt that I have a smidge of ADD because it takes me so long to finish a task because I get sidetracked so easily and so often.  I need to remember to do one thing at a time, and to not get frustrated if it takes me a long time, as long as I don't abandon my goal along the way. 

3) Keep on keeping on.  I am okay with me.  I am happy with who I am and where I'm at.  I have bad days and I have good days.  I have moments that I'm not proud of and those that I want to post in the paper.  I see myself dealing with my mother's death so well on some days, and I see myself still feeling like she died yesterday at times.  Things that used to make so sad no longer have that affect on me, and then there are times when I realize that my mother has never met Leah and never will and it stops me dead in my track.  But, I still wake up everyday and get out of bed and take a shower (er, on weekdays, at least) and kiss my kid, and go to work, and make a living, and drive home in traffic and eat dinner with my family and watch Despicable Me 45 times and give my kid a shower and help her brush her teeth and watch The Closer with my husband and go to bed and do it all over again the next day.  I'm me and I like me and I'm dealing with life in the best way I know how.  And I think I'm doing a good job.