Friday, February 29, 2008

I really don't understand people

I brought Brandon to the beach today. After we had been there for a while, there were these two women who showed up...I honestly don't know what the hell they were thinking, but let me try to recreate their train of thought as I would imagine it had to have been:

"Wow, what a beautiful day to lay our fat asses down on the beach and chain smoke! Hey look, that whole half of the beach [which is about the size of a football field] is empty...but I don't want to have to walk all the way over there! I mean, that would be an extra 30 feet! It would take a good 8 seconds to walk over there! Let's set ourselves up five feet away from this lady and her 2-year-old. Oh, wait, is she pregnant? Awesome! Let's make sure we're directly upwind of her!"

Honestly. Who plops down five feet away from ANYONE and starts smoking when there is literally NOBODY 10 yards away...let alone upwind of a pregnant woman and a toddler? Brian's response when I told him about it: "It's a public beach." But does being in public excuse you from being polite and courteous? HELL NO! If anything, good manners are MORE important when you're in public! Because who the hell cares how rude you are when you're home alone? The whole POINT of good manners is that you are considerate of OTHER PEOPLE.

So I gathered up my stuff and said, "come on, Brandon, we have to go home." Then I looked up and noticed the EMPTY half of the beach and thought...what the hell, why should I have to go home? Brandon is having a good time and that's not fair to him. Or to me. "Actually, Brandon, let's move over there. Come on, bud, we have to move. Follow Mommy."

What I really don't understand is that these women lifted their heads and looked at me as if they were SHOCKED that I got up and moved. Like it was rude of me to want to protect my children (born and unborn) from their smoke. It wasn't like I said what I said to make a scene or even to make a point; the only reason I even said anything out loud in the first place was to get my 2-year-old's attention! (And it's not like I said it loudly enough that they would have even heard it if they hadn't plopped down so damn close to me.) Regardless, it was clear that they thought I was being rude and unreasonable. For moving my pregnant self and my 2-year-old away from the smoking cigarettes they had lit FIVE FEET AWAY FROM ME, UPWIND.

Honestly. I don't give a shit if you kill yourself. I really don't. But don't consider me rude for wanting to keep my children away from you while you do so.

I literally laughed so hard I cried

http://barackobamaisyournewbicycle.com/

(Keep on clicking to get new ones.) Thank you, Sunshine, for bringing this to my attention!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

somebody needs to save me from myself

I was making a double batch of pizzagna (and let me tell you, that is a freakin' lot of food) and as I tried to get my hand underneath one of the pans to lift it out of the VERY VERY HOT 500 degree oven, the side of my arm touched the inside of the oven door. (I only open the door about halfway so it I can close it quickly if Brandon comes into the room.) This is not the first time I've done this but it's definitely worse this time than last. You'd think I would have learned by now that I really should open the door ALL THE WAY. Apparently not.

The best part? I had decided, for some stupid reason, to use one of those silicone pot grabbers on that hand, and an oven mitt on the other. If I had been wearing the oven mitt on the hand that touched the door, I would not have gotten burned.

Fabulous.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

*sigh*

So I went to the chiropractor today. There is nothing wrong with my alignment, nothing wrong with my tailbone, my ligaments are nice and loose...no apparent reason for the posterior pelvic pain, and no apparent reason why the baby keeps turning between posterior and transverse, and is NEVER anterior. (By transverse, I mean facing my side, not a transverse lie, which would be if he were completely sideways. He is head-down at least.) I did have one vertebra in my mid-back that was WAY out of whack; so I'm glad that I went, since now it feels much more possible to sit up straight, and I will most likely continue to go, because it is worth it to me to make sure that everything stays aligned, but...no relief from the pain. *sigh* Maybe I should go get a massage. I'm pretty sure it costs about the same.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

red raspberry leaf lemonade

Red raspberry leaf tea is very, very good for you when you're pregnant. But it does not taste very good, not at all. If it was recommended to drink one cup a day, I might be able to manage it with a LOT of honey, but you're supposed to work up to 4-6 cups per day! So since necessity is the mother of invention, I figured out a way to make it that makes it not only bearable, but yummy. (This is probably not the drink for you if you're struggling with blood sugar issues or excessive weight gain. Lemonade - real lemonade - has a lot of sugar in it, roughly 2 tablespoons per 8oz, yikes!)

Red Raspberry Leaf Lemonade
(makes 2 quarts)

Boil 6.5 cups water (I boil the water first in my teakettle and then measure and pour into a glass pitcher for brewing) and add 4 bags of red raspberry leaf tea (technically you're supposed to use 1 bag per 6 ounces of water, but I compensate by letting it brew longer, because I am cheap) and around 1/3 cup fresh or frozen raspberries (I don't really measure the berries, I just kind of estimate). Allow to brew to desired strength - shorter brewing time will give you a more lemonade-y drink, longer brewing time will come out tasting more like iced tea. I usually let it go at least five minutes. Remove teabags and pour through a tea strainer into a pitcher, squashing as much juice as you can out of the raspberries. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup lemon juice. You've probably lost some liquid along the way, so add enough water to equal 2 quarts. Mix or shake. (I use this bottle because it has measurement markings and can be shaken.) Chill. Serve over ice.

Yum!

Friday, February 22, 2008

what can I say...I suck at birthdays

Two good friends of mine had baby girls the day before yesterday. You'd think that since they were born on the same day, it will be super easy for me to remember their birthday(s). But I am so bad about remembering birthdays, that I am certain I will not. Last year I sent my brother-in-law's birthday present 3 months late...and his birthday is the same day as mine.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

maybe their selection was lacking?

I went to the dentist on Saturday. The hygienist told me that I should be using an extra-soft toothbrush, and to stop using whitening toothpaste. So when I went grocery shopping yesterday, I spent a good five minutes in the toothpaste aisle, trying to find a toothpaste that didn't say "whitening" on the box.

I gave up.

thinking about birth today...

I feel kind of wrong for complaining about my pain in that last entry. First of all it isn't always THAT bad - I was having a particularly bad day when I wrote about it, but there are times (occasionally) when it's really just a minor annoyance - although those times are getting fewer and farther between. There are bad days and not so bad days - the really bad ones being the days when my belly support belt is in the wash or I do too many things.

Also, I'm not really supposed to talk about pain or anything negative related to pregnancy or childbirth. I'm not supposed to even let myself think about pregnancy or childbirth in a negative way. I'm doing Hypnobabies for the second time, and keeping a positive frame of mind has been very difficult for me this time around - mostly, I guess, because of the way my first birthing went.

I've never written about Brandon's birth in any great detail here in my blog. I don't really know why. It's kind of hard to know exactly what to say. I can tell, and have told, the story in several different ways depending on my frame of mind at the time or what I choose to reveal about the details and the deeper meaning behind things. I think that in a way, I'm afraid of coming across as whiny or ungrateful. On the other hand, what a lot of people probably don't realize is that a birth doesn't have to be tragic or dramatic from a medical standpoint to be traumatic. I gave birth to a perfect baby boy with an Apgar score of 9/10, with minimal medical intervention. And yet, I was definitely traumatized by the experience.

I went into it with complete and total faith in my body's ability to give birth normally and easily. I believed with all my heart that everything would go perfectly. It didn't.

When I tell people I had back labor, a lot of them say, "oh, yeah, me too!" Which makes me wonder, because I know that what happened to me was not normal; how could it have possibly happened to so many women? Upon further research I realized that when you say "back labor" there are three different things you could be referring to. Feeling the contractions in your back is a normal variation. Then there's back labor, where the contractions are secondary to the pain in your back. Then...there's what I had. Severe back labor. The kind where not only are the contractions secondary to the back pain, but the contractions are practically nonexistant compared to the back pain - and you don't get a break between them. Feeling the contractions in your back is normal. Feeling the baby's head in your back is not.

What do I mean by that? I literally mean that if you put your hand on my back, you could feel the baby's head. Can you imagine what that felt like? To have something pressing so hard against my back from the inside, that my back was actually bulging out? The baby wasn't just posterior (facing my front instead of my back) - he wasn't just at a wacky angle and pointed in the wrong direction (which all posterior babies are to some extent) - he was stuck there. Like, really wedged in. And the pain...never...stopped. Not between contractions, never. So you can see why, when somebody smiles at me and says cheerfully, "oh, yeah, I had back labor too!!!" I just kind of think..."yeah. Okay. Sure ya did." I don't doubt that you felt some pressure, and maybe even some pain, in your back while you were in labor. Maybe the pain was intense. But if you can smile about it? Then you did not feel what I felt.

Anyway. I labored for about 24-25 hours (on two hours of sleep, after attending a birthday party and cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner) before I was dilated 5cm, the minimum required to be admitted to my hospital. Normally this policy is a very very good thing - the earlier you check in to the hospital, the more likely it is that you will end up with unnecessary medical interventions. They know this. That is why the policy is in place. So for a normal labor, this is an excellent policy, and one that I really liked the idea of, and still do. But I didn't have a normal labor. I was desperate to get into the hospital because something deep down inside of me was telling me that I needed help. Something is not right. This is not normal. In my conscious mind, all I was thinking was that I wanted to get into the big tub - the tub at home was not big enough and did not have jacuzzi jets and kept on getting cold. I wanted to be in that damn tub I kept on hearing so much about.

But they wouldn't let me in the tub. The midwife said no, it will slow down your labor too much. We don't want to slow it down, we want to get it going. Looking back on it now, I wonder why nobody realized, hey, if the contractions slow down a little, maybe she can actually get some rest???? Or maybe what she needs for labor to progress is the opportunity to relax a little?? It seems so glaringly obvious now!

It was a moot point anyway. I begged to be allowed to at least get in the shower, which was granted, and there was no hot water. I gave it my best shot but as I stood there shivering, I decided that maybe a shower was not the best idea. Which sucked because up until that point, water had been the only thing that really helped at all. For a while I figured that there was no hot water because it was the middle of the night and maybe they have solar water heaters there like we do in housing - we would often have no hot water when it's cloudy. But I realize now that no hot water in a hospital is not normal either.

My nurse was not very helpful. To this day I wonder how she was assigned to a midwife patient, because she really didn't seem to know how to help me. I mentioned at one point that I was having back labor because the baby was facing the wrong way and she said, "how do you know? Did they do an ultrasound?" Like I can't tell the difference between my baby's back and his knees??? And let's not forget that you could feel his head in my back! In fact, the triage nurse had told her this when they brought me into the LDR room: "She has a bulging back." You would think that if the L&D nurse didn't know what that meant, she would have asked. But she didn't. And it was a pretty important piece of information, if you ask me!

Well anyway, the nurse suggested I sit on the birthing ball because "that seems to work for some women". I had spent the first 8 or so hours on my ball at home but after a while it just got uncomfortable so I had stopped using it - but I was willing to try again. I sat on it for about 10 seconds and just couldn't handle it. It didn't feel right at all. The nurse, apparently, was out of tricks and didn't suggest anything else. In fact, she left the room and I didn't see her again for quite a while. Gee, thanks for the support.

So I had no hot water, a nurse who seemed to know pretty much nothing about how to help a woman through natural childbirth, and seemed to have never even heard of back labor before; a midwife who was more concerned with "getting the labor going" than with addressing the reason why I wasn't progressing; and a baby that was in an almost hopelessly bad position (which would be the reason why I wasn't progressing). After about 27 hours I was 5cm dilated (which hadn't changed for about 3 hours) with contractions 5 minutes apart (which hadn't changed for, oh, at least 20 hours). It had gone on long enough that there was no way for Brandon to turn around without some seriously deep relaxation on my part - he was really wedged in there. And I just couldn't do it. I was too tired to concentrate. In between every contraction, all I could do was cry and think about was how much I wanted to sleep.

So I got an epidural. (The nurse was amazing at helping me focus through the process of having it put in. She obviously had lots of experience in helping women get epidurals, but not with getting through natural labor - which again, makes me wonder how she got assigned to a midwife patient.) Almost immediately, Brandon turned around, my water broke on its own, I fell asleep, and in about two hours I was ready to push. (The epidural had already worn off. I have a very high tolerance for anesthesia and I suspect that they gave me a pretty low dose.)

The midwife had been trying to talk me into AROM (artificial rupture of membranes, aka breaking the water) to get things going and I had outright refused. I have a heart murmur and wasn't getting antibiotics, so I didn't want to do ANYTHING that could potentially increase my risk of getting an infection. But more importantly, it just didn't feel like the right thing to do. Then when I decided to get the epidural, she tried to talk me into doing it before the epidural was in place to avoid having it slow down my labor even more, which is often a side effect of epidurals. I refused again. I told her she could do it after, but not before. And thank God I did. I have done a lot of reading and research into back labor and posterior babies since then, and I know now that there would have been no way for Brandon to turn around without the cushion of amniotic fluid around him. So even after I had gotten the epidural and was able to relax enough for him to turn, he still would have been stuck. And I would have ended up with a c-section for cephalo-pelvic disproportion (aka, "baby doesn't fit") - which, more often than not, is caused by the baby being in an unfavorable position, NOT by a big baby head or small mommy hips like the doctors would have you believe.

At any rate, like I said, I got the epidural, he turned around, my water broke on its own, and I was complete within two hours. If there had been anybody supporting me who was knowledgeable about techniques for turning babies, maybe we could have taken care of the posterior positioning before he got so wedged in there, and my labor could have been much, much shorter. But instead I was surrounded by people who just weren't listening to me, people who thought I was being an overdramatic, underprepared, doesn't-know-what-she's-talking-about first time mom with no pain tolerance. Is it any wonder I hired a doula this time?

Even though the epidural had worn off, everyone assumed that since I had gotten one, I couldn't get into an upright position to push. I couldn't really tell how much it had worn off or whether I would be able to maintain a squatting position, so I didn't press the issue. I asked to push on my side. It was wonderful. I finally felt like something I was doing was making a difference. I felt productive. But apparently it "wasn't working", according to the nurse, so I got rolled flat onto my back. I was concentrating too hard on pushing to say, "hey, wait, wouldn't it work better if I was upright?" (it would have, of course). So I kept on pushing. It felt like I was trying to push the baby straight up out of the floor. His heart rate started dipping a little too much so they put an oxygen mask on me. Again - why didn't they just have me get into an upright position? His heart rate was dipping because I was flat on my back. (If we're not supposed to lie on our backs during pregnancy, because it cuts off blood flow to the baby, why is it suddenly okay during labor?)

I didn't feel the "ring of fire" - I didn't feel burning, I wouldn't even say that I felt stretching - but I felt the tearing. I tore in two directions - because I was pushing on my back, which puts pressure in all the wrong places and does not allow you to stretch. Brandon came out crying and wriggly, with an almost perfectly round head, practically no molding at all.

All was well, mom and baby were healthy. Another positive outcome, another positive experience, right? No. At first I was just disappointed that I had "caved" and gotten the epidural. Then I was angry about all of the circumstances beyond my control that conspired to make the situation so difficult. Then for a long time, I was angry at the hospital staff for letting me down.

I think I might finally be over it, though. I'm much more able now to look back and see the positive things. I can see what I learned from it. For instance:
  • hire a doula. You need to have somebody there who is knowledgable, experienced, and has no responsibilities to anyone but you.
  • trust your gut instincts, they are usually right. The hospital staff may have education and experience, but every woman is different, every baby is different, every birthing is different, and YOU are the one living in YOUR body. You are the only one who really and truly knows what is best for you and your baby.
  • It's okay to be assertive and stand up for yourself and say "no". If I had blindly gone along with what the midwife suggested, and let her rupture my membranes, I would very likely have ended up with a c-section.
So...that's why I've been having a hard time believing, really believing, that this time is going to be easy and wonderful and, well, normal, because I believed that with all my heart last time, and it didn't happen. Maybe the most I can hope for is that it's easier, and shorter, and a little less dramatic. And honestly, while many women would consider a 12-hour labor to be long and almost unbearable...I would welcome it with so much joy, relief and gratitude.

On the other hand...once Brandon got into a good position, the rest of the birthing went so quickly that his head didn't even have time to mold. So...maybe this time will go really, really rapidly. Who knows? Anything can happen.

(ps, for more info on back labor: http://www.gentlebirth.org/archives/postrppr.html)

Friday, February 15, 2008

weep for me; I am feeling sorry for myself and you should too

So it seems that I have posterior pelvic pain. It is excruciating and it gets worse every day. Apparently, I am supposed to avoid climbing stairs, heavy lifting (try telling that to my 2-year-old) and running or excessive walking (which is my main form of exercise). Fan-freaking-tastic. I'm also supposed to sit up straight on the birth ball rather than reclining. So I have been. And you know what? I feel worse. Especially when I get up. I have a chiropractor appointment for a week from next Monday; that was the earliest I could get. I may completely lose it before then. And by "it", I mean both my sanity and my ability to walk upright.

Monday, February 11, 2008

garter drop stitch baby blanket


When faced with the proposition of knitting a gift for a baby of unknown gender, I had just about decided to buy some Swish Worsted in Sunshine and Sand Dune and do a yellow and beige striped blanket...when I remembered that I had a big ol' ball of white Bernat Softee Baby in my stash from waaaaay back in the day when I used acrylic yarn; I think I bought it in late 2004 or early 2005. As acrylics go, this one is pretty good...I didn't particularly enjoy working with it (I'm totally a yarn snob now) but it knits up pretty nice - definitely soft enough for a baby. (Though admittedly not as soft as the Swish would have been.)

Since the project was so simple, I broke the cardinal rule and didn't do a gauge swatch...I just estimated and cast on 125 stitches on size 10 needles. I worked in garter drop stitch (Rows 1-4: knit. Row 5: knit, looping the yarn around twice for each stitch. Row 6: knit, dropping the extra loops. Repeat.) until the ball ran out. It was just barely not long enough so I had to go buy another ball. Softee Baby is a little different now than it used to be, a little bit thinner, and it comes in a 120g ball whereas it used to come in a 140g ball - but it was close enough. They didn't have white so I chose a color ("Funny Prints", it seems to be called). I knitted 20 rows in plain garter stitch, then after casting off I picked up stitches from the cast-on edge and knitted 20 rows in the other direction so that it would be symmetrical. If I were to make this blanket again, of course, I would start with the 20-row border before switching to the main white drop-stitch portion.

So there ya go. Not exactly a pattern but more of an idea. Feel free to steal it. It's really easy, it took about a week of knitting in the evenings while watching TV. It would take about 3 50g balls of the main color and I'm thinking 1 50g ball of the accent color. The label says "sport DK"; it felt a little closer to sport if you ask me, but I guess a yarn of either weight would work.

I'm going to go ahead and take the credit on this one

Over the past week or so I have discovered that my 2-year-old knows letters. He can identify: I, B, P, O, C, K, Z, Q, and W ("duh-boo"). (I may be forgetting a couple.) I was absolutely shocked to discover this. Either he's learning more than I realized when we play with his blocks and read his alphabet books, or the most annoying toy in the world actually serves a purpose other than to use as a beatbox in "letter sounds" mode. (Which I have to admit is kind of fun.)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

gee, thanks, kid

Things that Brandon calls "Mah-ee":


1. Mommy.


2. The Sprite (Spring personified) from "The Firebird" in Fantasia 2000. This one doesn't bother me.


3. Cookie Monster. In particular, there is a picture of Cookie Monster in one of his books where Cookie is cross-eyed and wearing pajamas. And to Brandon, apparently, that is Mommy. Greeeeeeat.

Friday, February 8, 2008

ouch

There is a moment in an old episode of Family Guy (I tried to find a clip but couldn't) where Peter puts his ear up to Bonnie's belly to hear the baby kick, and all of a sudden the shape of a foot pops out and kicks him, and he flies across the boat.

That is pretty much what it feels like when this baby kicks. He is strong. I remember being surprised how hard Brandon kicked, but I don't remember it hurting. This little guy...he is vicious with the elbows and knees.

bad day

I woke up today at 5am with the worst sore throat EVER. I managed to fall back to sleep for a couple of hours and woke up with my throat feeling better, but a really scratchy voice and a pretty nasty cough. Yuck.

I went downstairs to find that Brian had come home to shower after PT and brought smoothies for me and Brandon - which was really the only good thing that happened all day. Next up, I checked my email and got some disappointing news that made me pretty sad for a while.

I still felt pretty crappy at lunchtime and all I wanted was some chicken soup. I always have a couple of cans of soup in the pantry...but not today.

Brian checked the mail when he got home from work and, YAY, I got a package from Replacements.com. I've had some issues with them, but nobody else does what they do (as far as I know) and what they do is pretty darn cool. I ordered four things from them, two in my regular flatware pattern (Satin Aquarius) and two things in a different (more expensive) version of my pattern (Golden Aquarius).

I placed the order about a month ago, I think, so I was pretty excited to get it. I opened the box and unwrapped everything. Satin Aquarius salad serving fork? Check! Satin Aquarius infant feeding spoon? Check! Golden Aquarius wedding cake knife and pie & cake server...um...almost. The packing slip says "Golden Aquarius". The labels on the little baggies that the pieces are packed in say "Golden Aquarius". I paid for Golden Aquarius. (An extra $8 per piece, so $16 more than if I had ordered them in Satin Aquarius.)

But the pieces themselves? Satin Aquarius.

It's not like these are pieces that they just grab off of a shelf. They get the order. They take the wedding cake knife. They take a butter knife in the requested pattern. They cut the handle off of one and replace it with the handle from the other. Then they put it in a baggie with a label on it that clearly states which pattern it's supposed to be. Then they pack it in a box with a packing slip that also clearly states which pattern it's supposed to be. Plenty of opportunities to notice, "HEY, THIS ISN'T THE RIGHT PATTERN!!" You have to figure that somebody noticed at some point...maybe they just thought that I wouldn't notice?

Of course I was pissed off enough to call them right away, even though I knew the office was closed, and leave a message. And then it occurred to me...they don't exactly have the best attention to detail. They're probably going to call me first thing in the morning, not noticing that I live 5 time zones away. I wouldn't be surprised if I get a call at 3am tomorrow. Which would, of course, be a great start to another fantastic day.

ETA: They didn't call me at 3am, I actually wonder if they'll call me back at all, but I read their returns policy and it appears that, although it was clearly their fault, return shipping is my responsibility - and it must be insured. Oh, come on. I already paid $8.99 for shipping, now I get to buy a padded envelope and pay for shipping again, because they can't read. It's a damn good thing these pieces were purchased for a wedding anniversary and not for an actual wedding, because I'm sure they wouldn't be ready in time.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

it begins

As a (soon-to-be) mother of two, I suppose it was inevitable that I would eventually have to deal with repeatedly telling my children not to stand in front of an open refrigerator for extended periods of time. I just didn't expect it to happen when my son was only 2 years old. With a teenager, or even just an older child, you can explain to them that they should decide what they want, then open the door and find it quickly - whether or not they actually do it is another matter, but you can at least explain it to them and know that they understand. A 2-year-old has no concept of electricity, much less wasting electricity. And sometimes there really is nothing in the fridge that he wants, and I end up getting a granola bar out of the pantry for him, which is, of course, even more frustrating.
What will life be like with two teenage boys? I don't want to know.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

this is me relieved

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an update of the utmost importance: I just used my stand mixer to make bread pudding, and the results were outstanding. "Beat until creamy" has never been so easy. Verdict: worth the $300. (Well, $260. I rounded up.) Most definitely.
Okay, go ahead and resume your lives.
Happy Mardi Gras!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

disappointment sucks

I got a Kitchenaid stand mixer for Christmas, and I was so freaking excited. I haven't done any baking since then, though, so I didn't use it until today. I wanted to make a King Cake. Making a King Cake is like making bread - there's yeast involved, and kneading, and rising. I happily put the dough hook on my new stand mixer, added the ingredients in the proper order, and waited for the moment when "the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook." And guess what? It never happened. The dough got pushed to the side and climbed up the side of the bowl until the hook wasn't touching it at all. I ended up taking it out and kneading it by hand, probably doing it wrong because I've never made bread before and I had absolutely no patience left by this point. So now the dough is rising, I guess, but the whole thing will probably come out awful.

I don't know what I did wrong. I really don't want to blame the stand mixer. It was probably the recipe. The website I got it from said it was Emeril's recipe, but who the hell knows. I plan on making cookies tomorrow and I'm sure the stand mixer will come through for me. It had better, because I could have spent that $300 on a lot of other things.

ETA: As I suspected, I found another recipe with almost identical ingredients and very different instructions. Figures! Even the official Emeril recipe at Food Network has slightly different instructions. Well, I've already wasted 4.5 cups of flour, 5 egg yolks and about an hour of my time. I'm just hoping for the best at this point.

Edited again: So, uh, it didn't rise at all. I'll try again next year.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

TravHell



Because there's no minute like the last minute, here is my entry for the TravHell contest (ran by Sass Attack, And the Pursuit of Happiness, and The Hotfessional). I don't suppose that any one thing that happened to us was the worst thing that has ever happened to anybody while traveling, but so many individual things went wrong that it certainly makes for a very...long...story. Grab a glass of wine...or a bowl of popcorn...and enjoy.

We told our families a long, long time ago - even before we had children - that if they want to see us for the holidays, they have to come to us. We have seen too many people miserable because they never get to take vacations - they are always spending all of their leave and all of their money (often money they don't even have) going "home" to see their families. We did not want that to be us, so we established The Order of Things early on. We have not been home with our families on Christmas since 2002 - and that was because we got married on December 27th and we were up in the Northeast for the wedding.

Now that we do have a kid, and live much farther away, we are even pickier about when we will go home. And honestly, if you could take an $80 (round trip), 30-minute flight to Kauai, or a flight that's 10 times more expensive and roughly 25 times longer to New Jersey, what would you do? People scrimp and save and wait their whole lives to come to Hawaii, it would be wasteful of us not to enjoy it while we can. Right?

There is a very short list of reasons why we will put a toddler on a trans-Pacific, trans-continental flight, which basically boils down to funerals and two very specific weddings, neither of which look like they're going to occur before we move back to the mainland - THANK GOD. There was one other thing on the list, though: my FIL's Navy retirement. Which happened last June.

Flying out of Hawaii is always easier than flying to Hawaii for one very simple reason: there's a red-eye out of Hawaii, but there isn't one to get here. So Brandon slept the entire flight from Honolulu to Oakland, although we didn't. We flew ATA, because it is cheap, but let me tell you, there is a reason why it is cheap. The planes are old and dirty and pretty much falling apart. The seats are narrow and there is no leg room. Even worse, we were in the last row, where it is loud as hell because you are right over the engine...and the seats don't recline. The seats in front of you recline, though. So you'll have a sleeping stranger in your lap all night. Even after the horrid woman woke up and was actually leaning forward, she still didn't put her seat back into the fully upright and locked position. So needless to say, while Brandon slept the whole flight, we did not.

We ended up stranded in Oakland for five and a half hours. The layover would have been the perfect length, just enough time to eat the sandwiches I had packed (to avoid having to pay airport prices for lunch) and let Brandon run off some energy...but our flight kept on getting delayed...and delayed...and delayed. Brandon ended up sleeping away most of the delay in the Ergo carrier. Which means that he would have slept for the whole second flight, too, had it left on time. But it didn't.

And since we were flying from Honolulu to Philadelphia in June, we were dressed for warm weather. I was wearing full-length yoga pants and a hoodie because I'm always cold, but Brian and Brandon were wearing shorts and t-shirts. And it was absolutely f***ing freezing in that airport. If I'm remembering correctly, I had sweatpants and a jacket for Brandon, and he was snuggled up in the Ergo anyway. But Brian and I were freezing our asses off. (Yes, even in yoga pants and a hoodie, I was cold. You've got to remember, I was dressed for normal air-conditioning, not the Arctic Circle frozen tundra temperatures of the Oakland airport.) We bought $8 coffee from Starbucks purely to try to fend off frostbite in our fingers. I roamed the terminal looking for sweatshirts...any sweatshirt at all. All I could find were child-sized ones; I couldn't believe it. It took at least a half an hour of searching before I found one single newsstand that had adult-sized "San Francisco" sweatshirts for $40. I only bought one, intending for us to trade off, but by that time Brian had a sleeping toddler strapped to him and couldn't exactly put on an extra shirt, so the poor guy had to just suffer. The $40 San Francisco sweatshirt remains my favorite to this day, for sentimental reasons.

Well anyway, we finally got on the plane and managed to keep Brandon relatively quiet and happy with our video iPods and a set of stacking cups. By the end of the flight everybody on the plane was commenting on how well he had done, and they were even more impressed when they learned that, before the 5.5 hour delay, we had been on another flight for 6 hours. So overall, by the time we got off the plane in Philly, it had been about 18 hours since we had gotten on the plane in Honolulu.

Yes, 18 hours. Because it wasn't enough that the flight had been delayed from taking off in Oakland. Oh, no. We also had to wait for almost an hour after landing, before we got to a gate. You see, this was the day that the air traffic control computer went down. That was what had caused the delay, and things were so backed up in Philly that they had almost sent us to another airport instead. The captain, bless his soul, fought for us and said ABSOLUTELY NOT, these people have been through enough already. The people in the seat in front of us actually complained about this. "We could have taken a train!" they said. Riiiiiight. Because flying into Newark, and taking the shuttle from the airport to the train station, then a train from Newark to Philly, would be SO MUCH EASIER AND QUICKER than waiting on the tarmac for an hour. I wanted to smack the sh*t out of them for even suggesting it.

More than one person said that we deserved to be sainted for spending 18 hours in transit with an 18-month old. Luckily he was an angel (mostly) the whole time. But we were all freaking exhausted and absolutely starving.

Do you think I'm done? Oh, no, not even close. I still have the return trip to cover.

Poor Brian only got to stay in Philly for the weekend, then he had to go right back to Hawaii to be at work on Tuesday morning. (Not only did he have to be at work, he was on a gig.) He flew out on Monday morning.

When Brian arrived at the Philadelphia airport, he got in a check-in line that was labeled "First Class and Active Duty Military". It wasn't until he had finally gotten to the front of the line that anybody bothered to mention that by "Active Duty Military", they meant in uniform. The problem with that, however, is that it is against regulations to travel in uniform (except when you are leaving basic training). Brian informed them of this and told them that anyone who was traveling in uniform was breaking military law, and they replied, basically "too bad, that's our regulation." Eventually they checked him in.

When he arrived at the gate, the flight (to Las Vegas) had already been delayed. Apparently they had to run the air conditioners on the plane for a while longer because it was too hot in the cabin to allow boarding. Twenty minutes past the time that the flight was supposed to have taken off, an announcement was made that the flight would be making an unscheduled stop in Nashville for refueling. Of course the plane hadn't taken off yet, but apparently there was some new regulation that had been enacted since the flight was scheduled that they weren't allowed to take off with a full tank. Sounds kind of like bullsh*t to me but oh well, there you go. Of course everybody who was changing planes in Vegas knew that they would be missing their connecting flights.

When Brian got to Vegas, he had missed his plane by almost an hour. He waited on line at customer service for American (the airline that he had flown from Philly to Vegas) and was told when he reached the desk that he had to go to ATA (the airline he was supposed to fly from Vegas to Honolulu). The problem with that, was that the flight he had missed was the last flight of the day and everyone from ATA had gone home. Nobody at customer service, nobody at the ticket desk. Just an automated hotline that was no help at all. (It turns out that they had booked him on a flight for the next morning, but there was nobody there to tell him that.)

Brian went back to the American ticket desk (he was now outside of security and had no boarding pass to get back to the terminals) and said, "We are not going to have an argument, because you are going to help me. I am Active Duty, and under orders. You made me late, and you are going to fix it." The next flight from Vegas directly to Honolulu left in 10 hours, which was not an option. He had to be at work the next morning. There was one ticket agent who had spent four years in the Army and understood how important it was that Brian get a flight IMMEDIATELY, and he worked his ass off to get him on a flight in time. After some running around on the part of the ticket agent, Brian was given a boarding pass for a Southwest flight to Los Angeles, leaving in 30 minutes. He ran to security, where he was searched (of course), and made it to the gate on time (barely).

When he arrived at LAX, he again had 30 minutes until his flight's scheduled departure time. As he looked at the screen, he couldn't find his flight...he couldn't find any flights to Honolulu at all. He asked an airport employee to help him find his flight (Continental, he thinks it was) and was told that he was in the wrong terminal - he had to go to terminal A. How was he to get there? Leave the airport, take a city bus to the A terminal, go through security again...really? Are you f***ing kidding me? This guy must have been f***ing with him. He asked an LAPD officer. Yup, have to take the A bus.

Brian went outside to wait for the bus. Three C buses came and went. Then a B bus. Finally an A bus came and Brian got on. The driver was talkative and annoying and at one point, actually stopped the bus alongside another bus, got off, and kissed the other driver. Apparently it was his girlfriend.

When Brian finally got to A terminal he was running as fast as he could (and he can run fast), "pushing old people out of my way", and got stuck behind slowpokes on the escalator. He saw his flight up on the screen - leaving in 10 minutes, on time. Security had a crazy-ass line but by some stroke of good fortune, they opened a second line and he was let right through...but flagged to be searched again. "They'll rebook you," the security officer told him, "we all work for the government." Riiiiight, because it's really the same thing, I'll tell that to the Captain when I'm explaining why I was AWOL.

Of course the flight to Honolulu was at the last gate at the far end of the terminal. Brian ran as fast as his legs would carry him, with one shoe on, untied. Right as he got there, the announcement was made that the flight was delayed 30 minutes. As all of the other passengers groaned and sat back down, Brian yelled, "OHHHHH, YES!!! YESSSS, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!" People laughed because they thought he was being sarcastic, but he went up to the lady who had made the announcement and shook her hand. "I couldn't miss this flight...I didn't miss this flight! Please check me in before I start hallucinating. This is the right gate, right? Check my ticket. This is the right flight, right?"

It was then that Brian realized that he hadn't eaten since that morning. He got dinner at Burger King and sat down at the gate. "I knew I was going to be on that plane. It was the coolest moment."

The flight from LA to Honolulu was "uncomfortable". He was sandwiched between two teenagers who fought him for arm and leg room the whole time, but "I fought back, because I didn't care. That was my plane, dammit."

After dealing with rude people in Philadelphia ("my hometown"), and in Vegas, and in LA ("a bunch of a**holes"), Brian finally arrived back in Honolulu, the one place he didn't want to be, and was greeted with smiling faces, welcome, and courtesy. Of course he had no idea where his luggage was, but everyone was extremely helpful and nothing but nice. (The luggage came in the next day - it had been in Arizona, apparently.)

Brian paid $14 for a cab ride home (even though home is so close to the airport that he could have walked). It was almost midnight (Hawaii time) by now and he just wanted to get home and get some sleep before having to wake up at the asscrack of dawn the next morning to go to work. The cab driver actually fought with the dispatcher. "I will not take someone to Salt Lake. It is too damn close. There's no money in it." He did not get a tip.

Brandon and I stayed on the East Coast for two weeks, going back and forth between the IL's in Philly and my parents in New York.

When we flew out from Hawaii, I had juice-box-type containers of soymilk for Brandon, because I was so sure that we wouldn't be able to find any in the terminal. Once we had gotten through security, though, I felt like a complete moron when I saw all of the coffee shops. DUH, of course you can get soymilk at Starbucks! So when we flew back home, I didn't bother to bring any with me. I didn't know where to get the little single-serve boxes of it where I was visiting, anyway.

So what do you think happened? I ended up in THE ONE SINGLE AIRPORT TERMINAL IN THE WORLD WITHOUT A COFFEE SHOP. I asked every single employee I saw where I could get some soymilk. They all directed me to a gourmet food stand where they had organic cow's milk galore, but were completely out of soymilk. I asked the people at the Southwest desk if they could try to get some soymilk on the plane. I was basically told, "uh, no" and looked at like a freaking alien for expecting any kind of customer service, or sympathy, or human decency. I asked several different airport employees if somebody could zip over to a different terminal and get me some. No dice. I am about to get on a 10-hour flight with a lactose intolerant 18-month old, and I have no milk for him, and nobody cares! I was crying. I was bordering on hysterical. An older couple gave Brandon a baggie of pretzels and I appreciated it immensely, but pretzels aren't milk. He could see his empty milk cup sticking out of the bottle pocket on the side of my diaper bag, and he wanted it. He was crying. He wanted milk. There wasn't any, and wouldn't be for more than 10 hours.

He had been crying for his milk since we were waiting on line at security. Ah, yes, I forgot to describe that debacle. Long ass line, cranky toddler, all by myself with no help. I had forgotten to put Brandon's fruit cups in a ziploc baggie and put them aside, so of course my lunch bag had to be hand-searched. "Is there liquid in here?" "Just some fruit for the baby." "Is it just for him or for you, too?" "Just for him." The guy pulled out the Dole fruit cups. "This ain't no baby food!" "He's a toddler." What, did they expect me to feed my 18-month-old stage 1 Gerber peas or something? The guard got all defensive and told me to calm down, talking about how I was getting upset. Um...no. I was not getting upset or belligerent. He copped an attitude with me and all I did was point out the obvious.

Anyway.

We got to Vegas. I had to check in at the gate because when you fly Southwest/ATA, even though the airlines are partnered up, they don't check you in for your connecting flight when you check in for the first one. Despite the fact that my plane landed over half an hour early, they did not have a seat for me. I was told to wait, they would call me when they had seats for us. I went to the coffee shop and bought some soymilk; in fact I had them make it chocolate because my poor baby deserved a treat. I waited. Pre-boarding started. I went up to the counter. Surely there was some mistake, they had to have a seat for me by now, they just forgot to call me. I was supposed to be pre-boarding; I was flying with a young child. They started to get snippy; I just had to wait. I was being treated like a stand-by passenger. Apparently it was a problem that I expected to get two seats next to each other for myself and my baby. The nerve! How dare I? "I will not go sit down," I told them, "I am going to stand right here until you give us our boarding passes." Regular boarding had started by now.

My completely out-of-character decision to act like a hardass worked, and I got our boarding passes. Thank God in Heaven I was using the CARES system for Brandon, and not installing a carseat. Still, installing the CARES system involves lowering the tray of the person sitting behind you so that you can slip the strap over the seat back - which is why pre-boarding is a very good thing. I apologized profusely as I asked the lady in the seat behind Brandon to lower her tray for a moment while I installed his harness. She did, I slipped the strap over the seatback, and then she immediately put it back up before I had finished adjusting and tightening it. I had to ask her to lower it again so I could finish up, again, apologizing profusely. "They wouldn't let me pre-board," I explained. "Not my problem," she sighed rudely. Oh, whatever, biznitch.

Brandon was fairly cranky, because that's just how it is: when both parents are there, the kid will be a dream, but when it's just you, they will be a handful. He slept fitfully with his head in my lap. (I thanked God every time I managed to get Brandon to fall asleep on a plane that he was still nursing.) I was so tired I was practically in tears but I couldn't sleep because the bitchy woman behind Brandon, and her two teenage daughters, had portable speakers hooked up to their headphone connection. It wasn't loud enough that I could actually hear the movie, but it was definitely enough to keep me awake.

But wait, there's more!

Somehow had I managed to not pay attention when I was booking our return flight, to the point that I somehow booked an itinerary that involved changing planes in Maui. A minor annoyance, somewhat more major since I was flying alone with a toddler...but WAIT! When you're flying Southwest/ATA and switch to a different airline partway through your itinerary, they don't check your luggage through to your final destination. I had done curbside check-in in Philly because I had so much damn stuff: two suitcases and a damn Britax carseat, for Pete's sake, and then I had my carry-on luggage: an overnight bag, a huge-ass diaper bag, an insulated lunch bag, and BRANDON, in the Ergo carrier. I think I also had a backpack full of toys as well.

So now I had to go claim my luggage and re-check it, by myself, lugging my carry-ons, with Brandon strapped to the front of me (because I never quite got the hang of putting him on my back without help). I got myself a Smart Carte, but if a retired couple hadn't helped me get my stuff off of the carousel, I never would have managed to lift it off without falling the f*** over on top of Brandon and being carried away on the belt like some kind of sick Disneyland nightmare.

Then I got to go through security again. Did I mention that I only had a 45-minute layover between flights? Luckily, inter-island flights are like commuter trains, so if I missed my flight I would have to wait an hour at most for the next one - but I was so ready to be done with this whole ordeal that I was not about to let that happen. I ran through the terminal and got to the gate about a minute and a half before boarding started, panting and dehydrated, with nothing to drink because I had just gone through security. They served drinks on board - guava "nectar", meaning water and high fructose corn syrup, with a token 5% juice. Oh for the love of Christ.

The absolute last straw? I called Brian before I got on the plane in Maui. It is a 25-minute flight. We live less than 10 minutes from the Honolulu airport. So, naturally, I expected to see him waiting for us at baggage claim. Was he? Nope. I had to call him again from baggage claim to ask where he was, at which point he told me that he hadn't left home yet. What? So then I got to wait for a half an hour for him to get to the airport, find a parking spot, and make his way to the baggage claim area, while I sat on our pile of luggage like a roosting bird and tried to keep a very tired, very bored toddler from running away from me because I certainly couldn't leave my baggage unattended in order to chase after him. I had warned Brian that Brandon might have a total breakdown and start crying when he saw him, since it had been almost two weeks and he had missed him so much and he would be so relieved to see him. Brandon just smiled and said, "Hi!" I, however, burst into tears and started yelling.

And THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is why we don't go home for "vacation".

time for everyone's favorite game, "find the smell"!!

There is a mystery smell in my fridge. It has been getting worse and worse for the past several days, and I cannot figure out where it is coming from. I cleaned out the fridge, and I cleaned out the freezer too, just to be safe. I threw out a lot of things that looked really questionable, but none of it smelled bad. There is no "mystery goo" at the bottom of any of the bins, nor underneath them. There is literally nothing in there that could be causing the stench. And yet the smell continues to intensify.
I think my refrigerator is haunted.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I can't remember ever hearing him say "okay" before

Brandon just walked up to me a few minutes ago.

Brandon: "Is hah."
Me: "The waffle I gave you is hot? It'll cool off in a little while and then you can eat it."
Brandon: "Okay. Bye bye."

Sure enough, he waited a couple of minutes and then picked up the waffle, and now he's eating it. Communication... I love it. I can't wait until he starts using real sentences and telling me what he's thinking.

fun!

I saw this over at Sunshine's and did it immediately.

Let’s make a band:


1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random The first article title is the name of your band.

2. http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3 The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/ The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Now take your pic, add the band name and title to it, then post it.

Here's mine:

Friday, February 1, 2008

rant rant rant

I know that I believe and say things that other people disagree with, strongly. I know that if me from 10 years ago could hear me say these things, she would think that I am absolutely f***ing insane. But I have seen things, and heard things, and experienced things, that I guess other people haven't. I have lived among the rednecks like Jane Goodall. I've heard people say that those who don't believe in God should leave America. I've seen people who aren't ready to be parents, who never meant to have children, who really shouldn't have children, but keep on having more anyway. I've met 5-year-old girls who "don't want to grow up to be big and strong, I want to be skinny". I've had barefoot two-year-olds chase my car down the middle of the street while their caregiver watched and didn't even react. I've witnessed firsthand obvious racists who cover up their racism with the fact that they are a minority. I've seen how nobody calls them out on it because if they did, then they would be accused of racism. I've been accused of racism for even pointing out that racist black people exist. I've seen women get special treatment because they're women, and come to expect that special treatment, and continue to receive it because their bosses are afraid of the discrimination charges that would undoubtedly be filed if they didn't give that special treatment. I've been refused employment because of where I grew up, I've been called a haole (and not in the cutesy, non-racist way that the travel guidebooks assure you the word is used nowadays), I've been ignored by store clerks when I was the only white person in the store. My opinions don't come from out of nowhere. They are based on things that I have seen, heard, and experienced. And I'm tired of keeping my mouth shut about them because somebody might be offended. F*** that. Like Brian is always telling me, "You're from New York, start acting like it. You shouldn't give a sh*t what anyone thinks of you!" But at the same time, I'm so sick of people getting hurt or offended because what I think is different from what they think. I can promise you that if my views are different from your views, it's not a personal attack on you. And expecting me to keep my mouth shut in order to not hurt your feelings isn't fair to me. Because I never, ever, ever say anything specifically to be offensive or hurtful; on the contrary, I am often wary of saying anything at all because I know it won't be taken well. So if I actually do say it, you can be sure that I must feel pretty strongly about it in order to take the risk. You have the right to be offended by what I say but I damn well have the right to say it.