Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Road to Bronycon

There's this documentary available on Netflix right now titled Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony.  You should watch it. You know... If you have Netflix. Though I'm sure if you do a little Google-Fu, it's extremely likely there's a full version to watch for free somewhere out there on the Great and Powerful Intrawebz.

My husband and I watched it about a month ago. I put it on my watch list because a.) I love My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (also available on Netflix, up through season 3) and b.) I thought Bronies were a guy thing and was curious to learn more. I'm glad I watched the documentary, because it was extremely educational. The one thing I learned that makes me want to get up and dance with glee is that Bronies can be girls! Who knew!?

I also didn't know that there was a whole convention! I want to go to a Bronycon convention now so bad, and am super excited to take my girls with me! I just hope that MLP is still around for several more years to come so we can go and enjoy it together when they're older and we can afford it.

Today we went to Wally World (I mean Walmart) to spend some of the gift card money we got from Christmas from the ever so super generous Nana and Pops (my sister-in-law's inlaws). While roaming the toy aisles I came across a section of pegboard overloaded with MLP figures. Much to my delight, all of the six friends figures were available. With a little overeager and excited nudging, I managed to convince my eldest that that's what she wanted to get. I think my husband was worried I was pressuring her to get what I wanted her to get, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't trying, a little.

But I know my girls like My Little Pony, too. I've caught Lilah spontaneously breaking out into song, singing the intro theme, every now and then. Every time I play an episode, Amelia gets a super huge smile when that intro theme plays, and she starts dancing. She smiles whenever she sees one of the characters at the store. We bought her a big Princess Twilight Sparkle plushie. I'm not ashamed. Miss Lilah ended up playing with her ponies for two hours straight when we got home, and we had to forcibly remove them from her for dinner and bedtime.

Her cousin Alex is going to be excited to play with her this weekend. I remember her getting the Twilight Sparkle Equestria Girl doll for her birthday a few months back, and her telling me all about the storyline to the Equestria Girls movie (also available on Netflix), which I have since watched and totally loved. I wonder if she'd like to attend a Bronycon with us? Hm. Probably yes, but I don't know what her parents think. Note to self: ask them.

I just looked up BronyCon. It's held in Baltimore. This year it's August 1-3, and I'm talking to my husband right now about seriously going. Kids 5 and under get FREE access! I'm totally psyched!

It's funny. My husband and I always talked about nerding it up with our kids by taking them to nerdy conventions. We thought our first one would be Tekkoshocon, which is an anime and Japanese culture convention held in Pittsburgh every year. The first time I attended that was with my dear friend Ellen, whom I sadly don't talk to quite so much anymore. The following year my husband came with me. The year after that we took a couple of friends and rented a hotel. We haven't been back since, and I severely miss it, but I don't think anymore that this is the first CON experience I want to expose my children to.

I've got my eyes and heart set on BRONYCON now! I think Lilah will really enjoy it, even if she never remembers it years from now. I know her sister won't, but... How can I keep this kind of pure joy to myself?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Silly Faces and Snow Days

Enjoying the first BIG snow storm at our first house: January 26, 2014.

I know I haven't published anything in a week, and you all have probably been coming back thinking that maybe I did but neglected to post a link on Facebook, but that's not the case. For the past seven days I simply haven't had any writing mojo. At least not for anything "serious" or "educational," which is what I originally planned to write last week. I have half a dozen unfinished drafts waiting for me to work on in my Blogger dashboard. This is why I don't write professionally.

In high school, the only reason I ever finished any of my writing assignments is because if I didn't I risked a big fat red F on my report card, which would have got me grounded at home, after a stern lecture about how disappointed my parents were in me. Most of the time I didn't care for the topic and managed to strongly suggest this to my teacher in my work but still be so grammatically perfect and on topic that I got an A+ marked on the paper. Often, though, I'd get this look when she handed the paper back to me. Worth it.

Not this look, but you're welcome.

This is going to be a short post. Today we are planning on venturing out into the icy wilderness after lunch to do some shopping for the Usurper's birthday. For the past two days it has been snowing, relentlessly. Your Future Overlord enjoyed rolling around in our front yard while her daddy shoveled the driveway. We even took her baby sister out for a little bit, but we have not left the safety of our own lawn borders all weekend. Cabin fever is starting to set in.

The eldest had the stomach flu last week. It was horrible. She didn't eat, and even getting her to drink something different (generic Pedialyte) was a chore. Today her appetite has come back with a vengeance. She has eaten FOUR bowls of cereal on her own, and is sharing her daddy's cereal with him right now, as I type this. I might have to readjust my dinner menu in order to feed a small army if she keeps this up.

The animals get crazy when held captive for too long.

We found ways to keep ourselves entertained while the blizzard of the century (I exaggerate) swept through. I learned a tremendous amount of patience while dealing with a super whiny, sick, vomiting three-year-old. Most of all I learned to remember that every experience my children have is a teaching moment, and that I should exploit the opportunities that arise to their fullest potential.

This weekend my eldest learned "left" and "right," with the help of the L and R I Sharpied on the bottom of her ballet shoes. After her illness passed, she displayed another tremendous leap in comprehension and listening skills. She learned the difference between a pentagon and a hexagon, with a lot of persistent repetition on my part. She again exhibited her amazing mighty math powers (Team Umizoomi for the win) when she informed me that her baby sister was walking around with two bowls, totally unprompted. Oh. And her daddy taught her how to make snow angels.

This week is going to present us with new challenges. Primarily, this Saturday we are having the Usurper's FIRST BIRTHDAY party! Exactly one week from today she turns one year old. She has come a long way from the tiny bundle of stubborn that had to be evicted from my belly a week after her due date. I've learned that finally there is someone in this house who enjoys the same foods as I do, such as salad! My husband hates salad. The eldest won't even try it. But my baby will stretch across the table to steal a leaf out of my bowl and gnaw on it happily. It's about time!

I watched her start crawling in this house. We struggled through a brief stint with food allergies that she seems to have overcome. She took her first steps for me on Christmas Eve, and now she's racing her sister up and down the hallway. Most recently she has learned to point and ask, "Uh dat. Dat." She still hasn't learned the inquiring inflection yet, but that's normal as I remember. I've watched her develop her very own personality that is totally different from her sister's, such as a desire to lay her head on my shoulder and just cuddle for about ten minutes when she wakes up from her naps, before she's ready to get down and play.

It's hard to believe that in just 12 months time, the sassy little monster that started off her life journey like this . . .

3 days old: February 6, 2013.
. . . has now sprouted into this even sassier, bigger monster who wants to kill me for taking her out in the snow.

358 days old: January 26, 2014.
Couple that with the fact that this time last year her sister was only just beginning to understand the concept of presents, and how fun tissue paper can be.

February 9, 2013: courtesy of Aunt Mandy.
And now . . . she's putting on her own snow pants.

February 26, 2014.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Big Brother Can Suck My Big Toe

Because this entire post is significantly lacking adorable pictures.
Remember when I said that the only reason I started this thing is because of my fellow mom friend Stacy? I don't even remember the conversation that brought it up. I think maybe we were talking about homeschooling, and how we're both feeling strong convictions to do that for our daughters. Whereas I have the full support of my husband, she's had to slowly persuade hers to the cause.

That seems to be a common factor among my fellow nerdy mom friends who are also considering or are already homeschooling. In fact, a small group of us had an entire conversation the other day on my Facebook wall about it. The subject came up when I posted a link to a product I found on the Toys R Us website that I greatly desired not just one of, but two. The item I'm talking about is a little kid's school desk. Not the vintage school desk that I'd have to pay millions for that I really, really covet, that I used to have as a child, but a cute little one that models the design in a more modern way.

So this got one of my friends kicking off the conversation of starting a mom group that caters specifically to us poor, forgotten Red Dragon Inn icons who fell into parenthood and out of role-playing. Geeze, I miss role-playing. I'd probably die if it weren't for Facebook, which allows me to keep in touch with all these beautiful minds that I wrote so many amazing stories with. And now we write about our kids. Hah!

Let's talk a minute about why homeschooling. I mean, why would I even entertain such a wild notion? I went to public school and I turned out all right. Right? If by "all right" you mean that I grew into a pretty level-headed, intelligent woman who managed to avoid teen pregnancy, drug addiction, food stamps, and STDS. Yeah okay. Sure. That happened, but I can only really thank public schooling for half of those things. Thank you, 5th, 7th, and 9th grade Health Classes. Without you, I-- No. That's not right. Those were just refresher courses to the things I had already learned from an anatomy book my dad kept in the basement that he had no idea I had found and read cover to cover. Because of some of the illustrations, I thought it was porn. Don't judge me!

Yeah. I'm pretty sure that long before I had ever brought home the permission slip for my grade school sex ed. class that I knew quite a bit about the birds and the bees. Thanks to a book. Truth be told, almost everything I have ever learned has come from books. I was so horrible at math in school because none of my teachers could ever explain it in any way I understood. The books were no help either, until I got to college and took a remedial math course with a book that made sense. I still ignored my professor, and spent my time reading the lessons while doing the homework, since attendance was mandatory.

If attendance was not mandatory, I probably never would have gone to school. Primary, secondary. Any of it. If I had known that homeschooling was an option, I probably would have begged my parents to set me up. The only positive experience I got out of formal schooling is the friends I made, and only because we've managed to maintain and rebuild our relationships since. Everything I ever learned in life that was worth knowing, I pretty much taught myself. By reading books, and through practical experience.

As an example, my high school English classes come primarily to mind. Fun fact, I was never in any advanced placement classes, and I think that's because I was terrible at memorizing terminology and reading retention. However, I was (and am) an amazing writer. I'm just going to put that out there because everybody tells me so. People have been expressing awe at my writing talent for as long as I can remember. All the girls in my Speech & Basic Comp. class, when reviewing any papers I wrote, would whisper aside, "How do you write so well?" The truth is the same now as it was then; I don't know. I just do.

And I'm sure my grammar isn't perfect. (Look right there. Starting a sentence with a conjunction. Geeze!) But boy do I know how to tell a story. You know how I learned to do this? Studious application. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote . . . all the live long day. When I should have been listening to a teacher explain something, I was instead writing stories. It probably looked like I was taking notes, but I wasn't. My brain has always been stuck in a fictional world, and I had to let it out!

So what did I learn at school? How to write, and write well. Did school teach me how to do this? Not really. No.

I tried college, because the one thing school did teach me was that I should continue going to school. I finished one semester, four whole classes, before giving up on it entirely, but that's another story. I have loads of stories. The more time went by, the more I realized that finishing a college education wasn't really going to get me anywhere. What I really wanted to go to school for was a major in Creative Writing, but the Capricorn in me kept (and continues to) saying that such a dream wasn't exactly practical. I mean, what the hell was I going to do with a degree in Creative Writing? Write a book? Well. Shit, son. I can do that without a fancy piece of paper hanging framed on my wall.

And that's when I realized... My children can do the same thing.

I'm not very good with statistics. I don't even know what to Google search to give you "the numbers." What I do know is that today jobs are goddamn scarce. Unemployment levels are high. People are putting themselves into tremendous debt just to secure themselves that piece of paper that says they're qualified for the jobs that are not there. So I realized that "the system" is jacked, that going to school isn't going to ensure my children anything.

So I have done the other thing I am good at; I have researched. I have read, and read, and read, and read everything I could possibly get my hands on regarding education. My favorite so far is the Sudbury method, which in its simplest form is basically professional unschooling. I very much like the idea of unschooling, that the child's entire education is based upon the child's interests. Many people reject the idea that children are capable of learning without structure and lesson plans and being taught by some authority figure, but my experience, again, begs to differ.

My oldest is only three years old. Since she was born, I have pretty much instinctively been teaching her. From the moment she learned to ask "uh-dat?" and point at something inquisitively, I have been teaching her. Even before then! We teach our babies from birth. They watch. They absorb. Even the experts will tell you that babies are little sponges, drinking in all the information and knowledge of the world around them. So long as we aren't keeping them in a box, devoid of stimuli, our children are learning. Every single day.

Pretty early on, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law, and various other people, asked me if I was going to enroll Lilah in preschool. I could not, and still cannot, imagine why. Preschool costs money that we do not have to spare, unless it's a Christian preschool, and you all should know how I feel about that already. I'm told Head Start is free, but I'm not even sure I want to bother with that.

What can preschool teach my child that I cannot teach her at home?

That is the one question nobody has been able to give me an answer for. And you can't even say "socialization," because then we'll just get into an argument about the definition of that word and... Just forget it. She learns social skills, what everybody actually means, just fine without having to be boxed into a room with twenty or so kids her exact same age all day long.

If we're talking math, science, history and all that general information that she needs to prepare herself for formal schooling, I'm pretty sure we've got that covered at home, too. We signed the girls up for a reading program at our local library called "1,000 Books Before Kindergarten," and the premise is pretty obviously simple. The goal is to read a thousand books to your child before they start Kindergarten. The idea is to instill a love of learning and a love of reading into your child so that they continue to learn. Once you read 500 books to your kid, bring them back for a free book. Once you read a thousand, the kid gets a t-shirt.

With the program packet came a paper that listed all the skills my kid would need to have learned before entering Kindergarten. Lilah is three years old. Out of the fifty some odd skills, she is only lacking achievement in about ten of them. I don't doubt that she is capable of learning, that she might even possibly be applicable for early placement. I don't doubt that she is eager to learn either, but that's exactly where I want to keep her. I don't learning to become a chore for her, as I felt school was for me.

I have heard that now kids are being sent home with homework as early as Kindergarten these days. I don't remember doing homework until I was in 6th grade! Parents are being pressured, too, to enroll their kids in a hundred and one extracurricular activities on top of all that. When do children simply have time to be children anymore? And the government wants to cut back on recess? Make school hours longer? Add more days? I'll just allow Sir Ken Robinson to better explain what I'm trying to say:

Let me stress again that Lilah is only three years old. Three years old, and the following is an incomplete list of the things she already knows:
  • The Alphabet - She can identify all 26 letters, upper and lowercase, visually. She knows which sounds all of them make, and can sing the alphabet song.
  • Numbers - She can identify all single numbers 0-9, visually, and the number 10 (one and zero together). She can count from one to ten without problem, and is starting to advance eleven through twenty ever so slowly.
  • Shapes - She can visually identify circle, square, triangle, rectangle, octagon, pentagon, oval, and sometimes trapezoid. She can draw circles.
  • Colors - She can visually identify all of the following colors: blue, yellow, red, green, purple, orange, black, white, and gray.
  • Spelling - She can recite the spelling of the following words: Lilah, Amelia, Mommy, Daddy, and cat. Additionally, she can write her own name, though her penmanship needs a lot of work still.
  • Counting - She is currently capable of counting groups of objects up to a maximum number of ten. Groups of things that do not exceed the number of five she can add up without having to individually count them.
  • Navigation - She knows which direction to turn out of our driveway depending on where we intend to go. If we are going to the library, she knows to turn right. If we are going to the park, she knows to turn left. I've noticed, too, that she has my innate ability to return to a location she has previously been, or backtrack, with shocking precision.
  • Landmarks - She knows what specific buildings are when we pull into parking lots. She knows what our house looks like, what the library looks like, what the "Farmer Store" looks like, what Walmart looks like, what her cousin's house looks like, and her friend Addison's house. She knows when we have arrived at our destination, generally proclaiming, "It's _______! We're here!"
  • Music - Though I can tell she shares my unfortunate issue of tone deafness, she can sing all of the following children's songs: "ABC Song," "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "The Wheels On the Bus," "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood Theme" (and various lesson songs), "Super Why! Theme" (and Pig's Alphabet), "Old MacDonald," and many more.
Most, if not all of the above knowledge, she figured out on her own, and (gasp!) from watching television. Yes, I let my kid watch videos, but I monitor her viewing. We watch only age appropriate programs, things like Blue's Clues and Super Why! (her two favorites). She watches what she chooses to watch, within reason, on Netflix, where there are absolutely no commercials.

What she did not learn from TV, she learned from asking questions, from being curious, and from observing the people around her and environment in which she lives. She learned all of this from practical application, from repetition, practice, and from my reading to her. She is already beginning to understand how letter sounds blend together, and I imagine she'll be reading independently by this time next year if not sooner.

So I ask again: What can preschool, or any school for that matter, teach my children that I cannot just as well teach them at home? Or, for that matter, that they can learn on their own? Especially with the library a mile (20 minute) walk up the road.

ps: If you're interested in joining our Nerdling Academy Moms ONLY group on Facebook, where we talk about this and more in a lady friendly, judgement free environment, feel free to shoot me a message, or search for "Nerdling Moms". Peace!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Building a Fandom

Last night my husband came into the office while I was putting together the finishing touches of my previous post, and he says, "I made you a book mark." He shuffles further into the room and puts the above masterpiece directly into my hands. I just... I can't even... This post needs more confetti and excited Kermit arm flailing immediately!

As we've established already through my large selection of family introductions, my name is Stacey and I am a nerd. I take issue with the definition given from a random interviewee in the movie Trekkies. This girl said something like "geeks are people who just love something very much, whereas nerds live in their mom's basements."

Look. I get it. When people think of nerds, they think of the textbook definition "a foolish or contemptible person who lacks social skills or is boringly studious" and automatically conjure up an image of some 400 pound, greasy slob picking his nose, stuck in his chair that he's too obese to get out of, partially balding but still rocking the mullet. Or this guy from that South Park episode:

Swiped from Google here, but is likely from some other source.
Not all nerds are that guy. You've seen pictures of me. You know. I'm not horrifically obese. I'm not balding. I'm not male. I do consider myself socially awkward and foolish, but I don't know about contemptible. The point is... I claimed this title for myself and I'm sticking to it. 

I think nerds get a bad rep. because of people like the example above. I think Peter Dinklage reformed the nerd when he coined a phrase on that Daily Show episode, a phrase that became an entire movement. He pretty much single handedly made nerds cool. I don't think I could even ever dare to aspire to be as cool as that man, but gosh wouldn't that be nice?

So I started this blog because of a conversation I had with my friend Stacy, but I don't even remember what we were talking about, or when, or where. I only remember saying something along the lines of, "I should start a blog and call it Nerdling Academy," which was met with enthusiastic agreement all around. The idea festered around in my noggin for a while, becoming pustule and stinking, until it erupted into the word vomit you've seen in my previous posts. I'm prone to elaborate, exaggerated reminiscing. Fair warning.

What I didn't expect after regurgitating my memories onto the World Wide Web was the enormous amount of positive responses I've received from all of my friends on Facebook. After my first post, in which I simply introduced myself, the likes exploded all over the link I posted to my personal wall. And they just kept on coming with every consecutive post since.

I think the most touching and unexpected reaction came from my father-in-law, who sent me an encouraging personal message. I didn't at all expect him to be reading my blog. I didn't really expect anybody, other than maybe Stacy, to be at all interested in what I had to say about anything.


So I bit the bullet and mustered up the nerve to go ahead and make myself a Facebook Fan Page, for which I used the above image of my husband's wonderfully hand-crafted and personally designed Navi bookmark as the page's icon. I've landed 36 likes in under 24 hours. As soon as I figure out how to include a button on my blog itself here, that number might just improve. Eventually I might tinker around and figure out how to make one for Google+, too, but when it comes to Twitter I'm going to have to hire somebody to do that shit. I just don't understand Twitter. Maybe I'm old.

Consider this post my official thank you. 32 friends and family are starting for me what I hope will turn into a snowball effect. Though I don't care if it even stays solid at that still rather enormous number. I never thought even a single person would enjoy reading anything I write. I hope my fiction gets this kind of attention whenever I get anything finished.

In the days ahead, look forward to posts on the following topics:
  • Homeschooling
  • Video Games
  • Ballet
  • Books
  • Table Top Role-playing
  • Free Form Role-Playing
  • Girl Power
  • More Memoirs
  • and more...
Primarily I wanted this blog to be about my adventures in attempting to homeschool my own children, and we'll talk about my reasons why I'm determined to go down that path another time. For now...

Thank you . . . for everything you do~oo!
Skip to 1:46 for best results.

Thank you. Thank you thank you! Thank you all SO, SO MUCH for your encouragement and support. I'll try my very best to get a post published for your reading pleasure every single day. This semi-promise may result in simple photo spamming, but for some reason I don't think you'll all mind. Especially considering my tendency to throw things like this at you:

Lilah and Amelia: March 6, 2013.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


A long time ago, in a personal history far, far away...

One of my parents once took me to the farm of a family friend. I can't remember if it was my mother or my father. There's a date stamped very faintly on the back of the following photo that fortifies the very strong feeling that it was my father who took me. The date looks like July 1988, which would have been two months after my mother died.

PeeWee sleeping on a pillow.
I remember my dad taking this picture, though. I remember cuddling this little kitten I brought home until he fell asleep, passed right out on his back on this pillow. I remember leaning over to give him this kiss and the smell of his fur as it tickled my nose. I remember snippets of all the days that followed. Cutting holes in the pants of my Cabbage Patch doll's clothes so I could put them on the cat. Standing on the border of the concrete garage floor and gravel driveway yelling, "PeeeeeeeWeeeeeee! Time for diiiiiiiiiiiinn-eeeeeeeeeer!" He always came when I called him. Until he didn't.

The day he didn't is the day we moved out of our house and into a stranger's. My dad had remarried. My brothers made up a lie that Dad told them to tell me about the cat. Years later they told me they had taken PeeWee and Pokey (another kitten we got) to a farm and dumped them there, because I wasn't allowed to take my cats with me. I don't remember what lie they told me then. I'm not sure I really forgive them, either.

My step-mom had cats, but they weren't my cat. They weren't really hers either. They were supposedly her daughter's cats, but I don't remember Lisa ever really taking care of them. What I remember of my step-sister and animals is her acquiring them like jewelry. Wanting to stuff them in a box and forget about them. Maybe take them out to wear when it was convenient. I remember her having a chinchilla, a fish tank in her room with a puffer fish in it, getting macaws when she moved out. Always acquisitions. Never really pets.

I made up for my lack of PeeWee by loving her neglected Halfpint, the most affectionate old lady calico I have ever known. She was sick, though. Always sick. We nicknamed her Sneezer, because she always sneezed these giant globs of snot all over the place. They kept her outside. I remember spending a lot of time sitting on the porch swing with Halfpint curled up in my lap, purring away while I scratched her chin and told her my troubles. I still haven't forgiven my step-mother for not letting me take her with me when I moved out. I should have just taken her. I learned years later that they hadn't seen Halfpint in all that time, and she had allegedly made good with another family down the street.

I have always been a cat person. I have always felt a strong affinity for felines. I feel like one of them. I understand them. I value their independence and self reliance, their resilience. I love how easy they are to care for compared to dogs. Give me children over dogs any day.

Isis in Mike's kitchen - 2000 something.
Christmas of 1998 I decided that the one present I was going to buy for myself was a cat. To hell with my stepmother. To hell with everybody. After the death of my father in May of that year, there was a giant void in my heart that only the soft downy belly of a purring kitten could fill. So my boyfriend and I took a trip to the last remaining pet store in the area. I will never forget the sad, defeated, amber-eyed baby queen, with her face smooshed into the corner of the cage, looking at me with helpless desperation. "I'm tired," her eyes said. "I can't take any more of these kids coming in here jostling me around and pulling my tail."

I crouched down and smiled at her. She blinked slowly as she watched me. I looked up at her so as not to intimidate her, and said, "You want to come home with me don't you." She blinked again. I stuck a finger in the cage and scratched under her chin. She purred. I paid the clerk and took her home with me. I named her Isis.

My poor Isis lived an unstable life. I took her from my tiny, closet bedroom to a two bedroom loft apartment. My boyfriend's only condition was that she must be declawed to prevent damage to the furniture we were renting. My one regret. Seven months there and she was taken away to live with me in my brother's basement for a little bit. Then I moved her across the street to the town house I rented with my good friend Matt. After a year there, we went back to my brother's. There came a time I had to ask Matt to desperately take her with him, because I had no home to offer her. Eventually, when my husband and I got our shit together again, I got her back. She died of renal failure the first time I got pregnant, the miscarriage at seven weeks. She lived from 1998 until 2007.

Tigger in our first home as newlyweds: 2003.
When my husband and I first started dating, I was living in a town house with my brother Keith for all of maybe a month. My brother had adopted a kitten from our other brother's girlfriend. Turns out her kids were allergic. Keith told me to take Tigger with me when I moved in with Jamie, so I did.

We moved this poor guy around quite a bit too. There came a point where we had to leave him with Jamie's mother for a week until we got ourselves a new apartment. From there we moved him from the basement apartment to the upper level, and then to a house we shared with our married couple friends. Poor Tigger died of renal failure too. I'll never forget the day James (our friend) woke me up to tell me he had found him coughing up blood all over the kitchen. I'll never forget laying in the bathroom with him all night long, trying to keep him comfortable and ease his pain, until we finally had to make the decision to put him to rest. Tigger lived from 2002 until 2009.

China, before Lilah was born in 2010.
During the Christmas season of 2002, my fiancé and I strolled through, I think, the Canton Center Mall. This was right before it started falling into disrepair. There were few if any shops open, but we happened to come across an island stall that was run by the local Humane Society. From a distance of thirty feet, I could feel pure hatred radiating from an illuminated, small, white, fluffy source. I watched as this single young cat glared and hissed at every child that wandered by. I knew as I closed in on her position that I absolutely had to have her.

This glistening white beauty with two-toned devil's eyes came prenamed: China. Though the ladies assured us that we could change her name to whatever we wanted, we could think of nothing better. Though in retrospect, Evil Bitch may have been appropriate.

China's story continues to this day. We brought her home to our single bedroom apartment and watched in horror as she took up residence under our tiny Christmas tree for three whole days. She would not come out to eat. Daring to try to grab her out from under the tree landed us scars to remember her by. I do not regret making the cruel decision to declaw her, though, because if I hadn't she probably would have killed somebody by now.

Our mean cat has been with us since the beginning. Hard to believe that she's eleven years old already, that we have had her with us for this long. She has lived with us in every apartment and town home we have ever rented, and came with us to the house we now own. She has seen me bring home two babies, and protected the second one fiercely for reasons unknown. Though she started out absolutely detesting any and all children who came into her vicinity, she is the most tolerant and loving of cats to my girls. Everybody else can go frak themselves, as far as she's concerned.

The furbaby I miss the most is my Gremlin. We acquired her from the previously mentioned married couple friends. James called me up one day to tell me they had got a kitten, and of course I had to rush right over to meet it! He told me this story about how he had found the poor little thing hiding in the storage shed at work (he worked at a lumber yard). After some coaxing and cooing, he rescued the little kitten and brought her home with him. When we were first introduced, they had just given her a bath, and my first impression was, "Awwww! It looks just like a little gremlin!" You know. From the movies.

Well. The name stuck, and about a month later they were calling me up again to say that they weren't the cat people they thought they were, and would we like to have her. I COULD NOT SAY NO. I had fallen in love with that little monster the moment I laid eyes on her! She liked to attack my arms when I visited. We'd wrestle. I cuddled her to bits and pieces. Of course I would take her! And she was my best friend. The loudest purrer. The snuggliest, most loving cat I had ever known. So it broke my heart to smithereens the day she died, pretty much as soon as I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn. Gremlin lived a mere two years from 2008 until 2010. She was still just a baby.

Not so much a baby as our dearly departed Penelope, though. We only knew that tiny little calico angel for a single week. Lilah still talks about her, and it chokes me up every single time. We brought her home from the Summit County Animal Shelter with another kitten who is still with us. According to the veterinarian, the shelter likely misjudged Penny's age before spaying her and putting her up for adoption. We tried everything in our power to help her thrive, but at 2:00 in the morning, a week after we brought her home, she passed away in my arms. She's the first animal we've ever been able to return to the earth, because now we have a house of our very own. All of our other furbabies have been cremated.

Before Amelia was born, there was also Zoey. I have the worst luck with cats and pregnancies. It seems that every time I get pregnant, one of my furbabies dies. Part of me feels that maybe they live on in my girls. Maybe my sweet Gremlin lives inside of Lilah now, and our darling Zoey is a part of Amelia. If the whole reincarnation thing were true, the timing would be right.

We rescued Zoey some time after Tigger died. Tigger had been my husband's cat, and Tigger's death is the only time I had seen him cry. I made him take Zoey home, because when we saw her at PetSmart I could see how much he was smitten with her. We have no idea what took her. For a couple of days I had found her having seizures. One day she'd seem lethargic. The next she'd be perfectly fine. But then I found her, paws cold and choking. I held her as she took her last breaths too. Zoey lived from 2009 until 2012.

Which brings us to today.

We still have China. I think she's going to live to be 27, just to spite me. She's filled with so much hate that I don't think she's capable of dying. As I said above, when we adopted dear Penelope, we brought her home with another kitten too. He's still here. He's about nine months old now and as big as our crotchety old lady cat. His name is Virgil, and unlike China, who moved with us from apartment to apartment, this will likely be the only home he'll ever know.

China will steadfastly deny this ever happened.
I'm telling you all of this now, in one fell swoop, because it's likely our furbabies will be mentioned in other stories I may feel compelled to share. I also feel that pets are important to have around children. I think it teaches them better compassion, among other things. So if you are going to continue reading this blog, you must . . . love . . . cats. Well okay. You have to at least like them a little.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

And Then It Happened Again

As soon as we had our first baby, it seems as if old friends suddenly came pouring in out of nowhere. To be honest, the falling out of touch was probably primarily my fault. There was a period of several years there in which I was terribly sick. All I wanted to do was lay around in bed and pretend the world didn't exist. Once we got my health under control, babies happened.

The situation I described in my previous post happened not just once, but twice. The circumstances this time around were a little different, but it still remains a completely unplanned event. These are the reasons I feel that there must be some kind of cosmic connection between us, even if I don't like calling it "God" and putting all my money on a single piece of classic literature being "the absolute truth." I'd sooner put my faith in the works of Tolkien. At least his history is more than a single volume long, and much easier to read.

Anyway! Let's talk about Ben and Sarah.

This is how I will always remember Ben. Freshly graduated from high school. Parked in my driveway in the driver's seat of his Aerostar minivan named Ivanzypher. (No really. He spelled it out on the bumper with stick-on letters.) Flipping me the bird while I took his picture shortly before a small group of us piled in to head up to Cedar Point. One last hurrah to celebrate our freedom from formal schooling, onward into the drudgery of adulthood.

Benji was a transfer student to our high school in, I think, our Junior year. He was The New Guy. Everybody wanted to be his friend. All the girls wanted to date him. Except me. I think perhaps that's why he and I became such good friends. I was the only one girl out of hundreds who wasn't prone to lapsing into a drooling catatonic state every time he wandered down the hall, with little heart bubbles floating around my head and punching me in the face. I was much more likely to have my nose buried in a book, ignoring all the gossipy buzz going on around me, because I really wasn't the least bit interested in dating.

Everybody in the school was talking about him. I do remember being vaguely aware of that. But when he sat down in front of me in Algebra II, I had no idea who he was and didn't care. Though I do think I remember blinking owlishly, as if I had just surfaced from a deep sea dive, drowning under the oppressive weight of a dozen jealous glances, and saying, blandly, "Oh. You're that new guy. Hi." There may have been a "Hi, I'm Stacey." and "Hi, I'm Ben." I don't even remember. I do know, however, that practically every class we had together, we sat together, one behind the other, and ignored lectures in favor of passing a piece of paper back and forth to hold written conversation on.

Ridiculous shit like this.
Most of the conversations I remember having with Ben involved him asking me what I thought of some girl, me telling him not to date her, him essentially saying "Screw you! I do what I want!," proceeding to date said girl anyway, and then coming back to me a few weeks later to tell me, "You were right." Everybody always asked me for my advice. I don't know why I bothered giving it, because my warnings were never heeded anyway. But I'm digressing again. Bad habit of mine.

Moving on!

So after high school, Ben got me a job at his place of employment: Cinemark Movies 4. It was the cheap-o dollar theater in the Canton area, at the time. The building it's in now has been overrun by some kind of medical company. I feel like I'm in a foreign land every time I drive by. Good times, though. Working for the movie theater was one of my favorite jobs of all time. I miss those days.

Ben worked in the arcade when it was still there. I worked concession with Sarah, his now wife. I had no idea they had even been dating back then! I left Cinemark to work for Sam's Club, quit there and went back to the movie theater, and during all that time I was clueless! I quit that job again, years went by, and suddenly he brought her to my wedding! I wish I had taken the time to get to know her more back then, because I absolutely love her now and can't at all recall having much of any thought about her whatsoever over a decade ago other than her being "that girl I worked with sometimes." Sorry, Sarah!

Best photo bomb ever.
Fast forward to after Lilah was born, and after Addison was born too. I guess during all the time that I neglected contact with my old friends, Ben and Matt had stayed in touch. Now that Matt and I have common ground again -- daughters of the same age -- we've been slowly repairing our relationship, though amusingly I seem to be better friends now with his wife. Weird how things happen. Such as Ben and I seemingly forgetting that seven years of no-contact had even happened. We picked up our friendship right where we left off. The only thing that's changed is that we have kids now.

Ben and Sarah got married on April 30, 2011. Lilah was just shy of seven months old. It's a day I'll never forget for very selfish reasons, because that's the day Your Future Overlord started crawling, too. My brother Mike had babysat her while we attended the ceremony up the hill. When we went home to get her before heading to the reception, he claims he saw her crawl while we were away. The first time I saw it happen was at the reception, in the middle of some kind of speech. I was so excited I kept flailing my arms to get Ben's attention to point down at her and mouth "LOOK SHE'S CRAWLING!!!"

Exhausted baby steals Mommy's shrug after reception.
I wish we could have stayed to attend the reception into the wee hours of the morning, but at the time I didn't regret using the baby excuse to leave early. She was exhausted. I was socialized out. I may regret now having missed out on celebrating my good friend's nuptials, a little, but could you have said no to that adorable face up there who just wanted to get home to sleep? That's what I thought.

On the first of the following year at Matt & Stacy's house, for what has become the traditional pork and sauerkraut dinner party, we all got together again. Our girls were both a year old and learning to play together in adorable ways. I remember sitting on the couch with Ben & Sarah teasing them about how they needed to plan to have their first kid in 2013, because that's when Jamie and I were talking about having our second, so that we could have kids the same age who could play together too. I was joking, but I think they took me seriously about a baby-making deadline!

Jamie and I did work on making baby #2 happen during that time, though. We wanted our kids to be close in age so they could play together and possibly be best friends. What we didn't know, however, was that Ben and Sarah had been working on making theirs happen too! Until I saw a photo of an ultrasound posted on Sarah's Facebook wall back in June of 2012. This prompted the following exchange via FB message:

A couple days later, this conversation went on between Ben & I:

Though the doctors proclaimed that Sarah and I were due within weeks of each other, Fate had other ideas in mind. There were some complications that forced young masters Oliver and Desmond to arrive a full 58 days earlier than expected. They were such tiny little things, kept in the NICU for less time than I imagine it felt like. I remember them sounding like little mewling kittens when they cried. Together they didn't even weigh quite as much as the monster that came out of me over two and a half months later. A week after she was born, they all came to visit.

Amelia sandwiched between the twins.
Ben likes to joke that he's going to steal my daughter when I'm not looking, and offers to trade us for one of his boys. It's funny because I was really hoping for a boy the second time around, even though every ultrasound said otherwise. Ben had been hoping for a girl in the pair, but got two boys instead. I think we're going to be keeping our little Usurper, though. Sorry, Ben. ;)

August 24, 2013
Maybe we should be talking betrothal, though...

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Parenthood

At this point I was only 8 weeks pregnant with my firstborn. I was a little apprehensive about making any kind of announcement until the doctors had confirmed it. My first pregnancy, as I mentioned before, ended in a miscarriage at 7 weeks gestation. In March of 2010, my midwife told me that at 8 weeks it was highly unlikely I was going to miscarry, that the risk was only 5%. She said we were in the clear. So I told the whole world, minus the few family members I actually called and texted first, via a Facebook status update.

Apart from the 22 obvious comments congratulating me on this momentous occasion, I was bombarded with various other cheerful praises through e-mails and text messages and phone calls and posts on my wall. That very same day I also received an extremely interesting and pleasantly surprising Facebook message from my good friend Matt, my old pal from third grade on until high school.

I mentioned before that the expected due date for my firstborn was October 27th, right? Right. That's what I told everybody in the comments section of my FB announcement that day. I was already giddy and overjoyed and excited. And then Matt came in and multiplied my level of insane glee a million fold! One of my best friends in the whole wide world was having a baby at the same time! How cool is that!?

The interesting thing about this is that Matt and I had kind of fallen out of touch for several years. In grade school and high school, we were inseparable. We kept our desks next to each other in 4th grade and linked our Gameboys to play Tetris battles with the sound off during lessons. We passed notebooks off to each other in the hallways between classes in high school, taking turns writing a massive story with our other two friends Amanda and Adam. On weekends he would ride his bike across town, two or three miles I think, from his house to mine so we could go hiking in the woods at the back of my allotment with Adam.

Then graduation happened. We both tried college for a bit. I didn't have quite as much luck with continuing my education as he did, though it took him longer than he might have liked. We shared an apartment together, separate bedrooms, and I feel like I owe him a tremendous backlog of rent from that time still to this day. I'm not sure if that's a factor into the hows, whys, and wherefores that we lost contact with each other, but that's not important.

He was one of the first people to find out about Magic: The Gathering. We played with decks he had constructed late at night at Perkins, drinking coffee, cocoa, and smoking cigarettes. When it was still okay to smoke in restaurants.

He introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons before Wizards of the Coast bought it off of TSR. We played 2nd Edition. I still insist 2nd Edition is better than any revisions WotC has ever made. I think they ruined D&D, but that's another matter. We segued into D&D from a board game he had found called Hero's Quest. Our mutual love for fantasy stemmed for a shared obsession with a series of books co-written by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman known as The Death Gate Cycle, which we both agree is so much better than their more popular and better known Dragonlance Saga.

I think we lost touch mostly after I got married. Times were hard for Jamie and I. We bounced around jobs for the longest time at the start of our marriage. We saw less and less of Matt. Until seven years later when fate decided that we were both going to be first time parents around the exact same time. We did not plan this at all. I didn't even know he had a girlfriend!

"Uncle" Matt meets Lilah Jayne, whose future best friend is
still gestating in her Mommy's belly inches away.
Much to Matt's surprise, I think, his wife and I became pretty good friends. I remember him telling me, "Oh, you guys have nothing in common," as if he expected me to hate her and she hate me and us to never get along. I don't know what kind of crack he was smoking. Stacy and I get along great. She might not be a video gamer like me. She might not be into D&D like me. She might not be quite as nerdy as me, but we have found common interests to share, such as atheism and craftiness and being moms. Stacy has her own blog, if you're interested. You should be, because it's really all her fault I'm here today writing my own. Hi, Stacy!

Exactly one month and one day after Your Future Overlord came into this world, her best friend Addison was born. I say "best friend" with my fingers crossed, hoping beyond hope that this stays the case until the end of time. But nobody knows what the future may hold. We don't exactly live next door to each other. Who knows what will happen when (and if - we'll talk about that later) the girls start going to school?

First official play date at 7 & 6 months respectively.
So far, everything is going according to plan. Our girls are now both 3 years and some odd months old. They talk. They giggle. They get so excited whenever we tell them that they get to see each other for play dates. They cry when they have to say their good-byes. They even wear the same Halloween costumes sometimes:

October 13, 2012 - Boo at the Zoo
That was yet another incident that was entirely unplanned, by the way. It just so happened that Addison was obsessed with farm animals that year, and Lilah picked out the cow costume (the exact same one) at the Good Will store. People probably thought they were twins, but ever since they were babies we got people asking if they were because they looked so much alike!

They don't look quite so much alike now as they did then. Addison grew a hand span of inches taller than Lilah. Their faces started taking on more distinct and individual attributes. But one thing has not changed. Much to my continuing glee, they presently remain the best of friends.

August 24, 2013.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Invasion of the Usurper

"No really. I come in PEACE!"
My first experiences with pregnancy tests were mystifying. I remember buying a two pack so that we could be absolutely sure I was pregnant. We bought the cheapest test we could find because our budget was too low to afford the top-of-the-line name brands. I would say that in retrospect we should have just shelled out the extra bucks, but when I get to the story of my second-born it's clear that price doesn't really matter.

I made my appointment with my first ever official OBGYN (Paragon) when I was pregnant with Lilah, and went in assuming that they would give me a pregnancy test in the office to make absolutely sure. Imagine my surprise when I was simply led into a comfortable office and given a welcome packet and some papers to sign. I was told "Congratulations!" and sent on my way. I asked the midwife about the pregnancy test, and she said, "Wait. You don't know if you're pregnant?" So I had to explain to her....

No. We were not 100% certain we were pregnant. I actually ended up taking three tests to make sure. Every single one I took came up with the same result. The lines were faded and it didn't look as if even the test could tell for sure one way or another. So I had hoped that they would confirm my suspicions at this office visit. She scheduled me for an ultrasound the following day and it turned out I was right. That's a relief for someone who's always had a regular and predictable menstrual cycle. I was starting to suspect I was having one of those phantom pregnancies, because I wanted a baby so bad.

Fast forward nine months from that point and you've already read that story.

This story is not about Lilah, but pregnancy tests are how we open the tale. Exactly one year, five months, and twenty-three days after Your Future Overlord came into this world, I walked half a mile up the road to our local Dollar Store to pick up another pregnancy test, which cost me one whole dollar, while my husband as at work, to confirm whether or not my suspicions were true.

One test.

One dollar.

One undeniably positive result.

I did not expect to have much luck in getting a result as unmistakably clear as the one you see above. Given my previous experience with trying to determine whether or not I was right about my first-born, I was absolutely stunned when this happened. So stunned that I took a picture! This test should have come with a Genie inside to tell me just how certain it was that things were going as planned. Minus dejected Aladdin wandering away. I was so thrilled that it took every ounce of willpower in my being not to text my husband right away to tell him what I had done. I'm proud of myself for managing to wait until he got home from work. It probably helped that I had a demanding toddler keeping me distracted.

We announced we were expecting #2 at a Father's Day brunch at my sister-in-law's house that year. I didn't do a very good job of hiding it. I'm sure I was glowing so brightly the news could be seen from outer space. I said to my sister-in-law, "We have an announcement to make." To which she said, "What. You're pregnant?" Ding! Her mother-in-law said pretty much the same thing. So much for surprising everybody! Haha! We saved our worldwide Facebook announcement until after we got our first ultrasound.

Jamie and I had talked about having kids since before we even got married. That was one of the selling points that sealed the deal of spending our own personal eternities together. We both wanted children. Before we ever started having any, I knew I wanted three. He tells me he's happy with however many I want to give him, even a hundred, even if we adopt. 

Now that I have two I've been rethinking my original plan. One child is a piece of cake. Two? Two is hard.

If I had known then what I know now... I probably would have still gone through with it. 

During our discussions, we talked about how close we wanted our kids to be in age. I remember a young man I knew more than a decade back, before I met my husband, telling me about how he and his brother grew up to be the best of friends. They were only a year apart in age. Such a testimony from someone I knew, though not exactly well, left an impact. I carried that concept with me up until the day Jamie and I decided we were ready to have children of our own.

So we planned to have our second one close enough in age to Lilah so that they could be friends. Not so close that it would be painful for me, though. One cesarean had been pretty rough. I wanted to try to go for a VBAC with the second one, having felt like the complications Lilah gave me cheated me out of that experience. I was still at an improved, healthier weight from my first pregnancy, having only lost twenty pounds of my ending pregnancy weight a year and a half after her birth. While mentally I was totally prepared for it, and the doctors assured me that I was a prime candidate for vaginal delivery, fate decided otherwise yet again.

Whereas my firstborn came to us three weeks earlier than expected, our second child came one week late.

On Superbowl Sunday.

At my 40 week well-visit, the doctor told me that if she didn't come by the weekend then they would schedule a c-section for me for the following week. Doctors apparently don't like to let babies gestate longer than 41 weeks. I guess that can cause unwanted complications if they cook that long. Baby #2 must have heard her eviction notice, because she started to put in some effort that morning starting at 7:00 AM.

That was the first time I ever felt contractions. They weren't strong, but I felt them. Just like they're described on just about every single website on the great wide Intrawebz. I kept a log, timing them. How long they lasted. When each one started. Until about 3:00 when I called the nurse's hotline at the hospital, because my doctor's office was, of course, closed. They told me to come in. I did.

Get this monster out of me!
I was 41 weeks pregnant. Fat. Tired. My feet had been swollen for practically a month. I could hardly breathe walking down the stairs. I was done and ready to get that baby out of me! She was making an admirable effort, but not enough. My preliminary exam showed that I was not even dilated a single centimeter! Still, the doctors wanted to admit me and hook me up with some pitocin, because she had been in there for so long. It was time, they said, and I wholeheartedly agreed.

We ended up watching the Super Bowl in the birthing room, because what else was there to do! We were more prepared this time around. I had my bag packed a month ahead of time. We brought my husband's laptop and availed ourselves of the free hospital Wi-Fi. I walked laps around the maternity triage. An hour later, they checked me and were happy to report that I was one centimeter dilated. I was starting to feel stronger contractions. I rolled around on the yoga ball. I whimpered and whined. Another hour later, they checked me again. Still only one centimeter.

Eventually the doctor came in. He looked concerned. He told me that generally they liked to see a progression of one centimeter every hour after the administration of pitocin. That wasn't happening with me. He said if I didn't start progressing soon he was going to have to do a c-section, that the longer this went on the greater the risks became.

I was tired. I finally asked for some drugs. They gave me morphine. When the doctor came back in some time around 10:30, he still looked concerned. I was ready to get that baby out of me! So I gave in, and at 10:54 PM on February 3, 2013, the Usurper to the throne of Your Future Overlord came into this world.

She's been a daddy's girl ever since.
We named her Amelia, because Doctor Who. Some time years before, after Lilah was born, I remember seeing a name rather frequently in magazines and online articles. So we chose that as her middle name simply because I liked the look of it. Also: Charmed. Thus was the Usurper dubbed with the name Amelia Paige.

Her sister is solely responsible for the majority of all the other nicknames we've called the little monster since. Sometimes she's Mia. Other times she's Millie. Don't ask me why, but I find myself referring to her as Bugbear now and then, too. Probably because she's grown into a little, unstoppable, bulldozing toddler. Did I mention her first birthday is less than a month away already!?

At 8 pounds, 8 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long, she came out a big bigger than her sister. I imagine a world when as teenagers they'll be sharing clothes from the same closet. Hopefully peacefully. Without arguing. If the Usurper keeps growing the way she has been, that future may be closer than I initially predicted! This time last year, her sister was wearing the same size clothes she is now!

Did I mention that raising two kids is hard? You know . . . it's easy to forget that when there are moments like these:

"Bye, Ma! We're goin' to the moon!"

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Your Future Overlord

I want YOU to be my Mommy.
You're going to hate me right off the bat when I tell you that all of my pregnancies were planned. The first one ended in a miscarriage at seven weeks. It was really a nothing thing to me. A mild disappointment and nothing more. They told me the "remains" were going to be buried in a group plot on the hospital grounds, and I could visit any time I wanted, but I was a little weirded out by the concept that it was anything more than unfinished cells. I moved on without any grief period whatsoever.

My second pregnancy went full term, though. We conceived right away, just like we did the first time. I said to my husband, "Let's make a baby." We did what needing doing, this one stuck, and a baby was born from it nine months later. A baby I was referring to as Your Future Overlord long before she came into this world.

The joke is that I didn't want to be the mother of a future President. Why be President of the United States when you can be Master of the Entire World? I wanted my child to aspire to greater things, to be a conqueror of nations! Mostly I was just influenced by video games and giggled at the idea of any child of mine bossing around a bunch of hapless minions.

My friends in the freeform role-playing community took it to mean that I intended on training my spawn to duel, and they hoped to see him or her in a decade or so on the Rings of Honor site doing a better job of gaining rank than I ever have. I do not discount this possibility.

I'm sure all of that goes right over the heads of more than half of you, which is why I provided some links. You're welcome.

So anyway!

With our first child, my husband and I agreed not to learn the gender until it was born. This was in part due to the fact that if it should turn out to be a girl I did not want to be overwhelmed with an onslaught of pink. I hate(d) pink with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. I wanted to keep it out of my house for as long as humanly possible. Mostly we just wanted to experience the surprise of being told "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" at the hospital.

Though we've already established I'm not a religious person, I am not entirely averse to the idea that the supernatural exists. (I do believe in fairies! I do! I do!) I've always felt there was something more out there, and frankly the idea that humanity is the superior species is too arrogant for my blood. But I believe in the power of belief, because I'm pretty sure everybody (my mother-in-law especially) cursed me by insisting it was going to be a girl.

Nobody bought me girl things, though. I insisted on gender neutral everything. Even if I did know ahead of time it was a girl, I wasn't going to buy pink butterfly bedding and pink polka-dot high chairs and car seats and.... No. Just no. I didn't want to drown in the pink and frilly that is much to my dismay automatically associated with my gender. I avoided all of that for at least the first three months of my firstborn's existence. 

But I may be getting ahead of myself.

My first full term pregnancy was not perfect. I weighed merely 93 pounds when it all began. I was still recovering from years of assault on my body from bad teeth filling me with poisons. The skinny thing with the baby bump in the picture above is not a woman I was really proud to be. I was even a smoker, and didn't manage to give it up until I was 5 months along. Sorry, kiddo.

There were three concerns with my pregnancy. The first was, of course, that I needed to quit smoking. The second was that I needed to put on more weight. No lie. My midwife put me on a milkshake-a-day diet, which I found impossible to keep up on. The third concern was that my baby had a single artery umbilical cord. None of these were actually very life-threatening to me or the baby, but there loomed the possibility that birth defects could occur. None did. And I don't think any of these factored into what really happened.

So my due date was set to October 27th, 2010. I kept joking that I hoped the baby camped in there a little longer so I could have a Halloween baby, because that would be cool. Come that final month, however, I was just ready to be done with it all, because I had ballooned out to add half my original body weight, my feet were swollen, I wasn't sleeping comfortably at all, and my ribs felt bruised constantly up under the left side. Turns out her head was wedged up there all that time, because...

On October 4th, 2010, we had another ultrasound done. Due to the condition of the single artery umbilical cord, and my size, and this being my first pregnancy, the doctors ordered me to have a lot of ultrasounds to keep up on the baby and make sure it was developing all right. On that day, the ultrasound tech made a concerning discovery. She said, "I can't see anything. There's no amnio in there to cushion anything." All we saw on the screen was a mass of gray, which was odd. So she sent the results to the doctor and had us wait in the lobby.

We waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.

Patients were called back. Those same patients left. Hours and hours of playing solitaire on my smartphone. Waiting. Until we realized that we were the last people in the waiting room, the sky was getting dark outside, they were turning down the lights, and it occurred to us that we had been waiting there until closing time. Finally, someone fetched us and took us back to talk to a doctor.

The doctor explained the situation to me, but I don't remember much besides him saying, "So. How would you feel about having that baby today?"

The baby wasn't due for another three weeks! It had never even occurred to me that babies could be born early! I had been hoping for a natural birth! I wasn't ready! We didn't even have a mattress for the crib! Or a car seat! Our baby shower had only been a few weeks ago! I didn't have a hospital bag packed! I was starting to hyperventilate! Not really, but it was a near thing.

I said to the doctor, "Well if you think it's best." He said he did and then got on the phone to call the hospital to set up a cesarean for me. They wanted to get the baby out of me, because my mysteriously vanishing amniotic fluid was not good. It was weird. I hadn't been leaking anything. You'd think I would've noticed something like that.

So the doctor called the hospital, and I remember that conversation rather clearly. Maybe not the precise words, but the gist I recall well. He bargained with the surgeon for a few minutes. Apparently there had been thirteen c-sections scheduled for the following day! 13! The day after wasn't good enough, he said. I needed this done tonight or tomorrow. Since she was so full up tomorrow, the surgeon agreed to do my surgery that night.

My husband and I went home to pack our overnight bag in a panic. I'm sure I didn't have half as much in it as the books and websites suggest. But I also know I put in twice as much of the things I didn't actually need, like a baby naming book.

We already had names picked out. I don't know why I took the book, other than a panicked moment of, "What if I change my mind at the last minute!?" That didn't happen, though. The truth is I was dead set on the name for a boy. Still am, if we ever have one. The girl name I wasn't too sure about, though, until they put her in my arms for the first time. I smiled, looked at her teeny little face, and the first thing I said to her was, "Hello, Lilah."

Her first name came to me in a dream. I think I was only six months along at the time. All through the pregnancy I had been scouring the Internet and books in search of the perfect name. I had my heart set on an R name for a while, but couldn't find the right one. Nothing went well with the middle name we had already decided upon: Jayne. Yes, she is named after Jayne Cobb from Firefly. My favorite character from my favorite (unfortunately cancelled) television series of all time. 

Middle name, check. First name? Um.

So I had this dream that took place in my step-mother's house. The baby was born. For some reason Jamie and I were staying there. That's odd when you understand that I haven't spoken to my step-mother for several years, since my father died. She wasn't even invited to our wedding. But I guess my pregnant dreams wanted me to feel like I was home, somewhere, and built this dreamscape around her house. 

My eldest brother Mike was in this dream, and I left him in the living room with the baby while I stepped out to talk to my husband, who was smoking on the front porch. I said, in my dream, "What do you think of the name Lilah?" He said, "I like it."

This same scene played itself out the following day on the back patio of our loft bedroom apartment. Except it was day time and my brother Mike was not present. Oh. And the baby was not born yet. In my dream, apparently I'd had the baby and still hadn't decided on her name. I had some pretty wicked pregnancy dreams before she came into this world. Like the one in which I gave birth to quadruplets, and they were all girls!

Thank goodness I only had the one for real!

Your Future Overlord was born October 4, 2010 at 9:06 PM. She weighed 5 pounds, 13 ounces, and measured only 17 1/2 inches in length. She was born three weeks early, and was so tiny that her head literally fit in the palm of her daddy's hand.

We were given the biggest room in the maternity room. It came fully equipped with a chair and a sofa, with enough room for a dance party to take place in. The maternity room was so quiet that first night. The following morning, all the spare rooms filled up fast! Thirteen scheduled c-sections! Ricky Lake really wasn't joking when she made that movie.