Bad Track Record

My mother-in-law is flying in from England today. I know that the stereotype would be to have a difficult and strained relationship with a mother-in-law, but I honestly don’t. She’s funny, she’s an amazing cook, and I find her very easy to be around.

At the same time, though, I do feel a teeny-tiny sense of Impending Doom about her upcoming visit. But it’s not for any of the reasons you’d think. The reason is because every year since Catie was born, we’ve seen her at some point during the month of December, and every year, somebody gets really horribly sick.

To recap:
* 2007 – We all got the flu. And let me tell you, trying to take care of a sick baby when you’re sick yourself? Oh man. That was hideous.

* 2008 – Catie ended up in the hospital with a major asthma/flu episode. Because nothing says “Happy holidays!” like continuous albuterol treatments.

* 2009 – We went to England. Catie was spared, this time it was just me and Dave who got sick. Because of that trip, I have vowed to never go to England during the winter again. (It had more to do with the epic snowstorm than my bronchitis-that-was-almost-pneumonia, but still. Not fun on any counts.)

[Oh, there was also the visit – NOT during the month of December, oddly enough – where my mother-in-law herself wound up in the ER with a concussion after falling in the grocery store and hitting her head. That was fun too.]

And now she’s on her way here for 2010. *dun dun duuuuuunnnnnn*

It’s already starting. Dave got sick with some sort of nasty cold a couple of days ago, and today I woke up with a scratchy throat. Which is great, since you know, pregnancy keeps me from being able to take any of the good drugs. I’m basically limited to my Zyrtec and my neti pot. Fabulous.

Let’s just hope we can avoid any hospital visits this time, yes?

Scenes from the zoo

Because we’ve been back for two days and I still haven’t written about it (my brain, it is not cooperating with me these days), here are some pictures.

Near the entrance to the NC Zoo, there are these enormous life-size statues of elephants. We stopped to take some pictures. My mom saw this photo, and thought it was a real elephant, and she fuh-REAKED out. “Where’s the WALL?!! It could’ve KILLED her!!” Um, no, Mom. I’m pretty sure it’s not going anywhere.

Catie & the elephant statue near the zoo entrance

Although if the elephants were real, it would’ve made this moment with my brother all the more awesome.

my brother is funny

He’s hilarious. (We were trying to get Catie to agree to sit on the elephant’s trunk for a photo. She refused.)

As for inside the zoo…

Catie & a sea lion
Sea lions are awesome.

flamingoes!
The flamingo exhibit was hands-down Catie’s favorite. She started asking for them the minute we got there, and she was so excited when we finally found them. She’s normally more of a giraffe/zebra fan, I’m not sure why the sudden obsession with flamingos? Maybe because they’re pink?

Catie & Tracy
I love this picture of my sister & Catie. I love their contrasting hair colors.

And then, of course, the obligatory “we’re going to take some damn family pictures before we leave here.”

Tracy, Catie & Chris

My very exhausted & sweaty family

I think it’s hilarious how my brother and sister both look all well-rested and healthy, while Dave and I look exhausted, puffy, and pale. Guess which ones are the parents?

P.S. Still no news on the job front. Hoping to hear something one way or the other this week!

a weekend in the mountains

Dave had been saying for a while that he wanted to go away for his birthday weekend. We don’t have the budget for anything major, but luckily, we can go on what feels like an honest-to-God vacation without leaving the state of North Carolina. We had the choice of going to the beach or going to the mountains. Dave picked mountains. And I’m so glad he did.

View from Grandfather Mountain

Not bad, eh?

It’s about a 4-hour drive over to Boone, NC. We stayed in a small town a bit further up in the mountains. Catie did great with the drive until we ended up on this unbelievable winding mountain road full of 180-degree hairpin turns. Luckily, she didn’t get too carsick, but we did have to make an emergency stop on the side of the road when she thought she was going to barf. (We walked about a city block’s length and that seemed to help her shake it off.)

We got to our hotel around sunset on Friday evening. We got snacks from the local Food Lion, checked into our hotel, and settled in for the night. Incidentally, we stayed at Blue Ridge Village, and we loved it there. Full kitchen, washer and dryer in the suite, jacuzzi tub, the works. It felt less like a hotel room and more like a furnished apartment. Totally comfortable and nice. (And no, they didn’t pay me to say that. Although if they want to comp me a room next time we go there, I sure wouldn’t say no.)

Saturday, our plan was to first go to Linville Caverns, then Grandfather Mountain. Due to a spectacular GPS fail that took us on a 30-mile detour, we scrapped that plan and went to Grandfather Mountain first (just because it was there).

I put Grandfather Mountain on our itinerary because they have an Animal Reserve there, and I knew Catie would love that.

chillin' in the shade

deer!

I was right, too. She did love it.

Pretty Catie

The views at Grandfather Mountain are unbelievable. (That’s where I took the picture at the top of this post.) They also have something called a “Mile-High Swinging Bridge” that people can walk across, which was… not so popular with us. I thought I’d be ok until I actually stepped on it. I made it about three steps, then decided nope, can’t do this, and I turned around and bolted back to the mountainside. I’m not sure if it was the bridge itself or me leaving that made Catie freak, but Dave only made it about 5 more steps before she started to cry and said she didn’t like it and wanted to go back. So, none of us made it all the way across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge. And you know? I’m perfectly ok with that.

Once we were done with Grandfather Mountain, we headed over (finally!) to Linville Caverns. That was really, really cool.

cool stalactite

I mean, any time you get to hang around rocks that are estimated to be around 22 million years old, and see trout that live in a stream inside a cave, that’s a pretty good day right there. Plus it’s 52 degrees year-round inside the caves, so after being outside in the heat, it felt fantastic.

trout in Linville Caverns

We were worn out after that, so we headed back to the hotel and got some take-out from a nearby restaurant for dinner. I took Catie swimming in the hotel’s indoor pool after dinner, she loved that. (“The pool is INSIDE?!?!!”)

Oh! Let me back up. Our first night at the hotel, Dave and I had stupidly thought that all three of us could easily sleep in a king-size bed (completely forgetting that Catie tends to sleep sideways and likes to kick in her sleep). It was awful, none of us got a good night’s sleep at all. So on Saturday night, we decided to take advantage of the fold-out couch. You have never seen a three year-old’s mind blown like that. “You mean, the COUCH turns into a BED?!?!! And I can sleep on it?? Are you KIDDING me?!?!!” Between that and the indoor pool, she’s going to think this particular hotel is the site of Crazy Magic Stuff.

"The couch turns into a BED?!?!!"

Anyway, she slept great on the fold-out couch, and the grown-ups got a decent night’s sleep ourselves.

On Sunday, we packed up and checked out of the hotel, before heading to the Tweetsie Railroad, which is kind of like an Old West-style theme park. The admission rates are crazy expensive, but then all the rides are free after that, so I guess it works out. Catie loved it.

me & Catie at the Tweetsie Railroad

my nutty family

The park is kind of built into a mountain, and we saw that there was a ton of stuff at the very top, but you had to take a chair lift (like at a ski lodge) to get to the top. Catie took one look at the chair lift and said, no way. So, we walked it instead. It was about half a mile, straight uphill, and she didn’t complain about it or ask us to carry her once.

Little person in a big world.

Of course, after we hiked it, we realized there was a bus for people with wheelchairs or strollers. Which we could’ve taken for free. Sigh. Oh well, at least we probably burned off that funnel cake we ate later.

But thank God we didn’t skip the top of the park, because that’s where the petting zoo was located. Which I’m pretty sure was Catie’s favorite part of the entire weekend.

It's Bambi!

Catie feeding the goats

Emu

I think this emu thought my camera was food. He got super-close to me with his giant crazy bird eyes, and kinda wigged me out.

After all that, we went back and got on the train, where this is the best picture I got.

self-portrait family pic on the train

Yeah. Not my finest photography moment, to say the least.

Even in spite of the fact that we were all tired and grumpy, we still had to drag Catie out of there, she did NOT want to leave. And of course, she was asleep before we even got on the freeway.

It was really such a fun trip, but it also feels so good to come home. All three of us took the day off today to just veg out and relax. Oh, and Catie and I made Dave a birthday cake today, since he didn’t get one yesterday on his actual birthday. Unless funnel cake counts. And I don’t think it does.

P.S. In case the ridiculous number of photos in this entry isn’t enough for you, all the pictures from our trip are here.

Not the pre-BlogHer post I was planning

Tomorrow, I’m getting on a plane bound for New York City, so I can go to BlogHer ’10. I bought my conference pass ages ago (February, I think?), so I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.

But yesterday, there was a big chunk of the day where I thought I was going to have to scrap my NYC plans completely. See, yesterday we found out that my uncle Stanton (you know my cousin Cat who I talk about all the time, and our kids are BFFs with each other? This is her dad) had a massive heart attack. Like, he was dead for 10 minutes and the EMTs managed to shock him and get him back. It’s really really bad.

It makes no sense. He’s one of the most athletically fit people you’ll ever meet. He’s an avid cyclist and rides his bike every day. This whole thing actually happened while he was on a bike ride with his friends. It’s just a freak thing. It’s basically the equivalent of Superman having a heart attack. Completely illogical.

And all I could think about was how Cat must be feeling, about how I’d feel if it were my dad, and I just wanted to do something. Anything. So at one point I offered to sell my BlogHer pass and change my plane ticket to fly to Texas with her. She said no, and she flew out last night with Austin, her 18 month-old, since he can still fly for free, plus you know, the Magic Healing Powers of Grandbabies can’t possibly hurt. She told me not to change my plans, to go to BlogHer and have fun. (Sure. Easier said than done!)

Right now it looks like things are very much in a wait-and-see phase, and we likely won’t have any news until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest, by which point I’ll already be in New York.

So, you know, just FYI: I’m generally not the socially anxious type, and I don’t do Blogger Drama as a rule, so if you see me obsessively checking my phone with worry lines on my forehead? I’m not freaking out about the conference thing at all. I just don’t cope very well with family crises (but then: who does?). So if you happen to notice me looking all frazzled and distant, please come over and talk to me, give me a hug, slap me upside the head, shove a drink into my hand, whatever. I’d really appreciate the distraction.

Oh, also, for those of you who’ll be at BlogHer this weekend? See y’all tomorrow. (Yay!)

toes in the water

We had a really lovely weekend, the perfect mix of fun stuff and chill-out time. Saturday night, we had my cousin & her family (plus her parents, my aunt & uncle, who happen to be visiting) over for dinner, which was a ton of fun. I think it’s pretty rare that you can have two 3 year-olds and a 1 year-old in the same house for hours and not have any major tantrums or tears, so we’ll call that a raging success. (There was a slight issue at the end when Catie refused to help clean up & had to go sit in time-out, but still. Overall it was great.)

Then, Sunday happened.

First of all, it’s rare that we have a day with absolutely nothing on the agenda. So I decided ok, this is it, the time is now for us to work on Catie’s fear of the water. I told her that we were going to go swimming today. She said no, I said yes.

She said: “I can’t want to go anywhere, I just stay home all day.”
I said: Ok then, no TV all day.
She said: Fine.

Damn. I hate it when she calls my bluff.

I said: I know you’re scared of the pool, but I want to show you that it’s a lot of fun and not scary at all. And! If you come with me to the pool? I’ll let you have a cookie with your breakfast.
She said: No.

I said: How about a new toy as a prize for going swimming?
She said: No.

But you know what? This kid inherited her stubbornness from me. If she thinks she can out-stubborn me, she’s dead wrong. This is when I dug my heels in (and made Dave raise his eyebrows).

I said: Ok, that’s it, until you decide to put on your swimsuit and go to the pool? You can go sit in your room and not come out.
She said: Well, she said nothing. She lay on the floor of her bedroom for 20 minutes and didn’t make a peep. No tantrum, just silent refusal to cooperate. Child is STRONG. WILLED.

About to give up, I said: Ok, how about if you don’t go swimming, but you come to the pool and just put your feet in the water?
She said: Oh. Ok!

Finally! So, the 3 of us set off for the pool. We brought her floaty pirate ship, and a couple of plastic toys with us for good measure. And you know what? She did great. I mean, I didn’t expect much, I thought we’d be there for ten minutes and she’d be ready to leave, but she started playing with some other kids there who were close to her age, and she had fun. She wouldn’t go all the way in the water, but she made it to the second step where the water came up to her knees, and she sat on the top step and got her tush wet, so it’s something, right? It was certainly more than I thought she’d do. We were there for over an hour – long enough for me to realize too late that I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my shoulders. Oops. (Catie’s fine. Apparently I’m better at remembering to put sunscreen on her than I am with myself.) And she wouldn’t ride in her pirate boat, but she thought it was funny to put her toys in it and then push it “out to sea” – where either Dave or I would rescue it and push it back to her.

And as promised, after we got home and changed clothes, we went to the store to pick out a toy. She chose a Barbie doll, which has already been completely discarded because all Catie really wanted were the 3 plastic puppies that came with her. And no, she does not know that you can give the puppies real water and that it’ll make them “pee.” I’m not telling her that part. That is some additional mess that I do not need in my life.

Oh, and this entry is getting way too long as it is, but tomorrow? I have to tell y’all about my run-in with possibly the most obnoxious kid I’ve ever encountered IN MY LIFE. Stay tuned for that.

routines

I’m guessing that most families with two working parents settle into some sort of a routine. It took us a pretty long time of floundering, but I think we’ve finally found our groove.

Dave goes to work really early in the morning – like, crazy early. I think he leaves around 6 a.m.? Maybe earlier? I don’t really know because I’m always asleep. He gives me a kiss goodbye – on the forehead, because I’m usually sleeping with my mouth open, such a sexy little minx am I. And I try to wake up and say a proper goodbye, but it usually comes out like this:

Mmmrrph? Bye, haff a good d… *honk* *pshew*…

What can I say? I’m a heavy sleeper.

Anyway, Dave likes going to work early because he’s the first one there and he can get at least a solid couple hours’ worth of work done before everybody else gets there. Honestly, the extra productivity wouldn’t be worth the early wake-up call for me, but I’ve never been an early bird type.

Meanwhile, Catie and I usually get up around 7:30 on average. We snuggle on the couch and watch cartoons for a little while, then I get her dressed and we set off for daycare. I usually get her there around 9:15 a.m. Then I come back home and get to work.

The perk of Dave heading in so early, is that he can leave work around 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon, and pick Catie up from daycare on his way home. He helps me out with the childcare stuff in the evenings (dinner, bathtime), but then he goes to bed around 8 p.m. so he can get up early the next day. Catie doesn’t go to bed until about 9:00 p.m., so I usually handle bedtime on my own. I suppose this means that overall, I do more of the childcare “work” than he does (getting her dressed in the morning, the bedtime routine at night), but he makes up for it by getting up with her on the weekends and letting me sleep in, so that trade-off is fine with me. There was a point, sometime when Catie was 2 years old, that I thought I would never be able to sleep past 9 a.m. again, ever, for the rest of my life. I now often sleep until at least 10 on Saturdays. Which, for the record, is freaking awesome.

I suppose it wouldn’t work for some people – the fact that we all have different bedtimes and wake-up times – but it’s fine for us. Yes, I’m a little jealous of the people whose kids go to bed at 7 p.m. and sleep peacefully all night, and who get to hang out watching prime-time TV with their spouses. But that’s just not how we roll. And that’s ok, we make this work for us.

Still, there are some mornings when Catie wakes up, and she wants her Daddy. And I tell her that sorry babe, he’s already gone to work. She looks out the front window into the driveway, sees that his car is gone, and then she cries that she wants her Daddy. Talk about heart-breaking.

Catie seriously working on the iPad

Dave had some insomnia last night so he slept late this morning. Catie was so excited that he was still here when she woke up, she climbed into our bed between us and snuggled up next to him with her head on his pillow. It was so sweet.

Dave got up to shower and get dressed for work, and I told Catie that if she wanted Daddy to take her to school instead of Mommy, she was going to have to hurry and get dressed in the next 5 minutes, or else Daddy was going to have to leave without her. And my normally sleepy-headed child who takes forever to get ready in the morning was dressed with her sneakers on and pigtails up in a heartbeat.

She went to daycare over an hour earlier than usual, and she was delighted to do so, because her Daddy was the one taking her. She kissed me good-bye, and with a “Love you, Mommy, have a good day!”, she was off. The house was completely empty and quiet by 8:00 a.m. That never happens. I actually got to exercise before starting work for the day. That’s a pretty rare occurrence too.

Since Dave was later than usual getting to work, he’s going to have to stay later this afternoon, so I’m going to be picking Catie up from daycare. I already can’t wait to see her. Sometimes a little change in the routine is just what we need.

oh that's right, I have a blog

While I’m trying to get my head together and think of something funny or profound or, hell, I don’t know, anything to write about, here are my favorite pictures from our 4th of July.

Catie & Elizabeth pose for me
Catie and her cousin Elizabeth. Those girls know how to work the camera.

Elizabeth & Catie, ready to see the fireworks on the 4th of July
The look on Catie’s face here cracks me up. She’s smiling, but there’s also a “what the heck is she doing back there? Is she touching me? Make her stop touching me!” kind of vibe.

the one halfway-cool looking picture of fireworks that I took
Pretty much the only cool fireworks picture that I was able to get. I need to figure out the manual settings on my awesome camera someday, because most of them were, uh, awful.

Hope everyone is having a great week. I’ll be back soon with something more.