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?

New Orleans trip, in photos

Our trip to New Orleans was so much fun, I don’t know where to start. I think I’ll let the pictures do the writing for me.

Catie in her princess dress that Mimi made
If you need a custom-made princess dress, it’s good to have a Mimi who knows how to sew. (Also included: silver sparkly headband-crown, which you can’t really see in this picture because of the light.)

Two of the nights that we were in town, we went to my cousin Ryan and his wife Theresa’s house, who generously hosted a dinner/family reunion/hanging-out-talking-for-hours thing. That was a lot of fun, since they have kids close to Catie’s age, so she had a fantastic time playing with her cousins (and their toys).

Brendan & C.C. smiling for the camera, while Catie's having a very animated phone conversation
This picture cracks me up. Brendan and C.C., two of Catie’s cousins, were happy to smile for my camera, but Catie is totally indifferent and is all, “Whatever, I’m gonna call somebody on this toy phone and have a very animated phone conversation complete with hand gestures.” And, um, I don’t know where she gets that whole talking-with-her-hands thing. *cough* I swear I don’t know anyone in my family who does that. *cough cough*

We were lucky to have gorgeous weather all weekend. On Saturday, a bunch of us went to City Park, which I was hoping to get to take Catie to see.

Oak trees lining City Park
I love the old oak trees in City Park. My aunt Michele said that the oak trees are almost like people, they’re such a part of New Orleans’ identity. I can kind of see what she means. Those oak trees hold a piece of my heart like almost no other part of the city.

The last time I was in New Orleans (June 2006), it was almost a year after Hurricane Katrina, and the train ride around City Park was still destroyed. I was six weeks pregnant with Catie at the time, and I started to cry because I always had this vision of someday taking my kids on the train that I had ridden on when I was little.

In the last few years, they’ve rebuilt City Park to even better than before. Not only is the train ride back, and the carousel has been restored, there’s a small amusement park there as well. It was fantastic.

Catie & me on the carousel

Catie "driving"

Finally, we got on the train.

family train ride!
All aboard!

I’ll be honest, I almost cried. It was so cool to finally get to take Catie on that train, which four years ago, I thought might never happen.

I took a few dozen pictures from the train. Most of them were crap. Then I happened to snap this one, which I didn’t even know was good until I saw it on my computer later.

One of the biggest & oldest oak trees I've ever seen

I want to have it enlarged and framed. I love it that much. And I’m not trying to toot my own horn as a photographer, this one was just a really happy accident. It was taken from a moving train, it’s not like I had time to compose the shot.

On Sunday, we went to the French Quarter.

St. Louis Cathedral
Catie recognized St. Louis Cathedral as “the castle from Princess & the Frog.” I tried to explain that it was a church, not a castle, but… eh. It has spires. I can see how she’d be confused.

The Wilkinsons on Wilkinson Street!
Hey look, it’s the Wilkinsons on Wilkinson Street!

Catie & Mimi share a moment by the Mighty Mississippi
I love this picture of Catie and my mom, the way their heads are tilted toward each other. They have such a great relationship, I love watching them interact.

Flying home yesterday was exhausting, as air travel always is, with or without a toddler. But we’re home, and we’re getting back to normal everyday life now. As nice as it is to be home, though, I am already missing New Orleans. I love that city so much.

not how I envisioned ending 2009

Warning: This post is long, and full of whining. I’m sick, and this is what I’m like when I don’t feel good.

I know I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Dave and I were both sick while we were in England. It’s been pretty awful. For most of our time in the UK, we were both downing cold medications every four hours like clockwork, just to try to manage our symptoms.

We left Dave’s mom’s house on Sunday and drove down to London. We stayed in a hotel near Heathrow so we could be there bright and early for our 7:40 a.m. flight on Monday. I noticed that I was getting worse. My cough was so bad that it was making me dry heave. Because of my gastric bypass surgery, it’s impossible for me to vomit, but I could feel the lower part of my stomach – you know, the part that’s been surgically separated so it’s no longer attached to my esophagus – seizing up, and I knew that if it had a choice, I would be puking my guts out. That was unsettling.

Monday at the airport was a nightmare. We left our hotel at 5 a.m., trying to allow extra time because we knew there would be heightened security after that whole terrorist incident. We ended up standing in line for over an hour to get through the second security screening. And we were lucky, an airline employee came and pulled us over to the “exclusive” line reserved for first-class passengers because we had a stroller, and they needed to get all of the strollers on the plane.

Btw, while we were standing in line, every time I coughed, the old lady standing in front of me would look over her shoulder and glare at me. I started talking to Dave really loudly about WOW THIS COUGH SURE IS ANNOYING BUT IT’S A GOOD THING I’M NOT CONTAGIOUS, HUH? Translation: chill out, hag, I don’t have H1N1.

Our flight left over an hour late. The flight was pretty miserable for me. At one point, the lady sitting across the aisle from Dave passed a roll of cough drops over for me. I thanked her, took one, and passed it back. She said, “Oh no, you keep it.” Wow. I guess I was coughing a lot more than I thought I was.

The plane had a pretty bumpy descent and landing. Catie started to cry in her seat, and I leaned over to hug her and try to calm her down. Then, she puked all over both of us. And a little bit on Dave too, for good measure. Fabulous. This is why I always keep a change of clothes in our carry-on. We had to make a quick stop in the restroom for a wardrobe change before going through customs and immigration, I found a plastic bag to shove the stinky/pukey clothes in, and we were on our way.

[Side note to the person who had to clean row 29 of United flight 923: I’m so, so sorry. Really.]

Since our flight had been delayed, we missed our connection in D.C. Of course. I stood in line at United customer service for about an hour and a half, only to be told that sorry, the remaining flights from Dulles to Raleigh were all booked, but they could get us out the next day. Um, no. It’s less than 300 miles from D.C. to Raleigh, so we said screw it, we’ll rent a car and drive home. All three of us just desperately wanted to goooo hoooome. I had been fantasizing all day about sleeping in my own bed again. We found a rental car that had a compact car with a toddler car seat available, and off we went.

Three hours later, we were still stuck in D.C.-area traffic. Holy cow. It was sometime during that – when I was driving (or more accurately, sitting there with my foot on the brakes) while Dave and Catie were both sleeping in the backseat – that I realized that I had been awake since 3:45 that morning England time, which meant essentially 10:45 p.m. the night before on the east coast. And did I mention that I can’t sleep on airplanes? I kind of dozed for about 20 minutes, but that was it for the entire 8-hour flight. That’s a long time to stay awake, y’all.

We finally got home around 10 p.m. Catie was all refreshed from her car nap and SO! EXCITED! to see all of her toys that she hadn’t seen for the past 2 1/2 weeks, it took quite a while to settle her down. I finally got her to bed just before midnight and then crashed myself about 5 minutes later. I set a new record for myself – awake for 25 hours & 15 minutes straight. I don’t recommend it. And I have no desire to set that kind of record ever again.

Since we’ve been home, I’ve been really, really sick. I went to the doctor on Tuesday, he heard crackling in my right lung and sent me for a chest x-ray because he suspected that I had pneumonia. The office called me back yesterday afternoon to inform me that I don’t have pneumonia, just really severe bronchitis. Oh, and I have pink eye too. Because you know, I didn’t feel horrible enough already.

I woke up yesterday with a migraine so intense that I was involuntarily crying from the pain, and Dave almost called 911. That sucked too.

And you know, it’s not like we had big plans to party it up on New Year’s Eve or anything, but this is not exactly how I envisioned the big evening, either. Both of us in our jammies and coughing and miserable.

The good news is that Catie is continuing to do really well during all of this. She hasn’t shown any signs of being sick yet (although I’m scared to say that for fear of jinxing it), and her sleep schedule is all screwy from the jet lag, but we’re dealing with that. For the most part, she’s being totally sweet and lovely and well-behaved, and she doesn’t seem to mind at all that Mommy is phoning it in and just letting her watch cartoons all day long so I can lie around feeling pitiful.

Catie says, "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!"

She’s also taking this opportunity to explore her own sense of personal style, with hilarious results.

I hope all of y’all have a wonderful and happy New Year. And I hope to be less whiny (and healthier) by my next post. See you in 2010!

Christmas 2009

There’s a lot that I want to write about, but I haven’t really had a chance with all of our traveling, me being sick, iffy wifi connections, and getting all caught up in Christmas celebrations.

So, merry Christmas to all of you from the Butchee-Wilkinson gang. Dave, Catie and I did a little choreographed dance just for you. No, really. It’s all for you.

My brother Chris and my sister Tracy even made a special guest appearance, which is no small feat since they’re currently in Mississippi and we’re in England.

(A big thank you to my sister for creating this. It is the greatest thing I have seen in a LONG time.)

Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Hope you all get exactly what your heart desires.

timesharing the holidays

When I was little, I thought that my grandparents lived really far away. In reality, of course, that wasn’t the case at all. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. My dad’s parents lived in Meridian, MS, about 80 miles away. My mom’s parents were in New Orleans, which is about 200 miles from Jackson. Both sets of grandparents were a road trip away.

In hindsight, we saw them relatively frequently. Holidays were generally split. We spent Christmas with my dad’s parents – which I guess is fair, since my dad is an only child and we were his parents’ only grandchildren; my mom, on the other hand, is one of seven, so there were plenty of grandkids around during the holidays for her folks. A couple of days after Christmas, we’d go to New Orleans and usually stay there through New Year’s.

Flash-forward, and now I’m an adult with a child of my own. And Catie’s grandparents genuinely are far away. My parents are still in Mississippi, which is a good 800 miles from here. And Dave’s parents are in England. Both sets of grandparents require airplanes to visit, not short little road trips.

We’re lucky that Mags (Dave’s mom) has been able to come over for a few visits. But Catie has a granddad (Dave’s dad) who she’s never met. Heck, I haven’t even met my own father-in-law either, and Dave and I have been together for over five years. He & his wife haven’t ever come to the US, and Dave and I have never gone over there – which was first because of problems with Dave’s visa, and later because we had a new baby, and then we just couldn’t afford it with the move. There was always a reason that stopped us from going.

Now, though, Dave has a green card so he can freely leave and re-enter the country (hooray for that!), and we aren’t quite as broke as we were a year ago. So, we’re going to England for Christmas. Actually, we’re going for more than that – we’re flying out on December 11th, and we won’t be coming back until December 28th. Seventeen days. Hopefully that will be enough time to see all of Dave’s family, make a touring visit of his friends who’ve spread out all over the country, and also do some sightseeing, since I’ve never been to England before. How sad is that? I’m 33 years old, and this will be the first stamp on my passport (because they don’t stamp it when you go to Canada).

Obviously, we’re all really excited. It’s going to be weird for me because I’ve only spent one Christmas away from my family in my entire life, but I’m also really looking forward to this trip because I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

I emailed Dave’s parents yesterday to let them know we’re coming, send them copies of our flight itineraries, etc. Dave’s mom of course is thrilled; she and her partner, Roger, will be coming over for a visit in a couple of weeks, but she’s like any other grandma in wanting to get as much Grandbaby Time as possible, so she’s very happy. And Dave’s stepmom emailed me back to say that when she told Keith (Dave’s dad) that we’re coming, he got choked up and teary. He’s beyond happy that he’ll finally get to meet his only grandchild. Of course, hearing that he teared up made me all misty, because that’s just so damn sweet – and, well, also because I’m a big wuss.

And honestly, I’m feeling a little bit guilty that we haven’t made more of a concentrated effort to go there sooner. There probably was a time when we could have gone to England, and we didn’t. I guess neither Dave nor I truly realized how important it is to them. I think that in the future we’ll have to work harder at that.

Type-A Mom Conference Recap

We got home from the Type-A Mom Conference yesterday afternoon. This was only my second blogging conference; BlogHer was my first. It feels odd, to go to two in one year, when I’ve been blogging since 2003. I’m not sure how it worked out like that, but there you go.

I think that overall, the Type-A Mom Conference was a lot more enjoyable for me than BlogHer. At BlogHer, it was like Overstimulation Central. The schedule is packed, there are tons of people there, the marketers and their swag are all over the place, everything is rush-rush-rush, and while I certainly got to meet a lot of the bloggers I adore, I didn’t really get a chance to spend a lot of time with any of them. And that’s not really a criticism of BlogHer, honestly, I think it’s just the nature of the beast. By the time it was over, I was so glad to be home again.

By comparison, Type-A Mom was totally different. For one, just the fact that you’re at a resort in a smallish mountain town instead of being in a hotel smack in the middle of downtown Chicago gives it a different vibe. And the fact that it’s a smaller conference means that instead of rushing around trying to meet everyone, I had the chance to actually spend time with people; to have a real conversation and form an actual connection with them, not just a “hi! OMG you’re here! So great to meet you! Ok bye!” Which is sort of what BlogHer felt like to me.

Also, for me personally, Type-A Mom was different because Dave and Catie came along with me. In some ways that was harder (no “I’ll take a nap whenever I damn well please” policy like I had at BlogHer), but it was also great because then I didn’t have that urge to rush home to them – they were already there. Saturday morning, I totally skipped out on the morning sessions, which ok yes, maybe I would’ve learned something if I’d gone. But I spent the morning lying in bed with my family watching cartoons, and I can honestly say that there was nowhere else I wanted to be at that moment.

Oh, for the record? Catie freaking loved Kid Con, which I wasn’t expecting at all. She cried the first time Dave dropped her off there, and we tried to stagger her time there to keep her from getting too overwhelmed. But seriously, after that first time? Every time we took her back to “daycare school” (her term), she’d run into the room with an “Ok, Mommy, bye! You go now!” She was glad to see us when we’d come back for her, of course, but she clearly had a fantastic time there. That was an amazing program that they set up for the kids, all blogging conferences should follow that example.

So, yes. It was great. At BlogHer, I was so exhausted and couldn’t wait to get home by the end of the weekend. With Type-A Mom, I just felt sad and melancholy the whole drive home because I had so much fun, and I wish that all of those fabulous women lived in my neighborhood so I could see them all the time. Sigh.

@kaisermommy, @mrsflinger, me & @al_pal

VDog & me

me & Heather

@debontherocks & @anissamayhew

me & Angie (@alotofnothing)

Oh, and Catie’s take on the conference?
oh hai, Daddy dressed me & he forgot to brush my hair!

this is pretty much how I felt after it was all over, too.

I know how she feels.

the trip home, part 1

Yesterday was one of those travel days where it was almost comical how horribly awry everything went. Or rather, it would’ve been funny if it happened to someone else. Like maybe someone I despised. Let’s recap, shall we?

* Up at 5 a.m., so we could leave the house by 6:45 for our 8:25 flight. Catie didn’t get enough sleep and had a huge screaming meltdown before leaving my parents’ house. Fun!

* Got to the airport, got checked in, everything ready to go… then no plane. Or rather, no boarding onto the plane that was sitting at the gate. Turns out there was a mechanical problem, so our 8:25 flight was delayed until 11:00. That means that Catie & I both could’ve had an extra couple of hours’ sleep if we’d known in advance. The ticket agent got us rebooked on the next flight, so we actually left Jackson at 9:40.

Side note to American Airlines: please find the guy who was working at Gate 4 at Jackson International Airport on September 15th, and give that man a raise. I don’t know his name, he’s a thin young white guy with a little beard stubble and almost too-pretty eyes. He was fantastic, he was very fast at getting everyone taken care of, he remembered my name, and he made sure that my 2 year-old and I had seats adjacent to each other (something another ticket agent apparently didn’t think was necessary).

* While waiting to board our first flight, Catie cried, “Mooommy, I go hooome. I see Mimi & Pop-Pop.” I reminded her that we were going home to Daddy and the new house. She replied, “No, no Daddy and no house. I jus’ go hooooome.” Yeah, you & me both, kiddo.

* High point of the day #1: Catie slept the entire flight from Jackson to Dallas. Halle-freaking-lujah.
what she looked like 5 minutes before our plane landed.
Ok, this picture is actually from the flight there & not the flight home. Still, it’s a pretty accurate representation of the moment.

* Got to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport about 10 minutes after our connecting flight had departed. Sigh. We were rebooked on a later flight, and then had three hours to kill until the next plane left. Fabulous.

* High point of the day #2: We found the children’s play area at DFW and Catie had a blast running around playing with the other kids there. Way to burn off the energy, kid. But really, she was very sweet and nice during the entire layover, no meltdowns at all. I could hardly believe it. Lord knows I wanted to throw myself on the ground and scream for a good long while.
revisiting the Dallas/Forth Worth airport children's play area

* Finally got on the 2:25 flight to Raleigh. (Irony: if we’d made our original connection, we would’ve already been home for an hour by the time this plane departed. Sigh.) Oh, but first we had to stand on the jetway for 20 minutes in 90-degree heat because maintenance had to replace a seat cushion. WTF?

* I got us both seated on the plane, then called Dave to let him know we were finally on our way home. Turns out, he had left his office a little early to meet the cable guy at our house. He got to the new house, only to learn that we had no electricity. Freaking fabulous.

* Highlight of the day #3: Catie and I both slept most of the way to Raleigh. I can almost never sleep on planes, but I bought some Dramamine at the airport, which helped a lot. Poor Catie just sacked out for the whole trip.

* We got to Raleigh. Finally. Oh, and American Airlines, seriously? I had a 3-hour layover in Dallas and you STILL managed to lose one of my two suitcases? Are you kidding me??? (They found it later & delivered it, thankfully. But still. ARGH!)

* I called Dave again. He found out out that our utility company had orders to set up our new utilities on the 17th, not the 11th (clearly a typo). So they shut off our utilities, thinking it was the previous owners’ that they were shutting off, not the new residents. No electricity might’ve been manageable – we have a generator, and it’s not insanely hot right now. But we also had no water. So, no. Not staying there. The utility company said the soonest they could get out to turn our utilities on was at 1 p.m. today (Wednesday).

* I called Cat & Tony, made hasty change of plans to instead go to their house to crash for the night. Called Dave, told him to bring the cold food from the fridge & freezer (so it wouldn’t rot), and meet me there.

* Highlight of the day #4: the bath that Catie and her cousin Elizabeth took together. Freaking hilarious.
Catie & Elizabeth in the tub

* We all crashed for the night, prepared to take on the day tomorrow, blah blah blah.

More about the big “new house” reveal later. I’m tired. Will update with pics soon, too.