Have Baby, Will BlogHer’12

I caught the travel bug in my late teens.

After a lifetime spent going nowhere for holidays or summer breaks, I stamped my first passport for Scotland a week after my 20th birthday and I’ve been going ever since.

I’ve traveled by plane, train and automobile across the country plus some other pretty terrific places, like England, France and Italy.

In all my travels, my parents worried about safety warnings and crime.

My mom didn’t even like my driving into my native Flint to see garage band shows and perform in theater shows. Even after someone jacked my junky ’82 Buick La Sabre, I blew off any and all concerns she and my dad would share.

“There’s bad people in the world, baby,” my dad would say.

But now, I’m packing my bags with onesies and diapers going to New York City via a red-eye tonight for BlogHer’12 with hubs and my delicate, sweet baby girl.

For the first time, I’m worried about hotel bed bugs (thanks Beth), pick pockets, poor weather and Central Park muggers. I mean, one could be lurking there right now waiting to snatch up a really cute baby.

Irrational fears aside, I’m looking forward to raising up a well-traveled kiddo. We’re even trekking out to the Bronx for a day at Yankees Stadium.

Consulting the multitudes of advice on traveling with an infant helped me prepare and I found some good tips on nursing while flying that calmed my nerves.

In fact, I did more preparing for my tiny progeny’s trip than I did considering my own wardrobe (for the first time ever).

Though, I’m far too practical to believe that I have to buy travel baby gear more expensive than the stuff I use everyday – so I’m taking what I have and hope it works out.

Once we get through security, I’ll breathe easier until I remember I’m speaking on Friday afternoon and I’m still trying to collect my thoughts.

Wish us luck!

WARNING: Cute Baby Pictures May Cause Peeing (Lots of peeing)

I’m a major sucker for cute baby pictures.

My Pinterest account’s been largely created just so I can scope out adorable, wrinkly, chubby-cheeked darlings in all their precious glory.

So, imagine my excitement at dolling up my own little princess for cutsie pics.

About three weeks before my due date, my family photographer Melissa Jacobs began asking if she could shoot our princess.

Melissa’s more than a photographer – like any great photographer, she’s part of the family.

I met Melissa while working for Supervisor Pam Slater-Price. On the professional front: she’s the best. I’ve seen her all over town, from the PRSA Bernays Awards to weddings to elected official press conferences.

I’ve recommended her to clients (and they’ve always been pleased), plus she’s done my professional headshot and some shots of us when I was five months pregnant which we used for our 2011 Christmas cards.

The one below got rave reviews from family and friends:

Right away, I pilfered my Pinterest account for this little magical shot.

In true Melissa form, she responds saying “no problem” and she can’t wait to meet her when she arrives.

What I loved about the above picture: it focuses on the size difference of the baby. Can’t you just “feel” that cute little baby’s soft skin?

I just happened to have a cute stuffed elephant my mom gave me for the nursery this past Christmas.

Here’s Hank all ready for Dagny to come home:

When Baby Bird arrived two weeks ahead of my due date, it threw off our photo session calendar and instead of being two weeks old – she was three weeks on the dot.

I thought those baby photo sites must be nuts for recommending a baby be 10 days old or younger for newborn pictures.

What’s to shoot? All she did was sleep.


All the mommy sites recommended I have her well-fed, calm and be prepared for another soothing feeding.

But our best-laid plans quickly devolved into a comedy of errors made more intense by her screaming bloody-murder.

  • Best lighting caused her to blink angrily.
  • Peaceful visions of a naked baby butt replaced by a screaming, kicking, Army-crawling baby.
  • Sitting up to snuggle with the elephant. No. Laying down with the elephant. Kinda (see below).
  • Peeing. Lots of peeing. Peeing on hubs (he changed his shirt for the family shots), peeing on the nursing glider, peeing on the carpet, nearly peeing on Melissa.
  • Pacifier did not earn it’s name. She would either purse her lips or spit it out like a watermelon seed. The only thing that kind of worked was giving her hubs finger to gnaw on between shots.

After the sitting up pose flopped, Melissa re-assessed.

“Let’s lay her sideways with the elephant.”

Worked in theory (like the rest of the shoot), but she kept throwing her leg up in the air as soon as the camera started clicking and showing the world her pikachu.

Hubs sighed: “I’m failing already.”

Here was the best of the lot (it’s not cropped or touched up):

We finally took the elephant out of the equation and went far more simple.

Once Dagny calmed down and focused on Melissa, some beautiful shots materialized.

Hubs and I originally didn’t plan on being part of any shots and so, we didn’t get gussied up.

But since we were throwing plans out the window, what the heck?

I’m glad we did because she snapped some candid shots of hubs calming Dagny that brought tender little tears to my eyes.

Plus, she captured the three of us in our natural three-weeks-postpartum state: tired, unsure and making lots of mistakes.

I thank God everyday for bringing this priceless creature into my life.

She’s already teaching me how to let go (quite literally).

Our deepest appreciation to our dear (and patient) friend Melissa – she’s a celluloid maven.

Here’s some of my favorites from the day:

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A New Year, A New Life

New Year’s Eve. A night for letting go of the past, hoping for the future and counting the many blessings in life. No year brought so many surprises for me as 2011.

I embraced my role as a foster mom and all that entailed – foster parent classes, ceritifications in water safety, CPR and first-aid, professional and personal referrals, baby-proofing, child-rearing education and re-assessing my professional life to make room for three weekly visits with caseworkers and biological parents along with the court records that each visit required to be filed.

It was an immense undertaking, but we were ready.

Then, we found out just as we were about to cross the last “t” that we were expecting.

One might think it would be an easy shift. A better outcome.

But there’s that lingering desire deep inside transformed by compelling stories that longs to be a foster parent.

In the midst of such confusing emotions, we dealt with new weirdness: unwelcome parenting advice, weight-gain assessments, career pressures and a family torn between wanting to be involved but not knowing the child’s sex.

My growing belly and the active girl inside nevers lets me forget for a moment that I must overcome and ignore all fearful obstacles. My life does not belong to me alone anymore.

There’s as much solace in that notion as anxiety.

I try to take each day as it comes and drown out the doubts as I prepare for my most incredible life achievement: child birth.

On Tuesday, we’ll meet our doula who will be our one constant child birth expert throughout the miraculous experience. The Navy system does not assign you the care provider you’ll deliver with –  you get whoever is on duty.

In life, you get so few opportunities to feel the complete understanding and meaning of life. When this year began, I resigned myself to never having a baby.

I thank God for giving me a chance.

For all the difficulties, confusion and heartbreak, I thank God. How else would I have ever so appreciated this experience as I do?

We only get so many days on Earth; never miss a moment to be present in the good as well as bad times. Each second is a precious lesson, a chance to know yourself and be better.

So long, 2011. Thanks for the curve balls. You kept me on my toes.

Merry Christmas, George Bailey! The Richest Man in Town

Nothing, I mean nothing, brings a tear faster to  my eye than the hapless, deeply conflicted and vastly complicated George Bailey played by the affable James Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Each year, hubs holds my Christmas movie obsession at bay as long as possible. It’s not that he doesn’t love Christmas or all the classic films, from the beloved Bing Crosby “White Christmas” to the overplayed but still necessary “A Christmas Story.”

I love them all and to his dismay, I would watch them endlessly from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day.

My absolutely favorite being the heart-string pulling “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s a magical combination of true and inconvenient love, business struggles, family strife and a spirit-crushing war. None of the characters lie flat on the screen; they’re human and fallible, most especially our hero George.

He loses his faith in all those things that give life meaning and wishes for nothing but to end it all.

George sacrifices his great dreams and aspirations, living out his life in his small hometown playing the rock in his family, business and love life. The once starry-eyed young man grows cynical and crooked with grief over the loss of things he once yearned to attain.

The older one grows, we see more and more of ourselves in George. He represents all that promise and hope of a bright future gone real.

But for all his despondency, George’s guardian angel (the truly lovely and sweet Clarence) sees what he also has in his life: people who love him. Though he doesn’t realize it until its nearly too late, the love of people you love, to love and be loved, gives us the spiritual and emotional motives to make life worth living.

Love might not pay the bills as George might wish or send him to far away lands, but it brought him a tender and funny wife, beautiful and dear children, family and friends who dote on and accept his every flaw.

Sadly, all he sees until Clarence literally drops into his life, is what he doesn’t have and in the end, his near financial collapse isn’t vindicated. That’s what my husband hates about the film; the bad guy wins.

But that’s where I disagree. When his family, his friends come to his aid they’re repaying all that emotional and spiritual debt he gave to make their lives better while old man Potter will die a bitter and lonely curmudgeon.

The world is full of George Baileys. He gives and gives, he feels like he’s a failure because he sees all the things in the world he wants and doesn’t have. From his old and drafty house to his ratty and threadbare clothes. He feels worthless.

But we, who faithfully watch our friend rise, fall and rise again, see all the virtuous and moral gifts he provides to those around him. He’s brave, gutsy and full of fight until he nearly slips off the edge. That’s when we see that people do love and appreciate him; for the first time, he sees it too.

And he finds it in the faces of those he once viewed with scorn. He even kisses the broken knob on his staircase railing; a symbolic, heartwarming scene.

Merry Christmas, George Bailey! You are truly the richest man in town.

My Naked Hero

Brian returned from deployment just a couple weeks before Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday for many reasons, not the least of which includes social acceptance for dressing up as someone or something else. It harkens back to my days as a theater nerd and my love for the creative process of transformation.

Since I’m a brunette from Michigan with a penchant for accents, particularly one very close to my native tongue, and it was a few days until the Presidential Election – I dressed as Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin. Sadly, I needed not look any further than my own Republican wardrobe to fit the part. The results – Pure Palin Magic.  Every parent with trick-or-treaters from my neighborhood appreciated the costume and it usually led to a couple seconds of political chat while I stuffed candy bags.

We joined fellow revelers at a party hosted by some of Brian’s Navy friends for a couple hours, where I even got to pose in a picture with a girl dressed as Sarah’s pregnant daughter, Bristol. On her pillow-stuffed t-shirt she wrote: My mom believes in abstinence. We decided to show off my dead-ringer impersonation in downtown San Diego, but the scene was uncontrolled. Upon my first few steps out on the streets, I felt a fear of being mobbed.

Fellow San Diegans screamed “It’s Sarah!,” “I voted for you!” and “Don’tcha know!” from every direction. But it all went sideways when I saw another impersonator – Senator John McCain of Arizona. We walked up to each other to poke fun at the other, but we were suddenly surrounded by the paparazzi.

Brian tried to grab me and pull me from the crowd as the crush closed in around me. I felt scared. He finally yanked my hand, retrieved me from the pile and we dashed back to our car to call it a night a touch early.

As we settled into our cozy bed, both kitties lay at the foot sound asleep. As I began to drift off, I felt a disturbance on the bed and suddenly, a back claw ribbed open my face from the left corner of my mouth to my throat. As the cat continued on the circular path of destruction, Brian nearly caught her mid-leap as he sat up to the sound of my scream.

In a second, the light came on and I looked down at my pajamas. Blood already trickled down to my chest. I ran to the master bathroom and turned on the vanity lights. There was so much blood, I couldn’t tell how many scratches there were. As I frantically cleaned my face and tried to find bandages, my adrenaline continued to rush. Alcohol stung my wounds as I disinfected them from the filthy cat scratches.

It suddenly occurred to me that Brian wasn’t there. But I heard stomping, screaming and running back and forth up and downstairs. Both cats, terrified ran back to the bedroom to hide under the bed. He trapped one, dragged her out while she screamed and disappeared. He returned for a second one.

“Brian, help me!” I cried.

“In a minute,” he said, running off.

He returned, out of breath and helped me bandage the three scratches – one of which was quite deep. A giant gauze covered the left side of my face from mouth corner to mid-throat. Once I calmed down from the violent wake-up, I realized that Tuesday was Election Day and I would have to walk around to the various campaign parties looking like Freddy Krueger got a hold of me.

I went back to sleep and woke up in the morning to realize the kitties were not around. In the frantic aftermath, I didn’t think about where Brian had put them.

“I threw them outside,” he said.

“What?” I asked. “Those are MY kitties. You got them to keep me company during your deployments. You have to find them! Right now!”

“Baby, one of them scratched you badly,” he said. “A dog bites you, you have to shoot it. Clearly, they aren’t tame enough to be pets. Look at your face.”

“I don’t care,” I said. I started to cry. “You have to find them right now! Not tomorrow, not after breakfast – NOW!”

He searched for the rest of the day. I heard Holly crying in early afternoon. I opened the front door and she ran in. But there was still no sign of Violet. I envisioned her being hit by a car or scarfed up by a coyote. I moped all day while Brian sat in the dog house.

That night, I found Holly sitting with her nose pressed against the sliding glass door looking out in the dark. I walked over to see what she was looking at and Violet was pressed against the other side, her little whiskers covered in cobwebs. She dashed in and hid for the rest of the night.

Days later while telling the story to a friend, they asked a simple question that had not occurred to us.

“So, your neighbors saw you in your pjs tossing your cats one-by-one outside?”

“No,” Brian said. “They saw me naked tossing our cats outside.”