A Boy Named Sue*.

Well, it's official, Bryan's been calling our son a daughter for the past several months! :)

We had our 20 week ultrasound yesterday, and found out that we're going to have a son in a few months! We're both so excited, although I think it's safe to say we were surprised he's not a girl. Not disappointed, just surprised. :) We had a girl name all ready to go... no boy name yet. It'll come though. I mean, worst case scenario, we'll just pull a Tom Brady and take our sweet time naming him!

LDB (which can now be Little Dancing Boy instead of Little Dancing Baby) was playing with his feet when the ultrasound started... how cute is that? Like Bryan said, he probably gets bored in there, what else is he going to do??

I've put a couple more pictures from the ultrasound in LDB's Picasaweb album if you want to check them out. :) Also, I will not be posting pictures of his little penis, as I believe 'em when they say that anything you put on the internet lasts forever. I don't want my little man getting mad that I was exposing him to the world, before he was even born! :)

*No, Sue wasn't the name we had picked for a girl, and no, we will not be naming our son Sue. (Sorry boss lady, no namesake for you. ;-) )


LDB: Week 19-20

(This picture was actually taken at Week 18... but whatever. :) )

Today is the big day--we have our 20 week ultrasound! Woohoo! I have been so excited and distracted by this prospect since we set the date for the appointment. We are certainly not the types who want to be surprised on delivery day with whether our child has girl parts or boy parts. I need to KNOW before I go crazy! :)

Bryan has been calling LDB a girl basically since we found out I was pregnant. It's interesting, because I hear all this stuff about mother's intuition and whatnot, and people ask me what I think. Well, here's what I think: I either need to have my husband stop calling our son a daughter, or I need to know it's a daughter so I can stop worrying that he's going to give our child some kind of gender confusion complex before it's even born! :)

When we had our 10 week ultrasound, I referred to it as a girl without thinking about it. I've also had several dreams it's a boy. So... I have no prediction.

Of course, not having a prediction doesn't mean I can't get one! There are so many quizzes and methods you can use on the internet to determine if you're having a boy or a girl that, truly, what's the use of an ultrasound?

They also sell kits at drug stores you can use to tell you what you're having. Given it has a 50% chance of being right, obviously it works well enough for enough people that they keep selling them!

Anyway, as long as this baby exposes itself like we want it to this afternoon, we'll know in a few short hours if we're expecting a little miss or little mister Klinger in a few months!

Apart from eagerly anticipating today's appointment, all has been going well. We switched OBs to a doc here at MCV that Bryan and I both really liked. We'll see him again today after our ultrasound.

I've been feeling good, apart from being downright exhausted and apart from trying to get used to all this extra business in my midsection. Talk about throwing off your center of gravity! I find myself making grunting and groaning noises when trying to do something as simple as get off the couch ALREADY. And if you know me, you know that I am not a fan of extraneous human noisemaking. I like when people do things quietly. But I'm quickly learning that in some cases, you just feel like you have to make a noise to make it happen. I can tell I'm going to be annoying the hell out of myself before this is all over with. :)

The other day I tried to put on a pair of pants that had always been too big for me and that had been carrying me pretty far along into my pregnancy. Definitely can't button them. For some reason I thought I was going to be able to, but I had to accept that it's all-maternity-all-the-time for me from here on out. Sexy.

Anyway, sorry for the lack of updates. I'm going to try to do better. Once we know what LDB is going to be, I feel like I can really get rolling on planning for (meaning SHOPPING FOR) this tiny dancer, and that's gonna be all kinds of fun. :)


LDB: Week 16

On Saturday I'll be 16 weeks pregnant. As if time hadn't already started flying fast enough after I graduated from college 9 years ago (really?! 9?!), I guess this whole being a parent thing makes it fly at warp speed?

The past few weeks have been... interesting, to say the least. Last week in particular... but where to start without giving a whole long medical history of myself...

Well, let's start with the Down's screening we did. That went well--our risk of the baby having either Down's Syndrome or Trisomies 13 or 18 is less than 1 in 10,000. That's better than your average 20 year old woman, so that was awesome. But as this pregnancy has gone along, my high risk OB has become more and more concerned with potential problems with all of my health problems. We started out with a midwife as our primary obstetric care provider and the high risk OB on the side for backup, but the HR OB was wondering if perhaps I should switch to a straight up MD, and if maybe I should move my care to MCV rather than St. Francis, since all of my specialists are at MCV and they're basically ready for anything. At St. Francis, they'd have to move me if anything got too crazy.

That probably sounds awful... all my health problems... potential problems... well, the thing is, it's not. I have a couple forms of arthritis and an autoimmune disease called hereditary angioedema and apparently a mild form of something called Klippel Trenaunay Weber Syndrome. None of these poses any real risk to the baby, it's moreso a question of what happens if I end up in a flare of one of the autoimmune things during the pregnancy? Who's gonna handle it? How's it gonna be handled?

Ironically, the night after I had conversation with my HR OB wherein I told him I wasn't worried about this, I have lived with these problems my whole life and I know how to handle it, I had a horrible attack of angioedema. This is a swelling condition... there's a certain enzyme I'm deficient of, and if my levels of that get too low, I have crazy abdominal swelling. The swelling pushes on all your organs and it hurts like a sonofabitch. It makes you nauseated and there's really nothing you can do but take something for the pain and wait it out. Yes, that blows, but I've been there a time or two (or 20) and I know that typically I can sleep through a lot of it, then within about 36 hours I'm getting better.

Well, not this time. I was 48 hours in and my pain was spiking to an 8 or 9 on a 10 point scale, and I was holding steady at a 6 or a 7 when I wasn't having stabbing pains. So I told Bryan it was time to go to the hospital. We came to MCV in the middle of the night on Saturday of last week. I knew I was dehydrated, and I just needed someone to do SOMETHING for the pain and nausea.

Thankfully, the people here took very good care of me, but I didn't get better very quickly. My immunologist came in on Monday and got the process rolling to get in a supply of this wonder drug that IS the enzyme I'm deficient of in a concentrated form. Unfortunately, it's very new to the market and it was going to be 24 hours before I could get it. So I stayed in the hospital, with the lovely doctors managing my pain and nausea and me getting sicker of being in the bed by the minute. Bryan stayed by my side almost the whole time--he was working night shift, so he slept in the chair in my room during the day and went to work at night. I had some visitors to keep me company (thanks Dad, Leslie, Krystyna and Maia!), and finally, on Tuesday, I got the miracle infusion.

It's weird to think that there is a drug that stops a swelling attack within 30 minutes, but there is. An hour after I had that medication in my IV, I knew the swelling had stopped. I still felt like crap, but, I mean, wouldn't you, after being sick for five days and being in the hospital for three of those? Thankfully, my immunologist arranged for the pharmacy at MCV to keep another dose of this medication in case I or another angioedema patient have another attack... next time, I'll be in ASAP rather than suffering for days!

I took Wednesday off of work, too, at my doctor's orders, and Thursday came back for half a day. I think it was weird to everyone that I had been in the hospital yet was already back at work. But once the swelling was gone, I was practically good as new!

Friday I intended to work a full day, but guess what? I got in a car accident on the way to work. As if I needed that on top of the week I had already had! Thankfully it was pretty minor--there was a rear-ending in front of me on the interstate, I had the good sense to be far enough behind the person in front of me that I did NOT rear end her, but the lady behind me was not so sensible, nor was the lady behind her. So... that put another kink in the week. I was a little stiff, and didn't think there had been any damage to Little Dancing Baby, but I went to my midwife that afternoon just to check... LDB's heart was beating just fine, at 152 beats/minute. :)

So, after all of that, I decided my high risk OB is right. I think it's better for me to transfer my care to MCV so that all of the people who know about all of my things are under one roof and can consult with each other (or be available) as needed. So we'll have our first appointment with our new OB on December 1. Good times. :)

In other news, I went last weekend and bought maternity clothes. The bump is growing, for sure. And yesterday, I felt the baby move. I think I've felt it before, but this time, there was no question in my mind whether it was gas or something else... it was our LDB, dancing up a storm in there.

And it was amazing. :) I can't wait until s/he is big enough that his/her Daddy can feel the movement too... I feel like I'm hogging all the fun! :)


LDB: Week 13

So yesterday was LDB's birthday... or whatever you call it before they're born. I have been feeling pretty good... mainly I've been HUNGRY. It's not totally out of control yet, but occasionally I get this intense black hole feeling in my stomach, and it's typically no more than an hour and a half or two hours after the last time I ate. Baby's HONGRAY! :)

We keep trying to remember to take belly pictures on LDB's birthday, but really there hasn't been much of a change until the past week or two. And most people tell me I still don't really look pregnant, but my pants can tell for sure, and you can probably tell from these lovely pictures of my pale white belly.

Week 5:

Week 13:
I cleaned out the closet today of all of the clothes I was meaning to get rid of before I got pregnant (stuff I haven't worn in a couple years), and while I was at it I took out all of the stuff I won't be able to wear this year but I still hope to wear in the future, then also all of the stuff I still like, but am not fooling myself to think I'll ever wear it again after I have this baby. Not that I intend to let myself go totally to pot, it's just that we women have a tendency to hold on to a few things we love that, really, we should have stopped wearing a year or two ago because they don't fit quite the way they're supposed to anymore. :)

Tuesday is the Down's Syndrome testing... we went back and forth about whether or not to do the test at all, but ultimately decided that it would be easier to plan and be prepared for any special needs if there's a way for us to know about them ahead of time. Plus, there's another ultrasound involved, and I'm all about another opportunity to see LDB in there. :)

September: A Retrospective

Now that it's November, I have finally uploaded pictures from our camera from the past two months.

In addition to trying to keep the big secret of me being pregnant in September, Bryan and I kept pretty busy.

Let's see..
  • We spent Labor Day weekend in Pennsylvania with Bryan's family, where I got to hold 6-week old twins. They were born six weeks early, so at the picnic they each only weighed about 6 or 7 lbs. I let Bryan know that our child may NEVER weigh that much in the outside world, since I was the smallest of my mom's three children at 9lbs 9oz, and my Grandma recently informed me that all of HER kids were more than 9 lbs.
  • We spent the following weekend at the Outer Banks, NC with our dear friends Todd and Sarah. I wore the equivalent of a nude colored bathing suit: And Bryan rubbed off his top layer of skin, and subsequently any sunscreen he had applied, playing football on the beach with Todd, resulting in this: Needless to say, we only had one day on the beach. (More photos of our beach trip if you click here.)
  • Bryan turned 33, and we celebrated by using a free night's stay I had at the Crowne Plaza Downtown (where we stayed for our wedding night). I gave Bryan a bocce set for his birthday, so before meeting some friends at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch some football, we went down to Brown's Island and played a few games. Fun times!
  • And on the last day of September, we celebrated our 3rd anniversary with dinner at Bonefish Grill. We also took a weekend trip to Boston to celebrate, but that didn't happen until October, so I'll get to that later. :)


Oh, Paris, I miss you!

Last week, I noticed a little card on one of the bulletin boards in our building advertising: "Fridays are crepe days at the Who Spilled the Milk cart!" A month or two ago we got this new breakfast cart on the street outside where I work that sells cereal and yogurt and fruit and stuff. I went there once, but this baby in my belly doesn't care for milk so much, so I haven't been back.

Seeing that they'd be serving crepes, though, oh dear. Trust me, I have planned to have crepes from this cart today ever since I saw that ad.

I think most people are familiar with crepes, but if you're not, they're basically very thin pancakes. In other parts of the world, they fill them with all kinds of goodness and you can eat them for any meal. I was first introduced to them when I visited Paris the first time in 1996... in Paris, you can do crepes in a fancy restaurant or as street food. One of the restaurants Bryan and I went to in South Africa was a crepe restaurant... there, mine was filled with some pork/peaches deliciousness, Bryan's had chili con carne. I haven't seen much of the ol' crepe here in Virginia, but everywhere else they seem to share my affection.

Street crepes in Paris are where it's at. Whether you get it with just butter and sugar (to die for) or get a savory option, like ham and cheese (drool), you can't really go wrong. I can remember being torn a lot of times between whether I wanted a giant baguette (don't need anything with it) or a crepe while I wandered around the City of Lights... heavenly times... :)

So I knew at the breakfast cart that I probably wasn't going to be getting real live Parisian crepes, but I still went. What I got was okay... a thin pancake with Nutella and strawberries... but then he rolled it up and cut it in half and put it in a bowl. Hmm. I kind of wanted to school him on how he should REALLY be doing it, but... well, that's not my place, is it?

Anyway, now I can't stop thinking about Paris. And how completely fabulous it would be to be standing in front of the person doing this:


Something's been going on.

I just logged in and saw that I haven't blogged since September 3! Oh, mercy! And if you'll notice, even that was commentary on the news, nothing about me or my life. And yes, there is a reason for that. It's hard to write about anything when there's something big going on that you have decided not to talk about (at least for the moment).

So August was a crazy month, what with my birthday, my sister staying with us, a birthday party for my Mom and Sister, then getting Victoria off to college. It was one of those months where you're doing good to remember all of the things on your immediate radar and make sure everything gets done. It was a good month, but definitely a busy one.

Cut to the very last weekend of that month. I'll attempt to avoid the whole TMI phenomenon, but let's just say that visitor I expect every month had not shown up yet. And at first I had the "oh, tomorrow... tomorrow it'll be here" attitude about it. And then I had the "holy shit she's never taken this long to arrive but that probably doesn't mean anything" attitude about it. And then, I went to Target and bought a test.

You probably know where this is going now. :)

Because it's something that not enough people who go through it talk about, I have to tell you here that Bryan and I have been trying to have a baby for about two years. I'll also tell you that we went through quite a few (seven) cycles of fertility treatments until I was in an awful place mentally and we decided to take a break before moving on to more expensive forms of fertility treatment. So we did take a break... we went to South Africa, we had a lot of fun over the summer, but I was still thinking about it every month. Until August, of course. That month I was so convinced we were never going to get pregnant on our own that I even called and made an appointment with a different fertility specialist to get a second opinion before we launched into the next step.

Okay, back to the end of August. I went to Target with shaky knees and bought a pregnancy test. I'd been through so many of those buggers during the early days of us trying that I almost didn't want to take it and have the disappointment of the negative test. But I also knew that this was probably going to be the time that all of that changed...

I got home and immediately took the test. I brought it out to the couch and sat with Bryan while we waited for it to tell us our fate. I purposefully bought the ones that either say Pregnant or Not Pregnant, because I did not want any of this "one line or two?" interpretation business.

The little hourglass turned a few times, maybe for a minute, maybe two, and then, this:

I gasped. We laughed. We squeezed each other to pieces until one of us said, "Crap, don't squish the baby!" There were some happy tears. And a lot of... well, surprise!

I called my fertility doc the next day, got in to get some blood work to confirm, went in to see her to find out the results and had an early ultrasound. All you could see was a tiny black dot, but, still, it was obviously there. (Incidentally, our child spent weeks 4-10 being called TBD, for Tiny Black Dot.) We then got appointments with the high risk OB (since I have two autoimmune diseases) and the midwife, and kept our news pretty quiet. Since we had tried for so long, we wanted to have a little more certainty that everything was going well before we started spreading the news. We did tell some close family and friends, but tried to put off telling everyone else until after the first trimester.

Of course, then we had our 10-week ultrasound last week, and hearing that tiny heart beating 174 beats a minute, and seeing our Little Dancing Baby (LDB) moving all around in my belly was so amazing and wonderful that we decided we were ready to spread the word! :)

I've been feeling generally like crap, but my morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms have been nothing compared to some stories I have heard. Plus I asked for this, so I can't complain. :) I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be one of those people who doesn't have any of that after the first trimester. I miss actually WANTING to eat food. :)

LDB is due on May 8, 2010. The thing that gets me the most is that, as amazing as last week's ultrasound was, it's only going to get MORE amazing from here. Wow.

Here's a peek at LDB from our ultrasound last week. This was after the American Bandstand audition... baby had to take a little siesta after all that hard work! :)


Stranger than fiction.

People, you can not make this stuff up!

Okay, well, I guess you probably could, but these two stories are real live news items from CNN this morning. I almost barfed on the bus coming in to work while reading the headlines in my email about this first one:

FDA says residue is frog or toad; how did it get in Pepsi can?

Yes. You read that right. Some poor, poor man in Florida took a big ol' swig of his Diet Pepsi as he was cooking some food on the grill, and was greeted with a *SCHLOP* right into the kisser. And that *SCHLOP* turned out to be a GUTLESS FROG OR TOAD! Oh, mama! The wife said when she took the can away and dumped out all of the Diet Pepsi, what started coming out looked like "pink linguine."

HO-LEE MOSES. If that ain't enough to get you off the soft drinks!

There's a picture on the CNN site if you've got a strong stomach or are just morbidly curious. :)

And then, there was this story:

Stranger allegedly slaps crying child in store

Some lady had her kid in Wal-Mart in Georgia, and the 2-year-old was pissed. Girlfriend would not stop crying. I guess it was really bothering this old dude, because he decided he would take the parenting of this child into his own hands (literally). He told the mom if she didn't shut the kid up, then he would. And when Little Miss did not quit with the crying, he sure did. He found them in the next aisle and SLAPPED THE CHILD! Like four or five times, they said!

You know, I bet you that man is the type who sits around with his older friends talking about how parents nowadays just let their kids walk all over them, and what kids these days need is a little discipline! A good smack never hurt anybody when I was growing up! I mean, besides turning me into the type of person who would slap a stranger's 2-year-old in the face!

Mr. Slaphappy was arrested, but first he did apologize to the mother. And I'm sure he said, "If you'd do that a little more often, she wouldn't be so ornery!"

Man, the world is awesome. ;-)


Little Sister, All Grown Up.

Okay, so part of the reason I have been conspicuously absent from my blog is that my little sister came and stayed with Bryan and me for the last few weeks before she set off for college. She was about to turn 18, and was incredibly anxious to get out of tiny little Bath County, so we agreed that she could come squat in Chesterfield for a bit.

We agreed before she came that this visit wouldn't be like the normal visits she and our brother had made to our house, which generally consisted of lots of shopping and lots of eating out. We would want her to act like she lived there if she was going to be there that long, with household duties and hopefully with a job to earn some spending money. As it turned out, I have some awesome friends who employed her while she was here. Maia and Sue gave her babysitting work, and Leslie somehow finagled an actual full-ish-time gig at her own workplace for Victoria doing clerical stuff. This was awesome, even though it did mean she would not be sitting at my house cataloging the assloads of clothes and such we need to take to the Goodwill. :) (Seriously, use the It's Deductible! software by TurboTax. You will thank me when you get your tax return.)

Anyway, we had an extra car Vic could drive, but since she'd be working downtown and I work downtown, I suggested she, too, take the bus in to the city. She liked this idea, because that meant she didn't have to drive in big scary Richmond city traffic. :) Of course, it also meant that she had to take a *real* city bus from MCV to near the Science Museum. Oh, lord, did that girl have some stories to tell about those buses. :)

The first day she went to work, I rode the bus with her and was trying to make sure she was going to remember where to get off the bus the next day, because I come to work way earlier than she would be coming. I looked at her after asking if she thought she had all of what I was telling her, and she said, "Lydia, you don't understand, it's like country mouse/city mouse!"

And then I got it. I mean, I know the girl grew up in the middle of nowhere, but I guess I hadn't quite realized how overwhelming functioning in a city could be. Things I take for granted (like, for example, walking on concrete?) were basically foreign to her. That day I knew that while she had her own reasons for coming to stay with us, it was really fortunate that she had chosen to do so--the girl needed a transition period before she was plopped down in Newport News to fend for herself!

(She bought herself a cigar on her 18th birthday, just because she could. :) )

So we had a very nice three and a half week transitional visit. :) The time she was here was hectic (sometimes I wonder when my life is *not* hectic), but I really enjoyed it. The three of us became a nice little family unit, with Bryan as brotherdad and me as sistermom... since we still felt like we needed to "parent" her to some degree, but really we're her siblings and she has two parents, so it was an interesting line. Personally I think it worked out pretty well, I think she'd say the same?

She was here to celebrate her birthday and mom's birthday, and then it was time for Bryan and I to pack her back up and drive her to college. Victoria's going to Christopher Newport University, and lemme tell you, I don't know if all colleges are doing this now, but EASIEST COLLEGE MOVE IN EVER!!!! You pull up in a line of cars, then wait your turn until the move-in volunteer students are ready with their rolly hotel carts and big plastic bins on wheels, then they unload your car and take everything up to the student's room, and unload it there. Uh, seriously. Didn't lift a finger from the time we finished packing up the car (although that was finger-lifting enough!) until we had to put things in their place in Victoria's dorm room. Excellent!

It was bittersweet to leave Victoria at school, but she's in good hands--she's rooming with her best friend since elementary school, whose name is also Victoria. I'm hoping they take very good care of each other. :)


Milestone Birthday Celebration

Two Saturdays ago, we celebrated my mom turning 50 and my little turning 18 at our house. Somehow we managed to get a good representation of my mom's side of the family there, and we had a blast! As my cousin Cassandra always says, it's nice to get the family together for something besides a funeral or a wedding. :)

Cassandra and her mom, my Aunt Brenda (really my mom's aunt, but that's what I call her, too) came up from North Carolina. My Aunt Jean (again, mom's aunt) and her daughter Jill and her daughter Caroline came over (from Hopewell and Chester), and my Papa and step-grandmother Sandra came too! I can't tell you how long it's been since these people were together for something happy. Our friend Leslie also came, since she's practically family. :)

We had tons of good laughs, some decent eats, and way too much cake and fire for one birthday party. Since my birthday was just the weekend before, I somehow got included in this celebration, even though I had my big party last year... 31 doesn't count as a milestone! :)

Mom welcomed 50 with a smile, Vic couldn't stop grinning about finally being 18, and we had a great time! :)


New air filter

If you ask for a new air filter in your office here, this is the kind of ridiculousness you get. Looks kinda like cotton candy to me. Also looks kind of half-assed, but maybe that's the only way they can do it?

Posted by ShoZu


Partying like it's 1999.

So this past weekend, I turned 31. Woohoo! Luckily my husband is two years older than me so he goes through these ages before I do, so I know what I'm getting myself into. ;-)

A few months ago, my friend Traci sent me an email she had gotten announcing concerts at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. Lo and behold, one of my all-time favorite bands was scheduled to play there ON MY BIRTHDAY! So of course I began dropping major hints to Bryan, along the lines of "Honey, this is what I want for my birthday," or "Honey, don't forget how awesome it would be for me to see Incubus on my birthday." (One of the most important lessons I've learned about being married: Subtlety doesn't work. Be direct. :) )

And what did he get me for my birthday? Transformer foot rests for the motorcycle! Yes, seriously. But IN the box was the other birthday present--two tickets to Incubus!! And they were FLOOR TICKETS! I was naturally so excited about the tickets that were in the box that I neglected to realize that the foot rests were actually a gift, but I think Bryan forgave me for that. Especially because even once he told me that I was still kind of unsure what the hell they were. Once he put them on the bike though, I was pleased to be able to have two options for where to put my tootsies on long rides. He's so considerate--they really do make a huge difference! :)

But anyway, let's get back to Incubus.

So like I said, they were floor tickets. If you're not the rock concert type, this basically means we were going to be in the mosh pit... the standing room only area. We had the option to go back to the lawn and sit down if it got to be too much or if I got tired, though, so it's not like we were going to be forced to stand all night. I was a little nervous about this, because it has been YEARS since I went to a concert and stood for the whole thing, and in the past few years my arthritis doesn't take kindly to being made to stand for long periods of time. But there's one thing I haven't told you yet that made me SO not worry about any of this.

You see, I have an insane crush on the lead singer of this band. And the thing that makes my husband even MORE awesome for buying me those tickets is that HE KNOWS THIS. He knows I drool over Brandon Boyd, and yet he still indulges me! :) Oh, how I love that man. :)

I should have known when I also got footrest transformers for my birthday that this meant Bryan had figured out that we'd be taking the motorcycle to Maryland, but somehow I had a brief delusion that the 100 degree heat would encourage him to opt for an enclosed, air conditioned vehicle. Yeah, not so much. I whined a little bit about it, but ultimately decided that it was kind of a fair trade off... you know, I'd be free to openly lust for Brandon Boyd and he'd be free to scorch the both of us on the back of the motorcycle for a few hours. :)

After a birthday visit from my dad and stepmom, we hit the road. The ride up was alright until we got to Maryland, where I'm convinced traffic sucks 24/7, 365 days a year. Bryan had also booked us a hotel room near the concert venue, so originally I thought we'd go there first so I could freshen up and look cute for Brandon--I mean, Bryan--but by the time we got close, we would have missed part of the show if we did that.

So we changed in the parking lot. This was a little dodgy, since we didn't have a car to do it in, but we made it work. Thankfully I had decided to wear rather modest undergarments that day, so no one saw any of my bits and pieces. :) And once we got into the concert, I laughed at myself for thinking it would have made any difference to shower before coming there--it was so hot and humid that I would have been a sweaty mess immediately anyway.

The concert was amazing. I said earlier that it has been a long time since my concert going days, and this show made me remember why I used to do it so often. About halfway through, Bryan started checking to see if I wanted to go up and sit on the lawn. I may have said "no thanks" once or twice, but I think my primary response to this question was to look at Brandon then look back at Bryan with a face that said, "Are you crazy?"

Yep, I spent my 2009 birthday much like I would have spent it in 1999--standing in a group of sweaty people, groovin' to some kick ass music. The main difference was that in 1999 I turned 21, so I would have been drunk. This time, I was too afraid I'd pass out from heat and dehydration if I had even a beer--plus I'm too cheap to pay $8 for a tiny little alcoholic drink! :)

The next morning, we left our hotel and went into Baltimore to check out the aquarium rather than drive home in mid-day heat. Neither of us had ever been to the aquarium (although Bryan says he *may* have been), and we enjoyed seeing all of the sea life. The only bad thing is that it was PACKED to the GILLS (pun intended!), what with all of the family vacations and whatnot. So some parts we zipped through, but we did enjoy the 4D show and the dolphin show in particular! And Bryan took this awesome picture of a jellyfish:

It was a great birthday, and after that reminder of how much I love live music, I'm ready for my next concert! :)


Flashback: Halloween 1983

1983, Hopewell, VA: I was five, and I was hip. My Polly Flinders dresses were immaculate, my curls prettier than Shirley Temple, my Lee jeans and corduroys were matched with perfectly coordinating plaid button downs. I had a sweet Dr. Seuss book club membership that kept me intellectually stimulated. My mom had joined the BMG Music Club and also let me listen to Q94, and pop music ruled my world.

While Michael Jackson and Prince were in heavy rotation on our stereo, it was Madonna that I truly loved. Even though I was very active in the Awanna Cubbies and our Southern Baptist church taught me not to have idols before God, I bucked the system and called Madonna my idol for a good five years. Maybe longer than that. I can remember watching her videos on MTV every chance I got, singing along to the songs, going to Cloverleaf Mall because I just *had to have* Madonna gloves.

The Madonna gloves turned into Madonna rubber bracelets, etc. etc. etc., until it was inevitable that there was only one Halloween costume that would be remotely acceptable. And so it happened that for three Halloweens, I dressed up as the Queen of Pop. It was totally awesome, dude. ;-)

And then, this past Saturday, I went shopping at H&M, and all of the sudden, I was having a flashback to Halloween 1983. I have recognized for a couple of years that the 80's have been creeping into fashion, but I kind of always thought there'd just be this 80's influence and then we'd move on to... well, I don't know, some other decade.

But no. My 5 year old self would have been able to make the PERFECT Madonna costume in modern-day H&M. Seriously, I walked around looking at that stuff and thought about how much I wish I had had those things to choose from back in the day. I didn't think, "ooh, must have this today!" Because that would be weird, to wear something I would have worn as a Halloween costume 25 years ago. Wouldn't it?
I mean, look at this stuff. It is totally 80's-tastic:

I can remember my stepmom, Brenda, telling me back in the mid-90's that everything that was in style was what she had worn in the 70's, and I remember her having this sort of appalled/amazed attitude about it. At the time, I didn't know what the big deal was.

But now I do. Because here it is almost a week later and I am STILL thinking about how freaking old it makes me feel. :)


On Friendships.

I've always considered myself extremely fortunate when it comes to friends. When I was younger one of the ways I convinced myself it was alright not to be part of the larger, popular cliques was to remind myself that, because of my small chin and not looking like everyone else, I actually had friends who liked me because of who I was, not because I looked pretty or everyone else liked me or whatever. Not that I think that's the only reason the popular kids were friends with each other, but when you have the crappy self esteem I had, you have to find some way to feel better about yourself.

So I never really had huge groups of friends, but I have always had very close friendships, quite a few of which have lasted over the years. I suck at communicating with people, but by some miracle I have a handful of people who know this about me and forgive me for it, and when I finally do get around to calling, time seems not to have passed at all. I don't know what I'd do without these people. Like, when I think about how life-saving some of these people have been, it makes me tremble inside. I'm not even sure most of them know that... I should probably tell them someday.

But the thing about me is that all those years of trying to figure out how to like myself when I felt like so many people *didn't* like me has left me with some wacky defense mechanisms that have negatively impacted a few of my friendships. Because I think *every single one* of my best friends is AMAZING, I sometimes say things candidly that I don't realize are going to hurt someone. For me, it's a straight up question, or it's something I really want to know how they feel about. For that person, it's a judgment or a criticism. With some people, I can tell I've hurt their feelings and I try hard to never do it again.

What hurts the most is that I have lost a few friendships in my life because I said or did something that I had no idea was hurtful until the person stored up years of being annoyed with me until the dam burst open and I was "dumped." Thankfully this has only happened a couple of times, but even a couple of times is enough to really make you question your worth as a friend. You start to wonder if one or two people feel this way about you, does that mean everyone else does too but the dam's just not full-to-bursting yet?

I don't think it does mean that... I think for the most part the people I would put on my list of friends are honest with me and love me for who I am. I also know that in some cases of my friendships ending it hasn't been because of my crazy personality, and I am self-aware enough to not blame myself entirely, but still.... The past week has been weird for me, because I find myself analyzing every relationship I have and wondering if the other person involved feels the same as I do. I want to know what people really think of me, but then when I'm told something that I didn't really want to hear, I don't want to ask anymore...

It's a weird thing to know, that there are people who see you in a completely different light than you see yourself. It's a hard line to walk, between being honest with people and being true to yourself, but recognizing that other people might not perceive your actions or your words the way you intend to be perceived. I really don't know what to do about it right now, or if there's even anything I *need* to do about it.

When it comes down to it, though, is it ever a bad thing to have a good reason to give yourself a little check up and make sure you are really being the person you intend to be?

I guess I'll just consider this my 31-year tune up. ;)


Passing Cass

Okay, I definitely have the sense of humor of a 6-year-old boy, because on Saturday while we were having lunch with my brother and sister and I said something about "passing Cass," the town that was our destination, and it cracked me up. Actually, it still cracks me up. If you don't get it, just read it out loud. And if you STILL don't get it, switch the "c" out for a "g." HA! Fart jokes!


Because the world would end if we actually stayed home one weekend and didn't go on a motorcycle ride, we decided that we'd head up to see the Cass Scenic Railroad this past weekend. Bryan has a list entitled PLACES WE MUST GO ON THE MOTORCYCLE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, and this was one of them. Happily, my brother and sister live on the way to Cass, so we stayed in Warm Springs on Friday night and saw them for a bit on Saturday before heading up to the ol' railroad.

While my four years in Bath County were some of the worst of my life for reasons I won't get into out of respect for those involved, I'm finding as I get older that I can look at it a little differently. I haven't forgotten the awfulness, but I now recognize that I learned some very, very important life lessons during that time. Some of them are things like "don't ever marry an asshole," but others are simpler things, like being able to identify vegetables in a garden, or knowing what it's like to float down a creek and just be. And so now I can go there and not want to cry. And that, my friends, is a milestone in my life.

Of course, it helps that we always stay at this lovely place called The Inn at Gristmill Square. Sure, the county is better known for the fancy Homestead, but The Gristmill has a certain country charm that's hard to find elsewhere. In the morning, you call down when you're ready for breakfast and they bring you hot, fresh breads and coffee and juice in a little picnic basket. It's heavenly.

Lunch with the sibs was in Marlinton, WV, the closest "town" to where they live, which is about 25 minutes away. We had some good old fashioned country food and got to catch up on what Victoria and Zechariah are up to these days. Vic is eagerly awaiting her departure for college in August, and Zech has gotten a job on some dairy farm which is, in his words, "basically being a slave." Apparently he spent five hours weed-eating on his first day...

We had booked tickets for the Fiddles & Vittles dinner train at Cass, so once lunch was over we hustled down the road. The weather was a bit dodgy, so instead of having our buffet dinner up the mountain, the train took us up and brought us back to the town to eat in their restaurant. Perhaps not exactly the same atmosphere, but there were some gray haired dudes playing some great bluegrass, so we enjoyed it all the same. :)

Sunday morning we got up early and headed over to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. Lots of research is done here about the universe, and as astronomy geeks, we really enjoyed learning about it and seeing the gargantuan satellite dish, which is taller than the Statue of Liberty and almost as tall as the Washington Monument. Apparently you can "see" a lot more stuff out in space with radio waves than you can see with the naked eye (or a telescope-enhanced eye). They used to look for signs of other intelligent life there, but I guess they've moved that operation out to New Mexico or somewhere--you know, where the aliens already like hanging out. ;-)

The afternoon was spent on another train ride, this one up to Bald Knob. The day was perfect, and it was a nice, relaxing trip. If you go to Cass, though, we would recommend only doing one train ride. We really did the dinner train because there was nothing else to do in Cass, but one or the other would have been enough. Not that we didn't enjoy ourselves, just that, well, the woods you pass through all kind of look the same after a while. :)

Happy Birthday, America!

For the 4th of July, Bryan and I had nothing planned, so on the spur of the moment (that would be Saturday, July 4 at 2pm) we decided to head up to DC to hang out with our friends Leslie, Ann and Anna. Neither of us had ever done the whole Nation's Capital thing on the 4th, so why not?

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Rosa Mexicano, complete with delicious margaritas and the house specialty: guacamole made tableside. Then we headed over to the Mall to find a spot to watch the fireworks.

I think some people get to a point in their lives where they don't really care so much about fireworks anymore, unless they have kids and can get excited through them. I am not one of those people. I get totally stoked about fireworks, and if I don't see them on the 4th of July, you do not want to be around me.

So anyway, this time I got to see them bursting over the Washington Monument. And that was awesome. The only thing is, I didn't know the music is only way up close, so I was bummed that I didn't get to hear the national anthem accompanying them. Also, they only lasted 15 minutes... we all kind of thought they would at least be, say, half an hour? I guess the recession has cut into the fireworks budget?

Anyway, it was still awesome. :)


Our back porch at The Gristmill Inn

It's a beautiful day in Warm Springs. Headed across the mountain soon to see Vic & Zech, then on to Cass Scenic Railroad for the night.

Posted by ShoZu


Our Great South African Adventure: Summing It Up.

So, that was our adventure in a lot of words. :) But if you looked at that and didn't want to read it all, or if you still want to see more pictures, I have posted some/quite a few of them to my Picasa Web Album. You can get there by clicking here.

Enjoy--we certainly did! :)


Our Great South African Adventure: Days 13 & 14

DAY 13

  • Our last touring day! And it was a nice easy one, which we spent winetasting in the Cape Winelands. We visited three different wineries, and along the way also stopped at the Afrikaans language memorial, the prison where Nelson Mandela spent his last few years of incarceration, and two adorable towns, Franschoek and Stellenbosch. Truly a lovely way to end the adventure!
  • Once Alex dropped us off and said goodbye, we chilled out for a while and then our group went out for one last dinner together, and then we ventured to Long Street, a nightlife hotspot in Cape Town. Our Irish girls had heard there was a great bar called the Dubliner, so of course we had to check it out! Bryan was fascinated to find a guy there wearing an Eagles baseball cap.

DAY 14

  • And finally, it was time to go home. Our flight didn’t leave until later in the evening, so we did have some time to head back to the V & A Waterfront to do some shopping and have lunch and take a few last pictures. By this point I was feenin’ for some real American fast food, so I had to have the closest thing I could find—KFC! Which is apparently very popular there—I saw far more KFCs than I did McDonalds! And surprisingly, it tasted just like our KFC.
  • We headed to the airport late in the afternoon and eventually settled in for our lovely 19 hour flight back to the US. Holy crap were my ankles swollen at the end of that, but, trust me, it was totally worth it!

Our Great South African Adventure: Day 12

Note: I'm posting the trip in increments of one or two days, so make sure you start from my first post and work your way backwards--just follow the titles!

DAY 12

  • One of the main “attractions” of Cape Town is Table Mountain. I say attractions in quotation marks because it’s a mountain, not man-made, so not sure if that’s the right word for it. Anyway, Table Mountain is known for the amazing views of the area you can get from the top, and we all wanted to check it out. We were incredibly lucky after a week and a half of clouds to have a perfectly clear day! It was gorgeous. You get to the top by cable car. And if you are afraid of heights, I recommend either hiking to the top or wearing an eye mask. Because I am *not* afraid of heights and I was a little freaked out. It was, however, totally worth it when we got to the top—the view really was spectacular.
  • After Table Mountain we headed to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, which is the most southwesterly point of the African continent. Apparently this is THE place to take your photo, and for some reason I did not feel it necessary to hold my hair off of my face in spite of the insane winds. So, truly, I promise, I was there!
  • After our photo op we headed up to have lunch at Cape Point, which is in the same general area, it’s just not THE southwesterly tip. And again, with the spectacular views!
  • Next stop: Simons Town and the penguin colony! These dudes were so adorable. I could have watched them for hours.