Thursday, May 29, 2008

You know you're in trouble when.... get the biggest coffee they serve today so you can have "leftovers" the next morning when you know you won't have time to feed the addiction with a trip to Starbucks at 7am. Who in their right mind drinks "coffee leftovers?" Only a true caffeine-dependent. Perhaps I should start working the 12 steps. The first step is admitting you are powerless over your addiction. No coercion or intervention is necessary folks, I'll stand up and give my testimonial shamelessly! I believe that I can blame it all on my career choice of social work. Every addict has to have a scapegoat, no?

(***Disclaimer: this post is all in fun! Please don't take this as my criticism of addiction or try to stage an intervention for me at the Starbucks drive-thru. A) I understand that addiction is a serious issue that is not to be mocked, and B) I very well might run you down to place my order at the drive-thru. Consider yourself warned.)

It all began innocently enough in 1999, senior year of college...a paper cup of cheap vanilla latte from the vending machines in the college library. A girl has to have energy to cram for her Spanish final, right? Or maybe because it was fun to take a break and gawk at all the faux-Goth kids that were studying in the basement where the coffee machine was... Yeah, if there would be legit Goth kids attending school at Catholic Disneyland! Whatever...

Fast forward to 2001 when I'm about to graduate from the masters program. The entire time I lived in Austin I might have made one pot of coffee. But I was starting to become a "social drinker" by going to Mozart's coffee shop...again, to "study" and check out the scene on the lake front while sipping a sugar-laden mocha. In an ultra-caffeinated state I churn out a 100 page paper on social work policy as it relates to the unauthorized sterilization of the MHMR population - in ONE NIGHT - and receive a BIG FAT "A". Talk about reinforcement! Those darn enablers! Plus, my unpaid 35-hr per week internship was at an in-patient substance abuse program for adolescent males who were court ordered to attend. And I am still fairly shy. And speak quietly. And look 16. Do you see where this is going? BIG FUN! Do you know much about the 12 steps? Well, let me tell ya' this up front: if you are not "in recovery" yourself, you have no validity and no business trying to help those who are. You are an outsider. You've never walked their walk, struggled with those issues, looked the demon of addiction in the eye. This protocol applies to not only the kids in the program, but the staff. I get it...
So there are only two ways to connect during the breaks between meetings: smoking or caffeinating. Since there is no way on God's green earth that I would smoke, I chose the road less traveled: a strong cup of dark, fudgy coffee. Now this is the el cheapo crap. It is not even Maxwell House, it is like, um, Maxwell Shack, or Maxwell Cardboard Box. And yes, it literally put hair on my chest. But you know what? Those little court-ordered punks listened when I facilitated group with a cup in my hand, and the staff laid off of me, and I only hated the unpaid internship HALF as much as I did initially!

Fast forward to 2003 when I'm employed as an in-home therapist for children on the brink of being shipped off to residential programs and juvenile detention. Starbucks is on the way to work and my boss introduces me to venti caramel macchiatos, which give me the energy to power through another job day after day that is a poor fit. Then my pants start to get tight and I cannot make the connection between this event and the extra 1,200 calories per day that I'm consuming. Finally resolve to stop drinking this sugar-laden confection and immediately drop 12 lbs within 2 months. Yowza. Can't let that happen again, better stick to regular old coffee.

Somewhere in this time frame my mother-in-law shows me an excerpt from a book on nutrition explaining that caffeine consumption can cause a myriad of problems, including decreased brain function. Or something like that. I don't exactly remember. Probably becuz drinking cafee mad me dum. (: I am mildly concerned but determine that what I lose in the smarts department, can be made up for in the extra energy department.

In 2007 I find out that I'm pregnant and have to cut out coffee cold turkey during the 1st trimester. I'm very proud to say that I managed to cut it out while maintaining a moderately positive outlook on life. (Translation: thank goodness that pregnancy also induced exhaustion or I might have done bodily harm to anyone within 10 feet of me.)
Thankfully I had an open-minded group of physicians following my pregnancy, and they eventually agreed that I could have an occasional cup during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters. Perhaps it is because they didn't feel it would cause any harm. Or perhaps they noticed the pleading and desperate look in my eye. Or maybe the fact that I beat one of them over the head with those lovely stirrups until they said I could have "my precious" back. Details...

I am fully aware that crunchy-granola-mommies everywhere are gasping with horror! The poor caffeinated fetus! Aaaaagh! Seriously folks I don't claim to be all-natural-wholesome mommy. I try to be a better mom every day than I was the day before, but even homey has her limits, ok? I DO, however, make my own all natural baby food...does that earn me points? We'll save that redeeming fact for another post!

Fast forward to the present day. I am working full time in a position that averages 65+ hours per week. I bring my daughter to work with me every, single, day since the day she turned 6 wks old. I was even busting out the breastaurant at work for a while there, pumping and dumping the poisoned caffeine boob milk! Dangit! Throw some vanilla in there and Starbucks might market it as a latte for $3.89! Presenting the new, all-natural (insert drumroll here.....) Boobaccino!!! Obviously it would be marketed primarily to males.

It is a blessing to bring her, yes, but honestly I get NOTHING DONE! The real work begins when I get home and sometimes hubby can watch her. That is, if hubby is not in his MBA class that is 2 nights per week. Not complaining, just further justifying the addiction!

I've really tried to hate Starbucks. They are "THE MAN", the "establishment", the one putting the little guys out of business. There is actually a cute little coffee shop right around the corner from my house and I gave it a shot, really I did! I had visions of the saying "Morning Missy! Do you want your usual drink while you sit on our inviting red leather couch with your cell phone on silent and peruse the local paper for fun family activities do to this weekend?" Unfortunately, not so much. Because their coffee tastes like heinie! As the rehab boys explained to mem if you were hooked on crack, a Xanax just wouldn't cut it.

Nope, I'll feed my addiction anonymously via drive-thru, while rushing into work, baby snoozing in the back, cell phone attached to my ear listening to coworkers complaining about each other and asking me to fix years of dysfunction that has nothing to do with me, save the fact I supervise them both! But there is some great coffee at the end of the line, dangit, and it's MINE! All MINE!

And I'm fully aware that a day of financial reckoning is coming which time I will have to resort to desperate lengths to raise money to fund the caffeine addiction. Dave Ramsey can bite me. But until that time....

Let me be happy in my slightly altered state, with my Starbucks grande coffee with 3 Splendas and nonfat milk in hand. There will definitely be a smile on my face, and that is sometimes difficult to come by in these hectic days!

While we're on the topic of the 12 steps, remind me to blog later about how everyone and their dog from my past has decided to hunt me down to include me in their Step #9. You cannot make this stuff up folks! Thank goodness I'm well caffeinated and can handle it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial weekend in Greensboro, NC

I'm too exhausted to use my words. That's what you ask little kids to do when they're whining, right? Use their words? I just can't. Only-child-overwhelmed-by-big-family syndrome. It's a diagnosis. Look it up if you don't believe me! (: We had a great time visiting with all of Johnny's family members that came into town and now we are going to recover from all the visiting by sleeping. A lot.

One of our first stops was Guilford Courthouse National Military Park. This is a place that is very special to Johnny, as he spent the vast majority of his youth marching around in Revolutionary War attire during reenactments. Here's Daddy giving Hania her first lesson in colonial heritage with a tri-cornered hat. She looks psyched.

We walked all around the Hoskins House at Tannenbaum Park in Greensboro. This is where the British began their attack at the battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Itty Bit really enjoyed the diorama. It is huge and has thousands of pieces (ie little dudes, horses, trees, buildings) depicting the battle with a light and sound display. Johnny has always wanted to create a diorama of part of this battle. I am fully prepared to find that some day when I come home from work, he will have sold all of our possessions to fund this venture.

Hania chillin' under the statue of Nathaniel Greene, whom Greensboro, NC is named after. We met up with Johnny's friend Don Saunders who knows EVERYTHING about the Revolutionary War in the south.

Later in the weekend we returned with his parents and our niece, Grace, to walk the trails there.

Hania met all of her great-aunts, starting with Rhonda....

And Debbie...

And Dottie... all from South Carolina.

Hania adores her cousin Grace. She's six and was my shadow.

This is one of the main reasons for my exhaustion. Excessive hula-hooping, soccer playing, gymnastics, trampoline jumping, racing, crafting, and toe nail painting. Don't try to keep up with a six year old. You will LOSE.

Grace and Lord Destructo aka "cousin" Jackson. He is the little boy of Johnny's best friend from high school, and they came by to visit for a while. Trouble times two but so adorable.

Uncle Kevin (Johnny's brother), Johnny, and "Uncle" Ken (his best friend from high school). They spent several hours tripping down memory lane while looking at all of the childhood toys that the family had put away in the attic. SOMEONE was especially excited to find Optimus Prime, the Millenium Falcon, and the Ewok Village in great condition. So many of their toys had burn marks from gun powder used to blow them up while playing war. This is another reason God gave me a girl.

Hania playing with "Aunt" Laura. We were just grateful the guys didn't try to make us play Talisman.

The brothers and their little girls.

The family of three.

Four generation picture of Hania, Johnny, his mother Carolyn, and his grandmother Ruth.

This is the first time Hania met her great-grandparents, Ruth & Bob Oswald. They were headed back to Charleston, SC from visiting family in New York. I wish their dog Buffy could have been in the picture. All three of them have matching hair styles. It is undeniably cute.

Bop (grandpa) and his two granddaughters.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Whaddya think?

I'll have to ask the forgiveness of my fellow bloggers, as this has been one of the craziest weeks I've had in a very long time. Work-wise, that is. The routine at home is starting to fall into place little by little...either that, or I've just decided that I have to become more lax and let things slide, or I will completely unravel! Hania has been busy chasing the oh-so-elusive Notorious Cat Brothers in her walker. They have learned how to stay just out of reach now that she mastered grabbing fur!

I have been meaning to post these pics for a while now for comparison, just for funsies.
People always ask the following question about Hania:
Q: "Who does she look like?"
A: The jury's still out on this one, because I think she resembles both of us, depending on her mood. What do you think? Check out the shots of Mommy and Daddy below at about the same age that Hania is here. Depending on what your comments tell us, there might be a margarita or chocolate shake riding on this bet! And believe me, I will be in need of both said items while visiting my in-laws this weekend!

Hania at around 5 months.

Daddy (he says that he thinks he looks like baby Tom Hanks here)

Mommy (You see that crooked smile? Yeah, it still comes out to visit after I've had a couple of margaritas or when something really cracks me up)

So whaddya think? Or does she just look like Hania Irene?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mother's Day weekend recap

I was trying to wait on this post until I received my parents' pictures on a disk, as they are always far better than mine! BUT...I couldn't wait! Of course there will be more later. In the meantime, I have discovered how to link words to websites! I'm outta control folks! Lotsa links!

My parents drove 11 hours from Texarkana to spend the weekend with us, and it was wonderful to see them, as usual. It was especially nice to be with my own mama on my first Mother's Day.

Saturday we spent the day doing two of my favorite activities: #1 hiking, & #2 eating.

I can't believe that we haven't taken a trip to Bernheim Forest sooner! My gosh, it was a gorgeous expanse of land located just about 20 minutes south of our house. And to think I've driven past it at least 2 times a week for the past 2 did we not make the effort? There are a wide variety of hikes, educational exhibits and information on renewable resources. We decided to start with a short hike because Hania is new to this whole hiking business, and we weren't sure what she would think.
The fam of 3 in front of the visitor center. Can you see the grass planted on the TOP of the roof? To check out how/why, click here.

A friend of mine was recently asking about which baby carrier people prefer, and my favorite is the Ergo. My mom discovered this one and it was a life-saver on our first plane ride. I felt like it protects and supports her well enough without compromising her ability to look around and interact with her environment. It did not, however, protect our fellow flight passengers from being assaulted with her stuffed bunny "Ittybit" that she was waving wildly. She's much older and wiser now, and wouldn't dream of pulling that stunt again. But now she has non-breastmilk poop, so I think that we'll be assaulting other passengers' senses in other new and exciting ways! Part of my mother's day gift from Johnny is a Kelty. I cannot wait to use it, there are so many exciting features and it will be good for longer and more rugged hikes. Daddy did good!

After the hike we went to Lynn's Paradise Cafe, which is known equally for their amazing southern food and horrifically tacky decor. You can't fully see in this picture but absolutely nothing matches, there is a tree in the middle of the restaurant with colorful kites hanging off of it, and mannequin legs in brightly colored tights adorn the wall above the booths. The exterior has such tasteful delights as a tall concrete kitty, silk flowers stuck into the window boxes, and a bear dressed like Elvis. But the food is amazing! As my mom says "This is a Missy-place". A little "off" but the substance makes up for the exterior of silliness, right? They are famous for their hot browns and they were indeed delicious! I think I enjoy this place so much because it reminds me of so many of the restaurants in Austin, TX. Ya'll know how I feel about Austin.

Good people, please help me out. What on earth is wrong with me? I am normally a mild-mannered new mother that is basically an introvert until I reeeealy get to know someone. What possesses me to hop atop a fake cow at any opportunity and pretend to ride it? Seriously, there is a pattern here. Maybe there is a 12-step program for this affliction.
See the time line below to assist me in figuring out where this all began:

1977-1995 Born and raised in Mexico, Missouri. Live in a rural area but parents are not farmers. My dad plants a mean garden and taught me how to fish, my mom can cook anything and has a green thumb, my granny makes strawberry preserves. That is about as country as it got. We don't even listen to country music. Didn't raise rabbits or sheep for 4-H. One dance recital I'm forced to dance to the song "Achey Breaky Heart" and feel deeply ashamed that I secretly love the song. I am officially a "country-poser".
1996 One summer during college I go to a country bar and decide that riding the mechanical bull is a good idea. Apparently this is a hidden talent waiting to be unleashed and I am cheered on by a bar full of drunk cowboys.
1997 Another summer during college I have a job babysitting 3 rowdy children that actually live in a real farm. With real animals. That scare the crap out of me. One day I venture into the pen (or is it enclosure? fenced-off area?) and get chased by a bull. Maybe it was a cow, but either way it was big, and fast, and didn't want me there. Decide I'll stick to the mechanical version.
1998 Junior year spring break in Cancun. Another mechanical bull experience, but this time alcohol is involved. And there are girls there who are far more experienced in riding things than I am! I'm thrown off pretty quickly and land at the feet of the one guy that I was really hoping NOT to see in Cancun...with my dress around my waist. Klassy with a K.
1999-2007 Reside in some pretty "country" locations (Texas, Georgia & Kentucky) but manage to suppress my country-poser instincts until I see my husband riding one of these, mowing the church lawn. Yowza. Yes, to quote the song, I think his (or the church's) tractor is sexy. The virus spreads quickly this time, and soon I am listening to country music again, more comfortable on foster home visits that involve chickens running around my car, and find myself dreaming of living on more than 1/8 of an acre of land. Which leads us the present time, and my propensity towards "riding" concrete cows.
The first step is admitting that you have a problem, no?

Poohma and Poohpa posing with Miss Wonderful.

Mommy posing with Miss Wonderful and the gorgeous flowers that my parents gave me for Mother's Day.

"Nekkid" 7 month old baby!

Clothed 7 month old baby!

Hope that everyone had a fabulous Mother's Day! More pics to come...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Talk Derby to me

Get it? Like the Poison song circa 1987? I can't take credit for this little pun; it is the saying on a popular t-shirt that is sold in KY around Derby time. It tickles me to see little kids wearing this shirt because they have absolutely NO idea what is so funny about it, but their parents probably do. Also tickles me because I was only about ten when the song came out. What does NOT tickle me is that poor Bret Michaels has to do a reality tv show to find his "Rock of Love". And who the hell says something "tickles them"? I have been in the South too long.

Here are overdue pics from the Derby party that we went to last weekend in our neighborhood. Now this is not the first time I've posted about our awesome neighbors, and some of your are probably going to want to barf hearing about it again, but we got LUCKY moving here! Once warm weather arrives there are always at least 2-3 families hanging outside after work every evening. Which makes it really easy to get to know everyone, and I swear that they are some of the most genuinely nice people I've ever met. Their advice and support throughout pregnancy and the first 7 months has been so valuable!

This is Debbie. She and her husband Roxie are brave for hosting the Derby party. She is soliciting funds to repair the impending damage to her home. Kidding! She organized the betting for each race and had great prizes for each win, place and show, as well as games and race-related toys for the kiddos. Not to mention tons of food. My contribution was supposed to be a double chocolate pound cake, however Miss Bad Dog decided that she didn't think we needed the entire cake so she ate the half closest to the edge of the counter. There is no photo evidence of this event, which is probably for the best. I turned into a raving lunatic for about 10 minutes.

Betting can be somewhat complicated. Gina and Julie are checking out the stats before placing a bet. (ummm, I feel like I'm writing captions for the jr high newspaper or something! sorry!)

Jenny is taking up bets for "last place" in the final Derby race. What's up with the light half/dark half of her face? Is that good vs evil? She is trying to convince Rochelle that she could win big if she picked the loser out.

I normally don't post pics of people's children without their permission, because not everyone is comfortable with their pics floating around the blogosphere. Personally, as a social worker, I'm freaked out by the general public every time I leave the house, so the internet is the least of my worries. Anyway.... this is Mr. Jenny with their youngest child. This is his alias, of course.

Jen, Erin and Rochelle.
If you want the straight scoop on parenting, ask Jen. She might have been the only one who was honest and was willing to discuss the good and the bad. Thanks, Jen. You are a true Northerner, and I appreciate that about you! Thankfully, some of your poop stories will not apply because I have a little girl. Right? Just humor me and say yes.
On a side note linking back to Bret Michaels, Erin and her husband watched Rock of Love with us every week for the past two seasons. Sometimes you have to tell on other people to make yourself feel better, ok?

Mr. Erin, Mr. Julie, Mr. Missy & Mr. Jen. All aliases. To protect their superhero identities, of course. They just finished cornholing. Yes, that is a verb here in Kentucky. Mr. Erin owns some cornhole boards. Mr. Missy and I had never heard of this game until we moved here... Apparently we totally missed this developing phenomenon while living in Georgia and Texas.

Jen attempts to protect Debbie's itty bitty dog from the children hopped up on my chocolate cake. (Clarification: I did NOT serve them the part that the dog ate off of. I did, however, cut the part she didn't eat into 1/2 inch slices to salvage it. Understandably, many of you will never eat from my kitchen again.)

Mr. Erin says "dang, you weren't kidding when you said she had a tooth!"

And the grand finale:
The party ended with one of Debbie and Roxie's children ordering a pay-per-view porn. Whoo-hoo! This little guy was flipping channels around to see the available movies, and accidentally ordered a $10 version of "Topless Girls on Bulls". He wasn't even sure that he'd done something wrong until every adult in the room gasped simultaneously. THEN he knew he'd done something fabulously naughty! Julie raced over and tried to cover up the tv, and the rest of us hollered for his parents to help us figure out the remote. Meanwhile, the actors and actresses on the film were "talking Derby" to one another. Looks like everyone caught the Derby spirit!

Friday, May 9, 2008

First Derby hat

Every girl has to have a Derby hat. Actually we are cheating and this is a sun hat that she received from the Easter Gator, but we have to be practical considering that this child will burn if the sun even thinks about shining on her. Giving me a fair-skinned, red-headed daughter must be God's way of playing a prank of my ex-sun-worshiping a#@.

How is this thing attached to my head?

I ask you, can she BE any cuter?

Maybe the dingo ate your baby...

I know, I know, super gross! Please don't call child protective services, I'd rather just self-report and be done with it! They owe me some favors anyway. I was focusing the camera and Hania was shrieking at the dog when Keira just ran up and laid one on her! I'd be lying if I said that did not happen on a daily basis...

Derby Week - aka "Backside expansion project courtesy of hot apple dumplings"

The weeks before Derby are a BIG DEAL in Louisville. It is pronounced "Luh-vull" for those who are not from around these here parts. There are literally daily activities for a month prior, and everyone uses the opportunity to get outside and celebrate spring (read: skip work). There are hot air balloon races, an air show, a big parade, riverboat races, you name it. The kids even get out of school on the Friday before Derby for "Oaks Day" - this is when the fillies race. A filly is a girl horse. Mainly locals and really cool people go to Oaks. Cool people who know other cool people that get them tickets. But I digress.

The big kick-off is Thunder Over Louisville, which is a gigantic fireworks display over the Ohio River that is advertised as the largest fireworks event that takes place in the U.S. (Can that be correct?) We haven't gone during the 3.5 yrs we've lived here, because a) you pretty much have to camp out to get a good spot, b) it takes like 5 hrs to get home afterwards in the traffic, and c) oh yes, I'm too old and cranky to be patient for that kind of thing! Light me up some sparklers, black snakes and fountains in the back yard and we'll just call it a day, allright? Can't take the country out of the girl...

One of the best activities is the Chow Wagon. This would be tents and vendors set up near the waterfront of the Ohio River, and is glorified fair food with a performance stage and some cheesy little stores selling Derby knick knacks. It is the perfect opportunity to skip work. So off we went - 4 coworkers and 2 infants in strollers, just out to enjoy the day. Actually, DeShawn looked like he had a harem. Which might explain why he ran away from us once he escorted us to the Chow Wagon. Or perhaps he just got lost on the hunt for his elusive $11 turkey leg. Our feelings were hurt, but we soothed ourselves with hot apple dumplings, corn dogs, and bloomin' onions.

Have you ever seen someone so excited about a darn batter-fried vegetable? My coworker Katherine is a riot. And a darn fine case manager!
I can't make fun of her excitement, as I basically jumped up and down and clapped with joy when I saw someone's apple dumpling, and then determined to make it mine!

Monique and Arial look like ladies here. Don't be fooled. Ms. M can take out a corn dog like nobody's business!

This is how Hania spent most of her time at the Chow Wagon. I think we all felt about this tired on the way home from all of the junk we ate.

After the Chow Wagon they were both ready to play. Check out Hania's daisy dukes and Arial's blingy belt. They can't believe they didn't get junk food!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Scenes from Sunday afternoon

Taking pictures on Sunday, May 4th.

Hania is so sweet and happy in her little pink dress. What a little lady!

"If I pose nicely can I get my hands on that cell phone?"

Mommy gives her the cell phone so that she can "talk" to Poohma and Poohpa.

Sending text messages to foreign countries.

"Tastes delightful and feels good on my gums. How have I gone an entire SEVEN MONTHS without one of these things?"

And then the phone is unjustly taken away from the little lady.
Which leads to one of Hania's first.....

wait for it.....


It is cute now, but it might not be AS cute in a couple of years!


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