Why I love tulips

Anthony is a nerd. He doesn't follow pop culture, he (until VERY recently) has had little fashion sense (he couldn't be bothered with it), he's crazy smart, shy and reserved, loves all things techno, passes tests of all kinds with no studying whatsoever, refuses to pay for things like a plumber preferring to figure it out on his own, likes solitary pursuits, has a Masters degree in plant biology to the tune of Organismal Plants (I have to type that very carefully...), has didgeridoos (two bought, one homemade), a homemade telescope, radio-controlled airplanes and gliders, and a plethora of sci-fi and fantasy books.

In all my years of dating assholes I never once thought of wanting any of those things in a man. I always wanted someone more like me who I could take along with me to all the parties and bars I was frequenting. Meeting Anthony as a 28 year old, unemployed woman, who'd been living on her own for almost 2 and half years was the most miraculous moment of my life. Yes, even more miraculous than the birth of my son, because that's supposed to be miraculous. But meeting your life partner isn't supposed to be that big of a deal, right? I mean, sure, it's supposed to be great and memorable, but "miraculous"?

Let me explain a little more. I had been living a careless life. The most care I ever took was to have protected sex (notice I didn't say "not have sex") with a string of raving dumbasses. It's true what they say, "Act like a dumbass, catch a dumbass!" I did tons of drugs, drank like a fish, invited complete strangers over to party at my house on a regular basis and basically treated life, and everyone I met in it, like old war buddies. The criteria to get into my life was to be a beer drinking, drug using, girl or boy who liked a fast-paced life and could hold up their end of a conversation. What low standards!

The winter before I met Anthony things started to change. I decided that emotions were more important than anything else and I dated one man who told me he could never fall in love with me, so I dumped him - that was a first! Then, in late spring, I dated a lovely man, a long-standing friend, who really made me realize that nice, nerdy guys were really the most interesting people out there - not the guy with the beer bong and gram of coke in his pocket. Sadly, that didn't work out because I was having big issues surrounding my father (shocker) and I needed to sort some things out, but we've remained friends to this day.

Later that summer, I met a man with whom I became friends and he showed me that I could wrap all the different parts of me up into one and still be desirable. I could be vulnerable, ridiculous, and romantic all at the same time. Enter Anthony that fall.

I wasn't looking for anyone (of course) and I was really at a happy place in my romantic life (alone, but busy). Anthony and I met online on MySpace before it was cool to mention it. We emailed for a week and both thought, "Wow, there's something there!" When he came over to my house "for brie and wine" he had a shaggy ponytail and was wearing oversized chords. Two of my girlfriends were there and laughed and giggled at him, as only girlfriends can do, while Anthony tried to disappear on the arm of my couch. They left and I got busy making food and opening a bottle of wine.

We talked until 5 am, I loaned him some pajamas, and we crawled into my bed like it was a slumber party. I perfunctorily told him that all we were going to do was sleep and he said, "Ok." I turned out the light and rolled over and closed my eyes. Sixty seconds later I hear him get up on an elbow and he says, "I gotta ask before we go to sleep. Could I get a good-night kiss?" I said ok and puckered up. We've been together ever since.

The silent tornado from Kansas is what he was. He came in, shook my house to its bones and whisked me away to emotional safety. His stubborn streak protected me from myself on many occasions and his willingness to learn and be more kept me interested in the most unlikely of suspects for a boyfriend, then fiance, and finally husband.

Three weeks after meeting in person I went to California for Thanksgiving. Upon arriving home at 10 or 11 at night I look up the long staircase to my apartment door and there is Anthony on my stoop with a bunch of bright red flowers in his hand and a big, goofy smile on his face.

"I wanted to surprise you. My sister dropped me off 15 minutes ago. I was really hoping your flight wasn't delayed," he says.

No one had ever done anything so astonishingly sweet for me before. I climbed the remaining steps between us and he handed me a dozen red tulips. In our "get to know each other emails" from a month before I had learned he couldn't think of roses as romantic anymore due to writing his thesis on how water moves through flowers and dissecting/mulching/decomposing thousands of roses in the process. He thought tulips were much better.

Now, tulips mean more to me than any other flower. They represent change, hope, love, wit, sweetness, courage, and individuality. They bend and arch to find the light like bendy straws and yet are so fleeting and delicate. They remind me of the man I share my life with and of who I want to be. They're a metaphor for so much more than just something pretty. They're a metaphor for a way of being. And this is why I love tulips.


The perfect nursery by fire

Hollis' nursery has gone through about 8 makeovers. No kidding. When I got pregnant, I was in school and money was tight. We bought a crib from friends for $100, I repurposed two book shelves into "closets" and I left the buttery-yellow walls as they were since we wanted a nice, neutral wall color for our baby anyway. My big pre-baby splurge was window treatments from Ikea; these lovely leafy things.

But it always looked like shit. I mean, I did the best I could with what I had, but it never looked put together or like I meant it. I rearranged the room, I added a $35 changing table from a consignment store, I bought canvas drawers for storage, but it just wasn't clicking.

I emptied the closet of all things adult and converted it into a proper closet complete with baby shoe shelves and clothes racks. I got rid of the shelf-closets altogether and that was a big improvement. I added hooks, decals, a couple simple photos of Hollis and our family, book rails and still no jiving. Then, the unthinkable happened. The crib got recalled.

It was all quite accidental that I even found out about it. In my quest for a zen-like, balanced feel to the room, and one that was also safe, I put my changing table up for sale on Craigslist in hopes of earning enough money to buy one with doors or drawers on the bottom.

In so doing, I also had to put the crib up for sale because they "matched." Within about 24 hours I got bites on both pieces of furniture. The potential buyer for the crib, Betty (seriously, that was her name), asked me for the model number and manufacturer. At the time, Hollis was sleeping and the info was in a packet under the mattress. I told her I'd get back to her the following morning.

The packet didn't have the manufacturer clearly labeled so I Googled DV830N and any name I could find on the packet. I discovered it was made by Jardine Enterprises and I even found a crib photo that seemed to be mine! I also found a recall list that, luckily, didn't have DV830N listed anywhere on it. I promptly emailed Betty all this new info I found. Meanwhile, I'd sold the changing table and so was really counting on the sale of the crib to go through.

About an hour after I'd emailed Betty, and after I'd fed Hollis breakfast and put him down for his morning nap, I was back at the computer to keep researching a better picture of my crib. And lo and behold!! I found it and boy did I! I found a more extensive recall list and DV830N was on there and it even had a big ass picture of my crib!! Ack!! I immediately went my email to contact Betty, but she'd beaten me to the punch. There waiting for me was a lovely little note from her asking me if $200 was worth the safety of a child and could I "stand before God with a clear conscience just to make a buck?" She told me what I should do (take the ad down immediately and get rid of the crib only with total disclosure and for free) and that she hoped I would do the right thing.

My initial reaction was, "What the fuck?!" I mean, I was LITERALLY just about to email her that I wasn't selling it anymore because it looked like it was recalled after all and I was going to have to follow the recall procedures outlined by Jardine Enterprises for the safety of my own child who was sleeping in it right now. Then I thought, "No, wait... she doesn't know you from Eve. She's assuming the worst, yes, but it's not personal." So I wrote her back that it was a mix up on my part and of course $200 wasn't worth the safety of a child and that I wouldn't be selling it. She didn't respond.

I couldn't shake it off, though. I was totally shook up by the whole incident. I was offended, freaked out, and worried about Hollis' safety. I went back to the computer and wrote her a second email. Short and to the point, but basically thanking her for being such a conscientious consumer because without her diligence I wouldn't have known that Hollis was unsafe. She wrote back, "Thanks for being a person of integrity. Betty"

I figured this was a lesson in self-reliance and -confidence. I couldn't look to Betty for a pat on the back or validation, I was going to have to know it of myself all by myself. - ANYHOO - back to the nursery revamp. So now it's practically an emergency to get a new crib. Jardine Enterprises will give me a $275 voucher for a crib at Babies 'R' Us but it would be a retroactive credit, obviously. Long story short, I ended up getting a fabulous crib for $400. They didn't have any for around $250 that I wanted (literally, the warehouses were empty and there was no idea when they'd get more). This $400 crib is brown and white and comes with a trundle drawer (yeah!) with clean lines and it's much smaller (looking) than the recalled one.

I painted my old dresser white and brown, too, and bought a white changing table from Ikea and now the nursery positively hums with balance and clean lines. I LOVE going in there now. In the middle of the night I relax in the glider with Hollis and can sink into the peacefulness of it.

It's all for me, obviously. I know Hollis could sleep in a laundry basket and be just fine and Anthony doesn't have any such standards or needs, but I do. I need it to be clean, organized, and efficient. The diaper genie needs to be on the left, because I'm a left-handed diaper-changer (who knew?). I need the wipes, diapers, baby Tylenol, teething relief, and Q-tips to be handy and up high. I want his toys to have a place of their own and his linens to be tidy. I want his room to be super baby-proofed, but still stylish. It's a tall order and I couldn't have designed this room a day sooner than last week. I didn't know what I needed from it until then.

He's got tons more room to play now and it's a cinch to vacuum. Look at him here, oh so happily sucking away on his chew toy (by the way, his shirt says, "I GET MY MUSCLES FROM MY DAD") with Tony the Pony in the background. Even Tony the Pony matches! - a total accident, by the way. Yay!!! I'm finally done futzing with this room! What a relief!!


Where's the "After Picture"??

The house I currently live in is very modest. It's about 1300 sqft, has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a lot of the original 20-year old installations (including our AC unit). Our house-buying experience was nothing short of an endurance run. We put offers in on something like 7 homes before we finally got this one. It was a combination of bad luck, a misfit of a realtor, and bad advice, but eventually we got it straightened out and the house was ours! Yay!

Homeownership is a weird thing. Everything I do I think, "Will I get my money back when we move??" It's not about whether I love it or need it, it's if I'll get a return on it. Since this isn't our Forever Home, I think it's a prudent approach. Anyway, that's how we've tackled all sorts of interior changes and we're pretty much at the point where we can't do anything more without really investing more than we want to.

The backyard, though... that's another story entirely. I am completely stumped. The previous owners had a love of all things paving stone, and I mean ALL THINGS PAVING STONE. Flowerbeds were lined with scalloped paving stones, the shed is built on a paving stone foundation, there was a weird little paving stone "patio," a paving stone dog run, and a paving stone swing base. These people lived here for ten years and I can't wrap my head around why they used such a material, but whatever. People are weird.

So far, I've removed all the scalloped flowerbeds at the bases of the trees (the lantana spraying everywhere looked like tree pubic hair, so it had to go, too), I'm in the process of pulling up the weird little patio they put in the middle of the yard, and , in the vein of recycle, reuse, revamp! I've found new uses for the dozens upon dozens of rectangular slabs of cement at my disposal: steps!

I'm going to have two paths: one to the shed and another to our fire pit. Another temporary use of all these damned cement pieces is to block off landscaping boundaries so we can imagine what it might look like someday. But it's OH SO FUCKING HOT here and I can't seem to do one more thing outside until it cools off than just lay the stones everywhere (which also makes mowing a super challenge and so we just don't do it!). This morning the windows were fogged up because of the dense humidity; it felt like the fucking rain forest - no joke. I can't go out there with Hollis and do manual labor, I'll pass out! BLECK!

So our backyard looks like a backwoods hillbilly labyrinth. It's embarrassing. I don't know what I think I'm doing, honestly. I kill everything I plant (see my attempt at a rosemary bush transfer from my neighbor's discard pile?). I want a native Texan backyard, though. Something with sustainable Texas vegetation that I don't have to think about and will survive against all odds such as spraying cats, peeing dogs, drought, torrential rains, and an absentminded gardener.

I'm so overwhelmed! My best friend is a budding landscape architect and she's promised to help me, but I still feel like our yard is a big ugly pit of dog crap and mosquitos that has no hope of a new life despite my, or anyone's best efforts. I should call one of those makeover shows for help, like HGTV or FineLiving Network. Ooh!! That's what I'll do! I'll let you know if anything comes of that!

Woot! I'm like a penniless woman with three jobs putting all her hopes and dreams in a lottery ticket!! Now this is what I call real improvement! I'll let someone else spend all the time, effort, and money on my backyard all in the name of entertainment!

The baby ride

Hollis is the most exhilarating roller coaster I've ever had the pleasure to ride on. He's in the throes of teething at the moment. I think we're up to 7 in all the way, with 2 more ruptured, and a couple more on their way. He's in little baby hell. He gets a few days off, then he's on again.

On his days off, this is a typical moment with him. He's easy going, happy, funny, curious. All those adorable, endearing things babies can be. This particular picture was from our "Summer Photo Shoot." I bought a four seasons baby frame and each season I take a picture of him. Fall has him laying on big orange leaves, for winter he's wearing an ear-flap hat my mom knitted for him, and in spring he's trying to eat my neighbor's winecups. It's so fucking hot here now I couldn't think of a better scene for summer than having him shirtless outside, so here we are assaulting my neighbor's flowers again.

The very next day he was hard at work teething again. I think he clocked in at around 5 pm. I gave him baby Tylenol, some Camilia, teething tablets, frozen wash cloths, and cold chew toys and he didn't want any of it. Even his bath wasn't enough to distract him from his teething and he just screamed and flailed his arms in frustration and pain.

This picture is of him standing at our "coffee table" (an old steamer trunk) ostensibly playing with two new packages of pacifiers I bought that day, however, the play quickly was dissolving into a painful rage as he'd scream and beat and fling the packages. (I say "beat and fling" instead of "play with" because I felt first-hand his little baby wrath on my shoulders and chest with his sharp fingernails and chubby hands as he screamed and kicked earlier that night. This was something he'd never done before. In the past, when in discomfort, he would cry and pat me, but this time, he was crazed with discomfort.)

Poor baby. Seriously. What an ordeal to go through! I remember when my wisdom teeth came in - holy shit! They hurt like hell and I was pretty cranky.

I can't wait for the rest of this ride! I want time to speed up, stand still, and rewind all at the same freakin' time!! The past 10 months have been an inspiring right of passage and I know that every day with him will be another. What a gift life is that as my child moves through growing pains that are challenging and frustrating for everyone I can't see anything but love and wonder in it. And I'm not a rose-colored glasses kind of gal, either. I'm usually a pragmatic idealist, if that makes sense.

But seeing Hollis' range of emotions makes me swell with feeling. When he's raging I feel compassion. When he's hurting I feel sympathy. When he's happy I feel joy. His lows inspire me to be receptive and a soft place for him. His highs elevate me to a new plane of happiness. A friend of mine aptly wrote in his blog that the word "love" just isn't enough to describe what a person can feel for a child. I certainly agree. Hollis' Jack-Jack-like behavior isn't troublesome, it's an opportunity to mother him. ::Mother him:: What a joy that is. - I feel like I need to have a thesaurus nearby so I can come up with some new words for all this happy-happy crap I'm feeling haha. -

Ah, man... I just feel so verklempt all the time. Like I'm always holding my breath or something; waiting for the fairy dust to settle around the unicorns standing outside under my castle window.


Poop trumps all

My life is consumed by poop. I don't even realize it until I'm in "gentle company" and see the looks I get as I casually ask Anthony, "Did Hollis poop today? How was it?" As a mother, I am not only in charge of what goes into my little baby's mouth, but also what comes out of his little baby butt, too.

At first, babies don't poop. You get about a four day reprieve when you first have them here while their little guts are working up to their lifelong task then WHAM! - or SPLAT! as the case may be - I know... gross, sorry, but seriously, it's important stuff. Once they start pooping, you want to see it happening several times a day. If they don't, then you need to worry. Imagine a baby that was pooping 5 times a day suddenly going dry for 5 days... you'll be wracking your brain to try to figure out why and looking up all sorts of home remedies to get things going again. You'll learn what "Fleet" means and you'll get over your horror of suppositories. And all because you love your little person so much and want things to work right for him.

Eventually, they get down to once a day and you're no longer astonished at the God awful sounds coming from the diaper region. There's probably solid food involved by now and you're working hard on baby nutrition and journaling what new foods you introduce and watching for adverse side effects. When I first introduced food to Hollis, I did it all wrong (for him, not in general). He got stopped up for days and days and I had to eventually just stop the solids all together, Fleet him up, and restart his guts. Since then things have been humming along just fine... until one of those big baby milestones: Cheerios.

I might as well have put a plug in his butt.

Anyway, I fed him prunes this morning and got that plug to come out this afternoon, only to drop it on the floor. YES. I dropped a turd on the floor. - I can't believe I just wrote that sentence. - So, to all you future parents out there hear me now: babies = poop. Don't be scared, don't be sick, don't be disgusted. Just be prepared for it. I sure as hell wasn't.

I like to horrify my sister about the poop-ness of pregnancy and birth from time to time, too. Yes, poop-obsessing starts then. She gags and turns green around the gills. I love it. I don't know why I find it so funny, but it is. In a world where we are so separated from our bodies the idea of pooping is just so utterly hilarious - and mortifying all at the same time. I'm nervously giggling even now.

I wish I had more to say at the moment, but I don't. I just dropped a turd on the floor and it's all I can think about. Forget that I just had a lovely lunch with some colleagues, saw my mom and Terry, and ate some heavenly dark chocolate with chili pepper (my all time faaaaaavorite kind). The poop trumps all.