Tag Archives: Owen

Put it in the Alley

I just returned from a little trip to Chicago to visit my brother and his wife. It was the first time I have gone anywhere without Owen so I was naturally terrified but excited at the same time. I realized once I got there that it is possible to have an adult life while still being a mother. I think this was the first time that I realized that things do change and babies grow up and they don’t always need their mother. It was a good lesson for me as well as for Owen. We both survived without major emotional injury. Grizwald, however, seems to think every time I go near the front door I am leaving him again

I had a fabulous time and we did lots of eating and drinking and futzing around.  One thing that kept coming up over and over was this “thing” people in Chicago do.   I assume it has been going on for a long time because the system is quite efficient.  It all revolves around the alleys.  Apparently when you don’t want something anymore you just “put it in the alley” (I have this in quotes because every single person I talked to about it said this exact line). It’s essentially your own personal donating station. Almost every street has an alley of some sort so wherever you live you have access to this. You can put whatever you want in the alley and a truck with a few guys in it (they seem to control most of the stuff) or anyone who gets to it first will come take it. 

This “put it in the alley” thing came up a bunch when I was there with multiple people. It was like every day conversation between Chicagoans.  For example,  “I don’t know if I want this plant stand anymore.  I think I’ll just put it in the alley”. Stuff like that.

Alexis (my brothers wife) told me that a few years ago she had put this yellow dresser in the alley at their old apartment and just a few months ago she saw this exact dresser it in another alley waiting for its next home.

Anyone can find stuff in the alley, it’s not just the truck dudes. People go looking for stuff all the time. Alexi’s parents took me through their entire house to show me all the things that had gotten from the alley.  It was actually quite a lot of stuff.  I think that from the time I got to her parents to the time I left “the alley” was brought up at least 5 times.  Just normal conversation. 

I became obsessed with it. I wanted to walk the alleys of Chicago and find some gem that I could take home with me. I was secretly hoping I would find some amazing piece of furniture that I would have gladly paid the shipping on just for the story alone.   I expressed my fascination with this phenomenon while at dinner at Alexis’ parents house. Her mother told me I wouldn’t find much since pick ups were Fridays (this was Sunday) and usually at the end of the month. I said I wanted to go anyway just for the experience.    I love that she knew this information as if it was part of their bi-annual garbage schedule you get in the mail.  That’s how crazy it is. 

Alexis’s sister Emilie took me for my virgin alley crawl.  I was so excited I didn’t even complain (at first) about the 95 degree weather we would be walking in. We walked through probably 7 or 8 alleys. I wanted to get a feel for the kind of stuff people put in the alley. Literally anything and everything seemed to be out there just waiting for its next home.  And the cool part was that it wasn’t stuff that was broken or run down or heavily used.  Most of it was in pretty good shape.  During our walk we ran into a few of the “pick up” trucks that seemed to be either following us or trying to get ahead of us. We were actually beeped at by one truck as if to say “get the hell out of here you amateurs”. At least that’s what I thought. Maybe they were honking at Emilie who was wearing a very short dress  and 6 inch wedges.

Her mom was right about not finding a lot of stuff but I did come away with this lovely bird drawing and a VHS tape of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (I used to love them and went to their concert for my 16th birthday). We also found a box for a brand new breast pump and thought it would be funny to give it to Alexis since she is having a baby. We brought it back and everyone was oohing and aaahing over the sweet find. Too bad it was just the box because this alley system is so awesome that even a breast pump next to a garbage can would be a good find and probably used without hesitation.

Overall I had a great experience with the alley picking.  If I lived there I think I would make a point of doing the alley crawls every weekend.  I love it.  I want to hear more stories from people who find things in the alley.


The Force Field

Ever since I was very little I apparently have be able to have long in-depth conversations with complete strangers. My mom has told me that when I was three I would sit on a bench next to someone and start up a conversation.  I think this is where it all began. 

Yesterday I got a call from the wrong number and it was a lady looking for her friend George whose wife is dying from cancer. I was out to dinner and normally wouldn’t answer a call from an unknown number but Owen was having his first sleepover at Nana and Poppy’s and I was convinced it was the hospital calling to tell me he had an accident.  I had a whole scenario already played out in my head about this fictitious accident (the joys of motherhood).   In this scenario he was so upset that I left him that he threw himself down the stairs at their house and broke his leg. Obviously Nana and Poppy are very capable of taking care of him otherwise I wouldn’t have done the sleepover but I was convinced he would miss me and not be able to handle it.   Not the case whatsoever.  I think its safe to say that he was not phased at all about spending his first night without me.  I, on the other hand, did not do as well. 

Anyway, so I answered the call and the lady asked if I was George. I was planning on telling her I was glad it wasn’t the hospital but before I could she went into the whole story about her friend George’s wife and the cancer, crying. Nick was in the bathroom and missed the whole conversation but I posted on facebook  about how the weirdest stuff happens to me and an old friend of mine commented back and said that I have no force field and that she has seen me have these types of conversations with strangers.

So I started thinking about this. I honestly can’t think of a reason why I do this or why these situations  happen to me.  How does it even start? Am I giving off some sort of body language that says, “come over here and tell me your problems”? Or is my friend right about my lack of force field? Do I not have the invisible field around me keeping strangers away? Are you born with this force field or do you develop it over time? Why don’t I have one?  Maybe I missed this day in Psychology 101 about the force field. 

I don’t think I can stop it and I don’t see why I should or need to but why is  one person over another more susceptible to these situations? 

My mom also pointed out that I have a tendency to make friends with some relatively unstable people, have a short and turbulent friendship with them and then it ends for one reason or another.  This may be a force field problem as well.  A simple conversation with a stranger turns in to a weird friendship that will never last. 

I hate self reflecting.

Oh You Liked Being Pregnant?

Most of you have either known someone or have, yourself, been pregnant. For those of you that haven’t they say that you either love it or hate it. Guess which category I fell into? I think I can safely say I have some pretty disturbing memories of my pregnancy. Of course I would never take back what it has given me as Owen is the greatest thing in my life but man, getting here really really sucked.

I didn’t have a “bad” pregnancy per se. I wasn’t terribly sick or mad but I was very fat and the hormones seemed to have made me even more sarcastic than usual. I wish i could somehow get all my Facebook posts from that time for Owen’s baby book because I remember them being pretty funny in an awful and disgusting way.  I had no filter with my thoughts.  They all came pouring out of me all the time (more so than usual). When I was by myself I enjoyed feeling the kicks and talking to the bump and imagining what he would look like and what kind of boy he would turn in to.  But around my friends and family I made it very clear how bad I felt and how I wished it could just be over with as soon as possible.

The thing that set me off from the beginning was having to quit all of my “vices” immediately (smoking, alcohol, caffeine, Advil, ADD medication, etc..). I thought I was going to drop dead those first few days after I found out.  I stupidly quit everything all at once and proceeded to get a terrible migraine that I couldn’t take anything for. 

The other thing that really pissed me off is that I managed to gain 85 pounds in about 9 months. It was pretty amazing actually.  I have weighed about the same my entire life give or take a few pounds so it was a bit shocking to see the scale every month at the doctor go up 10 pounds.   I eventually stopped taking my shoes and purse off and just told the nurse those extra 3 pounds didn’t even matter anymore.

I lost 35 pounds in my 2 day stay at the hospital after Owen was born. I remember trying to get my winter boots on when we left for the hospital and not being able to zip up the front of them and leaving the hospital with them loosely hanging off my feet.   Owen was just under 8 pounds when he was born. All the extra stuff that comes with him about 7 pounds. That leaves me with 20 pounds. Twenty pounds of water.  DISGUSTING. During the weeks following the birth I lost another 20 pounds of water weight. I had sweat coming out of the pores in my feet. Nobody tells you about the massive sweating. They also don’t tell you about the amniotic fluid oozing out of your pores either.  I guess my body needed the extra 55 pounds of water?  Can someone please tell me why?

Another exciting thing about pregnancy is your feet swelling to unusual size. I wore these brown Crocs for the better part of 9 months and I remember physically sliding around in them from the mass amounts of sweat coming from my feet.  Eventually there was no room to slide so my feet sat in puddles of sweat. 

I was determined to walk everyday, sweaty feet and all,  as they say it helps with  labor(that’s a big fat lie).  I walked Grizwald  every day but towards the end I was walking so slow that Grizwald was literally trotting in place next to me. The walk that took me 45 minutes while pregnant now takes me three. 

My doctor works at a teaching hospital so there are always students and residents with her. I can’t remember exactly when I met “Geppner” (if you say it like Newman from Seinfeld it helps to imagine him) but it was towards the end of the pregnancy. He was observing one of my check ups and he seemed nice enough. Probably younger than me but not quite Doogie Howser.  One of my last appointments was just with him. It was that day that I realized how much I loved my regular doctor. I was due a few weeks from when I saw “Geppner” and he decided it would be a good time to tell me I had gained too much weight. Then he said he wanted to make sure i was eating right and getting enough exercise. I had to refrain myself from saying the following:

1.  Dude, I weigh 500 pounds
2. Isn’t this something that should have been brought up before I was about to pop?
3. I would like to see you try to carry this thing around.
4. Are you even old enough to be a doctor?
5. You really need to be careful what you say to a very pregnant lady because we are very unpredictable. 

I was so mad. Unreasonably mad. Of course I was unreasonable about everything at that point. I was a crazy person.

Three days after my due date and still no signs of real labor (besides the lovely mucus plug, I won’t get into it) I went in to see my doctor and she told me the baby was “sunny side up” (meaning he was head down but facing forward instead of backward) which is why I hadn’t gone into labor. I had been having contractions for a month and even had a false alarm trip to the hospital. She told me she was going to just turn him around really quick. I asked her how she was going to do that and she held up her hand and waved it in front of me.  Still confused I naively said “Ok, whhhatever”.   Yes, her hand. She used her hand to turn him. Without getting too graphic I’ll just tell you that she physically  grabbed his head and turned it.  With her hand.   I swear she is some sort of medicine woman/goddess.  I went in to labor an hour later.

What comes next is something that deserves its own special post. There are so many crazy things that happened in the course of 24 hours that it needs to be carefully thought out and planned before I write it.  Let’s just say that Geppner played a key role in the events that took place that day.  Geppner.

Garbage Day

I blame my friend Sarah for Owens obsession with garbage. About 4 months ago she was babysitting and taught Owen how to put his diaper in the garbage. At first I thought it was awesome because it meant I could have one less thing to do. But I soon realized this new “trick” (I say trick because everyone says he’s a trick pony) was actually adding more to my list of things to do. He brings the diaper to the garbage, but insists I come with him. And also insists I open it with the foot pedal thing. Every. Single. Time. And it’s not just diapers. It’s all garbage.

I thought he was becoming less interested last month and then of course, Nana and Poppy bought him a mini garbage truck. That really added a new level to Garbage. This truck meant that not only does garbage go into a garbage can, but it then gets picked up by trucks outside our house every week. And don’t even get me started on what goes on when the garbage truck comes down the street.

His garbage obsession has also expanded to outside the house. You can bet he finds a garbage cans everywhere we go (why wouldn’t it, he picked the one thing that happens everywhere, everyday, all year round). Now how he figured out that dumpsters were giant garbage cans I don’t know but those are quite exciting for him. And he doesn’t just say “Garbage”, he yells “Gaaarrrbbbaaaaage”. He is good at what he does, don’t get me wrong but this world is full of garbage so he needs to pick his garbage battles carefully. I wish he would have been able to meet my Grandma on my dad’s side. She spent a lot of time picking up tiny pieces of lint and dirt off carpets making you feel like you were the dirtiest person alive even if you had vacuumed and cleaned right before she got there. Maybe this is some genetic trait that hasn’t been discovered yet. He has also been known to spot tiny pieces of garbage in giant fields of grass, run to it, pick it up, and spend the next 20 minutes looking for the appropriate receptacle.

I often think about my life pre-trash and it’s interesting because I, too, enjoy the process of garbaging. I can’t really blame Sarah but I like to make my friends think they have ruined my life by teaching my son something that they don’t have to deal with every day. In all honestly it may have actually started when he was a lot younger. There was a specific day (garbage day) that I recall having forgotten to take the garbage out and was hanging out in the living room with Owen (he was maybe 9 months old) and I heard the garbage truck coming down the street and panicked. I grabbed Owen and Sweeney and ran out the door in my pajamas with no shoes on, grabbed the garbage can, and ran after the guy yelling GARBAGE! WAIT! GARBAGE! The sad part is he didn’t see me. I had to call and have them come back. That could have been the turning point.

I have other friends to blame for this too. My friend Melissa sent me a you tube video called Garbage Day (Garbage Day). This is a special little treat Owen gets to watch on rainy days. I suggest you all watch it as well. She also sent me a link to some really nice garbage truck birthday invitations on ETSY (ETSY Garbage Invite) that made me feel better about his love of garbage knowing that there are others like him out there.


Owen received a lot of stuffed animals and toys even before he was born. I had them all set up in his crib for months (his crib never actually got used until he was 5 months old). In the crowd of animals was a bear that was given to him by his Nana and Poppy. The bear had a tag that said Sweeney. At first I was not that excited about the name but honestly… am I really going to take the time to think of a name for a stuffed animal? Come on. I should be happy he came with a name right?

Owen was about 6 months old when he first seemed interested in him. I thought it was so cute that he had a favorite already at such a young age. What I didn’t know was that a favorite turns into a best friend. I think Grizwald (our dog, who I’m sure you will hear about often) is by far number one on Owens list of friends but Sweeney is a very close second.

I have read many children’s books about blankies and stuffed animals etc…that kids become so attached to that they have to eventually be cut up into small pieces and placed in various pockets, bags, and beds (the blankies not the kids). I secretly always wanted my child to have that “security blanket” to help him through tough times but I never imagined it would be a bear that is as big as a one year old.

My brother and I both had blankets we liked when we were young. I vaguely remember mine but I distinctly remember my brothers. He had 2 pastel green and yellow blankets that I believe were the ones he was sent home from the hospital with. We both remember them smelling like maple syrup. I actually remember my brother himself smelling like maple syrup and therefore, everything he owned smelling  like it (and no, he didn’t have that infant disease where you DO actually smell like maple syrup). The funny part is my mom really did the “cut up the blanket into pieces” thing for my brother which I just found out recently. I was laughing so hard at the thought of my brother secretly having a piece of his blanket hidden somewhere in his condo currently. All ratted up and syrupy.

Sweeney has held up pretty well considering what he goes through on a daily basis. He is currently being forced to eat all meals at the table; in Owens lap. I can usually distract Owen and get the bear out of sight but if I don’t Sweeney gets many mouthfuls of whatever is on the menu for the day. Just a few days ago I gave Owen a real cup to drink out of (we made the mistake of letting him do it once so of course this has been a big hit in toddler land)  and so today I was giving Owen his daily demanding cup of water and I went into the other room for some reason and came back into the kitchen and he was pouring the water onto Sweeney’s mouth and making a little drinking noise (num num num). It was incredibly cute and endearing yet not that awesome to clean up. I can’t even take myself seriously most of the time so how am I supposed to have this conversation with Owen about how “Sweeney doesn’t need water because all Sweeneys are thoroughly watered before they go to their new homes”.  I often wonder about where I get this shit from. 

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I am happy that Owen has Sweeney (he calls him Naaam, I have no idea why) to comfort him during his moments of shyness and uncertainty.  He sleeps with him, cuddles and wrestles with him, and does the classic dragging him behind him when he walks and overall seems to be a pretty solid friend.  

And this is why I am Sweeney’s Keeper.  Because deep down that damn bear knows he’s gonna get sliced up into little pieces and stuffed into pockets and pillowcases.