I am doing two fundraising events this year.

The first is the March of Dimes March for Maddie. I’ll have the privilege to walk with the Pittsburgh team that I (and my two girls) walked with last year.

My personal goal is to get $250 to add to the pot. It’s not much, but every little bit counts. You can donate here, at my March of Dimes page.

The second event is a new one for me, Walk Now for Autism Speaks. My husband first did this about two years ago — I don’t think he did it last year. I’m hoping we can do it as a family this year.

If you are interested, I would love to start a Pittsburgh bloggers team. I’d like to call it Pittsburgh Bloggers for A Boy. (I’ll explain later, and frankly, I probably need permission to do that.) With the rates of autism at 1 in every 166 children, it’s likely that you know someone on the spectrum, whether a friend or family member.


In both of these cases — premature infants and autism — my family has not been directly affected. My children, my girls, are healthy and what is called “normal” by society. (Gabriel was not premature, he wasn’t even at risk. He died for unknown and, probably, unknowable reasons.)

But Dan works with families whose lives have been touched by these factors. I have friends with children who are on the spectrum.

I can’t do much. Love, acceptance, support. And show my love, my support, for these families and my friends and their families.

If you want to come out, information about the Pittsburgh team for Maddie is here. (Maddie is Madeline Spohr, who was premature, and who died last year, at 17 months. Her mother writes, movingly, at The Spohrs are Multiplying.)

If you are interested in being on a team for Autism Speaks, let me know in the comments (or shoot me an email at albamaria30 [at] verizon [dot] net. I’ll start a team.

And then I’ll start harassing you all on Twitter and Facebook to donate to these worthy causes. You’ve been warned!

Okay, It Didn’t All Suck

The weekend was another stressful one, and yesterday got off to a real rough start. But there were some good things that happened.

1. Saturday, the girls finally unwrapped their gifts from Aunt J, and those flashlights with Halloween-themed lenses saved my sanity that morning. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Aunt J. I actually have an excuse to lock my children in a dark room now — they ask me to!

2. I made the executive decision on Saturday to not use my kitchen for the rest of the weekend. Fortunately, I had Bocktown gift certificates thanks to ClumberKim, and through some Twitter activity, she and I even made arrangements to meet for dinner, with the children. Dan was also able to join us. It was probably the highlight of my weekend.

I called Bocktown to find out what the wait was like on Saturday around 5 p.m. I was going to have some hungry kids in tow, and all the coloring books in the world would not stop a meltdown if a significant wait was involved. Since it was not terribly busy and we would be there in about 20 minutes, the kind staff set aside a table for seven (with two booster chairs) for us. The hostess with whom I spoke told me they didn’t normally do call-ahead seating, which I know to be true, but I was grateful they made an exception for us.

The children got along like a house on fire (I’m not sure why this colloquialism connotes a positive thing, but so be it). Eleanor and Kate peaceably shared finger puppets; Oliver and Flora checked out baseball scores on Kim’s iPhone (well, Oliver used the phone while Flora looked on); they also shared coloring books and markers. We adults were able to converse with minimum interruptions, and although Bocktown does not have a kids’ menu per se (which is not a sin), they were more than willing to accommodate us with extra plates to divide up meals. The whole table shared the pretzels and beer cheese appetizer — the crowd favorite by far — and my girls had the cheese ravioli.

Halfway through her third cheese ravioli, Flora declared, “This is better than a toy store!” As I was busy inhaling the portabello sandwich, I could do no more than nod to agree with her.

Someone else noticed how well-behaved the four children were during the meal, and complimented us on it as they were leaving! Yes! This is a huge parental victory, and Kim, Dan, and I all deserved it.

3. Kate is starting to pee regularly in the potty. She even asked to go to the bathroom at Bocktown. Dan was holding her in his lap at the time, and he said, “You can just go pee in your diaper.” I was like, “No, no, no! I’ll take her! If she wants to use the potty, she’s going to use the potty!” Kate is well on her way to earning lots of M&Ms.

4. My Sunday trip to Costco was nearly short circuited by the fact that I forgot the coupons. I was so frustrated! It was apparently excellent customer service weekend, because when I mentioned something to the cashier, she said she could give me credit for the products anyway. I said, “But I didn’t grab any of them because I didn’t have the coupon book!” She checked her line, and checked my list. She sent another employee for four of things I wanted, and went for the diapers herself. She was an angel, saving me another trip up to The Pointe. And a few bucks.

5. Monday was salvaged by Starbucks coffee and a pumpkin scone, the Vegetarian Times one of my co-workers left on my desk, and the fact that my husband went to Flora’s school to pick out a picture package and give them money. I had called him sobbing from the car. I didn’t call him because I wanted him to solve the problem; he made that call on his own. I just called him, really, because I wanted a hug. Unfortunately, I had to settle for the scone.

I’ll collect on that hug later, babe.

Random Thoughts: Notes to Self

1. Let Bun know it’s okay to kiss boys to whom she is related. Re: Her comment this morning, to wit: “I’m not going to kiss daddy today. Because he’s a boy.”

2. Find out exactly what DearDR means when he says he needs help in the morning. Because, vis-a-vis his terse phone call this morning, you’re coming up short.

3. Do not feed Cheetos to Bun for breakfast, even if she will not eat anything else. Because that is definitely not helpful to DearDR when he has to rush out the door. Much neater breakfast foods that are acceptable: cereal, toaster pastry, fruit, cheese stick.

4. Remind Bun that she is no longer sick. Thus, being sick is no longer an excuse for not doing what mommy says. Including kissing daddy.

5. Holy cats, have a nice weekend. It’s nice enough to take the girls to Kennywood tomorrow evening. But don’t mention it if you’re not going to do it. You will break Monkey’s heart. (Again.)

6. Bocktown. Burgh Moms. That is all.

Some Quick Updates

Knock on wood before you read this, but, I think things are going well with ear tubes and Bun. I had been worried; she ran a little fever last week, and this week she’s been fussing at her ears. So I took her to the pediatrician to see if everything was clear.

Her ears are all clear: no fluid, so no infection. However, the doctor observed that her throat was a little red and her nose was completely stuffed. “Do you think it’s allergies?” I asked. She said she did think that, especially with the way Bun was mouth breathing. So we’re going to try a daily dose of children’s Claritin at bedtime and see how it goes. I may put Monkey on it too; not only does she mouth-breath, she snores very loudly when she sleeps. Also, she sometimes has coughing jags at night. They usually don’t wake her up, but they are bothersome. You can see she’s not resting well.

I just called my delicate little flowers mouth breathers. Nice mom.

We go back to the ENT June 4.


DearDR and I are spending the weekend in the house. All alone. My mom and dad have the girls in Erie for the weekend. I packed raincoats and rainboots. Forgot the umbrellas though.

And while a weekend at home sans children has myriad possibilities for fun (and these have not been completely ruled out) the fact of the matter is that we will be cleaning, sorting, steam cleaning, and painting. We are turning the Big Room, currently the guest room/Bun’s room, into the Girls’ Bedroom. We are turning what is currently Monkey’s room (aka the Little Room) into the Guest Room.

I will have pictures. I am equal parts excited and apprehensive. I think the rooms are going to look great when they are done. I hope we haven’t overestimated what we can accomplish in 48 hours (not counting eating and sleeping).

We’ll see. I showed DearDR the colors Monkey and I picked for their room. He groaned, “Why pink and purple?” I said, “You are the father of girls.”


In spite of my daughter thinking I am 40 years old, I have heard from many people (primarily at Plurkville) who thought I was much younger, and I just want to thank them all. The high guess I got was 32 (the low was 28). That makes a girl feel pretty good. I attribute my youthful appearance to a few things:

1. Genetics. You would never guess that my mom is 64. I keep forgetting.
2. Drinking lots of water.
3. Moisturizer. During the day, moisturizer with SPF 15; foundation with SPF, too.
4. Sunscreen.
5. Flaxseed oil capsules. I started taking them at my hairstylist’s suggestion. My hair was getting really dry. The capsules plus a deeper conditioning treatment did the trick.

For all the flattery, I do have my suspicions. Like, perhaps some of these people need glasses, or that it’s my maturity level that makes me seem younger than I am. But I figure that’s just my paranoia talking. Right?

Walk Revisited: Now with Aftermath

I wanted to say a lot more about the walk on Saturday. About how awesome it was to meet so many other fabulous Pittsburgh-and-otherwise bloggers, some parents and some not. The children who walked with their parents were all awesome, too. About how proud I was to be part of Team Pittsburgh, which — Maddie Spohr’s parents’ team aside — raised the most money nationally. Over $5200, yo.

But a lot of other people have already said so much, and Burgh Baby is compiling posts and pictures over at her place. Go there to see more and learn more about the awesomeness that is Pittsburgh Social Media.

Which reminds me that I should try to find some more Tweeter peeps. Or, tweeps. I did not make that up.

Also, as you look around at all the other pretty pictures, please note how often one of my children appears in a photo with someone other than me. The team effort went a lot further than just raising more than $5000 for March of Dimes.

Exhibit A: Uncle Crappy discussing the finer points of ducks with Monkey:

Exhibit B: ClumberKim shows Bun the view from up there:

Thanks, everyone.

While it is true that I could have easily walked 3 miles on my own (I’m not that out of shape), the fact of the matter was that I “walked” with my two independent-minded and/or slow children. Team RPM came in dead last among the March for Maddie team; I think we were trailed by a few other walkers. But not many. Monkey had to pet every puppy she saw and pick a few flowers; and if Bun wasn’t strapped in that wagon or being carried, she was walking her own way to the beat of her own drummer.

Afterwards, we ran off to bounce in the bouncy castle, pet goats (not fainting goats, alas) and other animals, and ride ponies. Then there was that wagon to return. We were seriously trailing by the time lunch rolled around. I feel bad that the original site of lunch was closed down somewhere between the time Burgh Baby made reservations and Saturday (WTF, BTW), but I am glad we ran into the rest of the team walking back from there right by Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36. That place gives me another reason to totally love The Bus.

And then after lunch (which, despite my children’s hunger and exhaustion, actually went pretty well), I took a wrong turn leaving the North Shore.

I did not realize that the parkway to the airport was closed. I could have been home by the time I had my panic attack if I had taken 65 to 51 out of the city. But nooooooo.

I bailed on 79N after the split at 79N/S turned into a parking lot. I could not handle the not-moving in my car. It’s been a long, long time since I had a panic attack like that. I think I freaked the kids out a little bit. (This indicated by Bun’s repeatedly asking, once I got my schmidt back together, “You happy again now, mama?”)

It was some combination of my physical exhaustion, my desire for nothing more than being alone and getting in the shower, the not-movingness of everything, and my frustration at all of the above. I got myself off the highway, took some deep breaths, put some gas in my car, and made some phone calls. Once my shorted-out brain could once more connect the dots between A (where I was), B (my SIL’s house), and C (home, where I wanted to be more than anything in the world), I felt much, much better. I took a breather at point B, and then headed home — not via the parkway.

We got home around 5:00. I fed the children, had a beer, and my parents, in town on other family business, came over to feed me and DearDR. Conveniently enough, they were staying with us overnight for Mother’s Day brunch, too.

It was an exhausting day, to say the least.

Thank goodness DearDR was such a hero on Mother’s Day. Thanks, again, babe.

Lost Hiatus: Have a Happy Post Day

For days in my head, as this cold virus and its attendant nasty cough has kicked my ass, I have been thinking about the post entitled: How Being a Mom Means You Don’t Get Any Sick Days. Especially how this cold virus and its attendant nasty cough utterly defeated me this weekend, and yet I could not collapse into a heap of sleep-deprived, stuffy-head, hacking-up-a-lung achy-ness and pain until Monday, and then again yesterday. (I am pretty sure that going to work and then coming home with the kids would not have kicked my ass so thoroughly Tuesday if I had actually been able to sleep. But that attendant nasty cough had other plans for me, Delsym and hot water with honey and lemon — and possibly a shot of whiskey — be damned, and entertained me endlessly, or, rather, until about 1:30 in the morning.)

But instead, I thought, “No. No. Instead of bitching about it, let’s go around the world and tell people what you love about being a mom.” After these many posts about sorrow, and loss, and the gifts that loss can bring, let’s do something happy.

(Oh, and the Lost post? Due to various and sundry health issues, not all of them wholly my own, Lost theorizing on this here site has been postponed until further notice. Or Sunday, which ever comes first.)

Here are a few things I love about being a mom:

* My girls’ giggles. Monkey has developed an appreciation for slapstick, and nothing makes her giggle harder than animated pratfalls and physical high-jinks. Bun laughs at anything Monkey laughs at, and in turn, tries to get Monkey giggling at her.

* My girls’ love of and appreciation for music. Sometimes, instead of a DVD, they want me to put on the CD and dance around to the tunes. They love singing in the car. They squabble over the portable CD player (note to relatives: a good gift opportunity right there). Sometimes, Monkey will be humming a song, and Bun will recognize it, and start singing along. It blows my mind.

* My girls’ imaginations. Everything is alive, including forks and spoons, and cheddar bunnies. Everything talks and sings and falls and climbs and needs to be tucked in. Pretend naps need snores. Pretend waking ups need dramatic cover-throwing-asides and loud announcements: “I wake up!” Littlest Pet Shoppers (as Monkey calls them now) need names, and need to be brushed and fed, and each one needs its own home inside a plastic Easter egg, which in turn needs to be piled into a basket and carried to bed.

* My girls’ ability to love on each other and (on occasion) share. Their ability to play together, if not for long periods of time, for long enough periods of time. My girls holding hands with each other, and with me, as we walk down the street or in a store.

* My girls’ enthusiasm — for anything. Time for a bath? Yay! cries Bun, throwing both hands in the air. Going to a restaurant for dinner? Yippee, Monkey yells, jumping up and down. Heading to the library? Stupendous! is the girls’ reactions as they scramble for socks and shoes and coats and toys that need to be brought along for the ride. And most of all, for their enthusiasm upon seeing me, upon seeing their father, upon learning that it is Saturday and Mommy doesn’t have to go to work, upon pancakes on Sunday with Daddy.

* Their boundless love of me and Daddy, and Nonna & Pap-pap, and Bella & Tadone, and for just about everyone, really, and life itself. Their joy of and their wonder at it all.

(The first two are other Burgh moms, both of whom I suspect of having a more international outlook on life than I, and the contacts that would go with that. Do not ask me why I have this impression, although one of them is married to a Brit, and the other to a lawyer. The other three I found here.)
Masquerading as a Normal Person
Playard Mommy (New Zealand)
Overflow… (Cebu — the Philippines. Yes, I had to look it up.)
Missionary Moms (Russia)

Random Thoughts: The 40 Days Version

Lent officially ended yesterday, and we began the Easter tridium: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.

I didn’t do all that great this Lent — although I was seldom on Plurk (I didn’t even have a perfect run) when I should have been with my children, I also was not wholly with my children. I cleaned the kitchen early, or tried to tackle laundry. Despite my reason for my Lenten vow, I just feel that it wasn’t easy to change the mindset of getting other things done even when I only get a couple of hours each day (during the week) with the kids.

I’m going to keep working on that. Mostly so I can keep doing fun things occasionally on the weekends.


I love the fact that I live in such an interesting time, and that the idea of community has expanded so greatly due to the Internet. I’m still not crazy about Twitter, but I check it out every now again again (yes, you can follow me as redpenmama if you want; I don’t post there often).

There was a lot of online community regarding Pittsburgh’s own fallen officers (the best tribute I read was here — please feel free to leave more in the comments). Tons of people watched the memorial, held yesterday, “together” online.


Witness the power of the Interwebs: The other huge thing that happened that brought people together and made a bunch of us hug our kids a little harder (and made me sorry to know there are another pair of grieving parents added to the ranks) was the passing of Madeline Alice Spohr. The online community’s response — primarily but by no means exclusively blogging moms and dads — has been tremendous. And humbling.

I’ve decided to join the Burgh Moms and Dads team marching for Maddie and the March of Dimes on Saturday May 9. If you can, please make a donation, or walk a few miles. So fewer parents know what it’s like to lose a baby. Thanks.

Zoo Pictures

The zoo was fun — challenging with two kids on my own, especially since one of the two was Bun, who goes left when I say right. But completely worth it.

Oh, and more than one concession stand being open would have been nice. I did not pack enough food, which is unusual!

Monkey requested I take this photo of the robin. Yeah, at the zoo.

Action shot!


Patience pays off!

I need a Bun-sized one of these.


On the way home we visited WonderSIL and my new nephew at the hospital — another boy, another red head. And then I — all by myself — drove to The Church Brew Works for dinner with the Burgh Moms.

I have to admit, I am disappointed in the Church’s current beer selection. But my dinner was delicious, and the company was stellar!

Let the Three-Day Weekend Begin

Bun climbed out of her bed this morning. When DearDR went to get her, she said, “I want up out of my bed.”

DearDR pointed out, “You climbed out of your bed already.”

“I climbed out,” I heard Bun say over the monitor. “I a big girl now.”

Heaven defend us. She’s right. I have two big girls now.

I guess it’s time for a new bed.


Today’s agenda: Go to zoo. See new nephew. Dinner with Burgh Moms (and a dad, I think). It’s going to be a good one.

Decisions, Decisions

The thing about being a WOTHM (work-outside-the-home-mom) — well one of the myriad things for me, of course — is that your weekend rolls around, at last, and you have about 36 hours to figure out the best use of your time. Do I want to have what I call a chore-based weekend (cleaning the house or the yard, doing laundry, etc.)? Or do I want to spend good, quality time with my children, chores be damned?

Ideally, of course, I want a lovely balance of family time, my time, and chore time. Unfortunately, I do have to actually sleep. I guess that falls under “my time”.

This weekend I was staring down Saturday morning. On one hand, I wanted to make a Costco pizza for dinner. Which would require a trip to Costco. And I had a number of other things I had to get at Costco while I was there, so…

On the other — and more attractive — hand, I had received an email from a friend about an event the Pittsburgh Opera was hosting especially geared toward children.

And in the meantime, Bun was ready for some puddles.

Doing both just wouldn’t work out. The opera event was in the Strip District at noon. Cosco doesn’t open until 10 a.m. I couldn’t shop and then go right to the Strip because it was too warm to keep food sitting in my car. DearDR couldn’t help out on this one (in general, he has no problem doing the shopping, as long as he has a comprehensive list) because he was going to be seeing patients until 6 p.m. I was on my own.

Finally, I said, “Screw Costco — I’ll go tomorrow.” And I’m so glad I did.

Because we got to eat lunch at the opera.

And there were puppets, and pretty pink dresses (with matching hot pink cowgirl boots — I am so sorry I did not get a picture of them!)

And David Newell!

This was such a fun, fun event. And it was free, and they were giving away lots of cool stuff (for kids). If you ever have the chance to check out one of Pittsburgh Opera’s Brown Bag Opera Concerts, you should go. It seems like it would be a great thing for girlfriends, moms and moms-in-law, or even couples interested in opera in Pittsburgh. When they have another one for children, I will definitely be there with my girls.

Of course, the girls liked the music and the singing. One of the numbers performed by one of the sopranos, “The Girl in 14G”, had Bun crawling into my lap, surprised by how suddenly loud the woman’s voice got. “Dat ‘cared me,” she told me when it was over. Monkey put her hands over her ears during this one, but still stood, transfixed, watching the soprano belt it out.

The girls also liked the balloons, the Smiley cookies, and the apple juice — all FREE — plus the books we won in the raffle. I would have chosen a basket of food from the the new natural foods grocery store in the Strip District (I think it’s called Nature’s Way? The Right Market? anyone?) — including a gift card! — but another winner cut in front of me as I chased down the girls. Still kind of cursing her. However, the books include glow in the dark stars, and Monkey is just fascinated with them.

I’m glad I chose to do something fun on Saturday. I don’t get to every weekend. But I really want my girls to have lots of different experiences, and when an opportunity like the one the Pittsburgh Opera presented comes along, I just have to jump on it. Pittsburgh offers a lot of these, and although I miss aspects of city living, I’m glad I’m close enough to take advantage of events that are a little bit different than a “chore-based” trip to the store.