December 1, 2012

Baby Update

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So, at 6 weeks our littlest is apparently our biggest - a whopping 12 lbs 9 oz! She doesn't really have much in the way of a routine. Nights are getting better though (says the woman up typing at 5:47am). She can't seem to fall asleep until about 10:30pm, but then she'll sleep till 2:30 or even later (3:30 this night). I nurse her and she she'll go back down for a couple hours or more. Unfortunately, sometimes I am the one who can't fall back asleep. Neil took bottle duty at 3:30am, so after 7 solid hours of sleep I am just TOO wide awake.

During the day she cat naps here and there and is always hungry. She has basically been in a growth spurt for all of her 6 weeks. That could go ahead and slow down and I would be absolutely fine with it.

She hates the car, which is fantastic seeing as we live in the suburbs now. One trick I have, if we are on the highway, is to open all 4 windows a crack and keep the speed up to like 70. The white noise (and possibly sheer terror) quiets her down.

The big kids are still in love with her and fight over who gets the face time during those fleeting moments when she is awake and happy and not hungry. Jonas dances and sings for her, songs mostly about farts and superheroes and ninjas and rum (he watches Pirates of the Caribbean a lot). He really enjoys a captive audience...literally captive as she is strapped into her bouncy chair. Willa just loves to hug and kiss her and squeeze her. Yes, I have had a few, "No Lenny!" moments with that. It will be easier for me when I know Sarah can squeeze back...or at least plead for mercy.

I am still not sure about her name... is that weird? I have been trying out all sorts of nicknames on her, but none are sticking. Willa thinks the term is "next name" because you have one name then you get another one "next". That actually makes more sense.

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Posted at 7:42 AM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2012

Sarah's Birth Story

It seemed important to detail this experience, for posterity (not to mention just in case I get it in my head to do this again). Having said that, the details are probably not for everyone. You may want to stop reading. I won't include photos, but the facts are pretty graphic while not at all pretty. If you are thinking of taking on natural child birth yourself (and I recommend you do!), keep reading and know you've been warned.

My first two experiences were birth were, in a word, controlled. I was past my due date both times and medically induced both times. With Jonas there was a great deal of intervention - internal monitors, breaking my water, refilling my water when the heartbeat sounded weak, a failed epidural...on and on and on. It was complicated but all the shots were called by the doctor and I just had to show up to my scheduled appointment and let it happen. Willa was a simple and fast by the book induction. Why then would I choose otherwise this time?

It never felt right to have what should be a very natural human experience be so altered...and for what, convenience? So, I was past my due date, due dates are really just averages anyway. We were curious, Neil and I, what would happen if we had the patience to not control it. So, we hired a midwife and enjoyed 40 weeks of relatively stress-free non-intervention. I say 40 weeks, because the weeks after that were not enjoyable. It wasn't just the discomfort of late-term pregnancy, in 100 degree weather nonetheless. It was also the anxiety of knowing that if I didn't go into labor by the end of week 42 I would have to have an emergency induction.

So my due date passed and I tried every method of natural induction - four sessions of acupuncture, bouncing on a ball, walking, spicy food, herbs. I literally tried it all. Finally on Saturday the 13th, a few days before having to head to the hospital I started having contractions.

At 8pm I had the first contraction. I didn't think much of it. We put the kids to bed and turned on a movie. The contractions kept coming, 5-7 minutes apart, painful but not unbearable. It wasn't until 11pm that I was SURE this was the big show. We texted the neighbor who had offered to watch Jonas and Willa to give her a heads up and we called the midwife. She listened to my breathing during a contraction, said we had plenty of time and told me to relax, take a shower and call her every hour.

At midnight they were still 5-7 minutes apart, but more intense. I made Neil pause Saturday NIght Live during each contraction because the sound of laughter was unbearable. I had taken to standing during each contraction. Sitting was awful.

At 1am it was intense. They weren't closer together but the contractions were so much worse. I told the midwife I needed to come to the birth center, for help dealing with it if nothing else, and she said to meet her there in an hour. The neighbor came over and Neil gently told the kids we wouldn't be here in the morning.

That 10 mile drive was the worst car ride EVER. I had three contractions in those 12 minutes and I was screaming each time. The sitting in the car coupled with the movement was the most horribly painful thing. Luckily there was no traffic, just drunk ACL attendees wandering the streets. It was raining too, which is remarkable because it NEVER rains here.

We got to the birth center, just a small old house really, at 2:15am. The midwife's assistant was there and got us settled in. I was in so much pain I couldn't do much else but stand there and cry. The midwife arrived at 2:30 and checked me. I was 4 cm. ONLY 4 cm???? I had been 0cm the day before, but still, all that intense pain!!! She said we'd have hours and went about prepping things.

I begged to be allowed in the big birthing tub. I had NO intention of giving birth in there, but I thought the water would help with the pain. They started to fill the tub and it seemed to take forever. I got in the tub a little after 3 am.

I was dazed at this point, literally in shock from the pain (which will make sense later). I have had two babies but this was leagues beyond that. I wasn't making sense. I remember telling the midwife that I was probably dying, that I refused to do this anymore. Then I felt a pop.

Even int he tub I felt my water break. It was immediately followed by an immense downward pressure, spurring me to shout these unforgettable words:

"Neil! I am either going to shit a shit or I am going to shit a baby!"

No one believed me. The sweet midwife calmly told me if I shit the tub it was cool, they would clean it. She also asked if I wanted to get out of the tub. And I did! I didn't want to shit in a tub! Except when I went to get out she looked and said, "Oh. No, you can't get out. The baby's head is already out!"

Yeah, I was apparently not shitting a shit.

I was terrified. First, how could I possibly be 10 cm that fast?? And what if I wasn't? Is it okay to push out a baby without some sort of authority pulling a ruler out and giving a thumbs up? Secondly, I really did not plan on a water birth. It seemed really messy and not so safe.

But there I was. I couldn't actually get myself together enough to do anything. I just put my head back and kept muttering, "I can't have a baby in a bathtub..." To which the midwife smiled and replied, "Yeah, well you totally are."

I didn't "push" the baby out. I just let the contractions force her out. A little more than an hour after arriving at the birth center, that baby just made her own way out.

So. fucking. excruciating.

See, normally you dilate about 1 cm an hour, I did 6 cm in an hour. That would explain the hellish contractions.

There the baby was, scooped up and onto my chest, a towel thrown on her to keep her warm. I shouldn't say "her" though because no one had checked. We had no idea what the baby was yet. I don't remember much at this point. But Neil helped the midwife unwrap the cord from the baby's neck and rubbed her back to get her to cry. A few long seconds later she did.

Getting out of that tub was an experience in itself. You see, I was still attached. Yeah. And having no concept about the length of the cord, I was scared that if it was too short I would yank it if I stood up (I am 6 feet tall afterall). Or if it was too long Neil might step on it. Holding the baby to my chest (still no idea what it was) I hunched over and, as gingerly as possible for someone who just had a baby shoot out of them, climbed down from the pedestal on which the tub sat. I kept snapping at Neil, "Don't step on my cord! It's attached!!!" Um, I was not entirely myself.

The next hour was wonderful and weird. The midwife gave Neil and I time to bond with the baby. I did eventually peek and shout out "girl". Mostly though I was petrified of pulling on the cord. I was paralyzed by it. I kept saying, "So, hey, I'm still attached...are we going to do something with that?" I guess other mothers spend that hour all blissed out staring at their baby. I was lying there trying to get someone to snip that thing while simultaneously doing anything to avoid looking. "Look how beautiful she is...shit, that thing is so nasty! Don't lean on my cord, Neil! I'm still attached!!!"

I won't bore (and disgust you) with the details of birthing the placenta. I will say that I did get us detached eventually. And the placenta was super gross but kind of cool...oh and much HUGER than you would expect.

By 8am that morning we were home. That car ride was the second worst car ride ever. Before we left, Neil was given instructions on massaging my uterus if it was "boggy" (over the shirt people! and no, he never needed to). I was told to take some advil and keep checking my and the baby's temperatures.

And basically that was it. It was weird to be home just hours after having a baby. "Mom, can you get me a snack?" "No, I JUST HAD A BABY!" But I was much more comfortable than I was in the hospital. The follow-up appointments were done right in our house which was also nice. It was almost startling how "no big deal" a birth could be. The hospital experience seems to be a lot of theater. Really, I didn't need any help beyond an extra pair of hands to help catch the baby.

And here we are exactly one month later. It took me a month to get this documented mostly because I have some sort of birth PTSD. I cannot state clearly enough just how painful that was. (Note to future me, I was really fucking painful and you DON'T want to do it again.) I am happy to be done with the pregnancy and I will be even happier when we are sleeping through the night. I don't know who Sarah is yet; she's still just a tiny nugget of demands, but I am looking forward to getting to know her. As she smiles and laughs and walks...the anxiety and pain will be so distant I will barely remember them.

Which is why we write things down.

Posted at 3:44 PM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2012

Back for Round 3

I can point to several reasons I stopped writing on here: I started working full-time, baby blogging seemed very indulgent (very 2005), the kids were slightly less cute... And there's one reason I have to get it going again: I refuse to have any one of my children claim I played favorites. So, number 3 (gender and name TBD) deserves some documentation. I will admit I am a little late to the game, my due date is a week away. So, I will sum up this pregnancy right here:
hot as hell, busy as hell, but otherwise lovely.

Summer starts in Texas in April and goes to November. I don't remember what it's like to NOT sweat. Once the school year ended I was busy running around with a 6 year old and 4 year old who craved endless entertainment - swimming, movies, jumpy gyms, road trips...

Then school started again, but just for Jonas and WIlla. And here we sat, you and I, alone for the first time. You are the most active baby I have had the priviledge to lug around. For months we have all watched you push and prod and kick. For months I have had the honor of feeling it. Sometimes I have said some not-so-nice things, but honestly your head spent a lot of time on my ass. You literally dislocated my tailbone... three times.

So much is different this third time around. We don't know who you are, other than ferocious. I see a midwife not a doctor, and have managed to go through 39 weeks with no real medical testing or intervention. I take herbs, see a chiropractor and an acupuncturist. These things are all surprising and foreign. It's been peaceful this time.

As I started nesting a few weeks ago it felt so different to be doing this in my thirties than it did for the first time 7 years ago. I know more. I know that I can't possibly know if I am doing the right thing. I have learned that parenting is a thirty year game. We don't know who was really "right" until we see how it all turns out. Such a long-term bet. This time around I feel like your brother and sister are really involved. I imagine they will influence you as much as your father and I will. You are not "my baby"; you are "our baby". We will all love you and we will all mess you up in our own special ways.

You are the baby that will be born in Texas. You are the first baby we will bring home to a house, a whole house. You will ride around in a car instead of stroller rolling or riding the subway. I have done this before (twice) but it feels like starting over.

Posted at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2012

Summer 2012

I have comitted myself to making at least one (okay probably at most one) of these family videos a year. I like the way it tracks the kids' growth and a vacation setting is far more intersting than 10 minutes of dinner and homework and room cleaning and all that day-to-day stuff.

These are such a love letter to my people though. Looking at all the video clips as I struggle to edit it down, I am struck by the fact that these really are my three (soon to be four) favorite people on the planet. I guess it's probably just biology, but I feel very lucky to have such funny, weird, lively, adventurous creatures in my brood.

Summer 2012 from HarperBklyn on Vimeo.

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July 21, 2011

Road Trippin' 2011

We took our first family road trip this summer. Kids, dog, giant Texas automobile...we packed it up and headed back east for the month of July. Still being in the throes of this endeavor, I won't comment too much. As time softens the edges I hope to only remember the lovely sweet moments and all the laughter.

The projectile vomit...well, that is something we'd all be happy to forget.

Road Trip 2011 from HarperBklyn on Vimeo.

Posted at 11:14 PM | Comments (3)

June 30, 2011

On the River

Our awesome friends and neighbors. the Combs family, invited us for a day on the river. Summer in central Texas...104 degrees all the time...this was an excellent break.

Kids on the River from HarperBklyn on Vimeo.

Posted at 9:16 PM | Comments (2)

November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

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Posted at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween 2010!

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October 27, 2010

Birthday Changes

When talking about what she wanted for her birthday, Margaret recited some 'baby blog related things' that I could take care of:

  • First, the name "a boy named jonas, and a baby named willa" - seemed to dated since they're both kids. Let's try something new and naming it "bklyn gone austin" (this may change.)
  • Second, spruce the place up. The pink and blue feels dusty.
  • Finally, assemble a video montage of our time thus far in Texas

And there you have what you see before you! Hopefully it will inspire us to post more consistently again. It was fun to be able to spend some time here doing work for the family. I'm really happy with the way things turned out.

Thanks for the suggestions, and Happy Birthday!

Posted at 4:28 AM | Comments (1)

October 18, 2010

Pumpkin Picking 2010

If I just posted these photos, you would think, "Wow, that looked fun!" or "Oh, how adorable!" These photos do not really tell the story of pumpkin picking in Austin. So, for the sake of posterity....just in case I forget how it REALLY was, I really do need to document the day.

To start, it was basically 100 degrees. Yes, it was that hot in mid-October. Not just hot, but with a burning sun that literally pained the skin. The dust, from the dry dry dry land coated everything - from our teeth to the outside and inside of the car. Hot and dusty. And, though we an hour out of Austin, there were just hundreds of people crowded in the pumpkin patch....which wasn't really a patch, but rather a frickin pile. You waited on endless lines for tickets to the activities; children sweltering in their Halloween best... I don't like to complain, but holy hell it was an exhausting day.

I swore right then and there to Neil and to the friends we were with, that next year I am planting my own damn pumpkin patch. He says I'll never do it, but I will. And it will be fantastic.

Until then, enjoy these deceivingly sweet photographs...

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Posted at 11:01 PM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2010

Willa tells the story of the Three Little Pigs

Apologizes for not updating this blog as much as we'd like to. Rest assured we are alive and doing well. Until we get inspired to update the blog, here is some recent video of Willa telling the story of the Three Little Pigs.

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August 2, 2010

And we survived!

My baby's first day of school is over and I can finally take a breath. We made it...through one day at least. Willa did so much better than I expected. She screamed and kicked and thrashed right when we left her (of course), but the school called me about 15 minutes later to say she had "calmed down and is now sitting quietly and observing." I could just picture that pissed off, suspicious look on her face, but hey, calm is calm.

They emailed me a photo of her later, cheesing it up for the camera during snack. Each time I called they had pretty good news to report. my favorite line was, "I wouldn't say she's smiley and giggling, but she's hangin' in."

I didn't even pick them up early as I had planned because she had so easily fallen asleep right after lunch. (They served ribs, by the way, which greatly pleased Jonas.) When I did get them she had just woken up and was screaming again. She was so happy to see me and so quick to tell me, "I cry. I pooped in ma pants. I want mom. It was fun." Her teacher verified all of those statements to be accurate.

Jonas was pretending to nap when I went to get him. He isn't quite down with the enforced nap (literally), but he got along. As he left, several kids yelled out "Bye Jonas!" They got shushed back on their mats, but he was beaming. He told me, "I made a lot of friends....I just don't remember any of their names."

I managed to get quite a lot done in my classroom. My school is the oldest running school in Texas and it certainly looks it. I cleaned out so much trash that I discovered a long list sink and lab prep area.

So, we three went to school. We came home and played in the yard and rode bikes. We ate dinner and waited outside for Daddy to come home. It feels amazing to have accomplished that. I just need to enjoy the moment before I start thinking about tomorrow...

Posted at 9:57 PM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2010

Littlest Baby Bird

It feels like ages ago that we went through the craziness that resulted in me being a stay-at-home-mom... The me that had just a little 3 month old baby boy is entirely different from the me that lives in a big ol' suburban house in Texas with two kids and dog. So, I can't really relate the decision to go back to work now to the decision to leave work then.

All I know is that my maternity leave was longer than my employment and I am scared shitless that it all changes in just 3 short days.

I had my day of tears when Jonas started pre-k last year. I won't cry for him as he sadly has to repeat it (thanks very much Texas law). Willa though...oh man...Willa. Willa has had zero experience with any kind of school or camp. She has been my faithful ever-present sidekick for all her 2 and a half years. I have cried and will continue cry for my lost days with Willa.

And to my daughter, the second child, I feel like I should apologize. Jonas had me longer, had much more of my time and attention. You and I had not even a year (when he was in school and you were just 1) of "us time". I truly wish we had more of that time. It was precious and amazing and unforgettable.

You have gotten something different from me, little girl, and I think it was a good trade. You got a big brother whom you adore (though you will deny it later); you got a mother who was experienced and confident and much more at ease. And now I have to be less selfish and give you something else - I need to give you the chance to make friends and find your independence. I just read a line in a book in which a mother describes her daughter, "I love all my children, but she and I were different. We were sweethearts." That would have seemed odd to me at one time or maybe not even registered, but I completely understand it. You and I were always different like that; I hope we always will be.

So, on Monday I will go back to the working world and you will embark on your first days of school. Your first days without mom. There will be so many tears, I hope more from me than you. In a way it is unselfish, letting you find your way. But in a different way, it is a self-serving thing I am doing. You are not the only one who needs to find some independence. It would be entirely too easy to let your and your brother's lives swallow me completely. That wouldn't be fair to me.

My head is entirely sure we are ready, but my heart is breaking. I find myself wanting to wrap us both in blankets and bury you in the crook of my neck hidden under my hair. I could keep you as only mine forever and be perfectly content. But littlest one, that just wouldn't be fair to the world.


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Posted at 3:48 PM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2010

Tales From ATX - Chapter 2: Gym as Religion

Texas is known for having some of the fattest cities in the country - Dallas, San Antonio, we're looking at you. And, honestly, I get it. Great BBQ food, southern home cooking, Tex Mex that is awesome, oh yes, queso, you are a PROBLEM. Austin, on the other hand, is known for being one of the fittest cities. It's just one of the many ways Austin likes to separate itself from the Texas all around it.

If Texas were a family, Austin would be the brother that is just too cool and tells everybody he was adopted. "Yeah, my whole family is all fat and conservative, but I am skinny and KEEPIN' IT WEIRD!"

Not long after we arrived here in our south Austin hood, we noticed a giant building right off route 1 (also known as Mopac, fyi) with an illuminated glass pyramid on the top and a waterslide out back. There were always hundreds of cars and the sign out front simply said, "LIFETIME".

Honestly, I was pretty sure it was a church. They grow the churches big out here. And, damn, with that waterslide, who wouldn't show up every Sunday?!

Then some other parents enlightened us. It's a gym. Correction, it is THE gym. We were told it had everything, equipment, classes, pools, salon, childcare, saunas...hold up... You had me at childcare. We decided we had to try it.

For 7 days we were Lifetimers and I wanted so badly to be the kind of family that just gyms it up all the time. Willa had other ideas. Despite a childcare room with a huge maze, computer room, outdoor playscape, etc., Willa just couldn't get on board. Each time I would go workout I would eventually get paged, "Margaret Epstein, please report to the childcare room." And, maybe I am imagining it, but I swear you could hear the panic in the woman's voice as it echoed throughout the cavernous 130,000 square feet of super-motivated Austinites. What a walk of shame... wobbly from the treadmill, trying not to make it obvious that I was in fact responding to that page. "Oh me, I am just going to go down and get myself a towel, no rush here, I am SO not the mom they are looking for."

And I would go down to be met by a weeping Willa who so enjoys describing her feelings these days. "I sad. I sad. I neeeeed mom. I want you." Yes, she learned to talk just so she could make me feel like shit for ever leaving her.

And she learned this just in time for me to go back to work. (That's a whole other ball of trouble and I will get to that another time.)

The one time Neil and I went to the gym together he offered to let me wear headphones so he could listen for the page for once. It was great. I was enjoying getting my 2 miles done without the tension of listening for the "Margaret Epstein..." It was really nice...until I saw the woman walking through the room holding a wipeoff board with my name written on it. And, I am definitely NOT imagining that it was scrawled by a hand under extreme duress.

I ripped off my headphones and shot daggers at Neil. They had been calling me for 45 minutes. By the time I got down there she had passed out into the carpet under a lego table, with like 6 kids playing happily above her. She had cried herself into oblivion. I picked up her sweaty little body and pressed her carpet imprinted cheek into my chest and felt like the shittiest mom ever. SHITTIEST MOM EVER.

We are not gym people. We are cuddle the babies on the couch while watching old Scooby Doo episodes people. And for exercise, well, maybe we'll take up kayaking.

Posted at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

July 9, 2010

Tales From ATX - Chapter 1: Insecurity

Along with MANY left business cards and mailed letters, twice in the first couple weeks a "security company rep" stopped by to ask if I was interested in 'security'. This is an industry I do not believe lends itself to the door-to-door technique. As I explained TWICE, any question you ask I will not want to answer.

Thanks but no.

Then, the day after we bought the new car it happened again... but worse. I had the kids buckled in, the car started, the garage door open and we were just sitting there for about 20 minutes while I figured out the AC, the DVD, GPS, etc. I throw that sucker in reverse and hear BEEP BEEP BEEP! There was a guy standing in our garage directly behind our car.

Now, I appreciate the warning from our rear detector thing. However, I almost hit the gas just because, why the hell is there a dude in the garage?! Instead, for the sake of the brand new bumper, I firmly warned the kids to "stay here" and got out to ask very politely, "what the hell are you doing in my garage?!"

"Well, ma'am, I'm here today to see about updating your security system. I see from the sign out front that you don't have updated security."

Okay, the "ma'am" was a nice touch, but skulking behind my car is just not the way to get my business. But, what do I say? "Oh, my husband isn't home, come back later?" I mean that's like saying, "This house is about to be empty, feel free to steal all our stuff. Thanks and good day!" So, I just found a way to say no thank you and I got back in my car.

You know we circled back a few minutes after leaving though. How could I not?!

Then we had today. Oh, today today today... today was precious.

Around 3 o'clock as I was, again, on my out, I heard a knock. So, I answered it to find a very clean cut young man with a binder. Damn, it's a bad sign when you HOPE it's a Jehovah's Witness.

"Good afternoon, ma'am, I am in the neighborhood today updating security systems. "

"Right, of course, do you have some paperwork you can just leave?"

"No, ma'am, I don't do that. I see there's only one car here so I assume your husband isn't home. Are you in charge of the decision making?"

"ummmmmm...."

"Because I can tell from the sign here that you don't have a security system."

"Yeah, you just told me you know I am home alone and you know I have no security. Maybe it's the New Yorker in me, but I am fairly positive now that you are a serial killer."

"Hahaha...no. Ma'am, I am from Idaho and I have a great new security system....whoa I am getting eaten alive! Can I buy bug spray off you?"

"Huh? Bug spray? "

At this point I figured he wanted to kill us all and wear our skin for pretty dress-up time. To avoid throwing him into a homicidal rage I reached for the OFF.

"I can hand you some spray and you can use it."

"Thanks ma'am."

And at this point the ma'am thing was super irritating. I should backtrack a bit. Throughout this long exchange the dog is sitting at my side panting and SMILING. I know you are thinking, dogs don't smile, but he was SMILING. Translation, if you skin them, save me a femur! Thanks pooch.

I grab the spray and toss it at him. The kids are beyond curious now and come to stare. And this midwestern genius of sales says,

"I can see you have your hands full here...home alone with the children. I'll come back later...when I see 2 cars out front."

I wanted to say, "Stop fucking watching my house, dude. I may be alone but I have 5 years of pent up mommy rage and a maglite next to the door here. I have no problem killing a man," but I didn't. I begged off and shut the door.

You know we circled back a few minutes after leaving though. This time I pulled back in the driveway, honked, and yelled, "I see you asshole!" just to be safe.

Cut to four hours later. The kids are in the tub and a neighborhood mom stopped by because I was passing on Willa's old crib mattress. She was in the house for maybe 3 minutes when I heard a knock.

"Oh, that must be my husband, guess he forgot his keys." I ran down the steps, naked Willa on my hip, threw open the door and...

Can you guess?

"Hi there ma'am! I see there is another car here now, is your husband home?"

People, I froze. This young, somewhat attractive blonde midwesterner was obviously unbalanced. He was probably some sort of bitter Mormon turned bad. So, I stammered...

"That's not my husband's car, okay?! It's a visitor and I have like 5 more naked kids running around so I don't have the time for this!"

"I understand ma'am, I'll come back another time."

I locked the door HARD and looked at the other mom. "Is this a normal thing here in Austin?"

She responded, "No, that's CREEPY. Your husband will be home soon, right?"

He, in fact, got home just like 20 minutes later. Here we are now, two cars out front and I am just waiting...waiting...waiting...

Posted at 9:16 PM | Comments (0)