Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peanut Butter

While shopping yesterday, I noticed that my favorite peanut butter (contains: peanuts) is 43% more expensive per ounce than the popular brand (contains: peanuts, corn syrup, sugar, hydrogenated oils, salt).

How can that possibly be the case? Are peanuts that much more expensive than corn syrup? All they have to do to manufacture my PB is grind the nuts and pour the product into the jar. The other brand requires measuring, mixing, stirring, and who knows what else. Not to mention peanuts go into PB with very little effort (they are simply dried after picking), while the other ingredients require entirely separate processing routines before arriving at the PB factory.

I can just see the PB executives in their conference rooms. "Oooh, let's take out all the superfluous ingredients, simplify our manufacturing process, and double the price!"

Hmpf. Perhaps I should buy some Smucker's stock.

Monday, March 9, 2009

And They Wonder...

Earlier today, I made the mistake of leaving you alone in the kitchen for approximately 7.2 seconds. I returned to find this:
We cleaned up most of the mess together, and then you played downstairs while I vacuumed the disturbing quantity of sugar off the kitchen floor. This is what you decided to do with your freedom: And they wonder what stay at home parents do all day??

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Money Advice

When it comes to money, I recommend sticking to these rules:

1) Don't buy what you can't afford.
2) If you must borrow money, have a plan to pay it back.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

To the readers of my little blog:
If you know the author of today's post (my Daddy) you won't be surprised by the humor, detail, and wit of the following story. If you don't, my Dad's a funny (and sweet) guy...read on and enjoy!

Several weeks ago, I asked Mamo and Granddaddy to write my "birth story" instead of buying a gift for my 31st birthday. I wanted you to have a firsthand account of the day. This is the story they sent me...one of the best birthday presents I've ever received.


The Story of Your Birthday (A Gift for Your 31st)

Exposition: a fancy word for the beginning of the story - where the author "sets the stage" - in this part, the situation of the characters in the story is explained and it leads up to the further development of the plot - the point of view and the setting (the where and the when) is also explained

As you have no doubt heard a thousand times by now, I fell in love with Pamela as soon as she walked into the Homestead Air Force Base Club one Friday night, the 24th of January, 1975 to be exact. And I know .. I've heard all the rebuttal. Most of it goes something like this, “Are you sure you just didn't fall in lust? Nobody really falls in love at first sight.” Nonsense .. she had me hook line and sinker long before hello. But to be sure, there was a liberal amount of lust involved. In fact, being the steely-eyed, testosterone-packed young fighter pilot that I most assuredly was at the time, I wanted to get your mother pregnant from the moment I laid eyes on her. Moreover, I started trying to talk her into it as soon as we got married. She, being the sensible one, demurely deferred this undertaking until she “got to know me.” I suppose getting married to me (which only took about three months, by the way) without really “knowing me” was perfectly sensible? Hey, it was her logic, not mine.

Rising Action: the series of actions, or complications, that sets up the conflict for the main character of the story - in this part of the story tension builds, and the story works its way up to the climax

Anyhow, about 18 months later she finally relented, and the grand plan was laid out, so to speak. After “cleansing her system” for six months, we commenced baby-making in earnest. You “took” on the first try, which was on the evening of Friday, June 20th, 1975. And I swear we have never had sex since .. honest. Your mother knew she was pregnant right away, but the Nellis Hospital would not conduct the definitive test until she had missed three periods.

Pamela had (and still has) a great many virtues indeed, but patience in this particular situation was not among them. She was so happy and so excited that waiting two more months to find out for sure would have been completely unacceptable. Accordingly, she went to the Pregnancy Counseling Service of Nevada, which was in a rather dodgy part of Las Vegas, and pleaded her case. Pregnancy for almost all of the women there was bad news .. very bad. So you can imagine how happy the workers were to encounter a young woman who actually wanted to be pregnant. No .. REALLY wanted it. Since she had only missed one period, they had to make an exception to policy to do the test, but your mommy won their hearts, and sure enough, you made your presence known.
Your beaming mother made your presence known to me when I got home from work that evening by wearing a little shirt like this one, only yellow.
We were ecstatic, and our feelings of joy have only intensified over the past 31 years. That night we went to tell Kay Wheeler, one of your mother's sky goddess girlfriends, and wound up spreading the news all over the Nellis Club.

Pamela flew one more trip to tell her crew about you. A nutritionist was on that particular flight, and he soon engaged her in conversation. Apparently, his big thesis was all about the benefits of taking cod liver oil, not only for the skin, but for general health purposes as well. In any case, after having inspected your mother's elbows, he advised her that she was pregnant. Your mommy thought that quite astounding since she had only been in this condition for about 5 weeks and he had no way of knowing. I must say that her condition showed quite clearly in her face and her sense of well being, if not in her belly. She was radiant. Maybe that's how he knew.

There is another little vignette having to do with Nort “Doc” Nelson which should be inserted here, even though it doesn't have to do with your birth, per se. You see, everyone at the squadron knew that we had just started trying to get pregnant, and Nort, after some encouragement from the “buds,” decided to play a rather mean joke on your mommy one Friday night. The idea was to masquerade as a flight surgeon "fertility specialist" and engage your mother in a very detailed, animated and graphic conversation regarding the fine art of getting pregnant. Of course, there was no such specialty amongst the flight surgeons, but who knew? This went on for the better part of an hour, and when Pamela finally discovered that Nort was just another dumb-ass fighter pilot she proceeded to throw her cocktail, a stinger as I recall, down his unzipped flight suit .. all over his already under-sized wedding tackle. The “Doc” moniker stuck for quite a while. She just advised me that she poured one down my flight suit as well for being complicit in this unspeakable treachery.

We were to visit the Club every Friday night thereafter, as was the ritual in those days. We danced and had dinner .. it was really romantic and probably the beginning of “dock time.” We were all full of questions about you and what your future would be like. We loved to make plans and dream out loud about our soon to be bigger family. Your mother was at her most beautiful when she was pregnant. And that's saying something, since she has always been stunningly gorgeous .. always! We went to Disney World, the Grand Canyon and North Carolina for Alicia's birthday during her pregnancy. It was the happiest and most exciting of times.

As advertised, the morning sickness came, but your mother would not take anything to help with it. She wouldn't take anything else that she thought might be bad for you either, including aspirin, alcohol, or medicines of any kind. However, she did manage to develop a food fetish once the morning unpleasantness abated. This took the form of triple-chocolate pineapple sodas from Baskin Robins. I made many a trek over there at all hours of the evening to satisfy this demonic craving. Small wonder that you are a chocoholic.

Your mommy first felt you move on October 5, 1977. She was sitting in my father's recliner in North Carolina when she summoned me to come and very gently lay my hand on her stomach. You felt like a tiny butterfly dancing around in there. It was magic and really emotional. I know you can't imagine us getting emotional, but it's true. These first barely perceptible movements gave little warning of your impending “Stomp the Yard” act.

At about the seven-month point, I had to attend a Dining-In. Pamela always hated them because they excluded the girls. Your mommy made no secret of her disdain for this sexist practice, and my “buds” knew it all too well. The wing commander, Colonel Ron “Clem” Clements, knew it too, inasmuch as your mommy had poked her little finger in his chest many a time asking, “Why haven't you fixed this yet?” He was probably the finest officer I ever knew in the Air Force , and I thought of him as the perfect father figure. But that evening he had my ass.

As we were about to be served our main course, he picks up his brick (we had no cell phones in those days) and answers what everyone thought was a phone patch from your mommy. It was being broadcast over the loudspeaker in our room as well, so all 150 of us could hear. “Colonel Clements, I want to know when you are sending my Tommy home,” she demanded. “As you know, I am quite pregnant and need him here with me!” Clements, doing his best to contain himself, hemmed and hawed like some unwitting fool. But, needless to say, he was the main perpetrator, bribing our favorite waitress to impersonate my innocent bride and getting the comm squadron commander to rig the microphones and brick.

Meanwhile, I am getting “creamed” in much the same way Joe Namath had been by Farrah Fawcett in the famous Super Bowl ad. Your mother was every bit as hot as Farrah, a fact which had not escaped a single one of the “buds.” So this was a most fitting way to make me the butt of a joke. As the boy's choir sang “Let Noxema cream your face, ...” the crowd went wild. You can still see the Namath version on YouTube:


Of course, I was virtually certain Pamela had not made the call .. she knew better. Nevertheless, it cost me about $75. It would have cost me $150, but “Clem” declared a temporary “Happy Hour” in Pamela's honor, so the drinks were half price. When I got home, despite the fact that I knew she hadn't made the call, I asked her. She said, “No Honey, I wouldn't do that to you.” She seemed a little out of sorts, which I attributed to my having attended the Dining-In. But when I got in bed and kissed her I realized she was burning up with fever. When we got to the ER her temperature was nearly 105º. It was another UTI, which had been known to produce fevers of nearly 107º in the past. I was petrified. And talk about feeling guilty. The stupid little rule about not calling the Club could have cost me the most important things in my life. I remember thinking that if anything happened to you or her I wouldn't be able to live with it. Thank God nothing did.

One day in December we were shopping for a Christmas Tree when Pamela suddenly stopped and told me to take a look at her belly. Your little feet were sticking out plain as day.

You never liked being confined and routinely expressed your displeasure by kicking me in the back .. HARD, generally around 0300. I would wake up and ask your mommy what was wrong, but she slept right through your gymnastics, never having felt a thing. You continued this “rolling and tumbling” until a few weeks before your birthday, when the Braxton Hicks contractions became more frequent and intense. I think the contractions, coupled with your increasing size, had begun to make your confinement intolerable. I recall seeing you straining as hard as you could, trying to stretch yourself out. It was more of a continuous push than a kick. I guess this is what babies do to build their little muscles and prepare themselves for the birthing journey.

Climax: the high point in the story - the turning point where the conflict comes to a head and is decided for one side or the other - usually the most exciting point in the story

You were due on the 21st of March. Your mother was finally getting serious about this pregnancy business, having gone from a size 4 to a size 14 during the month of February. She visited her doctor on Wednesday, and he informed her that it would be “a good three weeks.” We had been considering throwing a Saint Patrick's Day Party, something for which we had become quite famous. The latest estimate for your Time on Target (ToT) made that seem a reasonable plan.

We went to a Dining-Out that evening, which, as always, included a little drinking. For some reason still unknown to me, your mommy, who had consumed not a sip of alcohol since she discovered that she was pregnant, had a couple of glasses of champagne that night. Jackie Keith, the squadron commander's wife, asked her if she had been having any contractions. Pamela advised that she was having one right then, whereupon Jackie told her all about the virtues of pregnant women, especially very pregnant ones, drinking champagne. It seems that Jackie had consumed a bit of bubbly the night before the birth of her last child, and she was forevermore convinced that's what got the delivery process going. Naturally, your mother started “feeling funny” later that night. I was feeling funny too, but for a different reason. In any case, I took your mother home, promptly crash landed in bed and commenced my normal marginally inebriated snoring act.

Your mother, being the kind soul that she surely is, allowed me to continue my soft palate serenade all night. She couldn't sleep anyway, as it turns out, and somewhere around 0400 her water began to leak. She gently woke me and gave me the tactical update. Being consummately prepared by “baby school” I remained calm, asked her if she had already called the doctor and advised her that I would be requiring some strong coffee and a hot bath. After a couple of cups of dark blend Columbian, I lingered in the tub long enough to have as many wrinkles as you did at the time. This prolonged immersion was one of the delaying tactics taught at “baby school.” They really harped on this, especially for first-timers, and I managed to stall until around 0630. Meanwhile Pamela spoke with the doctor, who (convinced that she wasn't going to deliver for another three weeks) said, “It's probably nothing, but you can come on out.” After calmly announcing that this was not a drill, your mommy sat on the bed patiently smiling at me while I dressed, “goody- bag” in hand. I remember thinking to myself that she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen right at that moment and that I couldn't possibly love her more.

It was still dark when we finally started the half-hour drive to the base. Thinking there was plenty of time, I was extra cautious .. easing around curves and coming to the most gradual of stops when we needed to. We engaged in loving small talk at first, but once in a while Pamela would stop in mid-sentence. She wasn't complaining of pain, but I could tell that her contractions were becoming more frequent and getting stronger. I started to think that I had made a huge mistake by lolly-gagging around the house for so long. My mind started to race, and instinctively I sped up .. a lot. I momentarily thought your mommy might have you in the car. It was chilly and I remember checking to see if the blanket and newspaper were still in the back seat to wrap you in .. another trick we had been taught. It was there. Thank God!

I was quite relieved when we finally got to the hospital. After the first cursory inspection, the maternity nurses all said, “This is a stubborn little boy. Prepare yourself for a really long day.” That was around 0700. By 0730 we were all settled into a “labor room” and I was mentally preparing myself for about 24 hours of timed breathing, screaming, hollering and getting called every filthy name in the book for having put your mommy in this situation. This was “normal” according to the wizards of “baby school.” None of that happened.

The contractions were coming quite regularly now and they began to get your mommy's attention, but there was no screaming or cursing. I was there at the ready with all the tools of the trade in the “goody bag.” We had no need for any of them. The only thing we really needed and didn't have was a fan, which I had either misplaced or never thought to put in the goody bag in the first place. Either way, it wasn't there. I improvised as best I could, but Pamela did get a bit impatient with me, owing to this buffoonery. She really wanted that fan.

The mid-wife came back around 0800 and, upon examining your mommy, quickly changed her expression. It seems that things had progressed much faster than anyone thought possible. Mommy was fully dilated and contracting in earnest. The only problem was that you were presenting persistent occiput transverse. Fortunately, this was not the mid-wife's first rodeo. She had a substantial bag of tricks to get you to turn. First was getting mommy to roll over on her side and bring her legs up as close to her chest as she could. Next we stood up and walked all over the maternity ward. Then we sat on the toilet. She was trying to avoid manual manipulation, but had to go there (externally) after about 45 minutes. It's now somewhere around 0845. I distinctly remember her saying, “This is a very stubborn little boy!” Everyone there (except me) was still totally convinced that you were a boy. At the time, they believed that fetal heart rate and various other things were gender predictive. I knew nothing of that. All I knew was that you were a girl .. period. I have no idea how I knew, but I knew.

In any case, the mid-wife realized that she was going to have to get a doctor in there. Apparently, the protocols didn't allow her to manipulate you internally. Only a doctor could do that, at least at Nellis. He showed up right away (0900) and wasted no time getting you out. It was all cool except the episiotomy. Your mommy didn't seem to feel that at all, but it blew my mind. That happened at about 0913. At 0914 you were born. My first impressions were: great lungs (you screamed bloody murder); you were freezing and trembling (it was really cold in the delivery room and you had never experienced anything but 98.6º, except for a couple of those UTI days at 105º); you looked like a little white marble statue (the Vernix caseosa was abundant to say the very least); twenty digits and the proper number of everything else, a perfect little .. girl. Father really did know best after all.

Falling Action: events that happen after the climax - usually wrap up the story and lead to the conclusion- sometimes the falling action is almost non-existent because the conclusion occurs immediately after the climax

They let mommy bond with you for a few minutes, and you hushed as soon as she held you on her breast. However, they soon scurried away with you, cleaned you up and started the Apgar testing. You passed your very first test with flying colors, having posted the highest scores of any baby ever born at Nellis Hospital. I'm sure most of that was due to your profound intellect, but your mommy might deserve a pinch of credit since she steadfastly refused drugs during the whole deal. In any event, after a little housekeeping the doctor cleared mommy to go to her room. She famously insisted upon walking and did so. When we got to see you again, you started trying to nurse immediately and were pretty good at it. You were very hungry and made everyone aware in no uncertain terms.

I got to participate by feeding you sugar water, while mommy rested between your regular breast feedings. We thought that was fine, because all the so-called experts said so. In hindsight, it probably cost your mommy the opportunity to nurse you like she wanted to.

Resolution: the point of closure- also called the conclusion or denouement - when the conflict is worked out - the end

This was the day we brought you home and another shot of you and mommy taken a few days later. But it was hardly the end of the story. It was just the beginning of another cycle .. the most precious and magical cycle of life. And so it goes.