Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A letter for the lost

Dear Ben and Taylor,

You share no earthly connection except for me. I am remembering you both this week on the anniversaries of your passing. And you both left us at a time in your lives when you were supposed to be moving on to the next chapter, not ending the book.

But I hope you two can find each other in heaven and give each other the hugs I cannot give you.

Taylor, it has been only a year since you left. Ben, you've been gone 20 years. Both of those milestones seem hard to believe, hard to grasp. There is still an inexplicable void in my life, one I feel almost guilty about. I wasn't part of either of your everyday lives when you passed. I feel like I have less right to miss you. And yet I do.

To my sisters and all who miss Taylor: I'd like to tell you that the 20 years since Ben's passing has lessened the grief. I can't, exactly. It has merely muted and changed it. It's not as raw as it once was. It has mellowed into something that can make me smile. I laugh over Glee Club memories and Fridays with our group of friends.

But after 20 years, it's tempered with "what if?" Where would Ben be today, if he had lived? What would he have done? I think you will all find yourselves wondering this about Taylor, as the years go on. Especially those of you who expected her to be by your side as you took on the world together.

Every year, on the anniversary of Ben's passing, someone posts a picture of him on Facebook. And we all comment on it. We share memories. We share grief. We share our wonderings. Sometimes we reconnect with a friend we haven't talked to since high school. Twenty years later, he still brings us together.

I hope that 20 years from now, someone will still be posting a picture of Taylor every year, and that we'll virtually gather together. That's the best tribute of all.

I miss and love you both.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Quick Mommy Fashion

Inspired by former cheerleader/ZTA sister/student affairs grad student extraordinaire Gracie and her blog, Student Affairs Sensible, I'm adding fashion to my list of adventures. I love clothes, shoes, purses, accessories, you name it. After I had Sophie, I found myself needing new clothes -- not complaining about that! I love the thrill of the hunt, as in hunting down bargains. I live for trips to the outlets and Bon-Ton's yellow-dot racks. :-)

Being a new mommy is not exactly conducive to high fashion. Most days are spent in tees, sweats, the like -- for comfort and for function, because who wants spit-up on their cutest clothes? Not me. It's bad enough when Sophie chucks on her own cute outfits. 

But some days, I need or want to get out of the house, to run errands or just give Sophie a change of scenery (She seems to share my love of shopping). With Sophie now mobile and also rather cranky when I leave her in her crib for a minute, I find myself doing quick-changes to get ready to leave the house. Hey, I live in the Abingtons, dahling. We don't leave the house in sweats. So here are a few tips for Quick Mommy Fashion:

  • If it's winter, don't worry about your top. Unless you're going somewhere that's boiling hot, you can pretty much leave your coat on while you shop or dash off that errand. Top it with a cute scarf and you're good to go. Focus on your bottom half. 
  • Flat boots are a godsend. Well, flats in general are a godsend, but right now is not the time for my super-cute purple striped Fergie flats - they'll just get destroyed in a puddle of slush AND my feet will freeze. Flat boots keep my feet warm, look cute, and can usually withstand the weather. The ones I bought last season were cheap enough that I don't mind them getting a little beat.
  • Never underestimate the power of the ponytail. I usually don't have time to fully blowdry my hair when I wash it, so it ends up kind of funky-wavy. I throw it in a ponytail and I'm good to go.
  • Use an eyeshadow set for quickie eyes and forget about eyeliner. Even if you just brush on the highlight shade, line your eyes with the dark shade and it makes your eyes pop enough that you don't look like Tired Mommy. This even works when I leave my glasses on.
  • I have a foundation stick from Clinique that I adore. I don't think they make it anymore. I hate foundation as a rule, but if I need to cover up some blah, I can just swipe a bit of this on and it has a nice powdery finish. Basically, try to find makeup that does multiple tasks and it will cut down on your get-ready time.
 Any other mommies out there have ways to look better fast? I'd love to hear them! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Return Wars: Target vs. Babies 'R Us

I now regret registering at Target instead of Babies 'R Us.

Now, before I get into it, let me just say: I once worked in retail. I refuse to be one of those people who thinks they are entitled to get whatever they want from a store just because "the customer is always right." I respect that stores need to have policies in place for their own protection. I get it, I do. But there's a right way to handle things, and a wrong way, as my story demonstrates.

I registered at Target about a year ago. Joe and I had registered there for our wedding and didn't have any problems, so we figured, why not register there for baby stuff? Again, we didn't have any problems, at least until recently.

We had chosen a high chair for our registry, but when my mom was planning my shower, I gave her access to the registry and she added another one, because the one I originally picked out kept going out of stock. We received both high chairs. No biggie, right? They might come in handy, plus the baby might outgrow the first one.

About a month ago, we realized that we wouldn't need the second high chair and decided to return it. We hadn't received a play yard, which was also on our registry, and could use one at this point with Sophie crawling around. So the plan was to essentially exchange the high chair for the play yard (and possibly a gate, depending on the prices at the time, which kept fluctuating).

We took the high chair back to Target, with the packing slip. We were told it could only be returned for the current price, which was about $34. It was originally about $90 - which came up via the packing slip. But because it was past 90 days, and the chair was now "discontinued," that was all we could get. We were also told our registry was no longer in the system, although I can still pull it up on my Target app.

Side note: Yeah, we should have just kept it and tried to sell it ourselves. But we figured there was no guarantee we'd get what we wanted for it, or even sell it at all, and this was at least some money we could put toward the play yard.

Well, my mom was horrified by how little Target gave us. So she called the store and said she'd buy it herself. It was already sold, natch. Then she called Target customer service and was told that we should have gotten the price paid for it, not the "current" price. 

Side note 2: The high chair was still available on Target's website for EVEN MORE THAN WAS ORIGINALLY PAID FOR IT! Discontinued, my rear.

Back I went to my Target, and told them my mom had called customer service -- 

-- "Guest services, you mean," said the associate.

Um, sure. 

Anyway, she was told that I should have gotten the price paid for it. Here's my packing slip.

The associate, for her slight snippiness, did at least call Target's website's cust-- er, guest services. But the person she reached couldn't even pull up the order, it was "that old."

Oh, and it's still available on Target's website and more expensive because Amazon runs their website. ?!??

My mom, still horrified, posted on Target's Facebook page and got a response. They gave her a form to fill out, and she hasn't heard anything more yet.

And here's why I wish I'd registered at Babies 'R Us instead...

A few months ago, they had a pretty good sale on diapers, so I bought two boxes each of size 2s and 3s. Sophie outgrew 2s before I opened the second box, so I wanted to exchange it for a box of 4s. Being wary after my Target experience, I called my local Babies 'R Us first to see if it was even possible.

"Sure, just bring it to customer service and we'll take care of it," I was told.

"I don't have the receipt," I told him.

"No problem."


I took the box back today, still wary. I went to customer service, explained the situation, and the associate said, "No problem. Just leave that box here, go find what you need, and we'll do the exchange."

I went back to the diaper section, and discovered that apparently that packaging is being discontinued, because there were only two boxes there like it. Both size 6s, and marked "clearance." Oh boy, here's the snafu, right?

Nope. I took a box of 6s (hey, I'll need them eventually anyway) up to the counter. Not only did the associate cheerfully and easily make the exchange, she didn't give me grief when the price of the 6s came up more than the return value of the 2s. AND she threw in a sample pack of baby wipes!

As I thanked her, I told her a bit about my Target experience, and she told me that they allow returns on registries up to SIX MONTHS.

So if you're not psychic, and don't know exactly what your baby will need ahead of time, register at Babies 'R Us. I wish I would have.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The next big adventure

Yes, it's been a long time since I've written in this-here blog. New baby and all. And wouldn't you know, I find myself inspired to write about an adventure that should essentially change the name of this blog.

Soon, Joe, Sophie and I will no longer be Abingtonians, dahling. Joe has accepted a job at the Central Penn Business Journal, based in Harrisburg, covering York County and other topics.

What does this mean (aside from the aforementioned location/blog name change)?

The CPBJ is like journalism utopia: Joe will work "normal" hours (as in, daytime instead of nighttime). He won't have to work major holidays. Heck, he'll even have extra time off around Christmas!

Better yet, we can live closer to our families. We're casting a wide net, and can live just about anywhere convenient to Harrisburg and York County. I'm hoping for Carlisle or somewhere down U.S. 15, which will translate to about a 45-minute drive to my parents' house. Or even Gettysburg, although that would make a bit more of a commute for Joe. 

And while I'm ecstatic to ditch the three-hour drive to see Mom, Dad and Andrea, and the pile of baby stuff to lug anywhere because family visits aren't day trips, there are some things I will miss about NEPA. I've enjoyed our adventures: tooling around back roads from Tunkhannock to Towanda (I think going out U.S. 6 was my favorite), up into the southern tier of New York, and out to Honesdale and Hawley. We meandered down to Jim Thorpe one day, just for fun. This is a very scenic area and there's always a new road to follow.

I'll miss the history and the ethnic pride that is so prevalent in NEPA. Trains, trolleys, the St. Patrick's Day Parade, all sorts of cultural festivals... and the food that goes with them...

I'll miss the people we've met. Joe has worked with a good group of people at the Times-Tribune, many of whom have become friends. I was welcomed into the NEPA ZTA alumnae chapter with open arms and found a whole new group of sisters to love.

So it's off to new adventures in the 717. Who knows what lies ahead...

Oh, anyone out there want to buy a house in NEPA? :-)

Monday, July 29, 2013

A weekend of cars in the land of horses and buggies

Sophie had her first "vacation" last week, and it was quite the experience. Every year, my family travels to the National Chrysler Products Club National Meet. I'm now the club chair. Dad is treasurer, Journal editor, and a lot of other things (Basically, he's Mr. NCPC). I introduced Joe to the fun in 2010 when we went to Sugarcreek, Ohio, and suckered... er, sweetly coerced... him into writing the National Meet recap and other stories for the Journal. Hey, I wrote 'em for years. People are sick of my blatherings. Besides, he's a better writer than I am. (Don't believe me? Check out his blog.)

Anyway, the Sunday before, we attended an anniversary celebration in Harrisburg. Since Joe had to go to work that day, Sophie and I went back to Chambersburg with my parents for the three days before we headed to Bird-in-Hand, Pa., for this year's National Meet.

As you may well guess, or know, traveling with an infant is an adventure unto itself. Petey was loaded down with a very large suitcase that held all of my clothes (and some of Sophie's) for the week, two diaper bags (one acting as another suitcase for Sophie, because you can never have too many clothes for an almost three-month-old), another bag full of "linens" (burp cloths, receiving blankets, etc.... things that, again, you can never have too many of), another bag of "extras" (like the baby sling, toys, etc.), her kick and play gym, her pack and play, and the stroller. And this was to go to my parents' house, where Mom stocks Dreft (which, despite all of the things I packed, came in handy), diapers, bathtime necessities, and the travel tub. I'm not sure all that stuff will fit in Petey if we go anywhere else. Dad's Durango was jammed full on the way to Bird-in-Hand.

Sophie's a mixed bag when it comes to traveling. She slept most of the way to Harrisburg, and apparently was pretty good on the way from Chambersburg to Bird-in-Hand (I rode in the Crossfire convertible with Andrea). But there's something about the reverse trip back to NEPA that usually has her fussing. Hmm....

The NCPC National Meet is a good, albeit busy, time. Being on the club board of directors means some extra responsibilities, but on the flip side, there are gorgeous cars to see and good friends to catch up with. Everyone was very excited to see Sophie for the first time.

It's also more than just a car show. People arrive a few days early and take part in driving tours. Friday, Dad, Joe and I did that, checking out the Ressler Family Home and Mascot Roller Mill with several other members. The home was left to a foundation by a brother and sister, last of their line, from the milling family. It is really a step back in time, as everything was left just as the siblings left it when they went to the nursing home in 1977 -- and really, it's not too far off from the 1800s, when it was built. Their father, apparently, was not into modern conveniences. Next door is the grist mill, also very well-preserved.

We then went to a member's home to see his private collection. When you say that he likes 1956 automobiles, you aren't kidding. He has one of almost every make and model from that year! They are in absolutely beautiful condition as well. Three of them were previous NCPC Best of Show winners, and a fourth won during Saturday's show. He's done most of the work himself. Seriously, these cars are gorgeous, probably better than the day they rolled off the showroom floor.

Friday evening brought about our traditional board meeting, general meeting and fun auction. Emphasis on the "fun" - you get your random assortment of old car parts, stacks of paperbacks, and the occasional odd item like a charcoal portrait of Gary Coleman. But it's not just goofy items - this year, we had an autographed first edition novel from a new member, some lovely hand-knit items, and a weekend getaway to the Poconos! Our auctioneer and his assistant kept things lively as well. We also kicked off a Chinese auction, a new addition this year. There were nine great gift baskets made up and chances were sold til the banquet Saturday. I didn't win, but my mom did. Jealous!

Saturday morning was showtime! I also serve as the event photographer, capturing each car as it enters the showfield, for our National Meet Journal issue. This is admittedly a bit stressful, as I have to make sure I catch every one and that their information is in order. This is why I have my "lovely assistant" Andrea, who takes their info slips before they get to me, and my "handsome assistant" Joe, who parks them correctly so all photos are (relatively) uniform. However, I get to see everyone as they come in! There were some really gorgeous cars this year, new and old. We have members with cars from the 1920s all the way through modern Challengers. It really is a great variety and this year was no exception. I think pretty much every decade was represented.

Later in the day, after the show, Joe and I took Sophie for her first swim in the hotel pool! I was inordinately excited about this. I taught swimming lessons as a teenager, and I think it's important to get kids comfortable around the water at a young age. I really wanted to take her to the outdoor pool, which had an incline entrance, but it was blazing out there. The indoor pool had steps, so I could stand her on the top one. And then I carried her around and paddled her feet. She seemed to like it!

That evening was the annual awards banquet. It's a banquet, nothing out of the ordinary, but time for good food and good friends. And trophies. :-) I also had the pleasure of recognizing the former NCPC chairwoman, who was in attendance. When I was 13 and went to my first NCPC National Meet, she was the chair, and I thought it was the coolest thing that a woman was chair of a car club. No girls I knew at the time were into cars. She was something of my inspiration, because here I am today, chair of the NCPC myself. I wonder if I will serve as similar inspiration to any young ladies in the club...

On Sunday, we traveled to nearby Lebanon to visit my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Bob, who invited the rest of the Botchie clan there as well to meet Sophie! It was a fun afternoon. We used to all get together for almost every holiday, but now that we "kids" are grown up and have families of our own and have scattered about, we don't get to see each other as much. Several of my cousins were there too, and it was great to catch up. Facebook pictures just aren't the same. :-)

So how did Sophie fare with all the travel? Not too badly, I'd say. It helped to have Mom, Dad and Andrea around for extra help. (Side note: Grandpa has the magic mojo to settle Sophie.) She slept 10 hours solid in her pack and play at Mom and Dad's and eight hours the first night in the hotel, which is doubly amazing because she's been going through a phase where she likes to be held to sleep. She wasn't too fussy at Friday night's events but we did have to roll her around in the stroller during the banquet on Saturday. She did like shopping, though. :-) The car rides weren't too bad, with a minor exception on the last leg home. We'd been talking about flying to Florida later this fall to visit my family there, but now I'm not so sure. Moreso because of the amount of stuff we'd have to take. We could roadtrip, but even so, we don't have enough room in the car and I don't know how she'd hold up for 20 hours.

All in all, a good week. I wish it had been longer!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New mommy lessons, part 2

Remember how I said baby brain is real? Yup. I forgot some of the lessons I wanted to include in my last post. So, here's the addendum:

  1. Baby brain is real. Oh wait, I said that.
  2. Spit-up becomes an accessory. Or it might as well be. It will decorate your clothes. And you will change your shirt a few times a day, prompting...
  3. Laundry becomes a daily chore. Either the baby's or yours. Trust me, you don't want to leave baby laundry sitting around too long. You will also have to squeeze loads of laundry in between feedings, burpings, changings, etc., so you'll start to think to heck with it and you'll do small loads at a time just to get the stuff clean. Sorry, environmentalists.
  4. Sleep when she sleeps is a myth. Sophie's asleep right now. She's been asleep since about 5. I held her for the first hour, since she was a little fussy, and since then I've made food, started laundry (see above), caught up on email and written this blog post. Your baby will likely sleep at hours when, despite your own lack of sleep, you're just not tired. You're better off taking advantage of the chance to get chores done. Or else your house will be in worse shambles than it likely already is. And you may find yourself doing said chores at 11 p.m.
  5. Some days, you just won't get anything done. This is OK. Sophie has had her good days and bad days. On the bad days (post-Mom's visit), she pretty much occupied all my time. At first, I felt guilty or like I was failing the mommy test. Then I just said to heck with it. I get it done when I get it done. (Not to say I don't get a bit frantic if I'm about to get company, though.)
  6. "This time goes fast" isn't a joke. Sophie's already going to be a month old tomorrow. She's grown and she's developing a little personality. Yes, everyone says to enjoy this time because it goes fast, but they aren't kidding. Sometimes, I just stop and stare into her eyes and marvel over her, because she won't be this little forever.

Monday, May 20, 2013

New mommy lessons

Our little girl, Sophie Marie, arrived on April 22! (Yes, that's four weeks ago to the day!) Since we didn't know her gender ahead of time, we were a bit surprised! (Everyone thought I was having a boy.) She's named after my Great-Grandma (GG) Lombardi and both of Joe's grandmothers.

The induction went... OK. I was in labor for 22 hours and pushed for almost four - was thisclose to a c-section. You really don't remember the pain afterwards, at least I don't. I do remember the fatigue, though. But it was all totally worth it, because Sophie is beautiful and amazing.

So I've had this blog post in my head for about two weeks now, but no time to write it. Joe's walking Sophie around, trying to get her to drop off, so I'm taking the opportunity to try to write it. It's my list of new mommy lessons I've learned in these four weeks.

  1. Computer time will be minimal. Well, til you figure out how to prop your netbook up on your Boppy and type one-handed. Oh, and don't expect to read the newspaper every day either.
  2. Burp cloths become household decor. You'll leave them draped over every piece of furniture in the house.
  3. Corrollary to No. 2: Pretty much anything baby-related becomes household decor. My living room currently has added the pack 'n play, swing, car seat, bouncy chair, and kick and play mat as part of the ambience. Sophie's hats are scattered hither and yon like the aforementioned burp cloths.
  4. If your mother can/is willing to stay with you and help with the baby, TAKE HER UP ON THIS. My mom managed a three-week stay. I can't tell you how grateful I am for her help. Two days after she left, my house was in shambles. Just having an extra set of hands while Joe was at work, or before company, was great. I also came home with swollen feet and ankles (which I did not have during pregnancy), plus I had an episiotomy. Aside from the usual need for a woman who's just given birth to take it easy, I needed to just a bit more. Another reason Mom was a godsend.
  5. Believe it or not, you will quickly adjust to lack of sleep. I like my sleep. I don't like to wake up. I usually took my sweet time rolling out of bed. But somehow, once you hear that baby crying, you will jump to attention. I can't say I'm not sometimes groggy (I stumbled a bit the other night as I got out of bed), but I can actually go from asleep to awake pretty darn fast now.
  6. You may have some weird fears at first. They'll go away. The first two nights we had Sophie home, I could NOT go to sleep if I were the only one still up. I just couldn't bear the thought of no one being awake to watch Sophie. I tried to sleep on the couch next to the pack 'n play, but at the slightest rustle my head would pop up like a prairie dog. My mom, God bless her, would relieve me and stay up with Sophie so I'd get some sleep. This did go away after about the third night, when we put her in the crib and I took the monitor into my room for the first time. At first, I jumped at every little sound, but exhaustion set in and I fell asleep. And then when she cried for real, it woke me up and I took care of her. After that, I was fine.
  7. Trust your instincts. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone will offer advice. There are classes, books, websites, you name it. If it doesn't sound right, you DON'T have to listen. Like my husband, the journalist, says, "If your mother says she loves you, get another source." Double-check anything that doesn't sound right.
  8. Accept the hormones.   I thought I cried over silly things when I was pregnant. It got worse after I gave birth. One day I burst into tears because the balloons my family brought me were starting to deflate and I hadn't gotten a picture of Sophie with them. Don't worry, this too shall pass.
  9. Baby brain is real. Like I said, I've been trying to write this post for two weeks. I've probably forgotten half of what I wanted to put in it. I forget a lot of things now. Fortunately, I have not yet burned down the house. *crossing fingers*
  10. Who cares if it's gas? That smile will melt your heart. As will anything and everything about your baby. Sophie's adorable all the time, but sometimes I'll see her asleep and it takes my breath away all over again.