Posts Tagged ‘family’

I have to rename my child Squirmy McGruntsALot


Well, Lily is now 5 weeks old, and we already have to rename her. We have no choice. Because she squirms. And grunts. A lot.

Squirmy McGruntsALot’s favorite time to do this is when she’s sleeping. Which wouldn’t be an issue, except that it kind of keeps Mom from “sleeping when the baby sleeps,” since I’m constantly rousing from my hard-earned slumber to look over into the bassinet, making sure she’s not hungry or being poked and prodded by alien abductors.

I took a video of it, but I’m too tired to figure out how to get it on here. So here’s one someone else put on YouTube of their kid squirming and grunting in his sleep. It’s pretty much the same thing Squirmy McGruntsALot does, so just go with it.


She’s clearly not the first baby to do this, but I feel like this isn’t necessarily “normal.” At least, no one warned me about this. It only seems to happen when she’s in “light” sleep, but that accounts for approximately 15 1/2 of the 16 total hours she sleeps each day.

I mean, I’ll take squirmy gruntiness over endless crying jags any day. But still. I’m tired.

Will she outgrow this? Or will poor Squirmy McGruntsALot stop getting invited to sleepovers when she’s older because her squirming and grunting weirds out her friends? Stay tuned.




My new year’s resolution is to HAVE THIS DAMN BABY ALREADY (plus other pregnancy fun facts)

Well, our little munchkin was due to make her appearance into the world on Jan. 1, but, like her mother tends to, she’s running a little behind.

Since she’s dashed all hopes for a 2014 tax break or first-baby-of-the-year honors, she’s basically starting off her first year grounded, with about $1,000 already deducted from her allowance. That’ll teach her.

From what I can tell, I’ve had a relatively easy pregnancy, but after hitting the 40-week mark five days ago, I. Am. Ready. I’m anxious for labor to start and to meet this little bug who’s been growing instead me for the better part of a year.
If baby girl is still refusing to cooperate in a few days, we’ll start talking to our doc about forceful eviction, aka induction. Don’t worry, she’s been served proper notice.
This was actually taken at the 40-week mark. I'm three times this size now.

This was actually taken at the 40-week mark. I’m three times this size now.

I already nested/cleaned so long ago that things are starting to get dirty again, and I don’t feel like starting round two with this bowling ball-sized bulge protruding from my stomach. So instead, I’m writing a post on some things about pregnancy that have been particularly surprising to me.
You’ve probably heard all about the morning sickness, the mood swings, the need to pee every 2.5 seconds. But here are a few things “they” don’t tell you about pregnancy before you are pregnant that may or may not freak you out.
(I should probably preface this with: Someone who did a lot more research than I did prior to becoming with child might know these things. Also, I am weird, and weird things happen to me. So it’s possible “they” didn’t tell me about some of these things because I am the only weird person they’ve happened to.)
You won’t actually “feel” like you’re growing another human inside you for a while, and it will freak you the eff out. Sure, you’ll see what looks like the beginning of a baby in an ultrasound. You’ll hear the magical thub-a-lub of a tiny heart beat. Your uterus is supposedly blowing up like a balloon, but the only “showing” you’re doing for a while is courtesy of some massive stomach bloating. Depending on your hormonal load that day, you may accuse your doctor of being a g.d. liar because she keeps telling you there’s a baby in there, but clearly there is not, because you would be able to feel a human growing inside you, thankyouverymuch.
Consequently …
It will feel like ages between doctor’s appointments. Each day is a gift, and I hate feeling like I just want them to be over, but holy shit. Each day of the month will never drag by as slowly as it does when you all you want is confirmation that your little munchkin is still kickin’ in there.
Sometimes you don’t get morning sickness. This can mean one of two things: 1) You have a perfectly healthy pregnancy and are just “lucky” and don’t have to suffer through what’s considered one of the most miserable pregnancy symptoms; or 2) Something could be wrong with your pregnancy. As someone who’s experienced both situations (2 followed by 1), it’s pretty nerve-wracking to not have this ubiquitous symptom.
(Um, so, I’m not a doctor. I don’t *actually* know if these are the only two things it could mean. Maybe there’s a weird third option, like you’re actually spawning a miniature pony.)
The worst part is that Googling for information about lacking this symptom will often lead you to articles stating how some researchers have determined morning sickness could be an indication of a healthy pregnancy.
Researchers! STAAAP! Until you can confirm this is a black-and-white deal, quit putting this information out there for unsuspecting neurotics like me to stumble across and freak out over!
So, basically, I know most women would consider me “lucky” to not have morning sickness, but I would have given my left kidney to be puking my brains out every morning in exchange for the reassurance that something was, in fact, happening in there.
Also …
The Internet is your best friend and your worst enemy. A lot of weird-ass stuff is happening to your body when you are pregnant, so of course you want to know what is considered normal and what should send you into a full-swivel panic. But when you find yourself searching for phrases like “OMG is it possible that something else is making you seem pregnant when you’re not actually pregnant 12 weeks,” it’s time to stop. (Yes, I actually Googled something along those lines, due to the point I explained above. Following this and other ridiculous searches, and the panic they provoked, Zach made me put a moratorium on Googling things for one week.)
Really, if you have concerns, you should call your doctor/nurse/midwife. They will reassure you when a symptom is nothing to worry about or let you know if you should get checked out. If you do this enough, they will start to expect your calls. And if you start calling about the same ridiculous things over and over again, they will stop reinforcing your constant need for reassurance either by taking a really long time to call back or not calling back at all, in what I assume is meant to be a form of therapeutic neglect.
Not that I know from experience or anything.
Sleep may not come so easily, even at the beginning. You’ve probably heard that insomnia is common during the third trimester, because sleep experts typically do not recommend trying to catch your z’s with a watermelon protruding from your stomach.
However, I have been an insomniac since age 9. I literally have not had a good night’s sleep since the fourth grade. I had been looking forward to the fatigue of pregnancy in hopes that it would provide this elusive rest. But nope. That would just be too damn normal for me. So, apparently, instead of morning sickness, I got “bolt up wide awake at 3 every morning and never fall back asleep”-ness. (I have a team of medical professionals working on a better term for this affliction.)
On the plus side, I’m really not concerned about the lack of sleep most parents of newborns encounter, since that’s pretty much the norm for me. I’ve been training for it my entire life, apparently.
You can’t eat. Anything. This one’s two-fold: First, even if you aren’t afflicted with oh-my-god-kill-me-now morning sickness, it’s still likely you will find very few foods appetizing. All I could stomach for about two weeks was plain spaghetti with a tiny bit of Parmesan cheese.
Also, once you’re pregnant, all your most favoritest foods suddenly turn to poison, and eating them will surely kill you and/or transform your baby into a sock monkey.
Sushi. Alcohol, obviously. Soft cheeses. Wait, what?! You can’t eat soft cheeses when you’re with child? People. My life depends on cheese. Pregnancy has essentially eliminated half of its most delicious forms. It’s the worst.
“True Life: I Accidentally Ate Some Feta on a Salad So I Gave Birth to a Sock Monkey Instead of a Human Child.”

“True Life: I Accidentally Ate Some Feta on a Salad So I Gave Birth to a Sock Monkey Instead of a Human Child.”

The heartburn. DEAR GOD, THE HEARTBURN. Apparently, when your uterus is squishing the rest of your internal organs up through your throat, it makes it nearly impossible to digest food like a normal person. And don’t even bother looking up foods to avoid to prevent it. Out of the foods you’re still allowed to eat, they will ALL cause heartburn. All of them. Even the healthy stuff. For realsies. I’ve eaten bananas that have given me heartburn. I kind of thought bananas were the most easily digestible food known to humans. Not cool.
The only thing you can really “eat” that doesn’t cause heartburn is Tums, which have subsequently become my favorite food during pregnancy. If someone invented a candy necklace — but instead of candy, it had Tums strung along it — and marketed it to pregnant women, they would make at least a few dozen dollars off it. (I’ll let someone steal that idea as long as they give me 70 percent of the profits. Remember, we don’t get to cash in on that tax break for 2014.)
That “pregnancy glow” is BS. Unless by “glow,” they mean the “red glow of jawline acne,” I apparently missed out on this supposed pregnancy perk. I had terrible acne as a teenager, so I’m not really surprised the surge of hormones wreaked havoc on my skin once again. (But hey, who doesn’t want to look/feel like a teenager when they’re pregnant?)
Of course, using any of the standard acne treatments will turn your little tyke into the aforementioned sock monkey, so I’m kind of SOL on this.
If you’re having a girl, some people think it’s absolutely necessary to tell you about their friend/relative/random person they met at a bus stop who thought they were having a girl but it turned out to be a boy. I’m not gonna lie: I was really hoping we would have a girl. Of course, you don’t want to hope for one gender over the other too much, because there’s a 50 percent chance it will be the other one, and you don’t want your child to feel like they’re a total disappointment before they even exit the womb. Regardless, I was happy when the ultrasound revealed it’s a Baby Squirreltina Jr. who’s been kicking me in the bladder. (Squirreltina is obviously a girls name, in case that was unclear.)
But now, I’ve had a enough people tell me stories about girls turning out to be boys that I’m starting to become paranoid. (In what was probably the most asinine piece of unsolicited advice I received, someone told me I should “bring a blue hat to the hospital, just in case.” Seriously. That happened. And no, I could not even.)
I have no idea why people feel compelled to tell me this, other than that it must be some sort of sign from the universe and I should be prepared. So, don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a boy and we have to name him Sharknado because we didn’t have any boys names picked out so we panicked and that’s the first thing we could think of.
Of course, I’d still prefer a boy to a sock monkey.

Pancake has an important new job coming up …

Guard bunny

Zach and I are really excited about our new addition, expected around Jan. 1! She’ll either be a New Year’s Baby or Tax Break Baby — those are her choices. Not a minute a later. (Clearly, I have not yet accepted that as a parent I will actually have little control over many aspects of my child’s life.)

Pancake has started a rigorous Guard Bunny training program in preparation. Though so far it looks like her most valuable weapon will be disarming intruders with her cuteness. We’re working on it.


Things I will and will not miss about Great Falls

It is officially official: Zach landed a job at the firm he interned at in law school, so we will be moving back to our beloved Missoula in just a few months! (And possibly sooner for me, depending on my job prospects.)

I have been in love with Missoula since I started college there at the University of Montana more than 10 years ago. To me, it’s easily Montana’s best city. It embodies a perfect balance of progressive idealism and rugged individualism, and it’s never too far from your front door to the great outdoors, with a perfect view, to boot.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

For most people who live here, this view is only a short drive and moderate hike away.

Though I’m excited that we are lucky enough to settle down in a place we genuinely love, I will also be sad to leave behind the life we’ve built in Great Falls. This town gets a bad rap; it’s definitely not the destination of choice for the younger set. It has a lot of potential, but many folks here may need an attitude adjustment before it can turn that corner.

There are a several aspects of Great Falls I will miss, and many I definitely won’t.

Things I will not miss about Great Falls

The obsession with chain restaurants. I have never seen an entire community get as excited as people here do when news breaks about a new chain restaurant coming to town. Seriously. When Buffalo Wild Wings announced its plan to open a restaurant in Great Falls, people lost it. Lost. It. It was by far  by FAR  the most-read story on our website for several days, and approximately 8 million people liked and shared the news on social media. Four gazillion people will probably go on its opening day, defying all mathematical probabilities in a town of 60,000 people.

However, this is not the best chain restaurant-related news Great Fallsians could receive. Nope. That would only happen if the Holy Grail of chain restaurants announced its impending arrival to town. That’s right: Olive Garden.

OK, Great Fallsians. Have you ever actually been to an Olive Garden? I know those people in their commercials look like they’re having a ton of fun while enjoying an authentic Italian meal  like they truly enjoy spending time with their families and don’t all secretly want to punch each other in the throats  but they are actors. Paid actors.

When real people like you and me go to Olive Garden, this is what happens: We get a shit ton of buttered and salted styrofoam disguised as breadsticks and a lump of chicken covered with Cheese Product that was still frozen until 5 minutes before it hit your plate. Meanwhile, your parents ask you for the millionth time when you’re going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to get married to said boyfriend/girlfriend, when you’re going to reproduce a human child with said husband/wife instead of just schlepping around that damn dog/cat/gerbil with you everywhere you go, and then you snap back  “STOP ASKING SO MANY QUESTIONS!” Then everyone eats in silence for the rest of the meal, interrupted only with the occasional “Can you please pass me some more styrofoam breadsticks?”

Is that the kind of dining experience you’re hoping for at Olive Garden? I wouldn’t wish that scenario on my worst enemy (OK, I probably would. I’m vindictive sometimes.) Great Fallsians, please know that I mean this from the bottom of my squirrelly heart: You deserve better.

Also: You are never getting an Olive Garden. This is not a bad thing.

Missoula has its fair share of chain restaurants and big box stores, but it’s also a community that oozes support for local eateries and shops. When we want to go out to eat in Great Falls, it’s often a struggle to think of the limited options (my pescetarianism doesn’t help with that). In Missoula, we have the opposite problem: It can be hard to narrow down the choices, and when you choose one, you can’t help but wonder what you’re missing out on at another.

The drivers. As I’ve mentioned before, the drivers in Great Falls are not the most courteous. In addition to the fact that many couldn’t care less about whether they run down a little old lady walking across the street, there seems to be some sort of game going on in which drivers score points for how many red lights they can run, how many miles per hour over the speed limit they can go, and how many times they can turn or change lanes without signaling. Maybe I’m just jealous because no one ever invited me to play.

Obviously, this is a problem in just about any place. No one ever goes to a city and says “Wow, there are some really good drivers here!” In fact, I’ve previously written about how awful I think Missoula drivers are, so I’m not going to see much improvement on that front. But even if they are apparently physically prohibited from using a blinker, they will at least stop to let me run across the street.

The weather. Good God, the weather here is heinous. I know  it’s heinous in a lot of places, particularly in Montana. But Great Falls weather is the worst. Especially the wind. Always with that damn wind in Great Falls. You kind of stop noticing it after a while, but it’s always there, slowly wearing on you.

Of course, it’s especially terrible in the winter, when the chill of said wind makes the temperatures feel 15 to 25 degrees colder than they already are, resulting in conditions as low as 40 degrees BELOW zero. Do you know what it’s like to not be able to feel your face? Like, it’s so cold that you straight-up cannot confirm whether your face is still attached to your head? I do, because that’s what the wind does to you during the winter in Great Falls.

It’s probably the worst in the spring though. The temperature has finally started to creep above freezing, the sun is shining, and you glance out the window, expecting a lovely day. Then you walk outside and nearly get blown back in by a 40 mph gust of wind. And don’t even think of trying to have hair in Great Falls. It will probably just end up looking like this all the time:

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

Great Falls: Not a great place to have hair.

And did you know it’s possible to suffer an injury caused by wind? Folks, it is. One time, I was leaving a store on a particularly windy day, and I opened my car door and was putting my purse down in the passenger seat before getting in. All of a sudden, a ginormous wind gust blew my door shut on me, knocking me over and causing me to hit my shin on the exposed car frame. I probably could have died, but I’m really brave so I made it.

The scar on my skin may fade, but will my soul ever truly heal?


Things I will miss about Great Falls

Sunshine in the winter. For all the shit I just talked about Great Falls’ weather, there is one thing I will miss about it: The sun, especially in the winter. Even when it’s the aforementioned 35 below zero, or during less extreme temperature drops, the sun is typically shining. Not so much during a Missoula winter. It may not get as cold, and it’s definitely not as windy, but daaaaamn, Missoula can get a girl down in the winter. It’s cloudy most of the time, and inversions often creep into the valley and stick around for days, sometimes weeks. It’s depressing as hell. It’s what made me believe that Seasonal Affective Disorder is real and not just a condition invented by pharmaceutical companies to sell drugs. If I ever OD on Vitamin D supplements, Missoula inversions are probably to blame. But the tradeoff — the fact that Missoula tends to see spring green sooner and fall foliage longer  is worth it.

The River’s Edge Trail. Great Falls has this amazing trail that meanders for miles and miles and miles and miles (seriously, it’s like 35 miles total) along the mighty Missouri River:

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

Photo by Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune

It’s absolutely perfect for avid runners like me. You can get in a lot of miles just on that trail, and I’m lucky enough to live just a few blocks away from accessing it (with only one pedestrian danger zone to cross to get there).

Now, the one downside of this trail is that in the summer, there’s a decent chance you could encounter the Prince of Darkness himself on it: Mr. Snake. And I’m not just talking about your garden-variety gardner snake (though those are around and freak me out, too). We’re talking the vilest of the vile here: The Rattlesnake. The ones that will gouge your leg in a venomous rage without a second thought, then call in his evil serpent brethren to drag you into their lair to finish you off.

Luckily, the snakes only slither around the eastern-most portions of the trail, so I can avoid their deathly embrace by turning around before I encroach on their territory. And, of course, I always keep my trusty Snake Rock with me, just in case.

My friends and co-workers. You’ve probably heard a saying along the lines of: “A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place.” That never rang true until I lived in Great Falls.

I don’t know that you will ever find a group of colleagues who have a better, and perhaps more twisted, sense of humor than those working together in a newsroom. Especially at a newspaper, which, let’s face it, is part of an industry that’s seen better days. We laugh as we recount the ridiculous comments and phone calls we get from people accusing us of instigating a conspiracy to implement Obamacare for Goats or asking that we run a correction because they believe Montana’s borders are wrong and we’re actually part of Canada (the second one actually happened). We have to laugh, through the good times and the bad, if only to keep ourselves from curling up into little balls and crying.

We also have a great group of friends here outside our work lives, and only partly because all the young people in Great Falls immediately discover they must band together if they want to survive. It’s tough to make friends after you set out into the real world, when you don’t necessarily have the comfort and convenience of instantly bonding with people you share the same class/team/dorm/
sorority/college newspaper office with. But with our friends in Great Falls, we hit the jackpot.

(Shhhh, secret time: I’m subtlety bombarding them all with subliminal messages convincing them to move to Missoula, too.)

That “je ne sais quoi.” For all the things I clearly will not miss, there is something about Great Falls, something I still can’t quite put my finger on after four years of living here, that has made me like it, despite feeling like I shouldn’t. To borrow a term from a fancy French owl, Great Falls just has a certain “je ne sais quoi” for me.

Perhaps it’s the people I’ve known here. Or maybe all that sunshine. I don’t know what it is, exactly  only that I’ll miss it when I’m gone.

2013: Our squirreliest year yet!

2013 was pretty good to me. I got married to my best friend. ALF was at our wedding. (True story.) I have awesome friends, a loving family and the privilege to live and run in Big Sky Country. My obsession passion for punctuation led to my most popular post ever (with an assist from the WordPress editors. Thanks, guys!)

And, lucky us, WordPress has real, live helper monkeys working around the clock to generate year-end stats for Squirrel Thoughts. Let’s take a look!

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Has anyone fed the helper monkeys lately? They’re probably getting hungry.)

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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