Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I really should have some photos for your today. It's Halloween, and this blog is called The Cranky Pumpkin. You'd think I'd have some pride and would have prepared a collage of pumpkins dressed up in clever costumes. But I have no pride, so no clever photos for you - muhahaha!

I love Halloween, but this year, I am mostly concerned about how I am going to avoid all the candy. Baby Girl is not too keen on sweets. In fact, she hates them and only tolerates them in small amounts. If I eat a miniature chocolate bar, she will ignore my transgression. Sometimes, I can even get away with eating two miniature chocolate bars (but only if they are reeeeeaaaaalllly miniature - like Hershey Kisses miniature). But if I get greedy... well, let's just say that if my vomit bowl is not handy, there's going to be trouble.

Normally, on Halloween, I raid the candy bowl as often as I please. That obviously cannot happen tonight. In the absence of chocolate, I need a new way to entertain myself.

Would it be cruel if I made the children dance for their candy? (And for anyone over the age of twelve, perhaps a song and dance number would be appropriate.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who The Bleep Bit A Chunk Out Of My Tombstone?!

Every six months or so, an animal digs up our front lawn. This goes on for a week or two, until the animal decides to terrorize someone else's lawn. The animal never causes any permanent damage, so it's more amusing than annoying.

I have no idea what sort of animal is at war with our lawn, but I suspect it's either a cat, opossum or puma.

The cat/opossum/puma recently returned, but this time, it did not just paw aggressively at our lawn.

It bit one of my Halloween tombstones! WTF?! It's a styrofoam tombstone. It does not look delicious. It looks like tasteless nasty styrofoam. How stupid do you have to be to want to taste this thing?

And this is not the first such incident. A summer or two ago, the cat/opossum/puma bit up one of our pool noodles! Will this beast's taste for styrofoam never be satisfied??

I found the missing chunk of styrofoam in a nearby flower bed. I hope the cat/opossum/puma choked on it.

Halloween is ruined. I might as well eat all the candy today and give raisins to the neighborhood kids.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stay Dry and Safe!

If you are affected by Super Storm Sandy, I hope you are able to stay dry and safe.

I am especially thinking about all my family in New York. My Baby Sister recently moved to Manhattan, and this is her first proper East Coast storm. I suppose after Sandy, every other storm is going to look like child's play to her.  And my dad of course had to go to Manhattan this week for business. At least they can huddle together and order room service (and pray that Dad's hotel has a good generator).

My grandma lives in Queens but her building is far away from the water. The news is calling this the storm of a lifetime. Well, Grandma Shirley has lived a lifetime in New York, so I can't wait to hear her thoughts when the storm is over.

My Aunt Pam and Company live on Long Island and their situation is perhaps the most bleak. If they lose power, how many hours will my cousins' various electronic toys last? Since she is trapped in the house with two young boys, I'd say my aunt deserves a Spa Week when this storm is over. Preferably in a dry climate with lots of tropical drinks.

Take care, my loved ones!

Fun Chalkboard Map

I recently bought this chalkboard map from Dirtsa Studio on Etsy:

It's awesome! For our first "installation," I colored in all the states that Nathan and I have visited together. I got all of them except Minnesota (which we visited for about an hour while we were in Wisconsin for a wedding, but hey, Nathan's right - it counts). Technically, we've also been to Iowa together, but that's only because the Omaha airport is there. I ruled that waiting at baggage claim does not count as visiting a state. Sorry, Iowa.

Brief tangent: every time we fly to Nebraska, Nathan explains to me why the Omaha airport is in Iowa; and within five minutes, I forget the explanation. I think it has something to do with the river. It must not be that interesting. (Nathan is going to be so disappointed in my listening skills when he reads this post.)

In a few days, the chalkboard will be erased so we can play with it on Election Day.

Then, I'm going to color in the states we have each visited (red for states that just Nathan has visited; green for states that only I have visited; and blue if we've both visited the state, together or separately). I'm pretty certain Nathan wins the Who Has Visited More States Contest, but at least I have been to Alaska.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dress-Up For Grown-Ups

Did you ever play dress-up as a kid? My brother and I had a dress-up box with old Halloween costumes and cast-offs from our parents. The best things in the box were (1) one of Dad's old suits, (2) a few of Mom's old hippie skirts, and (3) the plastic red clown shoes. Matt and I spent many happy hours digging through the dress-up box.

As fun as playing dress-up is, most adults do not have dress-up boxes. At least, not in the traditional sense. But, if you enjoyed playing dress-up as a kid, a walk through a department store can yield many laughs.

I usually have the best luck in the hat department. Last week, I found this pink animal print scarf hood thing. Fantastic. It does wonders for my cheek bones.

This time of year, many department stores have coat sections. Call me a four-year-old, but I could not resist trying this Cruella De Vil number:

Obviously I bought both the pink hat-scarf-thingee and the coat. They should be very practical for winter in Southern California.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Stuff I Did Not Know About Babies

Now that I'm pregnant, I'm discovering I had a lot of misinformation about babies. For example, did you know babies cannot do long division or tie their shoes? But seriously, I've had to reboot my mind about a few things:

1.  Babies sleep on their backs: This is relatively new. When my sister was a baby, she slept on her stomach; but since the 90s, experts have determined that babies should sleep on their backs to reduce the chance of SIDs. (Random story: my mom ran to the grocery store while my baby sister was sleeping. My brother and I decided to check on the baby, and we could not remember if she should be on her tummy or back. So while Mom was gone, we kept flipping Katherine from her tummy to her back, every 30 seconds, like she was a rotisserie chicken. She slept through the entire thing.)

2.  No blankets in the crib: I thought babies slept with piles of blankets and stuffed animals. Not so. To reduce SIDs, they sleep on a hard mattress. If it's cold, they can be swaddled or can sleep in one of these, but no blankies! Until baby is older, blankets are for strollers, car seats and tummy time, and stuffed animals are for bookshelves, couches and the hat rack.

3.  No cute bumper for the crib: Every magazine, catalog and blog shows cribs with cute bumpers. But bumpers are a suffocation hazard! Why are these things even being sold? Do people actually put a bumper on the crib when baby wakes up and then take it off when it's sleepy time? There is no way I'll be doing that, thank you very much. Sorry, Baby Girl, but no cute bumper for you.

4. Baby walkers are death traps: My baby sister whizzed around the house in her walker (it was similar to this gizmo). I can still hear the sound of her walker racing down the wood hallway (and the sound of our mutt Frazier chasing after her). My parents were very concerned with our safety and health, and the walker was considered a safe toy. But now, although walkers are still available, they have fallen out of favor. Babies should play in something stationary instead, like an exersaucer or jumperoo. In the interest of keeping Baby Girl out of the ER, we will be banning all walkers from the Cranky Pumpkin household.

Sorry for all the recent pregnancy and baby posts, but it's the biggest thing on my mind these days. (Well, that, and how many more pumpkins I should buy before Halloween.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Emailing Love Ones In The Peace Corps

As I've mentioned before, my brother Matt and sister-in-law Sara are currently volunteering with the Peace Corps. They live in a remote ass village in South Africa, so weekend visits are not exactly an option. Now that I'm pregnant, I know I won't see them again until they return to the United States.

Thank God for email. Even in their remote ass village, Matt and Sara have internet access. Sort of. I recently emailed Matt a link to a one minute video, and Matt responded that he would have to check it the next time they were in a city. Their internet connection can maybe handle a video that is one second long before crashing.

We also exchange text messages, but we are only both awake at the same time for a few hours a day. I've woken Matt with text messages (sorry, dude), so I have to be really careful about the time difference.

Email works best. I can send a more substantive message, and I don't have to worry about the time difference. However, I do have to worry about the content of my emails.

I never just "write and send" an email to Matt or Sara. Oh no, no no no. I write, reread, revise, reread, revise, reread and then hit the send button. I am extra careful with my emails because I don't want to taunt or torment them about my cushy American life.

For some reason, in my emails, I always write about food. I don't write about it much on this blog, but cooking, baking and dining out are a big part of my life. I love food! But if I tell Matt and Sara that I just discovered an amazing recipe for chili, I'm being a bitch. They don't have access to the ingredients for chili, and even if they did, they don't have the means to prep and cook it. (And God forbid I mention a trip to our family's favorite Mexican restaurant. If I want to send Matt to a dark place, I just need to text him the words "El Cholo.")

I try to avoid writing about any inconveniences or nuisances in our life. You can't exactly complain about long lines at the grocery store to Americans who live in a village where the locals eat monkeys. And your ant attack does not sound very impressive if your brother has seen a cobra in his front yard. I recently wrote about 500 words to Sara complaining about a plumbing issue before I remembered that she was taking bucket baths with brown water. My bad. I hit the delete button quickly. 

I also try to avoid writing about really awesome stuff, like trips to Disneyland. Again, it makes me feel like a bitch. What am I supposed to write? Hey, guys, we went to Disneyland on Sunday and had so much fun. We went on all our favorite rides and ate a ton of delicious American food THAT YOU CAN'T EAT BECAUSE YOU ARE IN A REMOTE ASS VILLAGE IN SOUTH AFRICA. Ha ha, I hope you had fun taking a shower in brown water while I was riding Space Mountain. I'm going to go to the spa now and get a luxury massage and then I'm going to watch the World Series on our large screen t.v. while eating Mexican food. Gosh, Disneyland is just the best. But sorry, I heard there's a new rule: former Peace Corps volunteers are BANNED from the Disney parks FOREVER. Suck it.

Yeah, no, I can't write that. But if I email about a fun Disneyland trip in excruciating detail, I might as well be writing, I hate you and I hope you get diarrhea from accidentally eating a monkey.

Finally, I can't write about pop culture. Are Matt and Sara really interested in the fact that I think Mindy Kaling's new show is hilarious? Or that Modern Family keeps getting funnier? THEIR INTERNET CONNECTION CANNOT EVEN HANDLE A ONE SECOND VIDEO! If I email about the return of fall t.v., I might as well be writing, I love watching our favorite shows on our big screen t.v. while lounging on our comfy leather couch and eating your favorite foods. Have fun mopping your dirt floors. Suck it.

Yeah, no, I can't write that either.

Now here's my big question: Do I send them the link to this blog post? Or will the thought of Disneyland and El Cholo turn Matt into a tower of rage and destruction? It might be safest to wait until they return to the comforts of modern plumbing. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Argo and Boss

On Sunday, Nathan and I saw the movie Argo and then we watched the Season Two finale of Boss. Both were excellent. (And thank God for that, because the Cardinals decided to crap out later that night.)

Argo is about the effort to rescue six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis. As the embassy was being stormed, these Americans escaped and managed to hide at the Canadian ambassador's house. The CIA created a fake sci-fi movie called Argo, so the Americans could pretend they were members of a Canadian film crew scouting locations in Iran.

The movie is both intense and funny. I cried several times - but those might have been my pregnancy hormones (seeing as I also cried at the end of The Dark Knight). As serious as the subject matter was, I also laughed many times, especially when either John Goodman or Alan Arkin were on screen. The cast, by the way, is ridiculous. Just take a look at the credits.

Ben Affleck was also great. Seriously. He usually annoys the crap out of me. When I first saw a preview for Argo, I told Nathan, "Too bad. Looks like Ben Affleck is going to ruin what could be a great movie." Wow, was I wrong. Apparently Ben Affleck can act, and he's just been choosing the wrong roles. Also, he directed this movie, so maybe he shines best when he has more control over the film. Whatever the reason, I have a new appreciation for Mr. Affleck.

I'd like to go on the record now and predict that this movie will win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It might not be the best film of 2012, but it is certainly up there. In light of the recent tragic events in Libya, it should resonate deeply with viewers. At the end of the movie, the audience at my theater applauded.

Argo seems to be getting the attention it deserves, but unfortunately, Boss is not. Boss is about the Chicago political scene. Kelsey Grammar plays the corrupt mayor who is dying from a rare disease that causes delusions. It is OUTSTANDING: there are lots of surprising plot twists and compelling characters. The writers do an excellent job of creating a lot of random story lines that actually come together in the end.

As we were cleaning up dinner on Sunday, I was happily babbling to Nathan about Boss and the questions that I hoped would be answered during Season Three. Nathan sadly informed me that he had read an article that suggested Boss would not be renewed for a third season.


Boss is such an original show, and Kelsey Grammar has done an amazing job playing the Chicago mayor AND THIS SHOW MIGHT BE CANCELLED!?!?!

I blame you. Yes, you, the person reading this blog entry. It's your fault. If you don't watch Boss, then you are personally responsible for its poor ratings and tragic demise. Why are you doing this to me? Stop watching Two and a Half Men and shake up your television commitments. YOU NEED TO WATCH BOSS OR I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock's The Strollers

Earlier this month, I started putting our baby registry together. I thought I was being a nerd and starting waaaaay too early. Baby Girl is not due until late March! It's only October! There is plenty of time to figure out what stuff we need for the little lady.

Talk about being a naïve dumbass fool.

Look, I know the baby does not need much when she is born: a place to sleep; some clothes; a car seat so the hospital will let us take her home; and a way to feed her. Diapers would probably also be nice since I hear newborns poop a lot. But most everything else can wait. Baby Girl is not going to care if we've already bought a stroller and swing.

But it's so much easier to figure out everything now. Do I really want to be researching strollers when there's a newborn itching to be cuddled?

So I started our registry, and holy crap, it's over-freaking-whelming. I blame the internet. For example, take baby tubs. In a pre-internet world, I would have just gone to the store and picked out the cutest one. But now there are hundreds and thousands of reviews online; and if I don't research the baby tub options, I am a heartless evil mother.

Between Consumer Reports and Amazon reviews, it took me about 45 minutes to pick a baby tub. AND IT'S JUST A FREAKING $30 OVERSIZED PLASTIC BUCKET. I'm pretty certain my parents bathed me in the kitchen sink. Hopefully the tub I picked is a good one that will last until Baby Girl is ready for real baths; but if not, we can order something else from Amazon and the Earth will probably keep spinning

Despite my angst, planning the registry and checklist for baby has actually been pretty fun and easy. (Please note: not everything on the checklist goes on the registry. There is no way I'm registering for Butt Paste, thank you very much.) There's something very satisfying about choosing the cutest activity gym for Baby Girl. But there are a few big decisions that require a lot of thought and research, and I can't just rely on my Cute Radar.

Right now, the stroller is the bane of my existence. There are so many options, and everyone has a different opinion. At the end of the day, we need a stroller that is (a) safe for Baby Girl and (b) easy/comfortable for us to use, but finding that Dream Stroller is easier said than done.

Last week, I went to Babies R Us to test drive strollers. A few of the strollers were very comfortable to push but I just don't know. Would they be easy to load into the trunk of my car? Will Baby Girl be comfortable? Do they have cutting edge ergonomic designs that will keep my back young and feisty? Is the basket big enough for a diaper bag? Will the stroller handle curbs and dirt paths okay? WHERE IS MY MOTHER? I just wanted to curl up in the fetal position and suck my thumb until the Stroller Gods descended from heaven and pointed the way to the Holy Grail of Strollers. Instead, I checked out the toy aisles and picked out Baby Girl's first toy dinosaur (more on that in a future post).

The night after my Babies R Us excursion, I dreamed about strollers. This was not a happy dream that involved me frolicking in a field of daisies with my Soulmate Stroller. This was a nightmare with sinister strollers lurking in alleys and parking lots, waiting to steamroll me. Think Hitchcock's The Birds, except instead of birds, Tippi Hedren is being chased by a flock of demon strollers. (Did I get that analogy right? I've only seen about 30 minutes of The Birds because I am a wuss and cannot handle scary movies.)

I thought bathing suit shopping was the worst shopping experience a female could possibly endure. Talk about being a naïve dumbass fool.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Stuffed Animal Census

The Cranky Pumpkin Household is home to a lot of stuffed animals. I thought now was a good time to conduct the first ever Cranky Pumpkin Stuffed Animal Census, so I can determine just how many stuffed animals we have in our pre-baby household. 
Before we start, I'd like everyone to understand that when I met Nathan, I only had TWO stuffed animals: Purple Bunny and Chris. If you think I own too many stuffed critters, please blame my husband.
From left to right: Prat Panda; Gonzo; Pumpkin; Purple Bunny; Chris.
Nathan gave me Prat Panda and Pumpkin. I know Pumpkin was a birthday gift, and let's pretend I remember the occasion on which Nathan gifted me Prat. I think we can safely assume that a year from now, Prat and Pumpkin will be covered with baby drool and vomit.
Gonzo was a prize from one of those claw machines. Nathan won Gonzo the first December we were dating when he went home to Nebraska for the holidays, long before The Muppets sparked my Muppets Mania.
Purple Bunny is a purple bunny. My Aunt Pam gave him to me when I was three or four (and not very clever when it came to names). He was one of my best friends, along with Gloworm (lost) and Baby, my first stuffed bunny (also lost).
Chris is the brown dog sitting on the typewriter. He was in my stocking on Christmas morning when I was in the sixth grade. I thought I was very clever naming him "Chris" for Christmas. Chris came to Dartmouth with me and spent four years guarding my dorm beds. He has taken a lot of abuse and been stitched up - a lot. Although this is typical for a stuffed animal, it's a wee bit embarrassing since I did not receive Chris until I was nearly twelve years old. (I was a late bloomer.)
Nameless Blue Monkey
I don't believe we ever named this blue monkey, but Nathan won him at Knott's Berry Farm.

After Nathan won the blue monkey, I totally kicked some carnival game's ass and won this Stewie. I gave Stewie to my sister, but she rejected the gift. I guess some people are too cool for stuffed Stewies. Now Stewie presides over a book shelf in all his cranky glory, and I won't let my sister have him even if she asks nicely.

Beaker, Christmas Minion, Kevin, Snoopy
Nathan gave me Beaker for Christmas last year.

He won liberated the Christmas Minion from a claw machine at the mall. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but the minions are characters in Despicable Me, one of my favorite movies. I've been told to bring a few movies to the hospital when I go into labor; and if I'm actually sane enough to watch a movie, it will probably be Despicable Me.

The minion in blue overalls is Kevin, named after Kevin Gillespie, one of our favorite Top Chef contestants. And can we take a moment to take about serendipity? As I wrote about Kevin the Stuffed Minion, I wondered, Hmm, I wonder if Kevin the Chef has written a cookbook yet? I checked Amazon, and HOLY CRAP, HIS COOKBOOK WAS RELEASED ON OCTOBER 16TH!!! I NEED THAT COOKBOOK NOW! I suppose I could be patient and ask Santa to bring it for Christmas. Except oopsie, I just ordered it on Amazon. My bad.

Nathan bought me Snoopy at the end of our Knott's Berry Farm day. Which reminds me: I better set the DVR to record It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It's not Halloween until I hear Charlie Brown say, "I got a rock."

Murray; Elton; a pillow that looks like an owl
but is not in fact a stuffed animal
Murray is my Muppet Whatnot. My parents gave me a gift certificate to create a Whatnot for my birthday last year. They assumed I would make a girl Whatnot that could be my alter ego. As you can see, I went with something a little different. I'm curious to see how long I can keep Murray safely away from Baby Girl (prediction: not very long).
Nathan won Elton, our largest minion, at Circus Circus in Las Vegas. We saw Sir Elton John in concert during that trip, hence the name. ("I Ate Too Much At the Paris Breakfast Buffet" was just a little too long.)
The owl is just a pillow. Pillows don't have names, stupid.

I made the blue creature sitting on top of the Nebraska book during an amigurami class. Since then, I have completely forgotten how to crochet because knitting is my first craft love. I suppose I will have to teach myself amigurami again if Baby Girl demands her own knitted creature.

My amigurami blob had a name at one point, but I forgot it. Crap.

Last but not least, this dachshund is Baby Girl's first stuffed animal! My mom and sister bought it for Baby Girl in August, so now she has her own Little Man ready to protect her at night.

Now that I have conducted this very official Stuffed Animal Census, I have discovered one disturbing omission in the Cranky Pumpkin Stuffed Animal Population: WE DON'T HAVE ANY STUFFED PUMPKINS. What the eff? I guess I'll have to buy myself a stuffed pumpkin the next time I go to Target.

If you read this entire post, I would like to offer my congratulations: you are almost as lame as I am.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Startling Discovery

I had a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin flavored cream cheese for breakfast on Sunday morning:

I didn't think I would ever have cause to say this but ... it was too much pumpkin.

It was like a pumpkin cookie had been slathered with a slice of pumpkin pie, which may sound delicious on paper, but is actually quite nasty in practice.

That reminds me: I need to bake pumpkin cookies! (But first, Pasadena needs to get the memo that it's autumn and it's time to bring the temperatures below 90. A girl needs to turn on her oven in order to bake pumpkin cookies; but if I turned on the oven now, it would turn our house into a sauna.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Halloween Decorations!

During the first weekend of October, I decorated our house for Halloween. I was going to be tasteful and wait until mid-October, but half the neighborhood put up their decorations the last weekend of September. I did not want to be the Neighborhood Halloween Scrooge, so our lawn became a graveyard...

I scored our ghost last year at Walgreens for $5. Ghosty drifts eerily in the breeze, and the kids LOVE him. Every child who walks by our house in October stops to ogle Ghosty.

I have coveted novelty tombstones for years, so last year, I bought discounted gravestones on November 1. When I first mentioned my plan to buy tombstones, Nathan looked horrified; but he is a champ and humors my love of tacky Halloween decorations. (My fervor for Halloween decorations is perhaps embarrassing in some circles, but it is at least cheaper than a Prada addiction.)

While I'm thinking about it, let me tell you about shopping for Halloween decorations on November 1: don't bother with Target. Target will be picked clean about one minute after the store opens. Go to a Halloween megastore instead and have an open mind (but not too open of a mind, or you might end up with a twelve foot high demon clown).

Last Saturday, we went to a pumpkin patch and I behaved like a normal person. We only spent $30 total. (Nathan was expecting it to be much, much worse.) I love how the crooked stems look like something you might find in a witch's garden. Also, I would have bought these pumpkins sooner, but with our ridiculously hot October, I was afraid they would prematurely turn to mush.

This is the crown jewel of my Halloween decorations cache. Last year, I was desperate for a skeleton, but I only saw skeletons for $60 or more. I waited until the November 1 sales and found ... nothing. I went to FOUR stores and not a skeleton was to be found. So this year, as soon as the Halloween megastore by our house opened its doors in September, I rushed over and bought Gus for just $15. Gus is a cheap plastic piece of crap, and I had to use the gardening shears to get the leg bones to fit into the hip bone, but I love him. When he dies, I will replace him with something higher quality (price be damned).

I initially dressed Gus up with a sombrero that originally belonged to Wendy the Cactus. I think he looks dignified yet ready to party; but what I really wanted was a pirate skeleton.

One cheap pirate costume for kiddos at Target later, and behold, Gus the Pirate Skeleton King! (Eventually, I'd really like to get Gus a beret and striped shirt, but that's part of my 10 year plan.)

Indoors, I behaved and just put a few mini-pumpkins on the mantle. It's difficult to see, but the pumpkins are guarded by two Halloween nutcrackers (a devil and a skeleton bride).

There's another small box filled with decorations still in our basement, but I think this is enough for Halloween 2012. As a pregnant lady, I have serious napping responsibilities, and my back demands respect and pampering. However, I do reserve the right to buy more pumpkins.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Fork In The Road

This is my favorite fork in the road, and it's right here in Pasadena:

Here is an article describing the fork's origins. It's located at the intersection of Pasadena and St. John's Avenues, very close to the Huntington Hospital.

It makes me smile every time I see it. I think the Rose Parade route should be redirected to pass the fork at least a dozen times. In fact, let's just rename the Rose Parade the Fork in the Road Parade. Instead of floral floats, we can all admire floats constructed entirely from cutlery.

If I ever run for political office in Pasadena, this will be my platform.

Monday, October 15, 2012

These PreNatal Vitamins Smell Like Monkey Butt

Now that you know I'm pregnant, I can tell you about my prenatal vitamin adventures.

Before I got pregnant, I started taking chewable prenatal vitamins that I bought at Target. They were delicious and had all the nutrients that Baby would need. Most importantly, they were chewable.

I hate big horse pills. Always have, always will. I'm sure my parents could share some stories here about trying to get me to take my medicine as a kid. I would gag on my pills and beg for medicine in liquid form ... while my traitor brother could swallow not one but two Tylenol at the same time without water.

Once I was pregnant, my doctor said I could continue taking the chewable prenatal vitamins through the first trimester. Then, I had to switch to a prescription vitamin. She gave me a ton of different samples to audition. 

The samples were all big evil mega-sized pills, but for Baby's sake, I bravely sampled them all and chose the least offensive of the bunch. My doctor sent my prescription to my drugstore, and I went to pick up my new regimen of vitamins.

The pharmacy filled my prescription with a generic brand. Ordinarily, I am not fussy about generics. In fact, I embrace generic prescriptions because it's the same freaking thing for a fraction of the cost.

I took my generic prenatal vitamins home, opened the bottle ... and nearly puked. Of course, at the time, I was still living with a constant feeling of nausea. That very morning, Nathan had said, "Do you want to get bagels?" and I said, "Yes, I just need to go puke first." (True story.) But this urge to puke was something very different and had nothing to do with my hormone levels.

I nearly puked upon opening the bottle because the generic prenatal vitamins smelled like monkey butt.

I don't actually know what monkey butt smells like, but I don't know how else to describe the foul odor that assaulted my poor nose. Let's just say it was an evil vegetal animal stench that no one should ever have to smell. I would not wish these vitamins on the devil.

But I told myself to stop overreacting and forced myself to swallow a vitamin.

Things went downhill from there.

I touched the vitamin with my right hand, and I could not get the foul smell off my fingers for the rest of the day. I scrubbed and washed my hands, took a shower, and smothered my fingers with heavily scented lotions. No dice. I was like Lady Macbeth: Out, out, damn smell! But my right hand would not stop smelling like monkey butt. I could not keep my hand far enough away from my nose. I swear, the house plants wilted when I walked by.

The smell also haunted me whenever I burped. (Yes, okay, I'm pregnant and sometimes a pregnant lady needs to burp. Get over it.) I normally embrace my burps because they help release pressure in my abdomen, which is crowded enough these days with my growing uterus. But after I took the monkey butt vitamin, my burps tasted like monkey butt. All day. Every time I felt a burp rising, I wanted to cry.

I gave myself numerous pep talks. You can do this! You can handle these prenatal vitamins! You will get used to the monkey butt smell!

Two hours after I first swallowed the monkey butt vitamin, my spirit broke. I could not do it. No matter how much I love Baby, I could not stomach the monkey butt vitamins. I called my doctor's office and begged them to change my prescription to the name brand vitamin I had sampled.

My doctor's office obliged. The monkey butt vitamins only cost $20/month and the brand name cost $30/month, but I am happy to pay a $10 premium for stenchless vitamins. Hell, I'd be happy to give the pharmacy one of my toes to guarantee I never again have to touch or smell one of those evil generic vitamins.

I still have the monkey butt vitamins in our medicine cabinet. They might come in handy some day. For example, in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, they can be used as chemical weapons against the Undead. Also, when my brother gets home from the Peace Corps, I'm going to dare him to swallow two at the same time without water.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Attack of the Grammar Nazis

My baby sister Katherine is ten years younger than me. When she was in preschool, I was a high school student in Honors English. One day, when Katherine was about four years old, I was drying her hair. She would not stand still. She kept squirming and trying to run away, and I was worried she might get whacked in the head by the hair dryer.

Finally, I snapped and told Katherine, "You need to stand still or I might accidentally hurt you bad."

"Badly," Katherine said.

"What?" I asked.

"Badly.  You might hurt me badly."

I knew immediately that my father was too blame for this. My four-year-old sister still thought that "cats = girls, dogs = boys," but somehow, Dad had managed to teach her how to correctly use "bad" as an adjective and "badly" as an adverb. (For the record, Katherine also knew how to correctly use the words "well" and "good" pretty much within fifteen minutes of leaving our mother's womb.)

It should come as no suprise that my family* sometimes draws my attention to grammatical errors in my blog entries. (*In this instance, the word "family" means "my father," but I promised to keep his identity a secret.)

After I published this post, my dad sent the following email:
I especially liked your blog today. One grammatical suggestion/observation (and I think I am correct on this). When putting an entire sentence (or a few sentences) inside parentheses, the period goes before the close parenthesis, not after.
I googled "periods inside or outside parenthesis," and according to the internet, my dad is right on this rule of grammar. Although everything on the internet is correct, I consulted The Elements of Style just to be sure.
According to Strunk and White: (When a wholly detached expression or sentence is parenthesized, the final stop comes before the last mark of parenthesis.)
Well I'll be damned. You learn something new every day. 
This concludes the Grammar Edition of the Cranky Pumpkin. We shall return to our regularly scheduled programming on Monday.
p.s. I own this version of The Elements of Style, which is illustrated by Maira Kalman, one of my favorite artists.
p.p.s. How cool is it that the author of Charlotte's Web also wrote the great grammar treatise for the English language? E.B. White, you're my hero.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Albino Gators

To wrap up our Unofficial Gator Week, here is a ghostly gator to haunt your dreams:

He has a friend:

I had no idea there was such a thing as an albino alligator. They are beautiful, in a terrifying sort of way. Even worse, they look like they might want to be your friend and cuddle... except if given half a chance, they would tear apart all your limbs and eat you while your heart was still beating.

I'm glad I did not know about albino gators when I was a kid. My nightmares of normal gators were bad enough (especially the one that involved me falling into a moat of gators at the mall in Santa Monica while I was shopping with my dad - this dream is weird on so many levels, but it still gives me chills to think about it).

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gator Wrestling

Warning: photo heavy post!

While we were at Gatorland, Nathan and I watched one of the shows. The show starts with a couple of guys bantering. One of them showed off his skills with a whip. It seemed like the sort of show you might watch at any zoo or amusement park.
Except wait, holy eff, what the crap is he doing? What is he pulling out of the moat?!
Where are you taking that thing? You realize you are holding the tail of an alligator??? What do you possibly think you are going to do with a mother-effing-gator?
Oh, of course, I should have known. You are going to sit on the alligator. Because that looks totally safe.

STOP THAT. STOP THAT RIGHT NOW. I am so going to tell your mother and you are going to be totally grounded for at least a month.
No. NO. You are not opening the mouth of the alligator. I refuse to believe that you are opening the mouth of the alligator just so the audience can admire its teeth. How much is the minimum wage rate in Florida? I hope Gatorland is giving you the best damn health insurance in the universe BECAUSE YOUR FACE IS INCHES AWAY FROM AN OPEN ALLIGATOR MOUTH AND IF YOU GET YOUR NOSE CHOMPED OFF, I AM NOT GOING TO FEEL SORRY FOR YOU.

Are you trying to make me pee my pants? (Because if so, congratulations: mission accomplished).
Well, this is an improvement. You are still sitting on the gator, which makes you the dumbest person in the state of Florida, but at least you've closed its mouth.
So what are you going to do now?

 Holy bleeping bleepity bleep shit.
Son, you realize you are holding a gator's mouth open with your chin?
I feel like this is an important question, so I am going to repeat myself: YOU REALIZE YOU ARE HOLDING A MOTHER-EFFING-GATOR'S MOUTH OPEN WITH YOUR TINY WEAK ASS CHIN???
Please don't do that.
Look, this is what you are need to do: put your hands back on the ground; take your chin away from the scary gator mouth; tie the beast up with chains; and then lock it into a dungeon until the end of time.

This looks like a good idea. Let's put the gator down for a nap. It's night-night time!

Are you completely bat shit insane? Don't walk away from it! What if the gator is pretending to sleep? He is lulling you into a false sense of security AND THEN HE IS GOING TO BITE YOUR NUTS OFF.

Sir, I'm not kidding. I can tell the gator is faking. Your nuts = gator snack.

Oh good, this seems like an intelligent way to end the show. Just wake the gator up and let him run around the stage angry. Now why don't we release the gator into the crowds and see how many tourists he can slaughter before someone takes him down with a flame thrower.

But seriously: the Gator Wrestling show at Gatorland is AWESOME. I would totally visit it again. However, the next time we go to Orlando, we'll have Baby Girl, and I can't let Baby Girl see this show. No child of mine needs to think of Gator Wrestling as a fun and whimsical activity.

And for the record: I did not actually pee my pants while watching this show or walking around any of the Gatorland attractions. However, when I visited the ladies restroom, I was deeply concerned that an escaped gator might be lurking in the toilets.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gatorland, Part One

We all have our special fears. Some people are afraid of heights. Others dread airplanes, bugs, ghosts and clowns. I am terrified of crocodiles and alligators.

My family lived in Florida during the summer that I was three years old. I only have dim memories of our Florida summer, but I understand I attended a preschool camp that was next to a canal. There was a chain link fence between the preschool and the canal, but my parents instructed me to keep the eff away from the water because it was teeming with croc-a-gators. (I used the same word for crocodiles and alligators. It was easier on my toddler vocabulary.)

I spent my childhood terrified of croc-a-gators. When the lights went out for bedtime, I thought a big croc-a-gator beast came to life under my bed.

Fast forward to the present, and croc-a-gators still scare the crap out of me. When I think of a place like Florida, this is what I imagine:

So when we went to Florida last month, I was on high alert. Every body of water, from pools to ponds to roadside canals, was suspect. And OMG, half the state is covered with water. It's just a big freaking swamp made for these prehistoric beasts. We drove past the headwaters to the Everglades at least 30 times, and every time, I expected a herd of gators to pour on to the freeway and chomp through our car. Seriously, when you are in Florida, a croc-a-gator could be ANYWHERE. Even here:

Our guidebook mentioned Gatorland as a fun Orlando attraction. In light of my extreme gator phobia, you would think I would avoid Gatorland like the plague. But I'm pregnant, so the usual theme parks are out of the question; and besides, Gatorland seemed like a healthy way to confront my demons.

Visitors are welcomed to the park by piles of gators. At first, I was amused. The gators and I were separated by a safe and respectable distance. The barriers were too high for even the most enterprising gator to vault.
Then we went to the Breeding Marsh.

The Breeding Marsh is easily the most terrifying spot in the entire world. You walk along a dock. There are barriers on either side of the dock, but the dock is quite narrow. Too narrow, if you ask me. Also, as we walked along the dock, the wood felt a little soft. As if it has spent one too many years soaking up Florida rains. As if, a hungry gator could easily nudge the planks aside and drag me into the marsh.

I summoned all my courage and marched into the marsh.

At first glance, the photo above looks like a lovely shot of the water. Oh look, how the clouds and trees are reflected on the water's surface! But look closer, and you will see the source of 98% of my childhood nightmares.

Now let's talk about the Zipline.

Here is a view of the marsh. This is just about 20% of the Breeding Marsh, but you get the idea. Visitors to Gatorland can, for an additional fee, ride a Zipline that passes over the gators. Why any rational human being would think this is a good idea is beyond me. (Question: is any reputable insurance company actually cool with this???) In the photo above, you can see the tower that the Zipline riders climb. The Zipline passes over the Breeding Marsh. You could not pay me enough to ride that thing. 

I felt very courageous in the Breeding Marsh. Look how close I was to this gator, and I was still able to take a focused photo without dropping my camera into the water.

Then I saw this guy:

He was swimming fast and straight towards the dock where Nathan and I were standing. And he looked hungry. Hungry for human flesh.

But I was okay. The guidebook would not have recommended Gatorland if the gators had a penchant for leaping over barricades and snacking on tourists.

We proceeded a little further. I was such a bad ass. I could totally handle the Breeding Marsh. Then I looked to the left and saw a pile of about 30 gators, moving around and acting hungry. Then I looked to the right, and there were at least 70 gators, moving around and acting famished. There were gators swimming beneath the dock, just inches from our feet.

We were completely surrounded.

I do not have any photos to document this moment because I freaked the eff out. I hyperventilated and walked as quickly as I could to the exit. We were clearly moments away from instant death. The gators were planning an attack, and soon a frenzy of those prehistoric beasts would tear the dock down. I would have run, but I was afraid I might stumble and crash over the dock into the water.

After the Breeding Marsh, we rode the Choo Choo Train around the park. The Choo Choo Train passed some cows and emus. This was much more to my liking.

Tomorrow: Gator Wrestling, aka the dumbest way to earn minimum wage in Florida.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin Pancakes!

I really, really, really like pumpkin pancakes. A lot.

But can you blame me? I mean seriously, just look at these beauties:

My favorite pumpkin pancakes are at Dish in La Cañada Flintridge. (And they would still be my favorites even if the restaurant did not have the banner, but I must admit, the banner pushes these bad boys over the edge).

Please excuse me: I have to gorge myself on as many pancakes as possible while they are available.

Friday, October 5, 2012

And Baby Makes Three

I know, I know. I've been promising gator photos this week, and I have still not uploaded my Florida trip photos to my computer. Stupid, lazy Courtney. My apologies.

Since I don't have any gator photos (yet), I'll share some other fun news: I'm pregnant! Nathan and I are expecting our first child, a little baby girl, and we are over the moon excited. Her ETA is March 27th.

So far, I've only had one major pregnancy craving: Orange Juice. This is a slight problem, because OJ's acidity makes me puke. One time, during the first trimester, my OJ craving was so strong, I bought a gallon at the grocery store and drank the entire thing in less than 24 hours. Are you familiar with the scene in Ghostbusters where we first see Slimer, and he's attacking the hotel room service cart? That's what I looked like.

We don't keep orange juice in the house anymore! If it's in the fridge, I will guzzle it until I puke; because apparently I have lost all self-control where OJ is concerned.

Just writing about orange juice is torture. Now I have it on the brain and I WANT SOME RIGHT NOW OH MY GOD WHY DON'T WE HAVE SOME EMERGENCY OJ IN THE FRIDGE?

I think we can safely assume that Baby Girl is going to be obsessed with citrus.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Just, Then and Now

I've been reading the first draft of my first novel. I'm nearly done, and would have finished days ago, except Nathan and I went to Florida. I suppose, technically, I could have kept reading my novel in Florida - but I didn't. I was too busy going to Sea World and floating in our hotel's ridiculously awesome lazy river. (If you are a fan of lazy rivers, I highly recommend the Hilton Orlando, especially if you visit during hurricane season, when the room rates are deliciously cheap).

But despite the distractions of Florida, I have nearly finished reading my novel's first draft and ... it's not half bad. It's not half bad at all. It needs plenty of revisions, and there's a 30 page chunk in the middle that has to go, but overall, I'm pleased. (I can say this now, when I'm still revising my novel. When it comes time to let someone else read my work, I'm sure I will cry hysterically, tear my hair out, shave off my eyebrows, and forget my middle name).

I've noticed a few annoying habits in my writing that must be fixed during the first round of revisions: I abuse the words just, then and now.

My first draft is 437 pages and 194,092 words long. The word "then" appears 550 times. That's not too bad, except when I use the word "then," I use it about a dozen times in the same paragraph.

I also employ the word "now" far too enough, at 654 times. I need to put my novel on a "now" diet.

But I can forgive myself for using the word "then" and "now" a little too often. After all, these words are used to help the reader understand timing and chronology. They don't need to be used as often as "the," but they are useful and necessary.

However, I cannot justify my flagrant abuse of the word "just." In 437 pages, I use the word "just" 808 times. That might not sound like a lot, but believe me, it is. Every time I read the word "just" in my novel, I cringe. I've been trying to read my novel without pausing to make revisions, but that rule does not apply to that demon word "just." My pen has slashed out that word at least 500 times.

(Incidentally, if you want to make me go berserk these days, whisper the word "just" - and then make sure you are standing at least fifteen feet away from me).

I'm sorry if this post is boring and tedious, but sometimes, this blog is for me, not you. It keeps me honest. And right now, I need to remind myself, Do not abuse the words Just, Then and Now.

I will try to upload my Florida photos soon, and then we can talk about much more exciting things, like gator wrestling.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Little Man

Nathan and I spent the last week in Florida, visiting family and soaking up the sunshine. Remarkably, although it's hurricane season and humid beyond belief in Orlando, the weather in Florida was better than the weather we left behind in Pasadena.

I have Florida photos to share, but I'm too lazy to upload them to my computer right now. So instead, I give you Rowan, aka Little Man, my sister's miniature dachshund.

Little Man, dressed for the rain. So handsome my heart might burst.

Little Man, being sleepy and pathetic. This photo is currently the wallpaper on my iPhone, and every time I see it, my heart swells.

And last but not least, Rowan striking a pose with the Pacific Ocean. Look at that majestic torso and those cunning ears. So handsome!