Were it left up to the Serb and me, we still wouldn’t be parents. Thankfully the universe had other plans.
Eight years ago we were a couple of freewheeling D.I.N.K.S.* living large in the city with only a low-maintenance pussy** to worry about. It merely took unlimited booze and a few minutes hours to kill at a friend’s wedding in Cuba to change everything.
About six weeks after returning home from our trip, my co-worker, M, confided that she might be pregnant. The pharmacy in our building had a “buy one, get one free” promotion on pregnancy tests, so—as a joke—I offered to take one alongside her for moral support.
Back in our office, M scurried into the washroom and sauntered out a few minutes later with a relieved look on her face. Then it was my turn. I hid the kit in my purse and slunk into the bathroom, feeling equal parts devious and ridiculous.
I peed on the stick and put it aside while I washed up. Applying some lipstick, I glanced down and froze: the pee stick was branded with a giant plus sign. My stomach turned over and my knees literally buckled. I thought of all the sushi, brie and—ack!—martinis I’d devoured that month. I fumbled for my cell phone and called M at her desk.
Me: “WHAT DOES PLUS MEAN!?!”
Me: “IS PLUS GOOD OR BAD!?!”
M: “Oh sh*t.”
Me: “Get. In. Here.”
M ran into the bathroom and we both stared at the pee-stained stick with horrific fascination. I refused to accept the results and ran to the store for another test—one that wasn’t in the bargain bin. It, too, was positive (or negative, depending on one’s perspective).
I swore M to secrecy and sat at my desk in a stupor for the rest of the afternoon. Meeting the Serb to take the streetcar home, I pondered the best way to break the news to him.
Me (thrusting stick at him): “Check this out.”
Serb: “What’s that?”
Me: “It’s a pregnancy test. That says I’m pregnant.”
Serb: “What do you mean?”
Me: “It means I’m pregnant.”
Serb: “No you’re not.”
Me: “Yes I am.”
Serb: “No you’re not.”
Me: “Yes I am.”
When we arrived home, the Serb insisted on driving to get another test, which I administered in the grocery store washroom. Still positive. Still pregnant.
I immediately demanded a Big Mac (which was a sign of things to come) and we sat in the parking lot of an industrial park, gorging on grease while we gaped at our trio of pregnancy tests.
I was most definitely Knocked Up.
* Double Income No KidS (perverts)
** Our cat, Dude (seriously, you guys are a bunch of freaks)
Go on, spill it: how did you find out you’d be a hot mama (or big daddy)? And if you’re not a parent, has reading my blog turned you off procreation for good?
I know my strengths—margarita connoisseur, gluten avoider—yet I’m also well aware of my limitations: gardening, home repair and baking calamities are de rigueur in my world. Now I can add “visual artist” to my ever-growing list of Things I Kinda Suck At Doing But Which Make For Interesting Blog Fodder.
As a parent representative at my kids’ school, I attend monthly meetings where we discuss upcoming events and sometimes replicate an activity that the children do in class, such as painting.
While in grade one last year, my son painted us a picture using a technique called wet on wet. The paper is saturated and then sponged off. As paint is applied, it diffuses on the page. When done correctly the results can be extraordinary:
When done incorrectly (i.e. by yours truly), the results are rather…pornographic:
I don’t know if subconsciously I was hankering for some sexy time with the Serb or what, but I am now the Georgia O’Keeffe of the hippie school. I’ve wanted to overhaul the look of my blog for months and based on the example above, I obviously require some artistic intervention.
Enter the fabulous Jenn of Munchkin Land Designs. We’ve only met online and live in different countries, yet she was able to take my ramblings (“Make it silly and creative and professional and, you know, like me…okay?”) and turn them into pure gorgeousity.
Obviously, I am thrilled; when you see it later this week, hopefully you will be, too. Mostly, I’m just happy it doesn’t look like a big snapper.
I recently had a friend who is an accomplished doctor drop something off at my house when I wasn’t expecting her. I know that if I ever stopped by her house, I would find the following: an immaculate house filled with tantalizing aromas of her home cooking; her three-year-old twins practicing the piano and wearing coordinated outfits; and her five-year-old son setting the table for dinner.
This is what she saw when she came to my door: my three-year-old daughter bellied up to the coffee table (naked, of course) eating a dinner of goldfish crackers; my seven-year-old son running around in shorts and rubber boots, with wool socks hiked up like thigh-highs; approximately sixty-seven loads of unfolded laundry on the couch; and a box of mangos (random!) sitting atop a month’s worth of flyers on our front entrance bench.
Running into people I know when I resemble a POW escapee who’s put in ten years of hard labour without access to quality hair care products is something that happens to me quite often. I call it Lori’s Law: the worse I look, the better chances are of running into my prom date.
After my daughter was born, I looked like most new mothers (i.e. hell) but my baby was so cute that people rarely noticed my zombie-like appearance. One morning I was trolling Costco, extremely proud of the fact that I was dressed before dinnertime, when I bonked my cart into a woman I’d known since high school.
We hadn’t seen each other in years, but were close enough at one time that I’d been her bridesmaid (tangent: if you’re sick of being my friend, just ask me to be in your wedding party…I guarantee we won’t be speaking by Christmas).
She looked at me, obviously taken aback by my dishevelled appearance, as we exchanged banal pleasantries. She oohed and ahhed over my baby, but it was obvious she didn’t mean it. And looking in the car seat, who could blame her? My daughter looked like the “before” shot of a baby makeover show.*
She wore a frayed, mint green sleeper that did nothing for her complexion – although the shmootz on her face wasn’t helping – and she was sporting a newborn mullet with a hint of mohawk. Long story short, we were not looking our best.
I wondered if seeing people you know when you’re looking like crap was a universal experience, but then I thought of the Costco encounter (she still looks like a model) and my doctor friend (smart and gorgeous). So now, with apologies to my daughter, I realize that this phenomenon is completely and unavoidably hereditary.
* Back off, TLC – I’m totally pitching that idea to Mark Burnett.
I don’t know much about a lot of things, but I have learned a few valuable lessons since marrying the Serb. More than a few of these lessons concern Serbian holidays: New Year’s, Slava and Easter are all unknown quantities for a semi-wiccan WASP from the prairies. Here are some essential guidelines for making it through the day:
My Easter morning began at five o’clock, when my family joined our daughter’s hippie nursery school class on the shore of Lake Ontario. Every year they hold an enchanting celebration that involves watching the sunrise, singing some songs and hunting for eggs (not the chocolate kind). It was an amazing start to the day, but the day felt like it should’ve been over by four o’clock that afternoon.
Lesson: Pacing is everything – stock up on Red Bull or nap in the car between visits.
Serbs love their slippers. When you remove your shoes in their home, you will immediately be handed a pair of slippers, regardless of your outfit. God help you if you refuse their slippers and you’re wearing nylons.
Lesson: Stick with basic black – it goes with everything.
It’s a very long day, full of chocolate, juice boxes and other hazards. As anal vigilant as I am, accidents are unavoidable. Yesterday was a prime example: my three-year-old wet her pants and I was caught unprepared. Luckily, she fit into our cousin’s rolled-up leggings. Our twenty-something cousin with the perfect hair.
Lesson: Don’t stand next to skinny cousin for photos.
Rakija (pron. rak-ee-ya) is a Balkan brandy that could remove rust from a bumper. Despite my protests, I’m always given an overflowing glass. In eleven years of marriage, I’ve probably had less than a full shot.
Lesson: Take a few fake sips, excuse yourself from the table, and immediately apply a soothing balm to your mouth.
Hauling a Serbian/English dictionary to family gatherings is uncouth and tiring, so I rely on key phrases to get me through the day: My husband is beautiful and I smell stinky farts are sure to get a laugh from the aunties.
Lesson: Do not utter any other words my husband has taught me – if I said them in Sarajevo, I’d be arrested.
I’ve been trying to convince one aunt to open a bakery because her cookies are like nothing I’ve ever tasted. But they’re just brought out to cut the sweetness of the cakes (yes, plural). Dessert is its own food group in the Serbian diet and if you refuse to partake – as I did yesterday – they look at you like Andrea Martin in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when she learns the fiancé is a vegetarian (“What you mean you no want no meat?”).
Lesson: Take some cookies on your plate and then wait for the three-year-old to come by and pilfer them.
Which brings us to the final lesson, perhaps the most important one of all:
Wear stretchy pants
Meat, cheese and bread are the staples of Serbian cuisine – combine these with homemade hooch and decadent desserts, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for splitting seams.
Lesson: Don’t eat for a few days before your visit, buy some TUMS and enjoy the ride.
I grew up having a love/hate relationship with Easter (kinda like Jesus). My family was not particularly religious (as evidenced by my previous comment), so the day was really all about the chocolate.
Unfortunately, I was allergic to all things cocoa as a child (I know!) and my Easter loot was limited to a token white chocolate bunny and some brown chocolate eggs that gave me hives (I know!). Overall, the day was a bit of a bust* and I vowed to make Easter a holiday to remember for my kids. Then I had them.
My son spent his early years at the mercy of my nutbar-first-time-mother ways, which included kelp chips, Tofurutti cones and wheat thin crackers that I referred to as “cookies.” Regrettably, holidays offered him little respite.
When he was three-years-old my son figured out what the Easter Bunny was all about. For the first time, he gathered up the plastic eggs that I’d painstakingly hidden in plain sight. My husband was ready with the camera to capture the moment that our firstborn opened his first Easter egg to reveal…a dried apricot.
The look on my son’s face was one of befuddlement. My husband’s expression was more of the “WTF?” variety. The apricot was quickly discarded for the next treasure: a strawberry. Yet another egg revealed a handful of raisins. The theme was obvious and the Serb was not impressed.
“You’re giving him fruit?” he asked. “For Easter?” Even a small-town Serb who’d grown up half-Orthodox, half-Communist knew this was an epic Easter fail.
“It’s a healthy alternative to chocolate,” I offered.
“It’s lame,” he replied. “He’s gonna think the Easter Bunny’s mad at him.”
My son toddled around munching on his holiday trail mix, oblivious to the affront. Luckily for everyone, our karma came later that day in the form of my husband’s cousin, who just happened to work for Cadbury (I know!).
We carted home buckets of chocolate and my son was able to try some for the very first time. We captured the moment on video and it’s like watching Trainspotting meets The Wiggles.
As often happens, my daughter benefitted greatly from me using my son as a guinea pig. By the time she showed up, I’d pulled my head out of my ass and loosened the sugar embargo. Her second word was “candy” (first word: “gimme”).
* I know what you’re thinking: what about Halloween? I usually got stuck with Twizzlers and Rockets, but would inevitably start scarfing WigWags and then walk around for a week looking like Fat Bastard from Austin Powers.
When I started cutting certain foods out of my life it was for health reasons,* but weight loss is obviously a very motivating auxiliary benefit. Mexican Monster Mojito Tour aside, I’ve been fairly stringent in my food choices and recently wondered if my husband had noticed that my muffin top had become more of a cheese stick.**
The poor Serb didn’t stand a chance.
Like men all over the world, my husband assumed the entire conversation was an elaborate trap. He proceeded to answer my questions as though under interrogation back in his homeland. Below is a fairly accurate transcription of the
grilling discussion. You be the judge.
Me: Notice anything different about me?
Him: I don’t like this question.
Me: I’m just asking if I look the same to you!
Him: No you’re not. You’re asking something else.
Me: Like what?
Him: I don’t know, but I’m afraid to answer you.
Me: C’mon, be honest – just answer and I’ll REDACTED
Him: Twice? Okay. But you gotta give me a hint because I can’t just start guessing.
Me: Fine. Do you notice a change in my body since I stopped with the gluten and dairy and everything else?
Him: No way am I answering that. I don’t care if you REDACTED twenty times. There’s no right answer to that question.
Me: What are you talking about? Either I look different or I don’t!
Him: If I say you look different, you’re gonna ask how I thought you looked before. If I say you don’t look different, you’re just gonna be pissed.
Me: I only want an unbiased opinion!
Him: Then ask someone who doesn’t live with you!
Him: (Deep breath) You look great. Not that you didn’t look great before, but you’re looking extra great.
Me: See? That wasn’t so bad.
Him: Is it over?
You’d think he’d learn his lesson, but no: yesterday he casually asked how much weight I’d lost. When I told him the double-digit number, he said:
“I thought so. Your shoulders are looking really lean.”
Yep, that’s totally what I was going for: skinny shoulders.
* FYI: Raging eczema on hands? GONE. Chronic strep throat infections? NONE. Grosstastic ear drama that has plagued me since last October? WANING.
** i.e. Still doughy, but more up and down than up and over.
The year before I met my husband (back when cell phones had antennas…can you imagine?!?), I embarked on Operation Sassification. It was precipitated by my devastating break-up with a guy I never liked in the first place (I used to have a thing for douche bags) and involved doing things that terrified me.
It lasted almost a year and culminated in a solo trip to Cancun’s Club Med (that’s another story…on another blog…one that my family can’t access), but it was an Introduction to Acting class that had the greatest impact on me.
Initially I was too embarrassed to tell people I was taking the class; it was very basic, with many exercises involving trust and improv. By the end of the course an interesting thing happened: I could deliberately, even joyfully – and without a hint of regret – make a complete ass of myself in public.
Two years later, I was having lunch with a client when she mentioned her excitement over an upcoming audition for a local production of the Rocky Horror Show. I mentioned my brief foray into acting and she encouraged me to try out for a supporting role (she made it clear that the role of sexy space babe Magenta was made for her).
The audition involved singing, which I’d never done publicly, so I bought a karaoke version of “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” from Grease and started rehearsing. I also made the Serb watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show, something I hadn’t done since my toast-throwing days in high school.
Seeing the movie without being drunk and pelted with food was a very different experience. I assured him that the stage version would have audience participation. Although he was supportive, I could tell that the Serb didn’t really get it.
On the day of the audition I had one goal: make it through the experience without barfing on someone. Seeing all of the cute, lithe blondes practicing their pitch in the hallway did not help. I entered the room and stood before the director, choreographer and piano player. I handed them my homemade headshot and meagre resume. They asked me a few questions and then told me to sing.
What I lacked in technique I made up for in chutzpah. I may have even thrown in some jazz hands. I left the audition proud of my effort – I hadn’t sucked and, more importantly, hadn’t puked on the director. I was psyched at the thought of landing a role as an extra during the “Time Warp” scene.
Later that week the phone rang. It was the assistant director, Becky:
Becky: “We’d like to offer you the role of Magenta.”
Me: “Say what now?”
Me: “Don’t you mean the lady holding the banana during ‘Sweet Transvestite’?”
Me: “I’ll take it!”
Needless to say, my client was not impressed. I, however, was ecstatic – doing Rocky Horror Show was a huge thrill. The people involved were amazing and the production was way beyond anyone’s expectations. I was singing, dancing and strutting onstage half-naked: I was as far from my comfort zone as I could possibly be. Despite some very Christopher Guest-like moments, the play was a massive, sold-out success.
And what did the Serb think? Why, he became an unofficial Rocky Horror fanboy, of course. Not only did he attend every single performance (including two shows on Saturdays!), he still makes me sing along with the movie whenever it’s on TV. Frank-N-Furter may be gone, but he’s definitely not forgotten.