Thursday, April 7, 2016

Goodbye, Idol

“American Idol” is ending forever tonight. I know not everyone loved the show, but dammit, I did. Every year, after coming down from the high of the holidays, I staved off the looming winter blues with one thought: “Idol is returning soon!” The instant I heard Seacrest (oh, Seacrest. I think I’ll miss you most of all) proclaim, “THIS. Is American Idol!” followed by the bumping theme music, I felt happy. I couldn’t help it. Now it’s all going to be over soon, and I’m already afraid of what will happen next January in its absence. Will it be like the return of autumn every year after I graduated college when, as soon as the weather started to change, I thought, “Wait? Aren’t I supposed to be going back to school now? I should get packing!” When in reality, no, all that awaited me was day after day of the real world, with jobs and bills and blech. No doubt January will return, and I’ll feel that swell in my heart letting me know that something good is about to happen, then the truth will destroy me, much like La’Porsha has done to all who dared to compete with her this year. (Seriously, if she doesn’t win, I’ll...what? Stop watching the show. Ugh. Sob.)

I may be being a tad over-the-top here. But what ode to “Idol” would be complete without some cheesy theatrics and intentional tugs on the heartstrings? To cheer myself up and emotionally brace myself for tonight’s loss, I’ve decided to put together a list of some of my favorite “Idol” moments. Some happened on the show. Some happened in my real life. All made me happy.

Thanks, “Idol.” I’ll miss you!

In no particular order:

  1. Season Five, when my whole family bet on who would win. We put names in a fishbowl, and I got Katharine McPhee. I liked her well enough, but I loved Daughtry, so I wasn’t too concerned with winning. Then, the unthinkable happened and Daughtry went home (I mean, biggest Idol eff up ever? Debatable, but up there). It was me and my Uncle Jack with Taylor Hicks left in the finale. I’d never been more sure of anything in my life - that win was mine. I’d all but pocketed my winnings when Seacrest announced that Hicks had beat McPhee, and I stared, mouth agape, at the TV screen for the next three days. And do you know, that when me and fam went to the “Idol” tour that year, McPhee didn’t even show? And then she went on to star in “Smash,” which I LOVED but it was cancelled after just two seasons. Katharine, I try so hard to be your fan. Why must you always bring me such pain?

What even?

  1. The year Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr., and Randy Jackson performed at the finale, starting with “True Colors” then going into “Go Your Own Way.” Way fun, and played back on my DVR many times.

  1. The years when, once it got whittled down to the Top 10, Justin and I would randomly divvy up the contestants between us and whoever’s contestant won got a whole day to do whatever they wanted. I mean, I didn’t really like Scotty McCreery, but his win got me a day at the winery, so I’ll take it.

  1. Season Nine - the year I watched the entire season with Becca, and every single time Siobhan Magnus came on stage, we both looked at each other and said, “How in the hell do you pronounce her name again?” Then screamed CEE-O-BA-HAN! every time the camera panned to her from that point on.

  1. The year “Idol” filmed in Pittsburgh and Justin got to go shoot it for work. I thought he’d come home super psyched to tell me about meeting one of his favorite performers, Steven Tyler. I don’t think he even realized Steven Tyler was there. Jennifer Lopez had walked by him wearing a pair of shorty shorts, and I think he blacked out until much later that day. “It’s like she’s not even human,” he said again and again for the next forever. It’s kind of freeing knowing the standards of beauty I have to live up to in his mind are 1,000 percent unattainable. Hand me that cheeseburger!

  1. Getting to see my celebrity crush, Ryan Seacrest. My other crushes include Willie Geist, Carson Daly and Anderson Cooper. I might have a type.

  1. This might be my favorite one: The year after Bo Bice lost to Carrie, he came to South Park for a free outdoor concert. I went with my mom and aunt. We were all up close to the stage, and Bo started walking the length of it mid-song to give everyone high fives. My mom was a huge fan and I could see her straining to reach him, big smile on her face. The millisecond he got to her, Bo pulled his hand back to flip his signature flowing mane of hair back from his face. Then he turned on his heel and walked away. Mom’s sad little hand hung there midair for, I swear, a full 10 seconds before the devastation of the inadvertent snub hit her. I’m still laughing about that as I type it right now. Poor Mom. But I forever love Bo Bice for that moment alone.

  1. Adam Lambert singing “Mad World.” Actually, Adam Lambert singing anything.

  1. Going to see Carrie Underwood in concert with Justin this year and just watching her kick so much ass and thinking, “Girl, I saw you audition. You rocked then, and you rock now!” Then hearing her sing a cover of Dolly’s “I Will Always Love You” and sobbing openly. Ugh. So good.

  1. Watching La’Porsha perform this season. Her performances of “Diamonds” and “No More Drama” killed me. And every time the camera shows her baby with those comically gigantic noise-cancelling headphones, I die all over. Love her. Love all of it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Today’s post comes from Melissa Janisin of Goodness Madness, and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on Steel City Intrigue, where I write about why I love running, even when it doesn't love me.

I do not like board games.
I think I had a hard time admitting this, earlier in my life; I have always wanted to be more fun than I actually am.  More free-wheeling, more happy-go-lucky. More able to enjoy whatever life brings, less picky about how I spend my time.  And then someone suggests that we play Monopoly and all I can think is Oh my God that takes forever I can’t possibly stand it please just take all my money right now, you win.
When I play board games, my foot jiggles a lot. Impatiently. I find myself always announcing whose turn it is when people get distracted by “fun side conversations” or “debates over rules.”  I wish it would be more acceptable to read a book while waiting for your stupid turn to come around again. I am perfectly happy for others to win if it means a shortened duration of game play, though I’m not such a bad sport that I’ll just throw the game in the interest of saving time.  
This is how I feel about playing board games with adults. You can only imagine the inner turmoil when I am forced to play them with small children. Which is precisely why my second son was born – conception of a Candyland partner.  It has worked out maybe half as well as I anticipated.
It’s not that my firstborn would have been an only child. My stepson was living with us at the time he was born.  The trouble was he’s almost 8 years older, and spent more time at his mom’s house than at ours. That left me with 60% of potential Candyland time. And even when my stepson was with us, I couldn’t really expect him to spend endless hours sliding down chutes and climbing up ladders.  
We needed another kid. And I wasn’t getting any younger.  
We got lucky; we really did. Jimmy was born when Joey was 15 months old. At this writing, they are 6 and 8 years old respectively and have played Candyland together maybe four times in their lives. All the rest of the times, I played it, either with one of them or the other or sometimes with both of them together. I’ve also played Jenga, Memory, Don’t Wake Up Daddy, Don’t Break The Ice, Logo Party, Say Anything, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and something involving a cherry tree. Those were just the early years. These days I’ve played NBA/NHL/MLB 2K-everything, Minecraft, and every Xbox Lego game known to humankind. These are not board games, I know, but I still expect to be exempt from them. I did, after all, produce that extra kid/playtime pal.

I’ll be honest with you. I started thinking about this because, while planning my hijack of Rachel’s blog, I got to wondering whether little Libby will one day be big sister Libby. I mean, she looks like a decent kid.  Young, yet, but I can see “eldest child” potential in her photos. The thing is, you can’t ask a person this question anymore, because it is either hurtful and/or offensive in many cases. Which weirdly did not stop people from asking me. After I gave birth to my two boys in rather quick succession, I estimate that approximately 9 gazillion people couldn’t wait to ask me, “So, gonna try for a girl next?” I always told them, “No,” and usually we would move on, but not always. Sometimes people would follow it up with, “Awww, come on, why not?” And I would say, “Well, my husband has had a vasectomy, so I think he’d be pretty angry if I got pregnant at this point.”
Anyway. This is not a weirdly passive-aggressive way of “not asking” Rachel if she’s planning to try for another kid (or more). I’m really not asking. Because it’s not my business, especially because we barely know each other. What I am saying is this:  Rachel – if you do choose to create a sibling, I’ll be interested to know how it goes for you. And also, please know that when you hatch a second kid as a playmate for the first, what you actually get are two kids who want to play with YOU.
Which, now that I mention it, is really not that bad.  

As long as they never find the damn Monopoly.

Thanks to Melissa for the great post! Want to read more fun stuff ? Check out all the other blogs featured in this year's event!:

Harvest + Bloom // Yes, Wear That! // jelly jars // Glam and Graffiti // Gardening in High Heels // To The Streets // In Pursuit // Pittsburgh & Pearls // Beezus Kiddo // Crank Crank Revolution // Amanda Narcisi // Pittsburgh is Beautiful // From Cats to Cooking // Yum Yum PGH // Breelicious Bites // Parmesan Princess // Coffee & A Blonde // The Steel Trap // Wavy Alabaster // everybody loves you… // Eat with Emily // Don’t Forget to Eat // Sloping in the Sky // From Farm to Turntable // Secrets in the Wall // Red Pen Mama // Feedback Soup // The AP Collection // Blog Or Die PGH // Pittsburgh Happy Hour // Friendly Fitness Foodie // Small Town Dad // Josh’s World // Geeky Sweetie // Sean’s Ramblings // Lunges, Long Runs and Lattes // Try it and You May! // lil Burghers // Orange Chair Blog // Ya Jagoff // Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents // Melissa Firman

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


It was just after 8:30 on a low key Thursday evening. Libby was upstairs fast asleep, Justin was working late, and I had just pulled a pizza out of the oven. It was cooling on the stove top as I brought up the latest "American Idol" on DVR and settled in for what was shaping up to be a perfectly lovely evening spent cuddled up on the couch. It was much needed. The previous week had been a tad intense for the LaBar household. A backed-up and overflowing sewer pipe in the basement had brought on the headache Monday afternoon, and a teething, generally miserable baby had made sure that stress carried on straight through midweek. But for now, I could just relax and just breathe a bit as all was quiet.

And then, it wasn't.

I paused the DVR to listen closer to what sounded like ice falling off the roof. It was a thudding, rolling sound and after a few seconds, I knew what it was. Our ice maker has a tendency to back up every couple of months. It's a simple fix, and I headed in the kitchen to take care of it. I opened the freezer and started rooting around until...

There it was again. That weird sound. But now, with my head shoved inside, I realized it for sure wasn't coming from the freezer. It was coming from...behind me? I turned my head and stumbled back as my eyes landed on the source. There, a mere few feet away with only the glass of my kitchen/deck door separating us, was the biggest raccoon I've ever seen. It was on its hind legs (if that's what raccoons have?), its arms stretched high above its head, and banging on the door with its awful, teeny paw.

I lost my damn mind.

I raced into my dining room, where I frantically texted my next door neighbor and dear friend Renee.

So excitement. Much drama.

Renee called me instantly and assured me everything was going to be OK. From my spot cowering in the dining room, I respectfully disagreed. Renee and her (incredibly understanding) husband Paul offered to go out on their deck to shine lights and make noise to scare it off. I heard a muffled version of their attempts from my hiding spot but after a few minutes, it became evident the raccoon could not have cared less. At one point, it kind of moseyed to the top of the deck stairs like, "Alright! Alright! I'm out!" We were about to declare victory, until it turned around and resumed banging on my kitchen door. "I'm back, guys! Fooled you!" 

"There's something wrong with that animal," Renee, back on the phone with me, said. "I think you should call someone."

Not wanting to be more alarmist than I already was (as a person who was actively hiding from an animal that had no way of gaining access to the inside of her home), I ran to my computer and Googled the non-emergency number for my local police. The woman who answered listened to my extended apology and explanation of what was going on and told me I needed to call 911.

I sighed. I really didn't want to do that. I could only imagine how hard the officers who fielded that call would roll their eyes. "You're telling me a RACCOON is OUTSIDE A HOUSE IN SUBURBAN WESTERN PENNSYLVANIA? Like they are, all the time, every single night? CALL THE FEDS!"

But my scaredy-pants-ness got the best of me, and I made the call. The dispatcher who answered was super nice, and within minutes of hanging up with her, two officers were coming up my walkway. Again, I apologized profusely and directed them to the steps leading to my backyard.

I returned to my hiding spot but not before doing something I'm not entirely proud of. I'm going to have to ask you to give me a break here. I was scared. I wasn't thinking rationally. I have a BABY to protect for God's sake (see what I did there to make you feel bad and not judge me?). I went downstairs to the door that leads to the patio beneath the deck, and I made sure the door was locked. Because in my mind, this particular raccoon could open doors. And attack me in the face and menace my sleeping child. I, for one, did not want that, so yeah, I checked the locks. Go ahead and judge. But just know this: YOU WEREN'T THERE. (Though if you were, you probably would have mocked me to my face for this. Justifiably so. Sigh. I digress.)

I will admit I was not privy to all that happened next, as I was still hiding in the dining room. But both the police and Renee tell me the following went down: The officers came up my deck steps with their stick/noose thing and a garbage bag. The raccoon saw this, thought "Oh, heck no!" and flung itself off my deck onto the steep hill below.

Even in my distressed state, I died laughing when Renee sent this text. 

I breathed a sigh of relief, until the officers came back to my front door and told me they had good news and bad news. The "good" news was that the raccoon wasn't rabid. It was, in fact, "very healthy" and "likely pregnant." The bad news was that it definitely lived under the shed in our backyard, as they'd watched it head straight for a burrowed hole near it right after its deck dive. It had likely been there for months. 

"OK," I said. "Then what exactly made it attack the house tonight?"

"Probably the garbage on your deck," one officer said. 

"There's no garbage on my deck!" I screeched indignantly. How dare he? I would never let garbage sit idly on my deck. Ugh! The nerve! 

"Well, there's a bag with a bunch of garbage in it that the animal was eating, so, yeah, there is," the (extremely patient) officer said*.

*He was right. We had a get-together for Libby's baptism weeks prior, and put the garbage on the deck until we cleaned up at the end of the day. Closer inspection the day after the raccoon attack showed we'd missed one bag, and though the snow had covered it for a few weeks, it was now essentially an inviting buffet for the furry perpetrator. 

Their best advice was to call someone to come and "get rid" of the raccoon. Which I have not done yet. I guess I just feel like it's been there for so long, and I never even knew it existed until it came looking for food somewhere I never typically leave any. Does that warrant a death sentence? (Plus, I'm already dealing with the cost of the aforementioned overflowing sewer pipe, and the expense of a raccoon hitman isn't exactly within budget.) 

So I've (foolishly) decided to wait and see if it becomes a real problem before I do anything drastic (which, of course, I know it will). But it's not as if nothing came of it all. As Renee put it during one of her last texts to me that night:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Dear Libby

Hello, My Little Love.

Or should I say my Crunch? Or BB? Or Libby Bibbers? You honestly have more nicknames than I can count, and to be honest, they vary from day to day. I think at one point, I called you “Skoonch” for about a week until your father was like, “Woman, that’s not a thing.” But the one that’s lasted longest is Crunch. We started calling you Munchkin the minute we brought you home, which was shortened to Munch almost immediately. That became Munchy Crunchy, then Crunch, which we still call you a whole year later. When you’re crawling around the house, getting into mischief (read: all the time), your father refers to it as “Crunching Around.” What can I say? Your parents are weirdos.

I’m not going to lie: I had to pause when I typed the words “a whole year” just now. Yes, you’ve been on this earth for an entire 12 months, and I cannot adequately express how fast that time has gone. I thought it would be good to jot down a few things going on these days that will give you a glimpse into your former self once you’re old enough to read. Which, if you ask your father, will be any day now. He, like most other parents, suffers from “My Child is a Super Genius Precious Snowflake” syndrome. (I mean, of course, I do too, but that’s just because YOU ARE.)

So here’s the status of things in your world, as of Feb. 3, 2016:

You're walking. Kind of.

A few days ago, you took your first real steps. You were clinging to the coffee table, and I was across the room. You looked me right in the eye, flung your arms up in the air, and drunk baby waddled five or six steps to me. It was awesome, so of course, I lunged for my camera hoping that I'd be able to catch you doing it again.

Here is what I got:

You love music

Anytime you hear music, you dance. It can be anything: a commercial jingle, a passing ice cream truck, someone humming three blocks away. The second you hear it, you squat down on your chubby little legs and bounce. You sometimes accompany this with one hand raised in the air. The other day, "The Hustle" came on the radio and you damn near lost your mind. It's so great. I hope you keep that up all your life, though you might considering tossing in a few new moves from time to time. Actually scratch that. Your moves are awesome.

You LOVE other children...even when they don’t love you.

The sight of other children evokes a joy in you most kids reserve for a Santa Claus sighting. You love seeing someone your size. You point to the TV every time there's a baby product commercial. You become more animated than a Looney Tune when one of your cousins is around. You try to launch yourself out of your stroller the instant you get so much as a glimpse of another child at the park. Your enthusiasm is awesome, though at times, a tad over the top. Like the time you got so excited to see a fellow baby friend at church that you grabbed her by both shoulders and body slammed her to the ground. Or the time at the library that you saddled up to a stranger boy twice your age and looked at him like, "So we're best friends now, yes?" and he burst into tears. So yeah. Not everyone loves you as much as you love them. Rough stuff, but a lesson you'd learn eventually anyway so, go you, being all advanced!

You yell at me when I eat

Awhile ago, your pediatrician suggested I start feeding you at the exact same time your dad and I eat meals, so that you get into a rhythm. In real life, that translated into me making extra food so we could share because trying to feed you while I feed myself my own separate meal is just so much no. So in the mornings, I make myself a little extra breakfast, let you sit next to me on the floor and feed you bite for bite as I eat.


Now, anytime I try to eat this is what I encounter:

That's you hollering at me because I wouldn't share my food.
You're like a bully trying to take my lunch money.

It's super intimidating. If I so much as grab a handful of whatever to literally sustain my energy while chasing you around all day, you stop whatever you're doing, point at my mouth and screech, "MAAAA-MAAAH!" until I feed you something. When I cook, you pull yourself up by my pant leg and holler at me the entire time, because in your mind, I'm taking way too damn long and where is your food??? Two mornings ago, we had just finished eating some yogurt but you wanted more. When I went to put the empty bow in the sink, you pantsed me. I've officially created a monster. Looks like I'll be eating every meal hidden in a crouch in the pantry for the rest of my life. So be it.

You love the tub

Libby + Water = True Love. You would splash and squeal and play in that thing forever if I let you. The entire bathroom is the Splash Zone. It's insanely cute, even though I have to guard myself with a towel and a poncho and a glass partition and still end up soaked every time. So so worth it.

You say Puppy A LOT

Technically, your first word was "blankie" at around 7-ish months. We were watching "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" (a.k.a. your OBSESSION), and Mickey was looking for a blanket. You heard that, looked right at me, then looked at the beloved blanket Nana made you and said, plain as day, "Bankie." I freaked out and called everyone I knew to tell them. Then, you said exactly nothing for two more months. Finally, when we went to see Nana and Pop Pop and their puppies, within days you'd mastered the word that you would go on to say approximately every 15 seconds since. For a little while, everything was "Puppy." I was "Puppy." Daddy was "Puppy." Your feet were "Puppy." But eventually you wrapped your mind around it and cut down on saying it to approximately every 30 seconds. Except for when daddy and I tried to film you saying it, when you decided instead to go all horror movie on us:

You have a sick sense of humor: Me pretending that your feet smell bad makes you deliriously happy. You save most poops for times when only dad is home and giggle like a madwoman the entire time he changes you. You make me laugh even when you don't mean to. Here is a list of actual things I've said since you've been mobile:

  • "Did you just lick the scale? Seriously."
  • "Libby, do NOT punch the sweet potatoes."
  • "What is that? Are you twerking?" (Justin: "I thought it would be a lot longer before we'd have to ask her that.")
  • "You just slapped my eye."
  • "Please don't lick my boot."
  • "Please get your finger out of my nose."
At least once a day, every day, you make me smile, even if it's because of some ridiculous/disgusting/ridiculously disgusting thing you're doing. I love it so much.

Things I can’t do with you in my life: Remember the last time I washed my hair. “Pop out” to run errands. Avoid strangers in public.

Things I can do with you in my life: Laugh all the time. Embrace chaos. Feel more empathy. Generally like who I am more as a mother than who I am in any other role.

The bottom line is this: You’ve redefined the meaning of joy in my life. And for that, My Crunch, I love you with all I am.

Love, Mumma (or, if I’m eating, MA-MAAAH!!!!)