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!!!!)