Sunday, November 16, 2014

Three Somethings Cheerful (And A Bonus 1990s Mark/Erin Story)

Look, I can be cheerful. Three times, even! Ready?

1.) Anneliese sang in chapel choir again last week. She was as adorable and delighted as the first time.

And what's sweeter than a choir full of four-year-olds anyway?

Anneliese is tall* so in the back row, to the right.

*Side story: one of Mark's first memories of interacting with me was when we were taking some group picture for school (band! fine! it was for band! we were at BAND CAMP okay?) and they told us to stand by height and I hopped up into the back row, because apparently part of my self-image is that I am tall? And apparently I am actually... not that tall? (I feeeeeeel like I am tall.) 

So anyway Mark watched as they moved me down a row and then down another and then apparently it happened again (!) later in the school year and he kept wanting to yell at me (in his best Seinfeld-to-George "you're bald" voice): YOU ARE AVERAGE! But he didn't, because he is Mark, and that is just not a very Mark thing to do. But! He does like to bring up this story every time I mention that I am tall, which is apparently still fairly often. Because I am! I mean, not a giant! But fairly tall! Really! 

2.) Charlotte has a new purple peacoat. In my opinion (as the shopper), it is perfection.

3.) Nathan was telling me some story the other night about something that happened at a Boeing parts factory (I don't even know) and he thought it was the best most hilarious mishap ever, and even though the story was actually suuuuper boring, his perfect smile and giggling about it enchanted me anyway.
lampshade on head?

I'm glad I got a picture though so I never have to get him to tell me that story again though. Yawn.

(Y'all hush, I am a good mom, take a seat and stop clutching your pearls.)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Things That Annoy Me About November

I am back from Minnesota and it was fun and it was cold and I will have updates and pictures later but for now I need to RANT. Because I should like November (it's my birthday month, and isn't everyone always a little bit partial to favoriting their own birthday month?) but I'm starting to like it a whole lot less than I used to. It used to be full of lovely changing leaves and some sense of calm before the holidays. But now, it's... eh. I don't know. 

Basically everything is pissing me off.

1.) At the top of the list is the Christmasification of November. I haaaaaaaate it. I know I sound like a get-off-my-lawn old person by saying it didn't used to be like this, but... IT DIDN'T USED TO BE LIKE THIS. Not that that in itself is a reason to resist a cultural shift, of course. But this is a shift that I'm scared will make me exhausted of Christmas before it even gets here, and Christmas is special! I want it to feeeeeel special. I am feeling protective.

I'm not one of those people who will go so far as to avoid Christmas music during Advent, or get cranky about putting up the tree or decorating -- for me, the excitement of those things IS part of the mental and emotional preparation for Christmas, and it doesn't feel in conflict with Advent -- BUT I will be cranky if we do it before Thanksgiving-ish. I just will. If Christmas has become a thing that takes TWO FULL MONTHS, then it's too much. That's more than 15% of the year! Just no.

Actually, wait. That's not fair. I take part of that back, a little. Everyone can be excited on their own timelines, of course. Just don't push me into it too.

It's more than just not liking it. All of the decorations and jungle bells and songs starting up on my birthday (or earlier!) makes me feel legitimately rushed and panicked and anxious.

Let me bottom-line this before anyone calls me Scrooge: Don't. My resistance to earlier-every-year Christmas is not because I hate the cheer but because I love it, the music and the food and the shopping and the bustling malls and the chill in the air and the holiday beverages. All of it. I don't want to get sick of it or numb to it before it's even here.

In related news, I bought a package of coffee today with a snowflake on it and then I got home and hated myself. Not facetiously. Yes really. :(

Okay, moving on.

2.) Movember. I don't even understand this. Mustaches? Perfectly normal men looking like scruffy porn stars? Is this a fundraiser or something? I am good at the internet, and yet! This irritates/confounds me every year. Is it even cool anymore? Can we just stop?

3.) Faux-gratitude all over Facebook. I'm all for people being thankful. But these normal-status-updates-masquerading-as-thankfulness really grind my gears. They're SO OFTEN just smug or passive-aggressive or even passive agressive. (I'm thankful my x person did x thing and doesn't do y thing like other people. Oh shut it.)

I would like to start a movement where people directly email/text/call/write people they're thankful for, or SHARE some possession or abundance they have, if they're thankful for it (instead of just being smug about having it), and anyone who humblebrags under the guise of thankfulness comes before a jury of peers. Post something about thankfulness when you MEAN it. If that just so happens to be every single day during November and zero single days in the rest of the year, fine, I will try to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I am also giving you some shady side-eye.

(It can be for another day, but we also need to have a discussion about how "blessed" is not the same as "grateful" and there is a place for both words, but if you use them interchangeably, you're very likely putting people off -- read: hurting them -- by implying you have something they don't because God loves you in a way God must not love them. Gross, right? Let's please stop that too.)

4.) NaNoWriMo NaBloPoMo (etc) I have no idea what all those acronyms actually are, but they all drive me nuts, and I cringe to even admit this because I legitimately don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but y'all, that is TOO MUCH TO READ. I love that people write! And every day! But can we each pick a DIFFERENT month to do it all? Like, hey, everyone pick a month in the season you were born, if you want to do a write-every-day project. Because if EVERYONE does it in November, it means there are TOO many posts to read, and I get overwhelmed with my feedly and I don't even try, and LOOK AT MY SAD FACE NOW. (Actually, I take that partly back too. The people working on a novel every day for a month, you keep on keeping on. That, I'm okay with. Full steam ahead, aspiring novelists. It's only the daily blogging that overwhelms me.)

5.) It's dark. Not that I dislike an extra hour of sleep in the morning, or moving the clocks back an hour closer towards what my own internal night-owl clock would like, but dang it sucks that it's so dark within an hour of Nathan getting off the bus. I know, I know, it balances out, whatever. But for the first few weeks when darkness creeps in early, it sucks.

Here is a picture of Nathan and some leaves at the bus stop, because all complainy things aside, November is still pretty gorgeous, even on wet mornings.

Wow, that's a crabby post. Sometimes I just need to be crabby, folks.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Great Puppy Catastrophe Challenge

As this post goes up, I am (hopefully!) sleeping laaaaaaate on a Friday morning in a warm bed in the cold great white north of Minnesota (it better not be white, but when I checked the forecast I saw a snowflake and pretended* not to see it) (*tweeted about it, pretending not to see it, while actually freaking out a little bit). A weekend away! Y'all, it has been rough here for the last few weeks. I need it. And in the meantime, here have a blog post about Nathan being in a play!

Yes, a play. Nathan. OUR Nathan. IN A PLAY.

(I wish Mark and I had posed for a selfie a few months ago when Nathan told us he wanted to pick drama as an elective. Because... what? Conversing with other people is not the most natural thing for him anyway, but... on a stage? In front of other people? We were something close to shocked.)

But it has been great! He not only had lines, he had a lot of them! And he did them well! Apparently there is something to be said for budding thespianism to turn a kid into a more confident public speaker? We'll take it.

(And we remain grateful for a school with cool choices like this. A safe place for a kid to try something new that he/we otherwise never would have pursued or even suggested.)

Anyway, his class play. It was written and acted and decorated and designed by second graders, which is pretty clear once you know the basic plot synopsis, which is something like this:

There is a king of Candy World.
The king's jesters give him some puppies for his birthday.
Some robbers steal the puppies, luring them away with bacon.
    (Nathan was the head robber.)
Some secret police spies already knew who took them.
The find the robbers and arrest them.
They decide who keeps the puppies by hosting a trivia game show.
    (Go back and read that last part again. A GAME SHOW.)
The king and his jesters win the puppies back!
They outlaw the robbers to Planet Bully.
They shoot them there on a rocket.
But rocket trouble lands them back in Candy World.
The robbers go to prison instead. FOR LIFE.
The end.
Cast photo. (Yes, Nathan seems somewhat tiny these days.)

So, yeah. It was something. (Anneliese was riveted. She and Nathan discussed the finer plot points and character details afterward. She clearly understood it better than Mark and I did.)

And then we went out for frozen yogurt and Nathan re-lived the most important and taxing parts of his role. Yes really. *ahem* drama queen *cough cough*

Can we all just agree that when he wins his first oscar, we'll be glad I wrote this blog post?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 1st

So, hey, I had a birthday!

There is not much exciting to tell about it, but it was actually a lovely sort of low-key day. I slept (somewhat) late, had a morning choir rehearsal, had a sweet brunch with Mark and the kids, spent most of the afternoon snuggling and reading, which is exactly what I wanted, and then went on a fantastic date to a vietnamese-asian-something-type seafood restaurant in Chapel Hill.

"Charlotte told me what to write,"
Nathan explained (rolling his eyes).
A lady in choir made finger cookies, which were FAR to reminiscent of
the snow adventure horrible finger situation for me to actually stomach.

We also shopped some for a new wedding/engagement/anniversary/whatever ring, to replace the one I lost on the cruise this spring. I can't make myself pull the trigger just yet, it's a weird mix of exciting and lovely and also SO SAD (no ring will ever be the one he put on my finger at our wedding) but there is one that he loves that we feel good about, so that will probably be happening soon.

Oh! And my dad sent me flowers as per his tradition.

I'm sure a lot of dads send flowers on their daughters' birthdays, but I'd like to think my flowers make me smile more than other people's, because the whole thing started when I was five and my dad brought home apology flowers for my mom but since it was my birthday I assumed they were for me (red roses! HA!) and I guess my dad couldn't bear to tell me they weren't, so he went with it, and then the next year I was so excited/expected to get flowers again that it turned into a Thing. And he's sent flowers for every single birthday since then, including the two years I was living in Europe on my birthday. There is something really fun and adorable about your dad tracking down a florist in a foreign country to wish you a happy birthday. (The internet was not then what it is now, y'all. Just trust me. It was a sweet and impressive feat.) Anyway it's a fun tradition and it makes me smile every. single. year.

(I just went and looked, and somehow this a story I have never told in a blog post before, WEIRD WHY NOT ERIN?)

Also! Marky got me a Kindle paperwhite! I am new to the world of e-reading, so y'all tell me what I need to know to become a kindle person, okay? Right now I'm not a kindle person. But I can be! I want to be! It is better than packing stacks of books when I travel, for sure! Right now I mostly only use kindle as a phone app, for reading trashy romance novels. Smut, basically. So a real kindle is like my version of big-screen smut! Yeah I said it. Anyway it's beautiful and I want it to be for more than that so help me!

And the size of this thing is just perfect. So much smaller than a tablet, so much bigger than a phone. It's like... a BOOK! (Duh, Erin.) (I am easily impressed.) The size sort of delights me.

A fun part of my new kindle was texting with Kelley in India for pointers on connecting it to my library account. What, doesn't everyone contact your friends in the third world to help with their first-world problems? (Yes, yes actually, we do.)

Anyway. I digress. Happy birthday to me! And yes, the leaves changed just in time.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Rainbow Reading Levels

Nathan made me a few bookmarks a couple of weeks ago, color-coding reading levels according to a rainbow system. Want to hear all the levels? Of course you do.

Red - books a grownup reads to you
Orange - picture books you can read with help
Yellow - picture books you can read yourself
Green - chapter books with pictures
Blue - chapter books with no pictures
Purple - Harry Potter books

Well. I mean. There you go.

(As you can see, I am on purple level, because I kick ass at reading. As long as I do it quietly, apparently.) (?)

(The child loves a good System, what can we say?)

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Pilot, a Superhero, and Rainbow Brite

Halloween 2014! Besides being super annoyed at how even Halloween has become a season --

Everyone, stop that! Stop with your pumpkin drinks in August, stop with your Christmas music in October, stop with the Halloween parties weeks before Halloween! It is ONE DAY. The children do not need to wear their costumes and do Halloween activities at three fall festivals and then preschool class and then dance class and then choir. No. Stop. By the time it comes around, they would be over it. A class party or school event, and trick-or-treating. That's it. I put my foot down at the other things.

-- I'm actually not a scrooge, just normal, and the kids and their costumes were really fun this year. Even though none of them were Elsas. In a year when everyone was Elsa! We are basically unamerican, I know.

Charlotte wanted to be a superhero, in the generic sense apparently, and so I googled for ideas and realized I could mostly put hers together myself: I dyed a onesie and printed the C in a superhero font on iron-transfer paper (I actually ran into some snags but those are boring so that's the gist of it). I ordered some cuffs and a belt from an etsy seller, and cut up some socks for her leg decoration. She already had the cape. Came out super cute, this little Super Booler.

(We decided her kryptonite is getting her shoes on the correct feet.)

Anneliese asked to be Rainbow Brite months and months ago and I kept deterring her, because it's 2014, not 1984, and that is not a costume you can just procure unless you want to spend a zillion dollars on ebay and I obviously don't. But after many repeated asks, and many sad faces, and my friend Jeanine convincing me it wouldn't be that hard, I decided to put a Rainbow Brite together as best I could. And it was totally good!

I ordered a clearance t-shirt dress from Old Navy, which was originally a light sky blue that was easy enough to dye royal. I bought some faux fur Santa trim and glued it to the hem. I found a bow and glued a star to it. And put rainbow leg warmers on her arms and legs. Jeanine made the red belt/suspender part for us because she is the best, and I ironed a cheap etsy patch onto it. I used leftover superhero onesie fabric and cut-up ribbon to make the chest piece, which I almost omitted because it looked sloppy, but then needed it to hold the suspenders up (it's just some iron-on velcro holding it together). Pretty good for a mom who doesn't sew, right?

And Nathan wanted to be a pilot (who also designs airplanes) (I told him that costume doesn't exist so he might have to dress like just a pilot, and tell people the also-designs-planes part himself) so I did the extremely crafty mom thing of clicking through to Amazon Prime. Be very impressed.

His shirt says pilote -- in Spanish -- and I have no idea why (that's not what was on the package) but we went with it.

All the costumes don't family coordinate, and Mark and I don't like to dress up, so I know we fail the internet when it comes to Halloween, but I don't care because they all had costumes they loved and I got to feel like a halfway-crafty mom in the process.

So yeah, it was a fun Halloween. The girls did their costume parade at school on Monday (Monday?!) and then for actual Halloween we did our normal trick-or-treat loop around the block, trying the whole time to convince the kids we were going to eat all their candy when they went to bed, and replace it with vegetables, which totally gets a rise out of Nathan (but not the girls) and amuses us. We're great parents, is what I'm saying.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pumpkin Patch (Etc.) (ETC!)

A question for the ages: if you take your kids to a pumpkin patch, but don't instagram anything while you're there, did it really happen?

Because the kids had a teacher workday, and so we went to a pumpkin patch (AND MORE) (there is no such thing as just a pumpkin patch, I have learned) and despite what you didn't see on instagram, it was a fun little outing!
more than just a "pumpkin patch" y'all

They had bounce houses and pig races and and giant shelters full of hay for rolling around, and inflatable horses for kids to race each other on. And also tunnels for crawling in, and an old barn-turned-fort. Oh! And a petting/feeding zoo of farm animals! Naturally!

They also had a silo thing filled (shallowly, but still filled) with corn and y'all, that's kinda the stuff of nightmares. I let the kids get in it and they LOVED IT but hot damn I will be thinking about it for weeks. That sh!t is terrifying. A silo full of corn just looks like danger danger danger death to me. Am I the only one with this fear? Because yeah no.

Slightly less terrifying, a big tube built onto the side of a hill that serves as a giant slide. We rode down on burlap sacks. Yes, slides are still fun for grownups, stop pretending you wouldn't have gone on it it too.

And, of course, we did do the hayride to a pumpkin patch* to pick out our pumpkins (*field with already-picked pumpkins lying in neat rows, for instagram purposes I assume). My rule: you can have any pumpkin you want, as long as you can carry it yourself. And that's the story of how we got the three smallest pumpkins in Youngsville yesterday.

But they carved up just fine, each kid designed their own and Mark helped cut them and they came out cute!

Barely in time for Halloween! We are just super on top of things yknow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Seven, No Ten Quick Takes

1.) Anneliese picked out a new winter hat with some Amazon birthday money. Raise your hand if you never could have guessed she'd pick one like this:

2.) I took Nathan on a date to the symphony last weekend. It was a super crappy day and a really lovely break from the super crappy day. He was cellodorable, admiring all the instruments.

3.) I read the Astronaut Wives Club this weekend and it's far from brilliant writing -- mostly a series of vignettes about the first astronaut families in the sixties -- but I didn't need it to be a great novel, I was totally captivated anyway. I am now craving anything about the space race, I kinda want to watch Apollo 13 tonight, and I can't stop wikipedia-ing all the folks for a dose of Where Are They Now. Also I want to go back to the space center at Cape Canaveral (Mark and I visited in 2010 and it was great, but I think it would be even more great for me this week). 

So yeah, I'm hoping they make this into a tv show as has been promised (then delayed, but we'll see). The stories might actually tell better as a series instead of a book.

4.) Anneliese and Ali and I went for a fall walk a few days ago, just as the leaves were starting to change. You would not believe all the things a five-year-old has to tell her infant cousin about leaves changing, but it's a lot.

5.) We closed the pool last week and I miss it already.

6.) Nathan just read the "junior novel" version of the Lego movie and he seems to have internalized its message differently in print than on the screen. He now considers himself a Master Builder and keeps building things and telling us how he VISUALIZED them and that's how he designed them and oh man it cracks us up. (In a good way! He is sweet and smart. I'd hire him for all my aeronautical engineering needs, and no I'm not kidding.)

PS I got a haircut and highlights, as per my pre-birthday usual.

7.) After the slowest loudest construction project in the history of history, and many early-morning and late-night trips in my PJs to fuss at workers causing a ruckus outside of approved times ("I know you're just doing your job, but WE LIVE HERE" = me, sick of hearing myself talk), the house across the street is finally done! It was featured in a Parade of Homes thing, so we went to check it out, and it was nice in the way that fancy houses are always nice, but not our taste at all: some odd mashup of clean/modern and also totally dowdy. It's hard to explain. But anyway, if you want to live directly across the street, the house has a million dollar view!

Yes really.

8.) A few weekends ago when I was in Charlotte, I stopped at Ikea for some new cubes/shelving, which are lovely. (I got a teal cube system! TEAL! For my bathroom! Which I am now 99% sure won't fit but whatever, it's TEAL.) While I was there I also got Anneliese a new duvet, which I have been wanting for her since we rearranged all the bedroom furniture in our house A YEAR AGO, but the one I coveted for years before that has been discontinued, and anyway I never could find one that I liked AND she liked, and then this happened at Ikea, and now she has a very Anneliese bed.

Here is a thing I absolutely did not need but absolutely wanted, and I didn't buy it, but I'm pretty sure I might. It's a neon yellow stool! I mean, I need that, right? Someone talk me into it. Where should I put it?

9.) I have a new-ish phone case, and I love it. This is called a Loopy Case. It is just a case, with a loop in the back, which you can adjust to fit whatever finger you want. It is so simple and SO GENIUS.

It helps me hold my phone much steadier (I was a two-hand typer on my bigger android, and the smaller iphone is still an adjustment - slightly too small for two hands, but slightly too big for one -- and this makes it totally doable). It also means I never drop my phone on my face in bed anymore YES THAT IS A REAL THING. It also means I can knuckle it on the back of my hand and also carry a kid/purse/car seat, which keeps me from sticking my phone in my pocket instead, and that's always a good thing.

PS with the loop on the back you can stand it up for such purposes as alarm clocking. Or facetime dates. Or everyone trying to watch a video at the same time.

Anyway I love it, and I get asked about it all the time, so I am blogging about it. (My first one cracked, and I emailed them and they sent a new one -- with the loop holes now slightly offset, in their updated version, which I think will prevent that stress fracture from happening again -- and anyway with the recplacement they sent me an EXTRA. It's black, and I have a pink and a purple and a gray loop for it, so if you have a 5c and you want it, tell me and it's yours.)

10.) This post barely mentions Charlotte, but she's still the best Booler ever, so here, enjoy a delightful picture Mark took of her swinging out back.

Yes, she is wearing a sundress and some shorts and a tutu. Why, what do YOU wear to go swinging?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inefficient. And Overwhelmed.

I'm fighting a bad spell of sleep and general overwhelm about life this week, and I don't have a ton to say about that, but I do have this to say, about one part of the overwhelm:

Raising humans is terribly inefficient work.

"I don't need to do alone time, I'm not even tired!"

I don't mind hard work, I really don't. My bosses have generally loved me as a worker, in every job I've had. I was a good student. I am a focused task-doer. But when I work hard I want it to result in... something.

Being a housewife/SAHM/homemaker/whatever term you like for it: I have never worked harder in my life, nor felt less successful at achieving the end I'm working towards.

Behavior/teaching things with the kids get reminded and then forgotten and then reminded again. Meals get prepared and then complained about. Messes get cleaned then re-messed. I live in chaos, far more than I ever would have guessed I can tolerate.

It is all just so... inefficient. There is hardly a thing I can do one day, one morning, one hour, that I won't have to immediately repeat within a coming window of time. The same work! Again! And I don't just mean the household stuff but also just the general rearing of what I hope will be future good citizens. It's like trying to frantically build something while someone else, or a team of someone elses (often the very tiny humans you are trying to raise, themselves), take it apart, working against me. And I just have to keep doing it over and over again, be faster than them and smarter than them to find productivity and progress despite them, even though it's for them, and hope that one day it will be the day that it doesn't come apart.

And keep telling myself that in the meantime, it still matters, and I have to keep trying, even when I feel like I'm getting nowhere. Some days I believe myself. Some days I don't.

Someone told me years ago that being effective is more important than being efficient, but, oh man, I don't know, MY KINGDOM FOR A HAPPY MEDIUM.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Glowing Balloons, and Also Barbara Brown Taylor

Because our month hasn't been travel/busy enough (!) I took the kids to Charlotte last weekend, because a writer I like was speaking at a friend's church, and I think I have decided I am tired of telling myself these types of events aren't "for me" or something, and that I, a random housewife, am just as deserving/capable/interested/worthy of going to conferences and events as Real Professionals of a Certain Type, and ANYWAY, I bought a ticket to the conference, and I went, and it was awesome.

(It's Barbara Brown Taylor, by the way. She's an episcopal priest and now a college professor; a group I was in at Furman did a study of one of her books, ten eleven twelve (?) years ago, and I have liked her and been reading her stuff ever since.)

The whole event was smart and challenging and thoughtful, in all the right ways. I got to hang out with my high school friend Laura (who is the one who told me this was happening at her church) and I randomly ran into my Montreat friend Katelyn (who was lovely to hang out with and chat a lot with) and I am SO SO glad I went.

Her talks were about divine mystery, and endarkening as opposed to enlightening, and intentionally embracing the things we don't know and that we don't understand. And about how the language around darkness and light somehow implies that God is in one but not the other, and how to sort that out in ways that don't reduce people's dark seasons to an absence of the divine, which, no duh, is not true at all, because actually the dark might teach us things about God and ourselves that the light never could.

Anyway. It was a lot more than that, and a lot more nuanced than that, and it was fascinating.

And! I am doing it again! Next month I get to go see the fantastic Nadia Bolz-Weber in Minnesota (Another Nathan and I were in the middle of deciding what weekend I should come up, and then when it turned out NBW had an event in Minneapolis, suddenly picking a date to visit got super easy). Look! These events are for me too! I am fully embracing that!

So while I was being church-thinky at the conference last weekend, my kids were roaming around town with my Dad (who has a broken arm, because he fell off his bike, because he wins at retirement?) and Cathy (who is recovering from her last cancer surgery) and yes, they are awesome for it.

Dad took my kids, along with Ashley and John and their kids, to a big balloon festival which was apparently a long chaotic adventure of a day, including odd food planning and lots of preschool runs to porta-potties, but it ended with a yay! hot air balloons! at twilight!
(pic from John)
Liam and Charlotte are so great together. Cousin besties.

Also Anneliese was the only grandkid brave enough to strap in and jump on this big trampoline thing.

We fancy her the brave and outgoing one, but this pic that my dad took a few seconds before her jump might betray how she was really feeling about it. HA.

I keep looking at it. It keeps cracking me up.

So yeah, here's what we learned this weekend:
1.) My dad is a saint, and also dumb, and also not easily overwhelmed.
2.) Stop talking about the dark like it's always a bad/Godless thing.
3.) Hot air balloons are really freaking cool when they glow.