Saturday, December 31, 2011

December Pointless Lists

December 31!  I feel the need for some sort of year-end wrap up, because honestly, this was a fairly decent one for us.  And also: I like closure.

Oh, sure, there were some sucky parts, but mostly it was great: Johanna learned to read, Eric built the cutest garden shed EVER, I got glasses, and Abby grew 10 feet.

Cutest shed in the whole wide world.  Not that I'm biased.

That's all pretty awesome, right?  Anyway, who needs to dwell on the crappy parts?  We're incredibly lucky, so focusing on anything but the good would make me feel ungrateful.  And I am grateful.  For so much.

(And yes, I need to dedicate a post to Eric's shed, because the details on this thing are amazing.  I'm thinking about putting a chair in there and making it my play house.  Maybe a chair and a lock.)

What was your favorite part of the year, family?  Abby says Hawaii.  So does Johanna.  So does Eric.  And yes, Hawaii was great.  But my favorite part was getting my job.  That's been the biggest change for us, definitely... but it's also brought some great perks, especially for me.  Like: I don't have to look at the laundry pile as much.  Because I'm gone!  Plus: New friends.  And I get to use my brain.

And we learned some lessons.  Abby learned that sometimes you have to work hard and the rewards still do not come (that's called "math").  Johanna learned that actions have consequences (sometimes if you're swinging around the house, you're going to literally fall on your face). Eric's learned how to mount deer horns and make a shed door.  I've learned that sometimes change isn't so bad.

We did some traveling, most of it lovely, some of it not.  We went to Hawaii and Disneyland.  And my grandparents' 69th anniversary party.  And my Aunt Letty's funeral.  We camped once.  Eric went hunting.  I went to the grocery store a lot, but I don't think that counts.

So anyway, last year we were in Hawaii, and brought in the new year at a luau.  This year, we're at home, and will bring in the new year at, say, 9 p.m., because then it's bedtime.  (What?  We're old.  PLUS, kids don't care when you went to bed the night before.  Looking at you, Johanna!)  But first we'll have dinner at my parents' house because my Uncle Mark is visiting.  So that should be fun.  We usually have fish and chips on New Year's Eve, but we did that last night.

Last night's dinner.

On with the lists.  Why not, I guess.

Books Read:
Theodor SEUSS Geisel by Donald E. Pease.  This was the most interesting boring book I've ever read.  The interesting: Learning about Dr. Seuss' life.  I did not know his first wife committed suicide, or that she had helped him so much.  The boring: The writing style was just sort of blah, although I appreciate the irony of a Dr. Seuss biography being dull.  I mean, you probably have to really work at that, wouldn't you think?  Anyway, I don't feel too bad about it, because it was one of those Kindle Monthly Deals or something, so it cost me $1.99.  That's less than that bitter and slightly gross Decaf Americano I got earlier this month (I'm remembering why I never go to that particular coffee shop), and easier to get down.

O Little Town: A Novel by Don Reid.  Who, incidentally, is part of the Statler Brothers.  I'm glad I didn't know that when I downloaded it, because I am terribly biased against country music.  Even though I seem to have a memory of my Grammie G. singing "Elvira" that is rather pleasant.  Anyway.  This was a surprisingly wonderful book.  A Christmas story, but not all poinsettias and snowflakes.  There were several stories woven together, all varying shades of tragedy, and yet.  It ends hopefully.  And it was free!  Thanks, Amazon.

And!  I finished The Night Circus, and.  It was so, so good.  I want to read it again.  I want to give it to all my friends and name something Poppet (or Celia, or Marco, or Bailey, or Widget) and maybe write to Erin Morgenstern and tell her how awesome she is.  I love this book.

Actual fights my children had:
Over their "Spanish Names."  Abby decided she is going to be Pepe from now on in her Spanish class, so Johanna thought she needed a Spanish name too.  She wanted Paco, but Abby told her no, and for some reason, she accepted that, albeit with a lot of whining and shouting.  I offered Pablo as a possible name, but she said that was a boy's name.  (Um, am I the only one paying attention here?)

And over which Airbender cartoon to watch next.  They've seen them all, so now they're watching their favorites over and over and over (and over).  Abby is tired of the episode where they all go to the play, but Johanna loves it.  Ah, well.  They need something to argue about, I suppose.

Movies watched:
Johanna and I went to see The Muppets at the theater.  Surprisingly great!  Johanna is already requesting the DVD when it comes out.

Kermit and Miss Piggy, drawn and photographed by Jo.

We also watched Cars 2 on DVD last night as a family.  Oh, and A Knight's Tale on Netflix, which just depressed me because Heath Ledger was so cute and great.

Quote of the month:
"Remember, Mom, don't just take stuff out of your closet and think it goes together." --Johanna

...Happy New Year, people.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where the treetops glisten

I continue to forget what day I'm on.  Yesterday felt like a Tuesday.  I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't.  P.S. Johanna had her well-child check-up and is 51.8 pounds, 52 inches.  Which is the 95th percentile for height.  She slipped a little for weight.

Anyway, remember that mini story I wrote about that old dude who is nuts?  It got in yesterday's paper.  He came in, all excited, and wanted some complimentary tear sheets (saved himself twenty cents).  He was ever so proud, except he thought he should have been on the front page instead of B2.  He was like, so that one fugitive guy gets the front page, but I'm in the B section?  And I was like, well, maybe you need to get tossed into jail a couple of times and THEN you'll make the front page.  Burn!  Except he wears a hearing aide, and honestly, I don't think he heard me.

It's just as well.

Christmas #2: Saturday, December 24, 2011
Christmas Eve dawned bright and glorious.  I think.  Well, it sounds good anyway.  I spent the morning making cranberry sauce, blueberry oat crisp, and smashed sweet potatoes with apples.  The girls were busy watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix.  Dude, I'm not sure how it happened, but I went from indifferent to watching that show with bated breath.  What?  It's a pretty clever cartoon.  Plus the kid who plays Aang is Pablo from Backyardigans.  That's pretty awesome.

So around noon (again, I think--it's all sort of a blur at this point), we load up the car and head on out, back to my parents' house for the Christmas Eve festivities.  My Aunt Ann, Uncle John and cousin Seth came over for the day.  There was football on the TV.  Mom bustled around the kitchen, Johanna did somersaults, Abby was angsty but clearly having a good time, and the rest of us chatted.  Oh, and ate the crab cheese ball thing Ann had brought.  I'm pretty sure that's not a part of my IBS diet, but man, it was good.

Around 3 p.m., my in-laws came, and we sat down to a pre-Mass dinner: Turkey, potatoes and gravy, homemade stuffing (mmm!), sweet potatoes, salad, cranberry sauce, rolls.  We all voted to wait for dessert until after Mass, just for the sake of having enough room to pack it in.

Although I did sneak one of Mom's little lemon tarts.  Well, it was small.

Headed to Mass at 5 p.m. even though it didn't start until 5:30.  The church tends to fill up sort of fast on these special holidays and we wanted a seat.  (Been there, done THAT.  Um, being late, I mean.)  A friend from high school came in with her family, so we had a chat until it became obvious that I was taking up an entire pew that I had no intentions of actually sitting in, and needed to move on, just based on the looks I was getting.  (Actually, I got no looks, I just felt bad, but that doesn't sound as cool.)

So the church fills up, we have Mass, and by the way, they've changed some of the language we use, so we're all messed up.  Example: I cannot for the life of me remember to say "And with your spirit."  I'm still stuck on "And also with you."  Thirty-nine years of saying the same thing over and over every Sunday is a lot to overcome, apparently.

Well, anyway.  After Mass, we all head back to my parents' house.  We have dessert.  And then we settle in for one of my mother's "games."

My mom is all about these games.  And we complain and carry on, but I think we all secretly enjoy them very much.  Mom has us all gather in a circle-ish formation in the living room and brings out a basket of five presents, each wrapped five times.  So the moral of the story is we have to pass the presents around the room and when the music stops, the first one to answer a Christmas trivia question (read by Abby) gets to unwrap a layer.  When all the layers are gone, you keep the present.

But I'm like, what?  Five presents for 11 people?  That's so not like my mother.  And Abby's not playing?  Huh.

So we go around and around and around.  Some of the questions were easy (who has a redder nose?  Santa, the pizza guy, or Rudolph?).  Some required a little thought (in what song do we ask for figgy pudding?).  Some were harder than heck (what were the names of the Wise Men?), and the mere fact that Johanna was the only one who knew the answer was astounding.  (Answer: Casper, Balthazar and... I forget the other one.  But Jo knows it.  I'll ask her.  Mouthcoy!  Or something that sounds like that.)  So we finally get through all the wrappings, and it's Seth, Ann and John, my father-in-law and me who end up with presents.  We unwrap them.  They are empty.  Mom's laughing in the corner saying, that's not even the real game!

And then she brings out a basket of "prizes"--Applets and Cottlets, cashews, Almond Roca and the like--and says, we're going to have a roll off to see who gets what.  So we go around the room, and we roll dice, and we all end up with a present.  That's more my mother's speed.

The girls were in on the whole thing and were quite pleased with how it came about.  They're plotting next year's game with Mom already, I'm sure.

Anyway, then it was time for presents... and more eating... and more talking... and then all of a sudden the night was over and we were headed home again.

Christmas #3: Sunday, December 25, 2011
So let's wrap this up, shall we?  Especially since no one cares except me and my public (hi, Mom!).  I've written about Christmas morning, so let's jump right in to Christmas Day.

We went over to Eric's brother's house for more football, food and chat.  And cards.  Those boys like to play a lot of cards.  Eric's sister and husband came, too, from out of town.  So it was Bub, Elaine and the boys, Debbie and Greg, my in-laws, and us.  That's 12 people all together, just FYI.

The girls brought Just Dance 3, so we had to have a little dance party in the living room after dinner (ooooh, which was halibut AND salmon, caught on a recent trip to Alaska.  I obviously had to take both so as not to be rude).  Watching my nephews dance was pretty awesome, as was my brother-in-law and mother-in-law.  Elaine won whenever she played.  The girls danced every time and did not seemed remotely winded.  I danced once, and then helped my nephew Cody write a scholarship essay (well, it was only 500-600 words.  I figured we could bang that out pretty quickly.  700-and some words later, we did.  Except it took longer than I expected, having bragged it was a 7 minute chore.  It took closer to an hour.  Oops).  And then the boys went back to cards and the girls went back to dancing and I messed around on my poser iPad to see what was up in the Twitterverse.  (Answer: Not much.)

The end.  It was a really fun, relaxing sort of day.  And we had Monday off to recoperate, thank heavens.  Except.  That Almond Roca and coffee diet I've been on since Christmas?  SEEMS like it should be rock solid, and yet, it's beginning to grate.  I guess it really is time for lettuce and a nap...

Ray Conniff, "White Christmas."  We did not get a white Christmas... it was more of a sunny, cold Christmas... but still.  And this officially ends our Christmas song extravaganza, by the way.  I can't believe I lasted this long.  Anyway, get ready for more Chevelle!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The stars are brightly shining

I keep forgetting today isn't Monday.  This whole long holiday weekend thing is messing me up.  Silver lining: It's sort of fun to complain about that when you go back to work, especially knowing that there's another three-day weekend right around the corner.

So!  Christmas recap.  We had like three full days o' celebrations, and honestly, at this point I'm in desperate need of a detox.  Lettuce leaves and a nap, anyone?

Well, anyway.  We'll see how far we can get tonight.

Christmas in the Great Hall.  Obviously.

Christmas #1: Friday, December 23
I had to work on Friday.  Eric and the girls?  Off.  Well, that's okay.  I don't mind going in to work, if you want to know the truth.  I grabbed my bag o' presents--blueberry and cherry jam--and headed out to spread some Christmas cheer.

It was a fun, festive sort of day, even though Cranky Steve had reached his limit of kindness for the week, because he was all sorts of cranky, and none of them the fun kind.  Just to mix things up, I went into Cranky Steve's office and was like, do you like blueberry or cherry?  And he was all snarl snarl snarl, what does it matter?  And I was like, well, it doesn't, I guess.  And he was all, fine, blueberry.  So I put a wrapped jar on his desk and said, "Merry Christmas!" and started to walk out.

I don't think Cranky Steve gets a lot of presents, actually, because his whole demeanor changed.  He was like, what is this?  Did you make this?  And I was all, yep.  I think he was touched.  For like two whole seconds, and then he went back to being cranky again, except not at me.  Blueberry jam is a miracle worker!

I got to leave work at 4:30 p.m. because at that point, it was just the publisher, the office manager and me in the whole joint.  I went home, picked up Eric and the girls, tossed presents in the car and drove to my parents' house.

My family likes to celebrate Christmas on the 23rd.  This dates back to when we first moved to town, and we'd go back "home" for Christmas.  So we'd get to open our presents early.  Whatever works, right?  Anyway, the tradition holds.

Mom had made lasagna, green beans and rolls.  AND CHEESECAKE.  Enough said, right?  So we ate, and then called my sweet little Grandma G., who celebrates her birthday on the 23rd.  She's the youngest of 10 and apparently no one thought to actually look at a calendar or anything when she was born.  So her big sister Frieda figured that Grammie was born on the 23rd because she remembered opening up her mother's door to show the baby the Christmas Tree.  Well, fast forward 86 years, and my grandma finds her baptism record that shows she was born on the 21st.  Um, what?  Well, it's hard to break an 86-year-old habit, so we all still call on the 23rd because.  Obviously.

Grandma had a LOT to say.  She talked to me, then the girls, then Eric.  And we all must have failed to mention we were at my parents' because then she hung up, so my Mom had to call her back so she and Dad could talk.*

That was sort of awesome.

So then we gather in the living room to open presents.  We take turns, beginning with the youngest.  The girls just accept this as a natural part of Christmas.  We actually do this at our house, too, just because they think this is the way it's done.

This part probably took close to an hour, partly because we take turns, and partly because Mom loves to watch people open stuff, I guess, and we had a lot to get through--some of it was little, but some of it wasn't little.  See?  This is my new Lodge Dutch Oven:

Hello, pretty new pot!  I love you!

(Mom also gave me a cross-stitched picture that Johanna had "helped" her with.  Pretty cool.)

After we'd finally opened everything up, we sat around and ate dessert and talked.  And let Johanna open up her Hello Kitty almost-Lego box to see what was up.

Before we knew it, it was after 9 p.m., so off we went.  But then the girls requested that we take a bit of a detour to go look at Christmas lights.  So we did.  And the girls were so happy, and the night was so beautiful, and we saw some pretty legit setups.

It was perfect.

*P.S. As we were eating dessert, Mom was all like, hey, funny story, because you know how Grandma's birthday is the 21st but we thought it was the 23rd for 86 years?  Yeah, well, Gramps and Grammie might have been married 69 years ago on Sept. 11 instead of the 16th.  But I'm probably not going to say anything to them.

Please, for the love of all that is holy, will you people start looking at a calendar on important days? Because jeez, man!  I can't take much more of this.

John Barry, "O Holy Night."  (I was going to pick "Joy To the World," but I can't find a link.  Ah, well.  This song is nice, too.)  "A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn."  Yep.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Good tidings we bring to you and your kin

PEOPLE!  Best Christmas morning ever!  That's what Johanna just announced, and honestly, she's totally right.

The girls rolled out of bed around 7 a.m., which is a Christmas miracle, if you want to know the truth.  We've had some e.a.r.l.y. mornings in the past.  (Looking at you, Abby.)  The girls closed our door so they wouldn't wake us up, except we were already awake and just listening for their reactions.

We got some good reactions.

Abby is an artist (gets that from Eric, by the way--even my stick figures are messed up), and she's into drawing Japanese anime.  So Santa found her a couple of books, one on drawing bodies and another on drawing clothing et al.  (Santa read the comment section on Amazon and found these two got high marks.) She got special paper, pencils, erasers and shading tools in her stocking.  (Santa had help with that one, not being an artist himself.)

"Santa knows me better than I know myself, because I didn't even know I wanted this," said Abby, who was totally surprised.  (HA!  Gotcha!  Although.  That pretty much was the only present she didn't see coming, as she picked out everything else.)

Johanna got the Monster High doll she'd been hoping for, and art supplies in her stocking as well--real watercolors, paintbrushes, a tray and some special paper.  Santa brought these things for Abby last year, but couldn't remember exactly what brushes he bought.  Santa was hoping she wouldn't notice, but Santa is always optimistic about all the wrong things.  Johanna quickly pointed out that her brushes are different.  (Oops.)  But, she said, that's okay.  (Whew.)

(And yes, she's noticed that everything was made in China.  She hasn't asked why, so I haven't had to tell her that with 7 billion people in the world, Santa needs some help.)

They also got oranges and a chocolate bar.  Because that's just tradition.

Then, being excited, I had the girls open up the rest of their presents--I'd let them open one on the 22nd (harmonica for Jo, jeans for Abby), and since they get exactly three plus whatever Santa brings, that left two apiece.  (Just in case the math is beyond you this morning I thought I would help.  You're welcome.)  Johanna got some wooden blocks that she'd had her eye on and an art box full of various supplies.  She loved both.  Abby got the books I ordered from the bookstore way back when and $15 so she can buy her own new iPod case, as I could not for the life of me find the one she'd asked for.

Johanna built a tower of blocks, Abby flipped through her new anime books, I made pancakes.  Eric was on camera duty and was taking it to the extreme.  (Have you heard my husband giggle?  Best sound ever.)

My mother-in-law (hi Joni!) stopped by around 8 a.m. and dropped off homemade cinnamon rolls.  Uh, that was awesome.  Eric had to try one out, declared they were inedible and that he would "take care of them" himself.  (Yeah, not buying it.)

Last night at my parents'--and that's another post for another day--the girls got Just Dance 3 for the wii from my in-laws.  After breakfast, they popped that thing in, and... wow.  Hilarious.  And tricky!  Eric did the first dance with the girls, and I was all like, that doesn't look too hard, I'll try next.  So I did.  It did nothing for my self-esteem.  And talk about a workout.  So I sat the rest of them out.  I can't even believe how long the girls lasted--or Eric.

And now: It's 9:48 a.m. and everyone has settled down with their various art supplies.  Abby has a page open in one of her anime books and is drawing a figure, and Johanna has painted, cut out some construction paper shapes with her new scissors, and made a few chalk drawings.  Just checked to see what she's up to at the moment, and she's playing with Ghoulia.  P.S. Eric just joined in on all that art going on in the living room.  Apparently they're all going to start drawing people now.  My heart is almost too full.

I'll do more of a Christmas recap later.  It's Christmas morning!  I got places to be with the fam.  But I did not want to forget THIS.

I love these sorts of mornings.

Weezer, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."  I'm pretty sure I don't have to explain this one.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If the barrels are not empty, we hope that you'll be kind

It's the night before the night before the night before Christmas, and if that doesn't give you a headache, then you are clearly made of tougher stuff than I am.  So good for you.

As for me, I am reminded why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday: Because all you have to worry about is the meal.  And remembering to invite people over.  Much, much less stress involved.  Much less commercialism.  Not that this has anything to do with anything, but when I was in high school and college, Mom used to make me decorate her sugar cookie cutouts, and I would frost the trees and ornaments and candy canes and whatnots in funky colors and name them things like Ode to Commercialism, Which Doth Suck, and Mom totally let me, and then eventually it sort of got to be a tradition and expected, which was less fun, and then I moved away and Mom had to frost them herself, I guess.

Although.  Now that it's the night before the night before the night before Christmas, I can relax a little.  It's in the bag.  The shopping is done.  Santa* had his act together this year, and, thanks to the wonders of the Internet and ungodly shipping charges, is all set to go.  (Santa has had some very close calls in the past.  Santa learns from his mistakes.)  The girls' presents are wrapped and underneath the tree.  The gifts slated for my family's Dec. 23 gathering are in one pile, those for the 24th in another, and those traveling to the hinterlands in yet one more.  And, not having any idea what they do at the office, I've got six jars of various jams wrapped and labeled and ready to go.  At first I was going to do three, but then I panicked.  It's too much, and yet, not enough.  I am telling myself the chips will fall where they may, and I will be okay with that.  And next summer I am making way more of this sort of thing for this very scenario.  Jam for all!  Next year.

I mailed out the last of our Christmas cards yesterday (although Eric had a couple of people on his list that are apparently not in my address book, but the good news is that I did not have to personally deal with that).  I sort of know what I'm supposed to bring to Christmas Eve at my parents' and Christmas Day at Eric's brother's house, and Eric has volunteered to go to the store for me tomorrow and follow my list EXACTLY.  (This is no small promise.  I have specific ideas about how this sort of thing should go.  I can't help it.  OCD.)

The tree is losing its needles, but really, who cares?  My personal tradition on Dec. 26 is NOT to hit the stores for after-Christmas sales, but to take down the tree.  Two weeks is my limit.

So!  There's that.  All pluses.  Maybe the only negative is that my schedule/routine is completely messed up and my stomach hurts and mostly I just want to read instead of embrace adult responsibility.  (Although I did embrace it, I guess, since everything got done.  Or at least grudgingly admitted it.  Same thing, really.)

But!  This has been the best week of work EVER.  Yesterday we had a feast for lunch.  It was awesome, and slightly insane.  And can I just say that I have never seen so many lunchmeats in my life?  Today was pizza.  Plus.  Everyone just seems to be in a good mood.  Even Cranky Steve?  Isn't cranky.  THAT is the level of festive-ness I'm talking about here.

Stone cold crazy, yo.

It's just been fun, is what I'm saying.  It's always practically a vacation because I don't have to fold laundry or clean toilets while I'm there.  But this week has been something MORE.

Maybe the Christmas spirit got to me after all.  Huh.  Weird.

*P.S. My girls?  Are wonderful.  They tend to NOT say what they want for Christmas because they don't want to hurt our feelings (or Santa's feelings) should things not work out.  Plus they tend to be grateful for anything/everything.  Lovely!  But sort of hard to make a list.

Tonight when I was tucking Johanna in, she asked, in a very little voice, if I thought Santa could bring her a Ghoulia Yelps Monster High doll.  I said, you know, Santa has skillz, so that's definitely a possibility.  She seemed very pleased.  But THAT is the first she's mentioned this to me.  Her heart's desire.  (Luckily Santa saw the letter she had written for literacy block at school.  And eBay came through even though the rest of the Internet was out.  Technology?  Is awesome.  Good thing Santa knows everything.)

This is Ghoulia.  She's a zombie, so she just grunts
a lot.  But!  She has cool hair.  And an owl.

Sting, "Soul Cake."  Because I can.  And I love how he says "pocket."  Actually, I listen to this song all year long.  I just like it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Me, I'd let the panic ride and pin it on the wall

So I'm about three-fourths of the way through The Night Circus, which is the best book I've read in a long time, and mostly that's what I want to be doing right now.  Reading.  But it's been three days since my last post, and my public (hi Mom!) did not much care for that four-day post-free period after Johanna's birthday, so I dare not do that again.

Luckily, I've got a couple of stories.

Story #1:
At work, I got a bit of a mini-assignment.  An elderly reader submitted a couple of photographs, and the editor asked me to call him and get the scoop.  This guy writes letters to the editor all the time that truly make me cringe, but he comes into the office to drop them off and is just as nice as can be and I sort of forget that he's insane until I have to type out his letters again.

Anyway, so I call him up and tell him who I am and what I'm calling for, and he's all like, I don't get to talk to a lot of people, so when someone calls, I have a lot to say.  And wow, did he ever.  He answered my questions, but he did it in such a round-about way that he put even my pointless ramble skills to shame.

So we're so far off topic that I'm not sure where the heck we are, and he's telling me about this guy named Eric in the planning department who goes above and beyond the call of duty.  And I'm like, oh, well, that's my husband.

And honestly, I'm thinking he'll be all like, isn't that wonderful?  But instead, it was like he didn't register what I was saying, and just kept right on going with his story (the gist of which I never did fully understand).

So that wasn't really a bonding moment, is what I'm saying.

Then, after about a half hour of this, I thank him for his time and tell him how much I appreciate him talking to me.  He's like, hey, when will this run?  And I'm like, um, not sure, but.  And he's like, well, I made the editor mad the last time I saw him, by accusing the newspaper of treason.  And I'm like, huh, I really need to get the hell off the phone now because I'm remembering how nuts you are.

AND THEN.  He's all like, you've made my day so bright by calling me, even if the sun was shining it couldn't be brighter, and I can hear the smile in your voice, and thank you so much.

Um.  So.

Story #2:
Before work, the girls and I met some friends of ours--Joy and Savannah and Delaney--at the coffee shop for a play-date.  Not that much happened, except I forgot to order Abby's hot chocolate (well, I remembered the croissant, which should count for something).  And Joy gave us fresh eggs from their hens and a curry rice mix.  And I gave her our Christmas form letter and a picture.

Why, yes!  I did feel lame!

But anyway, it was fun to see them and catch up.  Savannah and Johanna are 4-months apart and get along very well.  Delaney is almost four and idolizes Abby.  This means Joy and I actually are able to talk.

I like talking to adults.  It's a nice change of pace.

Story #3:
My parents have been watching the girls this week (and next, hopefully) while school is out for winter vacation.  Tonight I went to pick them up after work and Mom was like, I was going to have you stay for dinner, but Dad didn't have a chance to go to the store.  I'm thinking maybe pizza.

And the girls were like, okay!  (Who am I kidding?  I was totally up for it myself.)

So Dad went and got a couple of pizzas.  And we had a party.  And I brought leftovers home to Eric, who had been playing racquetball and didn't even know he was missing out on anything.

P.S. During dinner, Mom had the main lights out, and just low light and Christmas bulbs burning.  And Ray Coniff playing.  Johanna found it all terribly romantic.

Chevelle again, "Revenge."  This might be my favorite song off their new album... but I don't know because they're all pretty great.  "Feels better to be lost, but haven't felt the choice."  I tell you what, I love these guys.  This is the best Christmas album ever!  (FYI, it's not a Christmas album.  Um, never mind.)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

You're too much like a wall

So I took a little writing break there, obviously, after my four days o' nonstop posting.  Well, it was necessary, as it was all stuff I didn't want to forget.  But still, I figured everyone just sort of needed a breather after all that.

You're welcome.

Today, being Saturday and all, meant that Eric and I woke up at regular damn time, even without an alarm.  Whatever.  As Jeff would say, sleeping in is for sucks.  And anyway, I had an office party to attend at 9 a.m. with people from my office because I work in an office now and that's what you do: Have office parties.  I guess.  This is my first office job AND my first office job during the holiday season, so I have no idea what is going on.  All I know is that I was invited to brunch--a "Lady Party," as Ben in Sports calls it--and that was pretty thrilling, if you want to know the truth, because I've never been invited to an office party or office brunch or anything else office related in a general sort of way.

I had places to go, is what I'm trying to say here.

So I'm ready to hop in the shower when I hear, "Mom, I think I have to puke."  Toss on a bathrobe and follow Johanna into the girls' bathroom.  Try to be calming and reassuring.  Get a blanket and wrap her up as we head back to the couch.

And Johanna, bless her little heart, was all like, I don't think I can go to Brianna's birthday party today.  And I'm like, nope.  And she's all, and I'm so good at gutter balls, too.

Um, because the party is at the bowling alley.  And Johanna IS really good at gutter balls.

She had to go back in the bathroom again, but Eric was all, you get ready, I'll take care of it.  So I got ready.  And I left, with promises of bringing back 7-Up and crackers.

And I felt sort of bad about that.  Of course I did.  I was actually having a nice acid-reflux attack on my way to the restaurant, the kind where you feel it from your neck to your toes.  TO YOUR TOES!  That's some hardcore acid right there.  I was tempted to turn around, but I kept right on driving.

So not to dwell on the acid, but it kept up all during breakfast.  I tried to ignore it.  I had water instead of coffee, and made a scene when I had to ask how the food is prepared (always embarrassing... so much for fitting in)--do you use butter or margarine?  And the waitress wrinkles her nose and is all like, if you're allergic to artificial colors and flavors, you probably don't want to eat any of it.

But then she came back and said the cook could make whatever I wanted dry.  Hey, I can do dry!  So I got scrambled eggs, hash browns and sourdough toast.

Enough of that.

Breakfast was quite entertaining--it's a fun, diverse group of women... writers, editors, advertisers, reception, print shop, office manager.  Everyone was talking at once, and there was a lot of laughter and awesomeness, and as I picked at my eggs I was thinking, wow, I am really lucky to be a part of this.

Have I mentioned I really love my job?

After everyone ate, we had a "Yankee Swap" ornament exchange.  I drew the number 3, and opened up a cute snowflake ornament.  Which got stolen.  So then I opened up a cross ornament that was inscribed with "Christmas 2011" on the front.  Totally awesome.  See?

I like simple.

And obviously, since it's now on my tree, no one stole it from me, although Deb in Sales (not to be confused with Deb in Reception) ALMOST did.  But then she stole someone else's instead.  Except it was a night light, not an ornament.  I guess the rules of the game were sort of lax.  Good to know.

I gave a simple red ornament frame with what appeared to be holly in the corners.  Chris the Office Manager got that one, and she was very pleased.  So yay me!  You just never know.

And then we exchanged recipes... and then everyone left.  My stomach had held on, so I was feeling pretty happy about that.  Happy enough to hit the grocery store afterwards.

Oh, except when I was getting out of the car, I hit a button on my key chain by mistake and the car alarm went off, and then I noticed this older guy getting out of his car, and I was like, SORRY! as I was fumbling around trying to figure out what button to push to turn it off.  And he was like, uh, what happened?  And I was all, um, yeah, hit the wrong button here!  I'm actually quite smart!  Don't judge me just by this one thing!  But he was afraid at that point, apparently, because he just walked away.  Kidding.  He was very nice.  And then another car alarm happened to go off, and he was all jolly as he announced I had started a trend.

So I made a new friend.

Now that I'm back home, Johanna has a bowl of crackers and some 7-Up set up on a chair next to her nest on the couch.  She is looking pretty pale.  She's thrown up a few times now (too much info?), and she's just laying down, which in and of itself tells me the kid doesn't feel well.  How often have YOU seen Johanna just lay down?  And not at bedtime?  (No, really, she doesn't even lay down at bedtime.)  She's such a trooper, though, watching various cartoons on Netflix and periodically turning her back to the TV.  I wonder if she'll end up taking a nap?  That will really freak me out.

The plan for this afternoon was: Go to Brianna's party, go to Mass, go to the annual Christmas party at some friends'.  The new plan for this afternoon is: None of that.

I'm fighting my natural hypochondria here, because the stomach flu is ripping through the office, and now Johanna is sick.  I'm drinking some decaf and thinking about rainbows and butterflies and unicorns and health.

P.S. Eric (mostly Eric) and Abby and Johanna put The Burrows together last night.  SUPER CUTE.  "I'd forgotten I'd wanted Ginny," Johanna said nonchalantly as she gave the mini-figure a hug.  Well, that's my job, I suppose--to grant the wishes you forgot you wished for in the first place.  Or something.

Side view--look, a pig!

A look at the back.

There's even a copy of the Quibbler, a Chudley Cannons poster, and Mrs. Weasley's clock.  Nice detail there, Lego.

So while the fam was doing that, I was putting together some stupid puzzle that Johanna had gotten in a gift exchange.  She'd wanted to put it together while Eric and Abby worked on more complicated aspects of The Burrows, and then of course she left me all alone.  It doesn't look complicated, but those 100 pieces really about did me in.

Johanna wants to take it to Grandma's.
Maybe we can LEAVE it there?

Um, so that's enough, I think.

Anyway, so it's still December and it's still Christmas music season, but honestly, I'm hitting my limit.  I just downloaded Chevelle's new album, Hats Off to the Bull.  It is FANTASTIC.  I've been listening to it nonstop.  Well, I have OCD, I think.  So instead of something Christmas-y, I give you "The Meddler."  Because I don't belong here either.  Plus it's just a cool song.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Once upon a time, seven years ago...

...I woke up at 2:30 a.m. and knew I was in labor.  Sure, I was still bitter about that one nurse sending me home the day before, but I had to admit that THIS was the real show.

I woke Eric up, because misery really does love company.  He suggested I relax in the shower awhile--that seemed to help when I was in labor with Abby--and then he made me a fire and brought out my favorite rocking chair (that I got from my mother-in-law, Joni, when Abby was born--it used to be her grandparents' and sat on their front porch.  I love that sort of thing).  After my shower, I sat and rocked.  And rocked.  And breathed through my contractions.  And then rocked some more.

Eric called Joni around 5:30 a.m.--she was "on call" for Abby Duty when the show came to town. It's helpful to be married to an Eagle Scout, by the way--those boys are always prepared.

Joni came over, laid on the couch for a while (well, it was 5:30) and then got Abby up and ready and off to school.  At exactly 8 a.m., I called my midwife, Susan.  I had an appointment that morning, except it was at 10:30 and I wasn't sure I could wait that long.  She told me to come in to the office and we'd see what was up.  And, as we'd hoped, what was up was that the baby was on her way.  She told us to get ourselves to the hospital.

But first we took a little detour.  I called Mom from the parking lot of a mini mart and told her that I'd been to the midwife and I was in active labor.

"So you're at the hospital now?" Mom asked.

"Well, no.  Eric's getting me some Chap Stick."

This did not go over well.  There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I was like, what?  My lips are totally dry.  I can't very well be expected to give birth with dry lips, can I?

I still don't know what all the fuss was about.

My mother has still not forgiven me.

It was a busy day in the maternity ward.  Full moon.  (I know, I know... but it was a full moon and it was packed, so  you do the math.)  Our nurse, Mary, was not even supposed to be working that day, but I'm so glad they called her in.  Because she was AWESOME.  She was soothing, and caring, and wonderful.  She was the exact opposite of the nurse who'd been with us the day before, and actually, having Mary made me glad that I had been sent home after all.

Mom came to visit us at noon during her lunch break.  My contractions were beginning to get stronger, although not more regular (well, why go for normal at that point?), and as she was leaving, I was having a good one.  I told her so, but she claims that I said it in such a way--and was acting in such a way--that it was not obvious.  Whatever.  I guess I have a high pain threshold, plus I just figured everyone knew why I was in there, so why carry on about it?

After Mom left, I decided what I really wanted to do was take a hot shower.  So Eric got me in there, and then all of a sudden, it became very obvious that it was a bad, bad idea.  Because transitional labor!  Had hit!  I was like, get me out of here NOW.  And then as he was trying to help me out, I was like, no, wait!  He was all, but you just said... and I was all, I know, but.  Give. Me. A. Minute.

So he did.  Eric is a wonderful person to have with you in the delivery room.  He lets you say and do whatever you want, even if it makes no sense.  (Actually, this is representative of our life in general, now that I think about it.)

And when I finally got out of the shower (that was a crappy ten minutes, I tell you what) and Susan was there!

"Let's have a baby," she said.  I was all for that plan.

To break it all down for you, I had 45 minutes of transitional labor, pushed for 15, and then... Johanna!  All 6 pounds, 9.5 ounces of her.  Maybe it's because I'd had a baby before, but anyway, Susan let me push whenever the heck I wanted, which sped things up quite a bit, not to mention that Johanna was 2 pounds lighter and 1 inch shorter than her big sister.

And then the round of phone calls began.  Eric called Mom at work and asked if she wanted to come meet her new granddaughter.  She was like, what?  There is no way that baby is here already.  And Eric was all, well, things happened fast after you left.

My in-laws picked Abby up from school and brought her to the hospital.  My parents met them there, and they all came in together.

When I saw Abby, I started to cry.  I couldn't help it.  It was just so damn emotional.  My two girls.  I wasn't sure we'd ever be in that position as a family, and there we were.  The four of us.  We were finally complete.

Abby was very, very happy to see her sister, but she wondered: Would the baby speak English or Spanish?  I said probably she would speak English, since that's what we speak at home.

(The joke was on us, though.  Johanna spoke what appeared to be Russian for the first three years of her life.  She knew what she was saying.  It was just the rest of us who couldn't figure it out.)

Mary let Abby wash Johanna, and get her dressed and weighed and measured and whatever else it is they do to babies.  Abby felt very special and important.  Like I said, Mary was awesome.  I thanked her profusely for being there, and being with us, and helping us so much.  She was a gift.

We finally got moved to our "regular room" and got situated for the night.  We had one last group of visitors--Eric's brother Bub, wife Elaine and boys Cody and Kam.  Kam really wanted to see Johanna ON HER BIRTHDAY--he'd only been two when Abby was born, and had no memory of that, and just really wanted to come to the hospital.  And I think Johanna totally knew Kam was behind that whole scheme, because to this day she loves Her Kameron with her whole heart.

And now, it's seven years later.  My baby went to school this morning in her favorite outfit--her 5k t-shirt with our names on the back and a pair of cammo leggings.  She brought cheese sticks and crackers for a special snack to share with her class, as well as a Santa Gram for everyone.

She requested hot dogs for dinner, so I got those together before I went to work today (I made wiener wraps... it's just easier when you have to make your own buns.  Oh, and Painted Hills has a natural hot dog that I can actually eat, not that I could eat one every day, but on special occasions such as this, I'm so glad that's an option).  When I came home, she was already dressed for her winter concert--Grandma let her "borrow" one of her Christmas presents for the occasion--and looked absolutely adorable.  We had dinner, we hung out for a while--she decided she wanted to wait to open her presents until after the program--and then went to the school.

Johanna was very serious about how this was supposed to all play out.  The children were going to their classrooms to work on a project until the show started.  Afterwards, we could pick her up in her classroom.

I tell you what, she must pay attention in class, because I could almost hear her teacher speaking when Johanna was telling us the plan.

The concert was wonderful--K-2 performed tonight, and it was just darling.  Cute songs, the kids were obviously having a great time, and it just FELT like a winter program.*

Johanna opened her presents before going to bed--she loved the Harry Potter Legos, or, specifically, Ginny.  She got a video and book from Grandma and Grandpa W., and Stacey gave her a dry-erase board with neon crayons that Johanna cannot wait to use tomorrow "to practice writing my letters and doing math."  Okay, then.  (My parents had given her Tangled and a Hello Kitty Lego-ish set on Sunday, just in case I want to remember that in ten years.)

P.S. When Abby was in first grade, her winter concert was the night of Johanna's first birthday.  It's unbelievable that was six years ago.  Time goes too fast.

*Last year, our music teacher was insane.  And that's putting it politely.  The winter program consisted of Beatles songs, lots of free dancing under strobe lights, and bongos.  I wish I was joking, but I am not. We have a new teacher this year, so.  MUCH better experience!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Haste, haste!

Seven years ago, I was SURE I was in labor.  My contractions were strong, if not regular.  (They never were regular.  I suppose that was my first clue that Johanna was going to be her own special little awesome person.)  So Eric called his brother and sister-in-law to pick up Abby.  She got to spend the afternoon and evening playing with cousins Cody and Kam.

It was a Sunday.  I had slight trepidation about having a baby on Dec. 12--this is the day my Grandpa M. passed away and I knew that would make Gram M. both happy and sad.

Eric and I loaded up in the car around 1:30 p.m. or so--we had a navy Honda in those days--and went to the hospital.  We were admitted.  I changed into one of those crappy hospital gowns.  Then the attending nurse came in, said I was only 1 3/4 centimeters and was NOT in active labor.

She was a total pill.  And yes, I am still bitter.

So I got dressed again, and we loaded back up into the car, and we came home around 3:30, I think, and I took a nap on the couch with the Christmas tree lights on for ambiance, and then when I woke up Eric heated up some leftover fajitas or something (I can't remember what we had, exactly, except that it was a Mexican dish) and I just felt depressed and huge and despondent.

And eventually Abby came home.  She was bummed that her sister hadn't been born after all.  Every night for the past two weeks, she'd gone to bed by saying, "Good-night, Mama.  I hope your water breaks tonight."  And that night was no different.

Today I dropped Johanna off at school and wished her a very happy last day of being six.  She was cheerful and looking forward to another day of school.  She was dressed in a new pair of leggings we'd picked up yesterday, and was hoping she'd have art class today because the diamond pattern is apparently like a pattern they're making in art.

It's only 10:26 a.m., and already it's a better day than that Dec. 12 of seven years ago.

Martina McBride, "What Child Is This?"  This one is for Eric, and for Johanna.  Because I'm a giver.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

And so I'm offering this simple phrase...

My legs hurt.  Literally.  I'm sitting here, and I feel like I've run a marathon.  Which is ridiculous, because I am a walker.

See, today we ventured forth to the Big City to get some Christmas shopping done.  By "we," I mean the girls, my parents, and myself.  Eric opted to stay home and brew some beer.  And then bake a cake.  But we'll get into that later.

The main point of the trip?  My parents wanted the girls to pick out their own clothes for Christmas, and they wanted me around for backup.  I should probably mention that my family is horrible about surprises.  Perhaps we're just overly practical.  Maybe we find the unknown unsettling.  (I'll let you come up with your own theories.  I've got a blog to write, and I'm having a heck of a time pounding this one out.  Which is funny, because I have the words.  They just don't want to line up.)

I had a few things on my list, too... I was hoping to find something for both of the girls, as well as my parents and my brother Tim.  Everything else I plan to give away, I canned this summer.  There's nothing like going shopping in your own pantry to cut down on stress, I tell you what, but unfortunately pickles can't solve all my problems.

First stop: Gymboree at the outlet mall.  Johanna is all about leggings these days--because she can roll around better in them, plus if she gets hot she can push them up past her knees and pretend she's wearing shorts.  Johanna has her own little style, so it's easier to just let her pick out what she likes rather than guess yourself.  She found some leggings, and some cute shirts... and a skirt.  Um, what?  But it's absolutely adorable.  She worked out a deal with Grandma--she's going to wear the skirt, a shirt and leggings to her winter program, and then give them back to be wrapped.  Grandma is a sucker for these kinds of deals.

We came, we saw, we conquered, we went to lunch.  We were feeling slightly cocky, if you want to know the truth.  It was an easy stop.

Next up: The mall.  Abby wanted to hit various hipster stores, where the lights are dim and/or the thermostat is cranked to simulate California and/or the music is too loud and really, really bad and/or a thousand people are running around trying to find the deal of the day.

But first we spent an eternity cruising around trying to find a parking spot, and just when hopelessness was starting to set in, Mom was like, let's try parking at Sears, because no one shops there.  Sad.  But you know what?  We found a spot.  So thanks, Sears.

Our mall experience is just a blur at this point.  We covered a lot of ground.  Because of the sales, Abby was able to stretch her Christmas dollar fairly far.  She was feeling pretty cute, if you want to know the truth.  Well, I'm biased, but that's not hard to fathom.  She is cute.

Johanna spent most of her mall time tap dancing in the various stores.  Each one had a new surface to test, I guess.  If there was a mirror available, even better.  Not surprisingly, she got pretty tired before we were half way through.  I was like, Johanna!  Pace yourself!  And she'd sit down for a minute, and then she was up dancing again.

She got a lot of smiles.  Johanna just makes everyone feel better about life in general.  And wish they had that sort of energy.

I did manage to sneak into an Eddie Bauer, where I found a gorgeous gray sweater that my parents got for me.  And then I got a white tuxedo-type shirt for myself to go underneath said sweater.  Because I have a disposable income now.  Merry Christmas to me!  (Ah, commercialism.  Thou doth break my heart, and yet, I so love clothes shopping.)

At the eleventh hour, Mom found a pretty purple sweater that she really liked, so I got that for her.  The sales lady was like, wow, that's an interesting way to Christmas shop, and Mom and I were all like, yep, we're awesome.  The sales lady conceded we probably had less exchanges by doing it this way.  More justification!  This just gets better all the time.

P.S. Those prices coming up on the links?  Yeah, we didn't pay those.  Sales everywhere and all.

Unfortunately, I didn't find anything for Dad or my brother Tim, even though I do have ideas.  And I came to the conclusion that Johanna is set on clothes now for a while, which means I need to get to a computer and find those Monster High dolls she's been talking about.  I have yet to figure out Santa or stockings.  Well, I still have two weeks.  What's the rush?

So we got out of the mall--after about four hours!--tired and hungry and ready for Plan B: Johanna's early birthday party.

See, Johanna turns seven on Tuesday... but that's going to be one crazy day because her winter concert is that evening.  There's no way we can party like it's 2004 and do it right in the hour between dinner and her concert.  So we decided to go get a couple of pizzas, invite my parents over (my in-laws couldn't make it) and have a bash tonight.  Eric made a yellow cake (from scratch, I might add.  I'm very proud) while we were gone (I told you we'd get to that part later.  It's later!), so I just needed to whip up a chocolate frosting.  Easy peasy.  Then Johanna added the umbrella embellishments she'd found at the grocery store back in October (in the liquor aisle.  I think these are for mixed drinks.  Who cares?  She was happy).  We ate pizza, we ate cake, we sang Happy Birthday, we watched her open presents.

Umbrella Cake.

And then Mom dyed my hair, but that's another story, and anyway, I just feel like being done.

Ray Conniff again, "The Christmas Song."  Even as a kid, this song sort of confused me.  It starts out all, hey, Christmas is about Jesus!  Don't forget!  But... there are other things too.  And then everyone starts singing about Santa and reindeer and chestnuts and cold weather and turkey.  Well, I suppose all those things DO make the season bright.  But still.  Why not just sing about that, then?  Weird.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

And still their heavenly music floats o'er all the weary world

Irony: I had all kinds of time last night, but nothing to write about.  (Believe me, I tried.)  Tonight I have all kinds of things to write about, but no time.  Life is hilarious.

We got our Christmas tree today.  Fun fact: We always get our tree the second weekend in December.  And at Eric's poker party last weekend, his friend Les mentioned that he was going to have to go in and thin out his neighbor's U-Cut tree lot.  Les runs this lot by default, apparently.  Anyway, Eric thought he'd do his part and get our tree there this year.

Another fun fact: We are traditionally a Charlie Brown tree kind of family.  How Charlie Brown?  Usually we get something from my in-laws' property that is actually just a poor spindly top interfering with their view.  How spindly?  The branches are never strong enough to support the weight of our ornaments.

So imagine my surprise when Eric comes home with this:

We're not used to anything quite this bushy.
That wonky branch?  "Character." 

I mean, he was going to some overgrown tree lot.  My expectations weren't exactly high, and I have 16 years of married history to back me up on that.  I wasn't expecting something so... pretty.  (The pictures aren't doing it justice.  The branches are just cool looking... and feel almost plastic.  I think Eric said this is a Silver Noble.  But I wasn't really listening, so I could be totally wrong.)

Abby was like, uh, that's an actual tree.  I don't think we've ever had a tree this nice in the house before.  Which I realize is sad, but anyway, that's just how we roll.  Except for this year, I guess.

P.S. It cost Eric $10 to chop it down.  That's $10 more than we usually spend... which probably explains why our trees never held up our ornaments before.

So Eric gets the base on... and then goes down into his shop to figure out how to rig up some sort of faux stand for the thing... and then we get the tree skirt around the bottom... and then he puts on the lights.  Johanna was all about putting the angel on top this year, for some reason.  She got a little help from Eric.

She wore these PJs especially for this moment.

There was a lot of jumping around the living room after she'd accomplished her dream, just FYI.

I have a collection of frame ornaments with the girls' pictures inside.  One frame per girl per year.  I hung these up myself, since they're my favorites (wow, I guess I forgot a couple of years... what was going on in 2007?  I need to get caught up), and then let the girls go to town with the rest.  We have a box of "good ornaments" that we use every year.  We usually don't get to put them all up, what with picking trees that are structurally deficient, but this year, we got everything on.  The girls tended to cluster the ornaments together, and it looks just dorky as all get out, but will it will stay that way, of course, because.

Abby gets 'er done.

P.P.S. I don't have a very good picture of the finished product yet.  I could just go step out into the living room and take one, but why?

Then the girls turn their attention to my small Hallmark Christmas tree with its teeny tiny little ornaments.  It looks a wreck, honestly.  I used to take great pride in putting up that tree, and got new ornaments every year.

A Johanna-eye view.

But, just like with the tree... it is what it is.  Dude, I'm totally zen in my old age.  The girls are happy, more than likely Abby and Jo will decide to rearrange ornaments more than once (that's just what they do), and in the grand scheme of things, does it matter that it's not perfect?

No.  Because it IS perfect.

Now that I've said this and come across as such a good mother, I will tell you by the time 2 p.m. rolled around, I had HAD it with the togetherness.  Johanna, the sunny happy little thing, WOULD NOT quit saying my name.  MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM!  And I'd be like, jeez, what?  And she'd be all, blah blah blah I couldn't really even hear what she was talking about, let alone understand it, so I just smiled and nodded a lot and apparently agreed to some stuff that I had no idea I'd actually agreed to.


So I was like, um, I think I need to go to the store now!  And Abby was like, where are you going?  And I was like, OUT.  She wanted to come, too.  And since she was not yelling my name 45 times a minute, I let her.

First we went to a Mary Kay open house.  Eric's cousin's wife is a consultant, which comes in quite handy.  Anyway, she didn't have what I was looking for (no biggie, that's why God gave us mail), but I did get some samples (and then was thinking, shoot, talk about excess packaging...) and ordered a new lip gloss.  They've discontinued my foundation, apparently, so tomorrow I'll try my samples and hopefully have a new shade ordered by the end of the day.

Then we hit the grocery store.  It's a Saturday, it's December, it's crazy.  But you know what?  It was actually sort of blissfully relaxing.  No one was asking me to do anything.  It was practically a vacation.

So by the time we got home again, I was feeling pretty good.  Breaks?  Are a godsend.  I keep telling myself that someday the house is going to be way too quiet, and then where will I be?  Unfortunately, that doesn't help me NOW.

Like I said, life is hilarious.

Sixpence None the Richer, "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear."  I'm just in the mood for this song today, even though another song about a Christmas tree would make more thematic sense.  (What?  I do think about those things.)  I like this chick's voice.  And I like this song.  And I like her singing this song.  "O ye beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow.  Look now, for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing. Oh rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Good will to men, and peace on earth

Got an email from my friend Mara yesterday that I want to share.  Because I laugh every time I read it.
O.K., which is worse: having to tell your child that Santa isn't real after all, and you have been lying to him for years, or have him thinking that instead of making lovely toys in his North Pole workshop, Santa buys them from China!?  It was fine when Liam couldn't read, but tonight he noticed that on the back of the remote control to his "Christmas Train" he got last year, are the words MADE IN CHINA.  And he said "wait a minute, I don't get it...did Santa BUY my train?  Why does it say made in china?". My response?  Go ask Daddy.

Happy Holidays!!

Love Mara 
We never really had this problem with Abby.  She started asking at four if Santa was real, and we were like, well, what do you think?  Which put her off for quite a while.  So imagine my surprise when, at nine, I had to sit her down and say, look, you know, right?  And she was all like, yeah, I just didn't want to hurt your feelings.

A little easier than crushing your child's North Pole fantasies.

Johanna still believes, and has taken to asking (again) how Santa possibly manages to fit in our small wood stove chimney pipe.  So I tell her the truth: It's magic!

Although I really like Mara's approach of passing the buck.

In more holiday news (?), yesterday I put up the Christmas tree at work.  Why, you ask?  Good question.  Stacey and I went down to the very scary basement to get the thing--in its box, mind you--last week, and it's just been sitting to one side of the lobby ever since.  Yesterday Chris, the office manager, was all, hey, if you're looking for something to do...  And I was all, okay, but if I see any sign of mouse poop or spiders, I am outta here.

Unfortunately, there was no sign of either.  So I had to put the thing up.

Then Chris and I went back down to the basement to see about ornaments.  You know what we learned?  There are boxes upon boxes of Christmas stuff in the basement.  Chris starts reading labels and is all, what's our theme?  And I was like, uh, Christmas?  She thought I was joking.

I was not joking.

So we pack up some lights and exactly one box, because we both agreed we didn't need to get crazy.  Less is more!  That little mantra will get you out of all sorts of stuff, I kid you not.

I start unwinding the lights and feel obligated to announce that I'm not allowed to actually touch the lights at home.  (Eric has a system.  We'll leave it at that.)  So Stacey is all, well, this should be interesting.  And I was like, let's hope it's not TOO interesting.

Here's what the tree looked like with just the lights.  Oh, and FYI, each of those branches?  HAD TO BE INSERTED INDIVIDUALLY.  They were color coded and everything.  It was sort of depressing, if you want to know the truth.

That sign behind the tree?  Our "$500 and
Under" Free Classified Ad!

Now, I was all ready to call it a day (I had a headache, you see), but I figured, well, what the hell.  In for a penny, in for a pound.  Plus people kept coming out to see the progress and were tossing around all manner of complements.  Again, it was sort of depressing.

Here's what it looked like with the one box of ornaments, hung on the tree with paper clips.  I told Stacey and Chris that anyone at all was welcome to rearrange or add or whatever, but they were just so darn happy they didn't have to do it that I don't think they cared how whack this whole ordeal really was.

Our theme?  "Whatever is in this box."

I started putting up what appeared to be strings of Marti Gras beads, but decided it looked too tacky.  And that's saying something.  Clearly.

Anyway, I didn't go into work today, so I don't know if anyone rearranged my handiwork or not.  Oh, what?  Yeah, I didn't go into work... let's just say I had a wicked awful IBS attack this morning, and I was down for the count.  I took a nap this afternoon, and tried to force myself to drink a lot of water, and I'm feeling better now.  Thanks for the concern.  I try not to write too much about my IBS / artificial colors, flavors and preservative allergy / hyper-acidic stomach on purpose, because honestly, no one wants to go there.  Especially me.  So I won't start now.  We'll just say that it was bad, bad, bad, and I'm lucky that Eric is so awesome.

Ray Conniff, "O Tannenbaum."  Because!  When I was growing up, my mother had a couple of Ray Conniff Christmas records, and THAT is what we listened to in December.  And probably all winter long.  We'd get blankets from the closet--we had this white one that was fuzzy and was cast in the role of "snow," and we'd pretend to ice skate around the living room while listening to these songs.  When I got my iPod, my first Christmas downloads were of Ray Conniff.  I can't help it.  Ray Conniff just makes me happy.  And so does this song.  PLUS!  It's about a Christmas tree!  And I just wrote about... oh, never mind.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The tree is frozen, the winter's white

This morning I am feeling old and cranky.  My back hurts.  (Technically it's my hip, but the pain radiates.  I think.  I'm too cranky to look at it objectively.)  And you know what sucks?  This is the best I'm ever going to feel.  When I'm 80 I'll look back on this and think, wow, those were the good ol' days when I could actually get up out of my chair unassisted.  I tell you what, there's some things I'd have liked to know about getting old ahead of time.  Like:

  1. You are going to grow a mustache.
  2. You are going to have worse acne than when you were a teenager.
  3. You are going to hurt.
  4. You will not understand popular music.

Okay, fine, I never really understood popular music (alternative, yo!), but still.

Whatever.  I've lost my train of thought.  That's another thing that would have been nice to know.  That memory of yours?  Pretty much just a memory.  (HA HA HA!  Ah, words are fun.)

So you've probably noticed by now that I haven't really got anything to write about.  No matter.  I promised my mother I would write more this month, and by golly, I am going to.

(I cleaned up the language there just for you, Mom.  You're welcome.)

(Not that my mother has ever complained about the language I use.  Sometimes when I'm writing, though, I'll wonder if she thinks all my damns and shits and hells are really necessary.)

(Oops, sorry Mom.)

Pointless Topic #1:
We are in a fairly awesome weather pattern at the moment.  It's COLD outside, but the good news is that it's all blue sky and clear and still.  I can take the cold if I can also have the sun.  And honestly, that doesn't seem like a lot to ask for.  Wearing leggings underneath my pants has proved genius.  I know I keep saying that, but people!  It is genius!

Pointless Topic #2:
The girls are taking hot soup in their lunches this week (hot soup, yes, I feel like I need to emphasize this, because they COULD be taking gazpacho, which is cold.  But they aren't.  Their soup is hot).  Johanna will pretty much eat anything, but Abby is picky now that she's twelve.  Yesterday they tried Earth's Best Organic Organic Elmo Vegetable Soup (I guess they felt like they needed the extra "organic" in there).  Abby thought it was disgusting.  Johanna thought it was okay, which for her probably does mean disgusting, because usually she's all, it's fantastic!  But no, it was just okay.

Poor Elmo.  Would it be bad to donate that other can we bought to the food drive?

Don't let that cute furry face fool you.
This soup is gross.

Today's soup: Wolfgang Puck's Roasted Tomato.  It smelled heavenly, so here's hoping it gets a good review.  UPDATE: Wolfgang Puck's soup was a hit!

Pointless Topic #3:
So way back in August I broke up with Safeway.  And I still stand by every one of those reasons why Safeway sucks.  Although I'm sort of disappointed I only got to 24, if you want to know the truth.

And you know what?  I have not been back since that fateful day.  But you would not believe the peer pressure I'm getting at work.  And I'm all like, are you kidding me?  Safeway and I broke up!  There IS NO GOING BACK.

But Cranky Steve, who runs the circulation desk (and yes, I call him that.  What?  He is really cranky), is on a mission to get me back through the doors.  I'm all, no way, Steve.  And he's all, you're stubborn.  And I'm all, if I go back, then I'm essentially saying it's okay for someone (corporations are people.  Thanks, Supreme Court!) to treat me badly.  And I think better of myself than that.  And Steve is all, but you can get some brand or other of natural chocolate chips there!  Safeway is the only place in town to get them!  And I'm all, it's going to take more than that.  Like for Safeway to not be Safeway anymore.

Plus, Ghirardelli makes a nice natural chocolate chip, and those suckers are everywhere.

So we go round and round and round.  Upside: He brought me a bag of those chocolate chips to try.  (They're called Guittard, in case you haven't broken up with Safeway yet, which I urge you to do immediately, break up, I mean, just FYI.)  So let that be a lesson to you, kids.  Take a stand and you too might get free chocolate chips.

Anyway, breaking up with Safeway has been surprisingly easy, aside from the fights with Cranky Steve.  For one thing, I never really went in there very often anyway.  Mostly it was just when I wanted to go to Starbucks.  But you know what?  As I've mentioned before, we have local coffee roasters, and I can just waltz into those places any ol' time I want (as long as it's operating hours, I guess.  I'm not really into breaking and entering) and get coffee without having to deal with parking issues, or low lights, or long lines, or anyone berating me for not checking myself out.

So take that, Safeway.

The end.

Stephen Colbert, "Another Christmas Song."  This one is Johanna's favorite.  She just thinks it's funny.  iTunes had it free last Christmas, so his retirement plan might not pan out the way he'd hoped.  But still, thanks for the laugh, Steve!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fill the whole world with heaven's peace

Words you don't want to hear at bedtime: "Mama, the laundry room is giving me an ominous feeling.  What does 'ominous' mean?  Does the laundry room give YOU an ominous feeling?"  This is the sort of conversation I have with Johanna all the time.  And people wonder why I'm tired...

And yes, the laundry room DOES give me an ominous feeling.  Thanks for asking.  I'd love to discuss it with you further, darling child, but now?  You need to go to bed.

Well, anyway.  Here's the thing: Eric is downstairs at the moment, playing poker with some friends.  This is a birthday tradition that I started, if you must know.  I asked one year what he wanted, and he thought it would be fun to play cards.  So I made some phone calls.  And then after it happened a few years, Eric took over the invitations part and the rest is history.

Usually I stay upstairs, but this year I did venture down because my friend Jason A., whom I met at church camp in the early '90s, came this year, and I think it is terribly unfair that Eric gets to hang out with MY friend and I don't.  The girls came down too and realized that everyone had brought snacks, and are feeling slighted because there is a cheese ball and Doritos down there and they don't get any.

Life lessons!

Which is all to say: I have some time on my hands this evening, and I feel a recap coming on.  Assuming Johanna stays in bed like she's supposed to.  Now her bedroom is feeling ominous, so that's exciting.  Also, the word "ominous" reminds her of squash and cucumbers.  Maybe I just need to go to bed and pretend I'm asleep?  Surely that would squelch her spirit, right?  (Yeah, probably not.  This IS Johanna we're talking about.)

So!  Today Abby and I braved downtown.  On a SATURDAY.  Our town is small, but leans toward touristic tendencies, and we've got people from the Big City who apparently think it's cool to drive all the way out here just to walk down main street.  Whatever, Big City Folks.  I hope you appreciated my patience with y'all this afternoon.  Because around here, we walk like we mean it.

We were downtown because: Johanna has decided that what she wants for Christmas is a Ginny Weasley Lego mini-figure.  Um, what?  I looked on Amazon, and those puppies are $16 a pop.  FOR A MINI FIGURE.  Lucius Malfoy?  Is 79-cents.  But she doesn't want Lucius.  Here, we need pictures:

Would YOU pay
$16 for THIS?

Where's Lucius' dark mark?
Come on, Lego!  Have you even read HP?

Not really wanting to pay $16 for a tiny little Lego figure, or even $5 from some site of questionable origin, I decided to go visit the local toy store.  Only they were all like, we've got one Harry Potter Lego set (the Knight Bus, of all things), and we're not planning on ordering anything else before Christmas.

So that ended up being a waste of time.  And also of patience.  Ah, well.

Then we hit the bookstore.  Abby has three books on her list (all by Michael Grant... Gone, Hunger and Lies.  I guess he likes short titles) and I wanted to see if they were in stock.  Abby found the second book, Hunger, and was all like, I am buying this now!  And I was like, why don't you wait for roughly twenty days and then you can have it for free!  And she was all, no!  Whatever, it saved me ten bucks.  So I let her buy it and then I had her go stand in the corner while I ordered the other two.  

I don't think I fooled her, though, because all the way to Wal-Mart, our next stop, as it were, she was asking me questions.  How much were they?  Hardback or paperback?  And I'm all, remind me to look for dishwasher soap.  And she's all, I KNOW, MOM.  And I'm all, I also need laundry detergent.

It wasn't much of a conversation, if you want to know the truth.

Wal-Mart was INSANE.  I should know better than to go on a Saturday, but I just haven't had time to go before today.  And I put the last squirt of my soap in the dishwasher this morning, so the situation was desperate.  Nothing else would have got me in through those front doors.

We got dishwasher and laundry detergents.  In cardboard boxes because they're compostable (spell check hates that word), even though my favorites are in plastic bottles.  Sometimes having a conscience is such a pain in the ass. Abby threw some mascara into the cart, having settled on Very Black over Blackest Black. (I think she made a good choice.  Clearly the difference between the two is astronomical.)  And then we followed some little old lady to the cash registers at approximately 2 steps per hour and had finally made it to a line, and I was like, crap!  Lego Ginny!  So we turned around and headed to the toy aisle.

Toy aisle in a crowed store on a Saturday.  Yeah, that was fun.

But!  We found The Burrows Lego set for $20 less than it was advertised on Amazon.  I called Eric and was all, um, so here's what I found, and do you think... And he was all, GET IT.  Because we spent last night surfing the Internet and you know what we learned?  That Lego Harry Potter sets are expensive and prone to selling out.  So now she's got Ginny AND Molly and Arthur and Bellatrix and that Greyback character (could have done without that one) and another Harry:

Hey, look!  There's also a marsh!  SCORE!

THEN--as if all the above wasn't enough--we hit the grocery store.  And it was (shock!) crowded and insane!  But by this time we were totally zen in our patience, I kid you not.  And that doughnut hole we got at the bakery didn't hurt anything, either.  I've been trying to cut down on packaging, or specifically, on plastics.  So I spent a good deal of time in the bulk aisle.  I have these cloth bags now, and I've been slowly working them into my bulk purchase repertoire.  The cashiers always look at me like I'm nuts, but I figure that eventually they'll be so used to it that it won't seem weird anymore.

Plus, if you must know, "weird" is not a negative in my book.

Abby accused me of being a poser because I wrote the bin numbers on my Kindle notebook ap instead of writing them on the bags.  Uh, ink doesn't come off of cloth bags, and using those little twisty ties seemed besides the point.  And anyway, the cashier I got this time didn't blink twice at the bags or when I read off the bin numbers.  She and the bag-girl and I had a nice conversation about conservation (say that three times fast).  And why Kindles are awesome.  But apparently some boy from Abby's class was behind us in line and I was being terribly embarrassing.  

So that's what's been happening today.  Tomorrow I'm going to need to buckle down and do some baking and some laundry and some general cleaning.  But I tell you what, I had a good time today.  I got a couple of things crossed off the girls' lists.  I got to spend some quality time with Abby.  I got out of doing laundry.  The sun was shining, and even though it was freezing solid, I wore my favorite navy blue sweatshirt and felt good about it.  The only thing I didn't do today that I was hoping to get around to was taking a nap.  But such is life.

John Berry, "O Come Emmanuel."  I really like this version, even though John Barry is all country and I am generally not a fan.  My mother-in-law gave me this CD years ago (hi, Joni!) and it's pretty great.  But I digress.  "Come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night."  Ah, how lovely that sounds now that the days are getting shorter and colder.  "O come desire of nations bind, all peoples in one heart and mind. Fill the whole world with heaven's peace.  Rejoice!"  Indeed.