Monday, September 30, 2013

September Pointless Lists

So. September. Three months left of 2013? That seems kind of insane.

September was busy. School started, which meant beginning of the year open houses for Abby and Johanna. Eric and I celebrated our 18th anniversary. We participated in the local CROP Walk as a family (except we walked right past my parents house and ditched Jo), Eric and I volunteered at the local Hops Fest (which ended up being way more fun that I'd expected), and I worked at the elementary school book fair for three straight days (um, an hour at a time, it's not like I moved in or anything).

At the book fair, I spent most of that time telling cute little first graders that the $2 they brought from home would not buy them the $12.99 Dora the Explorer book they wanted. Talk about guilt.

And that's pretty much all that happened, except for that other stuff I don't feel like talking about. Fun fact: That's one of my pet peeves on Facebook--people writing purposely vague things. Don't do that! It's okay that I just did because I did it ironically.

Never mind. Pointless list time!

Books read:
This was a busy book month. It's all Abby's fault. She keeps talking about the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, and then I realized the first book is a mere $3.99 on my Kindle, so I thought, what the heck. I've wasted more money on that on a crappy mocha.

And it turns out that Divergent and its sequel, Insurgent, are fantastic. I could not put them down. I read through them as fast as I could just to see what was going to happen, and then I reread them more carefully, and then I went back and reread all my favorite parts, and then I pre-ordered Allegiant. And the good news is I only have to wait for about three weeks before it's released!

Um, and then because I'm kind of a fangirl, I purchased Free Four (the knife-throwing scene in Divergent as told by Four) and The Transfer (a short story about Four's Choosing Day). Um, and pre-ordered both The Initiate and The Son and The Traitor. I have a wait ahead of me for those little chapters, though.

Anyway, I think I love these books so much because the writing is fantastic, the characters are well fleshed out and believable, and the world is compelling. If you aren't a big fan of bad things happening to characters you love, though, don't read this. It's not a pretty world. But it is excellent. Highly recommend.

So after all of that, I was depressed, and Abby made me read the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. Or, should I say, the first three books (City of Bones, City of Ashes, and City of Glass, which, technically, I'm not quite finished with). BOOKS, people, real books. And wow, they're heavy and awkward. Beside the point. These books are interesting, but not so interesting I want to download them to my Kindle, which is why I'm soldier on with Abby's paperbacks. The author uses a lot of writing tricks that are kind of old hat, so you know what is going to happen even when the characters are clueless. The dialog is the best part of this series. There's some stuff that made me laugh out loud. Oh, and when Clary gives Simon a pamphlet on coming out to your parents to help him tell his mom that he's now a vampire? That was AWESOME.

So... it's not Divergent-good, but it's readable and kind of fun. Maybe you have to be 14 or something to truly get it, I don't know.

Garden update:
Sad, sad, sad. We have tomatoes. We have basil. I've gotten four zucchini THIS YEAR. That's about it.

Canning update:
I was all set to can peach butter but then my peaches rotted because that's what happens sometimes when it rains just before harvest--fungus. Well, that's why you know your farmer, people. I got a refund and all was cool.

Things I've learned:
Skilly only likes to cuddle when he's wet and gross. (Smelly cat, indeed.) There's a place in the next town over where you can get your shoes fixed. I can not be trusted in the Goodwill Boutique--too many pretty things--and all my minimalism ideologies go right down the drain. Homemade tomato soup is the bomb. It's possible I need to update the prescription on my glasses as depth is once again alluding me. One of my favorite words to write is "chaos." Spending all your free time reading on the porch in the sun (or curled up in your favorite quilt on the couch when it's raining and cold) is not a bad way to go.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just invited

Yesterday, when I was picking Johanna up from my parents' house for her Wednesday Aikido class (which, by the way, Aikido and kids who love to move? GENIUS), she was very excited to hand me the open house invitation she'd made in class. I suspect this was a lesson on penmanship and spelling because 1) I can actually read her writing and B) Everything is spelled correctly. Anyway, when I flipped it over, I saw this:

Love the girl looking at the car with the question mark over her head.
I love Johanna's take on the world.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In which Abby and I innocently go to her high school open house and end up getting tossed out of a bar

I really need to quit getting thrown out of bars with my children.

Once upon a time, like yesterday, Abby and I went to her high school open house. It started at 5:30 p.m. Correction: I thought it started at 5:30 p.m. When I pulled into the parking lot and found a space in front, that should have been my first indication that something was amiss, but I am always optimistic about all the wrong things.

We go into the school--I decided my code name was The Jackal, and Abby decided her's was Darkness (don't ask, it was funny at the time, although why is kind of escaping me at the moment)--and are directed to get a copy of her schedule from this line and her school photos from that line. Except I didn't do school photos this year because you know why? They always turn out terrible and I always forget to send them out anyway.

After getting her schedule we got invited to join a tour group. I embarrassed Abby by signing up for school updates on my phone, and then announcing I'm in the Class of '90 when the kid asked if anyone had been in the school before. Because I was ruining her "street cred."

Fair enough.

So it turns out the tour was just like the tour we took last spring during the eighth grade step up day or whatevs, so Abby and I were forced to hide from our assigned group and sprint down a hallway to get away. Because we were The Jackal and Darkness, this was not embarrassing. I don't know, I think you have to be 14 to understand the distinctions. All I know is I don't really care where the bathrooms are and was happy to get away. Abby gave me a better tour (her words) because she's been to school like eight days now and totally knows everything.

Her tour didn't last very long, though, and there weren't any teachers anywhere, which I thought was weird because we were supposed to be there to meet staff. I found a friend with older kids who knows the ropes, and was all like, uh, is this it? A tour? and she's all, no, the mock schedule is what you really want to go to and that doesn't start until 7, and I was all, what time is it again? and Abby was like, 5:45.

Well, damn.

We live roughly ten minutes away from the high school, but we act like we're in another country. Meaning I was not going to go home and come back at 7 p.m., but I really wanted to meet her teachers (and continue to ruin Abby's street cred). Translation: We needed dinner.

The high school is on The Heights. Most of the good restaurants are Downtown. And there was no way I was headed back downtown--I work down there, they're doing road construction and it's so bad it makes my nightmares look like Disneyland. There's not much to chose from on The Heights, but there is a golf course restaurant two miles from the high school, so we decided to go there.

Side note: This is the restaurant where we had our 20th high school reunion three years ago. And that's how long it's been since I've been back. It's actually a great place, it's just that we don't get out much. Obviously.

The place is packed, but the cute little hostess is all, I can seat you by the bar right now, unless you want to wait ten minutes for a table. And I'm like, nope, bar is fine--I mean, a table near the bar, it's not like I took my 14-year-old to belly up to the bar--but you do realize this kid is like 14, right? And she's all, well, I think that will be okay. And I'm like, whatever, pass that happy hour menu.

Then our waitress comes and takes our order (Abby got a caesar salad, I got a ham and cheese panini, we both got some insane fries that were a cheese-bacon-tomato-onion with ranch dipping sauce kind of awesome). A couple minutes later she comes back and is all apologetic and like, I'm sorry, but I have to make sure... you're 21, right? And Abby is like, uh, no. I'm 14. And then I launch into a detailed description of how we asked the hostess that question and what she said, and the waitress is very apologetic and like, yeah, this isn't going to work, and then to Abby, although I did have to look at you twice and I thought maybe you were just aging like really fantastically.

Well, that was nice. Except now our only option was going outside.

I decided not to share that this is the second time Abby has gotten tossed out of a bar with me because that's not exactly a parenting win, if you know what I mean, no matter how innocent. Anyway, so Abby and I had a nice dinner outside--the food was amazing, why don't we go out more often again?--except I did have to stab a wasp with my knife because hello, it was scaring Abby and I'm The Jackal and I have responsibilities.

Wait, what was I talking about again?

Oh, right. So we eat and we pay and we leave, and I got to do a mock day of Abby's schedule, and no wonder that kid comes home so tired. That school is HUGE. They've added on a lot since I went there (23 years ago, cough) and she's got to do a bit of traveling between classes. But her teachers seemed awesome and her classes are interesting and I learned I am left-brained in her Advanced Freshman English class. Because we took a test, that's why. Also: Abby is left-brained, too.

So the moral of this rather longish tale is that Abby and I? Had an unexpectedly long evening together, and it was fun.

The end.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday "Art," Zion edition

My mother especially appreciated it when I sent her this photo...

Zion National Park is beautiful. I think it was the fan favorite because of the perspective--at Bryce and the Grand Canyon, you're looking down, but at Zion, you look up, and it's just amazing. I wasn't sure how the shuttle service was going to work--you can't drive your own car here--but it was actually kind of nice. The shuttles come regularly (and are comfortable), and you get a canned tour as you drive, so you know what you're looking at / historical bits of interest / et al. It was fun.

Here's the link to the Reader's Digest Condensed Version of our Very Canyon Vacation, as well as links to Saturday "Art" Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon editions, should you feel the need to read more about the trip. I think I'm finally through with all things canyon now. Um, maybe. ;)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A brave attempt at minimalistic school shopping

Back to School shopping annoys the crap out of me. It's almost as bad as Christmas when it comes to buying a whole lot of unnecessary *things* because supposedly you have to in order to prove you love somebody. That's probably another post for another time. Forget I said that until December. That will be a fun rant.

Anyway. This year, Johanna's supply list contained 20 items (and I am not joking about that, ask my mother, she saw it). It was ridiculous. And very detailed, listing exactly what size and shape and brand you're supposed to be getting, making it hard to use things from one year to the next, even though you always end up with supplies sent home at the end of the year. What is the point of this?

I have a few character flaws, and one of them is that I don't like being told what to do. So before I tackled Johanna's list, we went through last year's supplies first. And we were able to cross off several items: A box of name brand crayons, colored pencils, and both thin and thick markers; scissors; two pink pearl erasers (she used exactly a quarter of one last year); her pencil box; glue sticks; a pencil sharpener. I explained why I wanted to reuse as many items as possible, stressing the environmental impact more than my minimalist tendencies, but I really didn't have to because she was already on board. One thing about Johanna: She just accepts what is going on around her and gets on with things.

I still had to buy two binders of certain sizes, notebook paper, notebooks, pencils and two folders, though. Plus two containers of disinfectant wipes, two boxes of tissues, dry erase markers and a box of quart sized Ziplock bags. I had to hit a few stores to find everything on that list, but we finally managed. And I only threw a couple of fits.

Abby's list was easier, mostly because she wanted to wait until she went to her classes to see what she really needed, but also because she was willing to reuse everything that was still in working order from previous years. Which I didn't find out about until later because she made her own list to work from before we hit the stores. I really am digging this 14-year-old stage, FYI.

I got the girls Bento-style boxes for their lunches last year (they refuse to eat school lunches, and I am more than okay with that), and Johanna got a new messenger bag halfway through the year due to technical difficulties with her backpack (i.e. she is not a careful child. And she wanted to look like Indiana Jones), so at least I didn't have that to worry about. I knew I wasn't going to be able to go 100% reused, but I was happy that I was at least able to do SOMETHING. If I let myself get bogged down in the mire, I'd be too depressed to even try at all.

Anyway. First day of school. My mother made the girls' favorite dinner--lasagna--and brought it to the house for a party. We're talking about other things when suddenly Johanna pipes up with, I need six inch blades. And I'm like, um, are you planning to cut somebody?, and she's like, no, scissors.

So apparently the teacher goes through the supplies you send with your child to make sure they're worthy. And the scissors that Johanna used all through second grade did not make the cut (see what I did there?). "I told her, 'My mom's a minimalist,'" said Johanna, very seriously, "and she said, 'You need six inch blades.'"

Do you know how hard it is to find six inch blades? I didn't until I started trying. Add to that a brand name and it's actually impossible. I put the old scissors back in her bag, explaining that I was doing my best, but it might take me a while to find a pair and to tell her teacher I was trying. Five stores and three days later, I finally found six inch scissors at the local stationary store. NOT name brand. I bought them anyway. Sometimes you can only rebel in small ways.

The only other fit I threw was when Abby came home and announced that even though she had a binder clearly written on her supply list for science, her teacher said no binders, just notebooks. And I was like, so why did he put a binder on the supply list again? and was gearing up for a big ol' rant when Abby says, relax, that was one of the items I was reusing anyway, and I was all, oh. Okay then.

So school shopping was kind of depressing, I guess is the moral here, but we did have a few small victories, which I hope counts for something.

The end.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Saturday "Art," Bryce Canyon edition

Playing with the panorama setting on my iPod was fun.
Very unique landscape.
Bryce Canyon is just cool. I don't know, those spires and whatnots are wicked awesome. We had planned to ride the bus around the park, but ended up just driving because it wasn't all that crowded. And we never did have to circle around to find a parking spot, maybe because lots of other people did take the bus.

I love the lodges at our National Parks. They all kind of look the same. Bryce's had the nicest gift shop we visited, in case you're into that kind of thing. And free wi-fi. That was greatly appreciated and probably accounts for all the people sitting around on benches with laptops et al. This was actually the only park we visited that DID have free wi-fi (or wi-fi at all). Oh, and there was a Post Office (as in, you walk up to a window), so that was cool for postmarking purposes.

So yay you, Bryce Canyon.

P.S. I'm finally rested and feeling back to normal after our vacation... two weeks later, whatever, these things take time. If you missed the Reader's Digest Condensed edition of our Very Canyon Vacation, click here. If you want to see the Grand Canyon Art Edition, click here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Message in a bottle. Without the bottle

The benefit of giving your kid a phone when she goes into high school--especially if she's a texting genius*--is that you get little messages throughout the day with updates on How Things Are Going.

My favorite so far is from the first day of school, roughly two hours in: Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh. I already have stories to tell you.

Mostly she writes about how there are no cute boys. Sometimes she tells me what class she's going to, or what she thinks of her teachers, or how she did on a placement test.

Abby is a great writer with an eye for detail, and because they let you text in the hallways between classes, apparently, I get a new message every 90 minutes or so. And I won't lie--that is super fun. Just to know what my kid is up to, what she's thinking and feeling and seeing? Is a gift. Add in some teenage angst and a flair with words, and you've practically got a sitcom on your phone.

So anyway, the moral of this story is when you finally get your kid that phone she wanted, make sure the plan comes with unlimited text.

*It takes me, no joke, three and a half minutes to send a simple, one sentence message. Abby can crank out eight paragraphs in twelve seconds flat with proper punctuation and everything. These are not exaggerations. Um, mostly.

P.S. I know, slow writing week. Have been working extra hours, and you'd think I'd at least have some good Cranky Steve stories, right? Except he's been out of the office a lot, so... not much fodder there. Maybe next week.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Eighteen years

Eighteen years ago today, Eric and I got married. At 11 a.m. because we really just wanted to get it over with. And at the ripe ol' ages of (barely) 23 and 24. We felt kind of old at the time. Now it makes me laugh.

That's not even the point. The point is that although I was a baby, I chose very, very well. Eric is the best. He takes good care of me (and yes, I know, grrrl power and all that, whatever, it's nice to be taken care of sometimes), he's a wonderful father, he has a great sense of humor, he is such a kind, generous soul, and for some reason he likes me even though he's seen me at my best AND (more times than I'd like to admit) my worst.

1995. I won't lie, I edited to make us look old-timey.
This morning he and Abby are doing volunteer work for a local Chamber event, and later he's going to help his dad with a rock project. Tonight he's taking me out to dinner. This may seem kind of whack, but what you don't know is that yesterday we had Eric's cousin's family over for dinner, and he helped clean and cook all day even though there were a million other things he needed to do, or would have rather been doing.

That's love, people.
2013. Selfie at Bryce Canyon.
P.S. Lately I've been asked why we decided to get married on Labor Day weekend. Easy: A) September Second is an alliteration; 2) Eric wanted to get married before hunting season (well, he did); and C) We thought that, with the holiday, maybe people would be too busy to come. I know, that seems counterproductive, but we're both introverts with extrovert mothers who know the entire world. As it was, it didn't really work. Our little church was packed. I find that rather touching now.