Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December Pointless Lists

Eric is up early this morning, banging around the house as he gets Abby's room ready to paint. I'm kind of surprised she hasn't crawled into our bed yet to get away from the noise, but maybe she's just excited to be getting rid of that horrible green she chose when she was 10. Anyway, Eric has picked painting the bedrooms as his winter project (I told you that boy never sits down), and that's how he's using his vacation this week. I tell you what, things get done in this house. 

Right now I'm feeling very grateful because A) I thought I had erased my entire post, which I began working on last night and was 90% finished, but I got it back, and 2) all in all, this has been a pretty good year. Maybe not the best year ever, but when you tally the bad alongside the good, the good comes out on top. I think sometimes you just have to choose to have a happy heart--or that's what my mother says, anyway, and so far the evidence points to her being correct. Hey, we made it through the year. That's wonderful in itself.

Tonight our little Walker Four will make Pad Thai together and maybe watch a movie. Eric and I will most likely be in bed by 10 p.m. Abby will probably stick it out to midnight. This sounds like a most perfect New Year's Eve to me. All my favorite people! And tomorrow, Johanna will bounce out of bed at 7 a.m. and we'll see what kind of mischief we can get into to start the new year off right. Probably we'll make pancakes. That's as mischievous as we get in this house... I don't know, maybe we lack creativity.

Anyway, Happy New Year, my internet friends. Thanks for reading my pointless ramble.

Pointless list time!

Books read:
I finished Stephen King's 11/22/63 early in the month and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was kind of heartbreaking at the end (and also kind of confusing because would the world really rebel like that?), but was totally worth the effort. I've read some comments about the pacing, but I thought the pacing was fine... I mean, you have to work up to these things, right? Anyway, highly recommend.

My next book was Courtney Carver's Mini-Missions for Simplicity. I follow her blogs and find her to be rather a breath of fresh air (she's so dang positive!), and figured this would be something I'd enjoy. And it was. Lots of good ideas for simplifying your life. And this is why I am now flossing my teeth every day in the shower. (Don't judge.) It's not a "this is how you become a minimalist" kind of book, but rather "you've already been simplifying, and here are some ideas on how to expand on what you've done." I recommend this one, too.

And then I downloaded Dangerous Women, a compilation of short stories by a variety of authors, because I wanted to read "Virgins" by Diana Gabaldon. Um, that's an Outlander story, and I think by now everyone knows how much I love Gabaldon's books. I regret nothing, even if this is the only story I've managed to read so far. I have 20 more to go...

Christmas update:
We had three Christmas' this year, which is about par for the course. We opened gifts with my parents on Dec. 22 (usually we do it on the 23rd, except someone scheduled basketball practice for that night. And by "someone" I mean Dad and Eric, just to be clear) and found out that our Very Minimal Christmas Present* this year is a trip to Leavenworth, Wash. TOTALLY EXCITED. We spent a lot of family vacations there growing up, but I haven't been back in ages. It will be so fun to share this with Eric and the girls! My parents are awesome.

On Christmas Eve, my parents hosted another gathering, this time with my in-laws, my Aunt Ann and Uncle John and cousin Seth, and my brother Tim. Well, and the Walker Four and my parents. Anyway, that was really, really fun--we mostly just talked and ate Mom's wonderful dinner (hellooooooo, Orange Charlotte!), exchanged small gifts (I scored coffee!), went to Mass and then came back and played one of my mother's patented Christmas games. This one involved wrapped packages and stealing. Somehow they all do...  

Johanna woke up sick sick sick around 3 a.m. Christmas morning (way too many sugary treats. Her stomach totally rebelled, as it is prone to do) and I had a mild IBS attack, so Christmas Day wasn't quite as much fun as I'd hoped. But Santa came (of course he did, our girls rock) and the girls opened their gifts (they each get three plus whatever Santa brings) and we hung out together until about noon, when Eric and Abby went off to Eric's brother's house for a Walker gathering and Johanna and I stayed home to nap (okay, that was just me) and cuddle up to watch "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Tangent: We love and adore that movie.  Anyway, so it wasn't exactly like I'd pictured, but still, not a bad day, either. When you look at it from the whole? I don't know, work with me, people.

Project 333 update:
I picked my items for the January 1-March 30 round of Project 333 this weekend (I'll post details later) and am feeling pretty good about where I stand. This time, I plan to stick it out the entire three months instead of switching things up monthly. I'm excited for the challenge. We'll see if I'm singing that tune in a month or two. :)

Things I've learned:
You cannot eat like a maniac from Thanksgiving to Christmas and expect to feel good. (Fine, I already knew that. I just forgot.) Making my coffee with a brewing cone is the best decision I have ever made. (Um, more or less. Marrying Eric is up there, too.) Watching 3-4 grade basketball after a freshman game is kind of enchanting. (That one I really did learn.)

*I admit, a trip with my parents to a really cool locale doesn't seem very minimal at all. Sometimes minimalism is ironic...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

End of the year pointless thoughts

The other day Johanna told me that she hadn't figured out what her New Year's Revolutions were going to be. She was wondering if maybe I had. I don't usually make resolutions, but now that we're talking revolutions, I'm totally in. Except it's sort of a lot of pressure. No one ever expects to keep a resolution for more than a couple of weeks, but a revolution? That's hardcore. That's serious. So I've been contemplating my options. It's fun to think about, anyway.

Also: Now I say "New Year's Revolutions" and everyone thinks I've misspoken. No. This is what it's called now, forever and ever. It's kind of like how I still call hand sanitize "hanitizer" because that's what Abby called it when she was three. Kids are fun.
December was surprisingly sunny.
This year went fast. I guess it didn't seem very fast when I was stuck in the middle of it, but wow, the past couple months have flown by. Thanks to the blog, I can remember what even happened. Because I'm at that point in my life where yesterday and ten years ago are all pretty much the same in my mind.

Highlights (?) of 2013 include...

January: The Sort of Remodel commenced and I somehow managed to not lose my mind. Also, we learned Skilly had been misnamed.

February: The Sort of Remodel is finished!

March: I got pink eye! That sucked, actually.

April: Abby got Confirmed. That was kind of an ordeal.

May: Johanna made her First Communion. Two big parties in two months = exhaustion.

June: Abby's 8th grade promotion! (And no party!) We had a Very Minimalist Christmas with my parents and my brother, and it was awesome.

July: I made homemade mint extract for the first time. And turned 41.

August: Johanna's backyard carnival was a hit. We survived a Very Canyon Vacation.

September: The girls started school and Abby and I got kicked out of a bar.

October: I started Project 333 as a way to step up my minimalism game. Johanna was the Lone Johanna for No Reason for Halloween. And my cousin's wedding in Seattle was really fun, even if it was a quick trip.

November: Thanksgiving! Not shopping on holidays that are supposed to be about family and gratitude!

December: Christmas was fun, and we're looking forward to our annual New Year's Eve Walker Four party. Because that's how we roll.

I'm not really sure what else to say about 2013, except that it happened and now it's over. How's that for philosophical? I like the fresh start a new year brings. I'm ready for January 1.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Abby Texts: Princess Bride

The scene: Abby had a MAJOR HUGE science project in December that took up a lot of her time. Of course, that didn't mean she stayed caught up on her work... so the night before it was due (incidentally, the last night before Winter Break), she pulled a very late-nighter (not an all-nighter. Just stayed up until like midnight or something) and was pretty tired and stressed by the time science class rolled around the next day. You need to know that because otherwise, mints and a movie in class would probably not mean much. :)

Abby: Dude, Butcher gave us mints and let us watch the Princess Bride.

Me: Nice!

Abby: Haven't seen it since I was little and now I like understand.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Eve princess story

Our Christmas Eve view. Sunshine!
Johanna and I braved the elements (in which I mean: Full sun and unseasonably warm weather. It's AWESOME) this morning to gather foodstuffs for various Christmas gatherings. I guess maybe I should have done my grocery shopping earlier in the week because blast!* It was crowded. We had to park in the boonies and walk. That doesn't happen very often in our Small Little Town.

Anyway, that's not even the story. The story is that we were in the produce section and who do we see but Belle! Or a three year old dressed as Belle. I was all, look! A princess! and then told her how beautiful she was. She beamed up at me and told me she was wearing Belle's dress, and I told her again that she was a lovely, lovely princess. Her dad was all, what do you say? and she was like, thank you! and I was like, I used to have one who dressed up like Madeline.

I did, too. When Abby was three, Aunt Ann sent her a Madeline costume for Halloween. Abby did not care if it wasn't October 31--she wore that thing all the time, complete with wig and hat, whenever the mood struck, which was often, and no matter where we were headed.

Of course, Abby is 14 now, so our costume days are way over, and Johanna announced early on that she's not a princess, she's a person, so I never even had such an experience with that kid. (Mismatched neon knee high socks with green capris and a purple shirt? All the time. Actually, that's what Jo is wearing today. Embrace who you are, that's my motto.)

So what I'm saying is that seeing a Very Happy Princess in a Very Crowded Grocery Store was awesome. Every time I spotted that kid I had to laugh. She was just so dang excited to be out in her princess dress. It was a nice contrast to everyone else (myself included) who was simply trying to endure.

Merry Christmas, Belle.

*Thanks again, Thesaurus.com, for giving my mother one less thing to worry about! (Hey there, Madre!)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Minimalism: A win and a loss

A win
I was at my favorite coffee roasters yesterday picking up my free pound o' beans (punch cards are kind of a pain, but also kind of awesome) when I saw this:
Small picture. Oh well. 
In case the picture doesn't translate into something you're familiar with, it's a "Brewing Cone." Essentially you brew your coffee right into your cup with this thing. They use them in coffee shops, apparently. Well, not really the coffee shops I frequent, but anyway, I've been curious about this whole ordeal for a while now. Like... three weeks or something. Joke. Since I read this post on Tammy Stroble's Rowdy Kittens blog... a few months ago. Whatever. Let's just keep it at "awhile," okay? Jeez.

I have been quite unhappy with my Black & Decker coffee pot (you can see a picture of it here) for longer than a while. It essentially works, but all the bells and whistles that prompted me to buy it? Conked out early on. The only thing I like about it is its reusable filter. I have not had to buy paper filters in, like, a couple of years at least.

Long story short, this thing cost about $3.50 at the coffee shop, which seemed like A) a kind of a cheap investment and 2) a way to get my lug of a coffee maker off my counter. You know what, people? I like a clean, clear counter. That's what minimalism has taught me.

Peg, the owner (who rocks), let me try the cone on over my Kleen Kanteen to gage whether or not this contraption would work for me (I have this insulated "kanteen" in navy and it is the love of my life. Also, this is the only time I have ever endorsed something with a misspelled name. Pet peeve. JUST SPELL IT RIGHT!) and it was perfect. So I got one. And this morning I tried it out for the first time.

Peg gave me some pointers: Don't bring your water to a full boil; that can make the coffee bitter. Bring your water to a near boil and let it sit for 30 seconds and then pour it over your grounds. So that's what I did. And you guys! This was the best coffee I have ever, EVER managed to brew in my own house.

So that was awesome. Other reasons I am in love with this thing: Easy to clean, easy to store, easy to pack up, great to take camping (theoretically, since I've only had it a little over 24 hours and we have not been camping in that time), no more electronic coffee makers that are destined for the landfill in two years because hello, quality is for sucks on those things, and I *think* the grounds and filters are compostable. Let me Google that. Yes! 100% biodegradable!

That's $3.50 well spent.

A loss
Johanna came home with a note from the third grade teachers at the beginning of the month saying that instead of doing a class gift exchange, they would be collecting small items to fill six shoe boxes--three for girls, three for boys--to send to children in need. Johanna was completely jacked about this idea, and so was I. Are you kidding me? Best idea ever! At the store, she picked out toothbrushes (I had sample toothpaste and floss at home from the dentist which she also wanted to put in. Who am I to stifle good oral hygiene?) and crayons. We put these items in a bag and got them to the school before the December 10 deadline.

So imagine my surprise when I go to pick her up tonight and see a literal excretion-load of excrement by her backpack. (Thanks, Thesaurus.com! You've cleaned up my language considerably!) I was all, uh, what is this? I thought you weren't exchanging gifts! and Jo was all, my teacher was getting rid of her junk.


So what exactly did Johanna come home with?
She's named the snowman "Charles."
Stickers, a photo craft frame kit from that weird foam stuff, posters, "the real story of Santa" on what appears to be restaurant place mats, an ornament with cotton balls and googlie eyes to make what I can only assume is St. Nick himself, and Charles the Snowman, which is basically knit over Styrofoam balls. Also, Charles' nose is about to fall off. Oh, and four candy canes.

Totes* disappointed, peeps. I made her shovel up all her "treasures" into her room, but I'm itching to just throw it all in the trash. She'll notice this soon after receiving it, though, so I must be crafty and wait until school starts back up in the new year. There are only so many fights I'm having in a day, and also: It's not easy having a minimalist for a mother.

And yeah, I said trash. What else am I supposed to do with this? The thought makes me sick, but I just don't think it's fair to pass it on to some other sucker. 


*I started saying "totes" and "adorbs" ironically, except then I said them too much so now I say them un-ironically, but I feel bad about it, so I think that generally makes it okay.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Abby Texts: Basketball love

Abby: Let me ditch practice and I'll give you a dollar.

Me: Make it a five and you're on.

Abby: Five dollars.

Me: Do I hear ten?

Abby: Twenty. Please.

Me: Wow. This is getting serious...

Abby: Wheeeee.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Very Minimal Birthday

Holy crap, you guys. I just spent an hour and a half writing about Johanna's Very Minimal Birthday, but it's all wrong. The words are there, it's just that there's too many of them. Ironic, right?

Well, anyway. Johanna's ninth birthday was Friday the 13th, and, like last year, she asked if she could have a slumber party to mark the occasion. Also like last year, it did not occur to her to ask to invite more than three friends. This is when raising your kids with low expectations really comes in handy.

Unfortunately, the Nutcracker was taking place on Saturday, and a lot of her little friends were involved with that ordeal. So we could only field a team of two. That turned out to be rather lovely, though. They were all of similar creative personality, so instead of sitting around making cranberry and popcorn garlands like I'd planned, they spent a lot of time stomping around outside in the mud, on a Quest To Find the Queen's Crown.

But hey, we had cake, and homemade pizzas, and a movie before bedtime. We had the lights out at 10:30 p.m., but I have a feeling it was at least 11 p.m. before they settled down. And then they were up before dawn.

Her present was the party, so I asked that no one bring anything else. I just explained that we're trying to stress experiences over stuff, and no one seemed to think that was too weird. It's all in the spin, I guess. I always feel a little rude for assuming that people are automatically going to bring presents (thanks for the complex, Miss Manners!), but I'm not leaving life lessons to chance.

Aside from the party, we gave her a set of books she'd been wanting, and were prepared to go to Walmart (ugh) to let her pick out a Lego set, except our Walmart had a terrible Lego selection, so she asked if she could go with Plan B. Plan B ended up being a Monster High Password Journal, which she has been wanting for a couple of years now but I've been putting off because Password Journals do not typically get great reviews online. But she is so happy.

The end. I have no conclusion, except to wonder if this is perhaps Johanna's new birthday tradition. And whether it will ever occur to her to ask for more than three guests. :)

P.S. I probably should have mentioned that birthdays have always been pretty minimal in our household, mostly because I am mentally unable to handle even the whisper of a thought of throwing some kind of birthday bash for 30. I've done those kind of parties for very special occasions (baptisms, First Communions, Confirmation... does Thanksgiving count?) and it's exhausting. Anyway, so that's why Johanna doesn't bat an eye at the thought of a no-gift birthday slumber party. Because just the slumber party is a step up from what she usually gets. Apparently we were minimalists before we were minimalists...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Abby Texts: Street cred

Abby: I hate science.

Me: Me too! Let's be bffs!

Abby: No Mom. It would ruin my street cred.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Just another day at the office

Yesterday this guy came into the office munching on peanuts and then he's like, it's rude of me to be eating, except that doesn't stop him from continuing to eat, and I figured that with the superpowers I possess as a mother (I've seen ALL SORTS of gross things) I could totally handle the scene, but it turns out I couldn't because not long after he said that, a peanut fragment left his mouth and hit my desk and that's kind of a deal breaker as far as my personal strength goes.

The end, I guess.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Project 333: Month 3 list and thoughts

Some o' my items.
Since I gave myself permission to make my first Project 333 extravaganza a learning experience, and thus able to switch things out after every month, I decided to take a hard look at my closet and the items I didn't wear very much during November (or, in some cases, at all) and start fresh in December.

Well, sort of fresh. My favorites stayed put. The rest of it got piled on the bed. And then I commenced with "shopping my closet." You're supposed to box your extra clothing up, but mine is just in my wardrobe. Potential trade-ins were also tossed on the bed, and I began mixing and matching and kind of tearing my hair out.

Because you know what? I haven't really missed anything that's been in the wardrobe at all. Still, I pressed on. I tried very hard to make my denim shirt work, but decided that I don't actually like it very much, plus it only went with a couple of things. (Turns out my favorite dress pants do not work with denim shirts. Ah, well.) I also tried hard to make a relatively new grey button down work, but... I just couldn't. So anyway, yadda yadda yadda, a bunch of my wardrobe-bound clothing ended up in bags to give away. If anyone wears a size medium to large and wants to look through my stuff, you're welcome to it. :)

I also ditched some things that are wearing out and/or I'm just not into anymore. A couple items that are seriously wearing out but are staples stayed in my closet--they're on my list for replacement, but until I find something suitable, I'm going to just make do.

In order to make 33 items (because I was down to 26 and I didn't really want to go that low... mostly because I'm too scared), I added back a few things that I subtracted for November. I know, that's crazy talk, but I promise to ditch anything that I don't regularly wear January 1. (Maybe I really will wear those long-sleeve button downs when it's freezing outside? Or maybe I will finally get it through my head that between the idea and the reality falls the shadow. I'm apparently a slow learner.)

Anyway, I am still surprised at how much I have learned from this exercise (wants verses needs and what compels me to shop--boredom, mostly, and misplaced dreams), even if I am cheating this go-round. I *think* I'll be able to hack it for the January-March period like God and Courtney Carver intended. (Here's the Project 333 link in case you're interested.) That's the goal, anyway.

My December list of 33 items:

Black long-sleeve t-shirt                 
Navy long-sleeve t-shirt
White long-sleeve t-shirt                
Black tank top
White tank top                             
Navy t-shirt
Black t-shirt                 
Black/white dot button down shirt           
White button down shirt                 
Teal button down shirt                 
Dark grey button down shirt
Black button down shirt
Black cardi                             
Orange/red cardi
Grey cardi
Plum cardi                             
Teal cardi                             
Black turtleneck sweater     
Beige jacket                             
Denim jacket                       
Black skirt                             
Denim skirt                             
Purple skirt 
Beige skirt     
Grey plaid skirt     
Grey pants                             
Black pants                             
Beige pants                       
Dress denim                             
Scarves: Teal, red, black, navy, orange           
Coat and gloves                       
Shoes: Danskos, boots, ankle boots         

Friday, December 6, 2013

My worst day

Ten years ago today, my general feeling of "something's not quite right" was confirmed when I miscarried after 8 weeks of pregnancy.

Ten years ago today was a Saturday. The sun was shining. Abby was four. Eric was at his parents' house helping his father with a project. Abby and I had planned to go to the craft bazaar at the local Methodist church (which we did) and then to the store to get a wreath holder and candy canes (which we did). I felt terrible. I did my best to ignore it.

Of course we ran into all kinds of people everywhere--my friend Mara's parents, acquaintances I'd only talked to via email for my column--and everyone was in the mood to chat. By the time Abby and I were back in the car headed home, I couldn't ignore the fact that I was basically in labor.

So I breathed in and I breathed out between contractions, took Abby to my mother-in-law (who met me at the door and told me to get the hell off my feet), and came home and died. Well, not literally. And then Eric came home because his mother found him and told him the news, and he let me cry and that was that.

Ten years later, I feel blessed. This morning, as I was taking the girls to school, listening to Johanna plan her birthday slumber party and Abby talking about her sucky basketball team, I wanted to pull the car over for a group hug. Ten years ago was the worst day of my entire life. Exactly one decade later, I have two healthy, lovely girls. I can remember the kindness of my sister-in-law, who came to sit with me because she didn't want me to be alone, without cringing from remembered pain. I know when I can't be strong, Eric can be strong for us both. I know that people really love us.

I've been rewriting this next paragraph all morning, and it's still not perfect, but here's what I want to tell you: Please don't be afraid to talk about miscarriage, whether it's your own or someone you know. So many of us have experienced this, and it's comforting to know that you're not alone--and to know that you will live through it. And I can tell you firsthand someone going through a miscarriage isn't likely to forget they are, so you won't be jarring them to reality if you ask about it. It's uncomfortable when people veer away from the topic, actually--it's all you're thinking about, and being able to freely express your sorrow / feelings / whatever is a relief. Um, that's all.

Oh, and P.S. On December 8, I saw a doctor to confirm that I had miscarried--which I had, completely--and exactly one year later, that was Johanna's due date.  I tell you what, people, coincidence or divine intervention, I don't care. Johanna is our own personal miracle.

P.P.S. This was a hard post to write, and I normally don't share quite so much of myself on the blog, but I felt it important to do so. My next post will be happier, I promise.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Morning view

They say when you start talking about the weather, you've run out of things to say.
That sounds about right...