Saturday, December 26, 2009

Afterwards

We are slowly digging out from under the weight of Christmas. A white Christmas means a tougher time getting where you want to go, and thus a longer day. While we certainly enjoyed ourselves, we were both exhausted and relieved at the end of everything. We sat on our sofa, glassy-eyed. And then this morning we both got up and went to work.

Perhaps the best Christmas present I received was the snow; for reasons that are boring and complicated, I didn't have to be to work until 7:30am today (the usual is 6:30am). The extra hour did me right, and I didn't feel like I needed to pin my eyes open in order to make it to Starbucks. Best of all, Saturday is the day that I get to do as I please with the little lady I take care of. Not that this means we're running wild; rather, we are content to go to our usual places and end up at my house for lunch and naptime. While she sleeps, I clear the clutter, start some laundry, make some lists. I think about what I want for 2010, and I make a list for that, too.

Some of my goals for 2010 may seem a bit controversial, depending on who is reading and what is read into my plans. I'd like to read a couple of religious texts, neither of which belongs to the faith that I ascribe to. I've found myself frustrated lately by how much people assume they know and how little they actually know. I include myself in that group of people. In the interest of being better informed, I'll be reading both the Book of Mormon and the Qur'an. Particularly in the case of the latter book, I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions and assumptions about what it says or does not say, and I'd like to know what is true and what is not. In an age of e-mail forwards and tea party madness, I'd like to be well informed, and not just by the internet.

The other goals for 2010 are not really goals at all, just things I'd like to do. I'd love to bring home a daughter, but I don't know if that will happen, so perhaps there is a goal hidden there, and that goal is to be at peace with whatever happens, as it happens. I will make a lot more handmade goods, as many as my budget allows. I got this book for Christmas (thanks, Tabor and Drew!) and plan to make both bags inside, hopefully out of oilcloth or other easily-wiped-clean material. (Check out the selection at Hart's Fabric, and just try to tell me I won't have a hard time deciding which to use.) Finally, I'd like to purchase the large items we'll need for Magnolia; even if she doesn't arrive in 2010, having her crib and dresser will be a load off my mind.

What about you? What are your post-holiday/2010 plans?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Make it Merry



This is my favorite Christmas song, and I mean the whole thing--song, Muppets, John Denver.

There is so much to be hopeful about this Christmas, so much to be thankful for, so many ways to show love. May your days be filled with joy and hope and thankfulness and love. Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thinking Out Loud; Just Ignore Me

Lately we have been in touch with a woman who will be helping us with adoption funding. She has given us (uh, me, really) the assignment of writing our story so that we can share effectively with people who may want to help us. I sat down late last night only to come down with a case of writer's block. The problem isn't that I don't know our story; it's just that when it comes right down to it, our story is fairly simple. We believe in adoption. We believe it is the way we are meant to build our family. We believe that every child deserves a loving family, and we believe that we can be that to a child who does not share our DNA. And...and...I've always just known. My heart has always known that what would make my family mine would not be common DNA, but a different kind of bond. Can I just say that and not have to say more? Is it fair to our daughter to go into the deeper issues of tragedy and famine and epidemics and need? I want her story to belong to her, and I want to be her mother because I simply want to be her mother, not because I feel like I should save some poor orphan or be a noble human being. Of course it makes sense that if there are children who need families and we can be a family to a child, we would put the all of us together in one basket and call it good. But to take it further than that? I'm not sure that's the right way to go.

Hm.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Needed: To Do List Editor

When I write my to do lists, I need someone to stand over me, to hover, really, and say things like, "You're doing what during the half an hour you're home?" and "It does take time to do things like pee." Because I am consistently overly optimistic about what I can accomplish in a given amount of time, and I never, ever, ever think about the fact that I might need to, I don't know, take off my coat or use the bathroom or put away the groceries. In fact, thanks to overlooking these sorts of things, I've got three bags half full of non-perishables sitting on the kitchen floor and I've needed to visit the ladies' room ever since I walked in the door but haven't. I can do it later! I must conquer this list!

But instead what I have when I am making my list is usually someone who is short and thinks that they need a "turn" with the "pen! pen! PEN! MY PEN?" Today a little fellow leaned over so quickly to observe the movement of pen on paper that he poked himself in the eye without even getting to take his "turn? my turn? pen?" and was sorely disappointed that even though the object had injured him, he still wouldn't get his turn.

Maybe what I really need is to hang out with realistically minded grown-ups more often.

You know, besides the baristas at Starbucks.

Or in addition to. I think in addition to would be nice.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I'll Have to Have My Husband Install a Button

Oh, these days are full. Yesterday I had every intention of getting all the rest of the handmade goods photographed and put in our Finding Magnolia Storenvy shop, but I was too busy being confused to make that happen, and after that I was busy doing something else, and after that I was busy working, and after that I was finishing up some Christmas crafts while the holiday season is still young. Still, it's OPEN! Just handmade cards so far, and not even all of them that I've made (see: difficulty completing task of photographing products), but you can click here and go on and get some if you want some. (You might want some; I'm told they're nice.) Even better, if you join Storenvy, you can also follow our store so that you'll know when we get new products photographed and ready to go. Coming soon(ish): Original art by Corey McGhee! Kid-sized shirts with art by a kid artist! Adorable baby beanies from Erica! The cutest aprons ever from Nicole! Potholders once I get around to making them! Aaaaaaaand: Official Finding Magnolia tees and tote bags!

Also coming soon(ish): a button in the sidebar that you can click to get over to our store. I'm sure I could put it there myself, but I'll save that task for someone who's much quicker at it than I am.

But for now: HOORAY! IT'S FINALLY OPEN!

EDITED TO ADD: Hey, look! My husband installed a button! Look to the left! Now click it! Wasn't that satisfying?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best Laid Plans

I pull off the outer cardboard wrapper and then the shrink wrap and bend open my 2010 planner. It's like the Moleskine, but pink and recycled. The pages look a little different, but not much. It's...stiffer. But I chose recycled, and I chose a wee bit cheaper, and now 2010 will be pink, with stiff pages. It will get broken in soon enough. I open to a random week in July, choose Wednesday as the day, and write it down, in ink, with a period at the end to make it count: BEGIN XMAS CRAFTS.

I love all the things I am making this year. They are good choices, every one. But they fall on top of each other, and they expand into my entire house, and I've now got a mobile burning spot on the muscles that run from right shoulder blade, to neck, to head. The only time it doesn't hurt is when I am in bed. I know it will go away if I sleep well and for long enough, but I don't have the time. I don't have the time because I began my Christmas crafts in December.

I think to myself how funny it would be if I have this date mapped out in ink, like it's official, and that's the day we go meet our daughter, and everything changes. Will I still do the Christmas crafts early if I've got a pair of chocolate brown eyes to stare into, and handmade toys to make? Will I still work my heart out on things that are not for her when she is sleeping?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

We shall see.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pet Peeeeeeve

When people say, "Wait until you have kids!" with that tone, the one that insinuates that I just don't know what I'll be getting into, it really chaps my hide. I am not calling any one person out, but family members do tend to be the worst about this. I work with kids, people. I know a lot about them. I have been with them at every hour of the day and sometimes overnight. I am a childcare professional. I know about the tiny people!

In particular, I would like to point out that, yes, I understand that children like brightly colored plastic toys that typically use size C batteries. This does not mean that we will eventually succumb to buying our children these toys, even if they like them, particularly when they are small*. I know! So mean! But look: We are weird. In particular, I am weird, and I am dragging my husband right along with my weird self on this. I have witnessed children in the throes of joy while playing with a hideous blinking, artificial-music-making monstrosity. I've also witnessed them in the throes of joy playing with tupperware and a whisk. Guess which one I am going to pick?**

This is not just about how annoying I think kids' toys can be. It's not just a selfish wish for only beautiful things in my home (though, yes, that does factor in). It's about a larger philosophy of child-rearing. It's about wanting to create an atmosphere of exploration and imagination and creativity. It's about slower living and purposeful parenting that reflects what we value and believe. And it's about the way I choose to make our home. I want our daughter to grow up in a place of comfort and peace and joy. I'm sure there will be many compromises made along the way, but when it comes to our core principles***, we will stand our ground.

*We are not technology-averse, obviously, and we also understand that our children's preferences will differ from ours as they grow. We plan to make informed decisions, considering every angle, not just if our child really really really really likes it please please please everyone else has one. We will sometimes buy things for them that we don't really love, but we also reserve the right to say no. In any case, we hope to have indoctrinated them well enough that they won't like all the really awful stuff anyway.

**I also plan on making felt food and providing our child(ren) with a variety of Waldorf-inspired toys. You can roll your eyes as much as you want, but just wait until you see the felt grapes I'm going to be making. You are going to be exceedingly jealous.

**We are hippie weirdo tree hugging bleeding heart liberal freaks. We don't do things the way most people do them. We are sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but we are not sorry that we do it. We love being hippie weirdo tree hugging bleeding heart liberal freaks!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The First Craft of Christmas

I now totally get why people who sew often devote an entire room in their home to that pursuit. I still am a bit confused about the devoted-solely-to-scrapbooking rooms, but whatever. It is unlikely that I will ever be a scrapbooker, so I will remain confused and let the scrapbookers do what they must. But with sewing, there's just so much stuff. The fabric is only the beginning, and then come the notions and trims and interfacing and batting and good grief, maybe I need a whole room with it's own walk-in closet. I would also like a large table of the size and height used to cut the fabric at the fabric store. So basically now I'm looking at turning my whole house into an enormous craft room. We will have to sleep in the basement, with the spiders I disturbed while getting out sewing supplies.

What I really enjoy about sewing is how customizable everything is. Most patterns offer options, and even if they don't, you get to choose your fabrics. Pretty much the whole thing is a bit of a pain, honestly, but in the end, when there's something like this?

first holiday craft project--COMPLETE!

It's pretty worth it. Granted, I could maaaaaybe have chosen something without pleats and had a far more positive experience overall, but we'll save that for my next pattern purchase. For now, I've got three more of those suckers and a whole wad of pot holders to turn out, not to mention the non-sewing crafts.

Next year, I will begin holiday preparations in May.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Moron Central

I hate asking people for things. You might think that I like to do it because I ask people for things all the time on this blog, but I do not. I hate it. I hate inconveniencing people. I hate inconveniencing people especially if it's partly my fault that I need to inconvenience them.

Jarod and I have been trying for some time to get our police clearance letters from the local police. I was told by more than one person that I needed to get it from one of the local stations, any station, just ask for the background check on letterhead and it will be done! But it turned out that this was not the case, and after inconveniencing plenty of people, I finally got the e-mail address of someone who could do what we needed and even have it notarized right there, without our help. I was so giddy at this news that I failed to notice that the person who typed up our clearance letters misspelled both Jarod's first and middle names. I feel like a moron.

I also feel like I don't want to be the one to tell the nice man who typed this up for us that the copy he sent me for my okay had major typos that I did not catch, and thus he printed and had someone notarize a letter we cannot use. So I'm making Jarod tell him, and Jarod agreed to it. Either that makes both of us morons or it makes one of us a really kind, loving person. It's probably the latter.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It Happened Tonight

It was a surprise attack, as usual, out of nowhere. Two threw his blanket over his head and One's head and they both hit the ground, hard. There was an audible THWACK! of body part against wood floor. I raced over, swooped Two into the time out chair with a stern admonishment about tackling little sisters, then looked over One. She was on the bottom, so I assumed it was her body part that made the sound. But she was fine. Pissed about it, but fine. As the hysterics abated, I turned to speak calmly to him about why we can't do that and please apologize and give a kiss, I know you didn't mean to, but...oh...my...I...BLOOD. All over his face, dripping down onto his red shirt. Handy that I put him in that color today, I now think. But then I only panicked, not knowing just where the blood was coming from. In better light, gently swabbing away all the red, red, flowing red, I found it. A neat split of skin, right between his eyes. A missing cell phone, a press of a wrong button, a parent walking into the house just as his phone began to ring from my call, and it was all over from my end.

Three hours and four stitches later, he was fine. He got a new toy car and carried in one of his dad's special footballs from the car. His dad said, "It's all part of being a boy." Two pointed to his band-aid and the anklet they put on as his ID at the hospital. He is fine. No one blames me.

But still, my inner Nervous Nellie still feels a little bit shaken.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day, a day that is devoted to one disease that affects a lot of people of very different backgrounds. I have been thinking a lot about this today because the fact of the matter is that, if I am honest, I must admit that I feel a great deal more compassion for some living with the disease than others. If you are in a high risk group and knowingly engage in unprotected, high risk behaviors, then the consequence is of your own doing. Are we doing enough to educate people so that they know the risks? Probably not. But are there people who know the risks and choose to think that it won't happen to them? Of course. This is true of many behaviors that lead to a variety of disastrous consequences. Use you brains, adults. You know better. Get tested. If you choose to have sex, practice safe sex. Not sure if your partner is clean and they refuse to use protection? Keep your trousers zipped. Keep your panties on. If sex is so important to you that you'd risk getting a disease that is, as a doctor on the radio said today, "a ticking time bomb," perhaps you need to talk to a professional about your life priorities.

ANYWAY.

The tragedy of this situation is that people are contracting the disease innocently; maybe a husband who is infected brings it home to his wife, or a mother who is infected passes it on to her child during birth. Maybe the needles in the clinics are tainted or the blood received was not clean. This is where the real tragedy lies, that this can be prevented for these innocents, but those who need to take responsibility either don't know better or can't do better. It's a long and twisted history, but it can get better.



This weighs especially heavy on my heart as we trudge ever closer to our adoption. It breaks my heart that children who are HIV+ and orphaned have a much harder time finding a family than those who are not HIV+. It breaks my heart that we have made the choice that we can't be part of that solution at this time. And it breaks my heart that this is even a reality in our world.

I was in Tanzania in 1994, a white teenager in a group of white teenagers carrying a giant fold-up movie screen around Mount Kilimanjaro to show a few films. One was the story of Jesus (he was speaking Swahili! Who knew?), another was called Zawadi, and a third was an AIDS education movie, the name of which I do not remember. There are a lot of myths then (and still now) about the spread and the cure of HIV. I didn't realize then that we were ahead of the game when it came to AIDS education, back in the pre-Bono, pre-RED days, but today I feel honored to even have been a small part of that. One night I held the ropes that kept the screen from swaying and watched the villagers stare up at the screen, their eyes wide with the wonder of a movie in their very own village. It was magical. It was good. I hope to do more good today and everyday. What this little video expresses is so very true. I cannot wait to get back to Africa when we go to get our daughter. Because I do need Africa more than Africa needs me; I need it to build my family, and I need it to remind me of who I am and what I stand for and what I truly need.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Has It Come to This? Yes.

Some time ago I decided I would switch from conventional deodorant to something a little more earth and body friendly. I picked up my first Tom's of Maine stick who-knows-when, and thus began my cycle of using natural deodorant, then giving up and switching back to conventional in a pinch, then finding another natural deodorant that I thought might be okay, then having to buy another stick of what I fondly call Cancer Deodorant, even though that cancer part hasn't exactly been proved. I still prefer to live as chemical-free as possible, and deodorant seems a pretty basic item to be able to switch. The problem with most natural deodorants is that they either aren't effective for me or they irritate my skin so that my armpits feel aflame or, usually, both. I'm sorry, but I cannot get behind putting something on my skin that neither works nor is comfortable. Natural living shouldn't be physically painful. After countless natural deodorant failures, I finally accepted that I would either have to spend a great deal of money on deodorant or make my own. I chose to make my own. During the busy days of summer, I bought my last stick of Cancer Deodorant, vowing to make my own once it ran out. It ran out on Saturday. Yesterday, I made my own deodorant.

I started with a good recipe, snatched from Angry Chicken and jotted on a post-it that I stuck to my computer. One of the joys of the internet is that you can find so many recipes for everything, then read what people liked and didn't like about them. I chose this particular one because I could gather the ingredients at stores I already frequented, and it seemed simple. Plus, three weeks of effectiveness seems pretty promising, does it not? So I gathered my ingredients in front of my dirty microwave and set to work. If you can call it work. Because people? It was not that hard.

homemade deodorant supplies

Not pictured: the safety pin I used to puncture the vitamin E gel capsules.

pre-melting stage

Into a microwave-safe bowl, I measured out three tablespoons shea butter, three tablespoons baking soda, two tablespoons cocoa butter, two tablespoons corn starch, and the oil from inside two vitamin E gel capsules, punctured with the aforementioned safety pin in order to get the oil out. I microwaved it for forty-ish seconds, added in my essential oil, then whisked it. Then I added more essential oil and whisked it again. After which I added more essential oil and finally felt satisfied with the aroma. I gave it a final whisk for good measure.

whisked for added pleasure

I still had some clumps, and I'm not sure why, but I whisked and whisked and whisked, and when they didn't go anywhere, I gave up and just poured it into the jar already. I didn't actually have a clean, fresh jar on hand, so I opened up a small jar of apple butter, dumped it out into a fridge-worthy container, washed the jar, and made do.

in the jar

It was still pretty warm, so I stuck it in the fridge while I showered so it could firm up. Once I was all fresh and clean, I got it out of the fridge and gave it a test run. I stayed fresh-smelling all evening, and most of the day today, through a workout even. So far, the deodorant totally wins the deodorant competition and now graces my bathroom shelf.

homemade deodorant, at home on the bathroom shelf

This process was incredibly easy. The only issue I ran into is that the cocoa butter was a little hard to scoop out, and I ended up with cocoa butter snow on my kitchen counter. Next time I'll set it somewhere warm before I need to measure it, and that should take care of the problem. When it came to adding the essential oil, I also had a small challenge in trying to figure out how much was enough, but it didn't take long to figure out that I could rub a bit on the back of my hand to approximate how it would smell on my armpits. I kept adding until I couldn't smell the cocoa butter anymore, but the scent was still fairly light. All in all, it was simple and no fuss. To apply, I just scrape some from the top of the pot with my fingers and rub it into my skin like lotion. Easy, peasy, with no weird ingredients in sight. Success!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Next Day

I have finally showered and changed...into a fresh set of pajamas. Many people own clothes for lounging around the house, but my categories include only Clothes for Leaving the House, Clothes for Various Workouts, and Pajamas for Night or Anytime. I tried to be one of those people who could throw on some yoga pants and a random t-shirt and feel good about leaving the house like that, even if I'm not going to yoga, but that's just not who I am. I love pajamas and I love getting dressed, and there's not much in between for me. So if I'm staying home, I'm wearing pajamas. If I'm going out, I'm putting together an outfit to suit the situation.

Unless, of course, I'm staying in for my own birthday party. Then I'm putting together an outfit, complete with accessories.

The great benefit to having my birthday celebration in my own home was that at the end of the night, we were already where we needed to be. I woke up this morning to leftover snacks (another fabulous benefit) and a quiet house that still held the remnants of last night's joy. It is good to be at home. As much as I desire to become a renter, I do love our little house.* We've put a lot of thought and care and hard work into it, and we have finally reached the point of having enough things done to feel like the house is put together and presentable. How perfect to have a reason to vacuum all the cat hair fluffs and hunker down for the evening. I am truly grateful for all the friends who came over with their snacks and their gifts and simply themselves. Our house was warm with the presence of so many good folks. (Warm enough, in fact, to have to turn on the air conditioning--in November--to keep our guests comfortable.) I think this may be my favorite birthday so far.

Today I have taken the day just to be. With so many projects to do, it is hard to sit still and slow down and rest, but I've been needing a day like this for a long time, and I'd be foolish not to take advantage of a cancelled meeting and an empty, quiet space. Tomorrow I will return to the to-do list with renewed vigor, but today...well, today is just for me. And I am grateful.

*So if anyone would like to purchase our house and rent it to us, that would be perfect. There are a few small projects that need to be done. Surely you won't mind retiling the tub area and putting in the patio?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Birthday = Awesome

There were a couple of small snags to the day, but nothing to write home complaining about. Six-thirty is pretty early for a two-year-old to want to have a dance party to a Wiggles CD, you know? But the day whooshed by and ended with good friends and good food in our home. It was a good, good day. If thirty-four looks like this all the time, it will be a stellar year.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wishful Thinking

For most of NaBloPoMo, I've gotten my post in just under the midnight wire, and tonight is no exception. The day started at 6am, and aside from a brief lie-down on the sofa between jobs, I've just kept rolling all day. This is partly due to caffeine and partly due to my nature. I like to hit it hard so I can relax without a care later, and I've been doing a lot of that first part lately, but I don't seem to make it to relaxing without a care very often. There is always something else to do, particularly at this time of life. I thought that getting the home study done and having most of our adoption paperwork together would lighten the load, but it turns out that it just leads to other things that need to be done. For instance, I now think that we should scrape, patch, and reseal the basement walls before the baby comes. I don't know who's going to be doing that, but doesn't it sound like a good idea? It will sound like an even better idea when we have a baby to keep us busy and it rains hard enough to form a wading pool in random areas of the basement. Then we'll go, "Wouldn't it have been great if we'd repaired the cracks and sealed our basement?" And we won't need to answer because that's what we call a rhetorical question.

We've talked a lot about not wanting to be homeowners anymore, and we really mean it. Last night we walked by some sweet old apartments that are just the style I like, and I looked in all the windows that allowed my nosiness, dreaming of what it would be like to live there, to be in a better location than we're in now, and to have a guy to call if there's water in the basement. Maybe the guy wouldn't do anything about it, but at least it wouldn't be our problem. That probably sounds terrible, but I don't care. I want to have a guy to call when something breaks. I want the work to come from someone else's hard labor and the cost to come out of someone else's bank account. Not to mention wanting to be close enough to walk somewhere worth going and to have sidewalks take me all the way there. I want to raise our daughter in a place that is near enough to both a park and a coffee shop that we can walk there easily. In twenty-seven minutes, it will be my birthday, and this is, officially, my thirty-fourth birthday wish.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving

There is a lot to be thankful for, but there is also an alarm that will ring for me at 6am. And so, here is a picture of my cat doing what I hope to be doing quite soon.

come on, now

I am thankful for the cat and for my bed and for Sunday, when I will finally get to sleep in until noon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas(ish) Wish

I'm putting on my thinking cap, trying to figure out some crafty things to make for Christmas that will be special but not take too much time or too much money. And in the meantime, I am wishing for something handmade, but I may just set a little money aside and order it; I don't expect anyone to order something special when I am doing all handmade gifts. Besides, this has a purpose all it's own: I've been wanting to order a little something to wear while we wait for our daughter, and this seems to fit the bill. I would like it engraved with "i will find you." When she is home, I will pass this one on to her and have a little something made with both her chosen-by-us and her chosen-in-Ethiopia name on it. Maybe this one, which I can add to should she someday have a sibling.

And then I'll order my mom jeans, because that's what you do when you start wearing things with your child's name on it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Convenience Wins

Tonight I cooked dinner for my husband. I made a frozen pizza. Um. Yes. When I decreased my work hours, I stopped putting frozen pizzas in the freezer because I figured it would force me to cook if I knew there wasn't any sort of insanely easy backup plan. And while I have been cooking a good deal more now that I'm working less, lately the cooking has mostly been for dinners outside our home, and usually it's a dish or two that are sides or desserts. Even if there are leftovers, it's just mashed potatoes or salted brown butter crispy treats or something that isn't exactly a meal unto itself. So until the holidays are over, I'll be putting pizzas in the freezer just in case. I realize that there are other quick meals, but for us pizza seems to be the best option for two tired people who have been busy all day (or for one whose wife has left him to fend for himself for the evening), so there you have it. Thank you, Whole Foods, for the delicious frozen meals.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Television as Food for Thought

Tonight was the all star television-at-work lineup of Intervention, Hoarders, and The Botany of Desire. The first two featured cats in one way or another; in fact, on Hoarders they found seventy-six hoarded cats in a woman's home, only forty-one of which were living. Later, when they were cleaning out her garage, they found many more kitten carcasses and even a full-grown cat that appeared to be petrified in a reclined position. So. WOW. The third show was by far the most intellectually stimulating, and it reminded me that I need to share my theory of why people who smoke pot get the munchies.

The basic premise is thus: THC (the part of pot that makes you feel high) is taken up by brain receptors that are designed to receive a substance called anandamide (meaning bliss) that the body produces naturally. Anandamide is found to be related to the ability to forget things effectively, and it is also what is released that causes what is referred to as the runner's high. I'm sure it varies from runner to runner, but the only time I've ever felt a true runner's high (and it is markedly different from the experience of enjoyment when I'm simply having a really good run) has been when I have been exerting myself quite enthusiastically. Most notably, it's shown up during the longest runs I've done. For instance, when I've trained for the Pikes Peak Marathon, once the long runs on consecutive days hit at least twenty miles for one run, I can almost surely count on a runner's high the day of the second long run. It is my theory that when the receptors pick up anandamide, it also signals to the brain that there has been great exertion, and thus there will be the need for food, and a lot of it. It would make sense, then, that when the same state is introduced artificially through THC, the brain would receive the same signals and result in the feeling of hunger. I know that after the second long run, I am often so hungry that I can eat through plates of food and still feel hungry, only to finally be satisfied by something completely random, such as jelly beans and pretzels. Together. So tell me, smokers of the ganja, is this the kind of hunger you feel? Could my theory be correct?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

New and Improved

After years of standing on the toilet and looking in the medicine cabinet mirror to see how my shoes look with (part of) my outfit, I finally got a full length mirror. You may say, "But Mary, those mirrors only cost $5 at Target, why ever would you wait so long?" The answer is that I thought they cost $7. I stand corrected, and now in the possession of a mirror in which I can see my whole self at once. It makes me want to dress well every day. It makes me want to wear more accessories. It makes me want to dance.

Okay, maybe not that last one, but still. I do like to dance; I'll probably do that anyway.

But not in front of the mirror.

Maybe.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winterized

Changing out the spring and summer bed linens for the winter set makes me feel a bit like Martha Stewart.

winterized

Except, you know, with cheaper sheets and no staff to attend to these things for me.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Help! I Need Somebody!

As many of you know, Jarod and I are working on opening a Storenvy shop to fundraise for our adoption. It will include various handmade goods and also t-shirts and tote bags with our Finding Magnolia logo on them. I've got a basic design down for the shirts/bags, but it lacks a certain something. Like awesomeness. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to improve upon our current design. The basics need to remain the same. In particular, on the design that includes the Africa outline, the flower needs to be in that spot because that's where Ethiopia is. I'd prefer to stick to a single ink color for printing, but two or three colors would be fine if it makes the design extra super awesome. So here we go:

Text only design, for shirts:

finding magnolia text design

Africa outline design for shirts and tote bags:

finding magnolia africa design

Also, if you care to weigh in on shirt and bag colors, please do. We'll do girlie shirts and unisex shirts.

If your design is chosen, I will not only be forever grateful to you, but I will also bake you something delicious and either deliver it personally or ship it (depending on your location, of course).

Now get to it! I need you!

I almost forgot! E-mail designs to me at marymuses at gmail dot com.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Currently Coveting

Boots.

Coat.

Tights.

Fall and winter dressing is my favorite. Bring on the layers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So You'd Rather Not Work Out

But you feel like you should. That slice of delicious Murray's ice cream cake in your stomach and those milk chocolate discs you ate on a whim this afternoon are talking about vacationing on your waistline, and you think you might want to work them off so you can still button your trousers. Worry not! I have a solution! Follow these easy step to become motivated:

1. In the springtime, when hope is springing eternal and you've forgotten what cold feels like, have the nice man who is installing your new energy-saving thermostat program the HEAT setting to Should Be Wearing a Sweater for daytime hours and Should Be Crawling Under a Down Comforter While Still Wearing That Sweater for the night hours. You know, to save energy! After all, you can always put on a sweater and/or snuggle under a down comforter when it gets cold, right? Right!

2. Forget where you put the instructions for reprogramming the thermostat.

3. Come home from dinner with friends and put on your summer workout wear. We're talking shorts and sports bra for ladies, just shorts for men. The key here is plenty of exposed skin.

4. Begin to shiver. Violently.

5. Hit play on the workout DVD because anything seems better than being that cold.

And you've done it! Now you just have to make the transition from "I'm feeling warm now" to "I'll keep going even though I'm warm and I hate pushups." Good luck, and may your abs be grateful for the extra attention.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Well...Um...Yeah.

I never know what to say about a day like today. Hi, I woke up this morning and never stopped moving until just now, but I have little to show for all that rushing around. In fact, I got a certificate for the one time today that I wasn't in motion, during our Newborn Care for Adoptive Families class. For the rest of the day, I got nothin'.

Well, except this:

yes, i decorated something for christmas

Shut up, my pumpkins are rotting and I had no choice. Maybe rotting pumpkins scream THANKFULNESS! to some of you, but to me they scream COMPOST. So Christmas decor it is. The end.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Three Sets of Three Sentences

Tonight I had the privilege of digging a booger the size of Montana out of a squalling 11-month-old's nose. I would have left it, but it was slowly smothering her. This is the life of glamour that I lead.

...

We met with a financial advisor today to talk about life insurance and retirement savings and what we'd need to save in order to put just one child through college. College will cost a lot in twenty years. Perhaps Magnolia should be an only child.

...

I don't mind this kind of weather, particularly if I can stay in my own house and just glimpse it through the windows. There's nothing better than being cozy in a little house and baking brownies. Okay, wait, maybe eating those brownies is better.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

NSFW or Probably for Your Mother

Mom, you won't like it. Good thing you still have dial-up. For the rest of you, this expletive rich video is the new fave at our house. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

So Close We Could Hear Them Breathing

I guess I didn't realize how much I love modern dance until tonight. I mean, I love dance, and if a movie has choreographed numbers, you can bet I'll see it in the theatre, even if it otherwise probably sucks (ahem*DirtyDancingHavanaNights*ahem). It's rare, though, that I get to see a live performance. Much of the time it has more to do with my ignorance of area performances than anything else. But tonight my friend Rachel invited me to see the Paul Taylor Dance Company perform, and since the tickets were free, and I was free, I was all about that. I figured we'd be in the back or the balcony or something, but we ended up in the second row. I could see every facial expression and hear the dancers breathe. Amazing. If you have a chance to have such an experience, you should take it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Life in Post-Its and Desk Clutter

I'm having trouble focusing on anything but the second post-it from the left, which is my list of things that remain to be done in order to finish our dossier for the adoption.

life right now

Though it might be good to focus on the first post-it on the left, which is a homemade deodorant recipe (oh yes, it is; I have become that much of a tree-hugging hippie weirdo) as I am nearly out of my cancer-causing deoderant and think that fall is a good time to switch. I can check for efficacy without taking any big, sweaty risks. If it works, I'll probably start preaching the Gospel of Homemade Deodorant, and won't that be fun? I bet you just can't wait.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This is my 1001st Post, and I'm Going to Talk About My Wardrobe

Kinda missed the fact that yesterday was my thousandth post. I like that it was what it was, that I didn't notice, that writing here is less about how many posts and how much I can say and more about, well, nothing. I can't believe that all three of you still show up to read this crap. But thanks! And here's to 1001 more posts.

Maybe it started with watching too much What Not to Wear, or maybe it had something to do with seeing so many fabulously dressed folks on the web, but at some point I started really paying attention to what I wear and how often and how it makes me feel. I started to loosen up my rules about clearance racks and only clearance racks and I'm sorry, that costs more than $14.99 and it's not on the clearance rack. I began steadily building a wardrobe with items that cost more than I am comfortable admitting I spent. But here's the thing: nearly every single item I bought that I felt guilty about due to price, I still wear and love. It started with a pair of Camper Twins years ago, shoes that I wore twice this week, which are still in great shape, which I still like, which have never caused me pain of the sort only obtained through shoes purchased on clearance at a discount outlet. I'm not saying that I haven't gotten cheap things that I love, but when it comes to ratio of Love It! to Shouldn't Have, Not Ever, the pricier items are clearly winning. Have you ever heard that you get what you pay for? Turns out that one's often true.

Of course, one can't buy everything that is attractive and fits well. So I have an informal ratings system. I score based on fit, likely opportunities I'll have to wear it, how it makes me feel (yes, yes, I know, cheesy, but it's important--if I don't feel good in it, I won't wear it, no matter how much the salesgirl gushes that it looks perfect), and price. I prefer to at least be saving something. If it's fantastic, Boden's frequent 20% off plus free shipping and returns is sufficient. If it's 50% and I've been stalking it at Anthropologie, it's pretty much a done deal. With this system, plus staying within a designated clothing budget (if I don't have money, I can't even look, it's that simple), I've managed to build a wardrobe that is smaller than it used to be, but that is full of pieces that I truly enjoy putting on.

At the end of this month, I will turn thirty-four. My big kids turn this number over in their minds, and I ask them if they can imagine being thirty-four. When they tell me no, I admit that I never could when I was a kid, either. The highest age I could comprehend eventually being was twenty-three. But I am glad to have reached this point, beyond what I could imagine then. I am so much more comfortable with myself at nearly thirty-four than I was at twenty-three. I am more confident and feel more attractive. I'd be lying if I told you that the wardrobe isn't part of that. But I'd also be lying if I told you that the good wardrobe has nothing to do with what I've learned as I've gotten older. I might miss the lack of crow's feet and smile lines of my twenties, but I don't miss the rest. Not at all.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Intent

First, let's take a moment to recognize our veterans and their families. These are people who give their lives in service of our country, who do whatever someone tells them to do whether or not they personally agree with it. That is no small thing, and they do it every day of their lives. So thank you, veterans. You deserve our respect and our support.

...

Whatever we did last night in yoga has clearly helped my adoption paperwork situation. I know it will sound corny, but for me yoga is the time that I feel most connected to God. In addition to the physical work, or maybe I should say in conjunction with the physical work, much of the time yoga is like a prayer to me. Maybe it's due to being so distracted in the rest of life; when I go to yoga, that all falls away in the focus of breath and movement and now. So last night I was doing yoga for Nola. And when something was hard or when we were all breathing and moving together with our breath, I thought, "This is for you, Nola, my intention is for you, I am moving and breathing so that I can make things happen for you." And today things finally felt like they were coming together. It could be a function of me focusing intently on making this happen and feeling renewed resolve as a result of that focus, but I also think that when I do yoga, I have God's ear in a way that I don't have it when I am half praying, half thinking of all the other things I need to do. Traditional evangelicals would call foul on this, but I call it awesome.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Try, Fail, Try Again

So my plan to eat exceptionally healthy meals nearly all the time until Thanksgiving has run into some trouble, mainly because a) I made pumpkin bread yesterday because an old friend of my family was coming over to help us with financial type stuff, b) last night the family I work for most regularly forced me to eat steak and potatoes (I said a very weak, "No, I had a late lunch, really," to which they replied, "No, you're eating, you have to eat," and I did not argue further), c) today was the second Tuesday of the month, which meant I took the big kids out for breakfast, and far be it from me to order a vegetable egg white omelet and whole wheat toast, and d) since the day was blown already, I just went ahead and got a grande iced mocha. It's not all bad, though. They love me at Starbucks, so not only did they *ahem* accidentally charge me too little for my drink, they also slipped me a little something free. Also, the two pounds I lost last week remain gone, putting me back within spitting distance of what I consider the low side of my normal (although just barely), so I say a big WHATEVS and purpose to cut out the sugar tomorrow. I have the good snacks in my bag; I just need a chance to use them.

Monday, November 09, 2009

All Systems Go

We have a scanner that works, we have scanned some documents, we are getting this job done. I've begun to feel about my adoption documents the way I feel near the end of the Pikes Peak Marathon, as if I've been doing this for long enough already, and isn't it time for the snacks yet? In particular, there's a section of trail on Pikes Peak that is not far from the finish, but far enough that there are no other people around and no aid stations nearby either. It's quiet and possibly beautiful, but it's hard to tell when you're exhausted. It's in that section that I get the urge to sit down on the side of the trail and let mountain rescue find me later and carry me the rest of the way by horseback. That's how I'm feeling toward our paperwork now. Where is mountain rescue and their horses? I know that I just have to keep going, that the end really is near, if not entirely in sight just yet, but oh, man, a horseback ride with someone else holding the reins sure would be nice right about now.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Office Space Style

Tonight I sat down to scan in all the adoption documents we have completed, and our scanner decided not to work. I was all set to get a good chunk of the never-ending paperwork done, and then...nothing from Epson 2480. I expect that kind of crap from our printer, but come on, Epson. Throw a girl who's sick of the drudgery a bone. It would have been nice to get this done tonight. Now Epson and I are going to have a date in the backyard with a tire iron. If you've ever wanted to destroy a piece of equipment Office Space style, you should come over.

I'm kind of kidding, but then again, maybe I'm not. We could roast marshmallows afterwards and have s'mores. What do you say? Should we do it? You can bring your frustrating, broken electronic equipment, too.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Good News

The health care bill just passed in the House. Lucy Snowe would like to take this opportunity to remind you that she supported Barack Obama in his historic run for the presidency. This makes her feel like she's a part of the moment today.

lucy snowe endorses barack obama for president

You're welcome, United States of America.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Developing My Skill Set

I spent the afternoon with my big kids, and by "with my big kids," I mean I was sometimes in the same house they were in, but mostly they played with their friends. I get the sense that, despite the lack of quality time spent together, Mary Liz would prefer that I still take them to school and pick them up most days. And, oh, I hate to disappoint the girl that raced away from my car because her friends across the street were home, but my life is ever so much better now that my days are not broken up by drop-off and pick-up and sometimes interrupted altogether by random days off from school. I still love the kids dearly, but I do not miss the Catholic school schedule, and I do not miss how many times a week I popped into Starbucks to grab an iced mocha to have in the car while I waited for them. Not that I don't love my baristas and enjoy chatting with them, but the habit was doing nothing for my waistline or my wallet. It's just all around better to have made the change. It was a hard change to own up to, and it was excruciating explaining to the kids' mom that, yes, I really did need to change my schedule, and no, it wasn't personal, but pretty much every day I am so glad I made the choice that I did.

This was no small thing for me, saying what amounted to a gigantic NO to people who really felt they needed me. I come from a background of serving and serving and serving some more, and if someone needs something and you can do it, you should! But that's not something that's really true; sometimes even if you can do it, you really shouldn't. I have learned this the hard way, and I am getting better. It is a good lesson, and if the end result of the effort is always this good, I have an excellent incentive to develop this skill further.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Diet Schmiet

All week long I've been eating better than usual. I hate to call it a diet since I really don't believe in dieting as is often defined by the American public, but I do believe in eating better to be more fit, which is what some people call a diet, so...conundrum. My good food to free-for-all-with-chocolates cycle usually goes like this:

1. Eat really, really, really well.
2. Start to add back in treats, but still eat mostly healthy food, including defined meals (healthy breakfast, lunch, AND dinner).
3. Get busy, feel like I can't be bothered by preparing actual food, slowly slide into a mix of coffee and sweet snacks, sweet snacks and coffee.
4. Get sick of it and return to the beginning.

I've returned to the beginning, and I'm still in the phase where it's pretty much awesome. This time, though, I'm making some changes to see if I can prolong my time at #2 and put of the slide to #3 for longer than usual. Ultimately, I'd like to be at #2 all of the time, but I know myself, and I recognize that the spiral to #3 may well happen again eventually. Still, I feel like I should do something a little differently in the #1 phase before trying to hit my stride at #2. So even though I am trying to eat healthy food all the time, if a friend calls for coffee or a family I am working for buys lunch out, instead of saying no, I'm just being wiser about what I get. A tall instead of a grande. No cheese or sour cream when I know that good guacamole will satisfy me just as well. So far, so good. As I head into the holidays, I'll get a better sense of how I'm doing. I figure if I can make it through all the holiday gathering without either eschewing all treats or going full-on hog wild with the cheesy casseroles and desserts, that bodes well for my future balance.

I do find that it is good to go into the holiday season with a lot of practice at moderation and a renewed sense of how well I feel when I eat well. I'm not good at willpower, but practice and proper motivation do me a world of good. I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Another One About My Cat

Lucy Snowe feels left out if she cannot sit right next to me while I am working. Making cream cheese mints isn't very cat friendly, and I swatted her away from the table several times before she took what is her usual alternate perch.

little helper

She does the same when I am standing at the sink peeling and chopping vegetables. It's inconvenient, but I like it quite a lot. Eventually she moves on to something else anyhow, like holding down the clean laundry. Always a help, that cat.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cleanliness is Next to Snobbery

Have you ever felt as if no one's home or kitchen could possibly as messy as or messier than yours? I am here to make you feel better. Behold:

shameful!
Click through to flickr to see the notes describing my not-so-secret kitchen shame.

That's my kitchen right this minute. I have all sorts of excuses, but it boils down to life getting in the way of proper clean-up and my stubborn streak still insisting on getting things cooked. In particular, I was hellbent on making chicken & rice soup from scratch, plus getting my apples into the crockpot and on their way to becoming applesauce before I left for yoga. By the time I'd peeled and cored and sprinkled liberally with cinnamon, I only had time to walk out the door, leaving this gigantic mess in my wake. Please note that I did take out the chicken carcass and other assorted compost. I should get a gold star for that. Later, hope to earn another gold star by unloading the dishwasher. Such ambition on a Tuesday evening! It will go down in history as...lacking. I'm okay with that. Because you know what? That applesauce tastes really good.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Weirdo Hippie Freaks (and How You Can Be One, Too) (No, Really, Join Us!)

I think it's already been established that I am pretty annoying when it comes to standards for how I eat. I mean, you know when someone refuses to buy M&M's that it's gone beyond the realm of normalcy, right? The good news is that we will still eat whatever you put in front of us; we're not rude on top of being hippie freaks. The bad news is that our child may feel like she lives in a cave. Because we also don't have a television. I know. Weirdos.

I recently was chatting with a friend about raising kids and food and television and whatnot, and she told me that of all the people who would follow through, I would probably be the one to do it. Because I'm stubborn, she said. And while that's part of it, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that these are already habits that we have established for ourselves; I can't imagine trying to establish these habits fresh with a baby in tow, or, even worse, with a family that is already used to a certain way of doing things. We are very lucky that we get to start off simply doing for our daughter what we already do for ourselves. I think our success will largely be based on how important an issue is to us as a whole, not how we feel about it only through the lens of whether or not it is good for our kid. It also makes a difference that we were able to make each change one at a time, so the effect on our lives and our budget has been gradual. I wouldn't expect a family that shops for chips and Ho-Hos at a discount store to suddenly dive into the bulk aisle of a health food store. Similarly, I wouldn't expect a family who watches television nightly to just turn it off.

So I say: start small. If you want to change something for yourself or for your entire family or for the family you are working on building, pick one thing, and do it. When it seems normal to be doing that first thing, do something else. Eventually, you'll get where you're going. And if where you're going eventually leads you to stop eating M&M's? Well, I hope you enjoy some for me before you get to that point. I miss those brightly colored discs of joy.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Fantasy

I've been thinking a lot lately about body image and shape and eating and nutrition and all those boring things I get obsessed with if my trousers are either too tight or more loose than usual. Exercise also, let's not forget! Frankly, I find the whole thing to be a bit tedious. I subscribe to a certain magazine that I enjoy quite a lot, but that pretty much prints the same stories with slightly different recommendations each time. It always boils down to eating right, exercising, and drinking more water. If I see another chart showing a week's worth of meals at a glance, I might run away screaming. I always hate their recommendations; I don't want someone else to tell me how to shop for my food or what to eat when or how to prepare it. My life doesn't fall onto a grid very well, and neither do my eating habits. I tend to swing like a pendulum from labor-intensive, all-homemade to Hey, look at these chocolate peanut butter yogurt pretzels! All I have to do to eat them is lift the lid of this holiday decorative jar. But I still have this fantasy that someday I will make nearly everything from scratch, and the pretzels will grow stale because our bellies were too full of homemade goodness to want any of them at all.

A girl can dream, can't she?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Born

Here's the reality of my life at this very moment: I cannot watch anything on television or on the computer until the two-year-old in my care falls asleep. He's at the point of feeling that he's missing something if he hears noise other than the clink of dishes into the dishwasher or the fall of water into my glass. This happens with most two-year-olds, and it doesn't stop until roughly the time that you'd like them to sleep less and take more responsibility for themselves. As we move ever-so-slowly-yet-steadily towards getting our adoption paperwork in order, I recognize how much life will change. More than a decade of getting children in and out of bed has taught me plenty. My alarm ringing at 8am has troubled me lately, but I haven't seen the half of it. Once we bring home a baby, I may never sleep again.

But life is always changing, and I've changed with it, mostly for the better, I hope. When I quit taking care of my big kids in order to find more balance, I just rearranged the weights as opposed to really balancing the scale. But that's okay. I'm figuring it out. And I'm figuring me out. This may sound strange if you know how old I am (early thirties, about to turn the corner into mid-thrities, oh boy), but I don't think we ever stop learning more about who we are and what we need and how we can do better with what we've been given. I don't expect to wake up one morning and know exactly when to say no and to whom. I don't imagine that I won't keep resetting my diet with completely healthy foods only to slide slowly back into treatsville. I also don't imagine that I'll be able to roll with all the punches just yet. I still get frustrated. I still get worried. It's better, but it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. Never will be. I suppose I've learned to live with that, mostly anyway.

Four years ago, which seems like a lifetime in many ways, I was heartbroken and hurt and angry. I still am sometimes, but not for the same reasons. It was that time in my life that led to an enormous shift in my faith. I don't write much about faith here anymore; that was part of the shift. But the other part of the shift was that I suddenly realized that for all my own heartbreak and hurt and anger, there was worse heartbreak and hurt and anger being experienced by people who had seen tragedy much worse than being left by a person they loved. That was where it got sticky for me. That was where I couldn't reconcile the good and loving God that so many people assured me was the God that existed with reality. A God who created all things beautiful and lovely and perfect? Sure. But a God who would allow poverty and excruciating pain and rape of children and slavery and every kind of loss? I couldn't get behind that. People can say all they want about Adam and Eve sinning in the garden, and they can tell me everything they know about the Bible and everything being for a purpose, but the level of suffering that exists in the world is still hard for me to swallow and then say a Hallelujah. I still believe in God, but it's different. I still believe in goodness and love, but that's changed, too. I'd like to tell you how I made it all make sense, but I can't. I know it has a lot to do with giving credit where it's due and withholding it otherwise, with accepting that our world isn't perfect and I'm not sure why. Because it still doesn't make sense, and I still don't know a lot of things, but I still believe in redemption and hope, somehow. I still believe that love conquers all. Like most things in my life, I'm still working it out, still rearranging the weights on the scale, not even close to any sort of balance. I don't think God minds. If he does, he doesn't say so directly.

When we adopt our daughter, we will be adding a member to our family--a much loved and wanted and hoped for member--due to someone else's dire misfortune. Our joy will be born out of an entire continent's long and complicated era of tragedy. We will love her and we will nurture her and we will put her to sleep with all the stories and songs we've collected for her, but her story is forever changed because of what never should have occurred to anyone, anywhere. I don't pretend to understand why this happened either, and I don't pretend that it seems 100% right that we should receive a baby that is relinquished due to someone else's poverty or illness or death. But here we are anyway, because the situation is what it is, and children need families, and we want very much to build our family this way. Not because it is right to the core, but because it is the rightest thing that can be done in these circumstances. I believe that I was meant to do it. Even in the days when I doubted if I'd ever get married, I knew that I would become a mother this way. Not because it is noble or good, as some suggest, but because it just seems born into me. Motherhood born of tragedy and loss, but motherhood born of love and joy all the same. When I see her face, I will weep for all these things.

People often mention to me with great excitement that perhaps I'll get pregnant once we adopt, as if that is the ultimate goal. It doesn't seem normal or natural to many people that I would not long for pregnancy; they ask if we will ever have "our own," as if common DNA is the only way to become someone's own. On my best days, I am patient and calm. On my worst, I am judgmental and my tone of voice belies the words that exit my mouth. We are all still figuring this out.

I would do well to remind myself of that more often.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Favorite Season

At night I move through quiet houses. I put away the toys we missed when I made the kids help, I fill the formula pods, I unload the dishwasher. I do a walk-through to find any stray mugs or cups that have rolled beneath furniture. It's a good feeling, having put everyone and everything to bed for the night. I am here late tonight, and the cable doesn't seem to be working, but I don't mind. I just wish I'd brought a book.

This morning was our home study, and yesterday's cleanup and decluttering made our own home quiet, and not just in the sense of lack of noise. I always feel more peaceful when everything is in its spot. There was the leftover feeling of homemade bread and good jam and hot coffee. There was golden light spilling softly through our windows, and all the cats were curled up, cozy. There was nothing pressing to do. It was perfect. This is the quiet of autumn, when everything is golden and orange and flaming red, and I don't think there's anything better in the whole world.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Aaaaand We're Back. Sort of.

Good news! The cat vomit did not kill Jarod's iPhone. Also, Jarod seems to have recovered as well. We are back in working order, just in time for me to work through much of the weekend. The one thing that seems to be missing is the type of weather that makes me want to get things done as opposed to sitting in front of the computer, drinking coffee and getting caught up on Grey's Anatomy. And Ugly Betty. And The Daily Show. Whoops! Looks like my day is full!

There's a lot going on and a lot of nothing going on. Life cycles back into the normal, in which a range of daily chores and special projects keeps us busy. We miss our friends that we haven't seen since we got back, and if that's you in that bunch, know that seeing you is at the top of our list of desirable activities. From the bottom of my little introvert heart, I thank you in advance for forgiving me for not being in touch just yet. I've needed this week to get back into the groove of things, but I also need all of you. I have this little fantasy in which some of you come along on our next vacation. You will, won't you? I hope your answer is yes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Turbulence

We returned Sunday evening to desperate cats and a chilly house that smelled faintly of something unpleasant. It didn't take long to press the appropriate buttons to generate heat and eliminate the offending odor and leave our suitcases haphazardly all over the house, where they stayed until I unpacked them today. It was good to get home, and for me it was good to get home knowing that the kind of existence I was trying to sustain pre-vacation was over. Yesterday was a whirl of adoption paperwork and errands, and I couldn't have been happier about it. Today started out swimmingly, but then Jarod called home sick, I banished him to the bedroom so I could get things done (obviously because I care for him and want him to get his rest and feel better, not because, ahem, this introvert had maybe had enough of people and needed a little space to work independently), and before we knew it our elderly cat had vomited on his iPhone. So now we've got one sick husband, one iPhone convalescing in a bag of rice, and one introvert who has to hold herself together until her young charges are in bed tonight. It's not gone as smoothly as I hoped, but I'm just going to switch on my internal seat belt sign and ride it out. It's not perfect, but it's better, and like any turbulent plane ride, it will eventually get me where I intend to go, just with a few more bumps along the way than I'd prefer.

I'll get back to you when I've landed and we've taxied to the gate. You can wait for me near baggage claim with a sign that says WELCOME BACK and a balloon bouquet.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The End, Just in Time

It seems I'm in charge of packing tonight, as soon as the laundry is dry. Jarod is asleep already, having been worn out by a long day and not enough sleep besides, not to mention by his wife, who's capricious whims lead who-knows-where for who-knows-what. Sometimes it's good. Sometimes it's not. This trip, it's been a mixture. I'd love it if every vacation were perfect, but life isn't perfect, so I'll take the good bits and brush the bad bits off as we take off. There were, after all, a lot of good bits. A whole lot.

We walked down the steps from the chateau at dusk.

oh, oh, evening, i love you best


We enjoyed Renoir's very own view.

renoir's terrace

We walked along the Promenade des Anglais at night.

negresco at night

We had cake for breakfast.

last lazy morning chocolate breakfast

We walked through the gardens of a palace.

elaborate palace, elaborate gardens

When our umbrella broke, we still survived the rain.

us, convex

We played tourist, and we played our part well.

another cheesy tourist shot

Tomorrow, it will feel good to be home. After all, these dumb cats are waiting, and we're long overdue for having someone try to sleep on top of our faces.

cat pile

See you at home tomorrow. Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

As Previously Mentioned

It occurred to me while I was showering that I mentioned in my last post that we'd been taking video on this trip, but I didn't actually give you links to any of the videos. I've posted links to those videos pretty much everywhere except my blog, so if you follow me anywhere else on the internet, you've probably seen them. If you don't follow me anywhere else on the internet, I apologize for the oversight. Here is a list of links, in chronological order.

Apartment Tour

First Gelato Report

Climbing the Rope Playground...Thing

Second Gelato Report

Bike Ride to Cagnes-sur-Mer (loooong, features my back side)

Third Gelato Report

Fourth Gelato Report

Fifth (and final) Gelato Report (with bonus footage!)

Hampton Court Palace

The River Thames!

SQUIRRELS! (also pigeons, but who cares about them)

We've got a bunch more, but the guy that's in charge of editing and posting them is tired or something. It's not like we walked all the way from Waterloo, to Buckingham Palace, through Hyde Park (the longest way possible, as is our custom), up to Paddington Station, and then back to Waterloo today. Oh, wait, I guess we did. It's like I'm attempting to win an award for most miles covered on foot in order to avoid paying for transportation. Jarod's a pretty great sport about it, even when I spend that money we saved on coffee. Or on items for our hypothetical baby. Of all of us, Magnolia has the most souvenirs from this trip, and she might not even exist yet. Oh, well. What can I do?

Nothing, that's what.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Utter Silliness

We've always got plenty of photographic evidence of what we do outside the apartment on vacation, and this year we've even got video for the internet to see. But we rarely take photos of what we do inside the apartment because, well, you'd be bored to tears to watch us doing it. However, I find that many people enjoy a good re-enactment, so here it is. Meet Meringue Escargot, a delightful treat that enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic candlelit dinners, and re-enacting the dull activities of humans on vacation in the South of France. (Respond to Box 3382 if you like bubble baths, foot massages, and egg whites laced with sugar.)

Every morning, Meringue Escargot sleeps in until at least 11am, closer to noon if he's feeling particularly worn out by all that gelato.

meringue escargot sleeps in

When his snail feet finally hit the floor, he shuffles into the kitchen to make himself some tea, then settles in with a good book. He's almost done reading The Poisonwood Bible, and he highly recommends it, even though it was one of those dreadful Oprah Book Club selections.

meringue escargot enjoys reading and a cup of tea

Once he tires of reading, if the computer is free, he checks his e-mail. He wishes he'd get messages from someone other than Buca di Beppo and MoveOn.org, but he's not complaining.

meringue escargot checks email

Once he's saved any good coupons from Buca (free dessert is his favorite--who doesn't like a giant bowl of tiramisu?) and signed a few online petitions urging his elected officials to pass healthcare reform, he simply enjoys the view.

meringue escargot thinks of nothing of consequence while enjoying the view

It's good to be a cloudlike dessert vacationing in France. Well, until someone gets hungry...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Bonjour! Nice est Bon!

Here we are in beautiful France, and of course we're loving it. And by "we" I mean "mostly me" since Jarod has jet lag and pretty much sleeps while I wander through Nice. Generally I am the one to be awake half of the night, but I think I've figured out a new strategy--no serious sleep on the plane (dozing is okay), and then do not sleep until it is night wherever I've landed. This guarantees that I am exhausted enough at bedtime that I'll sleep soundly and wake up feeling as if it's morning instead of like I should just be heading to bed. I'll admit that my bleary-eyed walk through London wasn't entirely enjoyable, but I'd much rather suffer through it and wake up raring to go the next morning than be the one who is currently conked out on the sofa.

Our apartment this time is sweet and simple, and the shower is magnificent, but overall I'd say it's my least favorite of the three we've rented here. The bed is a bit to firm for my taste, plus it is a bit short, and the sofa doesn't have arms, which has proven to be inconvenient when I'd like to lie on it and read. So I've made a makeshift ottoman of a chair and a throw pillow, but it's just not doing it for me. Additionally, we are right across the street from a (24-hour) McDonald's and right next to the tram line and the bus station. In a town where the weather is perfect, so having the windows open is desirable, this can make for noisy, smelly times. I still opt for windows open during the day, but at night the late night McDonald's crowd and the noisy automobiles are completely undesirable. I latch the windows tight and turn on the air conditioning unit, which, in addition to cooling the apartment in the absence of a breeze, also creates enough white noise to help me sleep.

When I'm out of the apartment, though, of course it's fantastic. While Jarod has been sleeping off his jet lag, I've been wandering on my own, popping in wherever I please and making questionable purchases from time to time. I'm sorry, but I just can't help buying souvenirs simply because I find them to be completely ridiculous. So far I haven't added to my la cigale* collection, but that's only because the shop selling the salt & pepper shakers was not open. Rest assured, though, that I have already procured one of the hideous kitty cat themed items on offer. It is simply spectacular, and yes, I am going to make you wait to see it. Jarod prefers to purchase sensible things like sandwiches and other edibles, while I would gladly eat the trail mix we brought along so I could bring back all the things I find to be too hilarious to leave behind (pit bull beach towels, so help me). However, since we are both on vacation and sharing the wealth, we have picked up some good food. The pain au chocolat was delicious, and I'm sure our baguette with goat cheese will not disappoint. Now, if I can just figure out how to sneak in an owl themed sweater dress when we pick up the fruit for dinner, I'll be all set.


*La cigale is French for cicada. They are considered to be lucky, and you can find all manner of Provencal items that feature the illustrious insect.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hit Refresh

vacation shoes, kitty paw

When we pulled up to the house tonight, I let out a little cry: SHOES! Leave it to me to be worried about whether the shoes I'd ordered would show up before vacation. It's not like I couldn't just pack an alternate or something. But these were the shoes that I'd pictured myself in with the sneaker-appropriate outfits I'd packed--it just wouldn't be the same in my old Vans, and the Campers have seen enough of Europe to satisfy them for at least another year. So there they were, and they fit, and now I am breaking them in. It wouldn't do to be cursing my new footwear while on vacation.

I have so many grand expectations for this trip, but not of the sort you might imagine. Mine are limited to sleeping in and eating gelato and walking through Old Town over and over again. And being refreshed. I suppose there could be some unforeseen tragedy looming, but I'm fairly certain that these are all easily reachable goals. I set the bar low so as not to disappoint, so as to come back from vacation not needing a vacation in order to recover from vacation.

Because let's face it; these past few months I've kind of sucked at a lot of things. I've sucked at keeping up with friends, I've sucked at keeping up with my garden, I've sucked at making dinner for myself and the guy who is not satisfied just eating snacks instead of meals. And this week I'm starting to kind of suck at my job. It's not that I'm neglecting the children or causing harm, I'm just not at the top of my game. My energy is low, my level of direction interaction is suffering, and I find that I'm showing up at work with a sigh and resolve to make it through to the end instead of being excited to see my little people. So it's good that tomorrow is my last day before vacation. I know that in many jobs it's possible to half ass it and feel okay about it, but I don't like that feeling, knowing that what I do affects little people. And though I know that a couple of days of the sitter not being as fun as usual won't hurt them, I look forward to coming back and really enjoying my job and having my job really enjoy me back. To go away and come back with a bit more spring in my sneaker-clad step is just what will do the trick.

I'm certain of it.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Just One More Week, Hallelujah, Bless the Virgin Mary

I realize that we have seven days until we leave for vacation, so maybe I shouldn't be so obsessed with being mostly packed, but come on, guys, seriously, I need to have the good underwear on vacation, and I'm not waiting until the last minute to do laundry. The last minute is reserved for watching Jarod pack and feeling like I've forgotten something important.

I know it's beating a dead horse to keep mentioning this, but I have earned and am earning this vacation. We've got a busy weekend followed by a busy week ahead, plus plenty of things to get in order before we head out. I'm one of those annoying sensible people that likes to have the house cleaned and de-cluttered before we leave, plus we have a housesitter coming, and I am giving her the gift of clean sheets on the bed. You're welcome, Livie!

In the days before we leave it's pretty much work, work, adoption paperwork, work, work, work, find my freaking postage stamps that I know I have here somewhere, then off we go.

Hooray!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not Crazy Enough to Start Documenting Cat Nap Schedules (Yet.)

A friend of mine recently told me that she didn't know I had three cats. This is probably because only one is completely nuts does things worth mentioning. For example, while Lucy is busy doing things like this:

laundry supervisor
Mind if I vault off your shoulder onto the closet shelf? You do mind? How about if I stare at you the whole time you're working here? Will that change your mind?

The other cats prefer to pretty much just do this:

leave us alone
Why did you wake us up? Now we're going to have to start this nap over.

I had no idea just what I was in for when I decided to make this a three cat household. Lucy eats plants. She sits on my butt while I work out. She licks plastic with wild abandon. She takes things out of my purse. She leaps to my shoulders after I shower so that she can groom my hair. She is equal parts awesome and annoying, except that the annoying parts sometimes turn into awesome. Lucy is just the cat I needed to prepare me for parenthood. With Phae's help, she's even helping break in Magnolia's nursery.

thanks for fixing up this room for us

I guess I'll keep her.

Friday, September 04, 2009

ROAR!

This morning I took two naps, one short and one long. Now I feel like I can do anything! I called the CPA! I cried after the CPA told me he'd get the forms in the mail today! (Sufficient sleep does not prevent me from being touched by the actions of someone who is a decent human being.) I put on clothes that weren't lounge pants or pajamas! I paid bills! (Wait, that's out of order; I paid bills while still wearing pajamas.) I conquered the grocery list! I obtained enormous containers of really excellent hair care products! I picked up the kids! I checked homework! I'm making cookies! Right now! I can do anything!

(I also had an extremely large coffee. In case you couldn't tell. If I'd had two coffees, that list would have been in all caps--consider yourself spared the pain of that kind of reading.)

...

While mixing up the aforementioned cookies, I noted that the dough seemed a bit anemic. It was downright pale. I was a bit concerned. Then I realized that I was in the kitchen of the Standard American Diet, not my own kitchen, so not only were the whole wheat pastry flour and organic sugar replaced with the store brand bleached versions, but the eggs were not the glorious eggs of summer farm freshness to which I have become accustomed. Standard American Diet cooking is kind of depressing now that I know about the delicious alternative. Not to mention the fact that we put in some white chocolate chips, and seriously? If it's white, it's not chocolate.

...

I am currently enamored of very expensive rugs for our hypothetical baby's room. We were given a rug which will look very sweet in there, and I have every intention of using it, partly because it was free and partly because I want this baby's room built by love, and to put things in it that we get from people we care about seems the right way to go. However, if someone would like to gift us with this Pottery Barn rug in the 8x10 size or enough of these Flor tiles in Leaf to make a rug of a similar size, I would not say no. I would say thank you and probably do an inappropriate amount of hugging and possibly crying. So you'd have that to look forward to. Yay!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Another Task for the Current "Can't Be Bothered" File

Lately I have little interest in dinner--either making it or eating it. I'm interested instead in a handful of chocolate covered almonds and sitting firmly on my butt until I force myself to work out. I think it's got something to do with this thing where I leave the house by 6:50am and then am forced to stay awake for the entire rest of the day. Oh, the suffering. So tonight I waved a box of organic mac & cheese in front of my husband, indicating that if he wanted it, he could make it. Also available: cheese and crackers and a bunch of tomatoes I picked and just left on the counter like little tomato orphans, homeless and without anyone to tuck them in at night.

I'm tired is what I'm saying. But working out every night makes me feel better about the chocolate almonds, and in the case that the workout is a run or solo bike ride, it gives me a chance to sort through all the thoughts that would otherwise keep me awake at night. I've committed to working out six nights a week, and so far it's working for me. Whether or not it's working for that guy on the couch that I used to make dinner for, I'm not so sure, but he hasn't died yet, so that's a good sign.

Vacation in three weeks. We're ready.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Think You Want to Know About This Dream I Had

In the evenings, Jarod and I have been re-watching previous seasons of LOST. So far we've made it partway through the third season. It's been really fantastic, except for the part where I have nightmares thanks to Ben Linus. (The smoke monster I could care less about, but Ben Linus haunts me.) Recently I've had some real doozies, but nothing beats Thursday morning's dream.

In the dream, a group of people and I were being pursued by Ben and the posse he'd assembled. The posse was made up partly of people wearing sickly yellow shirts and/or driving sickly yellow cars, but mostly of miniature pinschers with sickly yellow paws and forelegs (yes! evil dogs!). As we were pursued through a nameless college campus with excellent landscaping, we could see them coming by their sickly yellowness. It was then that we prepared our defense. The one thing that would deter them all, people and cars and miniature pinschers alike, not to mention Ben Linus himself, was...

...wait for it...





...





...





...





...





...






KITTENS!

That's right, kittens. Ben Linus may have done untoward things with bunnies, but dude just can't take the threat of kittens. It makes sense, really. What is the opposite of evil? Kittens, of course! If only our castaways had known, they could have done as my dream companions and I did, and make a net with balls strung for the kittens to cling to. Hidden under a tarp, this made an excellent deterrent when we raised it right as they were about to close in on us. I'm quite certain it would have held them off, what with all those fluffy, grey kittens hanging so sweetly in front of them, but I never got to find out because that was when the phone rang, and I woke up.

Next time I take a morning nap, I'm totally turning off my ringer.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Trio

A few posts ago I wrote about it being okay to make kids wait, and I realized after commenting on another blog and saying that I'm a nanny that I need to clarify. Most of the time, I'm pretty quick to get what a kid needs. If you can take care of a need right away, go ahead. I'm just saying that you shouldn't feel terrible if one time out of twenty you cannot meet a need immediately. And as a child gets older, it's great to give them natural opportunities to practice waiting, such as explaining what you're doing that is causing the need to wait. For example, "I am putting away the dishes now; when I am done, I will make your snack." All those times that they needed something and you got it for them will reinforce that their needs will be met. Right now I take care of an eight-month-old that is not good at waiting for her bottle. The moment she sees me get the bottle out of the drawer, she starts trying to claw her way up my legs to get the bottle that...isn't even made yet. But each time we go through the same routine, with me side-stepping those sharp nails (and, admittedly, affectionately calling her Claws), she is a bit less dramatic about it (and, oh, this baby is dramatic), having gradually learned that the bottle is eventually ready to meet her waiting lips. I'd bust out some charts about development and language acquisition and understanding of time (your two-year-old has no idea what "ten minutes" means, so it's better to mark time by activity rather than chronological time), but frankly, I'm just feeling too lazy.

...

So the other day I read in Self Magazine that if I do 350 minutes of cardio a week, I can lose eight pounds in four weeks. Guess what's in four weeks? VACATION! So if I follow their plan, I can preemptively lose the pounds I'll gain back in delicious French pastries, kebabs, and gelato. YESSSSSS!!!!

...

Speaking of vacation: YOU GUYS! I'm so excited about my vacation! I know that this is, like, the twelve-thousandth time I've been to Nice, but the beauty of Nice is that there are always more things to do and explore, plus each subsequent trip allows us to get to know the city better so that we can better enjoy all it has to offer. We already know which spot has the best kebabs and what ice cream spot is the best, and my culinary goal this time is to seek out more crepes. Each time we go on an excursion to another town along the Riviera, and this time we're heading west by bicycle to Cagnes. Musee Renoir is there, so we will carry on with our custom of being nerds that visit museums on vacation. I suspect most, if not all, evenings will find us at Place Rossetti, enjoying some WiFi and some gelato. This time I'm going to try the rosemary and maybe the basil. I'll definitely go for round two of one scoop lavender, one scoop vanilla and round who-knows-anymore of one scoop hazelnut, one scoop cinnamon.

Good grief, I'm salivating already.

Four weeks! Hooray!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Everything is ALL MY FAULT!

A certain eight-year-old I take to school each morning has been having a hard time adjusting to the new school year. Her shirt is uncomfortable, her jumper shouldn't do that, she can't find her socks, no one lets her eat what she wants for breakfast or lunch, and why hasn't anyone gone to the grocery store? This fridge that is clearly full of food has nothing to eat in it! She just knew you'd say no to her having lasagna for breakfast, so she didn't even ask! And her lunch only has two things in it! Sure, she turned down every option you offered her, but it's all your fault! She will starve to death by lunchtime, and you don't even care! You did this! It is ALLLL YOOOUUUUUURRRRR FAAAAAUUUUUULLLLLTTTTTTTT!!!!!

Oh, eight. I hope you're not just a glimmer of what her poor parents will experience when she is thirteen. Because otherwise, I fear it will be military boarding school and coal for Christmas.

Poor eight.