Wednesday, January 22, 2014


You know those people who see hilarious things everywhere they go and assume everyone else is on the same page? I am one of them. Things are just... funny to me. All the time. Even if they're not. Sometimes I look crazy. However, I guarantee that this is objectively funny:


Yes. That is a box of Haagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream bars with what sounds like a wine critique on the back. "Enrobed" is my favorite. The top notes are on top because the shell is literally made of cocoa and almonds. I was disappointed not to find any bourbon on the inside (sorry, the *finish*), but it certainly did have a vanilla. Just like it said on the front of the box. I was unable to taste the Madagascar, but that may just be my unrefined palate.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Certified Award-Winning Mother

Winercise. It is the greatest thing of all time.

I lied. Many things are greater. But Winercise is one of my favorite things after a long list of necessities and major conveniences. I would not give up food for Winercise, but I *might* give up an air conditioned car during Utah summer for it.

Winercise happened when my friend had a baby. She had a baby, and we wanted to work out. So we started do exercise videos together in the evenings, and then we started having wine afterwards, and then sometimes it had been too hard of a day, so there was no exercise, but still with the wine. Mostly, though, it's a run or a video, and then wine. Jeremy coined the term. This is why I married him.

So tonight, Jeremy was gone, and Winercise was at my house. My children (*cough* Emmy *cough*) have not been super great at going to bed and staying in their rooms. In fact, they are terrible at it. They are masters at coming up with something just plausible enough that they can't quite be disciplined for getting up. Grace, for instance, knows that I have a soft spot for children with nightmares. I've had terrible, vivid nightmares for as long as I can remember, and so I'm overly sympathetic when she tells me she had a nightmare and can't go back to sleep. The other night, at 8:30, just two minutes after the last time I'd heard her finish a rousing rendition of "Jesus Loves Me," she came out to tell me she'd had a bad dream. That's when I knew she was playing me.

So, tonight. No Jeremy to field incoming children. Just me and my desperately needed exercise/social time (I joke about the wine, but mostly it's about the social time). I didn't know quite what to do.

This, my friends, is when bribery becomes very useful. It is not a parenting tool you should use often. Do you pull a sledgehammer out for drilling holes in walls, or hammering in nails? I do not think so, unless you are a contractor I hope to never hire.

No, the sledgehammer is a very specific tool. Use it too much, and you will get fired. Use it judiciously, and you have much power. Tonight I used the sledgehammer.

"Children," I said, just before bedtime. "Children, do you want a cookie with breakfast?" (we'd made cookies earlier this afternoon)


"No, but if you want some for breakfast, hear my words." Grace is typically pretty attentive when I tell her to listen up, but Emmy is like a fly with ADD, at all times. Even she snapped to attention. Her head spun a full 180 degrees from whatever bizarre thing she was playing at the moment. "My friends are coming over. You may say goodnight to them when they arrive. But after that, do not come out of your rooms at all, except for legitimate bathroom usage."

They were still gaping at me, wondering when I would get to the part about the cookies.

"If you do this, you will get a cookie with breakfast."

They didn't say anything, but their faces said WHAT. "Yes. Cookies. With. Breakfast. Stay in your rooms."

I didn't really think it would work. I thought I would get at least four or five disturbances, despite the bribery, but it worked. IT WORKED. I came downstairs to get something ten minutes later, and it was dead silence. Grace was not fiddling with her farm animals in her barn. Emmy was not singing loudly about "You can do what you want to just go around and do what you want toooo!" (this is not an actual song; she just puts random phrases together in what must be a pleasing arrangement to her, and sets them to something tuneless and shouty) Complete calm. I resisted the urge to check on them and make sure they were alive.

Grace did come up the stairs once, but it was clear she was half asleep and confused ("I have drips. Here." She points to her foot, and she's wearing bright orange tights for no known reason. "It's okay, honey. We have a washing machine." "But I have drips." "It's all right, you can take them off or change if you want to." "Okay..."). I decided to still allow her the cookie.

Otherwise, they have remained in bed, quiet, since 7:30. This has not happened in at least a year. My friends, bribery is the answer. It works. It really works.

Utah, or why I haven't been writing so much

I'm sure you are all sick of hearing about it, but I can't begin to explain what moving to Utah has done for me. For us. I never get over it. Sometimes it wells up in me, though, this gratitude, and I have to talk about it.
Back in Wisconsin, I had (and have) good friends. Friends who would go out of their way to help me out. Friends who did much more for me than I ever thought to do for them. But when we moved to a small town far away and couldn't make any friends there, it was incredibly isolating. I sunk into myself. My friends would come out to my house when I didn't have a car during the day, and I would much less frequently go to them, but I was really too wrapped up in my own head to be a good friend back. It was too hard. I was too tired. It was too far. Blah blah blah. It was hard, and I was tired, and it was far, but it would have been well worth the trouble.
We moved here, and I considered it a fresh start. I decided I was going to accept every invitation (unless it was to a marijuana/drinkin' party) and make invitations of my own. I think we had people over for dinner at least once a month for the first six months. It was exhausting and stressful (once I've had you over a time or two, it's not, but those first couple times just make me insane with anxiety). I had gained about 15 pounds during the course of the move, and I just felt look a big, socially awkward dork. "I can't believe that thing you said to her. What will she think?" "How could you talk about yourself so much?" "Stop interrupting!" "You. Are an idiot." These thoughts would follow me around for days after time spent with a new friend.
In response, I ran around with my fingers in my ears yelling, "Lalalalalalalala! Can't hear you!" and those voices never really went away, but now I get to shove my really good friendships down their throats and muffle them a bit. I AM a big, socially awkward dork, and do you know what? These people love me anyway. We have found the best people here, mostly at church, but some elsewhere. I actually hugged one of them spontaneously and voluntarily the other day. She said something that made me feel so loved that I actually reached out and hugged her. If any of you are aware of how weird I feel about hugging, then that tells you something.
And here, I think I have turned into a better friend. I never would have thought before on my own to offer a friend a meal if she was sick. But it's just what people do here. They help. If I could describe the personality of my church, I would say, "They help." So I learned to help. I'm sure I'm perfectly oblivious in many other self-absorbed ways, but I look back and think how much different I am now. I wish I had been this kind of friend to my people back home. They were wonderful people. I'm sorry I didn't really see just how wonderful until I suddenly had to reach out and make some friends, out of sheer desperation. Having to start over completely is probably one of the best things that has ever happened to me (and, probably, to my kids).
So all this happiness, it keeps shooting out of me like a rainbows out of a unicorn, and I just don't feel compelled to write as much. It used to be my hobby because I needed something to do, something I felt like I was good at. But now I only do it when I'm feeling all mushy gushy or have something that has suddenly piqued my interest.
I'm best at complaining in a funny way, and, well, there isn't much to complain about. Utah drivers are the worst, but I've done that. The inversions are horrible, but we haven't had a bad one yet this year. The kids are even happy and mostly pleasant. Our house has still not sold, but I stay away from that topic because I can mostly not worry about it... unless I let myself start thinking too much, and then worry creeps in. God has always taken care of us. We are pretty sure he will not stop now. And besides, the worst that could happen--and it's highly unlikely, unless something big breaks--is foreclosure, and that's a first world problem if there ever was one. A big problem, but definitely first world: "We rent a perfectly comfortable, warm, and spacious house and eat nutritious and satisfying meals three times daily, but our OTHER house, we might have to give that up and take a credit hit." In the broad scheme of things, that's a huge BOO HOO SISSY.
So life is good, and I don't feel like writing. I need to go back to putting down ideas as they occur to me throughout the day. Because once I have a topic, I really do like to get into it. There just aren't any topics coming to mind when I sit down at the computer.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Why aren't secondhand gifts acceptable?

I want to have a birthday party for Emmy. I want people to buy her gifts. This is because gifts make her happy, and because giving gifts to a crazy, happy four-year-old makes my friends happy. I'm not going to be one of those people who puts, "No gifts please!" on an invitation, making everyone waffle between the two awkward choices. Either you will obey the invitation, arrive, and find that everyone else brought a gift, or you will disregard the invitation, arrive, and find that no one else bought a gift and look like the show-off. It is lose-lose. Maybe not with an adult's birthday party, since no gifts is pretty standard. But definitely with a kid's party. I hate "No gifts please!" It looks generous, but it just creates too much awkwardness. I have enough awkwardness of my own making, so I don't need anyone to pack it in an envelope and mail it to my house for me.

I want to start a movement of secondhand gift-giving. Why is this not acceptable? Really. Think about it. How stupid is it that everything must be new? Especially for children. They outgrow, destroy, or just plain aren't interested in so many things. Why spend $30 on that plastic, obnoxiously green toy that is also available for $5 at the consignment store because some other kid got it for her birthday and never played with it? Am I just cheap, or does this seem insane to anyone else?

As for me, I have a pretty slim budget for gifts. We're not broke, but I will be uptight about spending until we get rid of The Unsellable House (whose furnace just broke, Merry Christmas to us!). I can buy one decent toy new on my budget, or I can buy a really cool toy/many toys in like-new condition. Do you see how everybody wins, givers and recipients alike?

I also think it's fun to look for things in thrift and consignment stores. Granted, I have the luxury of time that many other people don't, but it really satisfies my hunting and gathering instinct. I hate sifting through clothes at these places, but finding other cool stuff almost makes me giddy. Sometimes, when I come home, I hoist my find in the air and shriek excitedly. Unless it's heavy or fragile. Then I put it down as soon as possible.

So where did this expectation to buy only brand new gifts come from? It makes no sense. If the item is in good condition and isn't the sort of thing that is automatically befouled by its having been pre-owned (underwear, socks, toast), then what? Why? Everyone is poorer (well, except for Target, which does employ many, many people) when we feel compelled to buy things new for no other reason than social convention.

In conclusion! If you are my friend in real life, am I starting a new thing. If you buy me or my kid a gift, feel free to buy it secondhand. I will be very happy with you. More money for you, more stuff for me, let's have cake.