Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lucky in love.

I was trying to get some photos uploaded to the Kodak gallery thing so our parents could see how much fun we've been having lately when Bill came in to ask me to change Liam's diaper. I tell you this not because I can't believe he would pass the buck like that but because Liam is almost 2 and this is the very first time he's asked me to change a diaper. How lucky am I? The only reason he even asked is because he's trying to stay focused on studying for the LSAT (more on that later) and he already had to change a bad one this morning. Since I know my man reads this, I thought I'd give him some props blogger style.

Thanks, B - you're the best husband in the whole wide world
and I appreciate you THIS MUCH
*arms open really, really wide*

I LOVE YOU

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Glamour shots.

Our neighborhood is in the process of transitioning from a run down scary spot in between a bunch of projects to a totally renovated yuppie spot full of west coasters (still surrounded by projects, mind you). Because of this I often find myself listening carefully trying to discern whether I just heard gunshots or construction. It could easily be either one and its surprisingly hard to tell the difference.

I was faced with this very situation tonight on the way to my car. Instead of wondering what I heard like I sometimes do in my house, I jumped when I heard it because it was so loud. As soon as I jumped I realized it was just the people building a garage a couple doors down and not gunshots so I did a little run off to redeem myself. Yeah, like the kind you do when you trip in public. I pretty much half-jogged to my car with a scared smile on my face that said, "Haha! I totally just jumped because I thought I was being shot at but now I'm running it off because it was just construction!"

I hope the neighbors enjoyed it as much as I did.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Like a kid at Christmas.

This year the three of us stayed in Nashville and celebrated together. It was very mellow and relaxing and perfect.

A picture of all 3 of us - it's a Christmas miracle!


We opened presents on Christmas Eve. Liam liked tearing the paper off of presents "like a dinosaur!" (roaring) but wasn't as excited about the actual gifts as I thought he might be. One of the first things he opened was a case of alphabet cookie cutters from his cousin Baby Daniel. He immediately carried it to his room and then returned later carrying that case and another case of letters. I guess he figured they should be together.


Bill knocked one out of the park with the chalkboard/dry erase artist easle.


And the Goldfish crackers Grandma Fancy Pants wrapped up and sent all the way from Reno were also a big hit.

We made cookies to leave out for Santa which Liam sort of liked but I suspect it was mostly because he was eating fudge the whole time.


All in all, he seemed more interested in taking pictures than opening or playing with presents.

I think he captured the festivities rather well!

That is, until we put him to bed.

I read him several stories and laid him down but knew almost immediately that it didn't take. So, Bill went in right behind me and offered him more milk and more stories. After that, we got on with helping Santa put together Liam's first tricycle!


Maybe an hour into our little project, I heard Liam in his room talking. I thought maybe he needed to be changed before he went to sleep so I opened his door. I could tell immediately that he didn't need to be changed.

Me: "Buddy, are you OK?"

Liam: "Yeah. Presents?"

Me (laughing): "You want to get up and play with your presents?"

Liam (grinning like mad): "Yeah."

What could I do? I yelled out to the living room for Bill to abort mission and hide everything in the laundry room so Liam could come play with his presents. You can't ignore something that cute. Not on Christmas!

All in all we had to not ignore it 3 more times and didn't get Liam to sleep until after midnight. He never cried or got upset - it was literally just sheer excitement keeping him up. That has never happened before. It's like they say - he was just like a kid at Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Making a list, checking it twice.

We've started a few holiday traditions since moving to Nashville three years ago. We were happy to have indulged in the following this year:

The Lockeland Springs Christmas Tour of Homes
You get to see inside your neighbors homes and check out their holiday decorations. It's like a dream come true for me!

Peppermint Mochas
In an effort to avoid the "latte effect" we read about it Smart Couples Finish Rich, we don't usually splurge in things like Starbucks. That makes peppermint mochas taste extra good at Christmastime.

Robin, Adam & Jerome's Annual Holiday Soiree
I love this party! Everyone gets dressed up and acts all fancy until Michael Jackson comes on the stereo and Richie starts dancing. Then the party really gets started!

Me & the hostess-with-the-mostess in 2006...

...and 2007!

The Holiday Workshop at Art & Invention
I love that such an awesome gallery is in our neighborhood. You have to step over a big sleepy dog to get inside but it's totally worth it. It's so warm and friendly and the workshop table has all the fun supplies you need to make really great projects. And you don't end up with glitter all over your house!

Me (very pregnant!) & my sister in 2005

Liam in the same smock my sister wore!

That is one fine gingerbread man!

Food, Drinks & Movies we've already seen
The specifics may vary but the concept stays the same - hang out, watch movies (like Family Man or something we've seen a million times), drink and eat snacks (never meals!). This year we really got into mulled wine, brie and apples with honey & almonds. We also threw in a meat stick, some mustard, more cheese and crackers and wintery beers. And a baguette. It was a really good year.

I also really enjoy decorating the inside of our house (less is more) and sending Christmas cards. I like doing cards so much, I did my sister's this year too!


I'm indecisive so I did two.

Our card from last year - he's so cute I could eat him.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Easy come, easy go.

I'm going to say something here that might raise a few eyebrows:

I think date night might be over-rated.

Don't get me wrong, having a little alone time with my husband is great. I love that part of it. What I don't love is the pressure. It feels like you have to fit all the fun you think you're missing out on into one little night out. It's like New Year's Eve or something - with so much build up, you're bound to be disappointed. And disappointed we were.

We got a babysitter last night so we could have a holiday date. It was Bill's idea. He was trying to make up for the weekend before when we got all dressed up for a Christmas party and then ended up drinking too much and not really hanging out with each other at all. Originally he wanted to pack a picnic and take me on a horse drawn carriage ride downtown (something I always say we should do one of these days). It would have been really fun but we didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars to sit behind a horse for an hour (can you believe?).

We came up with plan B. We decided to do a little Christmas shopping together and then grab a bite before meeting up with friends for a drink. We didn't want to spend a whole lot on dinner so we decided not to go to our favorite restaurant, Cafe Margot. Last time we did this, we ended up not having a great meal and still spending what we would have spent at Margot. I really wish we would have learned our lesson the first time.

We ended up at a place called Parco Cafe that we read many great reviews for online. It sounded like it would be a really great meal for about half the cost of Margot. When we called to make a reservation, we were really excited they had a table available. When we showed up for our 7:30 reservation and were one of only two tables in the entire restaurant, we should have taken it as a sign. Instead, we congratulated ourselves on finding such an unknown place. Surely we knew what others did not!

When we opened the menu and found a lousy wine selection and $22-$35 dinners, we shrugged and tried to make the most of it.

When the hostess brought a martini glass full of burnt walnuts to our table, we tried not to laugh.

When the waiter brought Bill his $35 filet and it was practically raw enough to moo, we simply asked for it to be cooked longer.

When my chicken was rubbery and gross and I totally got a tendon and couldn't get around it by eating the sides or salad or bread because there weren't any, we started to get pissed.

When, 15 minutes later, Bill's meal was still no where to be seen, we started cursing any and every restaurant that wasn't Cafe Margot.

When we realized we had to pay $85 for this lovely evening out, we just felt sad.

We badmouthed the restaurant and our bad decision all the way back to our neighborhood. We were so mad we could hardly see straight. This is what date night does to us. We want so badly to have a good time that when we don't we really don't.

We redeemed the night by meeting up with some friends at Red Door for drinks (to drown our sorrows) and getting Krystal on the way home (since we hadn't really had dinner). Add the cost of a babysitter to all that and you can see why date night is on my list.

Maybe we just don't know how to do it right. Does anyone have advice for the date night impaired?

Before the date. Don't we look optimistic?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A jolly good time.

Last night our friends Erin and Sean had us over for a really fun holiday happy hour. Bill was in Cincinnati at his company party so Liam and I had to represent for the family. It was a perfect combination of friends, food, drinks and crafts.

Erin set out a whole table of art supplies and told us to make, "Jesus, Mary or Elvis ornaments," with the pictures she had printed. As it turns out, my friends are really creative! I was particularly impressed with Sean's project:

I call this masterpiece, "Sharpie Mustache."

What?

Liam and Owen joined in the fun and made some really lovely paintings. It's so much fun to see them together!

With a mustache like that, I believe it's pronounced, "arteeest."

Liam and I had so much fun, we didn't get home until after 11. I think the sugar cookies kept him fueled up.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A good day.

Life with a toddler is amazing. Some days I feel like I can actually see Liam growing. He's learning so much right now but gets frustrated that he doesn't know it all quite yet. It's the kind of frustration that turns a sweet, mellow child into something um...not so sweet and mellow. When he has a particularly whiny day or throws a monster of a tantrum for no real reason, it can go from kind of funny to totally exhausting in a matter of moments.


Fortunately, we have very few hard days. The ones we do have make me appreciate days like today even more.

We watched Sesame Street this morning and ate apple oatmeal (he actually ate!). Then we went into his room where he washed dishes in the sink, made me some tea and spaghetti, and drank orange juice (an orange in a cup). We colored pictures and played catch and threw balls into his crib.

He must have worked up quite an appetite because he actually ate lunch! He's usually not a very good eater but today he had several bites of macaroni and cheese with peas and about a half of a half of a piece of toast. Amazing!

It was such a nice day I decided to take him outside for a little before his nap. He went down the slide on his own once and then decided it was more fun to put his toys down instead (he's not what you'd call a dare devil).


We played fetch with Cloey and explored the yard. Way back in the corner (where I'm sure all the bugs hang out), Liam found a beach ball that was almost flat and covered in dried mud. He carried it around for a few minutes until he realized it was dirty and started to freak out (he doesn't like to have stuff on his hands). I thought, oh man, this is it, I messed up our great day by delaying the nap! But, it ended up being fine. I just brought him in, washed his hands, got him some milk and read him a few books. When I laid him down he went right to sleep.

Now, a couple of hours later, he's in his crib talking and singing to himself. When he's ready to get up he'll say, "Hey, Mama!" or "I need help!". I can't wait to hear that little voice.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pimp my chi.

I recently read an article in Domino magazine about feng shui that really opened my eyes. Apparently, your home (or office or desk or whatever) is broken into 8 sections called baguas that correspond to different areas of your life. Here's an example of a bagua map I found online:


You're supposed to imagine laying a map like that over your home to figure out what rooms correspond to what parts of your life (your front door is at the bottom). I don't know too much about it yet but I think it's pretty interesting. Especially when I applied it to my home. I found that some of my rooms looked like they had been designed my a feng shui master (like my family room) while others were completely disastrous.

For example, my laundry room just so happens to fall in my wealth bagua. This is the one room of the house I close off when we have guests. It's where we keep the cat box and all the stuff that doesn't have anywhere else to go. There is a perfectly usable bathroom in there but we never use it (or let anyone else use it) because it's too hard to get the door open with all the junk in the way. Needless to say, it's not exactly the kind of space I want representing my wealth.

Here's the before:





And here's the after:


It's still a pretty ugly room but at least now it's clean and organized. I can get to and from the washing machine without tripping over random stuff and we can find pretty much anything we need.

I think the chi is flowing better too.

Since I cleaned the room, I have received a letter saying I will receive $25 from a class action lawsuit about bank charges over seas (it's legit), a check from Liam's school for a couple of hours I helped out (I thought I was volunteering), and money from Sunny for helping teach a private hoop class. That's over $100 I wasn't expecting. Imagine what will happen if I paint it purple!

City slicker.

The neighborhood we live in is as close to downtown as you can get without living in a high rise. The houses are historic, the people are friendly and there are lots of fun things to do within walking distance. It's just about perfect.

That is, until you want to do something like, say, go to Target.

When we first moved here, we had no idea how inconvenient this neighborhood was. We were used to the suburbs of Reno where there are strip malls as far as the eye can see. We had never lived in a city, so to speak, and it has taken some getting used to.

On the first night we were here, after we unloaded the U-Haul in the sweltering September heat, we realized we didn't have a shower curtain or towels. So we dragged our sweaty selves to the neighborhood sports bar for a beer and directions to the nearest Target. Our waitress looked at us with pity as she pointed and said, "you want to go up Gallatin about 20 miles until you see it on your left."

Since then, we've gotten used to our location and hardly ever even notice that it takes all morning to run a few quick errands. That is, most days we don't notice. Today was a different story.

I ordered a few more photo Christmas cards to be printed at the Target one-hour photo. Instead of ordering them from the Target 15 minutes away, I ordered them from the Target 20 minutes away because last time I ordered cards from the 15 minute Target, they were all out of envelopes. When I got to 20 minute Target this morning and asked for my cards, I was met with a blank stare. It turns out the photo girl was at a funeral today so no one was printing anything. I somewhat sarcastically asked, "should I just drive all the way home and re-order them to be printed at another Target?" Yep, as it turns out, that's exactly what I should do!

To keep Liam happy, I kept telling him we'd get a hot chocolate as soon as we were done. Well, when I walked him over to the in-store Starbucks to get that hot chocolate (or decaf mint mocha - he wouldn't know the difference), the girl at the counter pointed to a long list of things they didn't have. You better believe mint and mocha were on that list!

No hot chocolate, no picture cards, no nothing!

By now my cards should be printed at 15 minute Target (they got more envelopes) but my window of being able to leave the house was wasted with the trip to 20 minute Target earlier. Now Liam is napping and instead of sending the last of my Christmas cards, I'm writing about wanting to send them.

You'll never believe it - Billy just walked in the door with a mint mocha from Starbucks and...NO PHOTO CARDS! He went to 15 minute Target to pick them up for me (isn't that sweet?) but no one could find them and Jimmy, the only guy there who seems to know anything, was on break. Bill waited and waited but Jimmy didn't show and no one found our cards.

Now I'm mad. It's one thing to waste my time but don't mess with my husband! This isn't over, Target. And not just because we'll have to make another trip to pick up our cards. (Seriously, this will be our 5th.)

They should stop calling it 1-hour photo. I think half-a-tank-of-gas photo has a nicer ring to it.

At least my cards are cute.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A few of my favorite things.

With 2007 coming to an end, I wanted to take a moment to think about all of the good stuff I've discovered (or rediscovered) this year.

Electrolux Pronto Cordless Vacuum
I got this at the beginning of the year with a $100 Sears gift card my sister-in-law Bubba gave us for Christmas. Considering it's a vacuum cleaner, it's a little ridiculous how much I love it. With a dog and two cats, our house is in constant need of vacuuming. The swiffer vacuum we had before was good for the hardwoods but completely useless when it came to area rugs or carpet. I had to haul the big vacuum out every few days to get all the pet hair off the rugs which was really just a signal to the pets that they had to go and re-mark their territory with more hair. I swear - I would barely have the cord wrapped up when I'd see them rolling all over the rug, tufts of hair literally flying off their bodies. I either had to get the vacuum out again or deal with the pet hair for a few more days. I hate the vacuum. It's really heavy and hard for me to move and way too loud to use during naps. I always end up getting the cord stuck under a door or wrapped around a chair or something and almost every time I'm this close to finishing a room, I go too far and the cord flies out of the outlet and I have to stop everything and go and plug it back in. I know it's stupid but it really, really bugs me (I have similar issues with the garden hose). This is why I love my Electrolux so much. It's cordless and can be used on hardwoods and carpets! I still have to use the big guy to really get the carpets clean but now, when I see the cat rolling around on my freshly vacuumed rug, I don't want to kill her quite as much.

Frozen Berries
I've been buying big bags of frozen berries for years. When I was still working, I'd make smoothies for breakfast with yogurt, orange juice, frozen berries, a banana and protein powder. I probably had one every single morning I was pregnant. It wasn't until recently that I realized frozen berries are good for other things too. I was at my sister's house and she offered me a snack of granola with yogurt and blueberries. Frozen blueberries. She just defrosted them in hot water. Genius! Now I put them on steel cut oatmeal, yogurt, cereal and even in salads (spinach, blueberries, feta & walnuts - yum!). Liam likes to eat them straight from the freezer - he'll ask for a bowl of blueberries "cold as ice." We also really, really like them on Kashi Go-Lean frozen waffles (another really great thing I discovered this year!). I put some frozen blueberries and raspberries on the stove with a little apricot jam and orange marmalade (the just fruit kind with no sugar or fake sugar added) and cook it until it turns into what I believe would be called a compote. Stick that on top of a toasty waffle and you've got yourself a damn fine breakfast. It's so good even Liam will eat it!

(The Kashi Pilaf is really good and healthy too. We like to make it savory, mix it up with a bunch of sauteed vegetables & black beans and top it with a little salsa, sour cream, avocado and shredded cheese. It's like Q'doba but way better!)

Classical Baby
This is an amazing program that we found on HBO family when we still had HBO. We've watched it on TiVo about a million times and even bought the whole set on DVD so we could take it with us when we travelled. Unlike most kid shows, Classical Baby is not only tolerable, it's enjoyable. The whole show is music and animation - no annoying voices or sound effects - and it exposes kids to classical music, art and dance. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Now, if only I could get Liam to drop Joe from Blue's Clues and go back to Classical Baby, my life would be just about perfect.

Blogs
Did you know you can find blogs on just about anything? Oh, you did? I'm the only one who is just now learning about this? Hmm. Well, that doesn't make it any less exciting! I hope to some day list all the blogs I love on my blog but I think I'll wait until the kid-in-a-candy-store excitement has worn off.

Workout DVDs
Sure the YMCA has child care but have I ever used it? Nope. No reason really, just haven't wanted to leave my crying child with a stranger while I used the elliptical machine for half an hour. Its hard enough to get motivated! I tried doing the work out plans in fitness magazines but wasn't very good at cracking the whip for myself. Ten minutes of half-assed squats is hardly going to get me in shape. Fortunately, an infomercial caught me at a weak moment and I became the proud owner of the Slim in Six workout DVDs. I was pretty embarrassed until I got them and realized, I love workout videos! I get up early before anyone else is awake (this is another awesome thing I started doing this year) and before I'm alert enough to talk myself out of it, I'm already working out. It's especially nice because the DVD can be played with or without music which means I can work out to my own mix. The play list I usually use includes Decemberists, Feist, Bloc Party, Scissor Sisters, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Tegan & Sara and Michael Jackson. I have since added to my workout DVD collection with Yoga Booty Ballet (really silly but a fun workout) & Mari Winsor Pilates (kind of boring but good for days I'm feeling extra lethargic). Waking up early and doing something for myself makes me feel more energetic and like I'm in control of my life. And, when I work out consistently, I even get a little muscle definition!

The Mall as a Playground
This ingenious idea came from Emery and I thank her dearly for it. Nashville is hot in the summer. I mean, really hot. And humid. It's the kind of hot you can't avoid unless you stay indoors with all the drapes drawn and the AC on high. Even then, it's still kind of hot. There are several weeks during the summer when it's too hot to do anything outside except go to the pool. On days we weren't in the mood to swim, we would go mall walking. At first, I thought it was going to be like walking walking but soon realized that at the mall, Liam is boss. So, I just let him lead the way and push the empty stroller behind him. We people watch and search for letters and numbers colors and Liam says hi to the old ladies in their bright white tennis shoes. Sometimes we catch a sing-a-long at Pottery Barn Kids or story time at David Kidd bookstore. There's no agenda, no where we have to go and Liam loves it. As soon as the holiday shopping frenzy is over, we'll start up again. Last time we were there, we got honked at by two old guys in rascals. That's the holiday spirit for you!

Cheap Easy Chili
I am not a huge fan of cooking (or cleaning up) so this meal is a favorite of mine.
You need:
1 onion
1 can each of:
Beer
Crushed tomatoes
Beef broth
Tomato paste (the little tiny cans)
Black Beans
Kidney Beans
Chick Peas
Some garlic, chili powder & cumin
(Be sure to read all the labels - if you're not careful you'll get kidney beans with high fructose corn syrup!) Cut up the onion and saute it with a little olive oil and a clove or two of garlic until it's nice and soft (you can add red bell pepper too if you want a little more nutrition and color). Then pour all the cans into the pot (I rinse the beans first), season as much or as little as you want (Bill adds actual chilies and stuff like that but I think it's just as good the easy way), stir everything together and cook on med-low for maybe 30 minutes until it looks like chili (I like to toss in a bunch of frozen corn toward the end). I make cornbread with extra corn (either from a box or scratch) and serve the chili with avocado, shredded cheese & sour cream. I think it tastes especially good if you put cornbread with honey on top of the chili and then mix everything together. This is such an easy, healthy, cheap meal and it makes plenty of yummy leftovers. What's not to love?

Mother's Day Out
Liam started school at Eastwood Christian Children's Center in September. Twice a week from 9-12 he gets to play on the playground, go to Kindermusik class, make art projects and interact with other kids while I get to do ANYTHING I WANT. It's like a little piece of heaven. Even when I use the break to work, it still feels like a break. When I pick him up at the end of the day and his little face lights up as he runs toward me shouting, "Mama!", it is maybe the best feeling in the whole world. This little person whom I love so dearly misses me when I'm gone. That's reason enough to leave him once in a while!

Wine in a Box
Opening a bottle of wine makes me feel a strange sense of commitment that I don't feel with other beverages. Sure, it may be a weeknight and I may be all alone watching Grey's Anatomy in my bedroom but if I've opened a bottle of wine, chances are I'm gonna see it through to the end. No sense in saving it until tomorrow - I'll probably have a wine headache from tonight and not want a glass. By the next day, it's no good anymore and I'll have to throw it out. Trying to decide between accidentally getting drunk in the middle of the week or throwing out half a bottle of wine was like Sophie's Choice or something. Well, not anymore. Ever since I found Black Box Cabernet Sauvignon and Faux Frog Pinot Noir at Woodland Wine Merchant, I can enjoy all the health benefits (and stress relief) of a glass of wine with dinner without feeling like a challenge has been thrown down. One box holds 4 bottles of wine, costs less than $30 and lasts for months once you open it. You can see how life changing this is going to be.

A few other things that greatly improved my year:

This American Life on NPR
Even though Liam protests car rides by yelling, "poor neck!" and grabbing at his seat belt like it's strangling him, I still go out of my way for long car trips just so I can listen to This American Life podcasts. Awesome stories, free downloads, David Sedaris. Need I say more?

Hair Straightener
If you're ever having one of those days where you feel like crap for no particular reason, straighten your hair. I swear, in 10 minutes you can go from Gilda Radner to Jennifer Anniston. How could that not make you feel better?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Adventures in babysitting.

From the time I was about 12 until a few years after I got married, I babysat all the time. I would play with the kids, cook them dinner, get them to bed on time and have the house orderly and quiet when the parents got home. I would take kids to baseball practice or swim lessons or pick them up from school. I never had boyfriends over or talked on the phone or did anything other than babysit (except when I watched kids for several days in a row which *hello?* is awesome). I only charged $5/hour and would stay as late as people wanted. If I fell asleep on the couch, I would always wake up when I heard the door open. I drove myself to and from even when people lived all the way accross town.

Parents were always head-over-heels for me and I never understood why. Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you babysit? Well, now I realize good babysitters (who don't cost a fortune) are hard to find. I mean really hard to find. No wonder people were so ga-ga over me and my sister!

Not that we've had bad babysitters. Not at all. The one babysitter we've used has been great. But when she's busy, we're stuck. It's time to branch out.

I finally understand why people stop having lives after their kids are born - it's really hard to leave the house!

Things are starting to look up! I just found a babysitter for tomorrow night. She's coming over in a couple hours to meet Liam and I'm pretty sure she's going to be awesome. And, in my quest to find someone, I added about 8 new contacts to my list of potential sitters. Woo hoo - date night here I come!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Like a bird on a wire.

This morning while I was getting ready for my interview I noticed this in my bathtub:

At first glance I thought it was a muddy cat print from Mr. Bird and his insatiable thirst for bathtub water but on closer inspection, I realized it was bird poop. In my house! The intruder must have come in through the window. I'm hoping he went out the way he came in.

Does this look like an invitation to poop in my tub?

The curtain rod must have looked like a mighty nice place to rest.
And poop.

Birds gross me out. They are too fragile and fast moving and Bill says they have hollow bones which I think is disgusting. Once a bird got in to a house I was house sitting and I just left it there because I was too freaked out to touch it. As I slowly backed away from the house, my friend Erin drove by and saved the day. Without her, the bird would have been flying around their house pooping for several more days. That's just bad house sitting!

Last year we had mice in our house. I don't know if they have hollow bones or not but they totally gross me out too. Ew...I can't even think about it without getting the creeps.

I don't care what you say - that is NOT cute.

Another one bites the dust.

#17 on my list of things to do when I'm 30:

Explore the possibility of teaching.

How about I'll not only explore the possibility but actually get a job. Teaching! Well, substitute teaching. But still! I only wanted to work part-time while Liam is at his school so this is perfect. As long as my background check comes back clean (which, unless I'm hiding something from myself, should be no problem), I'll start substituting at an independent K-8 academy in my neighborhood in the next week or so. Eeee! I'm so excited!!!

I got to tour the school this morning after my interview. Every time I went into a classroom one or two student ambassadors would come shake my hand, introduce themselves, and tell me a little bit about their classroom and what they were working on. If I hadn't been prepared, I would have totally started crying. If I was in the kindergarten classroom, I could have used the "crying tent" - a little tent with pillows and books and a box of Kleenex where kids can go if they need a moment to let it out. How cute is that?

It's an amazing school and I'm excited to be a part of it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Joy to the world.

Yesterday Bill and I tried to take our Christmas decorating to the next level by hanging icicle lights on our house. We've done it before and it wasn't that big of a deal but for some reason this year we just couldn't get it together.

Bill was the main man in charge and I was his lovely assistant. He stood on the porch railing trying to figure out how we did this in the past while I bent paperclips into little hooks and handed them to him. He was kind of irritable and it didn't help that that half the lights were shorting out and really loud cars kept speeding past our house. His irritability wore off on me (or was it the other way around? you never can tell...) and soon I was so frustrated that we weren't enjoying this Christmas tradition that I called the whole thing off.

So, no lights on our house this year. They were kind of ugly anyway. We do have a wreath and might get some garland but only if it's more user friendly than the lights.

The whole situation got me thinking (out loud): where's the joy? Shouldn't hanging lights on your house be all warm and fuzzy and possibly involve hot chocolate? I'm pretty sure Christmas is supposed to be merry, not stressful.

I sulked around the house for a while until Bill finally convinced me to go somewhere. I had to pick up some pictures from Costco and decided I'd stop off at Target to look for Christmas cards on the way. Big mistake. I may not know where to find Christmas joy but I can tell you one thing: it isn't out shopping. Being at that store full of zombies snapping at each other while they filled their carts with stuff they didn't need and probably couldn't afford all in the sake of holiday consumerism made me want to run home and hide out for the rest of the season. What the heck happened to Christmas?

This has always been my favorite time of year but now that I'm really thinking about it, I can't say why. Thinking back to childhood it seems like it was all about anticipation. My sister and I would make a Christmas countdown chain out of red and green construction paper and then fight over who got to tear off the ring each day. We'd run to the door when we heard the UPS truck and almost fall over dead with excitement if it actually stopped in front of our house. We would lay in bed at night and talk about what we thought we might get from Santa. Sometimes we'd even shake the presents under the tree to see if we could figure out what was inside (later, when my sister was home alone after school, she'd just open her gifts and re-wrap them).

It's starting to sound like all my joy of Christmas past revolved around presents. Is that possible? Could the one thing I hate about Christmas be what I used to love most?

No, it can't be. I mean, sure, I loved opening presents as much as the next kid. But, for me, it wasn't about the stuff, it was about the tradition (even though it wasn't all that traditional). My typical childhood Christmas was spent at home with just the four of us. On Christmas Eve we would eat a quick dinner (like taquitos) and then pile in my dad's Jeep to go drive around Hidden Valley and look at Christmas lights. When we got home, we would turn on Christmas music like Amy Grant or Elvis, put on the matching Christmas nightgowns my Aunt Jill bought us one year, and take turns opening gifts. I would always look forward to watching people open what I got them (usually something I made in art class) and opening the ornament and $50 check my Uncle Jack and Aunt Lue sent every year. After we opened all of the gifts, we would hang our stockings on the nice clean fireplace (my dad cleans it out every year so Santa doesn't land in a pile of ashes), set out some cookies and eggnog, and go to bed early. In the morning, whoever woke up first would wake everyone else and we'd all go into the living room together. The tree lights would be on - proof that Santa had been there! - and our stockings would be full of candy, bath stuff, walnuts, an orange, and emery boards. We usually got one non-stocking gift, too. One year we got a dollhouse (I wanted it for soooo long yet still haven't finished building it), another year a basketball hoop, and in high school we got our very own phone line! We'd sit around the tree, looking at all of our stuff and eating sausage balls or Entenmens cheese danish. After a bath with my new bubbles and soaps, we'd drive up to Tahoe and go sledding. (In all honesty, we probably only did that a couple of times but it still feels like a Day family tradition.) And that was it - Christmas!

You know what? I'm fooling myself if I think Christmas is any different now than it used to be. I guarantee you my dad never put up the Christmas lights without yelling at one of us or swearing loudly to himself or falling off the roof (at least once). In retrospect it looks all joyful and merry and flocked in snowy goodness but in reality, it's a lot of work! Not to mention all the built up expectations. No wonder people at Target are so grouchy!

I think I'll just ignore all the expectations and do what I want to do instead of what I think I'm supposed to do. Do I want to spend a Saturday afternoon fighting with my husband about little dangling lights? No! I'd rather sit on the couch drinking mulled wine and watching Christmas Vacation for the 879th time. I'm feeling more joyful already!

Our attempt at getting a Christmas card worthy photo was as successful as the outside lights.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I love rainy days.

Liam and I spent the morning at the downtown library. I had to return One Hundred Years of Solitude (yes, that's right, I finally finished it) and a couple of videos Billy rented about the judicial system. After we dropped them in the return slot, we wandered up to the kids section and Liam led the way.

He loves having access to so many books yet didn't really have the patience to actually read anything today. He would run about 5 steps, grab a big book off the shelf, sit down, open it to the inside cover, say what color it was, then say, "the end," and close the book. After doing this a dozen or so times, we moved over to the play area where Liam worked on a couple puzzles before deciding he was ready for some milk and a walk.

I followed him out of the children's section to the open marble stair case and the sound of music. We walked until we found the TSU Double Reed Ensemble playing Christmas carols in the Nashville room. He was completely drawn in. He would dance until the music stopped and then yell, "more song!"

A woman sitting near us told us there was a puppet show at 11:30 in the children's theater and we decided to check it out. Instead of the usual story time performance, we were treated to A Child's Calendar, a musical puppet show of John Updike poems that describes the seasons month by month using a fantastic tree and bunraku puppetry (where the puppeteers dress all in black and move near life sized puppets around the stage - bizarre!). Liam was a little freaked out by the puppets so we had to sneak out half way through but still, what a fun way to spend a rainy morning!

Stuck in the middle.

Liam is in his crib right now yelling, "Dada! Where are you?" Bill is right next door trying to snag 5 more minutes of sleep before he has to start the day. What a sweet way to wake up (even if it is a little early).

I'm so grateful to have a husband who is as madly in love with our child as I am. I love that he plays football with him and reads to him and takes baths with him and kisses him so much it sometimes freaks my parents out (which in turn totally freaks me out - what's wrong with kissing a baby?). I hope that they never greet each other at the airport with an awkward handshake the way Bill and his dad do.

How is it possible to grow up so different from our parents? Are we really different or do we just spend a lifetime trying to convince ourselves that we are?

I spent nearly 2 weeks with our family over Thanksgiving. Our parents all live in Reno, Nevada (where we grew up) and get along so well that it no longer feels like my family and his family but just our family. I sometimes forget how lucky we are not to have to divide our time between two sets of parents. I don't know if it's just been like this for so long that I've started to take it for granted or if I get so overwhelmed when we're all together that I forget to stop and thank my lucky stars. Either way, I need to remember that we have it pretty darn good.

I love my family, I really do, but sometimes we drive each other crazy. I hate it. I want to be the kind of family you see in movies where all the kids and grandkids come home for the holidays and bond over old traditions and shared interests and big, happy meals. Where nobody is nagging or drinking too much or carrying around resentment that really just needs to be let go.

I used to think these families existed and it made me sad that I didn't have one. But the older I get and the more people I meet, the more I realize there is no such thing as a perfect family. Great news - we're totally normal! But wait - does that mean Bill, Liam and I are going to be imperfect and totally normal someday, too? Can't I have the Hollywood version now that I'm the mom? Don't I get a choice in this?

My family.

I think I'm just in a weird place right now where I feel like I'm stuck in the middle between two different roles. I'm one half child and one half parent and my two halves don't seem to get along. The child side of me is frustrated and confused and misunderstood and resentful. The parent side of me is hopeful but also scared to death.

My family.

What if Liam grows up to feel the same way about us that we feel about our parents? What can I do to make sure that doesn't happen?

I know one thing for sure, mommy brain won't help. If I weave my whole identity around him and then he grows up (which is inevitable by the way), I'll be left with nothing. Just a shell of a woman who used to make great sack lunches and had a knack for reading out loud. I need to hold on to a side of me that is just me so I'll still be a person at the end of all this. Someone my husband will want to be married to. Someone my kids will want to come visit. Someone who is content with herself and doesn't have to stay busy all the time to prove it.

It's a hard balance to strike - giving your all to your family all the time yet somehow finding a way to take care of yourself too. It's tricky, I'm sure, but it has to be possible. I'm determined to figure it out because I don't ever want to subconsciously hold my child back because I'm scared to face my life without him. I never want him to experience that resentment or guilt (oh, the guilt!). I want to always encourage him to learn and grow and succeed and go.

If I can be a totally supportive mother with a happy marriage, interests of my own, and a lovely and hospitable home, what the heck do I have to worry about? Liam would be crazy not to come visit! I just may get my Hollywood Christmas after all!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Goodnight sweetheart.




Liam loves sleep as much as his daddy and I do. He started sleeping through the night when he was just a few months old and has always fallen asleep on his own in his own bed. He takes a long nap every day and sleeps at least 12 hours each night. He'll even sleep in on weekends!

We started a bedtime routine when he was really little that stayed the same until just a couple of months ago. Every night we would read I Love You Through and Through, Goodnight Moon, and Time for Bed. Before naps we would read him different stories but at night it was always these three. It was like a signal to his little body to sleep all night long and it worked.

Then, all of a sudden, a couple of months ago, he was over it. Not the sleeping, thankfully, but the books. He still wanted me to read him books, just not those books. If I pulled one of them off the shelf, he would throw his head and arch his back and start to slide out of my lap. He'd say, "no book, no book, no book," until I put it away and grabbed something different. I couldn't even read those books during the day anymore. Enough was enough!

Eventually he let me read them again but only once in a while and certainly not all three at one sitting.

Tonight he let me read I Love You Through and Through. It was very sweet, almost nostalgic. We also read Surf's Up for Kimo and The Carrot Seed. When I turned out the light, he handed me his milk and whispered, "Thank you." Then he rested his sweet apricot smelling head on my shoulder and I carried him to his crib. I asked him for a kiss and he gave it to me. "Goodnight," I whispered. "Bye," he whispered back.

I have the best job in the world.

I am woman...

...watch me get crushed by a Christmas tree!

Yeah, it totally fell on me but, in the end, I won.

Isn't it pretty? We don't have very many ornaments but the ones we do have all mean something to us. I wouldn't say we necessarily love all of them but we can remember where most of them came from.

Like this one:

Homemade by yours truly in 1996 for my future husband who, at the time, was my ex-boyfriend. He was obsessed with Kate Moss and I guess I was obsessed with him. This beauty was the crowning glory on the basket of pathetic Christmas cookies my sister and I made and delivered to his family (against her will, of course).

Here's a sampling of some of our other fabulous ornaments:

An angel we bought for my sister (she loves black babies).

The first ornament we bought as a married couple!

From our Thanksgiving trip to London in 2003.