Monday, March 31, 2014

Exercise for mental health.

Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.

That is an excerpt from a book I recently read called Spark by John Ratey, MD. Pretty motivating, right? I downloaded it in an attempt to brainwash myself into forming a regular exercise routine. I figured the normal motivators (swim suit season, skinny jeans...) were obviously not working, so I needed to come at it from a different angle.

I had never taken the focus off my body and put it on my mind before when it came to exercise but it turns out, it's a totally different thing. Instead of waiting for "results" that may or may not happen, you just do your 30 minutes of cardio every day because you have to. It's like a prescription. (Or actually, it's better than a prescription...) Not doing it just isn't an option.

Of course, when you have small children who are with you 24/7, this is much easier said than done. There will be days when finding 30 minutes of sweaty me time is as impossible as learning to fly. But now that I know my goal, I can do my best to make it a priority.

At first I planned to wake up early each morning to get my 30 minutes over with before the kids got up. I figured it was the only surefire way I'd fit it in. I told Bill one night that I was setting my alarm for 6:30 so I could get up and go for a run before he left for the office. He just kind of looked at me like, "It's almost midnight and it's COLD outside. Plus...have you met my wife?"

He's totally right. Mornings are not my thing. Nor is running. Or cold weather. Or hot weather... I had to figure out a way to make this as easy as possible.

Fortunately we've had no luck getting rid of our Xfinity cable (we never use it now that we've got Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime but it's cheaper to have it than not have it or something crazy like that...). Anyway, there are a ton of fitness videos on demand - and lots of them are 30 minutes long! So far, this is the most consistent way I've found of getting a workout in on a regular basis.

I don't need a babysitter or a big chunk of time and I can do it whenever I want (aka, whenever the boys are not up in my grill for a second). And if I get finished with the workout for my brain and still have time, I can easily add a workout for my body (five minute abs videos are perfect - that's really about all I can handle anyway). Plus, I love me some good aerobics.

As for results, I can definitely say when I do the thirty minutes, I feel better than when I don't. And since I'm weaning off one antidepressant (Zoloft), it's a perfect time for me to ramp up another one (exercise). As for not developing dementia or other brain related illnesses later in life...I'll have to let you know. (Way more fun than an after photo in a swim suit!)

Friday, March 28, 2014

The family that grows together, grows together.

We are so excited about our potential mini-farm, we can't even stand it. If the weather were anything like it's supposed to be in late March, I swear we'd be real gardeners by now.

But it snowed a couple days ago and froze the other night and today looks grey and miserable. So we've had to channel our excitement into other things. Things that can't freeze or die or make us regret getting so darn excited about growing our own food.

We built a raised bed (without fighting or getting divorced!) and had a whole bunch of healthy soil delivered to fill it. We even ordered worms for our compost bin and garden.

Over the weekend we went to an organic gardening class at No. 9 Farms in Ashland City. It was great to learn so much about the hows and whys of gardening, but it was especially great to reconnect with our neighbors who left our street to start the farm.

From a city lot in East Nashville to 40 acres in Ashland City...can you imagine? It was Stephanie's dream to live like Little House on the Prairie and the family is working together to make that happen. Pretty darn cool if you ask me.

What about you? Any potential gardeners or full fledged farmers out there? Do you work together as a family or is it your time to veg out? (Ha! Gardening pun...)

If you can't (or don't want to) dig up your own yard, there are lots of other ways to connect with spring. You could grow something inside (how fun would real grass be in an Easter basket?), or stick some colorful cut flowers in a vase. I've been springifying our house a bit here and there by swapping out fall colored pillows and throws for brighter versions.

And if none of that sounds good, forget your own house and go to a festive garden party! This Sunday, 12th and Broad is hosting a family friendly event where you can craft (and eat) and plant (and drink) and enjoy the coming season with your little ones without having to mess up your house (did I mention there'd be awesome food and drinks?!). You can buy tickets here.

Happy (snowy) spring!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The best/worst parenting advice you'll receive all day.

Recently we started a chore chart, inspired by the Dave Ramsey for Kidsbox set I gave Liam for his birthday (lucky kid!). The deal is, on Sunday we sit down to discuss the chores and expectations we have for the week and how much commission we're willing to pay. Throughout the week, he marks down what he's accomplished on his chart and on Friday, it's payday.

It started off with a bang. Liam enthusiastically washed every window in the house, made his bed every morning and jumped when I reminded him that payday was just around the corner. And for good reason. By the end of the week he had earned almost $20!

You'd think he'd be begging to do more chores but we're not exactly the most consistent family in the world. The entire next week just kind of passed us by. By the following Sunday though, he had cornered me and wouldn't let me go until we filled out the chart.

I sat with him to go over some of the things I would like done and how much I would be willing to pay in commission (the difference between commission and allowance is commission is earned, allowance is expected). Then he went to see if Bill needed help with anything.

He's always willing to throw some money at the kids if it will get them to do something they otherwise wouldn't but he couldn't come up with anything specific to add to the chart. "I'll let you know when I need some help and we can negotiate your fee then."

Not 10 minutes later, he came up with a plan. We were doing some work in the yard and needed to get Finn out of our hair for a bit. So Bill asked Liam to babysit. "Just go play together and keep him happy. I'll give you five bucks."

Liam was thrilled! (The only thing I had offered him that much for was cleaning the inside of our van.) Bouncing on the trampoline with his brother (who he literally plays with all day every day) for money?! That's a no brainer.

Finn was thrilled too. Because Liam wasn't just playing with him, he was babysitting. Instead of being bossy or put out or slightly annoyed (like a brother), he was engaged and excited and over-the-top nice and accommodating (like a great babysitter!).

Ever since, he's been about a hundred percent nicer to Finn. Not that he was terrible before. He really wasn't at all. But spontaneously setting up a game of Blue's Clues, walking Finn through every step AND letting him be Steve? Come on. No one is that nice.

At first I felt like it was kind of sad to pay our kids to be nice to each other. I mean, shouldn't they want to get along? But then I remembered how much I sometimes hated being the big sister because I had to look after Moose whether I wanted to or not. It drove me nuts that she could do whatever she wanted but if I wanted to do something, I had to either let her come with me or figure out something else for her to do (when my mom went back to work and we were home alone over the summer).

Now I see that it's just part of being the older sibling. Our expectations for Liam are not really much different that my parents' were for me (although I do try to be sensitive to both boys needs).

Liam has always had to include Finn. It's just a non-negotiable in our house. And on top of that, Finn completely adores Liam. He's like a stalker, really. He follows him around, copies him and tags along to playdates and sleepovers. So even if Liam didn't have to hang out with Finn all the time, he'd be hard pressed to shake him.

So it's not necessarily Liam's actions that have changed; it's his enthusiasm. While before, Finn was included out of obligation, now it seems to be out Like Liam genuinely wants Finn to be happy. Their whole relationship seems to have changed.

It seems backwards, right? By offering him money to hang out with his brother, it seems like we would have made hanging out with his brother a chore. But it didn't. Instead it became a win/win. He does what he always does (and mostly likes) AND he gets money for it? Winning! I think it may have also helped him see how great it is for the whole family when everyone gets along.

Whatever it is, it's awesome. So, try it. Pay your kids to hang out with each other. Worst case scenario, you're out five bucks. Best case? You just might reach a whole new level of brotherly cuteness.

{Oh, and for the record, Liam (who was reading over my shoulder part of the time I was trying to write this...) wanted to point out that Dada only offered him ONE dollar to babysit. So, there you go. Deal of the century.}

{AND if you can believe it...I was talking to a friend (who is a clinical psychologist) over dinner last night and she said that research has shown that if someone does something they don't necessarily want to do for money, less is more. If they get a hundred bucks to do something, it becomes all about the money. But if they only get, say, a dollar, they end up having a lot more buy in. Interesting stuff!}

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The more the merrier.

In our homeschool group, there are lots of families with lots of kids. It seems like four is the new two, although there are a handful of families with five or more (and of course some with only one).

As I sometimes struggle to keep track of mine (and there are only two of them!), I can't help but wonder what no one likes to be asked: "How do you do it?"

I don't mean it passive aggressively. How do you do it is not code for why do you do it. I'm not judging; I'm genuinely curious (and impressed!). I honestly don't know how anyone could raise more than two kids at a time.

There are only four people in our house and I have yet to get on top of the laundry. Like...ever. Not to mention the dishes and meals and grocery shopping and birthday parties and toys and projects and raising the kids to be decent human beings. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

At the park one day I mindlessly uttered to no one in particular, "I don't know how you guys do it..." A mama within ear shot piped up. "Having four is way easier than having one. When it was just me and my first baby, it was the worst. No distraction. No playmates. No breaks. Just me and my needy baby, day after day. That was hard."

I could tell she was being serious but I still didn't believe her. I loved when it was just me and my baby. We had our routine and nap time and could easily take outings whenever we wanted. I had time to write and workout and have nothing but very fond memories of that time.

But that was baby Liam. He was some sort of freakish anomaly. Like an adult in a baby's body. It was kind of like hanging out with a cuter version of myself. We both dig alone time so our time together is short and sweet and usually pretty effortless.

But I forget that not every kid is like that. Take my Finn for example. Yesterday while Liam was as school, Finn wanted my complete attention. FOR THE ENTIRE SEVEN HOURS LIAM WAS GONE. Now I love some one-on-one with my boys but this was out of control.

I tried "filling his tank" but it didn't seem possible. We'd play for a while and I'd be really engaged and present. Then I'd attempt to check in with my to-do list and he'd either send himself to his room with hurt feelings or stand next to me shouting Mama until I gave up the fight and went back to his room.

And it wasn't like he wanted to build or do an art project or read books all day. Nooo. That would have been way too easy. He wanted to just play. Pretend. ALL. DAY. LONG. I love the idea of pretend but can never make it happen with enough conviction to impress the boys. I'm basically in trouble the entire time.
"Mama, you're not doing it right! This is the battle of heros, remember? We have to force before you cut off my arm..."
"No! Queen Princess Knight doesn't sound like that. She's a girl. She sounds like this." (Does the voice exactly how I was doing it the first time.)
"You can't talk. You're a dog. Get back on your hands and knees."
"You already said that favorite color! You have to come up with a different favorite color. And sing better this time."
It's exhausting.

I was so excited to pick Liam up at school yesterday we were actually on time. What a relief to hear Finn talking to someone other than me for a change! It was like I could exhale for the first time all day.

Today I did the smart thing and invited a friend over to play. It turns out that mom was right. The more, the merrier! The boys are having a blast, no one is doing pretend wrong and my to-do list is finally ta-done. If anyone needs to borrow a three year old to increase their child/parent ratio for a few hours, I've got one who is available every Tuesday.

Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patty's Day.

When I was a kid, my mom would always make corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes on St. Patrick's Day. I was never a big meat eater but I always loved that meal. It's just so weird, you know? Unlike anything else we ate the rest of the year.

While I love the idea of carrying on a family tradition, I really don't like cooking meat (even the hot pink kind that doesn't look like meat). So for our St. Patrick's Day celebration this year, I went with a vegetarian Shepherd's Pie.

Actually I made two - one for us, and one for our lovely friends who just welcomed a new baby boy into the world. (Mama is Patricia, hence St. Patty's Day and not St. Paddy's Day which seems as weird as shortening John to Jack but is apparently the correct spelling.).

Shepherd's Pie is a great drop off meal and I loved that I could bring them something kinda festive that would taste good with a nice cold Guinness (which I also brought... What?! It's good for milk production!).

I wish I could give you an exact recipe but I'm just not that kind of cook. This isn't a very fussy thing to make though, so I'll give you a rough idea of what I did and the next time you get desperate for some vegetarian comfort food, you can throw together a version of your own.

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

What you'll need:
Vegetable Broth
Mixed Vegetables
Mashed Potatoes
Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Salt & Pepper

What you'll do:
Cook the lentils according to the package (in broth if you have it). While those are cooking, saute an onion in a little olive oil. Add a clove or two of garlic, some sage and thyme (or whatever herbs you like), salt & pepper, and some chopped up mushrooms. Stir it a bit and let it cook for a couple minutes. Add a little broth then dump in your veggies (I used two small bags of frozen mixed vegetables this time and it was kind of the best).

Cover and let simmer while the lentils finish cooking. Once they're done, mix them in with your veggies (you can add more broth if you accidentally leave the stove on low while you run to drop your kid off at newspaper class and half your lentils stick to the pan and the other half turn out okay but kinda dry). Make mashed potatoes (peel them, cut them into chunks, boil them in salted water until tender, drain them then mash 'em up with a little buttermilk, salt & butter - or however you like!).

Put the veggie/lentil mixture into a pie pan (or whatever), cover with a good inch or so of mashed potatoes and top with shredded cheese. Since everything is already hot, you can just stick your pie under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is browned and bubbly (or leave it for a few more minutes until it's burned...seriously, not my day for cooking!).

(Finn told me he loved the cake. It took me a minute to realize he meant the pie. Shepherd's pie...)

If you're feeling ambitious, you can make some gravy to serve on the side. It's really good so you should probably Google it if you don't already know how to make gravy (Bill's the gravy man in our house). I'd do it for you but I'm running out of steam and still have lots of clean up to do before bed...

We also made Irish Shortbread which was a first. I was going to do Irish Soda Bread but I figured the new baby's big brother would probably prefer something sweet and since it's a really big deal to have a little brother, cookies were an obvious choice. Super easy, totally delicious and possibly laced with magical powers (the batch we kept at home has completely disappeared!).

Irish Shortbread

1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c cornstarch
3/4 c confectioners' sugar
1 Tbs sugar
2 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature

Mix all ingredients until soft.

Roll into small balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press with a fork.

Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for about 18 minutes (shortbread should not brown). We added a few green sprinkles after we took the cookies out of the oven (not that anyone noticed as we were shoveling them into our mouths...).

Not exactly health food, but it's a beer drinking holiday - what do you expect?!

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! xo

Friday, March 14, 2014

Good support makes all the difference.

A few months ago, my cousin and I took an art journal class with Brene Brown via the Oprah website. It was the good kind of creative class - no wrong or right way to do anything, just prompts and suggestions around certain ideas. (I didn't even have to drop out!) One of the assignments that struck a chord for me was something like, Go back to a time when you could have used a little compassion and give it to yourself now.

I know it's hokey but stick with me.

Both of the things I came up with had to do with being under dressed and insecure.

One: the time I lost my skirt in first grade. (It was a wrap-around that un-wrapped.) When I went to the office to check lost and found (in my tights and furry hooded jacket), I was relieved to find my skirt but mortified when the secretary called my mom and the two of them got church giggles while I stood there in my skivvies. I think I would have preferred a hug.

Two: the time I forgot to wear a bra to school in 7th grade. Not only was it a P.E. day, it also happened to be the day a nurse was in the locker room checking everyone for scoliosis. That makes it sound like I grew up in the 50s. Does this still happen or am I officially an old lady? Anyway. Total mortification, obviously, especially when so many of the girls I went to school with already looked like women (or, at least, they did to little ole me).

Honestly, even if I hadn't forgotten my bra that day, it still would have been hugely embarrassing. Because as far as I remember, I went bra shopping with my mom exactly ONCE (back-to-school shopping before 5th grade) so by the time I had to change in front of all the girls in my 7th grade class, I was seriously unprepared.

I was such an awkward kid, especially around things like growing up. I didn't want to ask my mom for a more appropriate bra. I didn't want to tell her when I started my period. I didn't want her to notice that I was no longer a child. I was perpetually embarrassed for a good chunk of my life.

I think that time has since been re-branded the tween years.

I would have loved for those years to have been appreciated for what they were - the great in-between. The time in my life when I was no longer a girl, yet not quite a woman (thanks, Brit). But instead I just felt uncomfortable. Like I didn't fit into either space. Not great for a young lady's confidence.

This is why I was so excited to read about Yellowberry this morning. Yellowberry is a company founded by seventeen year old Megan Grassell who, mortified by the overly sexualized bra selection her 13 year old sister was forced to choose from, decided to make a line of bras specifically designed for the in-between years.

The bras are cute, colorful, comfortable and designed to fit a growing girl's body. They are way more fun than the pathetic training bra I often forgot to wear as a tween, yet not an under-wire or padded cup in sight. These bras are not meant to add cup sizes (or years); they are meant to support a girl exactly where she is now.

The name Yellowberry comes from the stages that ripening berries go through. Before the fruit is fully mature, it's yellow. There's nothing wrong with it; it's a normal, healthy part of the growing process. Rushing that stage doesn't make any sense. It's essential for growth. Same goes for girls. The goal isn't to go from a girl to a woman overnight. There's a whole in-between yellow stage that is vitally important and needs to be nurtured.

I really wish these bras were around when I was a kid.

But thanks to my hokey art journal, I can "go back" to that awkward girl standing braless in a locker room and give her a little encouragement (and maybe something to cover up with). I would tell her - "You feel awkward because you don't fit in. You're no longer a kid but you're not yet an adult. But guess what? I have the best news! There's this whole stage that you don't know about! Where everyone's awkward and in-between and yellow. It's called the "tween" stage and you're totally nailing it!"

Then I'd hand her a pretty little Yellowberry bra and send her off to run the mile (and maybe get her spine checked for scoliosis...).

Yellowberry has launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund start up costs. Please check out this video and consider offering some support (bra pun - ha!). And if you have daughters or young girls in your life (or you just want to make growing up a little easier for a whole bunch of tweens), please pass this along. Go, Yellowberry!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

School kills creativity.

The longer we homeschool, the more convinced I become that traditional school is no place to nurture creativity. I typically attribute this to simple math:
20 (or more) students + a set amount of work that has to be completed on a fixed schedule = no time for anything but the essentials.
(That's how they're doing math these days, right? Super confusing with words instead of numbers? Hahaha....BURN Common Core!)

Creativity is disruptive and messy and off topic most of the time...I totally get why schools would rather do without. But it's not just schools that kill creativity. It's teachers.

Now, before you get your panties in a bunch about how teachers are overworked and underpaid etc, please let me remind you - no one loves teachers more than I do. Really. I LOVE a good teacher. And besides, I'm not just talking about teacher teachers.

I'm talking about anyone who can take your free-wheeling creativity and stuff it down into a teeny tiny boring box. This can be parents, bosses, friends, siblings...anyone with an opinion on the way something creative should be done and the authority or gumption to make you believe it.

Rules make sense in lot of subjects. Math, for instance, doesn't really work without them. Same  goes for grammar. There is definitely a right and wrong way to spell words. And history is full of facts and figures (at least, the good kind is).

But art? Creative writing? Critical thinking? Personal expression? There are some things that wither and die when stuck in a box.

This happened to me recently and it totally pissed me off.

Over Christmas I started writing a screenplay. I had an idea a while back for a fictional story which I have never attempted and was totally intimidated by, but a friend encouraged me to give it a try so I did. The next thing I knew ideas were coming to me at random times throughout the day and when I would sit down to write, full scenes and characters would appear on the page, as if by magic.

I was enthralled. Not since writing and illustrating Christmastime to Mehad I felt such excitement with the creative process. The project was unfolding before my eyes; I just had to be there to catch the words and write them down. It was nothing at all like I thought it was going to be when I started. It just kind of took on a life of its own and wherever it went, I followed.

Things were going great over Christmas when Bill had lots of time off work and I could hide out in the office and write without disruption. But then life got back to normal and everything kind of shut down. I was still trying to write but it was not at all like it had been before. The motivation was there but my mojo was MIA.

Toward the end of January, a friend mentioned she had signed up for an art class and asked if I might want to take a class too. I checked the community education schedule and found a beginner screenwriting class was offered at the same time as her drawing class. It felt as if the stars were finally going to realign.

Bill was somewhat skeptical (Are you sure you want some bitter "artist" who has never sold a manuscript telling you what to do every week?) but I chose to see the bright side. This would be a great way for me to get back in the groove. Plus, I might learn something! Worst case scenario, I would just bring my laptop and spend the time in class writing.

Well. I should know myself better than that. I'm the student who feels awkward if I don't maintain eye contact throughout the entire class. I even pretend to write notes the whole time, even if they're just rude observations about the people in my class (I'm the worst). I can't zone out and do my own thing. It's not nice. So instead, I sat in class for two and half hours listening to crap like:
You have to follow the formula. 
Movies that don't have exactly three acts will never get made.
Hollywood hates things they can't put in a box.
You have to already be somebody to make a movie with a big budget.
If it's a drama, forget it. Nobody will read your script.
At first, I kept my chin up. I hate for anyone to bomb and since this guy had completely lost me from day one, I was really pulling for him to get it together. Say something inspirational! Teach me something I haven't already read on the Internet! Give a positive critique or at least say something constructive! Stop spending 20 minutes talking about a movie I've never seen! Help me help you!!!

By week three I simply stopped going.

I just don't have two and a half hours a week to sit around absorbing negativity. I get it, the film industry is competitive. But aren't all industries like that? Maybe it would be different if I was ready to kiss any ass that might get my work read by an agent but I'm so not there. Would I like to write a movie that gets made and watched and is loved by audiences across the country? Of course. But honestly? Not if it means giving up my point of view. (I say that now, as someone who doesn't currently have to work for money. If I were in a different boat, I might very well be lining up to kiss some ass.)

Imagine if I was a child who didn't have the choice to stop going to school. Imagine if I was told things like this day after day after day until I believed them. What would it do to my work? My imagination? My spirit? Can those things come back once they've been stuffed down? What if they're stuffed down from kindergarten through twelfth grade? Or, even worse, from birth?

I believe we're all born creative and amazing and capable of mind-blowing things. But these things don't always fit into a box. Actually...they shouldn't fit into a box at all. Because they're unique and creative and one-of-a-kind.

thanks random bulletin board at the YMCA...

This is now what I will tell myself until I am able to get those stupid limitations out of my mind and get back to the fun of creating for the sake of creating.

I don't blame the teacher. How was he supposed to know that I already am somebody? That we all are. That the only reason people have to follow the formula is because they don't have enough imagination left not to. It's not his fault. It's how most of us were raised. But we don't have to keep believing it. We can be unique and creative and one-of-a-kind. Just imagine how much more fun everything would be if we'd all just be our incredible, creative selves. What do we have to lose?

Monday, March 10, 2014

The seed has been planted.

When we were in Cabo, Bill and I had lunch at a beautiful little farm outside of San Jose called Flora Farm.

It was absolutely breathtaking - edible gardens and sunflowers as far as the eye could see plus a restaurant and some adorable cottages where people live or stay, a pool, a few gathering areas, a couple shops and croquet sets placed here and there for guests to use. Everything was just...perfect.

And the food? Simple, fresh and smack yo mama good.

We were totally inspired and have since been thinking about what we could do to bring a little bit of Flora Farm to Nashville. Over the weekend we had our first (and second!) day of the year that actually felt like Spring and we wasted no time trying to make those thoughts a reality.

Okay, to be fair, we didn't actually do a whole lot. We spent a lot of time staring at the before and will hopefully start to figure out what we want the after to look like. Then all we'll have to do is, well, everything. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 7, 2014

Now listening: Haim.

Unless I know you or you've been on SNL lately, I probably haven't heard of your band. It's not that I don't listen to music; I actually listen to lots of music. It's just usually the same music over and over again. Come to my home and you'll likely hear reggae or my trusty Spotify mix that's heavy on John Melloncamp and Jack Johnson (which I no longer listen to ironically).

Fortunately Bill plays all sorts of new and interesting music at the house so our kids shouldn't grow up to be too nerdy (at least as far as music is concerned). No eight year old's favorite song should be Cherry Bomb by ole Johhny Cougar.

Occasionally a new band breaks into my heart all on its own and when it does it immediately goes into heavy rotation.

Our soundtrack for this sunny day is Days Are Goneby Haim.

I saw this band of sisters (sisters!) perform on SNL recently and fell in love. Check 'em out and have a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Found wig.

One of the strange things we noticed when moving to Nashville from the West was the types of things we found on the ground. Regular litter, sure (I've seen people sitting in their cars just throwing trash out the a PARKING LOT), but also some really specific stuff.

Namely chicken bones and wigs.

Now, if you're reading this in Reno, you are probably as mind boggled as I once was. If you're reading this in Nashville, you're like, "What? That seems pretty normal."

We've never been able to figure out WHY there are wigs and partial wigs and weaves and braids left behind. I mean, if you leave the house with a hair piece on, shouldn't you KEEP it on? Everyone knows that even a bad wig is better than what's left underneath once you've been wearing one for a while. Like hat hair times a million. That's why I had to travel home from New Orleans in full costume (and was SO glad I didn't have to remove my wig to get through security!).

Yesterday, I was enlightened.

The boys and I were driving down the interstate when I noticed the people in the car ahead of us were fighting. Not arguing; fighting. Like WWF in the backseat of a car. I slowed down a bit since I figured they'd probably crash and I didn't want to get caught up in all that. But I was absolutely mesmerized by the fight. Was it a kidnapping? Mobsters? Siblings who really really don't like each other? I figured I better keep watching just in case I needed to intervene. Plus, you know, I could not look away.

Suddenly one of the doors swung open and I thought, "OMG, OMG, they're going to push someone out of the car!" Okay, I really thought, "OMG, OMG, they're going to push someone out of the car and I'm probably going to run over them!" That would be the WORST. But instead the door just opened for a second and closed again. I bet you'll never guess what got thrown out...

I'll give you a hint: it was NOT a chicken bone.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

24 hour party people.

Every year our good friends go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They are obviously our very fun and creative friends. The ones who brew their own beer and host art camps and have whole closets dedicated to costumes and wigs. Our kids love going to their house because it's just So are they.

They've invited us to join them several years in a row now but we always find a reason to decline. How could we go to Mardi Gras? Isn't that where girls go wild and flash their boobies? Thanks but no thanks. Besides, what about our kids and pets and serious lack of costume closets (or, any closets, for that matter)? Nope. We're definitely not Mardi Gras material.

And yet.

Late last week we suddenly found ourselves with nothing standing in the way of us going. My sister was going to be at our house already and could stay an extra night to watch the boys. Bill had points for one flight and a companion pass for another. Another good friend who lives in New Orleans had a room at his house for us to stay. All we really had to do was figure out costumes!

Since that's one of my favorite things (see: Halloween), I jumped at the chance to turn us into Party Vikings (the group's theme for this year). First I looked for things at home that could be repurposed (a dress, some cut off shorts, cozy boots, viking horns, a few accessories...), then I headed to Michael's for some fabric and supplies (gold duct tape, feathers, faux fur trims), then I went to every single Hair World on Gallatin Road to find the perfect Viking-esque wig.

I wasn't really sure what I was looking for but figured I'd know it when I saw it. Instead I window shopped for two hours, ended up at Party City and brought home a cheap Lady Gaga knock off.

What can I say? It's my first Mardi Gras.

As soon as we landed we were whisked away to a friend-of-a-friend's quintessential New Orleans house in the French Quarter (or was it the Marigny?). When we walked in everyone was either gathered around the kitchen table costuming or in the back yard turning a double stroller into a Viking ship float. The whole place smelled like glue gun and spray paint. I was in heaven.

We spent the rest of the day walking around, checking out bars and listening to live music. At one bar the lead "singer" was a clarinet player (like nothing I've ever heard). At another one it was $10 shot and a hair cut night and in the middle of a guy's beard trim a brass band walked in and started playing. Then a random parade (kind of like a flash mob) showed up in the street. No doubt about it - we were definitely in New Orleans!

The next morning (Fat Tuesday!) we woke up early to get ready for the parade. Yes - we got to be in a parade! It was one of the smaller flash mob style parades where tons of costumed people walk along a certain route (no idea how all this gets organized - we just followed our trusty hosts!). And guess what? I didn't see a single person flash their boobs! (I think that's more of a Bourbon Street thing - where we were, it's ALL about the costumes.)

It was so much fun. Well, except for the freezing cold rain. That totally sucked. But I still found myself with perma-smile for the entire length of the parade. Never in my life had I experienced so much creativity and fun simply for the sake of having a good time. It totally blew my mind.

A little more than halfway through the parade, one of the Party Vikings suggested we stop off at her parents' condo to warm up for a bit. We were greeted warmly by costumed parents, drinks and totally themed out Mardi Gras food (muffaletta sandwiches, king cake and a center piece with a better head piece than me!). I honestly didn't even know people like this existed. Now I know what I want to be like when I grow up.

We ended the parade at another friend's house (definitely in the French Quarter) with a sing-a-long dance party that almost thawed me out and totally warmed my heart.

Now, less that 24 hours after our adventure began we are on a flight back to Nashville. I can't wait to hug my boys and take a bath and get back to normal life. I am super grateful for all the fun things we've been doing lately but there really is no place like home. 

Especially if we could figure out how to add a costume closet...