Holiday decorating

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I am not a Scrooge. I enjoy holidays as much as anyone. However, I do not like to decorate. I always think how much I will enjoy the look of my house covered in wreaths and candles in December, pastel-colored eggs in Spring, and all kinds of red, white and blue things in July. But, then I think about the expense of buying all those things or, worse, the hassle and mess of making decorations. I think about the work of putting all that junk up, just to take it down in a month. Jeff has never minded our Jehoviah’s Witness-like approach to holidays. He wasn’t particularly inclined to scale the ladder to put an animatronic Santa on the roof.

Then the kids became aware of how little we were doing during the holidays to heighten their experience. James whined a bit about not having lights, so now we do Christmas lights. Ellie complained that our trees have been small, so last year we got a 10-foot tall tree (seriously). This year, it is Halloween’s turn to get the treatment. Katie wants a “pooky house” so we got some spiderwebs and a furry three-foot across spider with orange lights.

Jeff, I should add, has abandoned our plan of not decorating and fully supported this endeavor. I suppose, one could argue that I did too. I did purchase the spider and webs. But, it was under protest. Jeff had switched sides and I was all alone in the “no decorations” camp. Since I’m the one with the Target card, I had to buy the stuff. He did put it up though, I only had to get the hot glue gun and inspect the final installation. In all honesty, it looks good.

I guess that means I will have to buy all kinds of gourds and pumpkins for Thanksgiving decorating. I will have to make some sort of autumnal wreath to accurately convey my love of turkey and pie. Pinterest, here I come!

Anniversary

15 years ago, if you’d told me I’d spend today hovering over a toilet with my 8-year-old son, reading Fancy Nancy to my red-headed 4-year-old and tickling my 2-year-old until she squealed, I’m not sure what I would have said. But if you’d have added that at the end of the day my wonderful, sweet, thoughtful husband would be getting me a milkshake, I’m pretty sure if have told you “I hope it works out so well!”

Aside from the puking, today was pretty great. Even when you add in the puking, it wasn’t that bad. Actually, the puking highlights why the last 15 years have been so great (in aggregate). I was able to be home with my sick kid today and not worry about missing work, paying for day care I wasn’t using or any of that. My husband worked hard to earn a degree in a field that pays well enough for me to stay home with very little sacrifice on our part. That’s amazing. I know how fortunate we are to be in this situation. Me, mostly. I’m the fortunate one who gets to watch Star Wars marathons in my pjs with the kids. (Even though James decided to start with Episode 1, gag!).

I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom and I’m pretty happy most days with how that’s turned out. So, it’s been a good 15 years. I’m glad we got married. I’d do it again, even with the puking and crappy Star Wars movies.

A typical week

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This week ended before I hardly knew it began.  I don’t remember Monday almost at all, except that I think I had lunch with my dad at McDonald’s (no judging) with the girls.  I’m sure we did other stuff, but I have almost no recollection of it at all.  Same for Tuesday.  I’m pretty sure James had baseball practice that night.  Oh yeah, he had a game on Monday.  I don’t remember going to it, but I know I did.  I know he had a game on Wednesday.  I remember going to that one, with my dad, while my mom babysat the girls.  It was very windy.  I don’t remember what I did during the day either day. I know we didn’t have anything in the evening on Thursday, because that was the one day we didn’t have plans.  On Friday we went to Ellie’s school program.  It was very cute and fun, but we were the first people to leave because Katie has recently remembered that she’s two and must act accordingly.  Friday morning I remember that I had a meeting at church, and I had to bring Katie and that’s when she remembered about being a two-year-old.  She had a Mr. Potato Head to play with, but still needed me to put in every-single-piece.  Saturday, I had a meeting from 1-3 but it took 30 minutes to get there, 30 to get back plus I had to stop at the grocery store.  So, a two-hour-long meeting turned into a four hour long absence.  That’s really just too long for Jeff.  He’s a good dad, but four hours alone with three kids is enough to almost send him over the edge.  

Here’s what I didn’t do: laundry (I did three loads, but I needed to do five or seven), clean toilets (I did a minor cleaning of James’ toilet because I was going to vomit if I didn’t), mop floors (unless using a Clorox wipe on squished grapes counts), vacuum (didn’t get to it, again), or dust (why?  there’s just going to be another dust storm)

Writing a book is hard

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Okay, so I “announced” a while back that I was starting to write a book.  I am still doing it, but it’s really hard (that’s what she said, couldn’t resist).  I’m not even to the actual writing part.  I’m still in the outlining the story part.  How difficult can that be, since I’m writing about an actual person, who actually lived, whose life story is actually known?  It’s pretty difficult.  Actually.

I have purchased a wide variety of books on the time period, relatives of my main character, the region where she lived, and even books on how to write books (they weren’t overly helpful and make me feel silly for thinking they would be).  My little book cart is pretty full.  But, if you need to know anything about mid-1100 France, I’m your go-to for answers.

I got very excited, though, about my book (in it’s finished form, which it isn’t) after a trip to the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale to see a favorite author, Sharon Kay Penman.  I want to go on a book tour.  I want to answer questions from fans about my process and research. I want to sign books with a Sharpie.  It seems very glamorous.  No need to point out that planning a book tour may be a bit premature.  I know.

I got even more excited when I went to the Tucson Festival of Books.  That was fun.  I only went to one panel discussion, even though about a dozen of them sounded fantastic, because I wanted to see all the vendors and people.  It was pretty exciting.  I got connected with a couple of helpful websites, meetings, and publishers.  Next time I will spend more time at the panel discussions and less time gawking, I think.

But then I came home.  Whatever good vibrations I got from Sharon Kay Penman and Tucson were significantly mellowed by staring a blank pages.  Yikes.  I am writing my outline in long hand, not on a computer.  I prefer seeing my messy writing to typewritten neatness.  So, I’m not looking at blank pages as much a lined paper with no writing on it.  Less daunting?  Not really.

At any rate, I try to work on it for half an hour everyday, minimum.  At this rate, I should be done in five years.  With the outline.

 

 

I’m really doing this

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Once I hit publish on this, there is no going back.  It will be out there and everyone will see it.  I will have to answer all the questions and face the consequences of my actions (or lack thereof, as the case may be).  Deep breaths.  In.  Out.  Okay.

I am writing a novel.  In.Out.In.Out.  Okay.  It’s a historical novel in the vein of Phillipa Gregory (I hope!).  It will follow the life of Marie of Champagne, the eldest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine.  I’ve been researching it off and for almost a year, very seriously for the last month.  Like full time.  When I’m not driving kids to school, making their breakfasts, lunches, dinners or snacks, or cleaning up after them, I’m at my computer or reading a book about people who lived 900 years ago.  It’s fascinating. Well, it is to me anyway.  I learn something new about my characters everyday.  It really is like discovering a secret or solving a mystery that no one else even knew about.  Of course, someone knew about it because I read about it in a book they wrote. But it’s like I’m assembling a puzzle from pieces that have been scattered far and wide. Anyway, I’m pretty excited about it.

But, I’m also pretty freaked out by it too.  I know an author (Hi Susan, I mean, Sydney!).  She is a creative person in a variety of mediums.    She writes, she paints, she designs clothes!  I’m not really all that creative.  I think a better way to put it is that I am creative in that I can create, but I am not inventive in that I cannot devise what I create.  I have to follow a recipe.  I’m not sure I can think up a story that fills in the parts that history has already laid out for me.  That’s why I decided on historical fiction to begin with.  Rather than make up an entire person, series of events and all that, this story was already there.  I just need to beef it up a bit with scandal, emotion and maybe some naked parts.

My brother wanted to be a writer, but you know, life and stuff.  Maybe he still does want to write.  I never did.  Writing a novel was not part of my plan ever, until this last year.  I have no experience writing.  {Except this.  Does this count?  Maybe, in terms of getting what’s in my head out in a somewhat coherent fashion.  This is coherent, right?  It’s hard to tell sometimes.}  My brother was an English major.  He took classes on how to write a novel.  I wonder if he still has the textbooks?  I doubt it.

So, I have no talent and no experience.  This book is going to be amazing!

I am afraid that once people know I’m doing this, then I really have to do it.  I can’t quit.  I can’t make up excuses about why it isn’t done. Everyone will see through that.  This will just be something I wanted to do, a dream I had, that I gave up on.  I suppose that’s why I’m putting this out there now.  I work better under crushing expectations.  I take on obligations to force myself to be more organized so that I don’t let anyone down.  Realistic and healthy, yes?  No?  Regardless, it’s what I do.  

Okay, I’m really doing this.  I am writing a novel.  I am finishing up my research pretty soon (if anyone wants to pay for a research trip to France, that would be pretty helpful) and then I will start writing an outline, carding and then putting it all together.  Should I make it even more forceful and put a deadline on it?  Okay, I will have this book done by January 2015.  Or 2016.  Wait, when does Katie graduate from college?  At any rate, it will be done eventually and if you want to read a scandalous, drama-filled account of 12th century nobles with a few naked parts, let me know!

Hair cuts

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I have not had a hair cut in a year.  I’m not talking, “Oh, I haven’t been to the salon in ages!”  I mean no person other than myself and my immediate family has touched my hair in a year.  A YEAR.  The last hair cut I got was in March of 2013.  No trims.  No drastic chops.  Nothing.  A year. 

I have a few thoughts on this.  First, I got my hair cut every six to eight weeks when I was a working mom.  I had extra money and I had a lunch break.  I also had a babysitter, so child care was not a factor.  I could leave work 30 minutes early and pick James up a little late.  I could go on my lunch hour.  I went to the same person every time.  She had my color ready for me.  It was a real salon.  They served me sparkling water while I waited.  What lunch break do I have now?  What 30 minutes after work do I have?  Am I really going to waste child-free time on a hair cut?  No.  I’m going to nap, clean the house (or at least pick up all the crap laying around), watch one of the backlog of shows I have missed, or just sit without anyone touching me or yelling at me.  Leaving the house when there aren’t kids in it seems wasteful.  Weekends are an option.  I just need to pick one without a birthday party, play date, special event, or whatever that seems to impede my weekend plans.  We haven’t had one of those in a while.  And again, it seems wasteful to spend a free weekend getting my hair cut.  I know it only takes an hour.  But that’s one hour once I’m actually there.  Wherever I go seems to take 30-45 just to get to.  Then there’s the prep time.  I have to get the kids and husband ready to be without me for 2 hours.  That means getting food ready, children dressed appropriately for whatever activity they may have when being with their dad (if I don’t do this I find them wearing bathing suits and playing baseball in the street when it’s 50 degrees), and answering about 100 million questions about where I’m going, what I’m going to do and why I have to go alone.  The prep time is getting shorter now that kids are getting older and husband is getting a bit more used to be alone with them, but it still has to happen.

The other thought is that I have a hard time seeing the point of it.  I will be 37 this month.  No offense to my older friends, but it feels old.  I have previously discussed my lack of interest in coloring my gray hair.  If I go to get it cut, I know the stylist will offer to color it and even suggest some ideas.  I don’t want to have to say, “No thanks, I’m growing old gracefully.”  I’m not sure that I am.  I just don’t want to maintain a hair color (which would be obviously impossible).  That seems like it would be a painful conversation for me.  Too much explaining.  Also, my hair is long and straight and is not any particular “style”.  I don’t have cute bangs or an asymmetrical long bob or whatever.  I flat iron it everyday (mostly) and that’s it.  Not even layers.  There’s nothing there to keep up.  

I could stand to have about 2 inches cut off the ends.  Is that worth the hour of prep time, hour of driving and hour of sitting there while some stranger massages my scalp and mentions for the third time how great I’d look with her trademark combo of low-and high-lights?  It doesn’t sound like it.  I might run into a place in a strip center that charges $15 and just get that trim.  I think that’s called the stay-at-home-mom-over-35 special.

It’s almost over

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I am finally emerging from the rock of buying a house, holidays, and getting acclimated to a new school.  This has been an incredibly long four months.  We are not totally done with it all either.  Painting the house starts on Monday.  Decorating the house starts next Monday.  In between there is a birthday party for Katie and Valentine cards to purchase.  Sorry Mrs. White’s 2nd grade class, no homemade or personalized cards for you.  James’ mom just doesn’t have time to design cute little cards which are then attached to an appropriately matching candy.  You’re getting Target-bought Avengers valentines and I might feel like taping a fun size bag of M&Ms to it, if you’re lucky.  There’s a fair to middling chance I will buy the M&Ms and just eat them all myself.  

In the end, the house drama was not so much that it killed the deal, but if I’d known beforehand what we going to have endure, I would have passed on this house.  Now that we’re here, we love it.  But, I’m sure we’d love other places too.  Anyway, it’s over now.  Mostly.  The listing agent still has his stupid lockbox on the front door.  It’s not a big deal.  It’s just an eyesore.  Also, I lost my key so I do need the one that is in the box.  I will destroy it in a quite violent and satisfying way if they don’t come get it soon.

The holidays were a bright spot in the last few months.  As usual, we had Jeff’s family stay with us for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. The children get along and have fun.  The adults all get along too, so that’s a bonus.  We all go to my parents’ house for Christmas Eve dinner and then they come to our house for Christmas day dinner.  I love that my kids get to spend holidays with both sets of grandparents and at least one cousin.  I hope it creates positive memories for them.

The last piece of our October-January trudge has been James’ new school.  We loved his old school.  It was small and diverse ethnically and economically.  The teachers were dedicated.  It was like a family.  However, the principal retired at the end of last year and the atmosphere changed a bit.  Some of the homeyness of the place was lost.  Also, academically, it wasn’t super fantastic.  The new school is super fantastic.  The 2nd graders do 3rd grade math.  They are expected to read one chapter book a week, plus two picture books.  There are 20 spelling words a week (as compared to the old school’s 12).  He has to memorize poetry.  Don’t get me wrong: I love the changes and couldn’t be happier with the new school.  What I am having a hard time with is the astronomical leap James has to do academically.  They had just started on subtracting two-digit numbers at his old school; now he has to do multiplication.  It’s hard for all of us to get used to the idea that James isn’t the top performing math student in his class.  He’ll adjust, we’ll adjust and everyone will be fine.  I know that.  It’s just getting from here to there that I sort of dread.

The girls are dealing with all of this change by being hellions.  I have been a bit lax in the discipline department lately.  It’s so much easier to turn on an extra long Little Einsteins episode than to deal with them, the mortgage broker, the homeowners insurance, and the handyman all at the same time.  As a result, they are left to their own devices more than a 4 and almost-2-year-old should be.  The baby eats crayons.  As meals.  Ellie has decided she’s just fine on her own and her parents’ instructions are more like suggestions that she is free to reject.  Mostly, I’m here to get her milk and turn on the next episode of her show.  Now that things are settling down, I have started being a bit more strict.  So far it’s only resulted in tears, screaming and more wine than I really should be drinking on a regular basis.  We’ll all get back to a more normal schedule and life and they will be good girls again.  I have to believe that.

So, that explains where we’ve been for the last while and what we’ve been up to.  Expect to hear more on the horrors of raising children from now on as that is really where my heart is.

My anti-social baby

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Lately, I have been feeling super guilty about Katie’s lack of friends her own age.  There is a little girl whose older sister is in Ellie’s class who seems to want to be friends with Katie.  But every time she approaches, Katie begins screaming.  This poor little girl has only ever hugged her, but apparently Katie took that as a physical attack.  There is also a little boy whose older sister is in Ellie’s gymnastics class.  Katie takes his toys and then cries when he wants them back.  He started bringing toys just for her to play with (we bring our own, but those are no fun), but she won’t play with those.  So, no friends.

I thought I’d join a moms’ group so she could meet other toddlers.  Even though I have made my best friends since college via a moms’ group, I was really dreading doing it again.  I also met people that I really wish I had not known existed.  Whatever.  It’s for the children.  So, I sucked it up and joined a group for mothers of children born in 2012 or later.  I realized that I might be the oldest in this group and I wasn’t excited about that either.  Again, I just had to accept it because this is about Katie.

The first meet-up we RSVPed to was on Monday morning.  It was at an indoor play area.  We dropped Ellie off and headed over.  We got there 45 minutes early.  I thought it was farther away and would take us longer to get there.  It’s not in a great neighborhood and there isn’t much around there.  So we decided to just go home.  We got all cute for nothing.

We decided we’d go to the next one.  It was this morning at 9:30 at a park 30 minutes from Ellie’s school.  So the timing would not be an issue.  After Ellie was dropped off, we headed off to meet new friends.  I asked Katie if she was excited to make new friends.  This was our exchange:

“NO!  NO FRIENDS!”  

“Do you want to go to the park?”  

“NO!  NO PARK!  SHOW!”  

“You want to go home and watch a show instead of going to the park and meeting friends?”

“Mickey!  Blankie!  Milk!  No FRIENDS!”

Okay.  So, we came home.  She is currently watching her show (Mickey Mouse) with her blankie and her stuffies (two puppies, Minnie Mouse, and baby Pinkie Pie).  She seems much happier than she did in the car discussing joining a new play group.  Of course, if I were more into it, I would have forced her to go.  As I’m not to hot on the idea either, I agreed that home was the better of the two options.  I guess we are going to wait a while to join a new play group.  

Still not done with the ordeal of the house

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If you’ve been following the saga of my move then you know anymore would probably send me over the edge.  I’m definitely there.  The bank that owns the house in which we currently live and are attempting to buy came back with a counter offer that was $35,000 higher than the asking price determined by the listing agent.  Really.  So now we wait for them to come to their senses.  Either they accept our offer or we walk.  And move again.  At least we didn’t put James in this school.

The house that was our Plan B was taken off the market from lack of interest.  Hopefully, we can convince them to reconsider if we need it.  I’ve been looking at other houses, just in case.  I’m not enjoying it.  I’m trying, but I can’t get into it.  The kids found their favorite house. Instead of a pool, it had an in ground trampoline.  They were in heaven.  They loved it.  I guess if you can’t have a pool, a trampoline is good enough.  

Our agent thinks we’ll hear back tomorrow or early next week.  I’m not as confident.  They seem to be sadists.  I think they enjoy torturing us and keeping us on the hook.  I dislike these people intensely.  If we do end up living here, it will not be because of their kindness and goodness.  It will most likely be because they gave up and found a new plaything.  

I’m sure that wherever we end up living will be great and we’ll make it homey.  I am really, really looking forward to that happening.  Soon.

Confession: I was (am) a sorority girl

This weekend I went to my alma mater (cause I’m old fashioned) with my family in tow and spent some time with my sorority.  People who know me probably aren’t at all surprised to hear that I was in a sorority.  I suppose I’m stereotypical sorority girl material: white, upper-middle class, and all the stuff that accompanies that.  Although, it must be noted that not all sorority girls are white and not all come from well-off families.  But the stereotype persists and I fit into that mold so I’m not really the best person to say that it’s untrue (but it is).

I think there’s a belief among non-sorority people that we are dumb, promiscuous, and substance abusers.  I knew very few women who fit any of those descriptors, and none who fit all.  We are generally above average GPA among our fellow students and not any more promiscuous or substance abusing than any other 18-22 year old women who attend college.  Why that belief still exists is really beyond me.  If anything, I think that sorority women are above average on all counts, but I am a bit biased.

I think the idea that sororities are snooty clubs for rich girls comes from the process of choosing members.  It’s called “Recruitment” now, but in my day and in conversation it’s still called “Rush”.  Recruitment consists of “parties” where as many of our women try  to talk to as many potential new members (I think that’s the term for them now) as possible. They try to talk about topics of importance and get to know the PNM as best as one can in a five minute period.   It’s not ideal, but how else can you determine if a person will be able to be a good fit into a cohesive group of 100 others in a week and she’s got five other groups to also investigate?  People think that we sit in a room and judge the prospective members on their body mass index and their daddy’s car.  They think we reject women who have acne or wear patchouli just on principle.  Of course, none of that ever enters the conversation, ever.  EVER.  

We did “rank” the women who “rushed”.  We ranked them on their GPA, community service hours and school involvement.  If we’re being elitist by wanting smart, community oriented, well-rounded women to join our club, then fine.  All the people I know who now turn their noses up at sororities, would have been more than welcome, whatever they believe.  We would have loved to have those women as members.  I don’t know why they don’t like us; I don’t know why they think we wouldn’t have wanted them.  We would have.  We aren’t as judgmental as you think.  

My sorority sisters were from all parts of the country, all kinds of backgrounds and had all kinds of talents.  Some had two parents, some had one, some had four.  Some worked all through college and some didn’t work a day (not even summers!).  Some had a different boyfriend every week and some are still married to the guy they met the first week they stepped foot on campus (that’s me! on both counts actually).  

Like guns, abortion and vaccinations for children, I’m sure I haven’t changed anyone’s mind about sororities.  You believe what you believe and my little rant won’t change your mind.  I just feel bad for the women who are there, working hard to raise money for a philanthropy they support and getting good grades, who are being judged for the behavior of a few who aren’t doing anything different than the football team, marching band or ski club (I’m talking about excessive drinking as a group mostly).  It seems unfair that they don’t get credit for the good work they are doing and are only noticed when they make mistakes.

I’m a proud sorority woman.  I’m proud of the women carrying in the organization into the future.  I can’t wait for the day my daughters can join too.  I hope it’s still there for them. 

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