Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books everywhere and not enough time to read them all

As of today, December 31, 2013, I have read 78 new-to-me books this year. Seventy-eight! I'm pretty impressed with myself. Thanks to the miracle of Goodreads.com, I know that that was 22,793 pages. Not all were great, though some were outstanding. Some were a trial to get through. Others I vaguely recall.

I started off with a goal of reading 50 new books and watching 50 new movies. I was worried I wouldn't be able to quite do it, that's a new one every week, but I should have known better. I hit my goal in June. And of COURSE I kept going and kept track. I'm kind of proud of the fact that compared to my 78 new books, I only watched 65 new movies, even with Netflix readily available to me.

My favorite books I read this year in no particular order:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - OH. MY. GOD. This author catches you up in her web of lies and deceit and you have no idea what the hell is going on and when you think you've got it figured out she throws a twist at you....and then another one...and then ANOTHER one. Phenomenal. I went out immediately and bought and read her other two books, both of which were just as fantastic, but Gone Girl is my favorite.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - Young Adult lit is so great these days. When I was a kid it seemed like it was mostly Sweet Valley High and Baby Sitters Club (both of which I enjoyed in middle school). I'm loving the renaissance YA is having these days. This book is SO good you can sort of forget that it's about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love. I'm looking forward to the movie.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - We listened to this on the trip to and from New Braunfels for Thanksgiving and it's so great. I totally identified with Cath. She kind of smushed two different parts of my life into one and I love her. I bought the book before we were done with the cds and reread a couple parts I'd missed and found myself still reading a chapter later, well into stuff I'd heard the day before. I really wish this had a sequel.

New Girl by Paige Harbison - more YA lit. I told you I'm loving it. It's a teenager spin on Rebecca, another of my all time favorite books. I really liked how she twisted it and changed a few things but left a lot of it the same. I especially loved how the Mrs. Danvers character was named Dana Veers.

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline - Even though the main character is a teenage boy, I wouldn't call this YA. It's so good I read it once this summer and listened to the audio book in the fall. Wade lives in a future where overcrowding has decimated the fuel and food supplies. His escape from life is the Oasis, an online user program. It's more complicated than that, but it's really great.

The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass - I'm lumping them together because they're 1 and 2 of a trilogy. Again, more YA future dystopia stuff and I loved it. It doesn't hurt that it's a sort-of take on Cinderella and I'm a sucker for a good fairy tale retelling.

Bossypants by Tina Fey - this is her autobiography and while I loved her before, I adore her now. I feel like we could have been friends if we grew up in the same area at the same time.

Shadow of the Titanic: The Extraordinary Stories of Those Who Survived by Andrew Wilson - I never outgrew my 8th grade fascination with the Titanic. I thought I knew a lot of the stories, but these were all ones I'd never heard before. Stories of kidnapping, doomed marriages, sweethearts frantic to find each other, and people who let surviving a disaster define them for the rest of their lives, some of those lives lasting nearly 90 years after the sinking. It was really interesting and if you've got a mild interest in the Titanic, I'd recommend it.

I've got shelves full of books to read in 2014 and I'm eager to start them all. It's almost overwhelming having so many books I want to read, like where do I start? What if that one is better than this one and I'm stuck in this one for a week or more? (I kinda hate to not finish a book. It rarely happens.) This kind of anxiety is good, though. And if I just can't handle it, I can always pick up one of my favorites and reread it for comfort. Which I do on occasion.

So happy reading in 2014! Get a pile of books your excited about and dig in! I know I will be.

Monday, December 23, 2013

That's a wrap!

I spent an hour on Friday wrapping Christmas presents after about 20 minutes on Thursday night wrapping other Christmas presents and it reminded me of a few things and made me think of a few others. Here's a list.

1. I remember Dad teaching me how to wrap presents properly when I was maybe in middle school. He told me if you do it right, you'll only need 3 pieces of tape, 5 if it's a super big present.

2. If the paper has glitter on it, you might need a whole roll. This is experience talking.

3. So avoid glitter paper. It's pretty, but it's a pain.

4. That, or get the good tape, not the cheap stuff.

5. My grandmother must have ironed her paper or something because I've never seen more beautiful packages.

6. Wrapping presents is kind of a pain, but watching someone unwrap (and not just pull it out of a bag) is nice. Especially if that someone is a kid figuring it out for the first time.

7. Unless the box is big and/or heavy. Then I hate wrapping.

8. Or oddly shaped so that you have to put it in a box to wrap it.

9. Bags are better than just being handed a box, though. At least give me a LITTLE mystery.

10. When we were kids, Caleb and I wanted to give presents to everyone in our family but we'd have maybe $20 to do so. So we'd occasionally wrap up our own stuff to give away. We always kind of wanted it back, though, so we weren't totally selfless.

11. We'd also wrap our own stuff for ourselves, so we'd have more presents under the tree.

12. Gift cards are so much easier to wrap and give, but not quite as fun to give or receive. The best is something you didn't know you wanted or finding that perfect item that just screams the person you're giving it to.

13. But if you have no idea what to get a person, a gift card is probably the safest bet.

14. Or even if you do have an idea but it's a highly personal item, give a gift card so they can pick it out themselves (books if they're filling out a set, clothing, etc).

15. Wrapping goes by faster if your 3 yo son is in the next room watching Day of the Diesels for the 15th time in a week and you're sick of it and want to get away.

16. Or maybe it's slower, because you have to hear it again.

17. If you have a 14 mo, you can't put the presents out until right before you open them because he will open everything for you. Also, your tree looks half naked because of how high the ornaments are, but that's ok because at least there's a tree.

18. I managed to wrap nearly all my presents with the same roll of paper. I was pretty pleased with that.

19. In the end, bags save the day. Wrapping presents for an hour with Thomas blaring in the background, I started tossing things in bags, even if they didn't quite fit.

20. Don't buy cheap tape. It's worth repeating.

21. Get the paper with grids. It's a lifesaver.

22. Skip the bows. Sure, they're pretty, but they get in the way when you have to pile presents and they get smushed anyway. No one really cares about bows.

23. Unless you do then cover your presents in bows, I don't care.

24. Always always always open the box, no matter what. I've been burned twice thinking the picture on the box was indicative of the contents and was sadly mistaken. One I thought was like a boombox and it was a sweater vest, one I thought was chocolates and was a beautiful hand crocheted shawl. I caught my errors before the thank you notes went out.

25. Write a thank you of some kind, especially to the older generations. Most of them kind of expect it (I know the older generation in my family does). Definitely do it if they're not there when you open the present. Even if it's an email or a fb message saying you got it and thanks. It's just common courtesy people.

26. A small part of me misses calling my friends Christmas afternoon and talking about our goodies. It wasn't necessarily a competition, just excitement.

27. In the end, do your thing: cheap tape, glittery paper with tons of bows, lots of bags with tissue paper, naked boxes.

28. I'm looking forward to tonight when our family opens our gifts as part of our Christmas Adam celebration and tomorrow when everyone else opens their gifts for the big Christmas get together. I'm hoping some of my gifts are of the special "didn't know I wanted this!" variety.

Merry Christmas! Hope you and yours have a great year and enjoy each other's company this week. (Yes, I realize this is an old picture. I can't find my camera cord. If you saw my house you'd understand.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Our family never "did" Santa Claus. When I was a kid, I'd heard of him but I knew he was fictional. I knew he wasn't real and that was ok with me. I'd never known any different. My friends, however, were told he was real. I very distinctly remember the first time I heard of him.

My friend told me about Santa and how you had to be good or you wouldn't get any presents. I was confused because I'd never gotten any gifts from Santa before, just my family. She told me he came down the chimney after you go to bed on Christmas Eve and puts presents under the tree and stuff in the stocking. So that year, I snuck downstairs after bedtime and peeked around the corner into the living room...and saw my parents putting stuff in the stockings. I wasn't horrified because, of course, I'd never heard of this weirdo before.

I told my friend Santa was just your parents, she told her mom, and my mom got a call (apparently I did this with sex later...I was a blabby child). According to my friend's mom, Santa Claus was an important part of childhood and how dare we ruin that for her child. Believing in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus were all magical joys for children. My mom calmly told her that if we lie to our children about these magical beings, when they find out that they're NOT real, what are they supposed to think about Jesus?

It makes sense. All those creatures are magical and give us things, even if we haven't really earned them...sort of like Jesus. (Work with me.) If we teach our children about mystical rabbits who bring eggs or fat men who break into our house to give us presents or fairies who break into our house and steal our teeth in exchange for money (now that one is horrifying) then why should they believe us when we tell them about Jesus who was born of a virgin, performed miracles and then died for our sins and rose again? There's nothing in it for us, so might as well lump him in with the other mystical beings.

If you choose to do Santa with your kids, that's fine. I'm not judging you. You raise your children how you feel best. Austin and I choose not to have those guys around. We don't have Santa anything in our house. I'm not going to hate you if you give me a gift bag with Santa on it, or if the boys get something at Easter with bunny ears on it or whatever.

The lack of Santa wasn't our only "tradition," though. For a few years, we brought foster kids home for the holidays, and that was kind of fun. More people around (because five kids isn't enough, obviously) and more presents opened and all that. We also had one that my soulmate says is sad. I find it amusing.

We dumpster dove for our Christmas tree. Every year. Not even kidding.

We lived on ACU hill and right before Christmas, a lot of the college kids would go home and throw away perfectly good Christmas trees...and we'd come along and scoop them up for free. Sometimes they still had ornaments or lights on them. Lots of them had stands. You had to know the right areas to look and we got pretty good at it. Except one year. One year we waited too long and we didn't find a tree. We decorated a floor to ceiling lamp.

That was the year the foster kids felt sorry for us.

I must have been about 7 and I wasn't just horribly disappointed. It was kind of cool that we decorated something different. I remember going out with my older brother to look for a tree and complaining about how cold it was. I hadn't thought to grab a jacket and he wasn't willing to wait for me to grab one. He kept telling me to think warm thoughts. It didn't work. I shivered until he finally got fed up and we went home. Our parents waited too long to load everyone up to go look for a tree and so we didn't find anything. Hence the lamp. The next year we all went out and we ended up with three trees. I think one was fully decorated with a stand and everything. Silly college kids.

The first  year we moved into the house on Orange, 1993, my parents went out and bought a very nice fake tree and it was used for about 15 years. Once Mom and Dad hung a gold star over the family cradle, and that was pretty nice. I think this year will just be a pile of gifts with no focal point...and that's ok too. The tree/star/whatever isn't the main point of Christmas. It's the family togetherness.

And really, that was the best part about looking for a discarded tree. We'd all seven pile into the Suburban and drive around, looking at the lights and saying, in tiers, "OOoooh" "Ahhhh" Ohhhh." We'd enjoy cookies and hot chocolate and marshmallows roasted in the fireplace and movies with everyone piled on the fold out sofabed (the only time we had a tv...another post). We'd go see my grandmother and aunts and open more presents.

We've given up the foster kids, the dumpster tree, and, occasionally, the tree itself. Our family has started our own little traditions, and they're fun: movie and pizza on Christmas Adam (December 23). I'm excited to see what traditions we start in the years to come. And yes, soulmate, I'll stay out of the dumpsters.

No one likes a crazy mama.

I may have lost my mind.

Over the summer, I was in a bit of a funk for many reasons and one of them was that I kind of hate my house. The layout is awkward, it's drafty, some of the rooms are oddly sized, the colors are hideous, and we've only got one full bath and it has a claw foot tub with a suspended shower curtain.

That's what you get when you buy a house built in 1920. I knew getting into it that there would be problems and we've handled them as they've come. I knew the colors were hideous when we moved in, I just kept in mind that I could change them. I knew I wouldn't change them immediately because when we moved in, I was about four months pregnant and it was all I could do to unpack. I did manage to paint the nursery because it was God-awful: a pale green trim with blue and white toile wall paper on one wall and white on the rest of the walls. The house has lots of cracks from the house settling but I choose to see that as character.

A friend of ours put their house on the market and I looked at the pictures and it depressed me. It was gorgeous! I even daydreamed about buying it, but quickly came to my senses. It had features we loved but other features that wouldn't quite work for us and our family. I started to feel worse and worse about my house because I feel like it's ugly and I hate what it says about me. I don't mind the mess, because that's my kids and my family enjoying each other. I don't mind the piles of books in various places because who would? I don't mind most of the furniture because I actually like most of it. I mind the colors. The brown trim is actually kind of maroon. The living room is five shades of ugly. There's a hideous flur-de-lis border in the small hallway and an ugly wallpaper border in the front entryway. The bathroom is an indescribable shade of green. I've grown to accept the blue in the kitchen, mostly by finding curtains that I don't despise. (They're toile for those of you who know me.) I do LOVE the fireplace. It's fabulous. The pink bedroom is...iffy. Our room? God. GOD. The only thing in there worth keeping is (are?) the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Here we are, three years later, and I've painted two rooms in the house: the nursery and the room that was the living room and is now the dining room (it was Longhorn Orange which, as a Red Raider, I couldn't stomach. It lasted over a year). I had the initial goal of one room a year until I got the house how I wanted it, but the more kids you have, the harder it is to paint yourself. I enjoy painting, but it's exhausting and Austin doesn't like doing it so I typically end up doing most of it myself, with my soulmate because she's awesome like that.

So, we decided that we have enough expendable income at the moment to just hire someone to paint for us. Of the six remaining areas of the house to be painted, five are being painted this week. The week before Christmas. Because I've lost my mind.

The painter says he thinks he'll be done by the end of the week. I could have my house completely repainted by Friday! Which would be fabulous. But I'm a hair skeptical. I would actually be ok with it taking a bit longer because I have to vacate rooms two at a time and do it over night. The hallways are first and are empty. The front hall seems massive with nothing in it. Next up will be the living room and bathroom and I have little concern about emptying those rooms. The really scary one? The master bedroom. I have cleared off 5 boxes and several massive piles of books off the bookshelves and there's still at least 2 boxes worth left. Then there's the bed, the chairs, the dressers, the cedar chest, the mobile bookshelves, the nightstands, the closets to empty...so much. I've moved some out already, but it's going to be a crazy evening getting everything out of the master bedroom. Plus my kids will have to be locked in their room while we do all this and you know kids LOVE being locked away.

This week is going to be nuts. I get to move in and out of half of my house, corral my children, wrap presents, put up a Christmas tree, and prepare for Christmas. So if I seem a bit manic this week, that's why. Oh, and the boys aren't in FKO this week, so even more awesome!

No really, it's going to be great. Hopefully, by the end of the year, I will be in love with this house again, instead of just dealing with it. And I'll regain my sanity. Or what I had of it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Carrie's got nothin' on me.

I have great hair.

God, that sounds really egotistical doesn't it? It's true, though. It's thick, grows fast, healthy, shiny, silky when clean...I really like my hair.

I've had my share of unfortuante haircuts/styles, but luckily for me, they were mostly in my youth. When I was younger, Mom had it permed. And it was short. Short, thick hair when permed...forms a triangle. Guess what my brother called me? If you guessed Triangle Head you're super smart. And just as unoriginal as he was. I didn't take care of the perm like I should have so it would start looking fairly ratty until the next one.

Finally, the spring of 7th grade, we cut it all off, leaving me with a haircut that was short and fluffy enough I looked like a Q-tip head. After that, I quit cutting it. At all.

(Seriously...look at that hair. The guard is much prettier. He worked at Edinburgh Castle in Scotland and when asked about how warm his clothing kept him, he said his face and knees were all that was cold except for when a breeze went up his kilt and then his willy was cold. He said all that immediately before this picture was taken. I was unsure how to react...hence the odd expression. Plus he was super cute. I mean just look at him!)

I've never washed my hair every day. On top of it not being good for your hair ANYWAY, it's bad for your skin and my skin especially. I have dry semi-sensitive skin so frequent washing isn't great. I've used a hair dryer and/or flat iron less than a dozen times at home and only dyed it once. I've let it grow out and donated a foot of hair to Lock for Love and similar organizations 5 times (I think...maybe more...I usually donate every 18-24 months, depending on how fast it's growing). And every
time, the person cutting my hair hurts her hand cutting through the wad of ponytail. I brush it only a couple times a week (sad and weird, I know) and I almost always wear it pulled back in a half pony because I have kids who like to pull my hair. I like it short, I like it mid length, and I like it long. I like the color and the thickness (both quantity of hair and the individual hairs...you know what I mean). I like nearly everything about it.

The only thing I don't like about my hair is the gray that's started to pop up. I saw my first gray hair at 17. A few have popped up over the years but since having Elijah...I feel like they're multiplying faster than ever. They're bright white and shiny, so I guess when I finally go gray, I'll look more silvery like my Grandma than gray...so that's nice?

My soul mate has teased me about coloring my hair since Elijah was born whenever I'd complain about it. I finally confessed that my vanity wouldn't let me start coloring my hair until I was actually 30.

Well....I'm 30. She came over today and brought lunch and we dyed my hair. Two bottles of dye almost seemed like it wouldn't be enough. Luckily it was. Although the rinsing afterward put me in mind of a horror movie. Like that scene in Carrie where she gets in the bath after the prom...or the scene at the end of the recent Evil Dead where it is LITERALLY RAINING BLOOD. That or I survived some horrific massacre. I get a little macabre in the shower apparently...especially with red hair dye splashing all over the tub and shower curtains. Ten minutes of rinsing and it was still running pale red (not pink, pale red. There's a difference) so I gave up and put in the conditioner. And once it dried, I was a little afraid to look.

It's red. Not like Ariel red, more like...I don't even know. I can't decide if I like it or not. I'm going to live with it for a little while before I make any decisions about covering it up or anything. Austin seems to like it and that's what matters, right? I just see it out of the corner of my eye. He has to look at it everyday.

So now I'm 30 and I'm dying away the gray. I'm not the first, I'm not the last. I just feel weird. I've had a good relationship with my hair for 30 years and I'm hoping the chemicals I'm now putting in won't ruin that. I'd rather have healthy gray hair instead of sad, colored hair.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Reading is Awesome

I love to read. I have for as long as I can remember. I don't necessarily want to read to learn stuff, but I have if it's an interesting topic. I prefer more to read for an escape and entertainment...and it honestly BAFFLES me when people say they don't like to read for that reason.

I was with a group of college aged women when I was in my mid-20's and they were discussing books. They were anti-Harry Potter without having read them, which I do NOT respect. (If you're going to hate on something, have the decency to know what it is you hate. Read/watch/listen/etc whatever it is you don't approve of first, then I'll respect your right to say it's awful.) I made a comment that I loved Harry Potter. I didn't really need to,  I was wearing a HP shirt. The only other woman my age just shook her head and said she didn't like to read unless it was to gain something spiritually.

To me, that's boring. Sure, read a devotional, read the Bible, read educational stuff to help you in your faith. Whatever. But that's ALL you read? You are seriously missing out. Like...unbelievably so.

I love a lot of different kinds of books: historical, memoirs, biographies, fantasy, romance, young adult, action, mystery, children's books, future/dystopian, combinations of any of the above. And I switch back and forth between worlds so often sometimes it makes my head spin.

And. It's. Awesome.

Without books, I never would have been to Middle Earth or Narnia or Panem or Hogwarts. I never would have met Jay Gatsby or Jane Eyre or Lennie or the Trask family or Anne Shirley, I wouldn't have ridden a raft down the Mississippi or wandered through a cave with nothing but a magic ring and thread to guide me. I wouldn't have solved mysteries or laughed or cried nearly as often. My world would be so small. And I know a lot of you won't get some of the references above and that's ok. Those are just some of my favorite ones. I never would have fallen in love with authors Rainbow Rowell, J.K. Rowling, Robin McKinley, Janet Evanovich, Mark Twain and John Steinbeck. I wouldn't have the right to say, definitively, that I DESPISE Wuthering Heights. That book could be burned and I'd be ok with it. Totally and completely. I'll even get over my fear of matches to light the fire.

I don't know what to do with kids or people who don't like to read. What...what do you DO with your spare time? My niece stayed with us one weekend a while back and when she asked what she could do (we're boring people, we don't do much) I commented I had a whole bunch of books she might like. She glanced through them and said she didn't really like to read. I was flabbergasted (thankfully she seems to have gotten over this). She'd brought a couple books with her and read those, but I had the horrifying thought that it was somewhat possible that my own children wouldn't like to read. Can I disown them for that? Is that ok? I think I'd want some kind of refund for a child who doesn't like to read. So far, they do. Books are awesome to them.

Long rambly rant....end result is...I don't get people who don't like to read. It confounds me. If you can't read well, listen to audio books. You'll be amazed at the worlds you can visit, the people you'll meet, and the things you'll do. And some of them will hang out in your head forever.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dirty Thirty

I'm turning 30 this year on Thanksgiving Day. I could lie to you and say that's made me introspective and nostalgic but mostly it's kind of an "eh" feeling. I don't FEEL 30 mentally, so why should it bother me that my body is turning 30 physically?

Sure, there are things I wish I'd done, places I wish I'd gone, things I wish I'd said...and the reverse: not done, not gone, not said. But I can't change that now so why dwell on it? Like Pumba says: You've gotta put the past in your behind.

I sincerely hope the worst year of my life is behind me and only the best are before me. 2009 was awful and I couldn't wait for that year to end. There were 2 good things to come out of it: my niece and my soulmate. And my soulmate and I didn't reconnect because of anything happy, it was over shared grief.

My dad died on May 21, 2009 and it will, hopefully, be the worst day in my life. I remember so clearly what I was doing when I got the call and the disbelief that flooded through me. I hoped with every fiber of my being that this was some cruel sick joke even as I knew that it wasn't. A week at home going through his things and crying with my family eased the pain some but it was still there June 6 when I got word that a childhood friend had died.

The sweet, goofy tow-headed, doe-eyed boy I remembered hadn't been a friend since about 2nd grade but we talked occasionally in high school when passing in the halls and we always had a weird connection not many had: we were born on the same day. I've written about Noah before, so I won't go into the brief history we shared, but his death so quickly after Dad's brought my soulmate and I together again and we've been close ever since.

So my birthday is looming and I don't regret turning 30, I'm not afraid of it and I will actually be 30, not "29 and some months" as Dad used to say. I DO regret that Noah won't be there with me and that Dad won't have to up his age to "49 and some months" to keep up with his aging children. (He was 39 and some months when he died).

I have a cousin who's a birthday twin, born a few years before me, and another cousin who's expecting a baby due on November 28...but it's not quite the same. Going to school with Noah and having that be our special bond at a time in our lives when something in common was of the utmost importance to show how cool we were...that's something that will never be replaced.

So to Noah and my cousin in Georgia, happy birthday! And to the baby...come on, join us, it's a pretty exclusive little club full of awesome people.

Betcha didn't know I have superpowers

I'm a picky eater. Like...super picky. If you know me and this is surprising to you, hi, I'm Tali. We haven't really met.

It's so bad that if I find something untasty/gross/whatever you want to call it, I have trouble physically forcing myself to swallow said item. For YEARS I've been ridiculed for this. And then about 18 months ago, I read an article online that changed my life.

I'm going to post some of it here with a link so you can read the rest of it. Yes, it's from a comedy website, but there are several links, none of which I clicked, so click away. Warning: there is foul language and if that offends you, don't click to see the original.

"Today's pickiest eaters had the bad luck of inheriting a gene that kept the species alive thousands of years ago. There's even an official name for them: Supertasters.

"And while that name might sound like even science is mocking them, it turns out they actually have extra taste buds and are therefore extra-sensitive to something called phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). For supertasters, PTC is to food as beer is to angry drunk stepfathers; it makes everything bitter.

"But back before we had the FDA and award-winning documentaries telling us what was in our food, they were our first and only line of defense. Because toxins are bitter, supertasters could pick out the poisonous stuff and scoot us on our way before we gorged ourselves on deathberries. With literally no other mechanism for detecting poison, our picky-eating friends would have been like superheroes to their communities.

"They were so useful that while all the guys who hear sounds 20 times louder than everyone all died off years ago, the supertaster gene was useful enough to hang around in the mouths of certain unfortunate members of the species. Spinach and Brussels sprouts just taste bad to most of us, supertasters are experiencing every note of the horrible sensation that just crapped in your mouth in hi-def with Dolby digital surround sound."

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_19224_6-wuss-behaviors-that-were-once-badass-survival-instincts_p2.html#ixzz2kmQ34o6l"

I've never lost my sense of taste. Ever. And I could always tell what was being put on my tongue in the taste tests in school. 

So next time it annoys you that I don't like the taste of most vegetables or fruit or fish or pork, just remember: like 400 years ago I would have been lauded. So there. 

...or maybe I'm just spoiled and picky. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

I should have taken the bottle of booze.

And now for something completely different. Warning: This is not as lighthearted as earlier posts. 

I’ve never made friends easily. I was very much the kid that just kind of tagged along and kept her thoughts to herself to keep from stirring the pot/roiling the waters/making waves. I wanted people to like me and so I just shut up whenever people said or did something I didn’t like or agree with. To some extent, I’m still like this. 

Because I don’t make friends easily, I don’t have a lot of friends. In fact, to be brutally honest, I’d say I have a LOT of acquaintances and very few actual friends. Sad, right? A lot of the time, when I attempt to make friends with other women, I feel like I don't really "fit" with them. I'm not sure if that's my own standoffishness due to my shyness or if we really don't fit together. 

I mean really, how are people supposed to make friends after school? The women my age at church have older children than I do and are all busy with their own families and activities, which I completely understand. I work for my mom with my brothers. I don’t turn down opportunities to hang out with people outside of my family for an evening…but I don’t get any offers anymore. Something about being married, a mom, and 30 just makes it hard to make friends. So recently, I decided to bite the bullet and try something new: meeting people. 

It’s been a long time since I really had to deal with my social anxiety. So long, in fact, that I figured I was over it and it wouldn’t be a big deal for me to do something that used to make me uncomfortable. Boy was I wrong. 
In my quest for getting out of my funk I decided to try a local mommy group, MOPS. Sunday night, I mentioned to Austin that I was thinking about going to the meeting last Monday morning (the 11th) and he encouraged me to go, saying it would be good for me and the boys. I was hesitant and so anxious about it ahead of time, I woke up at 7 am on a day I could sleep in. I double checked the information online and made sure the boys had a bag packed with the appropriate things. I attempted to print out the registration paperwork but it didn’t work. That was the first snag. 
Next up was Elijah’s new carseat. He’s now forward facing and Austin put it in but neglected to loosen the straps, so my chunky monkey was literally about 1/3 strapped in. I debated, then decided to go ahead and go. We were already in the car, might as well just keep on with the goal. We loaded up the stuff and buckled in the rest of us and headed out. To the wrong church. 
I grew up in this town, you’d think I’d recognize the fact that the church I thought it was has a completely different name. Of COURSE I didn’t realize I was at the wrong place until I parked, unloaded and hauled everything inside. The correct church was about 3 minutes past my house. *sigh*
So we head back to the car, load back in, rebuckle and head out. I’m in tears at this point just over being at the wrong church. Asher is in the back telling me “Mommy, take a nap” which is what I tell him when he’s upset and crying. Cute kid. 
I decide to power through and we head on to the correct church. Which turns out to be on a lot the size of 4 city square blocks. Most of which is (seemingly) the church building. I have NO idea where to go, but I see moms with kids so try to follow them. I find the place for the boys to go and actually stand there for a second, trying to figure it out. Finally a woman comes over and asks me if I need help. (No, I secretly love having no idea what I'm doing, it makes my day!) I explain that it’s my first time and I don’t know where to go or what to do. She shows me the paperwork for the boys and tells me where they’ll be. They’re in separate rooms and I packed one bag. Oh well. 
I get Elijah checked in, changed and go to check on Ash. The teacher with Elijah has like, 4 kids total. The other one has seriously around 10-15. So she doesn’t even acknowledge me. Now I have to figure out where I’m supposed to go. 
I wandered around a little, trying to figure it out to no avail. I’m texting Austin this whole time with my litany of woes and he’s trying to be encouraging. I go ask the teacher with Elijah and she has no idea where to go. Next I try following someone but I lose her. I find the OTHER children’s area but still no moms. I find a  gym and kitchen and multiple meeting rooms (seriously, this church is massive) and still no moms. I wind up in the last stall of a tucked away bathroom crying and trying to talk myself out of getting the boys and going home or leaving them until the meeting is over at 11.30 and running a few errands. I finally decide if I can’t find the meeting by 10, I’ll get the boys and go. That gives me about 10 minutes. The meeting started at 9.15. 
I wander a bit more, then hear voices and decide to try upstairs. There’s a large meeting room upstairs where there are about 10-15 tables of 6-8 women each listening to a woman pray. There’s no visible empty chairs and no one is checking the door for stragglers, which is understandable at 9.50. I duck out to text Austin that I found it but there’s no seats. I go back in and decide the 10am deadline still stands. They’ve got like 20 people on their staff, surely someone will notice me standing in the back looking lost. 
And someone did. So I finally ended up at a table with women who I didn’t get introduced to until the end because of the fact that immediately after I sat the guest speaker started. And the topic? Sex. Which they called chocolate. Awesome. 
The meeting itself wasn’t terrible, just the getting there was awful. I know it’ll be easier in the future, but man was the first time horrible. No signs anywhere, no one who could help me that I could find, this is so not my kind of thing. I told Austin I’d keep going through the end of the year and we’ll see how I like it. I just don't know. 
It felt like when I was a kid and diving off the high-dive for the first time. I was scared out of my mind and it hurt (I face planted and my face went numb) but at the end of the day, I did it. 
This isn't meant to be depressing or "woe is me" or meant to elicit pity from anyone. Maybe in time I'll look back and laugh at the whole incident. But for now, it's just exhausting. I feel a lot of the time like I've got the depression and anxiety and everything under control and then I try to do something new and oh, no, you're still screwed up about that. I power through as best I can because I want to show my boys that even when Mommy is terrified and freaking out, she still does things that scare her because they might make things better in the future. And even if they don't, they don't hurt us in the meantime. Except for face planting off the high dive because that hurt like hell. 
Oh, and the title? I went to grab a bottle of water to take with me and the first one I saw and grabbed is 3/4 full of Midori Sour. I may or may not have chugged a bit of it when I got home. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Guess What?

It has been nearly four and a half years since the last time I spoke to my dad. I know, weird anniversary to note. I'm noting it because it's been on my mind recently and because it's my blog and I'll write what I want. So ha.

About a week before he died, my dad called me asking about a church friend of theirs who had been in the hospital in Dallas. Her husband had had no where to stay and no money so even though we weren't exactly close to the hospital, he stayed in our guest room. He didn't have a change of clothes so Austin loaned him some while I did his laundry and he was able to get a shower for the first time in a few days. He'd been sleeping in her room with her but she sent him on to us when they found out we were offering him a room. I hadn't seen the couple in a few days, but Mom and Dad hadn't heard from them in a while and I was the last known contact, so Dad called me.

And I'm so glad I did. I kind of wish I hadn't picked up the phone, though. If I hadn't picked up the phone, I'd have had a voicemail to listen to later. Though in retrospect, I may have delayed the healing process by obsessively listening to it...so maybe it's a good thing I answered the phone.

Our last conversation was brief. Had I heard anything about them? No. Did he stay just one night or more? Just the one. OK, well, they were at a church function and he had to go. He'd talk to me later. "I love you." "I love you too."

"I love you."

Do you know how awesome it is that my father's last words to me were "I love you"? I never for a second of my life doubted my father's love for me. EVER. I didn't really go through the rebellious teenager phase where no one loved me or understood me or cared about me...because my father told me every single day that he loved me. I would be walking down the hall, sitting at dinner, riding in the car, anything, and he would say "Guess what?" and we'd respond, even though we knew what, "What?" and he'd exclaim "I love you!" like it was the first time we'd ever heard it. If we responded "You love me" he'd say "Oh, so you know. Good." Once I said "Chicken butt" and he laughed before saying "No, I love you!"

He was like that. He was goofy and short tempered and forgetful the last ten years of his life, but that was OK. Because he loved us.

... OK, so maybe it wasn't ALWAYS OK. He drove us crazy and as a teenager, having to babysit my father was...annoying, to say the least. I resented that. I never wished that he'd died instead, but I definitely wished he'd gotten tons better, not appreciating the miracle of how far he'd come.

My main regret in life, of which I have very very few, is that he never got to meet or even know about my children. Three (so far) of his grandchildren were born after he died. My sister-in-law was 7 months pregnant when he died. He knew about that child and was excited to meet him or her (we didn't find out the sex until she was born). For all I know, he would have been present at her birth if asked. Actually, no. He WOULD have been there. And he would have loved every minute of it.

The man offered to take me for my first gynecologist exam, for crying out loud. He would have been present for a baby being born. Because he loved us. (Noted: he did NOT accompany me. My love for my dad had a few limits.)

Every now and then when my boys are being especially cute or we're having an especially hard day, I wish he were around to help. Because he would have. He would have loved having us in town and being close enough to walk to the house to see my boys. He would have taken them on walks and read them stories. Because he loved them. Or he would have. I chose to use the present tense. Makes me feel better.

In small ways, Asher and Elijah know their Granddad. His picture is around the house, his owls are in their room, his elephant jokes and owl collection inspired their animal collections started for them before they were born.

Asher, somehow, knows who he is. I've told him a few times, but not recently and not as often as I should. And yet, the other day, he was climbing on stuff and brought me a picture frame and said "This your daddy." No question, no doubt, this was Mommy's daddy. I told him yes, that was my daddy. He nodded and studied the picture then asked "Where your daddy go?" How to explain that to a 2-almost-3 year old? I said "Well he died. It's like going to sleep for a very long time. He won't ever wake up but it's OK. We'll see him again and he's always with us." He nodded again, said OK and went to put the picture back on the shelf.

Maybe I shouldn't have used sleep as a description for death because now he's adamant that people have to wake up when he wants them to...that or he could just be behaving as a two year old behaves. He doesn't freak out when we're sleeping, just pats a hand or shoulder or whatever he can reach and commands you to wake up.

This wasn't a recent picture of us. It was an old one. I was probably two or three. Yet Asher still knew it was me and the man who's lap I was in was my Daddy. It's one of my favorite pictures of us and it sat on his computer for a year before he died. We'd framed it for the wedding and he liked it so much I gave it to him. And now I have it back. And it will always be up somewhere for people to see because he loved me. And I loved him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When I Grow Up...

I kind of hated being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up as a kid. I never really knew what to say. An adult? Alive? I think people expected me to come up with something fabulous, like doctor or lawyer or something since my mom was a doctor and when she went through medical school, there weren't many women doing that. I was a boring kid, though, and would usually come up with something stereotypically female, like teacher or nurse.

I remember in 2nd or 3rd grade deciding on four careers. I know, ambitious. I had it all figured out, though. I would be a teacher who was also the school nurse and I would teach art. But of course, all this would be in the spare time I had from my fabulous movie career. Because I wanted to be an actress.

Turns out none of those came to fruition. When I realized all the stuff nurses have to do, I had to pass. I can't handle vomit of any kind, whether it's mine, the cat's, or my kids'. The smell, sight, sound, or, God forbid, feel of it has me dry heaving and looking for the nearest receptacle. So that was out.

Art was also out once I came to accept my complete and utter lack of talent. While other kids doodles in classes when they were bored, I seriously wrote stories. I have hundreds of pages of blurbs, bits of conversations, descriptions of locations, story outlines and more from about the 6th grade on. Some blossomed into full on stories, a few of which I'm actually pretty pleased with. But when your stick people look pathetic, it's time to pick a new career.

I still had teaching and acting to fall back on, so I was ok. Until I decided that I hate teaching. I mean sure, getting your summers off appeals to kids, but then there's the whole having to deal with children all day long. Most of whom I found annoying, even as a child. I don't have the patience to be a teacher. I'd probably make everyday a movie day so I could read a book.

My love of reading made me decide maybe a librarian would be a great career. So I decided on that. I mean, I could be paid to read! Yes, I know they do more. I didn't at the time. Then I realized there was school to be a librarian. I was amazed. What more could there be to learn than the Dewey Decimal system and the alphabet? Is it really so hard to learn those things that it necessitates a Master's degree? No offence intended towards any librarians, my mother-in-law is one, I just was astounded when I discovered all that. Since I didn't really want to go to school that long, that option was out.

Acting. Yes. I thought I was pretty good. I thought I could do pretty much any part. And when I was young and cute, I wasn't bad. Then I got older and less cute and out of the private school environment and I never got a part again. I tried, though. I auditioned for every school play in high school and attempted to audition for local theater. Nothin'. So I decided that if I didn't have a part by the time I graduated high school, I'd give it up. And I didn't so I did. Moving on to the next career option.

Which was flight attendant. What could be better than to get paid to travel?! I love to travel! Then I realized they don't actually get to SEE the places they visit, just the airport and maybe a hotel. Long hours on their feet, cranky passengers, no thanks.

I even briefly toyed with the thought of becoming a chef but then had to laugh because 1 I'm too picky an eater for that to be feasible and 2 I really hate cooking and 3 I don't really come up with my own recipes. I follow them almost to the letter.

For years I didn't really have a career in mind and then, I don't really remember how it came about, I decided on hotel management. It seemed pretty cool to me. I'd get to meet interesting people from all over, get discounts on travel, could be great!

This one lasted long enough that I got a degree in it: RHIM. Restaurant Hotel and Institutional Management. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have a degree that says I can manage an institution. Like a prison or a mental hospital. I spent 7 years in hotels, since the 4 I was in college were actually spent working in the hospitality industry as well. I worked retail (Hasting's), I worked in 2 different b&b's as cook/hostess/maid, I worked in a roach motel as a maid (here in Abilene, maybe they're better so I won't name names), I worked in nearly every type of select service Marriott brand both as an intern and as a manager in Austin and in Mesquite. And I loved some of it. Which is true of any job.

Being a maid? Sucks. Tip your maids. Seriously. Five dollars for every person for every night. Do it. They deserve it. Maybe not from you, you may be super clean and tidy and whatever, but the person next to you had some kind of ritual sacrifice in their room and the place is trashed and all they left for the maid is about 3 cans full of garbage strewn across the room. I hated every second I had to spend cleaning up after people, but it definitely gave me perspective and now, I try to be super tidy as a guest.

As a manager, I ran up and down five flights of stairs in 2 inch heels on a regular basis. I ate poorly and slept sporadically so I was down to 105 pounds at one point. I was wearing 2P clothing. I was also lonely because when you work from 1pm-11pm, you don't really meet people other than the guests checking in. And a couple found me appealing, which they should have, I was a cute little thing. I got propositioned A LOT but it was ok, because I had the desk between us. One guy tried to console me when I broke down in tears after breaking up with my boyfriend. He and I still chat occasionally. One guy wanted to fly me out to Salt Lake City meet his brother because he thought we'd be a great couple. I politely declined. One old man purposefully dropped some beer bottles on the floor so that when I was cleaning them up, he could attempt to push me over with his cane because he wanted to see my underwear.

We had refugees and Red Cross people during Hurricane Katrina who were so grateful to have a place to stay they were the best guests ever. We had sports teams who were absolute nightmares because the parents used us as a babysitting service. One time, the parents even let their kids use the pool as a communal tub, complete with soap and towels in the water. They were banned from ever coming back.

There were awesome people who stayed with us a lot and who I was genuinely sad to hear wouldn't be returning because their work was done. There were people who stayed for weeks or months who I was ready to be rid of 10 minutes after they walked in the door. And there were hundreds who were never a blip on my radar.

Moving to Dallas to be with Austin was what finally ended my love affair with hotels. My hours were better,  I got out more, I made some friends (with guests, so don't get too excited) but the hotel was in trouble and it felt like a lot of the blame and responsibility for all that was shifted onto me. After less than a year, I turned in my resignation and became a stay at home wife. And it was glorious.

For about 4 months. Then I went back to work, but this time as a researcher for my father-in-law's consulting firm. That was fine. I worked until I was done and then went home. I was fast and efficient, which the consultants loved. I was able to continue doing it when we moved to Abilene, though not for long. I had a baby so they stopped sending me work and gradually, it just ended. In the meantime, I started working for Stephen's Rubber Stamps (shameless plug).

I'm back in retail, my first job. It's a lot like hotels, except my encounters with customers are MUCH shorter, thank goodness. I get the easy going, whatever works kind of people and they're great. Then I get the picky, do it right or else kind of people who make me want to claw my eyes out. The best customer is someone who has a vision for what they want but isn't too picky. And who doesn't need it yesterday for no additional charge.

Stephen's is great because when need be, I can take my kids. I can lock them in their little area with their toys and a movie and work, knowing they're nearby and safe. If I need to go home because one is sick, I can do that very easily. Working for family has its perks.

I try not to ask kids what they want to be when they grow up because I'm still not sure and I'm going to be 30 in a couple of weeks (dear lord). For now, I'll work at Stephens and be the best mom I can. Which I need to do now because they're shouting my name. "Mommy, where are you? Anybody home? Hello?"

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Surrounded by Awesome

I love my kids, I really do, but sometimes they drive me crazy. I just want to lock them in a closet or drug them and lock them in their room so I can take a nap. They’re 2-nearly-3 years and 13 months, so this is definitely frowned upon. As if it would be better if they were older, but whatever.
They’re not bad boys, far from it. Asher is a REALLY good kid. Like, compliments from people who watch him for us every time. He was in the hospital overnight in January and the nurses complimented us on his behavior. Elijah is also really good. He’s easy going and only cries when he has a need (food, diaper, clothes, holding). Even when sick, this kid has a toothy grin for you. Yesterday he was vomiting at FKO and STILL smiling. So, I’m spoiled. When they do act up or get bored or whatever, I want it to stop and go back to normal.
It was probably a mistake to have them 21 months apart. In my defense, that wasn’t actually the plan. We intended to have them closer to 30 month apart, hoping Asher would be at least 2 before his younger sibling was born. Turns out I’m crazy fertile and a week after we started trying *bam* baby. Two insane deliveries prove that my body knows what to do when it comes to birthing babies.
The worst part about having two kids close together, though, isn’t the mountain of diapers and logistical nightmare of going anywhere at any time, but the comments I’ve gotten from people. One woman came into my place of work when I was pregnant with Elijah, saw I was about 8 months along with a toddler in the other room and seriously asked me “What were you thinking?” in an incredulous voice. Did she want me to say “Oh, this was an accident,” or “You’re right, I think we’ll put this second one off for a bit.” Jerk. I was so stunned someone was that rude (this is West Texas where that doesn’t happen often) that I just kind of smiled and ignored it while I finished processing her payment. She realized her gaffe a minute later and gave me a non-apology. You know “I’m sorry, but…” Just be quiet. You’re making it worse.
So for the last 13 months, I’ve changed an average of 3 dirty diapers a day, changed 8 wet diapers a day, and had countless snuggles, giggles and kisses. Asher LOVES Elijah, which makes my overwhelmed-mama’s-heart happy. Before Elijah was mobile, Asher loved to get down on the floor and lay with him. Now that Elijah can stand, Asher will body-slam hug him and knock him down. Asher loves to kiss his and hold his hand when we're in the car. He comes running to tell me when Elijah is crying. He always shared the graham crackers, making sure that they each get one. Now if I could get him to help change diapers and make dinner, we'd really be on to something. 
He does help where he can, though. He get SO excited about starting the dishwasher that if he's throwing a tantrum or hiding from us for some reason, I just have to say "Asher, it's time to start the dishwasher" and that kid comes running. He knows where the soap is and dutifully tells me when it's empty...even if it's not actually empty. He loves to push the buttons and hear the whir as it kicks on. Woe is me if I use the delay feature. Sometimes I let him start it, then stop it and restart with the delay. And his reward? A coin. I can give him the same penny 14 times in a row and he doesn't care. A coin is a coin is a coin. 
Elijah helps too, somewhat. When I'm cooking or cleaning in the kitchen, he wants to be there with me. He circumnavigates the room, stooping to pick up food that he and his brother have dropped (I don't sweep nearly enough) and munches on it, happily chattering all the time. He loves to be present when I'm cooking, which makes me think maybe he'll be a cook later on. That'd be great since I hate cooking. I'd happily turn those reins over to him any day. Well...maybe when he's like 14 and can actually cook something beyond toast and mac and cheese. Though I do enjoy toast and mac and cheese. 
So when we have the days where Asher is constantly sitting on Elijah and Elijah is constantly crying to be held and the house feels like it's falling down around my ears and I'm so exhausted all I can do for dinner is have Austin pick something up or order something in,  I remember that tomorrow, when they get up, Elijah will have that huge toothy grin for me, Asher will say "Oh! Good morning Mommy!" and it will be better. Really, if I can hold on for a few minutes during those rough patches, I'll likely get a grin from Elijah and a sweet word from Asher. Because my boys are awesome.