Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Too soon!

It snowed overnight Sunday into Monday, enough that school was canceled and Nico woke up begging to go play outside. Elliott's Kindermusik teacher, who is probably from somewhere up north, did not cancel class, so we went to that first. Afterwards, both boys did get to go play in the snow. I felt quite smug about having full snow kits in appropriate sizes for each of them. Elliott was rather skeptical of the whole affair and lasted about 20 minutes before attempting to go back into the house by himself. Nico had to be ordered inside for lunch after an hour and a half, and then asked to go back out in the afternoon. I still maintain that it's too early for snow and overnight lows of 10 degrees here in the Upper South, but at least the kids got their snow day. (And it's supposed to be in the 40s tomorrow, so I'll curtail my complaining.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Things I like a lot right now

I've had this post open and unfinished on my laptop for ten days now. I think that's a pretty good illustration of how things are going vis my "sit down and have writing time in the evenings" success rate.

But let's not waste words or time on that, lest this entry never, ever be completed.

1. I discovered the Unfuck Your Habitat website and tumblr via facebook about a month ago and I am now gently obsessed. I have the #UfYH tag open in a Safari tab on my phone so I can refresh it every day and look at people's before and after cleaning photos. It's funny - the site simultaneously helps me feel hugely relieved over the state of my dwelling (which is clearly and undeniably not all that messy, relatively speaking) and motivates me to follow the site author's advice and clean things up more often. Her rule of thumb is that any room that takes more than 20 minutes to reset to a pleasant state counts as messy, which seems fair. I'm still crap at remembering to take before photos of my own work, which then makes the after photos rather superfluous, but at least I am producing some before and after results. I don't think I'll be ready for my shelter magazine spread anytime soon, but a few areas of the house are the cleanest they've been in ages. I feel like this new approach is helping me to change the way I think about my messes in a small but significant way, to look for different ways to deal with them rather than continuing to move piles around my house. I'm also coming to realize that a lot of tiny, steady improvements ultimately add up to the same overall result as one big sweeping cleaning spree, and they take a lot less time and energy. (Plus it's not as frustrating when they inevitably don't last due to the constant creep of entropy.)

tiny improvement, large sense of satisfaction

2. I recently read The Girl With All the Gifts and loved it, even though there were parts that made me literally squirm in my seat while I was reading. I didn't see the ending coming, either, which is always a nice surprise. I figured it wouldn't be all unicorns and rainbows but I did not anticipate the last turn it took. Five stars, wholly recommend. Unless you don't like fast zombies. Then, perhaps not.

3. Right now I'm working on What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. At least three times already I've had to assure my coworkers I was laughing at the book rather than at them. I'm thinking about buying a copy so that we have it on hand for the boys to read when they're older.

4. I discovered Manhattan Nest via a link on another blog, and I want to take a day off to sit on the couch in my pajamas reading every post in his archive. Then I want to hire him to renovate my kitchen and bathroom.

5. A friend alerted me to the existence of the #29daysofcomplaining hashtag / meme on facebook and it's pretty much the best new holiday tradition ever. I'm actually a really grateful person, but I still roll my eyes at the thirty days of gratitude posts, especially toward the end of the month where it's obvious that everyone's grasping. About a dozen people have already left comments to say they find the daily complaints hilarious, which was the entire point.

6. This happened and I couldn't put it on facebook because I'm friends with MB's mamaw.

7. One of my UfYH-inspired cleaning projects was to deal with the huge stack of preschool art that was living on our dining room buffet. I felt somewhat stymied because I definitely didn't want to save it all, but I felt a little bad about not wanting to save it all. Then I remembered that ages ago someone recommended an app for archiving one's child's precious creations. A cursory google search led to this article, and based on the descriptions I chose and purchased ArtKive for $4.99, the most I've ever spent on an app. I'm pretty sure I won't have any buyer's remorse. I took all of Nico's previously-enshrined art projects down from the playroom blinds, put everything into ArtKive, ruthlessly archived and culled the new stuff, and then hung up the new elite favorites. Done.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


I'm feeling a little sheepish about only posting on this blog once during the entire month of October. That's just embarrassing, and the poor old girl deserves better, I'm sure. I've seen so many of my favorite bloggers slowly give up posting as their kids grew older and I used to think it was a lack of material as babies turned into big kids. But no, at least for me it's that we are too busy doing things to save time to write about the things we're doing. And care and feeding and upkeep of the house takes a lot of time, too, so then by the time I finally sit down at the end of the night I'm usually so tired I immediately fall asleep on the couch. But I still love this little blog and I hope to do better this month.

With no clever lead-in, here's what we did during the most perfect October in memory:

Somewhere along the way my baby turned fully into a toddler and I'm not sure I approve:

October 19 - fall photos...get these children a modeling contract!

After pictures we went to the pumpkin patch, where Elliott insisted he could carry his own pumpkin:

(Maybe still a baby some of the time)

It turns out 4 3/4 is an excellent age for helping to make and decorate cookies.

We were unexpectedly given free amusement park tickets for the last Sunday of the month, so we went. There was an awesome corn maze, which MB and the kids loved. I have to say, I now understand why it's such a serious crisis when a kid wanders off into a cornfield in Iowa. This thing was serious business. They even had a guy up on an aerial lift watching for distress flags in case anyone got lost in the maze. I'm pretty sure all three boys want to go back next year.

Very intently collecting and lining up tiny pumpkins:

Elliott loves carousels, it turns out. He went around four times in a row while Nico was having a bowl of blue ice cream.

Both kids are very into blocks right now. It's awesome.

This was Elliott's first year to trick-or-treat, and he was a champ. He carried his pumpkin bucket up and down with the bigger kids and hung in until we all decided we were cold and it was time to go home. I'm absurdly sad that I can't magically make these costumes fit them again next year.

I got to wrap up the Halloween season with a grownup pumpkin carving party at Laura Danger's house. It was a lot of fun hanging out and my skunk-o-lantern won first prize.

Not bad, autumn...not bad at all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

stone and light

We were supposed to kick off our fall with a camping trip with friends the last weekend of September. They ended up bailing on the camping, but invited us to come stay with them for the weekend anyway. We drove up on Friday and had a few hours to kill before our friends got off work, so we took the kids to the WonderLab. It was small but really neat, and the boys loved it. They would've gladly stayed an entire day, I think. Our friends don't have kids or plan to, so when I walked into their magazine-gorgeous house with its pristine vintage furniture, I looked at my small snot-nosed children and thought, oh, shit. Our friends were incredibly gracious hosts, though. Plus, the kids didn't break anything and Elliott only climbed onto their kitchen table twice. And cough-barfed during dinner once. But who's counting? We spent most of Saturday hiking at McCormick's Creek State Park, which was lovely. Nico was such a good little hiker and Elliott hung in almost until the end of the day in his carrier (when he decided he'd had enough and flopped limply to one side while screaming for his freedom). Elliott went on his first pony ride, which he was not sure about. It was cute anyway.

We spent the first weekend of October camping at Bell Smith Springs in Shawnee National Forest with our usual crew of camping friends. I camped there once during my freshman year of college, but I didn't remember anything about it. The website was short on details so I was a little concerned with what we'd find upon arrival, but it turned out great. I remembered from our trip to Shawnee a couple of years ago that we wouldn't have any cell phone signal there and that we'd need to buy firewood along the way. We ended up taking the least-optimal way in, along some rough gravel backroads, but I'm glad we did. That route took us through tunnels of golden afternoon light, tucked snugly under the canopy of the forest. This is going to sound unbearably hokey, but I could feel my spirits lifting as we drove under those trees, found myself with a smile on my face and a happy heart. The campground did not disappoint - it was well-maintained with nice big flat gravel campsites mostly screened from each other by big chunks of woods. We chose two non-separated sites on purpose because they were basically a big double site that we figured our friends would be able to share with us when they arrived. It worked out perfectly and the campground is lodged happily on my top five list now. We had a lazy camp supper in the failing light, then got the boys ready for bed. They were both pretty keyed up with OMGTENT excitement, but I finally turned off the flashlight and lay quietly in between them until they fell asleep, bundled snugly in layers of fleece jammies and sleeping bags.

The next morning Elliott and I went on a walk around the campground loop, and I think that might be one of my favorite memories from the whole trip. He marched confidently around in his first pair of big boy shoes - tiny bright orange knockoff Keens that he is so immensely proud of - charming an entire class of college students and a pair of hunters. He spotted the signpost for campsite 19 and trotted over to point, hollering "nunner nah!" (number nine). Our stroll did end in tears when I refused to let him follow the college students' vehicle caravan out of the campground. Once he recovered from that injustice, we all took a pretty easy hike down to a natural bridge, then came back to eat lunch and await the arrival of the rest of our party. After they got their tent set up, we went down for another, longer hike. I'm pretty sure we ended up wandering off onto a completely different trail than the one we intended to follow, but it led us to an incredible landscape of bare rock and tall trees, streams and scoured-out plunge pools, miniature forests of moss and lichen and lizards sunning themselves. We nearly had the place to ourselves and it was wonderful. MB and I decided that it would be wisest for us to head back with the kids after that, so we carried the boys on our backs down a long, long stretch of road to the campground, where I forced Elliott to attempt a nap in the tent with me. Mostly he just wandered around and periodically belly-flopped onto my head, but whatever. At least he wasn't outside throwing himself into patches of poison ivy.

Going into the camping trip I was legitimately worried how it would go with Elliott firmly entrenched in a very independent phase (which I suspect isn't a phase at all, but his permanent personality). He is still fun and sweet, but he has Opinions and woe to all when his will is thwarted. I won't say the trip was without challenges, but we had such a great time. MB and I agreed with some amazement that it was our least-stressful trip to date, and more than ever I came home with the dual feeling of being really grateful for a wonderful trip and being really wistful over not having another chance to camp this year. I've said before that I suspect it's a lucky consequence of our kids' particular dispositions that allows us to go on these trips, and I'm so glad that we can. Seeing Nico's confidence and physical boldness increase each season has been amazing, and Elliott started out bold but is getting more capable with each adventure. I hope that we are raising them to see the breathtaking beauty in this world and to understand that family is where you find it. Sometimes I dare to daydream that they'll keep going on these trips after we are too old or too uncool to be invited along, meeting up in quiet breaks in their own lives to share a sky full of stars and a crackling campfire, maybe even to feel that it's something they've always done, something a little bit sacred.