Thoughts From The Weekend

If you hadn’t already noticed, I didn’t have time to blog last week. I didn’t even watch my beloved Drag Race until Sunday night. Sunday night, folks! There are a couple of main reasons for this – 1) My work week was super busy and 2) I pulled a muscle in my back. All I wanted to do when I arrived home was lounge on the couch, complain a little, and watch television. The muscle pain came to a head on Thursday night sending me to be super early, but has slowly dissipating since. Tonight, while writing this, I’m feeling 98% normal. Good news!

So, Friday was my birthday. I reached the grand age of 33 on 9-9. Yay! I went to work on my birthday – I’ve never really been the person who takes that off, preferring to celebrate on the weekend – but the family surprised me with a delicious chocolate cake that evening.

The original plan was to celebrate at Oktoberfest on Saturday, but we made a last minute decision to avoid the crowd and head to the Facebook Farmer’s Market instead. Yes, Facebook has a farmer’s market.

It is a regular kind of farmer’s market, but with the addition of a theme – this time it was olives – live music, children’s activities, food trucks, and cocktails. And let me tell you, I have a discovered a very important thing about life. . . every farmer’s market needs cocktails. My farm to cup sangria made the afternoon. And turned a place to buy fruits and veggies into an event.
Facebook Market
The weather was perfect – I even pulled my long sleeves down when hit by the breeze under the tent. I still just can’t get over this weather. I’ve never been chilly on my birthday before. We enjoyed lunch with some entertainment from Girls Got the Blues, an all-woman blues band. We really had an excellent time and will likely spend several of our Saturdays the same way. Next weekend’s theme is Mediterranean. Yum.

On the way home we stopped by San Mateo’s Seal Point Park for some spectacular views looking across the bay. I neglected to take any photos of the view or of the nifty kinetic sculptures taking advantage of the wind, so I’ll have to show you next time.

All around just a good day out at a family.

Arkansas – What I’ll Miss

As I begin this journey across the country, I can’t help but think about some of the things that I will miss most about my home in Arkansas. I’m not talking about family and friends here – no, they are all dead to me now.* I’m talking about that other stuff, those little things that make a place feel like home, or brighten your day when you are feeling a bit down.

I’ll find new places to fill the void, but – for now – this is my list.
Fort Smith National Historic Site
Visiting Judge Parker’s gallows, complete with the sound recording of the little door opening and a rope tightening as a criminal dropped, was an annual trip when I was a kid. It is likely what set me on the path to becoming a historian. And probably made me a little bit morbid.

The Capitol on Christmas Eve
One of my favorite family traditions is taking the kids in their pajamas to see the lights, exhibit, and Santa’s workshop at the Arkansas State Capitol on Christmas Eve. We would tour the building and take lots of photographs. Someone would make the assertion that the daughter was posing in front of her future office when we make her stand by the door labeled governor. Assuming it was actually cold, we would get hot chocolate on the drive home.

Crystal Bridges Museum of Art
Crystal Bridges is hands-down one of the best things in Arkansas and can compete with pretty much any other museum of its size. I’ve written about a couple of trips there already, read them here and here.

Shopping for Gifts at Ten Thousand Villages
Okay, so it is a chain. It is still something I’m going to miss though. I worked just down the block, so it was an easy to pop down there on a lunch break to pick up something nice for a friend of family member.

Yes, that is in Tennessee. But It still counts as something I will miss about Arkansas because we could just pop up there for a Saturday anytime we wanted. Memphis always felt comfortable and I’ll miss not playing tourist on its streets.

And some food spots, of course
Eating pimento cheese at Capital Bar and Grill, juicy burgers from David’s Burgers, hummus from YaYas Bistro, hushpuppies from the Flying Fish, and cheese dip from Mexico Chiquito . . . just to name a few.

*Kidding. Actually, I left so fast I didn’t get to say goodbye in person to a huge number of people that I’m really going to miss. It is all quite sad.

And Then There Was Fourteen

Today is our 14th wedding anniversary. That is a lot of years. Oh sure, plenty of people have more years on us. But still . . . fourteen is a lot. Especially when you take into account the fact that we were married at the age of nineteen and twenty-one.

Hallmark tells me that the traditional gift for fourteen years used to be ivory. That is obviously out now, so the “experts” suggest gold jewelry or, if you are still feeling traditional, something elephant themed. One website cleverly suggested piano lessons (you know . . . so you can learn to tickle those ivories).

Like many couples, we aren’t buying each other anything for our anniversary this year (although we do plan to live-it-up tacky-style in Vegas for the big fifteen). If we weren’t moving to California*, we’d rope someone into watching the little man so we could go out for a romantic dinner. Every penny counts right now though, so instead we will take the family out for a standard dinner at your generic family-style place. It’s about being together, right?

So, in honor of fourteen years here are Fourteen Things I Like About My Husband:

  1. He makes up and sings weird songs with me, creating an unusual soundtrack for our home life.

  2. He never misses an opportunity to goof off and embarrass our daughter.

  3. He cooks 99.95% of our meals and only complains about it occasionally. Bonus – he makes a mean meatball and is always open to splurging on some pizza.

  4. He is on top of this dad thing. Like, really. All over it.

  5. He never puts ranch dressing anywhere near my food.

  6. He supports my extreme dislike of those family stickers people put on the back of their mini-vans and oversized suvs. No knocking mini-vans and suvs, I just never really see those on smaller vehicles.

  7. He is about as far from pretentious you can get.

  8. As a kid, he dressed up as the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” lady from the commercial for Halloween.

  9. He likes to watch Good Mythical Morning with me and doesn’t complain when I turn on Bob’s Burgers for the sixteenth-millionth time. Sometimes he still laughs when I quote the show or even – amazingly – quotes it himself. That is a sign of some serious spectral traces right there.

  10. The one and only time I had a really serious pregnancy craving, he went out early in the morning to buy me a tub of powdered mini-donuts. Then watched me eat one after another in silence.

  11. He lovingly refers to our lifestyle as “one step up from the bottom.”

  12. He always remembers our wedding anniversary and only makes fun of me a little when I have to ask him to remind me. Plus, he never holds it against me that I just can’t seem to remember the date. I think he secretly likes being superior in this part of our relationship.

  13. He is completely supportive of uprooting our family and moving 2000 miles away so I can follow my dreams.

  14. 85% of the time he smells damn good.

Here’s to love, ya’ll!

*YES! More about that Monday. . .

Turn Around, Bright Eyes

Last week, the family spent an evening together enjoying some nourishment in the great outdoors. Or, at least, we ordered dinner from a selection of food trucks parked behind the husband’s office. Best yum of the night was some mint chocolate chip ice cream that tasted like I was being enveloped in a fluffy spearmint cloud.

It was fun, but the real event happened on the way home. Nothing elevates a ride home in the mini van like being treated to Total Eclipse of the Heart on the radio. Being proper parents of a modern teenager, we took this opportunity to educate our lovely daughter on some classic ‘80s realness by singing at the top of our lungs. Mix in some fascinating interpretative dance and quick-thinking fill-ins when we didn’t know the words, and it was a performance to be remembered.

Well, being a typical modern teenager that she is. . . *Ding recorded the whole thing. We let our guard down. ::sigh:: Parenting fail.

I’ll let it slide though. For starters, she’ll never share it outside of a few friends as it would be too embarrassing. Really, really embarrassing. Secondly, those little moments are what makes a family. We will never think about that food truck event again, but we might look back on that rocking night in the mini van and smile.

Or we might remember coming home and sitting down to watch Total Eclipse of the Heart – Literal Video Version on YouTube. Now that was some ‘80s education for the kid.

Sadly, it looks like most of the literal videos have been taken down for copyright reasons. They are clearly parodies, but I can understand that ending up in court over a humorous YouTube video isn’t very appealing.

My Family Builders – Blocks for the Rest of Us

I suppose this is sort-of a product review and should really be posted on Saturday, but I just really wanted to show you guys these awesome new toys. Last year, I supported a Kickstarter for My Family Builders and the toy finally arrived on my door step last week.

So, what is My Family Builders?

It is a magnetic block set that allows you to “build” members of your family. Have an African-American dad and an Asian mom? No problem. What about two dads? Sure. Live with mom and grandma? Got you covered. Three pale white people and one adorable black little man? Absolutely. [That’s us, by the way.]
My Family Builders
The set comes with 48 blocks (16 adults heads, 16 kids heads, 4 big bodies, 4 small bodies, 4 big legs, 4 small legs) and a set of large cards with suggested games celebrating diversity. I’ve enjoyed the blocks too much to have opened the cards yet, so I can’t comment on that.

These blocks are fun. You can build almost anyone. Humorously – to me at least – the only “missing” block in the set is my husband’s head. Yep, there isn’t a block that accurately represents our white male head of household. The blocks all have hair and my husband is lacking in that area.

I really can’t believe it took until 2016 to get something like this available to the masses. Their website describes it as “a unique toy that celebrates diversity” and I couldn’t agree more. Go ahead and visit that website if you want to learn more or see the toys in action.

Don’t worry, if you come over I promise to let you play with them too.

What Might Have Been

I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately (I do that when I’m stressed). In particular, I’ve been thinking about how certain decisions set my life on one course or another and how things would be different if I had chosen different option. Now, I don’t mean this in the bad way. This isn’t one of those things where I’m curled up in a ball on the couch crying over “what ifs” while drinking wine straight from the bottle. Every scenario is going to have good and bad parts . . . but I’m fascinated by just how different things could be.
How about some education-themed examples:

Life decision #1 – high school. My hometown has one of those math and science schools for smart kids and they gave a presentation at my school in maybe 8th or 9th grade. . . I’m not sure. I was fascinated and thought it sounded amazing. I met up with my friends afterwards all energized about this new possibility only to discover that everyone thought it sounded awful. I still considered the school for a bit, but I was really influenced by my friend’s opinions – what if they were seeing something that I didn’t? I certainly didn’t want to end up making myself miserable.

Had I gone to the school, I might have lost a bit of my introvert-ism and developed some more independence while living away from my parents at an early age. On the other hand, I would have missed out on some unforgettable experiences with an amazing group of girls. I couldn’t have picked better friends. Most of these women are still in my life in one way or another (yes, I’m counting Facebook) and I can’t imagine my teen years any other way. It really means a lot of me.

Life decision #2 – college. With good grades and a high ACT score, I had a lot of options when I graduated high school, but was scared to spread my wings. Not so much because I would be away from my parents, but because I would be alone. I had full-ride to one of my top-choice schools, Agnes Scott College in Georgia. Unfortunately, my parents were unable to take me to visit the school. They offered to fly me out there, but at that point I had never even been on an airplane and was terrified to go on my own. More so than the airplane, I was worried about not being able to find the person who would be there to pick me up. I later realized that this a big anxiety trigger for me, but at the time I couldn’t work past it. I ended up going to another one of my top-choice schools, but was extremely disappointed and left after one year.

I don’t know exactly what going to Agnes Scott would have meant for me, but I do think I missed a good opportunity because of my anxiety. I’d love to have experienced that women’s college environment. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have my husband or my daughter. So whoa, that’s a huge one. On a slightly smaller scale, I entered college as a German major heading for a career in international law. Picking the wrong school forced me to reevaluate everything (a year at a community college is great for that) and I eventually discovered my love for history.

Life decision #3 – graduate school. Having blown it on the undergrad school choice, I sent out a ton of graduate school applications – mostly for public history degrees, but some museum studies programs. It all came down to finances on this one; as a relatively un-established new family with a small child, I just couldn’t justify moving my family halfway across the country to live away from our support system on the pitiful salary of a graduate assistant. Especially not when there was a perfectly reasonable option just a commutable hour away. Moving away could have really opened up my career options (Little Rock, Arkansas isn’t exactly drowning in history and archival positions). But I firmly believe my marriage would have suffered if we left our comfortable life. We were not in a strong place to handle that kind of stress. I originally hoped to enter museum education, but staying local landed me a job in the archives. And this is my calling, for sure. Perhaps most importantly, the little man wouldn’t be a part of our family. Unthinkable.

I just get a kick out of thinking about this stuff. Life is weird.

My favorite. . . holiday stuff!

I can’t say I’m really in the Christmas spirit this year. See, I looooove the holidays. I’ve been waiting for December to get here since I took off my Halloween costume on October 31. But last week I got hit with a nasty cold and it has taken away some of the peppermint-scented joy. I tried to get ahead of it; I’ve been sleeping every free moment, 7pm bedtimes and all, but the cold is winning and I’m just not in the moody for laughter, joy, family, etc.

For example, it is nine days until Christmas and I only have three gifts underneath the tree. I’m done shopping – have been for a while – just haven’t wrapped much. And to be honest, two of those gifts under the tree are in decorative boxes so I didn’t really have to do anything for them. Christmas confession: I’ve only wrapped one gift.

I know that probably doesn’t sound like a big deal to a lot of you out there, but I live for Christmas. If I blow it this time around, I have to wait another eleven months to get a second chance.

In an effort to jump-start getting into the spirit, I’m going to share some of my favorite holiday things with you today. If thinking about these things doesn’t like a yule log under my . . well, you know. . . I don’t know what will!

Favorite Holiday Movies
1) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
2) A Christmas Story
3) A Muppet Family Christmas
4) A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version)
5) Rudolph

Favorite Holiday Treats
1) Oreo Truffle Balls
2) Starbuck’s Peppermint Mochas
3) Sausage Rolls
4) Cornbread Dressing
5) Hot Chocolate

Favorite Holiday Activities
1) Decorating the tree
2) Driving around to look at lights
3) Sending Christmas cards
4) Picking out new ornaments each year
5) Singing carols in my car

Favorite Holiday Songs
1) Bing Crosby – Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song)
2) Otis Redding – White Christmas
3) Percy Faith – We Need a Little Christmas
4) Leona Lewis – One More Sleep
5) Straight No Chaser – Santa Claus Is Back In Town

Young Folks [A Repost]

I wrote and posted this last year, but it has been popping up a lot in my mind in the last few weeks. I wanted to share it again. I’m talking about young parents, but the takeaway applies to many situations – Don’t let people hold you to a higher standard than they hold themselves.

Recently, I had a conversation with an old acquaintance that really irritated me. A little background – I got pregnant with our daughter during my first year of college and had her when I was 19. I won’t quote the acquaintance directly, as she didn’t mean any harm, but she said something that translates to, “Wow, I can’t believe your life isn’t all screwed up.” I’m a bitch, so my response of choice would have been “I’m sorry, how many master’s degrees do you have exactly?” But I’m also nice, so in reality I just smiled.

Now, this is something that I used to hear fairly often – people not being able to believe that I stayed in college, that I finished on time, that I worked, that I’m still married, that I went to graduate school, etc. [Although I don’t hear it as much anymore b/c most people aren’t aware of my early “indiscretions” and the rest just don’t care b/c I’m a grown-ass woman.]

Why does society expect a 19 year-old to choose between her child and her dreams? We don’t require that of a 29 year-old or a 39 year-old? Why was I expected to fail? Society spends a great deal of time trying to stop young women from having abortions, but then pretty much the same amount of time trying convincing them that their life is over if they have the child. “You had the sex! Suffer the consequences!” Well gee, those are crappy choices.

This is not what we should be telling young parents.

A good hard dose of reality with a little encouragement would go a long way. It’s not difficult. Here look, I’ll go first:

“Congratulations! This is going to be really hard, but the payoff will be better than anything. For the next few years while your peers are able to save money, travel, and explore exciting career opportunities, you will be coming home to a very demanding tiny human and spending every spare dime on formula (because naturally the only breastfeeding advice you will get in the hospital is “Well, you are just going to have to figure it out, honey”). [Speaking of hospitals, a lot of nurses will assume any problem you mention is just the whining of a stupid kid. Make them take you seriously – you deserve the same care as the mother down the hall.] It may make you feel bad to see your friends’ shiny new cars as you load your baby in her hand-me-down carrier into your bargain transportation, but try to shake it off. It will all start to even out a bit in the end. Try to avoid going into debt. God knows those student loan payouts are tempting, but you will only put yourself further behind your peers as you spend years paying it off (trust me, I know). You are going to need a support system – family, friends, etc. This is beyond important. And – listen, this is the big one – you are important. You don’t have to lose your identity just to have a kid. That 30 year-old mother over there allows herself a night off without judgment (well, with reason. The judgment from other mothers is outstandingly harsh.); you can do the same. Really, you can. Sure, some people might use that as ammo to criticize what a bad parent you are . . . but who cares? Don’t let them hold you to a higher standard than they hold themselves. You rock. Your path might be different, but you will find it. And get to enjoy your little one along the way.”

See. Not hard.

Monday was a Real Bitch.

We spent six hours in our local children’s hospital on Monday for regular check-up appointments. We got less-than-stellar news at the last appointment. Then we got really horrible extended-family news on the way home, although I won’t be sharing that today.

8:15am: Parking is spectacular, as none of the other handicapped vehicles have early appointments . . . apparently.

8:30am: First appointment time with the rehabilitation doc. Sitting in the waiting room – this neuroscience center is our most-visited location of the hospital. We got this.

8:40am: Called back to do all of the weighing and checking with the nurse. This was our first time taking the little man to an appointment in his wheelchair (instead of the stroller), so she weighed it for us to. Once they know how much the empty wheelchair weighs, we can just push him up onto the big scale and do a little subtraction for the final number.

8:45am: In the room. We are clearly the first appointment of the day and I think that means we will be in and out quickly [ha! I’m naïve]. We start planning a visit to a local brunch spot in-between appointments.

8:45am8:55am: The clock is broken.

9:10am: First up, the resident. She is nice and seems to be further along than some people we usually end up with – most of her questions make sense and she isn’t thrown off if we don’t know the answer to something.

9:20-9:45am: Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait.

9:45am: The doctor! The appointment is pretty short, but we expected that. He is pretty much up-to-date on all of his equipment and doesn’t need any therapy changes, so we just get a prescription for new leg braces and discuss raising the dose of his muscle relaxer (that ends up tabled for the moment, as we meet with our neurologist in a couple of weeks).

10:10-10:45am: Ugh, it is later than expected and really hot outside. We decide to brunch in the hospital cafeteria. Eat. Eat. Sit. Eat.

11:00am: We head downstairs to get the little man fitted for his new braces. Last time we made the mistake of having them done through this school. We loved the style of the braces and shoes a whole lot better and it was definitely easier than visiting the hospital, but the braces fell apart too quickly. We won’t make that mistake twice! If you have never been cast for braces, it is a very simple process and only takes about fifteen minutes.

The little man's first AFOs, 2011.
The little man’s first AFOs, 2011.

11:45am: After wandering around for a while, we go ahead and check in at our next appointment with the orthopedic department. The appointment is scheduled for 12:30, but he will need x-rays first, so it doesn’t hurt to arrive early. The hospital is in the middle of a remodel and this is our first time in the new orthopedic waiting room – very nice!

I lost track of the time spent in this waiting room. At some point, we had three x-rays taken. That went well, mainly because the little man doesn’t have to be put in the horrible baby-tube anymore.

A baby in a Pigg-O-Stat - amazingly not screaming like very other child I've seen in one. This baby became a meme, so I don't know where the original came from.
A baby in a Pigg-O-Stat – amazingly not screaming like every other child I’ve seen in one.
This baby became a meme, so I don’t know where it originally came from.

12:45pm: We are called back, finally!. . . . But wait! It is just to see the nurse and sit in a sub-waiting room. BLARGH! I can’t complain too much though, at this point we are only fifteen minutes past appointment time.

1:00pm: Okay, finally in the actual room. Let’s get this show moving.

1:15pm: ::sigh::

1:20pm: The nurse pops in again to do the initial questions. Yay! She says they will be back in a few minutes. She is lying.

1:50pm: I’m losing the will to live.

2:00pm: Doctor! The little man is tired and really isn’t handling being stretched all over the place very well. Unfortunately, the x-ray shows that his left hip has gotten worse despite our work with Botox in the groin and targeted therapy. We will watch it for a few more months, but if it continues down this path (very likely) we will need to discuss surgery to cut and re-position the bone.

2:15pm: After six hours, we leave deflated.

3:00pm: Distressing family news. We all take a nap.

I’d like end on a high note with a funny graphic about having a “case of the Mondays” here, but it is inappropriate. Perhaps I can update with better news before this posts.

Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 5 (Goodbye!)

This was going-home day, but we did have a couple of more things we wanted to do on the way out of town. I don’t have much to say about this day, but wanted to share some photographs. Overall, it was a great day and a nice trip back. Shorter too!

Stop #1: Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Wow! Gorgeous and probably the prettiest cathedral I’ve seen in the United States.
church 1

church 2

church 3
Stop #2: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard. I love frozen – especially a concrete with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. This custard was good and I’m glad we made the stop and respect Ted Drewes for setting a high standard, but it wasn’t any different than what we can get ten minutes from our house at Shake’s Frozen Custard. Just keep that in mind – yummy, but don’t expect a life-changing experience if you are already a enjoy-er of the frozen custard.
Ted Drewes