If you've been hanging out this blog for a bamillion years then you know Ev used to be a pretty good shopper. But things change. And she's taken to complaining about it.
Several years ago I started joining in the HubBub that is Black Friday. There's just something about waking up while it's still dark, parking three miles from the store, and shopping in a groggy frenzy with five hundred people. It's like Christmas Kickoff. Way back then I had visions of my little girl joining me for Black Friday. So when she started changing her tune about shopping in general I just assumed she wouldn't be my Black Friday Wing Man.
Somehow, though, James managed to get her excited about the idea. And this was our year.
Last night she laid out an outfit she put together just for our shopping trip, went to bed dutifully and made sure to fall asleep quickly in preparation for our big day. We woke up at 4:00 a.m. to make the 1-hour pilgrimage to Raleigh, got dressed in the dark, grabbed a sandwich and snuck out of the house. Evyn was particularly enchanted with the fact that it was still dark, and would be for a while.
We started at Target. And stopped for a caffeine break. E got the usual "pink drink" (milk with three shots of raspberry syrup.
Honestly, Target was a bit of a bust. Bright and friendly as usual. But nothing special. Evyn suggested the mall across the street. That's where I hit some serious sales (skinny jeans at the Gap for $15!). Totally should have gotten pictures of the pile-o-goods, but I'm kind of glad I didn't. Sidenote: We did take the opportunity to also pick up a few things for charity but I wish we'd done more. In fact, the thought occurred to me that next year we should try to put a Christmas together for a family using Black Friday deals. (I saw a similar idea using coupon-ing in December to help stock a food pantry in a magazine).
After several HOURS, we stopped for coffee break #2. This is Ev with another "pink drink" and a little prize she picked for being incredibly easy to shop with. (Have you ever been to "Justice"? That place is a land mine for mothers of 6 year olds.)
I asked her if she would join me again next year. She said she'd "have to think about it."
Maybe she just needs to sleep on it...
By the way...one small detail that I noticed is lost in this post is how incredibly grateful I am that my husband was intuitive enough to know how important this actually was to me, even though I played it off when I realized Evyn might not want to go. "Time together" is my love-language and I have been anticipating my first Black Friday with one of my girls for a long time. So I'm incredibly thankful that James found a way to get Evyn excited about it enough to go. Now, if she doesn't join me next year it will be because I took a bit too long at the Gap...
So, a week ago the Army stop-lossed J. That means the Army basically said, "we're not letting you out after all." Not a surprise. Just a monkey-wrench. A big, stressful monkey wrench. J. has wised up about these Army kinks and has discovered it's better to not tell me until the issue is resolved - and in this case, he was able to get them to let him go after all. THEN he told me that he had been stop-lossed. Smart man.
The house hunt went pretty well. It's a buyers market, which works in our favor as far as inventory. We are being conservative with our budget, which has constrained us a little. We found several houses in our range, but every one of them is lacking one major priority or another. We think we have finally settled on one, but oddly enough I'm not in any major hurry, which has confused our real estate agent a bit. "But you're moving in a couple of weeks. How will you live between houses?" I laugh at this. I keep trying to explain to her how many times I have had to live in a hotel for over a month, and that the Army is paying for several months' storage. For some reason, I'm just not panicky right now. Maybe I should be. But I'm not. The big picture is in our favor - a good job with a good company, a decent area to live, lots of houses on the market, a move that is almost entirely paid for by both the Army and J.'s new company. Literally and figuratively, we're not dodging bombs anymore. How can I sweat the small stuff?
My Army friends took me to dinner the other night to say goodbye. I told them all about my trip to North Carolina, the house-hunt, and my "sister" at the airport (they cried, too). We reminisced about the night before J. came home, when they helped me make his Welcome Home sign and cakes. We laughed about my initial worry that the sign wouldn't be big enough. I told them I felt like I was abandoning them now that it was my turn to be there for them (several of their husbands are now deployed). We settled on looking at it positively: I will be an ambassador for military families in the civilian world. When the bill came, we opened our fortune cookies and I got a serendipitous message (pictured, above). We finished with my goodbye gift - a year's subscription to Southern Living!
I came home that evening pondering what token gift I could make them before leaving. I finally decided on these linen and fabric coasters - made with scraps from the homecoming sign they helped me paint. What do you think? Simple and very handmade-looking, but I care more about the sentiment and time I put into it, and I think they will, too.
There's always more news around the corner, so stay tuned...
Last weekend was eventful and somewhat stressful. On Saturday, I woke up to a hideous flapping noise in the wall behind the stove. Turns out, it was a bird trapped in the wall. It took 12 hours, a million franctic calls to every pest and critter person in town, some creative problem-solving and lots of tears (on my part - due to the way we were forced to have to get the bird out). By the end of it all, though, we were all pleasantly surprised that the bird survived.
Ironically, since Bird Weekend it seems birds are everywhere - in the apron I bought at an antique mall this weekend, all over the vintage postcards I was drawn to in the shops, and guess what popped out of a package that arrived from a friend this week? (If you try to get pics of your tot's favorite-toy-of-the-moment, you have approximately one second before it is snatched from you):
I am hoping this weekend fares better. We are having friends over for dinner Saturday night and I am trying a recipe or two (have you ever used beer for your corned beef? If so, what kind?). I'm a little wary of trying new recipes with company, and had I thought I would bend to the festive pressure to cook something Irish I probably would have tested them earlier in the week. Instead I will likely have a pot of chili or some other Plan B prepared just in case. What recipe are you using for St. Pats?
*ps: Thanks, ladies, for all your wisdom regarding a "next baby" (this is what J. labeled all the boxes when he packed away E.'s baby gear a couple years ago. Endearing.).
When I worked for a PBS station, one of the events most dear to my heart was the annual Reading Rainbow Young Writers & Illustrators Contest. Every year, I produced an interstitial featuring footage of kiddos reading their stories and narrated by a young girl who had inherited her dad's radio voice. It was adorable. I loved gathering with a group of local teachers and librarians and reading all the entries - everything from elaborate tales about dragons to proverbial laments about a younger sibling. This is a tremendous learning opportunity for children and any parent (or teacher) can enter children in grades K-3rd grade. You can do this in one of two ways: 1) enter at your local station, or if the deadline has already passed, 2) you can enter independently (entries must be received by March 28th). I encourage every parent of an eligible (and willing) child to participate.
I am right now very upset and frustrated that I can't find one of my prized childhood creations: a book I wrote, illustrated, and bound (with dust jacket and all) for a national contest in middle school - Vegetable and the Bow Wow Dog Food Commercial, a light-hearted story of a dog named Vegetable, who (duh) starred in a dog food commercial (Sounds cute right? So why didn't I win?!). I can't bring you pictures of my treasure; instead, I pulled out a book I recently found at the thrift store and recommend for your personal library: How a Book Is Made, written and illustrated by Aliki (pictured, above). Not surprisingly, it was a Reading Rainbow feature.
I'm dedicating this post to my inability to do anything simply.
Honestly, I don't know exactly what a meme is (or how to pronounce it - it seems like one of those words that could get away from you - "memememememe"), and I've been stumped by the word ever since I entered blogland. But I found one that I thought was interesting enough to post - my first attempt ever at a meme - and I broke it. Oh well, right?
So here's the rule/"mememe": Find the nearest book, open to p. 123, then post lines 6-8. Somewhat of a rule-follower, I picked up the actual nearest book: Good to Great (a business book on J.'s ladder-climbing reading list). But something tells me no one is actually going to find a few lines about the "Abbott system of Responsibility Accounting" very interesting. So then I move to the next nearest book, You're Wearing THAT? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation. This attempt is a little more interesting, but still lacking the creative fiction element (something about the teen years being a hothouse environment where seeds of conflict sprout - surprising).
Anyway, not as fun as everyone else's. So I move to the nearest book on my bookshelf and pick up Ramona the Pest from my "I loved these and (hopefully) she will,too, someday" stash. But, get this - it was published funny and there is no p.123, or p.124, for that matter. I'm defeated. So you're getting p.122:
"How lonely they looked, two bright spots of red in all that mud. She could not leave her boots behind, not when she had waited so long to get them. Somebody might take them, and she would have to go back to shoving her feet into Howie's old ugly boots."
We were just one in the million households in Washington whose power went out suddenly last Thursday night. Friday, still no power - chore list immediately cut in half, and the few I could do took twice as long. We finished packing for our trip to Tennessee by candlelight that night and woke up Saturday morning to a very chilly house (this is E. staying warm). We arrived to a much warmer Tennessee that evening.
I have a few things - crafty and thrifty - to show you soon. I hope everyone is having a MERRY CHRISTMAS!
I had a great birthday, courtesy of my sweet, thoughtful husband and neighbors. Everything about it was special. J. surprised me with plans for a dinner party next door - Kurd-style (I call it "Kurd-esque" because it was as close to Kurdish as he could get).
Scotty (one of the neighbors) hung streamers, then helped J with dinner while we waited for Sarah to arrive. We had a delicious feast (pictures here), and even cake and candles (we had a good laugh about the upside-down 6; Sarah is resourceful like me).
J. has a hard time lying to keep a surprise and 24 hours earlier the neighbors were in the hospital with food poisoning. It was a real feat for everyone and a wonderful night for me. I felt blessed to have such loving people around me.
A Family Christmas Tradition - We don't have one yet, though we do buy an ornament every time we do something special; this way we can re-tell all those stories as we hang them every year. Growing up, we used to celebrate Christmas Eve as Jesus' birthday - cake and present (usually an ornament).
So, I'm curious - what are your family traditions? Items on your "Christmas Essentials List"?
The Nutcracker was beautiful. We had an amazing date night. First off, the night called for impractical shoes. So I wore these open-toed satin(ish) sandals.
Secondly, the power went out for the two hours previous to our leaving. So I got ready using all the hot water left in the tank, and used my Black and Decker as a power generator for my blow dryer and curling iron. Yes, I propped that baby up on my bathroom counter in the name of beauty. The lights came on as we pulled away from the house.
We dropped E. off at a friend's house for her first-ever "sleepover" (it was easier to just let her spend the night). Then we were off to dinner at a place just a few blocks from the ballet.
We arrived and did the picture-thing with the larger-than-life Maurice Sendak illustrations:
The seats were great; I'm glad we had balcony seats. I do wish we had been a little more center but the view was fabulous. Here is a blurry picture of the stage from our seat:
The performance was amazing and the costumes were so bright and colorful. I kept thinking of all the handbags I could make out of the fabric they wore!
We bought several Nutcracker-inspired ornaments in the gift shop and this "The Night Before Christmas" book. I know, it doesn't make sense. But it does - I've been looking for the perfect version of this book and the vintage illustrations by Margaret Evans Price just begged me to take it home. Ironically, I didn't buy any of the Nutcracker books they displayed. Instead, my mom will be sending me one she bought for me and my sister years ago.
The evening was the perfect kickoff to the Christmas season.