Thank you, naptime.

I mean, how to even start an appropriately grateful thank you note to you?  I. love. you. I love when you visit my kids.  I love when you visit me. You make the days better: shorter, happier, more full of energy. Sunday–the best when we have you. The longest when we don’t. You should feel proud, knowing what a tangible difference you make in soooo many lives.

For example, right now, Evie is laying down, sleeping on the floor by the fire and the dog and that is how I am even able to write this note.  *Naptime.*  She has naps more afternoons than not and I think it is a big reason I like her so much.  Abigail stopped napping a long time ago and it was why we had to send her to school.  Just sayin, I think people are better with naps, don’t you?  (Of course you do.) After I finish writing this, I am going to go and “read” on the couch. I think you know what I mean… 😉

You’re welcome anytime.  Unless the kids are being crazy on a snowy weekend day, like they’re predicting for tomorrow, and you only hang out with James.  Annoying–please avoid.

Seriously, though.  Mad love.  Forever.

Thanks, socks.

I grew up in Colorado, so I know about cold.  Winter is supposed to be cold.  I used to think I liked cold.  I still miss snow all the time.

But I realized a few years ago that I was more grouchy than I should be in the winter. Seasonal affect disorder, maybe?  I made less good decisions, felt less social, didn’t like to leave the house, had a harder time falling asleep.

I tried several different things until I found my Oprah ‘ah-ha’ moment: warm socks. All that trouble because I had, quite literally, cold feet.  Now, so long as I remember my socks, I can handle most anything.

Most anything … except when kid bedtime extends past 10 p.m., people spell things incorrectly on purpose (especially with “x” or “z”), the New England Patriots, waiting in one-way construction traffic on Green Level West Road in the morning on the way to school, when James makes eggs for breakfast way before I am ready so that by the time I get to the kitchen they are lukewarm and the texture makes me gag but I feel like I should eat them any way, when … I have a torrent of ideas here, actually, and just realized that it might be because I am barefoot.  Off to remedy my attitude with the fuzzy socks I got from Santa.)

Thank you, Nordstrom Cafe

Hi Nordstrom Cafe,

I know you probably don’t hear this very often, but you helped me save money. At least, kinda (the way I often claim to be “saving money”, right James?), and you introduced me to a new beverage that I LOVE. So thanks for kicking the New Year off right.

It all started because I had a gift card with $2.65 left to your parent store. I don’t know if you’ve ever looked, but there are literally NO THINGS for $2.65 in Nordstrom, and I was not about to leave money on the table.

So I wandered down to you, looking for something warm to help me face the brisk 52 degree North Carolinian winter and comforting after spending far too much on jeans when there is so much suffering in the world.

The “London Fog.” I had no idea what it was, but I decided to try it. Mmmm, smooth and lavender-y. Frothy and sweet.  Finished off my gift card and only required pocket change to complete the balance.  Exactly what I wanted, which–like–never happens on jeans shopping day.

The experience was so positive I am wearing the jeans and tried to make a London Fog myself today. I googled recipes and bought the right tea and even whisked the milk. Not the same.

I need a new gift card, and then I will be back.

Thank you, Alex from PetSmart. You’re a hero.

Thank you, Alex from PetSmart,

You clipped my dog Maisie’s nails this morning, and it was absolutely the highlight of my day (my days are sometimes lame, it is true, but this is meaningful because it is the first day of kids back in school after Christmas break!!). I wanted to make sure you knew what a good job you did, since it probably seemed like a disaster as it was happening. That was actually the best it’s ever gone. I had started to think it couldn’t be accomplished at all. Alex the Hero!

I suspect you thought it was all ridiculous: how it took nearly 15 minutes and you had to soothe her and restrain her and hold her onto the table while holding her paw while also using the file, while she cried and tried to jump. All the while I simultaneously cooed at her what a good girl she was (I realize that seemed like a total lie; I appreciate your not saying anything) and showed her the treat she would earn–one per paw at your clever suggestion–and promised to buy her a nice bone when it was all finished. You treated us both with dignity and patience when, frankly, we deserved neither.

I wish I could say that Maisie learned her lesson after your patient attention, but I doubt it. In addition to the reward bone, I also bought her a discounted Christmas stuffed animal that is almost as big as she is. I meant it to reinforce the rewards that await those who get their nails clipped. But she is proudly carrying it around the house with a decided air of victory over the dremel and I fear she is making plans for future resistance.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed the $3 tip. We’re coming to you again next time.  Happy New Year!

Thanks, specialty flours

Dear Bread and Cake Flours,

Thanks so much for coming to stay for the last two weeks at our house. I have to admit, I was skeptical when James added you to the shopping list at the start of the holiday season. I thought, ‘we have 25 pounds of all purpose flour. ALL PURPOSE flour.  Why do we need any other kind?’

I was wrong.  The cookies and the cookies and the cookies were amazing snickerdoodles-with-santa-hatand light and fluffy.  Santa ate SO MANY while he made the trampoline. The scones were dry, but I think they’re supposed to be dry, so great job. I deeply loved the homemade sandwich bread and our Christmas tradition cinnamon rolls,cinnamon-rolls and the pumpkin bread.

Oh, and the pie crust! pieLiterally every single day of break you were bringing some new deliciousness into our home. And everything was just *that much better* than it would have been with all-purpose flour.

Furthermore, thanks for your gift to me going forward: I had not yet identified a clear resolution for 2017. Up until your early December arrival, I think I had been eating pretty well (except, the occasional (daily) piece(s) of candy/candies).  But now I have an obvious New Year’s resolution to eat fewer delicious carbs. (Or not.  That actually sounds terrible.)

Anyways, thanks.  You are special, specialty flours, and you made our holiday extra festive.  Come visit again soon!

Thanks, Santa

Dear Santa,

Thanks for coming last week. I especially loved how you worked all through the night to set up that amazing trampoline. That must have been hard and cold and I hope your hand feels better. Neither of us could have guessed that in the seven days since your amazing efforts, it would have either rained, had strong winds, or the whole world–especially the

sycamore-balls
Try jumping on these. Just try.

trampoline bed–would be covered in spikey sycamore balls every single day.  So no one has really jumped on that awesome gift yet.  But don’t worry.  I bet the kids will be out there ALL the TIME.  Me too.  I am going to pretty much become a gymnast again.  So it was worth it and your ideas are great.

That all said, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that next year you have to up your sneakiness level.  Abigail–my oldest, I am sure you know her; squeaked by, just barely onto the nice list–is very rational and very observant.  She notices Amazon boxes and American Girl boxes and handwriting similarities and we-have-that-in-the-house-from-Target wrapping paper. So you were a bit, shall we say, cavalier this year.  We both hoped you’d be able to get away with it in second grade.  Nope.

Also, mind manufacturing labels.  Abigail noticed that her doll was “Made in China” but you live, and so presumably work, in the North Pole.  Noting this discrepancy, combined with the other things I mentioned, Abigail posited a hypothesis that you are really “parents.” Evie set her straight, as she often does, with a theory about how you travel around collecting toys in advance made all around the world, then re-travel around distributing them, but we’ve got a skeptic.  So, just, heads up.

Sorry this letter isn’t as full of gratitude as I intended.  Thanks for all the new socks, the llama pajamas, the candy that looked like it might have been taken last month from the leftover Halloween bucket, and all the magic.

348 shopping days and counting,

Lauren

Thank you, 2016: A new year’s project on positivity

I have heard it said by super important people, like Peter Segal and Buzzfeed and John Oliver, that 2016 was the worst year ever.  From a macro perspective, I can see it, even if lots of good things happened for me. (see Christmas letter post for details.)

To get this new year started off right (read: better, please so much better) I am going to do a project on gratitude.  I am not sure how it will shape up exactly, but I do know that positivity really can’t ever hurt anything (that is what overly positive people think. I am staying on theme). So, I am going to kick it off with a series of blog posts to people, places, and things that have made me happy and my life better.

If you have ideas or want to write gratitude posts of your own, please leave suggestions in the comments below. (I flatter myself that after not writing for mostly a year, people will still read this thing.  At least my mom will.  And she has great ideas.  Maybe I will write about that… Love you, mom!)

Happy New Year!

21 Awesome Events from 2016 … Number 13 will Amaze You!!

The Family Christmas Letter

Non-objectively speaking (my strength), this was not our planet’s best year.  You’ve probably already heard too much about disasters around the globe—violence and politics and refugees and famous people dying (though that seems to happen every year). And maybe it has you down going in to the Christmas season.  So, we invite you to Evie’s world, where only news directly related to the Campbell family matters.  Because in that world, 2016 was pretty fabulous.

  1. We moved! After 12 long years (or whole lives, for the smaller members of the family) we left DC for a new adventure in North Carolina. So far, it is great. There is no traffic (the locals think there is, but we’re still riding the high where a small flock of cars waiting patiently in a line is actually somehow relaxing). It is warm. There are SO MANY Target stores. Oh, and we live near family for the first time in years, including some amazing babysitting-aged cousins. #happysigh
  2. We went to Disneyworld. The girls’ faces of wonder at meeting real-life Ariel and Belle and Rapunzel made the trip.  James’s face of wonder at meeting Joy and Sadness from Inside Out was a close second.  And we loved having Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Rob as travel buddies.
  3. We went to the beach. Nothing beats relaxing by the ocean, kids playing all day with family, and sand in someone ELSE’s bathtub.
  4. Abigail got sporty. She did martial arts in Virginia, earning her low orange belt before we moved.  She’s also doing jazz and gymnastics this fall.  The true feat is that we almost always know where the respective uniforms are located.
  5. Evie, who likes to do all the things that Abigail can do, also got to do dance and gymnastics. She is spunky and fun and adds an element of leotard fashion that we might not have otherwise.
  6. I had a great time at my DC job through September. I got to be more creative this year than ever before and worked with awesome people. I miss it.
  7. Except that so far, I love being home in NC. I drive the kids around all the time and hang out with the dog and read and work out and fight the urge to make more cookies. It is pretty awesome and makes the whole family happier and more peaceful, which is a daily blessing.
  8. We have a fireplace at our new house. And a mailbox.  And a doorbell.  The girls are beside themselves with the novelty and joy of suburban life in a single-family home. Me too, once the doorbell fascination wore off.
  9. We also have a [redacted] in our new house, which Abigail and Evie turned into a secret play space. They tell visitors it is an [redacted] (giggle giggle) but it is really full of art, books, and tea sets (apparently with hidden candy; I find lots of wrappers).  [Details above have been redacted at Abigail’s request to maintain this important family secret.]
  10. Evie got a Princess Elena backpack—part of being a big girl in transitional img_20161017_141407596kindergarten class. She is learning to read and write letters, has weekly homework, and frequently surprises us at the dinner table with facts she’s learned that can prove other people wrong.
  11. Abigail is a founding member at a new school, which she loves (Go, explorers! Cutest mascot ever.) She seems to pick up a new extra-curricular activity each week. Currently it’s chess. She is better than me already, but this is a very low bar, since I got scolded for calling it the “horse.”
  12. Abigail—history’s most devoted reader—is developing excellent taste in literature. After years devouring anything she could get her hands on, she tackled classic series this year like Nancy Drew and Harry Potter.  Finally, I feel the closing of the Rainbow Magic Fairies  Not that I hate that wretched, formulaic series and cannot wait.
  13. James and the girls made their own root beer for Halloween. It cost $50 and I had to go to four stores to get all the stuff, but it was tasty and hopefully satiated James and Abigail’s desire to carry out semi-dangerous science experiments around the house for at least a while.img_20161031_173431647_burst000_cover_top
  14. Evie made things easy with her extremely clear (if arguably narrow and overly rigid) preferences. For example: every single day for lunch she has a peanut-butter-and-Nutella sandwich on bread with no crust. Once I didn’t have bread and sent it on a hot dog bun, and once we were out of Nutella and I substituted jelly, but I have since learned my lesson.
  15. I ran in several races this year. I just finished my first half marathon this weekend here in North Carolina.  Two amazing friends came from DC to help get me through it. I am still enjoying my post-run high (and the almost-as-important job of post-race eating).
  16. James had some great running, too. He joined me in several races and inspired me to run a bit faster and farther. Except when I was silently cursing him because he runs so much more effortlessly than I do, even when I am training for a half marathon and he has a chest cold. So unfair. Grumble grumble grumble.
  17. We had sooooo many cookies. Evie is a determined and sugar-tastic baker, and she kept us in ample supply of cookies, brownies, and cupcakes all year.  And James kept up the tradition of weekly biscuit-making (BEST. BISCUITS. EVER.)  He also added homemade soft pretzels to his repertoire. Friends are welcome to visit in NC to partake! We have a guest room. J
  18. James really enjoys his new job, working at an analytic sciences laboratory at NC State. He has lots of latitude to choose his own projects, loves being on a college campus, and gets to wear more casual, non-DC attire. Plus, he’s hundreds of miles away from the home office right now…
  19. James’s job came with a professional moving company that even boxed things up. Since I cannot convince James to get rid of his pile of old math books, this is the next best thing.
  20. Maisie has a backyard. It is amazing for fetch and chase and tug-of-war, her best skills.  The backyard did not come with someone to clean up dog poop, though. Alas. 2017?
  21. In the banner year for fake Internet news, the Bow Wow News was created by two intrepid reporters who value truth, humor, and the American way (and who also employed their mom-who-can-type). If you’re looking for news, original poems, and photos of dogs in costumes, you should subscribe.  I think it costs 50 cents.

We hope that despite any sadness or set-backs, you have had joys and triumphs this year.  May you feel our love and the love of the Christmas season, and carry them with you into the New Year.  You are always welcome in Evie’s world, where her birthday—and that of her birthday twin, baby Jesus—are coming soon to fill you with delight and love and peace and cupcakes.

Love of the season from our family to yours!

Time to write again

I have let this site lay dormant for far too long. I think my drive to write so much during 2015 really slowed in January 2016 when I took a totally new kind of job that was super creative.  I got to add all sorts of funny and art and images and editing to what I did during the day, so it didn’t come seeping out of me at night the same way it had been.

It was also hard to write because in lots of ways it was a hard parenting year. Not that my kids weren’t still totally and completely amazing, but we had lots of struggles to figure out what was going on and what we needed to do and how to help our daughters, especially the oldest one, be their best, happiest selves (if that is something people can ever figure out for themselves, let alone other beings…).  And while I loved working on such an important challenge, I was hard in some ways because I didn’t see as much silly humor in what happened day-to-day. Or I saw it, but it didn’t feel the same as it had before and I was reluctant to write about it.

But I am in a different phase in life again and have found myself missing my writing outlet.  I have some ideas for new ways to reboot, so I intend to be back.

I have missed you.

I am old.

Ella asked me the other day if she could listen to a certain song. She started to describe it; “it says ‘eye of the tiger’…”

“Eye of the Tiger! Eye of the Tiger! ok!” So I start playing “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky. I am so excited that she even knows of such an awesome, old classic song, and thrilled that she wants to me to play it.  Yeah! Probably she will love classic rock. She can put this on a team mix for sports. She is going to play soccer…

“No, no, mom, this isn’t it.”

“What? Yes, this is ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ Listen a minute longer.”

“The one I want is a girl singer. It is cool. I think it is Katy Perry.”

Oh. “Roar.” Totally different.

This sort of thing is happening to me more and more often. I don’t feel older year by year, but I don’t think of Katy Perry for “Eye of the Tiger.” And I recently questioned a diagnosis from a sick-appointment pediatrician who looked SO YOUNG I wasn’t sure she could possibly know what she was talking about for small children, because she would have spent most of her time with children as a peer rather than a sage physician.

Peyton Manning just won the Super Bowl (Broncos!!!!  Yes!  I have been waiting for so long for this moment.  How long?  Since the last SB victory…16 long years.  Wha?  Nevermind.) I am glad they won, because Peyton looked decrepit and now he can retire and rest up at home.  Because he’s, like, a few hundred days older than me, so he needs a lot of sleep.

My Olympic dream is officially over when I realized that (besides not having anything else close to Olympic caliber talent in any sport) I am too old for any event but biathlon or shuffleboard and I hate those sports. (MI loves biathlon, so our family comes out neutral, in case any of you are now incensed biathletes with rifles.)

I am sitting in the computer room right now as my two kids and the neighbor play. I am wearing headphones, but there is no music playing. Because I can’t focus on typing with music directly in my ear, but they’re just so loud. So these headphones–which are not fancy noise canceling ones–just sort of muffle everything in a pleasant way. Good practice for later in life.