Thanks, boom chicka pop.

You are the most addictively delicious snack food that I can pretend is sorta healthy in the whole world. I love everything about you. I love your big purple bag. I love how you taste sweet and salty. I guess that’s pretty much all. You are just bagged popcorn, after all.

Thanks for making this afternoon delicious.  And for being Evie’s snack so that I didn’t have to make Nutella bread (again). Also, thanks for being on sale at Costco. $2 off. I am going to put that towards something special in your honor. In the mean time, tell James how I only bought one bag of you (instead of 3, like I originally planned. SAVING MONEY!) and make me sounds as awesome as I have you.

 

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!

Accidental Decapitation and Other Profound Toddler Insights

It was nearly time to leave. Five more minutes, and I was trying to sneak in a few more dishes, clear a few breakfast plates, and speed blow dry my hair for work. Five minutes.

I asked D2 to put on her shoes. I asked her to pick up the toys on the living room floor. I asked her to finish her breakfast. I asked her to brush her hair.

She could not. She was unavailable because the only thing she could do was find Christmas ornament Princess Anna, so that it could accompany small, plastic Queen Elsa, who needed someone similarly sized with whom to play.

I knew where Anna was. I’d seen her in a toy bin earlier that week. We needed to GO. I spent two of the five minutes explaining why we did not have time because WE ONLY HAD FIVE MINUTES, then finally caved when I realized she cared more about finding Anna than I did about my plans at work. I found Anna. Just because toddlers are small and have different values doesn’t mean they are ridiculous, right?

Wrong. They are ridiculous.


I started to go upstairs for the speed hair styling–nope. Called back down to remove a tag that was stuck to Princess Anna, obviously making her impossible to play with. Maybe even impossible to touch, given the freak-out crying that was going on. [Why are we playing with a Christmas ornament in April? Why did it still have the tag on it? Why does Disney even make clay Christmas ornaments in characters that are only going to appeal to small children? What diabolical person first invented glitter?!  I do not know.] But nothing could go on until there was no tag.

As I removed the tag, I took the chance to remind D2 about how this was *not* a plastic Anna.

Magiclip dolls are the perfect solution to toddler dexterity. Sadly, this is not their story.
Magiclip dolls are the perfect solution to toddler dexterity. Sadly, this is not their story.

This was no magiclip. This was BREAKABLE ANNA, and she COULD NOT drop it because it would break. She had to be sooooooo careful. (I knew this was true. Because Anna used to be one of a set; may Christmas ornament Elsa rest in peace.]

As I handed Anna over, tag-free, I asked

“Can you please be so careful? And make sure not to drop her?”

” I will be sooooooooo sooooooo careful.  I will not–” [drops Anna.] “Oh! It is ok, she is okay!  She did not break.”

“Ok. She did not break, but you dropped her right on the rug. If you drop her on the hard floor, she will break.”

Whatever. We both knew. I knew it was Anna’s last day. Anna knew it was her last day. Nothing could stop fate.

What D2 knew, though, was something else entirely: her mom was over-dramatic and clearly dropping the figurine was NBD. Parents.

Moments–seriously MOMENTS later–D2 quietly approached me in the bathroom where I was blow drying my hair any way, even though we were late. Clenched in her right hand, Anna’s body,decapitated anna coated lightly in glitter. In her left, Anna’s severed head, still primed with a white string to hang from the Christmas tree. Decapitated within 2 minutes.

As D2 told me that she was sooooooooo sorry (which is the same as being sooooooo careful, I’ve found, in terms of shaping children’s future behavior), I thought about how children were so hard sometimes because no matter how many times you said something or how seemingly simple the task–‘hold this one small thing that you wanted in your closed hand until we get to the car’–it never worked.  And there was breaking and crying and lateness.

I left decapitated Anna on the bathroom counter–Toddlers, ye be warned!–and we left for school with only plastic Elsa, sad and alone once more.


Throughout the day, though, I realized that as rough as parenting toddlers can be, I am pretty flake-y myself. My follow-through, pretty toddler-like, in fact. The work project that I hadn’t sent out specifics for on which other people were waiting. The appointments I needed to call and set up, the chores I needed to do, the errands I needed to run, the more chores I needed to do. The puppy I decided I wanted yesterday, only to realize that . . we can’t have a puppy, so I had to back out and disappoint people, including myself. Today, even, the hour I should have spent prepping dinner and straightening the living room that I instead spent watching Disney Toy Collector and sneaking chocolate chips out of the pantry. Flakey.


I guess the world is too big and the tasks too many, and we are only really able to focus on the handful of certain things that really matter. And the trick is figuring out what those are and doing them well, rather than scrambling to hold all of them.

When I picked D2 up from school, she was running through the playground with a pack of friends. When she saw me, she ran straight over and, with a huge hug, presented me with “the longest piece of grass ever!” She had found it herself almost an hour ago and had been clutching it for me the whole time so that it wouldn’t get lost.

I added the precious grass to my nature jar, which is full of sticks and pine cones, grass and dry flowers that my girls have given more over the years. There was once a period spanning almost two-months when toddler-aged Ella saved me a handful of grass every day (similarly clutched for hours) so that I could share the best part of her day.

We don’t have a whole Christmas ornament Anna anymore. And I did a pretty mediocre job cleaning and planning my work project. But I have the longest blade of grass ever in my nature jar, which seems like evidence of us holding on to the right things.

My beloved nature jar, with its new blade of grass.
My beloved nature jar, with its new blade of grass.

Hijacking my Soundtrack

Ever since I can remember, I wake up with a song in my head. Sometimes it is a song I heard the evening before. I imagine that it must have been swirling all night through my dreams, waiting for me to wake up and hum along again.

Or the pop song of the moment, which usually is by Taylor Swift or Maroon 5, whether I like it or not. (I like it.) The mind, after all, is a sponge; mine soaks up the most frequently presented pop wisdom of the day–See proof of Taylor’s wisdom–and stores it to be called upon in a time of need.

Every once in a while, the song in my head is something older. Something from my past that I haven’t heard any time recently that I can recall. These songs always seem special, like they were buried deep in my memory and fate surfaced them for some reason it knew before I did. Songs that would be the soundtrack I needed to guide me through that day.

My mantra has long been shaped by my internal, magically selected score.

UNTIL MY CHILDREN HIJACKED MY SOUNDTRACK.

At first, it seemed natural that sometimes the alarm would go off and my first conscious thought of the day was “Rise like the break of dawn! Let it go, let it g….” I mean, I had listened to it the day before (and before and before and before) and it was everywhere, so it was bound to sneak in sometimes. I embraced it. I would belt “Let It Go” out in the car and I didn’t always stop it immediately after daycare drop off. I kinda liked it.

But then the variety stopped. It was Frozen every day. Mostly “Let It Go” in my head all the time. I found myself singing it in the elevator. I whisper hummed it in the hallway at work. I tapped it out absent-mindedly at my desk. Sometimes–don’t tell anyone this–when I was sure I was completely alone in my office hallway, I pretended to be Elsa raising up an ice palace out of nothing to a grand swelling of the orchestra. Acted. it. out.

elsa ice palace stomp

I started wondering if I should talk to other people. I wondered if it was fair to keep showing up for my adult brain–oriented* job. I wondered if I wasn’t maybe a little bit like the deluded, thinks-she’s-cool mom from Mean Girls.
mean girls cool mom

I couldn’t get it to go away, so I decided we had to drill it out. After some (months of) cajoling, we listened to something else. Sofia the First. I liked it. My Little Pony. Really liked it. Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Meh. It was just nice to have variety again. Sometimes I was signing about puny pirates, sometimes I was the Rainbow Dash-half of the My Little Pony duet on the Best Pet contest. (It’s hilarious, for real.) I had new things to think and sing and hum.

But the pop music and the old music and the songs my mom sang to me when I was little, they didn’t come back. I remember the morning my mind arose with “Choo, Choo, Chugga, Chugga, Big Red Car” from the The Wiggles (if you don’t know it, don’t google it!! Keep your innocence and feel pleased with your life choices.), and I knew we had to make deep changes.

I started asserting my rights to sometimes choose the music for the commute again, listening to grown-up stuff on headphones while I did the dishes, and paying close attention to what they were dropping in the grocery store. Didn’t matter. My soundtrack was for the under-12 set.


I read an article on Common Sense Media that made me think my sub-conscious has made this soundtrack adjustment for parenting reasons. Apparently, it’s a good idea to:

1. Model listening to tame music. Check. My new edgy is the Ursula song from the Little Mermaid, since we had to take out most of the bad-guy arias from the other soundtracks because they were too scary.

2. Ask your kids to play their favorite songs for you. Double check. The challenge for me, frankly, is to ask them not to play their favorite songs for me. They both have figured out how to operate my smart phone’s playlists and my portable speaker, so they play their princess favorites for me all the time.

3. Discuss music messages. Like how someone asks me every time “What is happening in this part of the movie?” “Why is Anna sad?” “Is this about when Merida’s mom turns into a bear?” “Why do they say ‘Kill the beast?” We even talk about the messages in the instrumental numbers. We take our music messaging seriously.


IT WILL ALL BE OKAY

In just the past few weeks, the girls have started to request some pop music on their own. Katy Perry, inexplicably, is a favorite. And instead of feeling excited, like I thought I would, I feel a bit sad. I am the person who wants to listen to My Little Pony and sing the different parts.

My new cartoon-ish mental soundtrack reflects that fact that my whole being switched over to being a mom of awesome, smart, small people; kids who are so cool, I want to like what they like. And I want them to stay little so they they can stay mine.

I am going to see if me singing Disney songs all the time can make that happen. Either it will work, or it will make them think I am crazy, kind of embarrassing, rather out-of-date, and secretly cute in my parenting naivete. I think that is the next step, any way. Taylor Swift would definitely appreciate the wisdom of it.


*That’s right. I used an ‘en dash’ for the compound modifier in my blog post. Boom, grammar aficionados; Frozen didn’t take everything in this brain.

Pooping at Dinner: A Loving Tribute

I have been thinking often this past week of a friend–now living far away–who tragically lost her five-year old boy while on a family vacation. The tragedy of it hit me in the way such things do: reminding me of how life can be unfair and uncontrollable and sometimes so very painful.  I have had a bit of an ache in my heart all week, wishing I could do something to soften a blow that will only become bearable with lots of time.

A few nights ago, I found myself feeling particularly nostalgic about the beauty of my children as we flitted past each other, unwinding from work and school, making dinner, setting the table. The common and often chaotic scene that night seemed a beautiful one; I felt surrounded by so much love and light and luck.

I decided a tribute was in order. The girls and I sat down at the dinner table. I lit a candle for prayer so we could be grateful and connected to one another, remembering the wonder and blessing that is every day. Just as we bowed our heads and I began to profess how grateful I was for my wonderful kids–who I would love forever and ever–D2 interrupted, calling my name. We aren’t super formal at our house, so interrupting happens every once in a while (read: it happens always. I have yet to speak two consecutive, uninterrupted sentences in my awake children’s presence since 2009.) And as you may remember from a previous post, we are still very much working on reverence. I asked D2 to be quiet until I finished. She did try, to her credit, but a few seconds later, she stood up on her chair and whisper-yelled: “Mom! I pooped!! Right now. I am so sorry.”

Serene expression of gratitude–paused. We went upstairs [parental edit] and finally came back some time later to an extinguished candle and colder dinner that no longer felt so idyllic.

And yet, somehow, it felt like just the right tribute to a five-year old and his loving family. A midst all of the difficulty of parenting small children–the challenges of which I well know–there is a joy; a freeing silliness; a sense of connection and responsibility and being needed and knowing completely true love that are pretty magical. And I need reminders of that magic to make sure I keep seeing the good things through all of the poop.

Hugs, Krysta.

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