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.

Lies, All Lies

My kids are great kids. They are smart (too smart) and loving and so kind to each other and to their parents. They are both quite verbal (too verbal) and they talk all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. I mean, it feels like I haven’t written much lately and it is largely because Ella has been responding to my question about how she is doing for several weeks. I am here now because they think I’m showering. I’ve had to reduce myself to tradeoffs of basic, life-critical elements. But I digress (and if I focus, perhaps I can write AND shower). (Also the dog is probably destroying something upstairs. It is like when Ella the whirlwind was one and a half years old and I had to set up a sacrificial area of the house if I ever wanted to do something by myself. Now I set out things that belong to other members of my family for Maisie to chew so that I can sneak down alone into the basement.)

The kids. Great. They’re great. We’re all great. Everything is good.

Except the lying.

Why is there so much lying?

I never beat them; I never send them to bed without dinner; they don’t get crazy punishments like you might see on a Buzzfeed list. So why do I get ridiculous stories in response to so many of my direct questions? I am savvy, though. Whenever I hear the following phrases, I know that I am getting something “fictional:”

  • “I accidentally…”
    No. I am pretty sure that you are completely unaware of what you do accidentally. Like, ‘D2 and I were playing and then we accidentally got out the shaving cream and it accidentally is in symmetrical piles on the stairs. And then Maisie ate it–but we told her not to!’ Or, ‘Mom, I am sorry, but I accidentally borrowed your necklace and then used it as a jump rope but it wasn’t big enough, so it broke and the beads are now in the garden.’If you can tell me about it, it was on purpose.
  • “I just thought that I…”
    No. You didn’t. You knew that you could not. And you’re checking to see if I also remember that you could not. To see if you are in trouble.And I do. And you are.
  • “Just one more…”
    No. I know exactly how this works, since I do it, too. Just one more cookie. One more show. One more book before you go quietly to bed. Only you’re a kid, so, no. Just wait one more minute while I finish this and then I will come up there and stop you.
  • “Nothing.”
    No. You never did nothing. Or want nothing. Or think nothing. “Nothing” did not happen at school. You didn’t do “nothing” to your crying sister. “Nothing” is not a choice of which vegetable you want for dinner.In your life, there isn’t nothing. There is always something. So just tell me what it is, for better or worse, or I will go completely insane.

I am a Superhero

No, not from Halloween (though if there is a way to become a hero by eating fun-size Snickers bars and Kit Kats, that might be a contributing factor). I am for real: my mad parenting skills are not just impressive–they are superhuman. For example:

  1. I can shift time. We’re one week into end-of-daylight-savings-time. Or, as many parents-of-toddlers know it, “[redacted] kids wake up crazy early day.” But I now have seven years’ experience getting children–and now a baby animal–who have no concept of time to adjust their entire lives by an hour, simply by yelling and locking people in their sleeping areas. In just one month’s time, I can get my children entirely recovered from Daylight Savings, waking again at a reasonable hour. Probably. By Christmas, for sure.
  2. I can do things while asleep. While we’re waiting for the full effect of #1 power, I use this: my ability to parent and run a household half asleep. I can ask people to get dressed, authorize extra early morning cartoon screen time, and like photos on Instagram all while mostly still asleep. For example, D2 was a 5:30am riser for a long time. I don’t remember many details, because I think I have PTSD-repressed them, but I do remember the lingering emotion between MI and I about “who’s turn?” and “who’s idea to have another kid…” that added drama to that year. I also remember one morning when she was about 18 months old and loved fruit snacks. She found a new box in the pantry, right across from where I was laying on the couch. She loved them, but she couldn’t open them. She brought them to me, her sleeping guardian, and I gave them to her as a pre-breakfast snack. 7 times, apparently. I woke up in a pile of wrappers. See–I can even feed them while asleep.
  3. I can both clean all the time and have the house be a total disaster. I straighten the house for hours a day. Days a day, even. The kids make so much mess that the only way I’ve found to keep the house neat is to minimize the amount of time we are awake there. Before we had kids, it took me a while to put away the clean dishes because, well, I didn’t feel like doing it. Now putting away dishes is the best because it is easy, I could do it peacefully in the kitchen while listening to a podcast on my headphones, and it is one of those chores that immediately shows results. But, no, it still takes forever in our house to put away the dishes because that is supposed to be a kids’ chore. So even though I’d happily just do it, my chore is to make them do it; SO. MUCH. HARDER. I mean, asking them to pause making messes in the living room so they can come bicker while slowly putting spoons in the fork slot–that is TOUGH. Sometimes it takes two days. Sigh.
  4. Poop does not phase me. I love to tell a good poop story. Kids provide so very many. Even puppies have nothing on toddlers, I’ve found so far. Single friends listen, horrified, and tell me “I just can’t do that.” But when you’re alone for bedtime and your kid poops in the tub, well, you can’t just leave it there. And there is no service call for that. Even if you wanted to just move, you have to clean to show the house. So you deal with it. You wash your hands and get it over with. Now, after 7 years, I am immune to shit and can keep my cool when others lose theirs. For example, a few years ago at a race, one of my friends had a very unfortunate port-a-potty visit. She responded by screaming and texting people about the woeful state of humanity. I was the one who dealt with it–someone else’s poop, someone else’s shorts, public restroom, no big deal. Superhero.
  5. I can make two kinds of dinner in 12 minutes. I am like a short order cook. I really like to cook; I like to play with recipes and cook with vegetables and make things that are healthy and creative. But when we get home from work and school, everyone is starving and I have 15 minutes to get an adult meal and a kid meal on the table. I know that they say not to do that–it should be one meal for the whole family. But I won’t eat quesadillas every day and I cannot figure out how to get the girls to eat food with vegetables or anything red or anything with sauce or anything where multiple ingredients are mixed together. So there are two versions. If you think about it, I cook 14 dinners a week. Unless we order pizza. And go out to eat on Saturday. And eat cereal on Tuesday…

Continue reading “I am a Superhero”