30 November 2018

Another November in the Books

Our Boy Scouts wreath was delivered today, and it is a gorgeous day. In a normal place it would be early fall or even late summer. Tons of leaves on the ground, warm breezes and sunshine. I thought it was supposed to rain, but I guess I don't pay enough attention to the news while it's on! Maybe it shifted to rain overnight instead.

I'm doing my annual calendar creation, and it's hard to whittle down a year's worth of photos into a couple dozen (I stretch it to 3 or 4 dozen because I put multiple on each calendar spread).

And I'm trying to decide on Christmas cards. The girls had photos taken at Livia's school and they came out cute so I bought them digitally. They're black and white, which is supposed to be arty. But I wish they were color anyway. Oh well.

Our house is mostly decorated for Christmas/Advent. We have a few things to add -- Jane would like some more felt ornaments for the tree, and there are Advent decorations that we will make as the season progresses (assuming my sanity doesn't lose its grip any more than it already has).

I have a Christmas party tonight for the moms at Livia's school. I am trying to be someone I'm not -- or at least someone who attends social gatherings without anxiety or upset. It might end up being fun, but we'll see. I'm taking wheat thins and plates, so I have an excuse to get there on time... It starts at 7:30 so I won't get out of most of bedtime routine!

I've found pleasure in writing daily, and I always think at the end of November that I'll keep up the momentum. Not writing daily but perhaps twice weekly or so. So far that has never held out, and I'm sure with the busy-ness of December the blog will also fall by the wayside. I love it too much to EVER give it up I think.

Time for carpool. Peace out, November!

29 November 2018

Bible in 90: Accomplishment UNLOCKED

Kindle Screen adding CEB to my "read" shelf on GoodReads
I finished the Bible in 90 today, which I started on September 1. I read from Genesis through Revelation in 90 days.

Being a rule follower I read the prescribed passages each day and didn't jump ahead (and luckily didn't fall behind). The only day I broke was when I finished Ruth instead of leaving a chapter unread. (I did a study on Ruth with our most recent former pastor, so it makes more sense to me and reminds me of him.)

Shawn asked me for my favorite part to prove I'd really read it all -- LOL. I highlighted several passages in my Kindle -- I read the Common English Bible version on my Kindle so there were few footnotes (and they were all hidden/you had to click the superscript letter, which I only ever did accidentally). My favorite, weird/never noticed them passages were:
All the tables are covered with vomit, filth overruns the place. Isaiah 28:8

I will scatter feces on your faces, the feces of your festivals. Malachi 2:3
Maybe I'm into the prophets (nah) or maybe just bodily functions (nope again). Really I just love good potty humor?!

It will be WEIRD to not have to read tomorrow. Each day took 30-45 minutes to read (I'm on the faster side), and I did it in all different places. I wasn't good about a routine, but I always got it done in the 24-hour day. I read in carpool, with kids bouncing around me and on my own when both were at school and my work/volunteer stuff was under control.

Bring it on, Advent!

28 November 2018

What to Expect at the LSU Holiday Spectacular

Last night I took the girls to the LSU Holiday Spectacular, which is a kick off event for the holidays hosted by the LSU Faculty & Staff Senate (I think). Like with the trick-or-treat down the row there is little information online about what to expect. But now that I've been I know! Although it's likely that they change things year-to-year, but here's what happened this year.

For parking I think the Barnes & Noble parking garage is the easiest. It's just a few bucks and you have covered parking that's an easy walk to the Student Union, where the event took place. The girls also love any chance to ride in an elevator (on our way back to the car we rode to the top floor -- looked out over the campus at night -- and then rode back to 2 for our car). A lot of the people who come are already on campus though, so it's less of a deal for them to find parking!

The event took place in the lobby area -- just up the middle outside stairs that face the quad. There weren't really signs or hordes of people streaming in, and there was some other Christmas-themed event with the Coca-Cola holiday truck and music playing outside. We figured out where to go when we saw the lighted Christmas tree inside.

There was a front desk where we checked in -- handed over the food item donations (or you can take a toy for Toys for Tots) -- and the girls were each given a bag and a treat bag with candy and a coupon for something -- pizza and games at Mr Gatti's maybe. Then we went to the craft areas at different tables. Lots of different on campus offices were represented. The girls made ornaments, picture frames and colored some pictures. Jane even got to play the drums (thankfully while wearing headphones so only she could hear her stylings).

After we did that section -- which was arranged around the line to wait to see Santa Claus (who we did not wait for -- if we'd had another adult to do the waiting that would have been fine, but we had to maximize our time and get home for bed at a reasonable hour) -- we went to the food area where there was free pizza, balloon artists and door prizes.

A hot tip: go directly to the door prizes. There's no actual drawing. What you do is turn in your raffle tickets (and if you do it directly there's less chance of losing them!) and you get to pull a sucker from a foam tree. If your sucker's bottom is colored you win a prize! Livia and I both won, and we were lucky that they still had prizes left. They were running out by the time we made it over close to 7. I got a $20 Walmart gift card (the prizes are separated between kids and adults), and Liv's was a wrapped gift that turned out to be an Emoji game of some sort -- it has two vests with Velcro and several Velcro balls and you play tag with your sister trying to get the balls to stick to her vest. We're planning to try it out this afternoon -- I'm glad it's something the girls can share and seems like a good back yard game. Jane's sucker did not have a colored end, so she didn't "win," but they did give her a little bag of additional treats and candy that seems just as fun.

There were also free drinks - as in Coke products and Dasani water. There was a lot of pizza, although we had eaten before we went to the event so we didn't try it. It was pretty crowded and with only one of me and two of them it was hard to maneuver and keep us together, especially as my hands got filled up with drying crafts, balloon creations and such. Another tip would be to bring a tote bag for your loot -- something you can sling over a shoulder instead of in your hands and would fit more than the small plastic bags provided.

The event was 6-8 and we were there about 6-7:20. In addition to Santa there was Mike the Tiger, the Chik-fil-A cow, the Grinch (eeek!), Mrs. Claus, a snowman and reindeer wandering around for pictures. I'm glad we checked it out, and I hope next year Shawn can come with us to help with the juggling of the stuff.

27 November 2018

Happiest

December 2011
I am the luckiest.
In Sunday school we veered away from our usual topic (which is whatever the sermon is about) because there was no sermon during the Hanging of the Greens service. We also talked about steps to become a reconciling community and how our Thanksgivings were. But toward the end one friend asked a question she asked during Thanksgiving -- what's a day in your life where you remember being your happiest?

I did not answer. Others talked about unexpected free days with nothing to do/nothing planned. My answer has to do with my babies. And this friend who asked the question happens to be walking through a time of infertility. I remember what it feels like and wouldn't want to blindside her. I remember the offhand remarks people made when it took so long for me to become pregnant. (Specifically cutting, and probably something I've mentioned on here before: "you know, Mari, babies grow up," as if I only wanted a baby and didn't ACTUALLY want all that parenting entails.)

It's hard to pin down a specific day, but my happiest times were sitting in my nursing chair with a new-ish baby. I was on maternity leave with Jane, had no responsibilities other than keeping her alive, and I was good at that. I had a great, still-new-to-me back yard view, the temperatures were nice after she was born and stayed cool/comfortable for a while. (Weather affect my mood more than I'd like to admit I think.)

I remember my girls' early babyhood as happy and content times in my life. Livia's is less vivid in my memory, probably because the juggle with Jane and that transition takes up some of the computer memory space of my brain's hard drive. But I know the bone-deep joy from caring for the baby you created, carried and birthed. And that was certainly my happiest time, even with sleep deprivation that I know I was experiencing simultaneously.

Speaking of happy -- I got a lot of happy birthday wishes on social media, mainly Facebook. It STILL kills me that some people write "Happy Birthday, Mary" even though my name is RIGHT THERE. That Indiahoma education for you I guess... For the last 2 years or more I have not written anything on most people's Facebook pages for their birthdays. There are exceptions - immediate family mainly, and even then I probably post ABOUT them and tag them on my wall. (Of course people I am close with in real life get a direct email or text birthday wish!) But seeing the cross-section of people on my life who remembered me (even when it was just Facebook saying "hey, it's this dummy's birthday") made me feel a little happier actually. So perhaps I should resume the ritual of "HBD" on others' walls. MAYBE...

26 November 2018

38 Trips Around the Sun


Hello to being a 38-year-old lady. In all its no-makeup, blotchy and wrinkled skin, but still fairly happy glory. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!

I bought myself new Nike tennis shoes, because I wore out my previous sneakers in all the walking and activity in Minneapolis. That Kaep ad really got me. (Actually these were just a good enough deal on early Black Friday Penney's shopping.)

I have a present from Shawn and a couple from my mom to open later. Because Jane has piano lessons tonight we can't go out to eat. We'll probably go out to celebrate on Wednesday (tomorrow evening we have something else!).

Livia gave me the best birthday present with a nice potty experience! We're not there yet, but we're definitely on our way to potty training goals. She's filling up a chart with stickers and likes to say she's "pee trained"!

25 November 2018

A Life Lived in Books

I just finished the book "I'd Rather Be Reading," by Anne Bogel. It was a QUICK read, but I enjoyed it. She writes a blog and has a podcast focused on reading, and this was a memoir-ish retrospective about reading and the reading life. I liked it, and it made me think about my journey as a reader. This would be much better as a thought-out, drafted and edited piece, but this can just be my initial, quick reactions because NaBloPoMo content doesn't write itself, you know?!

For one, I was SUPER jealous that for a time she lived in a house next door to a library. What a great real estate perk! I am an avid library user, but as time goes on I mainly do my reading on my Kindle. So in a way it's like the library is even closer since it's always in my house! For the girls' books of course we visit the library weekly, and we are on first-name basis with our librarians. We are working our way through the children's picture book section, and Jane is graduating to chapter books. But I'm realizing that all the series we loved with Jane (Elephant and Piggie, Biscuit, Fancy Nancy, Olivia, etc.) we need to revisit for Livia. And I get confused about which books we've read recently and which we read once-upon-a-time when Jane was Liv's age. Keeps things interesting!

Bogel had a chapter (they're really stand alone essays collected in a book, but they're all on the theme of reading and the reading life) about wishing she could see her library check out history. I agree that it would be a trip down memory lane. I have a Swiss cheese memory, as those close to me can attest, and I don't remember most of what I read I'm sure. But being able to see the title and date would bring at least some of the content and messages back to me. Of course there ARE books that stick (Ramona will forever be tied now to Jane's early elementary days, and I re-read Anne of Green Gables and ALL its sequels while I was pregnant with her), but being able to review my history back to childhood would be amazing.

I realize there are privacy concerns of course, and we don't ACTUALLY want libraries to keep that intel (because it could theoretically then be used against us in a court of law?!). Bogel recommends -- strongly recommends -- keeping track of what you read, and I do that via GoodReads. Since I do most of my reading on the Kindle I can just click a button (add to shelf or something like that) at the end of the book and it's auto-magically added to my GoodReads shelf on the correct date. I add any books that I read in hard copy manually to the site. I've got a few years of data this way, but I certainly don't have my reading logs from my 20s or childhood. It's probably the best that's lost to history?! I like the idea of a beautiful reading journal, but I would be less likely to fill it out (as both girls' hard copy baby books can attest!)

I have a whole slew of books to add to my To Be Read list, because Bogel wrote about some of her favorites or things that really touched her. Some things I had read (like Anne of Green Gables), but others were new recommendations that I'd like to check out.

One thing I just realized is anything I highlight in my Kindle shows up on GoodReads. Thankfully it's private/not shared with my friends on there, but that's great to know. I knew they were still available to me because I get a daily email from Readwise with a couple highlighted passages from books past. It's nice to unearth things that were important, and again I wish I had that data/info going back longer than just a couple years. Anyway, in the book I highlighted every book she mentioned that I wanted to read too, so that's an easy way to capture them.

Two baskets of Advent books
waiting for Dec. 1-24
One quote that I highlighted was that "taking those photos are a gift I give my future self," and I so believe that's true. (This was part of her argument for documenting what you read -- the parallels to taking photos to capture and re-remember events down the line.) I absolutely am on board with both those things, and I appreciate my past self's gifts very much.

One concrete - and very relevant - example isn't photos but books. Advent books wrapped for this season, which I did late last year when I was packing up the Christmas stuff before our sabbatical move. I wrapped 48 Christmas-themed books in tissue paper. One for each girl for each day of the Advent season.

Waiting is hard, but a good book ALWAYS makes the waiting go faster.

24 November 2018

Making Merry Early-ish

Gran's Ceramic Christmas Tree
Plays White Christmas
It feels weird to be decorating the house for Christmas before my birthday, and with a FULL week of November left. But if we didn't do it this weekend we would have to wait until NEXT weekend. This gives us extra time to enjoy the decorations (and extra time for me to spot and fill any gaps!).

Shawn decorated our walkway with the lights and lighted candy canes (Candy Cane Lane as we call it) and got the tree up, although it still needs to be decorated. I've got the various other decorations out -- stockings, kid crafts through the years hung on the walls with tape, stuffed animals, tchotchkes, framed photos.

And one of my favorites: Gran's ceramic Christmas tree. It has a wind up in the back that plays White Christmas. I coveted this thing for years, and toward the end of her life Gran didn't get it out anymore (it's fragile and fussy to get all the little plastic pegs in their holes). She gave it to me when I asked about it, but I haven't always gotten it out when I have little kids running around. Hopefully I'm not running too big a risk this year! The wiring is ancient -- that cord is probably older than me -- but it still works. I think I have replaced the bulb, but it shines brightly now. It adds a nice ambiance when the lights are out -- the regular tree lights plus this. I have it on my crochet cabinet that Shawn made me last year for Christmas, so it's nice and sturdy and the girls so far seem OK to just look at it.

Our regular tree is one of the pre-lit kinds, and we've had it for several years (maybe 6 or 7?), so some of its lights have died. We bought some strands of lights at the end of last year and used those -- they look a little weird (some are huge bulbs and others are small, neither match the lights that came with the tree itself). And one of the strands can switch from multi-colored to white. So you know Jane picked multi-colored, making the tree look EXTRA crazy. Once we get our ornaments on I'll take a picture. I plan to start this evening -- have got baking to do for our church's Advent festival tomorrow plus groceries don't make themselves. (We still have an overload of Thanksgiving leftovers, but the girls won't eat any of them, and I am nervous about eating them too long because they were left out for HOURS after the meal on Thursday -- a risk when you're eating at someone else's house!)