25 February 2019

Mardi Gras Grinch

I've lived in south Louisiana for more than eight years. My first Mardi Gras season included a couple of Baton Rouge parades and one in New Orleans. I had a BLAST at the Baton Rouge one, and I really enjoyed collecting beads and throws.

New Orleans was different -- we had to park far away, we got soaking wet from rain and the other people along the parade route were rude and ungracious. I still don't understand the etiquette -- is neutral ground where anyone is allowed to stand? And anything else people have to stake out for days or hours in advance? There was so much space and so many throws! It left a bad impression anyway, and I didn't want to get into a physical fight with drunk people so we moved away to behind some barriers at a turn where no people were (because the riders would have to throw farther and you'd get less stuff).

Then my morning sickness started on the way back from that first NOLA parade, and so forevermore I will associate the smell of cheap plastic Mardi Gras beads with nausea. Ugh. That started the aversion to Mardi Gras season, parades in particular.

Now with two kids who are native Louisianans I should be more into the parade scene, right? WRONG. I am still very much a Mardi Gras grinch, probably even more so factoring in the hassle of taking children to parades.

Basically now we only go to Southdowns, a family-friendly, low-key parade that is near our house. We still have to drive, but we understand the timing now, know a family who lives near enough to walk near the parade's start, so after it passes we can get back in the car and scoot back home. It's at night, but still doable. Even that doesn't seem "worth it," but we go anyway.

The idea of taking my kids to a double-digit number of parades EACH YEAR astounds me. I've read tips and tricks and poems and other blog posts from New Orleans moms about that very idea -- and they're doing it whole heartedly. It baffles me. What is the point?!

So my question is - am I alone in my grinchness? Or is there a quiet minority that doesn't prioritize the parades, the accumulation of crap (we have enough without competing for it!) and the inevitable melt downs (by mama and/or the kids)?

I'm still down to jam to Mardi Gras mambo and for kids' trike parades. I don't crave king cake, but that's mostly OK with me too and is certainly a marker of the season. But the parades seem like too much work for very little pay off. Clearly my mindset is different as an outsider, an introvert and a lazy person!

04 January 2019

Things I Bought in Danville Over the Holiday Break

We just got back from a week-long trip to my husband's parents' house. It was actually a fairly low-stress visit, although we didn't get any snow like we'd been wishing for. (It DID snow in Oklahoma, of all the nerve... something like 4 inches!)

While we were there I bought a few things, and I thought I would catalog them in case anyone else finds the humor and absurdity as I do. Here's the list, as best I recall, because I don't track my receipts in any logical fashion (in fact I'm searching for a missing Walmart one to return a clip-on light that won't actually work on a bunk bed, but I digress).
  • Three $3 pillows at Target, since the "no-flat" pillows provided had gone flat LONG ago. These are not great pillows, obviously, but we made them work for one week. (There was oddly one pillow that was fine, as it was the "crib" pillow and rarely used. I made Liv use a flat pillow, since she uses flat-ish pillows at home!)
  • $13 slippers at Target because my feet hurt when they aren't in shoes and the skipper socks I packed didn't provide enough support.
  • Target clearance -- I hit Target at the 50% mark and at the 90% mark. At 50% I got a few cookie/candy things (I didn't hit the sauce while at my in-laws, but let me tell you I HIT the sugar hard ... pretty sure I'm making the wrong choice, health-wise, but here we are). At 90% off I was able to find several really great clothes deals -- mainly shirts and sweaters for the girls for next year but also SOCKS -- 50 cents for a pack of six kids' socks in holiday themes. I got two packs but at the register realized I should have got them all -- in all sizes -- as they would easily be donated to the "Sock It To Them" drive the libraries here do every December. I also got some gift tags and a sticker scene for the girls, and wishing I'd bought multiples of that too, as it would have been a cheap (30 cent!) gift to pass out to classmates next year (although this year I didn't even do ANY gifts for classmates ... it slipped my mind entirely with the mid-December school play eating up most of my brain band-width). I also got the girls a set of 10 Bonne Bell lip balms to share and a mascara 4-pack, both for 50% off. My very best purchase was a $1.49 Hello Kitty flannel night gown that fits Jane now and SHOULD still fit next year. She was DELIGHTED and my only sadness was there wasn't one in Livia's size or anything remotely comparable!
  • Hobby Lobby clearance -- we checked it out when it was 80% off and all I got was a frame ornament (mother-in-law mentioned that she doesn't have many (any?) ornaments with just Livia's picture), some snowflake paper (not sure why -- I don't do a holiday letter, don't have many people to WRITE letters to anymore, but maybe the girls will like to use it next year). The frame ornament was missing its backing and any little plastic piece that might sit in front of the picture, but otherwise it was fine and those things seem easy enough to hack with recycling materials. Shawn's cousin's son was working the register, but we couldn't talk him into a further (or five finger!) discount -- LOL!
  • Hallmark clearance -- we went to the mall to "walk around" and most of the stores were pretty sparse. The girls got Mary Poppins bobbleheads at Hot Topic, but Shawn bought those, not me. I got my mother-in-law another frame ornament at the Hallmark Christmas clearance. Only 50% off, but it was cute and grandparent themed.
  • Food Lion -- a variety of groceries, mostly for the snacky New Year's Eve supper I like to eat: summer sausage, velveeta-rotel cheese dip and chips, onion dip and chips, sparkly grape juice, and cheese and crackers. I made my mother-in-law pay for most of the other groceries -- for the suppers I made, meatloaf, mac & green beans and spaghetti, salad and cheesy bread. She also covered the lunch and breakfast stuff, the girls' foods and even my Diet Coke! (She actually bought Diet Dr Pepper, and it was a refreshing change.) I also had to buy some ibuprofen, a new, softer toothbrush and some kid toothpaste (I really thought they would run out, but Shawn managed to make the meager, flat tube last the whole week).
  • Marshall's & Ross -- these get confused because it was one trip, but I bought a grey cardigan (probably my fifth?!), but this one is darker and has a different detail with some elastic in the back to give it some shape. I also bought a pack of thank you cards, since I never remember to pack enough (I wasn't expecting more gifts for the girls from cousins' families, but we did get a few things, including a book Jane loved about Princess Jasmine, so I think we need to watch Aladdin soon), and a 5x7 frame for a black & white picture of Liv I brought to my in-laws as a gift. I ALMOST bought 2 small reindeer-dressed Cabbage Patch dolls that smelled so great and were SO cute, but I didn't (although looking at prices online of the current iterations it was less than a third of retail price!). I did buy a few discounted Christmas books to add to our collection -- that's the only thing I have left to do to put away Christmas, wrap and pack our 48 Advent books for Christmas 2019. 
In addition to the Cabbage Patch dolls that I didn't buy, I tried on a couple fancy dresses that didn't make the cut, mainly because I don't really NEED fancy dresses or have a good place to wear them. But also I was overstuffed with stuff to get home as it was. I almost bought a "Joy" holiday sweater at an outlet place near Hobby Lobby, but my mother-in-law pointed out the makeup stain on the back, and even at $6.50 I didn't feel like trying to get it out. I'll probably think about that sweater anyway, especially next year when I need something to wear to a sweater party! (Unfortunately it's rarely cold enough for sweaters like that ... so maybe I'll get over it when the heat cranks back up outside.)

We're home, I got an amazing night sleep although still tired from the travel and the non-stop work today putting away Christmas stuff. I wasn't the best for my kids -- seeing all the excess Christmas gifts and piles of things lying around didn't help. I didn't purchase anything today, as I was able to make our meager cupboard work for one more day, but I know tomorrow I'll be hitting that grocery store HARD.

Hope your 2019 is bright!

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"!