We got an offer on the house.
It was too low.
Way, way too low.
By a lot.
There is one good thing to be said for the process of selling your house: the house stays very, very clean.
There is also one bad thing to be said for the process of selling your house: the house has to stay very, very clean.
Would you believe it if I told you we vacuumed TWICE today? Not because the carpets needed it, but because we showed our house to one set of people, then we came home and vacuumed it again so that the carpets would look nice and free of footprints for the next set of people who came to see our house. I stopped myself from dusting the coffee table twice even though I noticed that in the short amount of time that we were home the table collected some tiny, smeared fingerprints. I decided that if someone doesn't buy our house over fingerprints, then those are the kind of people I don't want living in my house.
But mostly, I'm just saying it's ridiculously hard work. Especially with two kids.
Last week we had 20 minutes notice before a realtor brought some people by. In a way, 20 minutes is easier. There's only so much you can do, so much you can clean. You make sacrifices for what doesn't get cleaned, and hope it's good enough.
It's like the improv seminar I gave at a children's theatre camp last week. The school called me at 9:05 am, and asked why I wasn't on stage at 9:00 giving a seminar to 50 children. I raced over there, got on stage before 9:30, and away we went into the world of improv. I didn't have time to worry about it, didn't even have more than the 10 minutes I had in my car to prepare for it. But half a lifetime of theatre experience turned out to be more than enough to get me through two sessions of students.
All this to say that sometimes short notice is easier on you than you might think. A few minutes of frantic running around, or days of preparing and planning and cleaning the top of the refrigerator? Because it's just part of my nature that if I know someone is coming over to evaluate my house the house is going to be clean. Not just clean. Clean clean. So that they won't just like the house, they'll like like the house.
For the time being, all the cleaning has paid off. The house was shown today to a mother and her daughter, and then she came back a couple hours later to see it again because she liked the house so much. She even joked about hiding the key so that the people who were seeing the house later in the day wouldn't be able to get in the house. She's coming back tomorrow with her parents to see it again, which is a very good sign, right? I mean, nobody brings their parents to see a house they aren't interested in buying, unless they all have some sort of wicked mean streak in them to get potential home sellers' hopes up. Ha. Wouldn't that be something else. Or not.
Fingers crossed for tomorrow's showing. We'd really like to sell the house. I don't know how long I can keep up with this cleaning schedule.
One of my jobs this weekend was to go through the girls' closets and toy boxes and box up toys they don't use, or can be put "on hold" to be brought out for future use ("Look Mom! New toys!"). This is, as you can imagine, a job that has to be done when the girls aren't around because the moment I start putting toys away is the exact same moment those toys become just what they always wanted to play with.
I've always tried to rotate toys in and out of use, but now that we are boxing them up--only to be unboxed when the new house is finished (whenever that is)--I'm being a little more selective. Sydney may not daily play with her Leapfrog book, but it definitely shouldn't be hidden away for the next 12 months. As for Jules? Well, give her a couple of spoons, some wooden blocks, and a marker and she's set. Unless it's a toy Sydney's playing with it; then she has to have whatever that is.
As I rummaged and tossed, organized and collected, I found what used to be quite the revered object in our house: a Yogos container. If you aren't familiar with Yogos, well, you aren't missing much. The Yogos container, is, in short, a pocket-sized container that you can dump a package of Yogos into and then press a button to have them dispensed into your palm, one at a time. Look...here's one up for sale on eBay at a ridiculously exorbitant price.
While I personally am not a big fan of Yogos, the girls like them, and I can't find it in myself to object too strongly against them. I have a feeling they're a lot like candy, except that yogurt covering suggests otherwise.
But this is not a story about Yogos. This is a story about the Yogos container. Because that container was a big stepping point in my life as a parent. Who knew such a small thing could end up representing such a defining act.
The first Yogos container to enter our house was a couple years ago. Sydney had received one from her grandma, who had found it in a box of Yogos. Yes. It use to be that Kellogg's just gave them away. In a box. Had I known this, I would have bought approximately 2 dozen boxes. But, alas, I did not know.
Sydney loved that Yogos container. She took it with her everywhere, so that if at any moment she developed a craving for Yogos she could dispense one into her tiny upturned hand. My job was to keep the container full of Yogos. My job also became keeping track of the container because 2-year-olds aren't known for their ability to remember where they set their things down, especially when we're walking out the door, and in order for us to leave the house without any tears, such-an-such an item must be in hand.
Sydney and her container were the best of friends for many weeks. And we all thought it was quite cute how much joy that little toy brought her. She got such a big kick out of seeing Yogos come out of the little hole, and we got a big kick out of watching her.
As is sometimes the case, though, free toys aren't built to last forever. It was then no huge surprise when the Yogos container's mechanism for dispensing Yogos stopped working. It was also not surprising that Sydney was deeply saddened by her toy's demise. What was surprising, however, was my internal reaction to seeing Sydney so sad about her broken toy. I had loved watching her smile over this little gadget, and I instinctively wanted to replace it. The added drama to the story is that I was probably 7 months pregnant at the time, and feeling more than a little traumatized that Sydney and I would have to share each other. Or rather, Sydney was going to have to share me.
So I set off with a determination to find a new Yogos container for Sydney. We went to grocery stores all over the city, trying to find a specially marked Yogos box that might say it had a container inside. I emailed Kellogg's, begging them to send me a new container. I even looked on eBay, but the sale of one had already expired. I didn't know what else to do, and as silly as it sounds, I was really upset over it.
Every couple days, Sydney would see her Yogos container (because I couldn't bring myself to throw it away) and ask in her sweet little voice, "Fix it, Mamma?" That container wasn't just a Yogos container. It was everything I wanted to be able to provide for Sydney. It was every wrong I couldn't right. It was me trying to make up for Sydney's loss as an only child (and, yes, I realize getting a sibling isn't a loss, but track with me here). She and I both wanted a new Yogos container for reasons a world apart from each other.
I was pretty much at a standstill for what I could do about the broken container. I couldn't fix it. I couldn't buy one. I couldn't stand in line, sleep out overnight outside a store, or feverishly call a radio station in order to win one. I think I would have. Maybe. Who knows. I was delusional with pregnancy guilt and hormones. Either way, it seemed that the dispenser had disappeared into the abyss of cereal and boxed toys.
One day, earlier this year, we were at the grocery store and saw a little something different on the Yogos box. I sent Sydney down the aisle to check it out, and low and behold! The Yogos containers were back! Syd and I probably looked ridiculous and we screeched and danced in the aisle, rejoicing about our found Yogos container.
Our celebration might have been a bit premature since it turned out we had to send in 3 UPC symbols and an order form to Kellogg's to get the Yogos container, but we did all that. It didn't cost us anything except the stamp on the envelope and a few weeks worth of waiting. It arrived one blessed day in our mailbox and I don't know who was happier: me or Syd. She had her Yogos container back, and I had fulfilled what I had set out to do. I wasn't a failure.
I wasn't placing any bets on how long that new container would last, so I sent off for a couple more Yogos containers, which wait in our kitchen drawers, ready to be called into action whenever they are needed.
My search for the Yogos container gave me a little bit of perspective on why parents do crazy things to get something their child wants. Sometimes the reasons aren't great--we want our child to be the coolest or want to be the parent who is the coolest. But many times are motives are as basic as wanting to do something that makes our kid happy.
I don't suspect I'll ever be the parent who waits in line, or pays top dollar, or physically strains myself to get the year's hottest toy--I'm just not cut out for that kind of job. But my search for the Yogos container made me realize that there are some things I'll always want to fix for my kids. I realize I won't be able to fix all the broken things in my children's lives, but this one thing--this Yogos container--well that, my sweet child, I can fix.
(From last month's walk through Central Park; picture courtesy Inkling.)
Eleven Ways to Celebrate 11 Years of Wedded Bliss:
Of course, they've all been good years. But this year has been one in which almost everything seemed to fit in place. No big changes, no catastrophes, no surprises. We've been healthy, gotten our finances on track (hooray for finally being debt-free), made plans for the future. Only the Lord knows what next year will hold--moving? new jobs? building a house?--and last night as we were eating dinner, we decided that we aren't going to worry about next year. That piece of time is not in our hands.
But this year? Jason got his Masters degree; I got another year of making it through; we traveled to the east coast twice. We had another year of parenting two beautiful girls, who have discovered joy in dancing, joy in singing, joy in laughing. Come to think of it, we have a lot of laughter in our house.
Which is the most anyone can hope for.
(Love you, Sweetums. And better consider this post your card...since I hate to break tradition by getting you one. xx)
One of the things we did a fair amount of on our trip back east was visit cemeteries. When you're visiting Boston and Philadelphia, naturally there's going to be a lot of "Here is where Samuel Adams is buried," or "Here is where Benjamin Franklin is buried." I don't know that I was really all that interested in finding out where Benjamin Franklin is buried--nothing against him, but he doesn't exactly stir the emotions of my heart, like, say, Louisa May Alcott might do--but I enjoy walking through graveyards. Not at nighttime, of course. That would freak. me. out. But during the daytime, I think they're very interesting, in a melancholic, picturesque, philosophical kind of way.
Boston had some really interesting cemeteries that were right downtown. We'd be walking along the Freedom Trail, and then randomly stop to wander past some tombstones.
I have a hard time capturing the feel of graveyards through photography. It doesn't help that some people (*ahem* you there in the upper left-hand corner of my picture) tote their Macy's shopping bag through the graveyard. That really ruins the feel of graveyards. More than that, though, there's something about the three-dimensional aspect that my non-fancy camera just can't quite get. Nevertheless, that didn't stop me from taking pictures.
Plus, cemeteries on the east coast are so old--well, comparatively old. Here in Oregon you don't find too many tombstones that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Also, not a lot of skulls and crossbones either. Which I'm fine with. I definitely do not want a skull and crossbones on my tombstone, no offense to Cap. Nicholas Gardner here. It's just not my style.
Philadelphia had more famous dead people. Famous people like Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Benjamin Rush just happens to be Jason's Great-great-great-great-great Grandfather's cousin. Yes, rebelliousness goes wayback in Jason's family. Fortunately it's patriotic rebelliousness, so I can excuse that. Except when Sydney wanted to paint a flag on the wall with magic markers. In our house there may be a little bit of tyrannical oppression when it comes to certain freedoms.
One of the things we did while we were DC was go on a ghost walk through Alexandria. Our guide--a chipper college student with a knack for storytelling--narrated our way up and down the streets of Alexandria, regaling us with horrifying tales of ghosts and graveyards. And when I say "horrifying" I really mean "funny with a gory twist." Like Fargo. Except more family friendly. And without the wood chipper. Or the fabulous Frances McDormand.
The end of our tour found us gathered in a graveyard where our guide told us a final tale of a tragic love story.
We laughed, we cried, we were distracted by fighting squirrels. And then off in the distance, I thought perhaps I too could see the ghosts of children playing by the tombstones. I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a picture of them.
Oh what tragic tale surrounded these poor little children that they were doomed to wander the graveyard for all eternity? I will say that the little middle ghost wouldn't stop laughing, but the other two? I think they really wanted to be at some fun playground rather than a cemetery. But they kept showing up, so I kept taking pictures.
Now, wait a second...
Those little ghosts look awfully familiar...
And that name on the tombstone...I recognize that name...
Stout? Well, now that I think about it, I have seen these pictures before. These and a hundred others just like them that fill our family's photo albums. What's that? You think it's morbid, all these pictures of smiling children on tombstones? Well, then, you never had a mother who was a genealogist.
I knew there was a reason I felt a connection with graveyards.
Although I'm definitely not feeling the connection with those shorts.
(c) Creature Bug 2008. All rights reserved.
I haven't ever participated in Works For Me Wednesday before, but I there's a first time for everything. Plus, I had my newest obsession on the brain--photo postcards--and this was the perfect way to share the love.
Now, of course, I've been smitten with photo cards ever since I sent postcards and photostamps of Jules shortly after she was born. But using a professional company to create photo postcards is not inexpensive. And while I do love photostamps (oh my goodness, how I love them), they also are not cheap. So when it came time to send out invitations to Sydney's birthday party (back in May), I was trying to figure out a way that would be both creative and cost-efficient. Sometimes those two things go together. Sometimes they don't.
After wandering around the Internet for awhile collecting ideas, I decided that maybe I was just creative enough to make my own birthday invitations. Not with stamps. Not with pretty paper. Not with anything that would require a lot of hands-on work or money, because goodness knows, I don't have time for hands-on work (unless it's something household related) or funds for expensive treats (unless it's for...no wait, I actually don't have funds for expensive treats). A few clicks later, a little of this, a little of that, and I finally came up with this:
(Obviously, the final version has all the important details, I just figured you wouldn't be interested in that part.)
Since I got such a big kick out of the invitations, I duplicated the whole process all over again for the follow-up Thank You cards.
I have to say, I don't think I'll ever go back to using regular invitations and first-class stamps (be they Forever Stamps, or otherwise) because this way is just so much fun.
Invitations and Thank You cards mailed to all her family? $16.52
Having a postcard worth putting on the fridge for a few days? Priceless.
(c) Creature Bug 2008. All rights reserved.
I had to call the phone company today because I noticed a peculiar charge had shown up on our bill. Not only was the charge something I didn't recognize, but it came accompanied by a little note from the phone company that said something to the effect of "You can dispute this charge. You also don't have to pay it."
Really? Then why the heck did you put the charge on my bill IN THE FIRST PLACE if you think it's bogus? That was a question I was bound to ask John, the customer service rep who was lucky enough to field my phone call, except then I never did because we got distracted talking about children (he has three girls, ages 5, 3, and 7 months) and the tricks of keeping small toys out of reach of baby hands. Then we chatted about money, and finances, and 20 minutes later I was thinking, "Maybe I should invite his family over for dinner or something," but that really would have been just a little too crazy, yes? Anyway, he told me to call the bogus company directly and demand the charge be removed.
So, at this point, I'm 25 minutes into having an $8 charge removed from my bill. But I call the other company up, and get my sassy voice on and say, "I don't want to hear whatever it is you have to say, I just want you to take this charge off." The poor woman on the other line--who also probably has a family to feed, but I just couldn't get caught up in her drama right then--said okay, and that was that. Or at least, that was that until I get the next phone bill.
Sometimes I wonder how much my time is worth when I make these awful phone calls where I can't get through to a person until I jump through all the vocal hoops. You know the ones.
Please say your account number.
I'm sorry, can you repeat that?
Would you like to talk to a service representative?
What is the matter related to? You can be honest.
Did you say Add More Features?
Please say Yes or No.
For the love, just let me talk to a real person!
Even when I call Kaiser Permanente just to make a doctor's appointment, I have to make sure that I have a good, solid block of time to wait through the tedious world of Being On Hold. Jules is napping. Sydney is watching a movie. The dog is outside. Nothing is baking. I will sit here and dedicate my life to being On The Phone, with nothing but laundry to fold or a magazine to read. But I must make note not to read any articles that might make me cry, or else then I find myself talking to the advice nurse and crying, and then she's not quite sure who she should be making appointments for or whether something really disastrous has happened.
Are you okay? Has something happened?
"I'm fine," I weep into the phone. "It's just that Alison in this month's Real Simple article is such a brave woman, and I got all choked up over her story. And can you imagine raising those kids by yourself with your husband so far away on deployment?"
Pshaw. I'd never actually admit that to the advice nurse. Better she feel pity for me than scorn.
For the record, I've cried on the phone with an advice nurse twice; only once can be blamed on a magazine article. The other time was when after 10 minutes of being on hold, the nurse came on just as I was dealing with a screaming child on the changing table with a poopy diaper.
I had a lot to cry about.
Since I was in the Phone Zone, I called KP today to ask about the symptoms of appendicitis because I was concerned my appendix might be failing me. But one of the symptoms is a fever, which I don't have. I then risked the possibility of sounding like a hypochondriac and inquired about making an appointment regarding all these migraines I've had, but the appointment calendar only goes out 10 days, and nothing was open so I have to call back in a couple days to check again.
Time spent accomplishing pretty much nothing?
The worst has to be when I called a credit card company last month because I received a statement that said I owed 72 cents. Not dollars. CENTS. I was irked because I had already called the company twice before to find out the exact balance so we could pay it off and close the account. I got the amount, but it was evidently relayed to me incorrectly.
So. I call the company and ask what the deal is. Miss Cheery Voice tells me I owe 72 cents.
"Seriously?" I ask, trying to be as equally cheerful. "Can you just waive that? It's 72 cents."
But she and I know that's where the issue is: it's 72 cents. Seventy-two cents isn't going to break me.
Oh, says Miss Cheery Voice, just pay it online. Already more than 5 minutes has lapsed, and I just want to get off the phone. I try one more time.
"I tried to pay this account, and you guys are making it impossible to do that."
This will be the last time; then the balance will be zero.
How much is my time worth? Do I really want to argue with this woman? Am I going to lose this battle?
Yes. I am. I give up and say, Okay. Whatever.
I go online to pay the stupid 72 cents and discover that the lowest acceptable amount is $1. I agonize over giving them an extra 28 cents. In another life, I might raise my fist to the heavens and scream about Principles! and Big Guys sticking it to the Little Guys!
In the end, though, I pay it.
Nap time has ended, movie is over, dog is barking, and dinner needs to get cooked. I can't worry about big guys when I'm tripping over my little guys.
And there you have it: My time isn't worth 28 cents. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.
(c) Creature Bug 2008. All rights reserved.
: first :
Some people who live down below us (I'm speaking literally, not figuratively: we live on a hill) asked if they could walk through our house today. During the course of our conversation, they relayed some troubles that a neighbor was having with her neighbors. A long and dramatic story was told about how irate the neighbor gets at a certain "old guy" who jogs through part of her backyard in order to get to the street. I realized, with some discomfort, that they were unknowingly talking about Jason who uses an easement--shared property among all of us--to get to the street below. Since our guests didn't know they were talking about Jason, they went on and on about what a "jerk this guy is." I really wanted to tell them our side of the story (such as, Jason isn't walking through their yard, they just don't have a fence and feel like the easement is part of their backyard), but in the end I only said, "Well, that part of their yard is actually an easement, so I suppose that's where some of the problem is." Awwwwkward. And for the record, Jason is totally NOT a jerk. Or old. So there.
: second :
I really wish "So You Think You Can Dance" was on tv every night. I love that show. Since it's on too late for Sydney to watch, we tape it for her and she watches the dances (except the ones I purposely don't record...it's not always a family friendly show) all week long. I'm so impressed with that show.
: third :
The AC adapter for our laptop finally died tonight (we have had to baby it along for a few days now), and since the batteries don't work, then we had to order a new adapter. I figured I might as well get a new battery while I was at it. I totally wanted to spend $100 on computer equipment today. Or not.
: fourth :
I think being stuck in our car with my screaming child is one of the worst. things. ever. Today, on my drive back from Washington, Jules was SO mad about the blueberries I wouldn't give her because she kept smashing them into her carseat. I was tempted to smash the berries into my head, but instead sang ten million verses of Father Abraham. Right arm, left arm, right foot,...
: fifth :
I've been trying to figure out a way to write this link into a post, but I'm just giving up and being direct. A good friend of mine from my high school years (well, in fact, we dated for a couple years in high school) wrote a fabulously honest post about his daughter's birth. Let me give you a hint: he ended up on the floor. Since the post was written a few months ago, it's probably too late to leave a comment, but check out the rest of his blog. Great stuff.
: sixth :
The house market stinks. Totally stinks. Jason and I did a little dance of joy when someone stopped in front of our house just to pull out a flier from the For Sale box. Yay for dancing. Boo for having to dance over pathetically small things like that.
: seventh :
I never mentioned that I'm going to be an aunt again, did I? Yes, indeedy, my SIL is due in December, right around Jules' birthday. My first response when I found out she was pregnant? Panic. Because we have always been pregnant at the same time, on some subconscious level I thought it meant I would have to get pregnant again. My second response when I found out she was pregnant? Relief. I am not pregnant. (And, no, Mom, I did not promise to get pregnant.) My third response? Joy! I'm going to be an aunt again!
: eighth :
Jason and I were just talking yesterday about how much we loved our trip to Maine. Seven months later and we still say it was one of the best trips ever.
: ninth :
I think colons are my most favorite piece of punctuation. I wrote a paper last summer on the beauty of punctuation. I kind of wish I could take another grammar and linguistics class just so I could do that again.
: tenth :
I was thinking this week about writing. When I go back through my blog archives, I sometimes feel like I used to be a better writer than I am now. I wonder why that is. Making random lists doesn't actually make me feel better about writing, but it does just plain old make me feel better. That's worth something.
...on a day when the kids are staying overnight with grandparents?
I totally needed an afternoon where I could mop the floor and know it will stay clean for more than TWENTY-FOUR HOURS. I am so easily entertained.
But of course, as I looked over our pictures from yesterday's trip to the aquarium I decided that, okay, maybe I miss them a little.
Although I'm still looking forward to sleeping in.
Now that I have fortified myself with a Costco-sized bottle of Excedrin (I think I felt my kidneys twitch in horror at watching me buy a bottle of 300 pills), I am ready to tackle the task of writing once again. Although I think I might be just a little out of form, since after rereading that last sentence it makes it appear as though I've consumed a Costco-sized bottle of Excedrin, rather than having purchased it. In fact, I haven't even had one Excedrin today, which is a major success. It had not occurred to me that I should go see a doctor about all these migraines, until so many of you kindly mentioned it. I suppose I should. If I go I'd love to find out if I could get an MRI, not because I think I need it, but because seriously, how cool would that be to see a picture of inside my head? If I could get a copy of it, you know I would absolutely find a way to work that photo into one of my classroom lectures in the fall because that's the kind of crazy teacher I am.
Waking up without the familiar ache behind my left eye was so refreshing. Before I was fully awake, I listened as Jason helped the girls with breakfast, heard the running of the bath water, smiled to myself when Jules screamed "Bath!" the moment she realized she heard the tub filling. I stretched and got ready to get up, but not before I heard Sydney ask, "Where's my dress?"
Where's my dress? It's what she says nearly every morning, and by some amazing parenting magic, I almost always know which dress she's talking about. There's no trick to it really: it's just whatever dress she wore the day before. And unless the dress had an unfortunate meeting with yesterday's lunch, it will still be good to wear another day. Up until Sunday, there were only two choices--the heart dress, or the spinny dress. Don't let the labels deceive you. They're both spinny dresses. And now, thank heavens, we finally have added another spinny dress--dubbed "my new dress"--to the mix.
I have a child who loves to wear dresses that twirl. Loves them beyond measure. She will tell you, "I have a closet full of dresses! Full!" She holds up both her hands to show you just how many dresses she has. But ask her what dresses she'll wear? "Only the spinny ones. If it doesn't spin..." here she shakes her head sadly, "then I just. can't. wear. it." Oh honey. You don't need to explain to me how much drama a wardrobe can inspire. I have been known--in a fit of post-pregnancy angst--to ruthlessly donate nearly everything in my closet, so much so that I literally don't have a week's worth of clothes left to wear.
I will confess to you that I am thrilled to have a daughter who is all about dresses, and princesses, and pink, and ballet slippers. Although I would have been happy no matter what her favorite color, I was a bit nervous that I'd have a daughter who would more closely resemble my sister. Now, before my sister gets all up in arms about this statement, let me insist that I love my sister. However, I think she and I can agree that we didn't have much in common growing up. She was a definite tomboy who hated dresses, favored the color blue (she was excused from pink since she had red hair), and was much more in her element playing sports and actually being friends with guys instead of--like her older sister--flirting endlessly with them. She was cool, but she was different from me. And it wasn't until she went to college that we figured out we liked being around each other. And then in a twist of fate (mostly related to her living and working in SoCal), it ends up that she fixes her hair more often than I do, and has a wardrobe that has more skirts and bikini swimsuits than mine. It's so unfair.
Even though I'm by no means a CoverGirl--I wear minimal make-up and if my hair is long enough to be in a ponytail that's how I'll wear it all the time--I'm still a big fan of dressing up and wearing heels. I knew I'd love Sydney no matter what, but there was a part of me hoping we'd be able to share a bond over dresses, and twirling, and teacups, and dolls, and fairies with pink and purple wings. Suffice to say, her love of dresses probably outpaces mine. Certainly her love of having her nails painted definitely outpaces mine. She and her cousin Clover were treated by Great-Grandma to their very first professional manicure last week, and boy oh boy, it was something else.
Sparkles! Pinks! Purples! It was like a little tiny piece of heaven had fallen into a display case, centered between a poster of toes in the sand and a poster of an exotic location in Thailand. Sydney picked out a lovely shade of purple for my pedicure (and, oh, I do love pedicures), and she and Clover jointly picked out the sparkly shake of pink that all of us were getting on our nails.
By the way, that dress she is wearing is the spinny dress. Important to know that.
Of course, for all my wishes of sugar and spice, I always wished for a girl who would be just as interested in puppy dog tails. If not puppy dog tails, then at least tadpoles and crawdads. Right after she got her nails done, she promptly headed down to the creek and got down to the business of playing.
Because if you're going to be living at the Farm, you can't be a pansy about getting dirty (although I can be a bit weak-willed about tolerating dirt).
Go on, Jules. All the girls are playing in the sand. You can do it too.
That's the beauty of my little girl. One moment she's spinning in a salon, singing a made-up song about having beautiful nails--to the tune of Sound of Music's "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" naturally--and the next moment she's digging in the sand, building a house for all the little periwinkles that crawl along the shore.
My girl. Already an expert at twirling.
(c) Creature Bug 2008. All rights reserved.
I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I love summer. I love the sunshine, the warm weather, tshirts and shorts and flip flops. We spent the last two weeks at the Family Farm, and I could wax on and on about the many adventures we had outside, but all those thoughts are still trapped in my head.
Because, you see, the downside to warm weather is that right around 6 pm or so, I start to feel that familiar ache right behind my left eye. I dutifully take some Excedrin (as I have to do every day, much to the dismay of my kidneys, I'm sure), hoping that one tablet will take care of it. Pshaw, says the area right behind my left eye, ONE Excedrin? Really. You know better than that.
I am, to a fault, hopelessly optimistic that every headache I have is actually a headache rather than a migraine. The last time I had a regular headache that went away on it's own? Hmm. Maybe when I was 14?
The awful truth is that I don't get headaches. Ever. I get migraines. They don't go away on their own. I can't sleep them off. I can't exercise them away. I can only hope to catch them before the nausea and vomiting start. Last semester I had to cancel my afternoon class twice because I couldn't stand up, which is why I now almost always carry a bottle of Excedrin with me everywhere I go. (There is no point bothering with candy medication like Advil or Tylenol.)
Unfortunately for me, in the summer I get migraines almost every day, presumably because of the heat and maybe dehydration. Except--and here's the real kicker--when I'm pregnant. Then I never get migraines. You'd think this might motivate me to get pregnant more often, except that the results of pregnancy mean more migraines for me (yes, parenting is hard on my poor, weak brain), so it would really be such a vicious circle that would only end up with me in a dark room, with a cool washcloth on my face, wishing that the birds outside would shut up already. It's hard to parent that way. Trust me, I've tried.
So, right now, as I'm typing with my eyes closed only to occasionally open them, squinting at the computer screen and really wanting to write about Sydney's very first professional manicure, and how she wakes up every day and breathlessly exclaims, "Oh, Mama! My nails are still so, so beautiful" I can't quite form all those thoughts in my head due to the halos of light around everything and feeling more consciously aware of the pain traveling oh so slowly towards the back of my head and a bit toward the right. And more than manicures, my thoughts are focused along the lines of should I take two extra-strength Excedrin, or should I just bypass the next three hours of minor league pain and go straight for the Excedrin for Migraines even though it means in about 4 hours I'll wake up from the high dosage of caffeine which will keep me awake for about two hours?
I am thankful that my migraines can be controlled by over the counter medication, but I do find it tedious that every single night when what I'd love to be writing or reading, but instead I'm rubbing peppermint oil on my temples, massaging my eyebrows, drinking water, and checking the clock to see if enough time has elapsed for me to take another Excedrin. You'd think with all this pain I'd stop loving summer, but I don't. It's still my favorite time of the year.
And I'll always hold out hope that maybe tomorrow--another blistering hot day--I won't get a migraine, even though the odds are against me. Okay, the pain has moved to my right eye, so off I go.
Kimberly sent me this link--featured below--that demonstrates why again "yogurty goodness" is becoming the ultimate superlative to all of life's great experiences. (If you didn't catch the previous yogurt video that I posted earlier, will you please go watch it? Please? Even if it doesn't make you laugh, it will make me laugh knowing that you watched it.)
Who knew yogurt could bring us all together in fits and giggles?
If you want the longer version of why the pictures, then read the post at the other blog.
The short version is this: pictures of your house are part of the process for trying to sell your house.
Good thing I like taking pictures of my house. If only I could keep my house as clean as those photos make it appear it to be. Well, I suppose I could...if I wanted to drive myself and my family crazy. Meh. It's not that important to me.
I'm sitting here, in my grandparents' former house, looking out the window, watch the bats swooping and reeling outside in the night air. I'm feeling a bit reflective tonight, a state I seem to be permanently stuck in every since that For Sale sign went up in our yard. Those bats outside remind me of how much swooping and reeling my own mind has been doing this past week. For every bug a bat catches, I suspect there are thrice that many mental bugs flying around in my thoughts. One the one hand, it's vacation time and I ought to be soaking up all this gorgeous sun. On the other hand, every moment I'm at home I'm filling up boxes and trying to predict whether or not we'll need something over the course of the next year.
It isn't as though we've sold our house; we haven't even had any phone calls of interest. No, our packing isn't of the frantic, completely chaotic state. Our packing is methodical. Planned. Plenty of time to think about each and every object that goes into a box; plenty of time to wonder at which point, after which box, when which particular item is packed away becomes the tipping point. The point when our house will stop feeling like our home and more like a place that we're just living in until we finally have nothing left to keep us there.
Quite honestly, my mind is exhausted by it all. Though I have plenty more to write about this whole adventure of moving, I just can't right now.
The good news is I've had some breaks from our house over the course of this last week. Jason's parents are in Kauai, so Jason is running his dad's coffee shop until they get back. I admit that I'm just the tiniest bit bitter that I'm losing Jason to two weeks of 12-hour work days, when this is the time we should be getting to see him the most. But Jason's dad needs a vacation too, and there's no one else who can help him out except Jason. So, it's just something that has to be done.
Getting back to how this is giving me a break...we have been staying up in Washington at the Family Farm. It's usually not easier to be living away from home with the girls, but in this case--where we have a vacant house to live in without worrying about inconveniencing others--it's been good. I'm not distracted by things to pack away. I'm not worrying about messes the girls make. It took me a good long day to shake off that frantic feeling of "What Do I Need to Do Now?" I got there though, with a great deal of thanks going to the trusty farm golf cart.
Although you might think we'd be better off just walking everywhere instead of being so lazy as to require a golf cart to get around, you'd be grossly misunderstanding the real purpose of the cart: it provides endless amounts of entertainment for just about everyone. Including the dogs, but especially the kids. Certainly, the golf cart is nice in that I don't need to carry any children in my arms. Moreover, it's good for speeding up and down the hills, checking on mole traps, and overall just zipping around and seeing who's doing what.
Every day last week, I rode around on that blessed little cart, and the girls were always thoroughly entertained. We'd get in it in the morning, and over the course of a few hours make several important stops.
Almost daily we strip the bushes of ripe raspberries, but then, miracle of miracles, there are more the next day.
Only a few days until these delicious little blue babies are ready to eat.
Jules is crazy about eating pea pods. We pull up a plant, and she and I snack on the pods all morning long. There is something particularly endearing--and almost miraculous--about little kids eating vegetables, don't you think?
Sydney hasn't quite mastered the "spit the pit" trick, but she's working on it. So far her distance record is about 6". By the end of the week, let's hope she gets to at least 12".
And here's where we just sit and gaze at the grass that will someday be the spot where our house will go.
Between all the fresh farm produce, we stop at my parents' house to get some of my grandma's chocolate chip cookies, check on the ducks down at the pond, play in the sand, jump on the trampoline, and wander through the woods. Eventually Jules falls asleep on the golf cart, and then Sydney and I head inside to spend a bit of time playing.
Then eventually...it's back on the golf cart for an afternoon spent outdoors, where somehow everything just seems a lot easier. No piles of laundry to worry about. No whining or pulling hair. No stress.
One more week here at the farm before going back home for a longer spell, and then, well...at some point we're back up here. For good. And though I have lots of emotional bugs flying around in my head that will no doubt remain there for many months, one thing is for sure: whether we need cherries or just a distraction from the house, the sweet little golf cart will always swoop us around to where we need to go.
(C) Creature Bug 2008. All rights reserved.
A couple posts ago, I wrote about reading Before Green Gables, and some of you asked me how it was. I hadn't finished it yet, so I didn't want to prematurely recommend or reject it, but today I finished it. I would have finished it last night, but I was sobbing so much I couldn't read the pages any more. And even though I woke up today with my eyes nearly swollen shut, I managed to finish the last few chapters.
The verdict is: it's really good. It's very, very sad, and if you're a parent it might make your heart break into a million pieces. But it's still good.
If you haven't read any of the Anne of Green Gables books, I absolutely do not recommend reading Before Green Gables first. The book was not written by Lucy Maud Montgomery herself; in fact, the book, by Budge Wilson, was just published earlier this year. It is, in short, one author's hypothesis of what life was like for Anne Shirley before we meet her on the train platform in Bright River. Reading this prequel to the Anne books will certainly shape your imagination when you read the series, and I really think one ought to read the Montgomery books in the order they are written (not that I'm always a literary purist, but in this case I confess to being one).
The Anne books give us a few clues into what life must have been like for her before she goes on to live with the Cuthberts (the death of her parents when she was an infant, her living with the Thomases, the Hammonds, and then the orphanage), but all in all we aren't quite sure how this eleven-year old girl came to have such a large and dramatic vocabulary, as well an ability to win the hearts of those around her. This book gives a thoroughly researched and entirely plausible idea of what events shaped Anne's life.
I am a huge Anne fan. Once upon a time I was even a member of the Anne of Green Gables society, and I still have my Kindred Spirits magazines (before they started publishing online). I remember the summer I read through the entire Anne series for the first time, and I can say that no other literary series has so profoundly affected my life. Whenever I want something beautiful, want to be encouraged, want to restore some optimism to my life, I know that the Anne books will get me there.
For as much as I enjoyed Before Green Gables, if I hadn't known what the ending would be--with Anne leaving the train to start her new life with the Cuthberts--it would have a been altogether too heart-breaking. While Anne Shirley has always been a sympathetic character, I now have an even greater context in which to place her life story. In Anne of Green Gables, when Anne believes she is going to be sent back to the orphanage and Montgomery writes, "...upstairs, in the east gable, a lonely, heart-hungry, childless friend cried herself to sleep," a first-time reader might feel pity, might even feel a bit sad. But after having read Before Green Gables that one sentence alone brings a flood of tears to my eyes because now I can imagine an even greater sorrow for this poor child who had believed with all her heart that she had finally found someone who wanted her, only to discover that she was, again, unwanted.
Of course, that's part of the magic of Before Green Gables. When you read it and feel your heart breaking for Anne, you know something she doesn't: she finds her happily ever after. Now that I'm rereading through the series, I think the prequel will help make Anne's triumph of the spirit even more uplifting than before.
I realize that Anne Shirley is a fictional character, and you might think I'm a raving lunatic for crying over this imaginary person. Except, oh, except I can't help but think of all the children who have lives like Anne's--shuttled between various homes, parents dead (either physically or emotionally), wanting so badly to be loved. For me, Before Green Gables doesn't just capture the heart of Anne Shirley, it captures the heart of so many thousands of other children who are longing to find their Green Gables. Those stories weigh on my heart.
I can, however, take away the message that L. M. Montgomery develops (and Budge Wilson continues) through the spirit of Anne Shirley: to relentlessly pursue love and beauty, even--and especially--when it's difficult. Ah yes, I am an eternal optimist, which is why it is no surprise that Anne Shirley will always be one of my most favorite literary characters of all.
(c) Creature Bug 2008. All rights reserved.
[Originally posted July 4, 2005. As I re-read through this post, I was struck by two things. First, of the similarities between Sydney--photographed below at 13 months old--and Julianne (yes, indeed, they are sisters). Second, that I'm sure I never would have imagined the last few paragraphs would still be applicable four years after I had written it.]
In doing the genealogy for Jason's family, my mom found a real treasure: original letters Jason's Great-great-great grandfather wrote to his wife during the Civil War. While there are undoubtedly more letters existing, my mom was able to locate over a hundred.
In the field near Strasburg, VA, On May 10, 1864, Josiah writes:
I wrote to you but two days ago but I thought I would write again seeing I had a chance and will write often as long as the letters can go through. We left Winchester yesterday morning and camped here last night in a very nice place. We stay here today to build a bridge across Cedar Creek which the rebs burned. It is said there is to be a very heavy force here soon and then we are going to make everything leave this valley. I think we will go right to Stannton. It is said we will have 200 pieces of artillery and 60 or 70 thousand men. I think it is on to Richmond this time. I do hope that all will work together which I think they are doing now, if the thing is done right Richmond is ours before two months longer.
Now Parney you must keep up courage for if Richmond is taken the war is nearly over and it will certainly be taken before the fourth of July. For my part I would like to celebrate that memorial day in the capitol of the confederacy and if I live and keep my health I think I will.
When you write let me know whether you got the box I sent you. Give me the news generally. I don't know how I will stand traveling. I came nearer giving out yesterday than I ever did before and we came but thirteen miles. It was very warm and dusty. This is a splendid country. There is plenty of pasture for the horses and also for the drove of cattle which we drive along to eat. I pity the 'critters' that is unlucky enough to be right fate in this country. We just pick them up as we go.
I can't think of any more at this time. Kiss the children for me. Give my respects to all.
Sadly, Josiah didn't get to celebrate the Fourth of July in Richmond, and in fact the war didn't end until the following year. Five days after Josiah wrote this letter he was taken prisoner and sent to Andersonville Prison. He became deathly ill, and when paroled he made it as far as Washington DC before dying in a hospital there. The above letter was the last letter his wife received from him. Josiah left behind two young sons. The nurse who was with Josiah at the end wrote: "His last words were tell my wife that all is well with me and that I should like to be buried beside my little boy that died three years ago. ... Thank God he was out of rebel hands and died in our own lines and is buried under the stars and stripes."
Should Jason and I ever have a son, we have decided to name him Josiah -- after his four times great-grandfather who fought so bravely for a just cause.
And here, 140 years later, we are a nation once again at war. A war that I struggle to support, but I nevertheless support all our dear soldiers, the men and women who are fighting far from home. Men and women who push their individual beliefs aside in order to serve their country. Men and women I pray for daily that they might be delivered home safely to their families. And for those who perish in this war, I hope that they can be brought home in order that they too might be buried under the stars and stripes.
Despite all the short-comings of our nation, it is still the finest country in the world. May I never take it for granted. May we always be grateful for the freedom we have been given. May my daughter live to see her country in a time of peace.
Happy birthday, America -- the land of the free, and the home of the brave.