Wednesday, July 28, 2010

So I'm Not Hank Williams, Jr.

But I do have some family traditions. None of them involve getting stoned (though Bub and Little Bit do love to throw rocks) or even all that drunk. Having just taken the kids to spend a week with my parents, I've been wondering what practices and activities my children will think of as "traditions" as they grow up, what little moments will be cherished in their memories. I've also been starting to think about this blog as, in part, a family archive -- something my kids will be able to read some day to learn about their mom and about earlier versions of themselves. I'm thinking I'm going to make it a tradition to post about traditions.
For the second year in a row, NTB, the boys and I have made jam. Last year, we made strawberry. This year, we went a little crazy and added blackberries and raspberries as well. We also added some cinnamon because Bub was hell-bent on it. If you ask him about the jam, he will say it is "Berry Berry Cinnamon" or "Triple Berry Jam."
Crushing the fruit is the most fun, of course.
Note proximity of nose to fruit.
Helps to explain why this jam is a family-only product -- sorry foks!
Hmmm, six jars of jam when the recipe was only supposed to yield five.
Not sure how that happened.

The floor picture is also a family tradition. I took them with my siblings and cousins. I pose my own kids in them. Now that I'm thinking about floor shots, I want to write an entire post about them and include pictures. For now, here are a few recent shots of Bub, Little Bit, and Sweet P.
I love how these photos capture their little (but big) personalities.

When we were in Ohio, we had the opportunity to watch the final performance of my nieces' Rock Star Dance Camp. The highlight was the wattage of Swiper and Fancy's grins throughout the routine. They were having so much fun, just beaming. The girls asked my sister LAP to put sponge curlers in their hair the night before, which totally reminded my of my own girlhood. My sisters and I always wanted curls for a "big day." I look forward to the days when my little Sweet P will go to bed with pink rollers, big dreams, and delicious anticipation of the day to come.
Sweet P seems taken with her curly-haired, Rock Star dancing cousins. And vice versa, NTB.

Another tradition, though certainly not one unique to us, is going out to dinner for one's anniversary. Because I have such a refined palette or, um, maybe because I don't get out much (read: next to never), I can choose pretty much any place in Chicago, and he will make it happen.* NTB. This year, I chose Girl & The Goat, the newly-opened restaurant of Top Chef Season 4 Winner Stephanie Izard. It's not the most romantic atmosphere (which I knew going in), particularly if you are seated at a communal table (not as awkward as it sounds since the couple across from us were super nice and also have three kids--they described themselves as "four years ahead of" us as their kids are 8, 6, and 4. They promised that it gets easier). Anyway, the food was delicious -- best green beans I have ever eaten, and I also want to raise the roof for the smoked goat pizza, the scallops with pork belly on top, and the corny goat bread.
I don't think I'll make the self-portrait-on-the-way-home shot a tradition, though it could have turned out way worse. Seven years and we're still smiling!

Any traditions being forged in your family this summer? Bloggers, to what extent do you consider your blog a family archive? That's not how I originally conceived of mine, but I've been considering that aspect more lately. Anyone made any jam this summer? Please share in the comments (your thoughts, not your jam).

*With a little help from others -- Thanks, Dory!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

To Facebook With Love and Confusion

Dear Facebook,

I've always had your back. When my husband rolls his eyes and plays "too cool for Facebook," I defend you. When other Facebookers get prematurely up-in-arms about rumored impending charges for the services, I sit tight and think, "Not gonna happen, but I'd probably pay for Facebook if it did." Each time you change the layout around, I don't join a Facebook group to protest. I give things a few days and find that I can get used to whatever curveball you throw me. Just keep the status updates coming.
I appreciate you, Facebook. I like being able to connect with people from all stages of my life. Being on Facebook genuinely improves the quality of my daily life. Really. Thank you.
When I first joined, you gave me the opportunity to customize my profile with my favorite movies, music, television shows, quotations, etc. I admit that I passed on that option. Choosing which television shows and books defined me seemed like too much pressure, you know? I figured I'd get back to the profile later.
In the meantime, I made Facebook friends and joined groups related to my high school class, my son's preschool class, my college, and my grade school. I joined groups related to things I enjoy like Diet Coke, Papa Johns, and Tom Bergeron. At a certain point, it seems like "joining a group" changed into "becoming a fan." Fine, I "fanned" things. Truly, I don't know the difference between groups and fans or whatnot, but I've happily endorsed various people and projects on Facebook as things caught my fancy -- an author here, a singer there, a movie here, a friend's business venture there.
But here's the thing, Facebook. I did not ask you to take my group/fan thing-ies and fold them into categories on my profile. If I had wanted to list my favorite music for all to see, I would have made a list. Now, because I chose to be a fan of Susan Boyle the day that I saw that YouTube video, anyone who checks my profile for Likes and Interests, now sees the category of music with this single entry: Susan Boyle. I like her, I really do, but I can't say I would have chosen her as the lone artist to define my musical tastes.
And movies? I became a fan of Brothers At War, a documentary a college friend of mine made about his brothers' service in Iraq. It's a great film, and I recommend it, but again, thanks to your new merging, it now appears that this documentary is the only film I like or am interested in.
Because I have become a fan of several television shows, those who check my profile can see that I watch Glee. There's even a graphic box of the Sue Sylvester to drive the point home. That's all well and good, but say you had chosen to feature a graphic from one of the other shows I am fans of . . . How did you choose Glee to highlight?
I feel a little funny thinking about facebook friends I have not seen in years (or, in the case of my blogging friends, sometimes never seen in person at all) checking my profile and formulating their sense of who and how I am now based on the fact that my likes and interests appear to include a British reality television star, a war documentary, and four television shows.
Did I tell you to do that to my profile? If I did, I was confused. I want to take it back, but I don't know how.
As previously stated, if I had wanted to make a list of my likes and interests, I would have made a list!!!! Plus, I would have tried to make that list thorough and clever. It would have included books and more than one movie. It would not have included music at all because I don't know crap about music and don't really even know what music I like anymore beyond the Glee soundtracks because I am a dork who pretty much only listens to audiobooks.
You've embarrassed me, Facebook. Quit defining me -- okay? And, while you're at it, tell me how to fix everything. I am attempting to edit my profile to include Activities and Interests like Snacking, Memoirs, Taking Walks, Thinking About Recipes, and Listening to Audiobooks. Once I save the changes, they disappear and don't show up on my profile anywhere. I know because I called my sister to tell me what she saw on my profile. She couldn't stop laughing at the measly Susan Boyle entry under music and did not see any of the stuff I thought I added.
I'd like to give Susan some company, but my additions aren't sticking. And, not to hurt anyone's feelings, but if I wanted to un-join or un-fan some entities, how would I do that?
I've got a reputation (for what, I don't know) to protect and an identity to craft. If my Facebook friends want to judge me on my likes and interests, at least leave it to me to craft the complete list.
Please, help me out.



P.S. -- I am posting this letter on my blog in case any of my readers or facebook friends can help me out.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Here's to the good days . . .

The days when you raise your voice once or twice but never yell.
The days when your house is not so clean but not so messy either.
The days when your two year-old repeatedly examines your finger with a plastic magnifying glass and follows each examination with a kiss.
The days full of smiles and coos from your baby, so many that you don't care one bit about the spit-up all over your shirt and even down your bra.
The days when your four year-old continues his obsessive "stickering" with admirable gusto -- making you a collage and then using the phrase "finishing touches" a few minutes before giving it to you.
The days when you give yourself permission to skip bath time.
The days when you get through the grocery store with only one sucker per child (excluding the baby).
The days when you say to yourself, "It's really hot and humid outside and guess what . . . there's no rule that says we have to play outside every single day."
The days when you don't have to give (or threaten) a single time out.
The days when you have the wisdom not to rush from one "task" to the next (so what if it's "time" to get pajamas on--they're having tons of fun building a fort with every available cushion and pillow in the house).
The days when you do bedtime on your own, but it's drama-free.
The days when even an entire smoothie spilled into a car seat doesn't rattle you.
The days when all seems well and all good things seem possible.
The days when you are so happy with your life, exactly as it is.

The days like this day. Those are the great days.

What constitutes a good or great day in your world?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Summer Reading!

A book, a chair, and a cold drink -- that's my idea of a vacation. Sure, it would be great if that chair offered views of a beach, a pool, or perhaps a mountain range, but the chance to read uninterrupted is a good enough vacation for me these days.

But, what to read . . .

A few random suggestions for travel and escape chosen from MEP's bookshelf:

Travel back to Chicago in 1893 and try to fathom how much wonder and awe the World's Fair inspired in its visitors. Read about a mass murderer who did his business there while you're at it. Erik Larsen's Devil and the White City.

Travel back to the summer days of a teenage girl in the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. Yes, the movies are pretty bad, but the books are delightful.

Travel from Texas to Montana with the most lovable group of cowboys ever. It's a long journey, but Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry is completely worth the trip. Trust me.

Travel to horse tracks around the country and into the minds and hearts of all the various characters who populate the racing world (including one of the horses) with Jane Smiley's Horse Heaven.

On my to-read list this summer are:
Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
Cakewalk: A Memoir by Kate Moses
How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley
The Passage by Justin Cronin
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (the only good reason to wish for August to get here already)

For more book ideas, check out my best books of 2009 or my 2010 reading list.

What are you reading (or hoping to read) this summer? Answer in the comments or head over to BlogTrotting to link up your own post for this week's Field Trip Friday.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Are We There Yet?

In addition to NTB, I also help out with a blog called BlogTrotting, brainchild of my bloggy bestie CaraBee. Monday through Thursday at BlogTrotting, we visit blogs around the world for virtual tours. On Fridays, there's a little something called Field Trip Friday where we try to get multiple bloggers to blog on the same travel-related theme and link up their posts.

This week's topic is tips for traveling with kids. Team MEP hasn't done any international or even cross-country flights with the kids and we're years away from trying the "We're headed to Wallyworld" road trip so I'm going to stick with what I know . . .
Tips for Driving with Two Adults, A Preschooler, A Toddler, and an Infant to Midwest Destinations 3-6 Hours from Your Home:
1. Beg, borrow, or steal a portable DVD player. If I had only one tip to give, it would be this one. I know, I know, your kids don't really watch television, but maybe you could make an exception just this once.
2. Snacks, snacks, snacks. Our road trip food groups are "salties" like Sun Chips, pretzels, and crackers and candy (also known as "kiki") like fruit snacks and suckers. On our most recent trip, I also packed some peanut butter and jellies. Bub and Little Bit murdered those sammies, making me feel like a damn great mom. I packed grapes as well but then regretted that decision because I hurt my neck looking behind me to watch and make sure Little Bit did not choke on or throw a grape into his sister's car seat. (We hit the road again tomorrow and there will be sammies but no grapes).
3. Save naptime for the car whenever possible. Do everything you can--pee, gas up, eat--before you hit the road so that once your kids fall asleep, you do not need to stop until one of them awakes. I've shot myself in the foot before with 32 ounce Diet Cokes early in the trip. Sure, it is uncomfortable to almost pee my pants for ninety miles, but better that than a two year-old awake after only forty-five minutes begging for "kiki, kiki, kiki, kiki" because an irresponsible parent had to stop to visit the bathroom or fill the car with gas. If things are going reasonably well, keep driving. Don't get greedy.
4. If you're nursing, make it comfortable for yourself. I know back in the Seventies, it was acceptable (or so I hear) to hold your baby in the backseat and breastfeed in a moving vehicle. My husband's aunt even claims she used to breastfeed while driving (?!). I'm a rule follower myself so I wait until a stopping point. We find a shady parking place if possible, perhaps with a nice view of a dumpster or truck stop. Then, the key is to send hubby into a restaurant with your rowdy toddler and preschooler while you nurse the baby in the comfort of your vehicle. For us, it's a great opportunity for father and sons and mother and daughter to bond. I bring my boppy so that Sweet P and I are comfortable, and I read books on my ipod touch with the Kindle app (which is free and rocks, btw).
5. Start embarrassing your kids early. What's awesome about the ages of our kids right now is that they are too young to be embarrassed by us. So if hubby and I start rocking out to the Kidz Bop version of "Party in the USA" or the Glee version of "Bust A Move," our kids think we are really hilarious (and really talented, NTB) and lots of fun. We get to bask in their admiration and adoration while honing our future child-embarrassing skills.
So, those are my Tips for Driving with Two Adults, A Preschooler, A Toddler, and an Infant to Midwest Destinations 3-6 Hours from Your Home. What are you tips for traveling with children?
Also, if you are interested, I have some recent Field Trip Friday posts at BlogTrotting:

I wish everyone safe travels and an awesome holiday weekend!

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