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Archive for the ‘The Great Unknowable Future’ Category

I still feel like I’m on a ship. Sometimes the seas are smooth, othertimes the waters are choppy and nauseating. Still others, the storms pummel the briny deep into great stomach-churning, heart-jolting valleys and peaks and I’m not sure whether my body or mind will break first before I am swallowed by the foaming depths. Every day, the wide indifferent ocean stretches to the horizon on all sides and I don’t know how long it will take to reach the shore. I do not like boats or water or the thought of nameless shapes shifting in the void below. Small — but significant — comfort to know that you’re out here too, guiding your own craft through the murky waves.

What better way to deal with such a mental state than to talk about food? I mean, what’s more basic than food? We all need it, for survival, for comfort, for distraction, for pleasure.

Of course I’ve been craving carbs, and making rice and noodles and various nacho-like concoctions with abandon. Well, not abandon exactly because I am conscious that finding replacement carbs may not be as easy as I’d like.

The surprising things on my quarantine cravings list? Raw carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Perhaps I can attribute these desires to the gargantuan vats of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing I am using as a veggie dip. But I think it’s more the potential scarcity of fresh veggies – or, if not the veggies themselves, but my ability to access them. I bought two one-pound bags of carrots right as self-isolation was beginning, in the second week of March. And then on my most recent trip to the store, I bought a third. (I recognize that this must sound absurd to those whose families include more than three humans.) I think I am halfway through the second bag; I used a good half of the first bag to make mirepoix, which I froze for future soup-making.

It is just past breakfast time, now, and I am already thinking about a tidy plate of crunchy carrots and my last stalk of celery. Stranger than this, I find myself craving these veggies but then… not eating them. A self-rationing, I guess. Are these the last carrots I will be able to get? I clicked IMMEDIATELY and FORCEFULLY away from the one article I saw that said the food supply chain was not as sturdy as we all think it is, so I don’t know if it was a breathless panic piece or something more reasonable. But I am always worrying that something will be the last. My daughter is eating a rotation of PB&J sandwiches and Lunchables each day, and when I noticed we only have two of the latter left, I dutifully put it on the grocery list. But… when will I be able to get groceries? And, when I can, will there be any Lunchables?

Best not to think about the worst case scenario, and just move forward as planned. Add things to the list, assuming I can get them – if not immediately, then at some point.

Lettuce is also, for similar reasons, on my cravings list. Oh how I long to cut a quarter of a nice, crunchy, nutritionally vapid globe of iceberg lettuce and, yes, drench it in ranch, and eat it without a care! But I do care. And I am saving our iceberg lettuce for tacos.

What are you craving the most, during this strange period of isolation?

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It is hard to believe that the year – nay, the decade – is ending tonight. The date has been set since time began, but – like Christmas – it feels like it’s just sort of caught me by surprise. Such is the mystery and irritation of the passage of time.

Along with the closing of the year comes my annual recap. I don’t know why this is something I continue to do, year after year. I don’t particularly enjoy it. I enjoy reading other people’s versions of this post, though, (if you do any sort of year-end post, please link to it in the comments!) so maybe that’s part of why I force myself to endure these same questions, every December. Reciprocity, right? Also, I am nothing if not an enthusiastic resolute cog in the unceasing wheel of tradition.

I am especially dreading the recap this year because it feels like I have so little positivity to contribute. And that’s not really true – I feel fairly optimistic about the future, looking into 2020. (I mean, as optimistic as a person can be, with all the doom and gloom we carry around on a daily basis.) Plus, when I look back on the year, there is MUCH to celebrate.

But… the fourth quarter of this year has been really hard. Two specific things have made outsize contributions to how difficult it has been, I think. First was the loss of my dear friend in September. Second is an unbloggable, ongoing thing of the sort that is lifelong but not life-threatening, common enough to feel like it should be no big deal but new enough to me that it feels like a very big deal indeed. I have been struggling and worrying and grieving a lot these past few months. It’s really hard not to allow that to color the whole year.

Anyway, I will try to inject some happiness and light into this survey, where I can – while still being true to both the year and to my current emotional state. Because this blog is as close as I have to a diary, and it might be useful for Future Me to look back on the truth, rather than a chipper, sanitized version of 2019.

This is all to say, I don’t know if you ever read these, but if you do, this year’s might not be particularly fun. Feel free to skip it.

(This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & SundryIf you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 2018201720162015201420132012201120102009.)

  • What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?

My husband and I left our baby (read: self-sufficient nearly-six-year-old) for eleven whole days to traipse off to Europe, that was something we’d never done. (We left her with my capable and loving parents, by the way, not, like, on her own.)

I attended the funeral of a dear friend, which was awful and something I’d never like to repeat.

I made a leopard spotted cake.

I (silently) celebrated the ten-year anniversary of this blog. Outside of marriage, I don’t think I can say I’ve ever put so much of myself into something for so long.

I made a big, fancy Pinterest-style cheeseboard.

  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Let’s revisit some of my goals from last year’s survey:

As for 2019, I have decided to make some very specific goals, which I hope means they are easier to accomplish.

  1. I want to learn German. Maybe notfluent German, which seems like quite a stretch. Especially for someone who took four years of high school French and another year in college and never actually learned more than basic vocabulary. But I want to learn enough that I don’t feel like a complete floundering oaf when I visit Munich and Vienna later this year.
  2. I want to finally, after seven plus years in this house, hang up the gallery wall that I’ve been planning to do. All of the photos and artwork exist, in frames, in my basement. The lovely blank wall is just sitting there, ready for decoration. I just need to DO IT.
  3. Last year, I lost 10+% of my body weight. And then gained it all back. I would like to do the former again without the latter.
  4. I want to cut back on the amount of time I spend on my phone. My Reach Goal is to put my phone in my bedroom when I arrive home with Carla after school and not touch it until I set my alarm before bed. But I’d be happy to just keep it out of my hands until she goes to bed.
  5. I want to invite friends over for dinner. I ENJOY this. But I always think about it and then never invite anyone over and they magically never invite themselves, so I am going to remedy that.

That seems like a good place to start. The bigger goals are in play, too – let’s not forget about patience and quality time and THE NOVEL. But throwing in a few specifics shouldn’t hurt.

Well, I have had very limited success with all of these. The big one, first: I believe – very tentatively – that I have completed the first draft of my manuscript. It’s just a DRAFT, so there is still much, MUCH, MUCH work to be done. But I feel like it’s all there, ready to be shaped into Draft Two.

I think I have made some big strides toward being more patient. I certainly am less YELLY than I have been. (Not to be confused with being less ALL-CAPSY which is more of a personality trait and probably not going anywhere.) But of course I can continue to improve.

I did NOT learn German. I learned a few words and phrases and that was it. It turns out that not only do I have no facility with languages, I also just plain do not like learning them.

I have not yet hung up a gallery wall. The closest I came was to gather a selection of paintings and arrange them against the wall on which I want to hang them. However, my plan is to FORCE this to happen this weekend, once all the Christmas has been expelled from our house.

I did not lose 10% of my body weight. I did not lose anything, except the same six pounds over and over and over and over.

I did NOT cut back on my phone time. It is disgraceful. I am really and truly addicted and I need an intervention.

I did invite friends over for dinner. We had the epic dinner party and there were two or three other occasions when we had people over and it was stressful and fun. (And don’t you love how BREEZY I have become, that I didn’t even make full-blown posts out of those other dinners? And I know for a FACT that there was a fourth occasion during which we had people over that I didn’t even mention – but if I am remembering correctly, we just had tacos so it was totally a non-issue.)

Will I make more goals for the coming year? Sure. I am not ready yet. Part of me wants to Make Serious Goals and Track Them… part of me worries that that is a recipe for failure since I am not and have never been a Serious Goal Making and Tracking Person, and that I should probably just… have some gentle aspirations, as I did last year.

  • Where did you travel this year? (This is my own recasting of a question I could never answer which was How many countries did you visit this year? Of course, this is the year that I visited THREE countries. But that is unlikely to repeat, so I will keep the revamped question as it is.)

This year, I visited Austria; Germany; Ontario, Canada; Florida; Kentucky; New York; and my home state out west. Is that really it? I feel like I am missing something, but I don’t know why or what.

  • What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?

A clear, measurable plan for the unbloggable stuff. A strong second draft of the manuscript. More time alone with my husband. More fun adventures with Carla.

  • What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

As I said last year, the specific dates don’t necessarily stick… but I do remember specific THINGS. This year: My wonderful anniversary trip with my husband. The day my friend died. And the two days I spent in New York for her wake and funeral service.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Finally finishing a first draft of my manuscript? Honestly, it feels less momentous than I thought it would, because it happened sort of without me noticing? (I don’t write in a linear way, so it wasn’t like I wrote the final chapter and said, “There, finished!”) Plus, there’s still so much work to be done.

  • What was your biggest failure?

What I have said the past two years applies here:

Not getting enough words on the page each day! I can trot out a 7,000-word blog post of a morning, but I seem to spend hours and hours coming up with a measly 200 for my manuscript! What gives? 

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nothing serious.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

Technically, my husband bought it, but I love the eternity band he got me for our anniversary.

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?
  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
  • Where did most of your money go?

 

  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Our big anniversary trip to Europe!

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2019?

The soundtracks to all three Descendants movies, which have been playing around here nonstop.

The soundtrack to Frozen 2.

The entire Jonas Brothers oeuvre, as The Brothers and as solo artists, particularly the Happiness Begins album.

I Could Use a Love Song” and “Sugar” by Maren Morris

Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus

Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish (which I hated, briefly loved, and then hated again)

Everything by Post Malone, whose songs played constantly on the radio this year.

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
  1. a) happier or sadder? 
  2. b) thinner or fatter? 
  3. c) richer or poorer? 
  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

My answer is identical to last year: Writing (evergreen item)!!! Keeping up with out-of-state friends. Doing fun things with Carla outside the house. Going on dates with my husband.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Feeling sad. Eating my feelings. Worrying. Driving to various appointments and activities. Trying to fix my leaky toilet.

  • How did you spend Christmas?

My parents came to town this year. My husband did not have to work. We had a wonderful warm, partly sunny Christmas together and it was lovely. We ate a LOT of cheese and drank a LOT of wine and had a really nice time together.

  • Did you fall in love in 2019?

 

  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

TV is so great! I really love it. My husband and I discovered Schitt’s Creek after a billion years of people recommending it to us, and it’s so, so excellent. We re-watched the entire American series of The Office, which was so much fun. We fell in love with The Masked Singer, which is a pretty great (and fairly family-friendly) show to watch when you can’t agree on a movie for Movie Night. And my husband and I also LOVED Songland, which I hope will restart again soon. We watched the first season of Fleabag, although I think I enjoyed it more than my husband does. The second season of Mindhunter was pretty great. I really like the new Cobie Smulders private investigator drama, Stumptown. Is that it? That might be it.

  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

 

  • What was the best book you read?

I really did a terrible job of reading this year. You can go ahead and blame my phone addiction on the low number of books I finished in 2019 – because it was just so much simpler to reach for my phone and read Ask a Manager posts than engage my mind in real literature. But I did read 23 books this year, which means that I can at least answer this question.

My favorite novel of the year was easily The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. SO GOOD. Another favorite was Inland by Téa Obreht,  which was one of the most well-researched and beautifully plotted books I have ever read. As far as top of my favorite genre – mysteries – goes, I loved The Lost Man by Jane Harper and The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah and Big Sky by Kate Atkinson. I was delighted and honored to beta read my friend Kristina’s first novel, Weight of Memory, as well.

 

  • What did you want and get?

Freelance assignments from great clients. A fantastic trip to Europe with my husband, and a really fun weekend jaunt to Toronto with my husband and kid. An eternity ring. The Megan Follows boxset of Anne of Green Gables which is EVEN BETTER than I remember it. A bottle of Tiffany Sheer. An answer to a perplexing issue that’s been cropping up for years (sorry – I know this is vague); it’s not the answer I WANTED, but I wanted An Answer more than anything, so now I have it.

 

  • What did you want and not get?

A flapper that will fix the leak in my toilet. Seriously, I have gone through three of them and I need to find another option. My dad thinks I should go to the hardware store, buy one of each, and just try them, one after another, until one works. As dreadful — in so very many ways — that sounds, I think that may be my best course of action. Either that or buy a new toilet, I guess?

On a more serious note, I wanted to see my friend again. She went into the hospital in July and we talked about my coming to visit her at some point. Obviously, when we were planning the visit, we both assumed she would be healthy (or on the way to being healthy) when I did. But I didn’t get to see her and then she died and my heart is broken.

 

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Frozen 2 was pretty great. So was Chasing Happiness, which was a documentary about the Jonas Brothers and really made me fall in love with all three of them. I honestly have no idea if I saw any other movies.

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

 

  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

If I had been able to see my friend before she died, I think I would feel… better, in some ways. Of course, maybe not. I would still be so very sad that she is gone.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

I’d call my 2019 Lewk “Trying to Appear Carefree and Nonchalant About Being Unshowered Whilst Simultaneously Envying the Moms Who Actually Put On Makeup and Curled Their Hair and Did So Despite Appearing to Have Double Or Triple the Number of Children I Do.”

Does it really require such an effort to just… put on some cute booties and a non-sweatshirt top and maybe brush my hair? A burning question for the new decade.

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. My terrible, ubiquitous, addictive phone. Recipe blogs. Freelance work. Alone time. Good TV. Writing here.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Dan Levy from Schitt’s Creek. Also Paul Rudd.

  • What political issue stirred you the most?

 

  • Who did you miss?

My friend who died. We were roommates for three years in college. We stayed in regular touch via phone and email and occasional visits for probably ten years after that. But then work and family and distance put bigger gaps between our conversations. We’d have marathon-length phone calls that we would schedule in advance, and we’d try to catch up on every last detail of each other’s life before we got exhausted from talking. I got to see her in 2018 at our college reunion, which was really great. She got to meet Carla, which is a memory I will cherish. Late in 2018, she began having some severe health problems, and they continued to increase in severity throughout 2019. Our conversations were more anxious than I remembered – she was worried about changes with her work, her health, and what lay in front of her. I think we talked more frequently than we had in years, which is a blessing – although, still, months would go by with just texts between us. (She was a busy, vibrant woman who was always traveling somewhere or going out to a new restaurant or attending a concert or giving a presentation or meeting someone for a date – she lived a jam-packed, interesting life but man was it hard to fit a phone call in among all her events and activities!) We knew each other for twenty years and I had planned on being friends with her for many, many more. I’m really sorry she’s gone.

  • Who was the best new person you met?

The new mom friend I met last year didn’t pan out as a longterm friend. But I met another mom earlier this spring, and we’ve gotten together a few times which has been really nice.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.

I don’t know. That things could always be worse? Ugh. That’s a terrible life lesson, true as it may be. That sometimes things seem pretty grim and you just have to keep going? I am still processing the past few months and I don’t think I’ve fully wrapped my head around what’s been going on… or how to apply what I’ve learned (what I’m learning?) to the future. So that grit-your-teeth kind of thing is all I have right now.

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“This grief has a gravity, it pulls me down / But a tiny voice whispers in my mind / You are lost, hope is gone / But you must go on / And do the next right thing.” – The Next Right Thing

 

Well. That wasn’t the most uplifting note to end on, although I do find that lyric to be a very good Coping Thought.

One of the very best things of the year — one that defies the questions on this list — has been Carla. She is officially six-and-a-half and so… creative and interesting and funny and curious and loving and energetic and fun. I just love her so much. I feel like it’s really an unfair thing, to be a student of your child’s — but the truth is, she is teaching me so much about how to be a better parent, how to be a better person. I owe her my strides in patience and my attempts to be more outgoing. She is such a wonderful human being and she becomes more herself every day. Right now, at this very moment, she is on the kitchen floor, wearing the tiger onesie we got her as a Halloween costume. She has her new artist’s studio spread out around her on the floor and she is making a (second? additional?) tiger costume out of paper and colored pencils and copious amounts of Scotch tape.  The Descendants 3 soundtrack is playing on our Echo. Just a few minutes ago, she showed me these tiger paws she created, complete with claws and paper armbands so she can wear them on her own hands. She is endlessly inventive and imaginative and I am so lucky to be her mom.

Tiger craft

A new decade lies before us, Internet. Fresh and unwrinkled, with no mistakes in it yet. I hope it brings all of us health and happiness and grace. Happy 2020, thank you for reading.

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I mentioned the other day that we recently had a pretty severe storm that left us without power for four days. So today what I want to talk about is disaster preparation. Funsies!

FIRST OF ALL, I would like to say that we were so incredibly lucky. In the days after the storm, I walked around marveling at how it could have been SO MUCH worse and feeling super grateful. We had some very minor damage to our gutters and some broken tree limbs to clean up. That’s it. Like I said: we were very, very lucky. And overall, I think our city is okay. The storm ended quickly. I don’t think there were any deaths as a result of the storm. Some of our neighbors had tree damage to their homes and cars, which is awful, and I can only hope they have good support networks and good insurance. Our neighborhood lost a LOT of trees – even now, a week later, there are branches and split-up tree trunks on the sides of the roads, waiting to be turned into sawdust.

We haven’t had any extreme weather in the days since – it’s been mainly hot and sunny, but not TOO hot. There were still a few pockets of homes without power even after we got ours back, but electricity had been restored to pretty much everyone by the fifth day. Electricity servicepeople and tree servicepeople flooded the streets for a good week – you couldn’t go thirty feet without seeing a truck, with its attendant experts climbing up in a bucket to inspect a power line or chainsawing a fallen tree. They were ON IT. It was inspiring to see, and I felt my heart swelling with gratitude that there are people who DO THIS.

I have been thinking a LOT about the people in the Bahamas and in Sioux Falls and all over the world, who have been hit much harder with natural disasters and have suffered much, much more. And I have been thinking about next time, when we might not be so lucky.

This was such an easy outage – for my particular family, who admittedly has resources not everyone has – that it turned out to be a good test for our disaster preparedness. And it’s shown several spots where we could improve.

Things That Would Come in Handy During a Power Outage

I already have a good store of water – well, maybe not GREAT, but we’re talking about handling a short-term outage, not the apocalypse; in that case we are EFFED – and a hand-crank radio and a multi-tool. If I were thinking, truly, about the apocalypse, I would want a seed vaultand some gas masksand maybe an emergency kit. But if we’re talking merelyabout surviving a severe storm, here’s what I’d like to have on hand next time:

Tealights

photo from amazon.com

Unscented long-burning candles. We had plenty of candles to light the house, but a ton of them were scented and so I ended up with a headache. I found I much preferred the tea lights – especially the ones in their own little tin containers – to the tall pillar candles that I had to set on foil-wrapped plates. They gave off just as much light and they seemed less precarious, because of course I was afraid one of us was going to set the house on fire. And, of course, you need lots of matches.

 

Flameless

photo from amazon.com

Flameless candles. We had some flameless candles, too, which were very useful. Of course you don’t want to fall asleep in a room full of real candles, or you don’t if you are me, so I set up flameless candles in Carla’s room while she was sleeping, and put one in each of the bathrooms to act as little nightlights. I only used them for this, though, because they have batteries and so don’t have unlimited life. Probably I would also buy some extra batteries.

 

Flashlight

photo from amazon.com

More flashlights. We have a grand total of two flashlights. They were fine – and we had our phone flashlights, too, until the batteries died. But it would be great to have MORE. Plus backup batteries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lanterns

photo from amazon.com

 

Lanterns. Boy, I am really fixated on lighting, aren’t I? Well, those long hours once twilight falls can be pretty hard to fill when you are in the dark. A friend has these particular lanterns and loves them. I like that they are collapsible as well – I don’t know about you, but I have ONE SHELF in my basement that is devoted to survivalist stuff.

 

 

Fire starter

photo from amazon.com

Fire Starter. I think this would be really useful if it were winter and/or if we needed to find some way to cook food and didn’t have access to propane. Then again, maybe I have watched too many episodes of Naked and Afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

Fan

photo from amazon

 

Battery operated fan. As I said, we got lucky with the weather. It wasn’t too hot during the day, and at night it cooled down enough that we were fine with all the windows open. But if we were stuck without electricity in a super hot stretch of summer, I would definitely want a fan. And more batteries.

 

 

 

 

Phone charger

photo from amazon.com

Solar charger for my phone. Man, I certainly am addicted to my phone, aren’t I? But it would have been really nice to have a way to charge it that didn’t involve sitting in my car or driving to Starbucks.

 

 

 

 

 

Tea kettle

photo from amazon.com

Stovetop tea kettle. I drink tea every morning. Going without it for four days was not my favorite thing. I don’t particularly like stovetop kettles (my electric kettle is FAR SUPERIOR… but electric), but it would be nice to have one for dire times. This one looks easy to clean (and easy to tell if it IS clean). (By the way – our stove is gas, so we could simply use a match to light the burners. I suppose it might be nice to have a Coleman stove on hand in case you don’t have access to a gas stove, but… that’s beyond my research skills.)

 

 

Body wipes

photo from amazon.com

Body wipes. We have a gas water heater, so we had hot water during the power outage. But if water wasn’t usable, and/or if we had an electric water heater, these body wipes would have helped tremendously.

 

 

 

 

 

Dry shampoo

photo from amazon.com

Dry shampoo. Same thing for water-free hair cleansing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooler

photo from amazon.com

A cooler. We don’t own a cooler, mainly because we have no regular use for one and partly because we don’t have a lot of extra room. I like this collapsible one – it would have been nice to fill it with ice and be able to eat more normally, rather than going to restaurants the whole time the power was out. Obviously, this assumes you have access to ice. But it might come in handy. 

 

 

Things I Already Have

Radio

photo from amazon.com

Hand-Powered Radio. If we hadn’t been able to charge our phones – if we didn’t have car chargers and/or there was no power in the whole city – we could have used this to charge our phones. Plus, it can get weather information which would be nice if we’d been inside a big string of storms.

 

 

 

 

Lifestraw

photo from amazon.com

LifestrawOur water was fine, but I am glad to have these (one for each person in my household) on hand, in case getting clean water became an issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multitool

photo from amazon.com

Multi-toolI didn’t have any sort of use for this in this emergency, but I am grateful to have it just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paperwhite.JPGKindle PaperwhiteOne unexpected thing I was super grateful for was my ereader. I love nothing more than a good, solid book in my hands. But ebooks are inarguably useful in many contexts. When you have no electricity is definitely one of those contexts. My Kindle Paperwhite has a nice, long battery life and you can see the screen in the dark. Perfect for long evenings with no TV and no internet and a phone whose battery you want to spare.

And I was lucky to have a big cache of books to choose from – I started City of Mirrors, which is the third in The Passage series by Justin Cronin. But lying there at seven pm with nothing to do but read (my husband was on call), I was super glad to have it.

Do you need a good ebook recommendation? (Shameless plug alert!!!)Here is where I heartily urge that you buy a copy of my friend Kristina’s excellent first novel, Weight of Memory. She categorizes it as a horror novel, and there are certainly many deeply chilling things that happen in it… but I canNOT deal with being too scared, and I could not put this book down. It’s one of those books you think about a ton after the fact, because it was both pulse-pounding (I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next) and thought-provoking (the premise, which is part occult and part evil charm, really got my brain churning; plus, the heartstring-plucking part of it, about the lengths we’d go to recapture time with a dead loved one, made me think a lot about the finality of the boundary between life and death). The main character is super strong and determined and I really, really like her – in large part because she feels so real. And the plot is one I have never encountered before and found really creepy/unsettling, but in a fun way. Anyway, the ebook is $10 and I think you should get a copy. (I ordered the paperback version for $20, because I really want her book on my bookshelf. But paperbacks don’t really tie into the theme of this blog post.)

Can opener

photo from amazon.com

Can opener. Just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CorkscrewBottle opener. Works on wine bottles and beer bottles alike. Just saying. Why this photo says “3 pack” yet shows four bottle openers is beyond me. But when it comes to wine-opening apparati, the more the merrier is my motto.

 

 

 

What do you keep on hand in case of a natural disaster? What am I missing from this list?

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I am skipping today’s Dinners This Week post. I mean, there’s no need to plan dinners when you’ll be eating dinner on an airplane, right? Let’s have some randomosity. Join me, won’t you?

First, let’s have some medicinal nachos:

Nachos 1

Chips. Top with cheese. Melt for 30 seconds in the microwave. Top with black beans and frozen corn. Microwave for another 20 seconds. Top with copious amounts of my favorite hot sauce. Add avocado, diced onion, and sour cream. Cilantro if you have it/don’t hate it. Tomatoes if you swing that way. Squeeze a wedge of lime over everything. Add copious amounts of sriracha for good measure. DEVOUR.

  • A lot of my fretting about Leaving My Bayyyyyybeeeeee has been channeled into Shoe Panic. As in, how am I going to walk around Europe for ten days without reducing my delicate feet to bloody shreds? So I have purchased and returned approximately 90,000 pairs of shoes in the past week. Nothing like leaving an important aspect of your planning to the very last minute!

 

  • These are the shoes I have ended up with: Skechers Go Walk Evolution Ultra sneakers (why do all athletic shoes have such ridiculous names?) and Vionic Minna ballet flats (in color “sand”) because I wanted to have walk-friendly shoes that were dressy enough for a nice-ish dinner.

 

  • Building on some of your great ideas for making the trip easier on Carla, I have bought her some books and other little fun surprises to open while we’re gone. There is a real dearth of fun, story-based children’s books about the very specific locations we are traveling to, which is DISAPPOINTING, but I did find this book about one of the cities on our itinerary:

Munich

  • You know that one of my big panics is Death By Airplane, right? So I have been desperately trying to get our life insurance upgraded just in case. Of course, the process takes waaaaayyyyy longer than I thought it would, so we just squeaked our medical exams in at the last minute and there is no way the underwriting will be complete before we leave. (I use these terms like I have any idea whatsoever how any of this works, which I do NOT.) HOWEVER. Did you know that you can get provisional coverage, based on the assumption that you will get approved? So that’s what we’re doing. We can pay a premium as though we’ve been approved, and then, when we come back home, ALIVE, we can pay any additional amount as needed. And if we perish while overseas, we’re covered. (I mean, as long as we are approved and have paid the correct amount; I’m assuming my parents could pay any difference after the fact.) Cool, right!?! Okay, maybe my calibration of “cool” has shifted in odd ways.

 

  • In other morbid planning, I tried to record myself singing to Carla. There are two songs I have been singing to her at bedtime all her life – one I made up while pregnant with her and the other is “Moon River” – and I have this desperate feeling that I MUST record myself singing them so she can listen to the songs (but will she?) to comfort her (but will they?) after my fiery death. But I can’t record myself! It’s so ridiculous! In every recording, I keep SWALLOWING in the middle of sentences. Like, “Mooooooon river, wider than a mile, I’m crossing [gulp] you in style someday…. [gulp] Dream maker, you heart [gulp] breaker….” It’s really distracting and annoying and I cannot NOT do it. I mean, have you ever tried to NOT SWALLOW when your body is telling you to swallow? And then try to SING while not swallowing? It’s absurd and obviously some sort of weird self-conscious reaction to recording myself. Do not suggest that I ask my husband to record me actually singing to Carla, because then I would die of embarrassment and also we are out of time. I am going to choose the least gulpy of the options and THAT’S JUST HOW CARLA WILL HAVE TO REMEMBER ME.

 

  • Abrupt subject change: Our Amazon Echo (Alexa) has begun telling me to enjoy my day. “Have a nice day,” she’ll say after I ask for the weather in the morning. “Have a good afternoon,” she’ll say sometimes after I’ve asked for the news briefing. It’s creepy but nice? And she only says it to me. She has never once used any sort of pleasantry with my husband. Also creepy? But it makes me feel vindicated in using “please” and “thank you” when making requests of her. My husband may not be on the good side of the AI after the uprising, but hopefully Alexa will put in a good word for me.

 

  • While I’m worrying about wholly unimportant things (recap: dying on my totally voluntary trip overseas; the state of my footwear for said trip; singing lullabies without swallowing; the inevitable AI uprising; will I have enough nachos to last until we leave for Europe?), let’s add in some panic about Carla’s birthday party. I think we have the venue down. And Carla has shifted from Tiger Theme to Seahorse Theme to Mommy, You Choose A Theme From These Five Cat-Related Categories Plus Foxes. So I am leaning toward Rainbow Leopard Theme, mainly because I have found the perfect party favor:

Rainbow Leopard

  • And the perfect cake to torture myself with making. (My husband heaved a great world-weary sigh when I told him about it and asked if I might consider just BUYING a cake.) (No.) (Does he know me?)

 

  • But I can’t find any great theme-appropriate invitations; some decent ones, but nothing I LOVE. And, WORSE, because I will panic about LITERALLY ANYTHING meaningless in the grand scheme of things, I cannot find any theme-appropriate paper plates and napkins. I can order them via Zazzle for around $60 for 40 to 50 plates-or-napkins, but can we all agree that spending $60 on 40 paper plates for a single party is excessive? I’m not saying it can’t be DONE; I wouldn’t judge anyone for spending $60 on 40 plates if that’s how they chose to spend their hard-earned money. But I think $1.70 cheetah-print paper plate — PAPER, not even hard plastic — is excessive and I really want to avoid it if at all possible.

 

  • So maybe foxes? I haven’t looked it up, but foxes could be a good alternative, right? It’s just that they are so Off Brand for my particular child, who wears leopard print probably three days a week (today she is wearing a faux fur cheetah print vest over a green dress and black leggings with faux leather patches; she has a very particular sense of style, this kid) and has leopard print boots and pretends to be a rotating cast of leopards/cheetahs/panthers on a daily basis. I am already exhausted by planning this party and I haven’t really even begun.

 

  • Please keep in mind that I KNOW that none of this is important, it’s a birthday party, not the Oscars or some other party that actually matters/has wide visibility, and really ALL parties pale in comparison to, like, climate change and gun control and matters of REAL IMPORT. I am not overlooking the absolute absurdity of wasting brainpower on this frivolity.

 

  • Frivolity continues: And what are we going to get Carla for her actual gift? She is fresh out of ideas, unless you count “more Barbies!” as an idea which I do not. The only things I can come up with are a) a new bike (although she has a perfectly good hand-me-down bike that will probably last her at least another year, in terms of being the right height, not to mention she staunchly refuses to let us remove the training wheels) and b) a doll, because she seems to finally be more interested in dolls than in stuffed animals. She has repeatedly asked for a basket for her bike, so she can collect things (acorns, pinecones, rocks) when she goes for bike rides… but I don’t think “needs a basket” is enough of a reason to buy a whole new bike… I don’t know. I am on the fence. What is the six-year-old set into these days?

 

  • I LOVED dolls as a child, and my mom got me a couple of Corelle (?) dolls that I cherished and played with for many years. (Oh wait, it turns out they are COROLLE dolls – Corelle is a type of dishware, it seems. My bad.) Is Corolle still a good way to go, doll-wise? American Girl dolls seem to be popular around here… although they are SO expensive I don’t think I am ready to travel down that road. I also used to love Cabbage Patch Dolls, are those still A Thing? (Ugh, I am cringing thinking about how the “preemie” Cabbage Patch Dolls were so coveted when I was a little girl. I guess March of Dimes used them to raise awareness about premature birth, but that went right over my head at the time. I can imagine it being a hurtful thing for lots of parents.) What is the current Doll Trend, is what I want to know? I thought, being a parent, this knowledge would sort of magically manifest in my brain but I WAS WRONG.

 

  • Speaking of brains: does your brain do that thing where, when overtired, it fixates on one word or phrase or song lyric to the exclusion of all other thoughts? Mine has been choosing “It’s raining tacos,” itself an agonizingly repetitive song, to replay ad nauseum in my head, at 2:30 am and beyond. Fun.  (No.)

 

  • My Inevitable Death Panic (which is both panic about my inevitable death and an inevitable panic about death) is manifesting in lots of cleaning, which is good, I suppose. But I have failed to take any Before photos, which makes it poor blog fodder. I just want you to know that I have done a LOT of work and gotten rid of a LOT of crap. I am kind of hoping my mom will open some drawers and marvel at how spare and tidy they are. “Maybe she died in a plane crash taking a totally unnecessary trip abroad, but, man, are her drawers neat and clean!” they’ll say at my funeral.

 

  • Let’s have one more photograph of medicinal nachos. These were yesterday’s, so I need to see if I have enough ingredients for another heaping dose before I make my way to The Land of Sausages and Schnitzel. DOCTOR’S ORDERS.

Nachos 2

Okay. Enough. What’s up with you, Internet? Lord knows we have enough Big Serious Issues at hand to ensure we never sleep again. But what utterly frivolous things are keeping you up at night?

By the way, my husband and I decided to limit ourselves to one phone while overseas, and it is his phone, so blog posting/reading is likely to be light/nonexistent while we’re gone. I promise photos of castles if when we return.

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If you thought that we could return to fret-free normalcy now that the dinner party is over, you were WRONG.

Let’s move right along to the next fretworthy topic, shall we?

My husband and I are going on a trip. Just the two of us. We are not calling it a second honeymoon, although I suppose that’s what it is; it’s our tenth anniversary gift to one another.

We are going to Europe and we are both VERY EXCITED about it.

But.

We are leaving Carla behind.

She will remain in our house in the loving and capable hands of my parents. She will be continuing with her regular routine of school and extracurricular activities. But I am FREAKING OUT about leaving her.

Firstly, the longest I’ve ever been away from her is a week.

Secondly, the longest my husband and I have together been away from her is two days.

Thirdly, I am really worried my husband and I are going to die in a plane crash and leave her an orphan.

Fourthly, I am FREAKING OUT.

So I am hoping you have some advice for me as we prepare to leave our beloved baby behind.

We have mentioned the trip several times, with increasing frequency as we get closer to the trip. So Carla knows it’s coming. I don’t know if this is a good strategy or not; my concern is that we’re making her think/fret about it too much in advance. But I also don’t want to spring it on her. That would be awful and cruel (at least, for my particular kid), to wake up one day and say, “Bye! See you in ten days!”

I have been making a ridiculous number of lists for my parents, so they know everything from the foods she will and might eat to how to walk her into school each morning to what she needs to bring to ballet class.

I have talked things over with her teachers, who seem very unconcerned with the whole thing. (Bless Carla’s teacher: when I told her recently that I thought our being gone would be rough, she immediately said that I can email her or call her ANY TIME. When really I meant that things would be rough on Carla, not on me. She knows me to my CORE, apparently.)

What else can I do?

When my mom went to Russia for a week or two when I was… five? ten? she recorded herself reading Nancy Drew books, so I could play them on cassette tapes at bedtime. What a kind and loving thing for her to do! Maybe I need to do something similar?

When I was in California for a writing conference, and the time difference made phone calls difficult, I made little videos for Carla each morning that my mother-in-law could play for her after school. I think Carla liked those, but it seemed like they may also have made her upset and teary at bedtime? But maybe she would have been upset and teary anyway? I don’t know. I am wondering whether my husband and I should try to Facetime her every day, or if it would make her miss us more?

How else can I make Carla more comfortable about our leaving? How else can I make ME more comfortable about our leaving?

And how are we supposed to say goodbye to her, when she then has to go to school while we prance off to the airport? Do we drop her off and say goodbye in her classroom? That seems awful, but also her teachers would be Right There to distract her. Do we say goodbye at home and let my parents drop her off? DO WE CANCEL THE WHOLE TRIP?

Have you and your spouse ever left your child for a longish time? What were some things you did to prepare yourself/your child? Were there any things you wish you had/hadn’t done?

It’s going to be okay, right? RIGHT?

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The day is not off to a good start.

Part of it is actual, part of it is mental, part of it is diet-al.

Part the first: I have managed to make my child simultaneously hate school and believe that her teachers are going to be mad at her if she isn’t perfect. We had parent teacher conferences last week, and her teachers mentioned a couple of things Carla needed to work on. And I mentioned those things to her, and we talked about some strategies, and she got really cranky and irritable with me and then we moved on. We had a lovely weekend. This morning, she waltzed into my room in one of her signature amazing ensembles (purple pants, pink shirt, faux leopard fur vest, sparkly headband) in a happy mood and snuggled with me until my alarm went off. I reminded her this morning about what we had discussed, and it was like flipping a switch. All of a sudden she was hot and would I take her temperature. No fever. She was really tired and naptime at school is way too far away so she wants to stay home. She doesn’t want to go to school. She’s NOT going to school. I tried to figure out what the deal was – she LOVES school; over the weekend, we drove past her school and the parking lot was full and she said “No fair! Those kids get to be there on the weekend!” – and eventually got out of her that she thinks she won’t be able to do what we discussed and her teachers will be mad at her. So. No school. She’s done.

Well shit.

I tried everything in my Mommy Toolkit to persuade her: Assurance: We don’t expect you to be perfect, we expect you to try your best. Your teachers love you. Here are all the wonderful things they told me about you at the conference. Here are all the things for which your father and I are so proud of you. Bribery: If you go to school today, you get to do X! I will let you bring your horse in the car on the way to school! If you still feel bad at school, you can go to the nurse and she will call me to come get you! Logic: School is your job, you have to go. If Daddy didn’t want to go to work, what would happen? It’s a law that kids your age have to go to school. Mild threats: If you don’t go, here are all the fun things you will miss. If you stay home, you will be bored; no TV, I have work to do so I can’t play with you. And – bringing out the big guns – I will make you go on ERRANDS with me. She was undeterred.

Finally, after assuring her for the ten thousandth time that neither her teachers nor I would be mad at her, that none of us expects her to be PERFECT, that we just want her to TRY… After singing her the Daniel Tiger song about “your best is the best for you”… After coming up with some specific strategies to try with her teachers… FINALLY, I got her out the door. We were thirty-five minutes late.

And then, when I was telling her teacher about the strategies we had discussed and explaining what had happened, I of course burst into tears. Because nothing makes a Bad Parenting Morning worse than leaking it all over your child’s poor teacher. The only saving grace was that we were so late, there weren’t many other parents lingering in the halls to see me blubbering.

Man, I really screwed things up. And I don’t know exactly HOW, or exactly how to fix it, or how to do it differently. And she still needs to work on the things she needs to work on, although obviously they are not DIRE. (Though I managed to get poor Carla to feel that they ARE dire.) And my heart just feels so RAW for her, because she is working so hard at growing up – so, so hard – and she wants to please us and her teachers so badly, and she is so much more sensitive than sometimes even I realize. And of all people in the world, I should be the one who KNOWS what she needs and understands how to get through to her without screwing her up and I DON’T.

So that’s the actual.

The mental is the crushing certainty that I am the absolute worst choice of person to be a parent. And that nonetheless I have to do it anyway. And at stake are my child’s PERMANENT HAPPINESS AND WELL BEING.

There is also the outward spiraling, wherein I begin to feel that everything else in life is terrible too: our house is falling apart, I can’t keep up with the to-do list, I am failing as a writer. You know. One bit of the scaffolding gets knocked in and the whole structure comes tumbling down.

Then there’s the diet-al, which is stupid and I should just QUIT because it’s making me miserable. I have a constant headache. I feel nauseated and my brain seems to be going at half speed. I am not particularly hungry or missing foods all that much, but I do have a rather abnormally intense fixation on Diet Coke.

You can see how this all adds up to a bad morning so far.

Two things I am using to try to pull myself out of this negativity quicksand:

  1. The diet is over as of Thursday morning. I will be celebrating with a big bowl of pasta and a thick slice of cake.
  2. I have a pedicure scheduled with a friend for Friday, which should be relaxing and my friend and I will get to chat and catch up.

And between me, my husband, and Carla’s teachers, we should be able to figure out how to redirect her perfectionism… somehow? Right?

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Poor Carla is just off  lately. Saturday she ate practically nothing – some bacon and a tomato from her BLT at lunch, a handful of fries; a peanut butter sandwich at our friends’ house that night – and then she ate a great lunch yesterday but literally NOTHING for dinner. Not a single bite. She requested instead to go to bed. But then she woke up at 11:30 and could NOT fall back to sleep. She was up until well past two. Two a.m. in the morning. And if by “she was up” you are assuming that maybe I was sleeping, no. I was reading Harriet the Spy and playing YouTube “spa music” and fetching water and taking her temperature and reading old favorite picture books and giving her Tylenol because her “neck” hurt when she swallowed and making a “nest” in my room beside my bed and lying quietly in the dark and hissing at Carla in my most soothing way to just be STILL and close your EYES.

No surprise that she was dragging this morning. She didn’t eat as much for breakfast as I thought (hoped) she would – most of her smoothie, one French toast stick – and was just kind of slow. Which could be tired slow. Or not-feeling-great slow. Or just plain old Kindergarten Slow. Who knows.

Why is so much of parenting so unknowable? That’s what I’m bemoaning this morning. I mean, I get it. There’s no handbook. No two kids are alike. Yada yada blah. But I have had this particular kid for nearly six whole years so you’d think I’d at least have the hang of dealing with her by now. But you’d have thought incorrectly, I’m sorry to say. (Mainly sorry for me, not so much for you and your misplaced faith in my supposed parenting “ability.”)

There are so many QUESTIONS. And I have answers to SO FEW of them! Sure, some things, like “should she be holding that sharp knife?” and “should I give her a hug?” have simple answers. But so many do NOT.

Some of the questions for which I do not have answers just TODAY:

  • Is “not eating dinner” a totally acceptable thing once in a while, or does it indicate something is WRONG?
  • Does a repeated claim that a child has a headache indicate an actual headache… or is it a bid for attention… or is it a parroting of my own not-infrequent headaches and therefore a cautionary tale against complaining too much about my own minor aches and pains… or is it a way to divert attention away from the not-eating?
  • And if there IS a headache, is it a normal Everyone-Gets-Headaches-Sometimes headache or does it indicate something is WRONG? And how do you know the difference?
  • How in the world do I stopper the effervescent frustration of Slow Child Not Moving Quickly Enough When We Need to Get to School on Time FOR THE LOVE before I burst forth with a Mean Mom snarl of PUT YOUR COAT ON OMG?
  • If there is no fever, and no REAL reason to keep a child home – especially when everyone seems to think that a snow day or two is imminent this week, based on predicted temperatures – is it really okay to send her to school? Even though this guilty feeling keeps nagging me like a staticky sock stuck to a pant leg?

This is not to mention all of the day-to-day questions I have, including but not limited to:

  • How much screen time is REALLY acceptable? And if my kid squeezes it all into the weekends, does that make it better or worse?
  • How am I ever going to get her to tie her shoes? I don’t want to buy shoes with laces until she knows how to tie them; cod knows I’m not going to tie them for her. But how is she going to learn until I buy her shoes with laces? DILEMMA.
  • Should we be FaceTime-ing with relatives more often?
  • Is my kid’s behavior around other adults totally typical of her age, or something I need to be more on top of correcting? (Things like not answering when being spoken to, sticking out her tongue or otherwise being playful, ignoring them totally and wandering off…)
  • Am I preparing her well enough for Real Life? While still allowing her to enjoy the freedom and innocence of childhood?
  • Is she really going to lose ALL her teeth? And how am I going to handle the horror that is a piece of my child’s bone hanging by a slim bloody tether from her gums MORE TIMES?
  • Do I read to her enough?
  • Do I play with her enough?
  • Does she have enough time to play?
  • How many stuffed animals are too many stuffed animals?
  • Are my expectations too high? Not high enough?
  • Am I giving her enough intellectual stimulation? Social? Physical? Creative?
  • Am I teaching her good eating habits?
  • Am I a good enough role model?
  • Is she getting enough sleep?
  • Is she happy?
  • How many ways am I failing her?

I don’t know if you are aware, but this parenting thing is EXHAUSTING. It’s like taking a midterm exam every single DAY and knowing that you haven’t studied enough and you are pretty iffy on big chunks of the material. But you don’t get a grade now  – oh no, you have to take 4,560 more exams just between now and when your kid presumably heads off to college. And they’re really important but there’s no way to know if you’re just squeaking by with a C average or totally bombing. That’s the hardest part, right? I could be TOTALLY SCREWING HER UP and I won’t know until she’s an adult.

I am going to go treat this bout of parenting angst with some melted cheese and maybe consider a nap. How’s that for being a role model, hmm?

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I have been feeling a little melancholy the past few days. I think I’ve pinpointed some of the sources: It’s that odd time of year, between holidays, where I am sad and exhausted after my full-of-family house emptied out, and the pressure of All Things Christmas is already hot and heavy. I have been rewatching The Closer, which is one of my favorite television shows, but I had forgotten how dreadfully stressful and sad the final season is. I haven’t been writing (paid work and then company/Thanksgiving), which always makes me feel unsettled and off. I read a well-written and deeply sad article in The New Yorker about dementia that hasn’t left me. My husband and I are going to see a lawyer to (FINALLY) do our estate planning. And, of course, the clouds have settled in for what promises to be many months.

It all adds up to feeling extra sensitive to silly things – a probably offhand but seemingly poignant comment from the checker at the grocery store; the way Brenda’s team is so loyal to her on The Closer; having to throw away gobs of carefully, lovingly made Thanksgiving leftovers that no one will eat; that sort of thing – and feeling a little mopey and down.

One of the other sources of my broodiness is a current heightened awareness of the juggernaut of time.

The retail sector is at least partially to blame, I think. All the frenzied emails about Christmas began what feels like months ago and have only increased in intensity. I get anxious just checking my email – all those companies yelling at me to hurry! Going fast! Don’t wait to get in on this! Shop more, save more! Ends tonight! Extended! Don’t miss out! Such a ceaseless cacophony of urgency that I am somehow unable to ignore.

Hanukkah is early this year, which makes me feel like I’m already behind.

My parents were looking at retirement homes when they were here for Thanksgiving. While I am grateful to them for preparing for their old age, and for being so open and frank about the subjects of aging and infirmity and death, it makes me sad and panicky. I may be nearly middle-aged, but I still feel like I’m somewhere in the big swirl of age twenty-to-thirty, and I’m not ready to think seriously about my parents being old.

As I literally just mentioned, I am rapidly approaching middle age, with its attendant anxieties. My skin has frequent eruptions of pique. I vacillate between feeling delighted about my middle-age invisibility and feeling angry about the fact that my husband grows increasingly attractive while I do the opposite and feeling depressed that I am fading into the wallpaper and winding inexorably toward death.

Plus – and, although it may seem like the least important item on my list, it is not– my child has her first loose tooth. As with so many childhood milestones, this feels remarkable and significant. Her little face will change so much once she loses teeth. Teeth she’s had since she was a BABY. And I’m suddenly hyper-aware that she’s five-and-a-half, which is almost six. And while five felt So Big – kindergarten!!!! – six seems practically ancient. This loose tooth has me all in a tizzy of Childhood Is Fleeting and I am simultaneously frantic about making Christmas Special While She Still Gets So Excited About Everything and mooning over all the times I failed to Cherish Every Moment. And now her babyhood is really and truly GONE. She’s practically a GROWN UP.

Of course her growing up is tied inextricably to my own mortality. It all comes down to this: This feeling that I want to keep my baby little – even while I love, LOVE how she is growing. The knowledge that it’s impossible to do so. The desperate need to take in everything – soak up every little bit of her – all the time, and watching as the moment steamrolls past even as I grasp for it.

Last night, I went in to her room to take her to the bathroom before I went to sleep. Usually, she climbs out of bed – she’s really getting too big for me to carry – but this time, I picked her up. She turned her little face up to mine for a kiss, and then draped herself over my shoulder. I stood there for a moment, just holding her. The weight of her in my arms. The warmth of her body, the baking-bread scent of her skin, the gentle sound of her sucking her thumb. Just a minute ago, she was small enough to fit in the curve of my neck. Now, her long legs dangle down to my knees. My big girl. My baby.

Well. Melancholy.

There’s a fresh layer of snow on all the trees, and a steady soft flurry. I got a bright assortment of bell peppers from the grocery store yesterday – the bright green and yellow and orange and red are a nice contrast to the grey. I’ve gotten my meager “fall” décor put away, but am allowing myself a few days before I put out the Christmas stuff; there’s no hurry, and I want to stave off that closed-in feeling I get after too many weeks of Christmas Everything Everywhere I Turn. But because I am a woman of contradictions, I put on a Christmas music station – and Mariah Carey and Tony Bennett and Wham! have done a lot to help chip away at the glum. I have coffee planned with a lovely friend. Just now, I have answered the door to find a beautiful wreath from my mother – it smells like Christmastime and is now hanging proudly on my door. It all helps.

Wreath.jpg

So too does the knowledge that this feeling shall pass, and the hope that maybe someday I will be able to enjoy the present moment without mourning its eventual passage.

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You may be wondering why you haven’t seen my annual Mooning Over the Passage of  Time or CakeRelated Therapy posts.

You know. The ones where I get all misty-eyed and sentimental about my child’s birthday and try to self-medicate with complicated baking projects.

Maybe you think I’ve gotten it over it! Outgrown it! Filled my life with better and more interesting things to think about!

Or, if you are a longtime reader of this blog, and/or A Realist, you may assume you just missed it.

Well, you haven’t missed it, per se. I’ve written it. Oh, I’ve written it. (I have, in fact, written – let me check here… —  2,349 words on the topic.) I just haven’t posted anything because… well, I am making my own eyes roll is really the best reason I can give you.

But I did have the annual mooning. And I did make some cakes.

fifth-birthday-4.jpg

Unicorns in their carrying case at the party, waiting for eager five- and six-year-olds to gobble them down!

Carla wanted to have a unicorn birthday party, so I made unicorn cupcakes for the party. We invited fifteen of her friends. They played on an indoor playground. They ate pizza. They ate unicorn cupcakes. I turned one of her getting-sort-of-grubby dresses into a Unicorn Dress via the magic of iron-on unicorn and stars appliques.

Fifth birthday 7

Baking Secret: I made so many cupcakes that I had… many left over. And I didn’t take this picture until many… weeks had passed. One can only think that the cupcakes would have photographed better had they been FRESHER. These have survived a birthday party, being in a hot car while the birthday girl ate a post-party lunch (she did not eat pizza AT her party), then being in my fridge for weeks. Of course, one might also choose to blame poor photography skills. One has many choices, is what one should know.

For her family birthday party, we went to Carla’s favorite restaurant for tacos. After dinner, we had cake. Carla had requested a purple cake with chocolate frosting. Last year, she wanted a purple cake with black  frosting, a concept I was more amenable to this year. But I went with chocolate.

(Disclaimer: I went with chocolate. But then I tried, briefly, to dye it black. But I only had regular black dye, which turned the chocolate frosting a disturbing shade of grey. [Apparently you need to use some sort of extra-dark cocoa powder AND extra-black black dye to get a truly black frosting.] [Do you think I didn’t check at our local Joann fabric and local baking stores to see if they had these items in stock? If you think I did not, you don’t know me at all.] So then I had to use ALL of the brown dye I own, which was a lot, to get the chocolate to be a nice, dark chocolatey color.)

My husband was very skeptical that that cake would be aesthetically pleasing. I was more optimistic, and plus I had A Plan. A Plan that involved gold and sparkles, which Carla loves.

fifth-birthday-3.jpg

Baking secret: The only way I could get these sprinkles to stick to the frosting was by throwing handfuls of them at the cake. There are STILL tiny white sprinkles on my floor.

I think it turned out rather cute, right?

Fifth birthday 2

Why yes, the cake IS a little crooked, thank you for noticing! I tried to compensate for the lean by taking an off-center photo which is, of course, my specialty.

I wish I had photos of it with the shiny gold candles in it, too. They were adorable. Oh well.

See? Chocolate on the outside, purple on the inside! (My mother-in-law noted that it seems more blue than purple. It is NOT BLUE. I applied the dye myself and it is most definitely PURPLE. Thank you for your comment.)

Fifth birthday 5

Baking Secret: While I never thought I would do it, I DID end up using cake mix to make the cupcakes AND the cake alike. I doctored the mix before baking — butter and milk instead of oil and water, plus I added real vanilla bean and pure vanilla extract — but it was SO MUCH easier than making the batter from scratch. To make sure I wasn’t being TOO easy on myself, the filling between the layers is homemade chocolate ganache.

The cupcakes are gone. The cake is gone. The leftover ganache, which I just ate right now by the spoonful, is gone.

And now I have a five-year-old. An independent, brilliant, confident, creative, twirly, curious, still-sucks-her-thumb, sometimes-cuddly-sometimes-not, animal loving, imaginative, LEGO building, super fast running, fearless, charismatic, hilarious, beautiful five-year-old. She gets better and more fascinating and more complicated and more herevery day. I am so very lucky to have her in my life, so fortunate to be able to watch her and help her and enjoy her as she grows. (But I still have all the attendant Feelings™ that accompany my baby’s inexorable transition from infant to adult.)

fifth-birthday-1.jpg

Why yes I DID color coordinate her wrapping paper with her cake, thankyouverymuch.

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