Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Roasting Snowmen & Finding Pickles

This year was my favorite Christmas. But take that proclamation with a grain of salt because in the same way my favorite song in the whole wide world changes weekly, I always think this Christmas is the best.

But this one really was the best! Because we got a white Christmas. Growing up in the desert, snow on any day feels like a holiday. But snow on Christmas...holy crap. It feels like a miracle. I guess now that we live in the mountains, we can expect more white Christmases in the future. But based on the excited buzz from all the other mountain residents, I can tell snow on Christmas day is pretty rare, even for up here. So yeah, I might have been a little weepy about it. :P

Christmas was great in other ways too, besides the snow. Clint's parents spent the night on Christmas Eve. We did our normal pajama party with breakfast for dinner. But this year we played a new hilarious 'Build a Snowman' game with giant marshmallows. The roll of your dice determines which part you add to your snowman--eye, buttons, arm, etc. Clint kept putting body parts that didn't belong (I'll let you use your imagination on that one). Here's my guy, all adorable and un-obscene:

Later, when I won the game, in a show of good sportsmanship, Clint staked his snowman and roasted him in our fireplace. Then he ate him.

*Warning: The following images might be too graphic for younger viewers.

Okay, I might have had a bite of the fella too.  

We also played the most cutthroat gift-exchange game ever, one that makes the traditional White Elephant gift exchange seem polite. It would take too long to explain the rules here, but it was savage. And of course, as we do every year, we played 'Find the Pickle'. Here's some of us (our booties at least) searching for it.

Even George the dog had his nose in the tree, looking for that allusive pickle. Clint finally found it and won a frying pan.

Oh, and in the true tradition of Christmas, the boys ended up having a light saber battle on the patio.

On Christmas morning we woke up to snow! Oh yeah, I mentioned that already, didn't I. After oohing and ahhing over it, we ate breakfast with Teri and Carey and then opened up presents. Clint, the gift ninja, struck again. He built for me--from scratch--this hanging light fixture:

It's larger, prettier, and more rustic in person. I had NO idea I was getting this for Christmas, which Clint found amusing because apparently he and Elijah created quite a ruckus in the garage when they were whipping the wood beam with chains in order to distress it. (I can only imagine what our neighbors thought was going on).

Later that morning, we drove to my sister's house for Christmas with my side of the family, having to bulldoze our way through two unplowed roads. I'd like to say it was a chore, but we didn't care. Because...snow!

I was going to write more here about Christmas at my sis's, but I'm starting to lose steam. So I'll just sum it up by saying Shan's house was the usual craziness, with tons of delicious food, an entire fortress of presents, and lots of merriment.

That last part sounds cheesy, but it's allowed since this is a post about Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Bike Riding in Santa's Village

I have my second New Year's resolution! It's to go here at least once a month:

Image result for skypark at santa's village

Image result for skypark at santa's village

Image result for skypark at santa's village

This is Santa's Village, and it's only ten minutes from my house. It's been around since I was a kid, but ironically my first time coming here wasn't until I was an adult. Specifically, last weekend. As you can see, it's pretty adorable and magical. My sis and I spent most of our time ice-skating and drinking the most delicious hot cider (spiked with Maker's Mark since I had a nasty cold and whiskey is my DayQuil). The kids meanwhile ran around climbing rock walls and doing who knows what else.

You might be thinking I've lost my mind wanting to come here once a month in 2019. Adorable and magical is good and all, but why the heck would I want to visit a place replicating the North Pole in, say, July? But believe it or not, this place is actually open all year long, and that's because in summer the emphasis is on THIS:

Related image

See the source image

Skypark! It's a bike park at Santa's Village with awesome trails for all levels of riders, ranging from beginning to expert. They have bikes to rent, or you can bring your own. Clint and I purchased mountain bikes last year and have been looking for some awesome trails around here, and I dare say it doesn't get better than this. The best part of it is the trails dump you out right into the village. Specifically, the bar (a very cute and quaint cottagy-looking bar). Which means I can finish my bike ride with a nice cold beer or refreshing margarita! 

This is heaven to me, guys.

Oh, the village also has rock climbing for the kids, zip-lining, and a rollerskating rink (that switches to ice-skating in winter). So we'll have all sorts of entertainment.

So here goes:

New Year's Resolution #2: 

I will get my lazy butt to Skypark once a month to enjoy fun, outdoorsy stuff with the fam. 

It seems weird that I have to make something fun into a resolution, but I kinda have to. This past year or so I've become a huge home-body. I'm exhausted from working all week so the temptation to spend my weekends as a hermit is hard to resist. 

To ensure I meet this resolution, Clint and I purchased our season passes last night. I can't wait for warmer weather! But cold weather is good too...that just means more ice-skating and spiked cider. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

You Take a Piece of Meat with You

See the source image

When I was seven, my sister and I argued in the car over the 1985 song "Every Time You Go Away." She claimed Paul Young was singing "Every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you." I was appalled, unable to conceive of why my sister viewed the singer's girlfriend as a cannibal who enjoyed walking away with a piece of his flesh every time the two parted ways. I told her it was clear that what Young was actually singing was "Every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you." Because, you know, every one likes a snack for the road.

Anyway, we argued our points, both convinced that we were right, but with no way to prove it. The internet had yet to exist. 

Throughout the years, this occurred many times with many songs. And my sister and I weren't the only ones confusing lyrics. Even though it wasn't our generation of music, my entire graduating class used to sing Creedence Clearwater's song 'Bad Moon Rising' as:
Don't go around tonight 
Well, it's bound to take your life 
There's a bathroom on the right
Such a polite song, right? To stop in the middle of the lyrics to give listeners directions to the bathroom.

But it wasn't merely songs we debated about. It was any random topic under the sun. And the conclusion was always the same: There was no conclusion. Unless we were willing to go to the library to research answers to our questions (some of them nearly impossible to research, such as song lyrics or pop culture), we would never know--until we were adults--who was right and who was wrong.

It got me thinking: I miss those days. I miss the days where people engaged in lively debates without being able to immediately end the discussion with a quick fact-check on Google. I guess it's a funny thing to miss, but there's something I treasure about debating a pointless or silly topic for hours, knowing I'll never truly know who is right and who is wrong. As a kid, that suspension of an answer stretched a debate out for days, weeks, and sometimes (as was the case with the meat song), years. And then, ten years later when you finally have the solution to the riddle and you can put the argument to rest, it's that much more satisfying.

Having answers right at your fingertips with no waiting, wondering, or work (the old www) has taken away something special.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Early Resolution

Here are two entries I posted when I first started blogging over nine years ago:

I've talked about this before, but I'm going to say it again. I think I had it right back then. My posts were short and to the point, with very little context. I never felt pressure to give a bunch of updates or to post 'quality' material; I just wrote whatever nonsense popped in my head, which made me love blogging and stick with it. Unlike now, where blogging is a burden. Every time I sign on, I think "How can I possible make up for four months of no blogging?"

The answer is, I can't. And who cares. 

My New Year's resolution is to start blogging again, even if that means short obscure entries that leave readers (assuming I have any visages of those left) scratching their heads. But like any goal, I need something measurable. So how about a minimum of one post a week? 

So, here we go: 
New Year's Resolution #1: 
I will write a short and lame post once a week.

Another kick-ass resolution, right up there with 2017 in which I resolved to be boring. Or 2016 in which I vowed to be a hermit crab stuffed in a glass bottle. (It might be time to read a book on all of this resolution-making business).

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Last Librarian


The Last Librarian (The Justar Journal #1)The Last Librarian by Brandt Legg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

DNF. Though I have to say, this is the best book I've ever abandoned. Brandt Legg is a writer of beautiful words. I don't think I've ever highlighted so many quotes in one novel.
He expected tears, cornered in that dark part of the cold building which held centuries of lessons and emotion, but all that came was a silent chant from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” He repeated it several times until he stumbled away, bleeding a bloodless pain that he wished would kill him.

This is one of many excerpts that captures raw, unadulterated emotion. The Last Librarian isn't simply a novel. It's poetry that happens to have a storyline.

Why the DNF? Well, at the 89% mark, Legg kills off a character I care deeply about. Maybe when I'm done getting through the five stages of grief I'll go back and finish the novel.

Until then I'm slicing one of your stars, Brandt Legg, for breaking my heart.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 6, 2018

Florida, Writing Lair, & Last 200 Words

It's hard to pause during summer to write about stuff, but I'll squeeze in some quick updates:

Florida: I was in Orlando, Florida last week for a conference. Clint brought the kids and we stayed in the Disney Coronado. They did all the touristy stuff while I did conferency stuff. Not an ideal vacation for me (insert pitiful woe-is-me music here), but I still did a lot of bonding with my coworkers, ate some good food, drank some great drinks, and attended at least a few sessions that reinvigorated me for the upcoming school year. Oh, and I got to go to Gatorland (and feed baby alligators!).

New Writing Lair: Aside from a few finishing touches like window trim and attic-access, my art/writing studio is finished! I have a little stereo in there now for music, cabinets with all of my drawing/painting supplies, my lounge area if I want to relax between writing sprints, my "fireplace" for cooler evenings...I even stocked it with wine for when I get writer's block (one bottle is leaning toward empty already). It's a good thing this space isn't equipped with a toilet and a fridge because at this point my belly and my bladder are the only two entities that can convince me to leave.

Driving Test: Trinity finally overcame her driving-anxiety and got her license today. It was her first time taking the test and you're allowed to miss fifteen points. She only missed one! I say this with excitement because back in the day I missed... well, let's just say a few more than one. ;)

I'm thinking this is enough updates for tonight? Here's the last 200 words for Black Lilies, chapter four. If it sounds familiar, it's because I actually posted this one in the past for reasons I can no longer remember. Anyway, it'll be the only 'last 200 words' that repeats.

 "I’ll tell you my name as soon as you tell me who you are, and what’s going on.” I crossed my arms and stepped back in a show of defiance. The assignment that was crumpled in my hand fell over my fingertips onto the linoleum floor. Moving quickly, I reached down to pick it up.
 “I’ve seen this stationery before” he said, leaning forward to look at my paper.
 “It’s not stationery, it’s just my assignment. It’s what I’m supposed to be working on right now, but I’ll get an ‘F’ now because of your impromptu performance of the Star Spangled Banner.”
 He squinted his eyes, examining it closer. “Let me see that.”
 Why would he want my paper? There was barely anything written on it. I shrugged. “Here.”
 I tried to hand it to him, but he didn’t move to take it. Instead, he tilted his head, as if trying to get a better view. He mouth gaped open before he quickly snapped it shut. His body seemed to freeze. “I know this writing.” He jerked back, his fists clenched at his side. “Tell me your name, clever girl.”
 I stood silent.
 “It’s you, isn’t it? You’re Aviva.”
 My mouth fell open, and he disappeared.

(206 words)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Curse of Sharenting

Think about an embarrassing photo of yourself from your childhood. Maybe it's that one where you're sitting naked on a toilet as a toddler, or that prepubescent pic with the giant braces and bad hair. Thank goodness that old cringy photo is tucked away in some dog-eared album, right? A sealed-off remnant of your childhood.

Now imagine that picture, plus hundreds more, posted on Facebook for everyone to see, with cutesy little hashtags, day after day, year after year. One of my 7th grade students got me thinking about this issue right before summer break, when she commented that she had deleted her Facebook account because her mom kept posting pictures of her. "It's not that the pics were embarrassing or anything," she explained. "I just don't want my friends seeing what I'm up to everyday. It's weird."

It's no wonder teenage kids have veered away from facebook and are gravitating toward social networking sites such as Snapchat that allow for more privacy and anonymity. Maybe they’re trying to escape the barrage of childhood photos that force them into endless public scrutiny. Maybe they just want to live their lives without being a “celebrity” on their parents' timelines.

If you're an '80s child like me, you’ve never had to deal with the crux of parents with smartphones. Our personal childhood moments--bath time, potty-training, the first day of fifth grade, awkward junior high dances, etc.--were safely tucked away into photo albums and scrapbooks where only a few close friends and relatives would ever see. Yet as parents today, we never stop to question what it’s like for our own children to have all of these moments (embarrassing, adorable, or otherwise) exploited online.

So let’s pause right now and ask this question: How will the adult version of your child feel having his/her entire childhood chronicled on social networking? As Celia Walden (writer and wife to Pier Morgan) states, our kids have “got a lifetime of being subjected to other people's gaze and other people's judgement.” So why would we, the parents, choose to add to this? At the best, even if our kids are comfortable being in the limelight, highlighting every moment of their lives is taking something meaningful away. If every moment is special then none of them are.

The answer is, we shouldn't.

Even taking our kids’ right to privacy out of the equation, there are other reasons why sharenting is wrong. Such as the fact that it’s inconsiderate to your friends/followers. Imagine going to your Aunt Hilda’s house and being forced to endure two hours straight of little cousin Joey’s photos (a phenomenon that we actually endured in the ‘80s). Yes, you’ll insert the appropriate “Awwww”s and “Isn’t that adorable” in the right places, because you’re a polite person. But meanwhile you’re kinda wishing a chunk of acoustic ceiling will inexplicably fall down and gouge you in the eyeball just to have an excuse to escape. And you’re also kinda thinking Aunt Hilda could use some conversational empathy here, because who in their right mind thinks that anyone enjoys this form of torture?

Yet you yourself do the same thing every day on social media. Nice to meet you, Aunt Hilda. Luckily your family and friends aren't held hostage on a couch. They can slap a polite ‘like’ on your posts and move on. But do you really want to put them in this position rather than simply downsizing your posts to interesting, relevant things they genuinely care about? I constantly hear the argument “If people don’t like what I post, they can unfollow me.” Well kudos to you, standing your ground and all that. But close friends and family will never unfollow you because they're decent people, and maintaining a relationship with you is important to them regardless of how annoying you are on Facebook. So now you’re just *that* person. The person whose grating posts they’ve learned to slap a cursory ‘like’ on as they scroll past.

Another interesting fact about over-sharenting? It’s a sad attempt to dig for praise or approval. When I was a kid my mom's parenting strategies (like many moms of the '80s) fluctuated from amazing to downright crazy and everything between. I could write a book on this woman and the complexities she went through while raising me and my sister. Yet one thing that stands out is my mom never felt the need to constantly showcase her good parenting moments online. To be fair, the internet didn’t exist back then, so no mom felt this need. Being a good parent in the ‘80s had its own intrinsic rewards, such as creating laughter, warm feelings, and unscripted memories with your kids...memories that were never cheapened by the rehearsed facade of a facebook post. But many moms today have the mentality that good parenting is wasted if it’s not publicized on facebook. Like, “If others can’t see how much I’m rockin’ it, what’s the point?”

Over-sharing mommies, it's time to face reality. Other than Grandma and maybe that super devoted aunt (who you can easily text), no one cares about your thousands of photos. And on some level you know this, which means you're doing it for yourselves. For the likes. The comments. The dopamine rush you get every time someone reacts to your post. The positive affirmation. As stated by 'Wellness Mama' Katie in her article Why I Don't Post about My Kids Online, “I get it. Parenting is hard and positive feedback is helpful. I definitely bounce ideas off of friends or ask for advice in person. I just try really hard not to use my kids as a means for social affirmation.”

The final (and possibly most important reason) moms need to escape the clutches of sharenting is because constantly being in Photographer-Mode means sacrificing the present for the future. That is, you miss out on so many of life's amazing, impromptu moments in your attempt to capture them on camera--all so you can look upon that snapshot later and reminisce on a memory that you never truly experienced. Instead of fake-smiles for the benefit of the camera, let's embrace the genuine smiles our kids radiate when they're living life for real.

I’m not suggesting that we should never post pics of our kids. Our kids are a huge part of our lives and it would be silly to pretend they don’t exist. In the last few months Facebook has shared memories of my daughter holding a crocodile, my son hanging upside down from a punching bag, and both my kids engaged in an epic shaving cream battle in the bathtub (clothes ON). But there’s a difference between sharing an occasional whimsical or anecdotal moment of your kids, versus turning your timeline into a relentless baby album chronicling every moment of your child until he is now ten-years old and frankly not-so-cute anymore (sorry but...truth). I know the excitement of being a brand new mother and wanting to share every moment of the experience, which is why upon entering motherhood I called my own mom every-other-day and texted her a barrage of photos. But for the sake of social networking, one or two carefully selected pictures a week will still capture the adorableness of your handsome little cherub just as well as a dozen.

Remember, once your child reaches the age of awareness, it is no longer your life and your experiences you are sharing. It is theirs. And frankly, some things need to remain unshared, and precious. Childhood should be one of them. How about we stop feeling consumed with posting a record of everything our kids experience, and just enjoy the moments as they come? My most treasured moments with my kids are the ones you don’t know about. Why? Because I keep them close to my heart--not on Facebook.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Dirt Bike Jousting, Squobbing, & Last 200 Words

Quick highlights from the last few weeks:

  • I went to a party on Mother's Day weekend held by my sister's neighbor. He has a bazillion acres, which means in addition to all the normal party stuff (such as an open bar and catered tacos), there was also zip-lining, Whore Shoes (like Horse Shoes but with spiked stilettos and some interesting rules), and THIS: 

Welcome to the world of dirt bike jousting, where hillbilly meets class. 
(Kind of like me when I wear a dress).
  • Trin is in the midst of all her graduating-stuff right now, which means I'm in a state of squealing and sobbing...squobbing? Yep, I'm a big fat squobber. Prom, Grad Night, and then the graduation itself. My baby girl!
  • I'm finally having a housewarming party. Er--if you can even call it that given that we've lived in our home for over nine months now. Here's the invitation:

Alright, that's enough recapping for now. Here's the last 200 words for Black Lilies, chapter three.

“By God, sweet girl, you can see me.” His lips spread into a triumphant smile, and then he glided past my desk. “We’ll discuss this after your mathematics lesson.”

I swallowed hard, my hands clutching the side of my desk, my stomach stuck somewhere in my throat.
Mathematics lesson? I found myself lipping the phrase, though I knew his proper speech should be the least of my concerns.
“What’s wrong?” Brett whispered next to me two beats after the strange man had left, snapping me out of my trance as he touched my arm. “You look really pale, Viv.”
I already knew the answer, but I needed to be sure. “Brett, has anyone new been assigned to Rosa’s desk?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” he said, glancing in that direction. “It’s been empty since she moved. I saw you looking over there earlier. What’s up?”
A feeling of panic flooded me at Brett’s words. I couldn’t be the only one who was able to see and hear the oddly-dressed stranger. I couldn’t be. Because that would make me crazy.
Or it would mean I was seeing a ghost.

(188 words)

Monday, May 14, 2018

28 Places to Sit in My Yard

The other day I started noticing a trend in our yard. The trend being...places to sit. Lots of places to sit. 28, to be precise. So of course I had to take pictures of all of them. Don't worry, it's only 9 pics; not 28.

So here we go, the first and only edition of All the Places to Sit in my Yard:

Small Table for four on our front balcony.

Gliding swing set for two. This one is far back into our yard, right next to the soon-to-be She-Shed.

 Clint's parents' bistro table, located on the small balcony next to their studio apartment. When they're over it has pretty cushions on it and stuff.

Southern rocking chairs on our front patio--tied for 1st place for the Most-Used Seating Award. Clint and his dad can almost always be found here, shootin' the breeze over a beer and cigar.

 Cozy bench for two on our front patio. This one earns the Least-Used Seating Award. In fact, my one and only time sitting here was right after I took this picture.

Table for four on our side patio, and by far the family favorite! This is the other recipient of the Most Used Seating Award. On nice days we eat all of our meals here. The first two weeks of summer I will be repainting this table and adding new cushions to spruce it up.

This table for six is one of my personal faves. Carey (Clint's dad) leveled this piece of land for me so I could have a table out in the sunshine. It's a great place to soak in some rays during more temperate weather, and its sturdy construction makes it perfect for painting/crafts.

Trinity's space. She has a patio attached to her bedroom, and we bought her this outdoor set for her birthday. All we need now is a plant for that planter. 

This little bistro table was a housewarming gift from Shannon, and has my favorite view. Maybe not too practical for eating a meal here (though I have), but perfect for plopping down with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.

And this concludes my super fascinating edition of All the Places to Pop a Squat in my Yard, or whatever. I'm going to make it my goal this summer to use ALL of them and film every minute of the entire experience. 

Okay, I wont really do that.