Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top 10 Posts of 2009

Don't forget to enter my giveaway by this Sunday! You could win one of my crocheted blankets. Click here to enter.

I saw this on another blog and I thought it would be interesting to do here too. These are my top 10 most popular (most clicked on/read) posts in 2009 according to Google Analytics.

10) With Malice Toward None, my post about getting to see the Library of Congress' really cool Lincoln exhibit, and oddly enough, the top keywords that brought people to my blog that month.

9) Sacramento Cowtown Half Marathon. This was my HUGE post-race post where I detailed every single second of the race plus my entire playlist. What was I thinking? Oh yeah. I know what I was thinking. That race was freaking hard and I was totally feelin' the post-race glow. It was a huge accomplishment for me.

8) Not pregnant, a post about... wait for it... not being pregnant. This was an emotional one for me to write. (I'm still not, by the way, nor are/were we trying to be. Don't freak out.) There was a little sadness for me when I wrote that, though. It was just a post about how far my my mind goes when I even suspect... But I'm not. Pregnant, that is.

7) The next most popular link was actually the category, Marriage/Separation/Relationship. I could chalk this up to people being nosy, but it's not nosy if it's put right there in front of you. Don't worry. I don't mind. That's why I have categories--so you can find the good stuff. I'm glad that made the top 10. I want to share our story. I've said a puzillion times how alone I felt when I had trouble in my marriage and I want people to know that real marriage is hard work, and sometimes it ain't cute. I wanted to start this blog as an honest reflection of what our (and my) life is about. I think I've done okay in that department. As I look at that category I'm reminded that I haven't blogged much about our relationship in recent history. That's something I shall have to remedy.

6) Number six was the Apple Snack Cake post and recipe. This was one of my first forays into the beauty that is the America's Test Kitchen cookbook. If I only had one cookbook for the rest of my life, this would be it. I think the reason I get a lot of clicks on that post is that I adapted it to be gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free. It wasn't too bad. Gluten-free E's food allergies have presented quite a challenge when it comes to desserts, so this was one he could actually eat. I know that gluten allergies are becoming very common. I'm always on the lookout for ways to bring good food into our lives. (I still miss lasagna though. I really miss lasagna.) By the way, I'm aware of exactly how lame that picture is. Sorry.

5) Zebra toes. Ah, zebra toes. Apparently it was too much to ask for zebra toenail polish in this town. I got it in my head that I needed this done and promptly stumped the entire local nail salon. I since bought a striping brush and some black and white polish to do it myself. This was pretty fun though--it's the first time I allowed myself to sit and view a scene because I knew it would be blog-worthy.

4) Number four is my current GIVEAWAY POST. Did you enter yet? Huh? Didya? Why not? You only have until Sunday. I'm giving away a crocheted blanket, in case you missed the first fifty memos.

3) Number three was another giveaway, some custom postcards. I ended up not being that happy with the sponsor, so let's move on, shall we? Nothing sinister, just an annoying company.

2) The Crochet Pattern for my blankets is number two. I've adapted it several times by now, but it's still the best pattern I've ever made. Makes beautiful thick crocheted blankets. I retyped it in the blog so I wouldn't lose it. I frequently use my blog as a kind of file cabinet. The copy I had from the Bestie was worn and hard to read, so I retyped it... mostly for myself. I'm glad y'all enjoyed it. Maybe I should take it down when I start selling these things, huh? Ha.

1) The number one post on my blog was... drumroll, please... (not by any surprise at all):

Our Retrouvaille Weekend

I'm not surprised at all that it was the most popular. I get a lot of hits from random people I don't know who are just searching for a personal account of the program. Before we went I noticed that there weren't many blog posts on the subject. Retrouvaille is a program through the Catholic church that is for damaged marriages. E and I went to it on the recommendation of one of his aunts, and it changed our lives and allowed us to come back from separation and the road to divorce. I encourage you to read that post I wrote after I got back that weekend. I couldn't recommend it highly enough. I know there are a lot of people who have difficulty in their marriages and it is an amazing program. It's a lot of work, but it's amazing. It was the most significant thing we did this year and probably in our entire marriage. If you'd like to know more about the program, you can click here to get to the Retrouvaille site. It's open to anyone, Catholic or not (we're not) and it's well worth the time.

Once again, thank you all for a great year. I'm looking forward to seeing where this blog goes in the years to come. ;)

2009 Reflection Questions

Tsh at Simple Mom posted a list of reflection questions about 2009 over at (in)Courage. You know me, I can't resist a questionnaire or a form. I thought I'd share them here. Please visit Simple Mom and (in)Courage to read the full posts.

Here are my responses... A bit long. Sorry. :)

Reflection Questions for 2009

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?

The single best thing that happened this year was our vow renewal ceremony in my grandparents' backyard. Casual, warm, and wonderful. It wasn't really just that single event, but the work that transpired between me and E from when we went to Retrouvaille in February through that beautiful day in May. That day was the happy culmination of so much work and decision. I can't say our wedding wasn't heartfelt, but at the point when we renewed our vows this year, we had both been stripped down to the rawest layer of emotion. There was a knowledge there of what life was going to be apart, and a decision to come together and choose love, knowing what a difficult decision that can be. We were surrounded by our family and it was one of the most joyful days of my life.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

We've had a lot of challenges this year: being single and alone at the start of the year was miserable for me, then our financial struggles were punctuated with difficult news about E's career from the end of the summer through Christmas. I can't say there was one single challenge, but it has been trial after trial after trial. I think this is just our road to be on this year. Even coming back together was work. Worth it, but work. This has not been our time to rest or to coast. Everything this year felt like a fight.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?

An unexpected joy was how many people this blog brought into my life. When I made the decision to open up about some of our really personal struggles with our relationship, I was surrounded by support and kindness. As I continued to document the day-to-day journey we're on, the support grew. It's a pretty cool thing to have an ongoing scrapbook of our lives. I hate scrapbooking, so this worked better. And finding Lucky Puppy was certainly an unexpected joy.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

An unexpected obstacle was how hard it has been for E to find a job with a BA and a law degree. I (incorrectly) assumed that he'd be able to find a job once he graduated, even if he didn't pass the bar yet. He had a door closed on his future this year with the CHP, and then to not be able to find any job... that was disheartening. Topping it all off with not passing the Bar was hard. It just didn't seem like all of this would take so long. I'm hopeful to see it work out in the new year, and thankful that he finally has a full time job while he prepares to retake the Bar.

5. Pick three words to describe 2009.

bittersweet, demanding, over

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2009 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).

emotional, successful, challenging

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2009 (again, without asking).

arduous, defeating, difficult

8. What were the best books you read this year?

Light a Penny Candle, Strengths Finder, The Lacuna (still reading), The Road (still reading), Me Talk Pretty One Day, The Thorn Birds, The Lost Symbol (fluffy, but good), Hamlet (as always)

Book reviews from this year here.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?

My parents and sis/ Darin for getting me through being alone. E, of course. Redefining our interaction was really important and helped me to get that relationship back where it should have been, my first priority. I had a lot of other relationships come and go this year that I thought were important--as I get older it becomes more clear to me that it's hard to really know someone who isn't your family, though. People are fickle and that hurts me. I'd also have to say I'm always so grateful for ML/B. They're going to be our friends/family forever. And E's parents and sister. I had to bite my lip a bunch of times on Christmas morning to keep from crying, I was so happy to be back with them. Being separated from E meant losing them and I was so happy to be back with the rest of my family this Christmas.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?

Um, being not single is pretty big. But I've also come into my own a little bit. I've made some decisions at work that were pretty big this year, like not teaching dance anymore so I could be there for my family more. I became a runner and ran a half marathon. I also decided that one of my top priorities in life is being home in the afternoon to make dinner and then not leaving all night. It makes me a much happier person to be with my family after a long day at work.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?

I had to learn (from Retrouvaille, specifically) to communicate what I feel without judgment or blame. I also had to learn that there is a delicate balance in a relationship that has to be maintained, and the way I was approaching that relationship for the past 14 years wasn't really working. Being alone was so hard for me--I was very afraid and very overwhelmed. I'd never done that before. I believe it gave me courage and belief in my abilities that I didn't have before.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?

This wasn't a good year or a consistent year for me going to church or being outwardly churchy, but it was a major year of internal spiritual growth, which is really the only kind I'm concerned with. At each point of this difficult year, there was some lesson to be learned. A couple of close friends really helped to show me that there's a lot of peace to be had, even when things are their most hopeless. I also believe that the major arena for my spiritual growth was the work we did to repair our marriage. I have to believe that it was God's plan for us to come back together and that it was a healing process for us to do so.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?

Well, I gained about ten pounds. Does that count? Seriously, I did not get skinny this year. I went from teaching dance to not teaching dance to running to teaching dance and back to running again. The running was a major lifestyle change for me. I started in April not being able to even run a half mile without stopping. I ran my first half marathon this October in 2:36:47.0. Now I'm hitting the road in the middle of December in tights. I wouldn't have ever thought that would happen. Running gives me peace like nothing else I've ever done. I savor the time alone. I found that running really helps me work through a lot of my anxiety and helps me sleep. I love the feeling I have after just completing a run. Nothing at all was like finishing that half marathon for the first time. It kicked my butt, but it was amazing to finish. I really want to continue with running for the rest of my life.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?

I don't know that I did, other than the stuff I've already mentioned about E. This was really a year to focus on him and the kids and my place within that structure. I know I was a horrible friend to everyone in my life for most of the start of the year--a real Debbie Downer and then I basically ignored the world. It had to be done; I'm not sorry except that I may have let some people down and I didn't want to hurt anyone. I guess this was the year of lameness but I hope that once my family is stable and I confidently know my place within that I can rejoin the rest of the world.

15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?

Ha. What kind of question is this? I hate managing my home, primarily because when I'm working I'm never in it for long enough. I guess what I learned is that more time at home = more time to work on it. Most of the time it still looks like crap, though. I learned that I hate when E dumps the laundry on the couch because he always says he'll fold it but then a week goes by and then it's still there and there's no good way around that occurrence. I hate when that's the first thing people see when they walk in our house. That wasn't really what I was supposed to learn, was it?

16. What was your most challenging area of home management?

Laundry. Effing never-ending laundry.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?

Facebook. I don't mind, though. I'm a social media junkie. Oh, and I spent a lot of time watching LOST but let's not call that a waste.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?


19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?

Choose love. Even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. Especially when you don't feel it. Make a choice and the feeling will follow.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2009 for you.

Anything is possible now that we've been through 2009.

I'd love to read your answers to the reflection questions. Here they are so you can cut and paste them on to your blog or a note on Facebook:
2009 Reflection Questions
1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
5. Pick three words to describe 2009.
6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your 2009 (don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you).
7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2009 (again, without asking).
8. What were the best books you read this year?
9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
15. What was the most enjoyable area of managing your home?
16. What was your most challenging area of home management?
17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
19. What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
20. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2009 for you.
Be sure to leave me a comment with a link if you answer them. Happy New Year!

And don't forget about my GIVEAWAY POST. Be sure to click over and enter.

Muffins from scratch, y'all!

I'll admit it. I've never made muffins or cake from scratch before. It's just so easy to use that box of Betty Crocker mix. Oh, let's add brownies to that list, too. Last night Roo and I were perusing my America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook again (You have one by now, right? Why not?) and we decided we needed to make something. Scones were our first choice, but we didn't have any cream on hand... so we went with these "Big Beautiful Muffins." They were DELICIOUS! Not too hard, either. They reminded me of the muffins we served at the coffehouse where I worked in college. They were fluffy and moist and dense all at the same time... I've eaten four today!

Big Beautiful Lemon Blueberry Muffins
(adapted from Big Beautiful Muffin recipe in America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Makes: 12
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt (we subbed 1 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup lemon yogurt)
2 large eggs
8 T (1 stick) butter melted and cooled

1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat muffin tin generously with veg oil spray.
2. Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.
3. Whisk yogurt (or sour cream) and eggs together. Add 1 T lemon zest.
4. Gently fold yogurt-egg mixture into dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in the melted butter.
5. Rinse frozen blueberries until water runs clear, let dry on a paper towel.
6. Toss blueberries with 1 T flour, then fold gently into batter.
7. Use large ice-cream scoop to divide batter evenly between muffin cups.
8. Bake until golden and until toothpick inserted in middle of muffin comes out with just a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.
9. Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes, then let cool on a wire rack before serving.

Happy cooking!

Did you check out my GIVEAWAY POST yet? I'm giving away a hand-crocheted blanket. Make sure you don't forget to enter!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Giveaway: hand crocheted blanket

blanket6It’s here. My blog is officially one year old this Saturday. When I sat down at my computer one year ago, life was very different. I sent my thoughts out like paper airplanes into the abyss. Nobody was reading. I couldn’t have imagined that this many of you would have found me in just one year. It makes me so happy to connect with you all the time.blanket1

To celebrate, I’m giving away this hand crocheted afghan. I’ve decided to open an Etsy store to sell my goods, so this is a little jump start. I’ll be posting details about that as soon as I get it going.

This winter throw is made out of Red Heart 100% Acrylic yarn in “Aruba Sea” and “Coffee” colors; it's embellished with a variety of flowers in the lower right corner and a picot edge. It is approximately 52 by 82 inches and weighs 4.5 lbs. I crocheted this blanket with double strands of yarn, so it’s extra cozy. It is pictured below on a Queen sized bed, but it would cover a twin nicely.

Since each blanket I make is acrylic, it’s kid-friendly, pet-friendly, and klutz-friendly. Just throw it in the washer and dryer. I will arrange shipment (or delivery, if nearby) to the winner.

blanket2 blanket3 blanket4

This would make a loving gift for someone you know… or perhaps you need it folded neatly over the back of your couch for those chilly January movie nights? Approximate value is $125. I am giving it away, people!

FOUR WAYS TO ENTER. Do all or just one. Depends how bad you really want to win. (Up to 4 entries per person = increased odds at winning.)

1) Comment this post. Please identify yourself clearly. You wouldn’t believe how many Jennifers I know. Either use a profile or your real name/initials so I can contact you if you win.

2) Become a fan of {alis grave nil} on Facebook and leave me a comment on the link to this post. (If you’re already a fan, just leave a comment there too.)

3) Tweet about this giveaway. Be sure to include this exact text (note underscores in my twitter name): “@_AlisGraveNil_” so I can find your tweet. (If your twitter name is not something I’d recognize, mention it in your comment here as well.)

4) Mention this giveaway on your blog. Be sure to provide an active link to the mention in your comment so I can verify.

All entries must be submitted by 10:00 PM on Sunday, January 3. Winner will be chosen using (I’m going to make E do it because I want to be completely out of the decision. He’s impartial.)

This giveaway is open to ANYONE. I know there are a lot of you who read but don't comment. That's totally cool with me, but this is your big shot to come out of the woodwork and win something! ANYONE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD CAN WIN. Even former students. I see you there, and it's okay. We're all friends here.

Thanks for a great year. I’m looking forward to seeing who wins. :)

On your mark, get set, GO!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cold weather gear

Remember back when I thought running was cheap? Ha. That was so cute, right? My winter running has been hampered quite a bit by the cold. I am so lucky that I got HOOKED UP this Christmas with some great running stuff. Like, awesome stuff. Stuff I couldn't afford on my own. Like this:

Base layers

Nike Pro Thermal Mock Neck Shirt
Great thick material, stretchy, with very long sleeves and a nice length at the waist that covers my stomach flab.

Nike Running Tights
Tights. Yup, I'm running in tights. To be fair, "tights" means an entirely different thing to a dancer. Basically I'm running in leggings. They're so warm! It was pretty funny to put them on this morning, though. Remember that scene in The Incredibles where Mrs. Incredible puts on her new uniform for the first time since becoming a mom, only to discover that she's got a lot more junk in the trunk? Yeah, it was like that.

Cut to me wearing these "base layers" every day under my teaching clothes. Oh yes, it will happen.

Other layers

Nike Lightweight Open Hem Pants
These fit a little bit more loose around the leg, like a jazz dance pant. (Sorry that all my references are from the dance studio.) These are also thick like the tights and really comfortable around all the seams. I've noticed that when I run in anything tight or high-waisted around the stomach, it bugs me. These are perfect.

Nike Long Airborne Running Tank
Mine's not exactly this color, it's more of a bright green, but this one is close. Nice and supportive, and again it's long enough to cover the gut.

Nike Chamois Half-zip Running Shirt

I love, love, love this. It's a nice lightweight fleece, but it's lined and moisture-wicking. So far it seems to be equally wonderful for keeping warm whilst watching TV and jogging. It has a front pocket with an iPod pouch and a small buttonhole for an iPod cord. The sleeves have these neat pockets in them so you can pull your hands inside to keep them warm and they stay covered. Nice long sleeves, just like the mock turtleneck.

When I went jogging Sunday, I wore the tights, the mock neck, and the fleece. I was almost too warm, but for me that's the perfect place to be. Running was so much more pleasant when I was warm and dry. Love my new legit running clothes... and yes, almost everything is black so I either look like a ninja or the love child of a Cirque-due-Soleil performer and a bank robber. Anything is better than the hobo I resembled when I was running a few weeks ago.

Oh! I just remembered this too... So not only am I SO LUCKY in the cold weather gear department, but I got a totally nice surprise on Christmas Eve. My Aunt Kelly and Uncle Bruce have a treadmill they don't use, and they're GIVING IT TO ME!!!! Holy cow, right? I am STOKED. Don't worry, I'll still be going outside when I can, but this is MONUMENTAL (and warrants the use of COPIOUS CAPITAL LETTERS and the overuse of exclamation points!!!--Sorry Kelly McM... I still know all the rules even if I break them...promise.) because it means that I can run when a) it is raining, b) I don't have anyone to watch the kids, c) it is dark, d) it is ridiculously cold. I've been whining to E about a gym membership since June--and there was no way that was in the budget--so this helps me do what I want to do at home. Oh, I am so happy. Warm clothes for outside and options for inside. C'est bon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blankets... and some news.

Ho ho ho! Santa PDawg has delivered every last blanket, so now they can be posted online. The grand tally was six blankets completed between Halloween and Christmas. Phew! That's a new record for me. Each blanket is approximately the size of a twin bed; they're about 82 in X 52 in, to give you an idea of their dimensions. Here is the stack on the couch (minus one--details below).

From top to bottom:
Black and White for Aunt Anne
Blue and Green for cousin Kendal
Brown and Tan for Aunt Kelly
Brown and Blue for cousin Meggie
Blue and Orange for Unkie Dave

Here are a few more pics of each one:

Aunt Anne is a longtime zoo docent and loves animals. I thought the black and white yarn looked kind of zebra-y.

I couldn't find a picture of Megan's completed blanket, but this was as I was working on it.

This one was for E's cousin Kendal. She's a yarn nut too. :)

This is the sixth one. I made one for E. It came out very G.I. Joe-worthy. I told him it's his Call of Duty MW2 blanket. :)

I had to keep it a secret and not work on it in front of him which was really difficult. I started it at school on my lunch but I ended up having to finish it at home this week. To my frustration, he didn't work until December 23, so I ended up getting up at 3:30 AM on Christmas Eve to finish it while he slept. He says he didn't know about it. I was so happy to surprise him. He's always saying that he wishes I'd keep one of these since I always give them away.

When I was at my grandparents house the other day we determined I've made about 25 of these over the last two years. E can't understand why I keep making the same pattern, but I really love it. It makes such a nice heavy blanket that covers your toes and comes up to your chin when you sit on the couch. I hate those little lap blankets that will only cover one half of your body. A throw should be warm and large enough so as not to annoy.

So here's the big news:

On Saturday, January 2, this blog turns one year old. In honor of this happy little anniversary, of all the new and old friends it has brought me closer to, in honor of how much life has changed this past year and all the ups and downs in this one year of life, and to thank you guys for hanging around and reading all my blather, I'm going to be giving away one of my crocheted blankets. Look for a giveaway post with pictures of the blanket soon. I will post contest details as well as the dimensions and specs of the blanket. I'm so excited! I hope to get it done this week--started it on Christmas Day since apparently I'm incapable of sitting still for long periods of time.

Peace, Love, and Yarn.

Running Partner

Typically, I run alone. Today I thought it might be nice to have some company, so I brought my friend. He's cute, but he has a lot of issues.

He was being a punk and kept trying to clothesline me for the first half a mile. At first he tried to leave me in the dust because I'm not as fit as he is--this makes me crazy. I had to be a little harsh with him, and then he gave me the sad eyes. He knows exactly how to get to me. For the second half a mile he actually ran right next to me, which was nice. He didn't push too hard so I didn't feel rushed. Unfortunately, when we got outside of my neighborhood he got really scared of all the cars and put his big butt right out in traffic. He wouldn't move. People were staring and I was worried he was going to get hurt. I had to pick him up and carry him to safety, and he's not a little guy. He wasn't so amenable to being lifted by a girl, either.

He didn't understand that I was excited about my new running gear, and he rubbed all kinds of unidentifiable gunk into my sleeves and tights just trying to get close to me. He likes to make sure his body is touching mine while we run. It's a little bit awkward--he's a bit of a close runner. His breath sometimes smells like cat poop and he likes to roll in foul smelling things. By about mile two I decided no being should smell that way, and I told him. He ignored me.

He also kept stopping to pee on things, right there in front of everyone. It's kind of hard to get a stride going when your friend has such a needy, assertive bladder. He's so curious about everything that he has to stop to check it out; it's nice and relaxing, but that doesn't make for a steady pace. He was way more interested in pursuing his own agenda than helping me with mine. I kept having to remind him of why we were out there, and I don't usually like to talk while I run.

When we finally got home, he saw his best friend and he ditched me to run to the back fence and cry, he was so happy about their impendin reunion. He's a total baby. The run was a disaster, speed-wise. My new running clothes kept me warm and dry, but I remembered why I don't usually run with the dogs. Cal was happy to be home, and I promptly gave him a bath.

Calvin (left) and Gus (who stayed home because he has a bad hip).

Today was a good day for returning to things after a hiatus--church and running. Both left me feeling fulfilled and healthy; both should be continued as much as possible in the new year. You know me, though, I don't want to be a New Year's (or New Year's Resolution) cliche. I'd rather start back to things I should be doing on December 27 so as to feel superior and unique. Let's all pretend I'm both of those things.

Friday, December 25, 2009

10 PM, in car.

This is on our way from Modesto, CA... Christmas is nearly done. One more round to go with E's parents tomorrow morning. I'm close to a good night's sleep in flannel sheets.

I'm feeling sniffly and tired, overstuffed and happy. Today was a good day--yesterday too. I was up Christmas Eve at 3:30 AM to finish E's blanket but I got it done--I got them all done, in fact. Six crocheted blankets between Halloween and Christmas. All delivered. I'll post pictures soon.

This year the big gift for me and E was being back together. I won't lie--it hurt me that our Christmas was as lean as it was. I thought that part would be easier in light of how happy I am that we're back together. Nope. It's not fun to remember how we used to be able to buy gifts for each other when we can't now. It will happen again. I know. I realize I took that for granted and while it's not everything or even the most important thing, it's something to be able to buy your husband a gift. I'm sad for that this year, but like I said we have a bigger thing to celebrate.

Our kids had a great day and what pleased me most was how thankful, pleasant, and kind they were. They're freaking adorable.

Merry Christmas. I hope you had peace and kindness in your day today.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Eve

Just some fair warning: I'm writing this right now and pretty much all I've eaten all day is homemade Chex Mix. This means I probably have the daily salt allowance for a mid-range Yak in my system, but I'll try not to be too weird. I'm actually DONE with all of my Christmas duties EARLY and all that extra energy is asserting itself in some strange ways... like the aforementioned craving for a large church-stone-soup-sized-tureen-worth of Mix. But it's sooooooooo good.

So seriously, I don't know what's with me. I didn't do ANY shopping this year. Not one trip. Not even to the Wal Marts. E handled all of it. Normally that's my deal but I was so tired from finishing up so many crocheted goodies that I couldn't muster it. Plus I was crocheting to my little heart's content right up until yesterday. I'll post pictures of all the blankets after Christmas, but suffice it to say it has been like a sweatshop around here. I don't think someone has ever used this much yarn between Halloween and Christmas. (I did do all the wrapping, though. Yes, that's the sound of my own horn. TOOT.)

Christmas baking has only consisted of chocolate chip cookies and Chex Mix so far. I don't really have anybody I need to bake for, so I'm mostly making things that we can consume in lieu of generic brand snacks at Winco. I don't think I've ever stretched the grocery budget so far. It's amazing what we've done this month. Simultaneously frustrating and amazing. It helps nothing that we've had about four major ant attacks; I can't keep a bag of Cheetos in this house to save my life. Yeah God, I hear you. No more with the Cheetos. You didn't have to send the ants to tell me, though. Okay--maybe.

But yesterday right in between the last slice of turkey in the bag of lunchmeat (you know the kind--ultra cheap and ultra thinly sliced and kind of delicious?) and another night of the monkeys playing arcade style Ninja Turtles on the Xbox, E got two job offers. TWO JOB OFFERS, both with the State. This is our Christmas miracle, as my friend ML so aptly stated. As if being not divorced wasn't enough of a miracle to celebrate, this is by far the next best present we could receive. It has been tough times around here. We're so lucky that we have people around us who kept us afloat. Every bag of groceries helped, and we're still going to be able to give the monkeys a great Christmas, albeit a small one. So the promise of full-time, stable employment in a 9-5 situation is just such a blessing. It's peace of mind.

E was working for the state when we were in college, and he's returning to the same position. It's not grand, but it's a foot back in the door and now it will be easier to try at higher positions. But I can't overstate the significance of a paycheck--we've been scrimping on my income for about six years, and we were using extra help from financial aid all through law school. Since he graduated it has been hard. This will mean we can get caught up. I'm so happy.

I'm still reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver (and still loving it!) and today I was thinking about a quote I love from my first favorite, Animal Dreams: takes your sleeping self years to catch up to where you really are. Pay attention to your dreams: when you go on a trip, in your dreams you will still be home. Then after you've come home you'll dream of where you were. It's a kind of jet lag of the consciousness.
My dreams have definitely not caught up to this good news yet. Last night I woke at about 4:00 AM because I'd had another in a series of terrible dreams over the last few weeks. Bonus: this one resulted in a full-blown anxiety attack. Good times, Psyche. Good times. Thanks for that. So with nothing better to do (and nothing outside of the warmth of my bed I felt compelled to get up for) I lay there and just let it happen. Eventually I went back to sleep, but I'm looking forward to the worry that's plagued my sleep taking a big shuffle-off-to-Buffalo. We're not on solid ground yet, but there's enough hope in all this good news that my dreams should start to catch up.

At least I think so. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just let Jesus have the balloon, okay?

There's an iPhone app I've been meaning to write about... I downloaded it some time ago, but I didn't start using it until recently. I lurve it. It's called Camera Bag and it costs about 2 bucks. Totally worth it. It's basically a photo-editing software for dummies. It comes with ten pre-installed actions. It's fun fun silly willy, and I want to show you.

I'll use this photo from last week when I picked Henry up from preschool. The kids were all heading outside to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and then "send Jesus their balloon." I'm glad Henry knows the reason for the season, but doesn't this introduce confusion about the big J.C. being just out of sight in the sky? Isn't he, like supposed to be in your heart? Ah, no matter. It was cute and very sweet. Here's the Hank man, doing his thing. Each version is labeled with the action title from Camera Bag.












Neato, huh? Easy way to make iPhone photos a little more fun.

So the best thing about this balloon thing was that there was one little girl who stood there with a death grip on a red one after all the kids had released their balloons.

"I don't want to give my balloon to Jesus!"

The teacher assured me that she'd "never in all her years had a child do this before." She pleaded "come on, Sweetie. Let it go. Let it go to Jesus."


"Let it go now or I'm taking it away from you."

....aaaaaaaaand, Scene.