A tale of two expectations

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The other day, I took a gamble and brought Clark to the lake right around naptime. This could have gone very poorly, with just one parent and one overtired kid and too much sun. I told myself it would probably be a disaster. I gave myself permission to pack it all up and head back home as soon as the winds started to shift.

In my experience, a skipped nap usually means a shitty afternoon. But in my experience, for 1 out of every 10 skipped naps, Clark will actually be chill and delightfully subdued. This, magically, was one of those times. We got to the beach and set up our blanket and beach umbrella. We lounged and ate PB&Js, read some books, dug in the sand and through it all, he was a sleepy beautiful relaxed angel. Even when our beach umbrella cartwheeled away from us, pointed metal stand and all, and I had to chase it — in my bathing suit — further down the beach than you will ever believe, while drawing more attention to the fiasco by shouting “Watch out!” to innocent families in our path — even THEN, Clark was cool and calm. After I safely tucked the beach umbrella away, he asked me, “Mommy, did you save the day?” And I was like, “You’re damn right I did, son. Did you see how fast I ran? In my bathing suit?!”

All to say, I had low expectations for the lake outing. So because it went moderately fine, I have now added it to my Best of Summer 2019 list to be remembered with fondness for years to come.

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This brings us to a recap of an altogether different experience. Our local library has a summer reading program for adults, kids and little kids. Obviously, I signed us both up. One might say that this is a story of high expectations.

Clark loves books, but he had not shown any understanding or interest at all in the summer reading program. I remained undeterred. Every time he read a book, he was supposed to color in a shape on a tracking sheet. How fun! Books! Coloring! What’s not to love? Ok, fine, I had to bribe Clark to color in the shapes. Sure, I colored some in myself. And yeah, maybe I had dreamed up the perfect photo that we would take at the library, with the two of us smiling and holding up our reading prizes together at the end of summer. What’s so wrong with that?

Yesterday after work, I happily announced to Clark that we were going to the library to get our prizes. He countered with a suggestion to visit the “ice cream store”. Desperate, I conceded that would be a good celebration for our summer reading success. When we got to the library, Clark had a choice of three different colored prizes. He picked green. And then he threw a fit because he couldn’t have all of the colors. Negotiations broke down. He screamed. And screamed. We made a quick exit to the car. He cried and yelled for 20 minutes outside of the library and another 5 minutes in the driveway. We finally made our way inside the house and, in further desperation, I scooped us each a bit of ice cream. To his credit, Clark truthfully reported to chris that he, in fact, had been crying and yelling. Chris asked him if he needed to apologize to me for all of the yelling and Clark said, “Yeah, and the tantrum too. The tantrum outside.”

So that was our magical library visit and the culmination of our summer reading challenge. A total and complete disaster. I’m embarrassed to admit how high my hopes were for this occasion. As soon as the plan began to unravel, so did I. To be fair though, Clark obviously unraveled more. Also to be fair, I ate the rest of our ice cream after he went to bed. Such is the delicate balance of life with a three-year-old.

No lesson or advice here, just an observation of what expectations can do to a person.

Our advent calendar & thoughts on good deeds

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I’d been itching to make an advent calendar ever since seeing a few examples on Reading My Tea Leaves. I appreciate the advent period as a seasonal call to contemplation and anticipation, even without belonging to an organized religion. So I tried to create a simple calendar with some really easy things we could do as a family, or that I could do alone, to savor the season. At first I laid out 25 new exciting Christmas-y activities to do and then realized that sounded miserable and overwhelming. So I swapped some out for things we’d already be doing, like reading The Snowy Day or making donations to causes close to our hearts. We’re halfway through the calendar and I’m happy to report that we also just absolutely bailed on some of these. “Have an indoor picnic” sounded easy because it’s literally just eating dinner on the floor, but nope, it didn’t happen. We read exactly three sentences of The Polar Express before Clark requested a book about dinosaurs. I haven’t send out our Christmas cards yet and we’ve switched some other ones around too. It’s delightfully low-pressure.

Clark is only two, so we have at least another Christmas before he’ll understand what this all is, but I’ve been thinking about the difference between acts of charity and acts of justice. So many of us enter the holiday season with beautiful intentions of “giving back”, but many of us don’t quite get it right. Consider the shift from thinking of a donation to Toys for Tots as a “good deed” to understanding it to be a small step towards a fairer, more just world. A reminder that it’s usually not about a family being “less fortunate” than it is about structural racism or other discrimination along with a broken economy, health care system and government. I’ll admit that I’ve really enjoyed filling the Christmas wish lists of some of our neighbors, but I’m trying to see it not as an exceptional act of generosity but as the only responsible way to move through this gift-giving season. Once I began to see my role in those forces that contribute to “less fortunate” situations, I had to start shifting away from the “good deeds” mentality to one more akin to reparations and justice-building actions. So, all of that to say, this has been on my mind as we move through the holiday giving season.

Back to the list. Here are our advent calendar activities. Family ideas with a toddler can be tough, so some of them are just for Chris and I, some are for all three and some are just for me. I think I’d love an advent calendar with ideas just for me, but I’ll save that for another year.

  1. Go to a holiday market

  2. Dry orange ornaments

  3. Deck the halls

  4. A midweek holiday feast

  5. Have an indoor picnic

  6. Christmas coloring

  7. Make a pot of mulled wine or cider

  8. Buy a Christmas tree

  9. Sunday soup

  10. Buy gifts for neighborhood friends

  11. Read or watch Polar Express in pajamas

  12. Make cards

  13. Mail cards

  14. Watch a Christmas movie

  15. Bake Christmas cookies

  16. Feed the birds

  17. Read Snowy Day

  18. Buy extra fresh veggies and donate

  19. Have a phone-free evening

  20. Donate to provide life-saving medical care around the world, including in Yemen

  21. Celebrate solstice

  22. Wrap presents

  23. Sit by the fire

  24. Nothing yet! Something festive. Something leftover from earlier in the month. Cookies for Santa. Staying up late to look at the Christmas tree.

Do you have any advent calendar ideas or traditions to share? As I mentioned above, this one borrows heavily in both style and substance from the ones that Erin has shared over on Reading My Tea Leaves (an updated clutter-free one, a peace and justice one and her original). I love their simplicity and thoughtfulness.

a birthday cake

Chris turned 30 earlier this week! He's just the coolest guy and he makes 30 look

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. The day before his birthday, he snagged one last 20-29 age group award at a local Halloween-ish trail race. Really snuck that one in there, right? He won me a cookie, which is not the first running award cookie he's won. What can I say? We run and drink and eat.

We celebrated the milestone with a birthday hike, the rainy and muddy six-mile trail race, fancy dinners and a pub drink. And my mother-in-law made the most stunning birthday cake! Even the restaurant staff where we were eating came over to comment on it. It's a German pound cake recipe topped with a sprinkling of confectioner's sugar and homemade maple leaf roses! So Pinterest! So beautiful!

Wouldn't this make a lovely fall wedding cake, too? Don't you love birthday cake? I never will understand people who don't like desserts. Me? I always have room for dessert. Always.

Frittata & eggnog

Well! Here's hoping that everyone has had a nice holiday season so far. It's been a blur of a month for me, with the wedding and a busy work schedule and the holidays. Lots of exciting things happening all around me. I'm trying to make time to sit and write about it all so I don't lose a bit of it. I am feeling particularly grateful for the opportunity to work where I do. You can read more about what we've been up to in 2012 over here.

I'm also feeling pretty thankful for my marriage. Oh goodness, we're married. We are so happy to have been so supported through the entire process. To have family and friends who understood what we wanted our wedding to look like and didn't fret when we mentioned in late August that we would like to be married by the end of the year. Who knew that it was not only possible, but also thought it was quite lovely. I've been writing down my thoughts on these crazy few months and hope to share some of them soon.

In the meantime, we've been making frittata, visiting family and sipping on mulled wine, spiked eggnog and homemade Irish cream. I've also been working on a few new variations on headstand and trying not to knock down our Christmas tree in the process. Oh and for anyone tired of these iPhone photos, I'd like to let you know that one of my resolutions for the new year is to use my actual camera more. I have a shiny new lens for my Canon and am ready to cut back on my Instagram and VSCO cam reliance.