Monday, December 19, 2011

q and a.

S had some friends over today for a little holiday frivolity. I made a little book for each of them. The books had fill-in-the-blank questions. The following are S's answers. Please note that each page is illustrated in detail.


This is me. (Self portrait.) My name is S. I am 4 years old.

This is my family. (She labeled us all, and we are surrounded by birds, which means she drew my own personal Hell. Also, M appears to be wearing a beret.)

This is my house. (I asked her about her details, and she pointed out the gate into the courtyard, the bushes in the backyard, and "the mess of leaves over by the pine trees.")

My favorite book is The Bible.

My favorite toy is Froggy.

My favorite animal is a cat.

My favorite food is spaghetti. (Then why, pray tell, do you never eat it?)

The coolest place I've ever been is home. (That's my little recluse.)

If I could go anywhere, it would be the pond across the street at night to look at the stars. (What?)

If I could meet anyone, it would be Jesus. (She even drew him some Birkenstocks. I swear to you.)

When I grow up, I want to be a princess.

The best thing about Christmas is giving presents. (She drew a gift with a set of hands giving and another receiving, and an arrow to indicate what was happening. I love this girl.)

The best gift I've ever gotten is clothes for my dolls.

The grossest food I've ever eaten is corn.

The best thing about being a kid is playing in the snow.

The worst thing about being a kid is having to pull your own grapes off the stems.

My mom's favorite thing to do is cook.

My dad's favorite thing to do is decorate the Christmas tree.

My brother's favorite thing to do is be with mom.

This book is about my family. (The page read this book is blank.)


This little activity is one of my most favorite things she's ever done, and I fully intend to keep it forever. I may even put it in the fireproof box that holds our passports.

Friday, December 16, 2011

mind blowing. outlook altering.

It's taken me days to get around to this post. One: because our internet keeps crapping out. Two: because I don't know where or how to begin.

Apparently, my OCD tendencies are worse than I thought. I'm not blind, I know I'm a little crazy. I just didn't realize how crazy. Apparently. I really, honest-to-goodness thought I was doing humanity this tremendous favor by exposing the truth behind the great internet organization monster. I guess not. M said it best when I was telling him how horrified I was by my idea gone awry. He said, "Yeah, if you'd shown me those pictures ahead of time, I would have told you it wasn't going to work." Or something along those lines. Of course, he then proceeded to tell me all the things in the photos that he knew that I saw as a mess from Hell. The man knows me well. Then he reminded me, while those photos were, in fact, photos of my mess, they would be most people's organized.

So. New tactic.

I still truly, honestly believe in my heart of hearts that the internet just plies us with unrealistic expectations. Someday soon I will take staged photos of my kitchen and meticulously point out the areas that I changed because it might not be obvious to anyone but me. And my husband.

What I've realized is that there's also a perspective aspect to this monster. I found the Ouiser porn link to be unrealistic. Perhaps you find my pictures to be unrealistic. Maybe you find the kitchens on Hoarders unrealistic. The point is that with so much media showing us gazillions of photographs of what we should be doing, we're inundated with images that tell us what we're doing isn't enough. And I believe that you can always do more. You can always improve, but I think the images on the internet and in Martha Stewart don't inspire us, they intimidate us. They give us a "keeping up with the Joneses'" complex.

Does that even make sense? Am I speaking in Greek?

Also, unrelated to the internet, this little experiment has forced me to really, really embrace my crazy. I already had, but I spent a couple of days this week feeling guilty and sad and embarrassed about it, mostly because I really didn't realize the level of it. Now that I have, I've decided that I really, really don't care if I seem crazy. It's who I am, and being hyper aware of my mess and wanting to be organized makes me happy. Really happy, so I'm just going to embrace it with open arms. And I'm going to talk about it to make people laugh, because, frankly, most people already do laugh at me for my crazy. It's like my party trick.

There you have it. Now, my toilet has been soaking in vinegar while I wrote this post, and I need to get it properly scrubbed before the children wake up and my time is consumed with helping T chase his favorite toy around the family room and helping S decorate her gingerbread house.

Have a fabulous weekend, my peeps.

Monday, December 12, 2011

the kitchen.

Okay, here they are. The untouched, hideous real photos. I didn't even crop them. That's how real I'm being here people. Totally real. Like Taxi Cab Confessions real. (I don't even know what that means. I thought maybe it would give me some street cred? I don't know what that means either.)

So, here's the kitchen on a random afternoon. It is NOT pretty. It is, however, excruciatingly honest. It's so honest that it is really, really hurting my soul to put these photographs on the internet. Of course I'm trying to lend some real integrity to my argument that the internet is a big, fat lie.

Without further ado, I present my kitchen cabinets.
Dishes. Serving bowls. Pitchers.
Coffee stuff. Salad spinner. Vases. Huge platter.
Mixing bowls. Water bottles. Plastic crap.
Above the microwave.
Flatware. And the rolling pin and knife sharpener.
Food storage stuff and bottles.
Baking pans.
Cooking utensils.
The junk drawer.
Under the sink.
The pantry.
The fridge.
The refrigerator door.
The top freezer drawer.
The bottom freezer drawer.
Some very old china that I use every single day and stuff we don't use a lot.
The baking sheets and whatnot.

There you have it. Now I'm going to go organize that kitchen like it's my job. Wait, that kind of is my job. I should get fired.

Now it's your turn. Please. For the love of Pete.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

the internet is a big, fat lie.

Recently, Scarlet Lily sent me an email. The subject line of the email was Ouiser Porn. You all know that I'm the world's biggest prude, right? I am. I was also curious about the email. It contained a link to this.

It really was like porn. Just for me. If Bella is Edward's personal brand of heroin, then organizing might be mine. As I scrolled through the blog post, I ooh'ed and aah'ed a lot. Then I ooh'ed less. Then I just got angry.

Want to know why?

Because the internet is a big, fat lie.

The photographs of that kitchen aren't realistic. I mean, they're real. In fact, that's what my kitchen looks like after I clean it, and if I was planning to photograph my kitchen and slap those photos on the internet, that's probably what it would look like. But then I'd cook dinner. Or grab something from the back of the cabinet and not replace whatever was in front of it as carefully. I might not turn all the labels the same way. I might not stack the peanut butter crackers as neatly. Do you get what I'm saying?

I'm saying that by virtue of living in a space, you cannot maintain perfection in that space.

Let that soak into your brains for a minute. It took me a minute to really grasp what I was saying myself.

No matter what organizing tool you buy. No matter how tidy you are. No matter if you have a housekeeper. Your life and your home can't be perfect all the time. It's just not realistic.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't aim high. I aim for perfection all the time, but it's a goal that I never actually intend to meet. It just makes me do my best. Keeping my kitchen as organized as I can whilst still using it. Keeping my toilet as clean as possible whilst not sending my family to the woods to "eliminate."

I've decided that the internet and magazines shouldn't be lying to us. It's like they exist just to make us feel bad about ourselves. To make us feel like we're bad mothers. Bad housekeepers. Bad cooks. Bad, bad, bad. And you know what? We're not. So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to start photographing real life a little. I photographed my whole kitchen yesterday. Everything. Every cabinet. Every drawer. Even the inside of the fridge. Only I didn't do any merchandising at all. It took all my willpower not to stage things perfectly, not to turn the spouts on the milks and the juices all the same way. Not to make sure the forks and spoons were perfectly aligned. But I didn't. I just clicked away. Next, I'm going to merchandise the crap out of the kitchen. I'm going to get it "my house is on the market" ready. And I'm going to photograph* that. And then we're going to see the difference in reality and internet reality and we're all going to feel like champions of domesticity. Right? Right.

Who's with me? I mean, am I the only person alive who feels like the internet and magazines are taunting me? Telling me that I'm not good enough unless my life is in perfect order? Perfectly designed, perfectly rigid order? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Is this thing on?

*My card reader has just crapped out. The photos will have to wait. Technical difficulties and all.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

little ouiserisms.

In the past hour, Miss Priss has been on a roll.

For starters, as I was putting the red pepper flakes away after spiking M's dinner with them, I smashed my finger in the spice drawer. I've done this before. You'd think I'd learn, but no, I continue to injure myself. Anyway, it was not pleasant. It was one of those things that makes you think you are instantly going to puke, and I literally fell to the floor, rocking back and forth in an effort to not string together every curse word I know. (For the record, no improper words escaped my lips.) M and S ran over to see what was the matter, and when M realized I was okay, he told S to stay back and just give me a minute. And she did. One minute. Then she said, "Dad, don't try to stop me," and came right over to me to pat me on the shoulder. She gave me a kiss, and then she told me I might need to be more careful.

Then after dinner, she asked if M or I was going to take T upstairs to bed. She wanted M to do it, but I told her if he did that I was going to go to the grocery store. She said, "and leave me down here all alone?" I said, "Yes, for the six minutes it'll take your dad to feed your brother." She replied, "Oh, Mommy, I would shiver with fright."

Then there was another one, and I can't remember it for the life of me, but it was funny enough that I came in here to blog about it. I'm so geriatric that I can't remember something my daughter said for five minutes. Wow. Looks like Santa needs to bring me Brain Age.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

the books.

The Sleepy Time Gal posted about Christmas traditions today, and in the post she talked about Christmas books that her family enjoys. Seasonal books are one of my favorite things around here.

Most of the kids' books are upstairs on a shelf outside of the calm place. However, I keep a crate of books in the family room, too. I rotate them every month or so, and I try to keep them out according to seasons and holidays. So, I put away the Thanksgiving books last week, and got out the winter books. I realized later that I had two separate stashes (winter books v. Christmas books), but having shown S the winter books, I couldn't very well take them away in an attempt to refresh the stash on December 26th, so the book crate is overflowing right now, and that's okay.

Here's what's occupying the book box now:
It's a hefty list, but most of the titles are great. Even the Caillou book is okay. The lone exception to that statement is Emily and the Snowflake. If you ever come across this book, run, don't walk, in the other direction. S loves it. Like, loves it, and it's awful. She also loves the Winnie the Pooh book, which I don't really understand since she's never cared a thing for the inhabitants of the Hundred-Acre Wood previously. I think she just likes it because it's long.

I've posted links to my favorite titles from the list. That way, if you're in the market for a holiday or seasonal book for your kiddos, you can get one that's a little more parent friendly. Meaning, if you have to read it over and over and over, you might not want to tear your eyes is the holiday season after all. And I'm a good friend like that.

I will say that The Tomten is actually one of my favorite children's books. Period. I love it so much. The Story of the Snow Children is also lovely. It's rather magical, really. I also love anything that has to do with Madeline, but S is currently rejecting anything to do with my little French heroine. Leo Lionni is always brilliant, and Frederick is no exception to his genius. Lastly, The Tennessee Night Before Christmas just makes me smile. It talks about Moon Pies for crying out loud, and one of the kids in the story is sleeping in a University of Tennessee Peyton Manning Jersey. It's pretty awesome...even if it doesn't really rhyme.

We've also got some grown up holiday books, but my favorite is a collection of poetry that my SIL gave me last year. I adore reading poetry. Also, this is an absolute gem.

Do you feel Christmas literate now? You're welcome.

What about you? Do you keep a stash of holiday books? What are your favorites?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

let the advent-ures begin.

We busted out the Advent calendar this morning for the season of festivity is upon us. Like last year, we aimed for a daily activity that will allow either S and I or our entire family to do something together. A chance to spend at least five minutes of each of the next 25 days enjoying the holiday season. Without further ado, I present the 2011 list of Advent-ures:
  1. Decorate the small tree in S's room.
  2. Spend the night with T & Grandma (Mr. Ouiser and I are going to his office holiday party.)
  3. Buy and decorate the family Christmas tree.
  4. Watch Charlie Brown Christmas.
  5. Watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on TV.
  6. Make a Christmas banner.
  7. Make Peppermint Bark and remember to send Toddler Tamer the world's most gracious thank you note for the bag of crushed peppermint.
  8. Make salt dough ornaments.
  9. Watch Santa Claus is Coming to Town on TV with cookies and cocoa.
  10. Spend the night with Mellie (Mr. Ouiser and I have plans.)
  11. See The Muppets.
  12. Feed the birds.
  13. Make Daddy's favorite cookies (Chocolate Mint).
  14. Make treats to take to school.
  15. See Santa Clause.
  16. Make a gingerbread house or gingerbread nativity.
  17. Choate family Christmas at Aunt O's.
  18. See the Nashville Ballet performance of The Nutcracker (this is strictly a date for S and Mr. Ouiser. I love the idea of a fancy daddy/daughter date during the holidays.)
  19. Have a Christmas playdate.
  20. See the trees at Cheekwood.
  21. Christmas with the Suters.
  22. Watch Polar Express.
  23. Make and decorate butter cookies.
  24. Read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Granted, this list doesn't much take into account what the wee-est Ouiser wants to do, but he's just along for the ride for now. Besides, as long as he has something to gnaw on and can stare in wonder at his big sister, he's happy.

I will say that our list will likely have to change a bit, but this is the general plan. Sometimes weather or sickness or last minute plans with friends just have to take precedence, and I'm happy with that because the point is to enjoy the season, not for me to fly my crazy flag. I mean, the elaborate calendar I've created with all the baked goodies and lists of people to give cookies and holiday movies that must be watched coupled with the Christmas spreadsheet that indicates exactly what stage of gifting each gift recipient's present is in (ordered, wrapped, packed to ship or shipped) is evidence enough of my crazy. You know how big car dealerships have those giant American flags that look like they could cover your entire house? That's how large my crazy flag is. I own the crazy. I like to think it makes me charming. That's totally how it comes across, right? No? You just sit at home reading this babble, laughing because you know a person who could probably land her own show on TLC called Crazy Toilet Scrubbing Lady does Stupid Human Tricks? Oh. Okay.

Just the same, I hope you've gotten your own Advent-ures kicked off with a bang. What are your plans for Advent?