12/19/14

Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links

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All three kids together and smiling, I love these moments. HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! Don't forget to click over to Cherish This Day to see the rest of the group's photos.

RANDOM LINKS:

* 51 of the most beautiful sentences in literature.

* Lately, I'm in love with this cookbook, full of healthy, simple recipes.

* When celebrity photography was cool.

* The 25 Best TV characters of 2014. Lincoln and Maura are awesome.

* Tumblr's 2014 Year in Review. Lots. Of. Info. My favorite is Kale.

12/18/14

Things to Read - Seven Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on mom friends, Chris Rock, the most powerful woman in the free world, the central sadness, busyness, college admissions, and Elf on the Shelf)

1. (Mom Friends) - Meaghan O'Connell's article about needing to make mom friends after having a baby reminded me of how hard those early years can be (it really does get easier - kids, babies, mom friends, the whole thing).

" 'Well, are any of them cool?' my friend asked me.

Actually, I said, yes. Most of these women are cool individually. One woman at story time had these great sparkly shoes. Another is a midwife. One woman started her own company and is really funny. Another writes for the Times. Collectively, though, they are mothers. They park their goddamn strollers everywhere and they are alternately dressed like shit or way overdressed for someone who has nowhere to be at all. They’re either miserable or fake happy or smug. They’re lost, too, scrambling for affirmation that they’re doing things the right way, that their kid is going to be okay. Okay or a genius. They’re knee-jerk judgmental, compensating for their own lack of conviction, a little defensive, hiding their deep fear just below the surface. They’re tired. Their clothes don’t fit. They miss work, miss people, miss drinking. They have no idea what they’re doing and have spent way too much time reading about it on the internet. They are, I’m sorry to say, just like me."

2. (Chris Rock) - I feel like social media is abuzz with talk of Chris Rock's New York magazine interview, but have you read it yet? The whole thing is quite brilliant. As in every quote.

"I don’t think I’ve had any meetings with black film execs. Maybe one. It is what it is. As I told Bill Murray, Lost in Translation is a black movie: That’s what it feels like to be black and rich. Not in the sense that people are being mean to you. Bill Murray’s in Tokyo, and it’s just weird. He seems kind of isolated. He’s always around Japanese people. Look at me right now."

3. (The Most Powerful Woman In the Free World) - And speaking of influential people, the New Yorker has a fascinating profile of Angela Merkel, "the most powerful woman in the free world."

"She once joked to the tabloid Bild Zeitung, with double-edged self-deprecation, “The men in the laboratory always had their hands on all the buttons at the same time. I couldn’t keep up with this, because I was thinking. And then things suddenly went ‘poof,’ and the equipment was destroyed.” Throughout her career, Merkel has made a virtue of biding her time and keeping her mouth shut.

. . . .

Merkel, at sixty, is the most successful politician in modern German history. Her popularity floats around seventy-five per cent—unheard of in an era of resentment toward elected leaders. Plainness remains her political signature, with inflections of Protestant virtue and Prussian uprightness. Once, with a group of journalists at a hotel bar in the Middle East, she said, “Can you believe it? Here I am, the Chancellor! What am I doing here? When I was growing up in the G.D.R., we imagined capitalists with long black cloaks and top hats and cigars and big feet, like cartoons. And now here I am, and they have to listen to me!” Of course, there’s something calculated about her public image. “She’s so careful not to show any pretensions—which is a kind of pretension,” the senior official said."

4. (The Central Sadness) - New Yorker also published a wonderful essay on "the childless, the parentless, and the Central Sadness."

"I thought I’d undertaken volunteer work with kids because I was, above all, a realist. I thought it showed the depth of my understanding of my own psyche. I thought it was a way of turning my limitations, specifically my reluctance to have children, into new and useful possibilities. I thought the thing I felt most guilty about could be turned into a force for good. But now I know that I was under the sway of my own complicated form of baby craziness. Wary as I’ve always been of our culture’s reflexive idealization—even obsessive sanctification—of the bond between parent and child, it seems that I fell for another kind of myth. I fell for the myth of the village. I fell for the idea that nurture from a loving adoptive community could erase or at least heal the abuses of horrible natural parents.

I’d also tricked myself into believing that trying to help these kids would put the Central Sadness on permanent hiatus, that my husband and I could find peace (not just peace but real fulfillment) in our life together. Instead, we continued to puzzle over the same unanswerable questions. Were we sad because we lacked some essential element of lifetime partnership, such as a child or an agreement about wanting or not wanting one, or because life is just sad sometimes—maybe even a lot of the time? Or perhaps it wasn’t even sadness we were feeling but, simply, the dull ache of aging. Maybe children don’t save their parents from this ache as much as distract from it. And maybe creating a diversion from aging is in fact much of the point of parenting."

5. (Busyness) - Another great article on the "disease of being busy."

"Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just . . . be?"

6. (College Admissions) - Another article on "letting Harvard go."

"Q - How do I motivate my child to get straight A's? (I wish, actually, the question was: how do I set reasonable academic expectations for my child?)

A - you don't. Encourage your child to do his or her best work. Check in often to feel out how much and how well they're learning. Offer support if your child is struggling. And when your child gets a B, C, or D -- or even if he fails -- don't overreact. Review mistakes. Ask the child to fix them, even if it's not for credit. Ask how he feels about his performance and what he might do differently next time. Never express disappointment, but it's okay to encourage improvement. There's a line, and you know it. Expecting A's is pressure. Expecting learning is awesome."

7. (Elf on the Shelf) - And finally, this article on why "Elf on the Shelf is preparing your child to live in a future police state" sounded absurd, until I read it. And now all I can say is "ummm??? (Full disclosure, we are an "Elf family", my children know no other way).

“I don’t think the elf is a conspiracy and I realize we’re talking about a toy,” Pinto told The Post. “It sounds humorous, but we argue that if a kid is okay with this bureaucratic elf spying on them in their home, it normalizes the idea of surveillance and in the future restrictions on our privacy might be more easily accepted.”

12/17/14

Things to Do - 12 in 12 (December 2014)

Now that I can't walk or drive (annoying broken foot), my days have slowed down considerably. I have a lot of work I should be doing - finishing up final edits from end of November photoshoots, reworking my website to showcase newer photos, newsletters, business cards, taxes, branding. But I don't have a laptop and I'm supposed to keep my foot elevated as much as possible. So I took the week off . . .

Don't forget to check out Not-So-SAHM and Where the Watermelons Grow to see how their Fridays went.

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7:45 am - Our elf isn't as creative as some of the other elfs out there, but at least he moves around a lot.

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8:15 am - The kids unwrap fake mustaches for day 12 of the countdown to Christmas. These prove to be a HUGE success.

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8:45 am - My friend picks the kids up to walk them to school, since I can't really move that well.

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9:15 am - I elevate my foot and finish the last episode of Puberty Blues, Season 2 on Hulu (probably the best show ever on TV, you can read my review of Season 1 here).

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11:45 am - My friend, Ann, picks me up for lunch at Busboys and Poets.

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1:30 pm - Back on the couch. This time I alternate between reading The Paying Guestsand watching Broad City on Amazon Prime (that show is HYSTERICAL!!)

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2:30 pm - Take a selfie of myself on the couch, just to take a picture of something.

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3:45 pm - F makes root beer floats for everyone after school.

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4:30 pm - Kelly picks us up to drive to playgroup. Unlike us, she has TVs in her car, which enchant my children. (I know you can't see the whole ensemble that well in this photo, but there is NOTHING in the world cuter than a toddler in a shark jacket/costume).

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6:30 pm - Friday night playgroup at Julia's. Wonderful salad, wonderful friends.

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8:00 pm - Drive by some crazy Xmas lights on the way home. Apparently the house has its own AM station, but we just stay long enough to get the general idea.

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9:00 pm - P trying to delay bedtime for just a few minutes more.





12/15/14

Things to Do - Gravity Maze GIVEAWAY!! [Now Closed}

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I have a friend who loves making marble runs with her kids - they own runs in every size and color imaginable. But me? Well up til now I've always been more neutral on the marble run experience. Yes, it can be fun to build a little roller coaster of sorts, but after awhile the whole process seems a little redundant. Until now.

Over the past year or so, Thinkfun has asked us to try out a variety of their new toys and games and we've always been rather impressed with their offerings. But Gravity Maze is the best yet. The puzzle/game comes with 60 challenges, ranging from beginning to expert. And it is up to you to arrange various translucent "towers" in such a way that the ball rolls from A to Z.

Gravity Maze is designed for children 8 and up. P (my 8 year old) loves solving the challenges both with me (as a team) and on her own. Whereas, T (my 5 year old) prefers to let me do most of the problem solving, while he drops the ball to see if we're working in the right direction.

All in all, this is a great pre-dinner activity, especially during the LONG LONG nights of December. Think Fun has offered to giveaway one gravity maze to a No Monsters reader (US addresses only). To enter, just comment on this post. Please include your email address in the body of the message (so I can find you). This giveaway will close this Thursday night (December 18th).

THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED AND A WINNER HAS BEEN CONTACTED. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO ENTERED!!

12/12/14

Places to Go (Vacation) - Bourbon Street & A Broken Foot (New Olreans, LA)

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These are my best friends. I don't see them as often as I'd like. But when I do see them, we have fun.

I really don't think there's any better place for a girls' weekend than New Orleans, LA. Especially when you're edging 40. Because you can: drink outside in December, dance to a live band singing "Don't Stop Believing", and (miraculously) find yourselves some of the youngest women in the room. Vegas just can't give you that last part.

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Everything became fuzzy after the hurricanes (granted there were several margaritas before the hurricanes even began).

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Apparently we drank more.

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And more.

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And danced.

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Night two was much more mellow due to an ill-placed pothole colliding with my right foot (I actually fell in said pothole while checking my fitbit steps, oh the irony).

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After walking proved difficult, we ended up at the hotel bar, with its overpriced drinks and eclectic clientele.

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Wine numbs the pain.

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And if a stranger tells Allison she has big hair, as in "really big, like Texas, hair" . . .

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Then she will find a way to make it bigger.

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And bigger.

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So Saturday was sort of a bust. But after 4 hours in the New Orleans emergency room (not a place I'd recommend), they told me my foot was definitely broken, gave me a coolio boot, and sent me on my way.

Still a great weekend. And that says a lot.





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