Every year at the beginning of December, I lament the fact that we don’t have an Advent calendar. When I was a kid, my grandmother always had an Advent calendar for us, a cute, hanging fabric thingy with numbered pockets and candy. Or maybe it was more the punch-out-the-chocolate variety, and probably only one year. Honestly, I can’t remember the pesky details. But I have fond memories of standing in her front hall, filled with afternoon sunlight and excitement, or maybe that was the sugar high, and being so excited to tear open the next day’s treat.
Even though I can’t really recall WHAT it was we actually had, I NEED MY KIDS TO HAVE PRECIOUS CHRISTMAS MEMORIES, DAMMIT.
And so thanks to this desire, I bookmarked a crap load of pretty Advent calendars for inspiration (because this was BP: Before Pinterest), and got myself to the nearest Jo-Ann’s. The year was 2009. I bought about 5 pounds of red felt, all the white embroidery thread, and probably a ton of other red and green paraphernalia that I didn’t need. It was easy: make little felt pockets, whip stitch them together and embroider 1-25 on each. If I was feeling fancy, I would even add a little button for an enclosure, and maybe a decorative bell. They sky was the limit! I was filled with inspiration and Christmas spirit!
I was also starting this project a tad late. The problem about December 1st is that it has a pesky habit of coming after November 30th. Every. Damn. Year.
So the Advent calendar project was tabled for that year, and now I had a whole 12 months to finish it! And then I remembered it again in late November 2010, looked at the bag of felt and thread (still in the garage next to the rest of the red and green “supplies” of projects long forgotten) and said, “Next year. 2011 will be your YEAR.”
Look at the title of this post and ask me how that went. Go ahead.
Okay, so maybe making an Advent calendar wasn’t my thing. If having three kids has taught me anything, it’s that making your own stuff is way overrated. Buying shit that someone else has already made is way easier.
We were at IKEA a few weeks ago, and in the food section they had boxes and boxes of chocolate Advent calendars that again brought back fond memories of my grandmother’s sunlight-filled hallway and sugar rushes. Only I didn’t buy any because why the hell do they put those at the end? I’ll be damned if I’m going through that checkout line again. Could I have bought it at the food counter, maybe throw in a $1 cinnamon roll? I guess we’ll never know.
So while my mother in law was here for Thanksgiving, we made a special trip to IKEA just for Advent calendars. She lives in Iowa and can’t get to one without a 4 hour layover, and I have the fortune of having one a mere 20 minutes into suburbia. It’s glorious.
Two hours and $57 later, we left IKEA with some $2 candles, frames, a lantern, a Christmas table runner, and…
NO ADVENT CALENDAR.
It’s just not meant to be. Although if I go get one now, I get days 1-5 all to myself….
We hosted Thanksgiving this year for a couple of reasons.
a) My mother in law is visiting from Iowa.
b) Instead of making hotel reservations in Dallas for November, Christian made them for December.
So really there is only one reason I hosted Thanksgiving. Naturally this led to a story because things just don’t go smoothly around here. And really, did you expect anything else? It’s just not meant to be.
I don’t know how to cook a turkey. Correction: I didn’t know how to cook a turkey. I had the sides covered. Sweet potatoes, check. Green beans, check. Stuffing, check. Hash brown potato casserole that my side of the family serves at every holiday, check. But I’ve never had a reason to cook a turkey, and honestly, I haven’t been really looking for one.
I knew my mother in law could cook a turkey. On the one hand, I didn’t want to shove all of the turkey cooking responsibilities on her. But on the other hand, I totally wanted to shove all the turkey cooking responsibilities on her.
She was happy to do it. It was all very Laura Ingalls, showing her son’s little wifey how to make her way around the kitchen. She’s old school. Hard core. She makes gravy from the broth. By eyeballing it. No fancy brining or marinating or sauteeing or whatever the hell it is you do with an 11 pound turkey. No, we covered it in pats of butter, threw some salt on it, and slid it into a paper bag. Target, if you must know. I have a shitton of them thanks to the Austin plastic bag ban. Just sitting up on the shelf above my dryer, waiting for turkeys.
Into the oven it went. Kind of. Thanks to the massive roasting pan Christian and I picked up from the store for $10 (because remember, we’ve never cooked a turkey?), the over door wouldn’t close. I opened it back up to see what the holdup was, and that’s when I saw FIRE! FUEGO! FEU! The paper bag had come in contact with the top burner in the oven, which was hanging down dangerously low and had been for the past oh, EIGHT YEARS we’ve lived here. We’ve just never fixed it because a) I never notice it until I go to stick something in the oven and see it glowing red and hanging all helter skelter; b) you know how we are with home projects; and c) it’s not really a danger to such gourmet dishes as frozen pizzas and cinnamon rolls – pretty much all I use my oven for.
The last time my oven caught fire (because you KNOW this has happened before), it was a loaf of garlic bread, or rather the paper bag that encased the garlic bread. Honestly you’d think it would occur to me to stop putting paper products in my oven, but the garlic bread incident was forever ago. I’d forgotten all about it until I saw the flames licking my beautiful 11 pound bird. I started beating it various kitchen textiles at no avail. I stopped, dropped, and rolled, but my turkey’s right thigh was still on the fast track to crispness. So we did the logical next thing.
We called for Christian, who valiantly swooped in with cups of tap water to quench the flames. I totally would have done it, but I would have lost precious seconds trying to squeeze through the open oven door/kitchen island combo and removing my oven mitt. It was just easier to call someone else.
Also let it be known that in the Great Garlic Bread Fire of many years ago, my first instinct was to grab some water, but he snuffed it out with a towel. So I was really just doing what was modeled for me in previous instances.
That’s pretty much the climax of this story. We rebagged, resalted, and rebuttered the turkey, and had to bend the hell out of one end of the roasting pan to get it to fit in the oven. And it came out beautifully. I was well equipped with dishrags and water at the ready, but none of my side dishes caught fire. How ordinary.
And of course the next day I spied smaller, disposable roasting pans for $1, which would have been much more well suited for this side dish loving woman who has no intention of ever cooking a turkey again.
Hey! This is a sponsored post through Orange Wall Collective. I know! Two in one week. I hardly ever do sponsored posts, and this was a mere coincidence. But it’s thanks to things like this that this blog stays up and running, so thank you for supporting those that support Genie in a Blog.
One of the things I love about Austin is that there is always something to do. Races, concerts, festivals…we practically have festivals for our festivals, there are so many. That also means that each time a major holiday rolls around, there are approximately 127 activities around town to choose from.
One of those holiday events is right up here in north Austin. On Saturday, November 23, 2013, the Domain hosts the 7th Annual Lighting of the Great Tree. The shopping center will be full of fun activities for the whole family, live music, and of course, Santa Claus himself. I’ve never been to the Domain tree lighting, but with all of the activities they have planned, we may have to give it a shot this year.
The event kicks off at noon with free, family friendly holiday fun, including face painting, caricature drawings, balloon artists, and holiday crafts near iPic Theaters. Local musicians will keep the kids entertained with holiday songs on the stage near Starbucks and on the plaza near iPic Theaters, while carolers stroll the shopping center throughout the day. I am a sucker for strolling carolers! Then pop into the many stores to find some special in-store events and offers and maybe get a head start on your Christmas shopping. I like jewelry. Just saying.
Evening festivities begin at 6 p.m., featuring a performance by acclaimed singer/songwriter Phil Vassar. Santa Claus will be on hand to light the 40 foot tree, with more than 400 ornaments and 6000 lights, and of course have a chat with his many fans about what they want most this Christmas. The whole evening will end with a magnificent fireworks show.
No matter what time of day you attend, The Domain’s Lighting of the Great Tree should be great fun. I’m already trying to think of what kind of balloon animal I want. For my kids, of course.
Note: I used Grammarly for proofreading online because sometimes even the biggest grammar snobs don’t catch their own mistakes. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Grammarly. Every once in a while I do sponsored posts because they help me contribute to my family or do fun things like go to conferences. All bad writing and terrible metaphors are clearly my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support Genie in a Blog.
I wrote my first book in the third grade.
It was composed on standard 20 lb, white copy paper, with half of the page dedicated to the story and half to the illustration. I held both roles. It was a Goldilocks and the Three Bears-inspired plot, but all I remember was that instead of running away, my protagonist shot at the bears. With a gun. The bullets went right through them, and now she had a bunch of holey bears trying to eat her. In the end (SPOILER ALERT!) she woke up, and alas, it was all a dream.
One, I’m not sure how I escaped therapy with that one, and two, good God I wish I could get my hands on that book so I could bask in its ridiculously terrible terribleness.
I always loved writing short stories. I remember just starting to write and eventually losing myself in the story. But growing up, art was always my thing, so that’s the direction I took in my education. As I got older, there wasn’t much time for reading that wasn’t on a syllabus, and even that was minimal at best. Let’s just say there was no time for reading that wasn’t on the back of a cereal box or case of beer.
I journaled through college, and a little after, but really only when I was pissed off about something. That guy’s drawings look like a pig threw up on the paper and then wallowed in it! I have no idea why the professor is so in love with him! [Insert various scribble scrabble and angry doodles here.]
I started blogging when my girls were 6 months old, and I quickly realized that I loved channeling my creativity into the keyboard. The anxiety and stress and apathy I had felt about creating visual art didn’t exist here. Now I knew wanted to become a writer. I actually googled “how to become a writer.”
But I guess it’s not too lame, because I found the same answer time and time again. The key to becoming a writer is to just write. Write in a journal, write on a blog, write on scraps of paper and compile them into a cute little pocket sized mini-book that will make you millions in check out stand, impulse-buy sales.
I don’t have time to write, you say. I know. Me either. As a parent to three kids ages 5 and under, finding time to write for myself is my biggest challenge, especially if I’m working to meet deadlines for other sites. But I squeeze it in when I can. I’m typing this hurriedly – typos and all – while browning up some taco meat for dinner, while the kids watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I’ll edit it later, hopefully before I hit publish. So for all of you who want to write but don’t know when to write, here are a few suggestions.
How to find time to write when you are a parent (the eternal question)
In the early morning, before anyone in your house wakes up. Just know that as soon as you settle in with your coffee and your laptop, one of your children is going to get up. Even if you are up at 5 am and they never – EVER – rise until 7? They will choose this day to get up at 5:13.
When the children have all gone to school. This may be your best bet if you are a work at home parent. Good luck ignoring all the laundry and dishes and other chores that you can really only get done when the house is empty.
Actually, I do a pretty good job ignoring that stuff.
During “naptime.” I use elaborate, dramatic air quotes here because there are no naps in the Torres house. Our only downtime is usually Pixar related. But any quiet downtime is a good time to unload some of the words that have been in your brain all day.
At night, after all the young ones have gone to bed and the house is quiet. Never mind your spouse bugging you with a million things that have obviously been piling up in his brain all day like “Hey, remember when I use to like Cheez-Its? Crazy, right?”
When you’re staring blankly at Facebook. I actually tend to stare at Facebook when I’m feeling tired, overwhelmed, and I don’t think I could focus on writing. But if you shut Zuckerberg out for a while, you’d be surprised what you can get done.
WHEN YOU CAN. This is the only real answer. Inspiration can hit at the absolute worst moments: in the shower, as you’re about to turn out your light at 12:21 am, or as the kids are all running around like wild animals and you. can. not. think. Mornings may work best, but you may get a wave of inspiration in the evening. I’ve been known to open up a new draft and jot down a few notes or type up some specific lines I would like to use in a post. Sure, I’m sitting on about 103 unfinished drafts right about now, but that’s neither here nor there. Clearly I’m waiting for the next “naptime” to go through those.
Convincing yourself that you don’t have the time to write can be as crippling as thinking you don’t have anything to say. Just open that laptop or that journal, and get to writing.
Saturday I took Rachel to her first birthday party without Claire. One kid. One twin.
I always feel rather anonymous with just one twin. No second glances, no stares, no Are they….? I feel so uncharacteristically normal.
I didn’t drop the news right away because I am a total chicken. I waited until a few hours before the party, partly procrastinating the discussion, but also because in typical Leigh Ann fashion, I had my dates wrong and thought the party was the following weekend. So I was also that parent hurriedly calling the night before to RSVP.
This is a bittersweet, yet necessary fact of life of being a twin and a twin parent. You know they will eventually be doing separate activities, making different friends, developing different interests, because that’s what normal kids do. And you, as a twin mom, have always been set on keeping things as normal as possible. They’re in separate classes because it’s best for their academic and social development. They’re going to get invited to different parties once in a while because sometimes kids only invite their class, and that’s okay.
Claire was a little hurt at first, not because she didn’t get invited. It was more just the fact that Rachel was getting to go to a party and she wasn’t. So we assured her that she and Zoe and Dad would do something fun while we were gone. They ended up jumping on the trampoline all afternoon, which is pretty much what Rachel did at the bouncy house, minus the cake. And honestly, if I had the option to stay home and bounce with no loud music and not having to cram myself into a room with 87 other people, I’d take it. But I’m a crotchety 35- year-old, not 5, so there’s that.
Some people would say to call the host and ask if sister could come, but I’m not comfortable with that. When Claire was invited to a party earlier in the year, the boy told his mom that she had a twin, and she graciously invited her as well. But I don’t expect all parents to know that I have another kid in a different class. These parties at these bouncy places can get expensive, and every head counts. And I can’t stand the thought of someone feeling guilty and saying yes, go ahead and bring her when they’re at max capacity already. Saturday’s event was at a place that caters to parties only, so it wasn’t even like we could bring the other 2 and pay admission for them.
So I know all of these things, and I’ve been mentally preparing for this since they were born, knowing that this is how I would handle it when it came up. I will tell parents not to feel bad about not knowing that the girls are twins! But it still sucks because even in my own mind, I have a hard time separating them. They’ve done the same thing practically from birth — they ate at the same time, played at the same time, slept at the same time…kinda. And let’s face it, life is easier when everyone does the same thing. Diversity is for people with greater attention spans than I.
I’m grateful that they are young enough that they can get over this quickly, and all it takes is a fun activity to smooth things over. There were no real hurt feelings. I keep thinking about a section in Abigail Pogrebin’s memoir, One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to be Singular. Abigail and her sister Robin recall a time when Robin was invited to a party, but Abigail wasn’t, and Robin declined to go without her sister. It wasn’t that this girl didn’t know Robin had a twin; it was a clear case of her inviting one twin who was her friend, and not inviting the twin who wasn’t. And really you can’t blame her. It’s just unfortunate that the one she wanted to invite and the one she didn’t happened to be identical twins.
And twinship often trumps non twin relationships.
When we returned, Claire hugged her and said, “I’m glad you’re back!” And that was that. I’m not sure how these scenarios will play out in the future, and I imagine we’ll just take them as they come. Maybe their twinship will become common knowledge, and an invitation for one will automatically incite an invitation for the other. Or maybe the day will come when one has to decide if she wants to attend a function to which her sister wasn’t invited. All we can do is wait and see.
Amazon links are affiliate links. One and the Same is one of my most highly recommended books for twins, twin parents, or anyone who is close to a twin. It’s a fascinating read.
I am a jeans and tshirt kind of girl. Flip flops. Flats if I’m feeling fancy. Basically, I like being comfortable.
Things I don’t like include being in uncomfortable situations, trying new things, and the unknown. And pickles. I don’t really like pickles.
The last time I really stepped out of my comfort zone, I ended up on stage with 14 other fantastic writers, all of us sharing our stories about motherhood in the 2012 production of Listen to Your Mother Austin. The experience was, in the end, everything I had hoped it would be. I feel lucky to have forged so many relationships through LTYM and blogging.
What I’m trying to say here is that my comfort cover has been blown, and I’m forging new territory for myself, with the help of some friends. Kinda like the skinny jeans I bought last week. I’ve eyed them from a distance and finally tried them on. They fit and were comfortable, and as a bonus, no one screamed when I walked out of the dressing room.
I’m proud and nervous and excited and a bit squeamish to announce that Heather, Kristin, and I will be bringing you 2014 production of Listen to Your Mother Austin. We have big shoes to fill and a wonderful example to look up to from the past productions headed by Wendi and Liz, and also from all of the wonderful shows around the country. LTYM is coming to an astounding 32 cities this year, furthering the incredible movement that Ann Imig started back in 2010 with ONE show in Madison, Wisconsin.
The 2012 show left such an imprint on my life, I’m honored to get to join the team for this production, and we welcome your words and stories. I’ll keep you all posted on all the deets to come. Until then, enjoy this lovely video. You should know that I haven’t been able to watch it yet without crying.
I know. You’re over it. Meh, I’ll do it anyway.
We had Batgirl, Batman (emphasis on the MAN), and a unicorn, despite telling anyone who would listen that she was going to be a butterfly. I have bought the supplies, child, YOU ARE A UNICORN. In case you think I’m projecting my own childhood issues of never getting my own unicorn costume, this is what she asked for about 57 times before she decided to start telling people otherwise.
We actually had a fantastic night trick or treating. We invited Rachel’s little bestie from her class to come with us, then ended up picking up a couple more kids that they knew, including Claire’s current love interest. And then she told his dad, with all earnestness:
“J gets a lot of negatives in class.” And he laughed. Because I’m sure he knew that.
Halloween week was pure hell, with a sick child home for 2 days, which put a kink in my productivity and runs for costume supplies. Yes, I am a costume maker.
I have this terrible, annoying habit of preferring to make things. I can’t even bring myself to buy a piece of art from a chain store because I know that a) there are ten thousand others just like it, and b) surely I could slap some paint on a canvas and have something original. Yes, please ask me if I take the steps to do that. Possibly related: my walls are pretty bare.
So I know I can go buy a Batman costume, but wouldn’t it just be more fun to make it??? The answer is no, it would not. It will be stressful and annoying and “measure twice cut once” and then cut again because you didn’t learn from last year to tack on a few extra lines of the ruler to everything.
Regardless, I cut some fabric, threw on some velcro and no-sew adhesive (because I don’t sew, and I’m too lazy even for iron-on adhesive), and about 238 man hours later, we had three costumes at a fraction of the price it would have cost to buy them, and that’s even with my gross overestimation of fabric, another lovely habit I am proud to carry around. If anyone needs a pink superhero cape, holler at me. I’m up to my ears in shiny cloth.
But wait. There’s more.
Thursday was also Science Day at school, where the kids were encouraged to dress up as a sciency word, Dress up = costume, and that’s just more work for me. We decided on the extremely complicated and advanced themes of Hot and Cold. Not too difficult, but bad timing, school. Bad timing. Although sources say that maybe I procrastinate a little and that adds to my stress level?
So Wednesday night I was up until 1 am making Science Day stuff AND working on costumes, then was up at 6 am to get the girls to school. After drop off I stopped at the library to ask about a book we drenched in milk (and now own! Yay!), and that’s when I found out that the Science Day parade was at 8. Yeah, it was on the marquee outside the school and I didn’t notice. I’VE BEEN BUSY. So I stuck around with about 5 other parents who actually remembered, and we watched them all march around as thermometers and suns and beakers. And Iron Man. One kid was Iron Man. Because eff it, it’s Halloween, and Tony Stark is the ultimate scientist, right?
And then I went home, did some dishes, puttered around with Zoe, finally dragged Christian out of bed (he took the day off, thank GOD), crawled into bed myself and passed out until noon, NO LIE.
THAT, my friends, is how you know you need some sleep.
Also, we’re turning our clocks back tonight, which means my kids will be getting up at like 5am for the next week or so and drive me freaking bananas like last year. It was super fun. Happy Daylight Savings! Here’s a unicorn.