I just got an email from WordPress about my blog’s year, and I apparently only posted six times in 2014. I’ve had this bjournal since 2005, and while it’s been a great way to capture little things that happen in life, updating it is not on my list of priorities. But SIX? I’m going to end this year by increasing by blogging productivity by about 16%. Here’s a seventh post for 2014 of some awesome things that happened this year.

10) I read 12 books.
I made good on this year’s goal of reading (an average of) a book a month. I finished book #12 in mid-December. It’s a great feeling to be well-read. I doubt I’ll keep it up next year, but I hope to at least read eight.
In addition to the six I mentioned in this post, I also finished:

  • Joan Didion – Blue Nights
  • Jeffrey Eugenides – Marriage Plot (I began Virgin Suicides again, but couldn’t finish it. I think I’ve seen the movie too much).
  • Martin Sixsmith – Philomena
  • Jonathan Tropper – This is Where I Leave You
  • Celeste Ng – Everything I Never Told You (the last two book titles sound like early-2000 emo band album titles)
  • Jonathan Eig – Birth of the Pill
  • Lucy Knisley – Relish (this is a graphic memoir, which I don’t count as a read book because they don’t take up that much time, but worth mentioning because I liked it a lot).

The best books? Middlesex, House of Mirth, Birth of the Pill, and Blue Nights.

9) I found a new cooking blog I like a lot. It’s Budget Bytes, and really gets that I don’t like spending money and want corn and beans in every meal.

8) I discovered the joy of nachos from Bellytimber. My husband, daughter, and I ate here on Valentine’s Day and I ordered the nachos for the first time, and I will always want to go there and eat nachos, in case you need someone to join you. My pal Susan co-wrote a cookbook called 804ork that includes the recipe, and I have the ingredients on my shopping list, ready to try this weekend (don’t worry, Bellytimber, I’ll still come visit).

7) We actually went to San Francisco! Who knows if we’ll ever afford to visit again. It was fun, and my kid was able to enjoy it and spend some QT with her aunt and uncle and watch me eat a lot. Which she never gets to do at home.

6) I ran another half marathon. And it went great-ish. I’ve barely run five minutes in a row since then, but I’ll get back to that eventually.

5) I got a fun writing gig. Val passed Raising Richmond, a weekly parenting column on rvanews.com, to me in January after she’d written about her adventures in parenting for several years. Yes, it’s the reason for only six (now seven) posts to the blog this year, but it’s been a lot of fun having readers and sharing things. And it paid for San Francisco. “You get paid for that?” you ask in amazement. Yes, back off. I’m delightful.

4) My daughter counted to 130 by herself. I don’t know when kids typically count to fifty and then 100, but my girl is good with counting. I bet it’s been all those hours she’s spent with a number picture book that I hate, so I can’t try to talk her out of reading it anymore. Plus she’s gotten into learning Spanish and is still considered by me to be a baby genius.

3) My husband and I went out three times in less then two months. And one of those times wasn’t even planned, we just got a surprise sleepover and got to see a movie and get dinner. I think we’ve been out at least twice since then. We tend to get a babysitter and then are ready to come home in less than two hours. We aren’t good at going out, but it’s still fun.

2) I had a good year at work. I’ve been able to try more new things in the last year than I’ve done in many years combined.

1) My sister and her family moved back to town. This has been the best. Not only has it been good to see her once a week instead of maybe once a month, she’s been a good backup for when our kid has been out of school, and I’ve been able to spend lots of time with my nephew. I love that she lives about 15 minutes away now. I can add on to the list of things borrowed and never returned to her. I’m a great little sister.

The older I get, the less I want to make a big deal about my birthday. Not that I’m grumpy about it — I still like cakes and cards. I like it low-key, and it’s too much of a hassle to get people to celebrate with me, especially since with kids it’s hard to plan things.  Anyway, keeping it simple right now is going to pay off when everyone starts having their awesome 40th birthday parties.

While I’d love to have a nice night out with gal pals or to eat a piece of peanut butter pie from the place that is closed on all days around my birthday, here’s what I’ll take instead:

-To sit alone in my room for 15 minutes with no pets/other people

-Nachos

-Maybe to eat a sundae at Friendly’s

 

 

 

I am bursting with travel tips now that we’ve come back from a quick visit to San Fransisco. I’m not going to share any here (except for this: leftover Hillshire Farms kielbasa ended up being a good idea for our early flight back home).

There were many differences between my first trip out to SF in 2009 and last weekend’s, most notably the almost four-year-old we had to bring with us. She is a fine traveler, and had a good time. San Francisco provided her plenty of chances to talk loudly about strange (to her) people she saw on the streets, including:

  • A dwarf (or “a little adult”)
  • A homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk (she mentioned this a couple times afterwards)
  • A total of five off-work street performers covered in metallic paint (she also claimed to see one at the pool back home, but it was just a woman wearing an all-white ensemble including a weird white hat)

I really like visiting there. I think it’s a beautiful city, and even the residential areas are fun to walk around.  We did mostly kid-friendly things. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf a few times (Musee Mecanique again, sea lion watching, the Aquarium of the Bay) and took a couple of dog walks on the beach. It’s so awesome having the Golden Gate bridge on one side of your view and Alcatraz on the other. As someone pointed out to me, I already live in a place with landmarks everywhere you look* but it was still cooler.

Other things of note:

We used Uber for the first time. Once from the airport, and twice just to avoid walking another mile uphill carrying a small person (which is really, really challenging — a stroller wouldn’t have helped that much). When we first got an Uber car after getting groceries, we ushered our child into the back seat and buckled her in (no car seat, don’t judge, we were tired and achy and they really are very steep hills). She looked nervous and kept her hands in her lap.

“You look nervous,” we told her.
“Well I am a little nervous,” she said. We asked why. “We just got in the man’s car.”

I guess that must have seem weird that a car rolls up to us (Uber is pretty quick) and we all get in there without explaining anything to her.

Also, we went to Santa Cruz for the day and went to the Mystery Spot (it’s a crazy house that defies logic. Up is down, tall is short!) . R explained the mystery to us after the tour (it wasn’t revealed in our tour, but when he went ten years ago it was). Bubble blown and burst. It was still cool and we saw a bunch of hummingbirds while waiting for our tour. Then we went to the Santa Cruz boardwalk and while we were walking on the beach by all the rides I was reminded of The Lost Boys. And it turns out it was because the Lost Boys was filmed there! I was so excited about this. The beachy carnival was a good giveaway. So was the beefy greasy guy playing the saxophone. And all the damn vampires.

We walked a million miles (or, less than two, after I mapped it later) from Golden Gate Park down to lower Haight looking for some place to eat (it’s so strange to see people dressed like hippies there — it’s like it’s a Disney World attraction). We asked a fellow with a kid where we should go and he pointed us to the Little Chihuahua, and it was a great meal. Then later, when I told my brother-in-law about it, he said he’d never heard of it, and I was like “what is this amazing city where you don’t know about every restaurant that opens because your local news isn’t 80%  food stories about the same places?” We also had really good pizza at some place I don’t remember. But I ate a lot of it.

R ventured off on his own to see some tattoo-things, and sweet talked his way into a tattoo from a legend. I had never heard of the guy, but after reading about him, it seems like a pretty big deal.

Also my daughter watched hours of “Dora the Explorer,” so she probably thinks California is the best place on earth. And we watched the first episode of “The Knick” and all I can think about are white shoes.

*Oh I just decoded the “Full House” theme song.

star fish and non-star fish

star fish and non-star fish

That bridge that Godzilla ruined

That bridge that Godzilla ruined

Santa Cruz. Not pictured: Blood-sucking Brady Bunch

Santa Cruz. Not pictured: Blood-sucking Brady Bunch

 

This is a longer version of this from RVAnews.

My daughter: I want to watch a photo.
Me: A photo?
Her: Of the one that I like. About the man who can’t eat anything.
Me: The video we watched last night? (“Weird” Al’s “Fat”)
Her: Yeah. ‘I’m getting fat!’

~
While driving home, Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” comes on the radio.
Me: It’s your jam!
Her: It’s not my jam, it’s your jam!
Me: It’s not my jam. I thought it was your favorite song.
Her (crying): It’s not my jam!
I turn down the radio.
Her: TURN IT UP!
~
She is constantly drawing now, which is the perfect activity. Her dad paints a lot, and when she sees him paint, she wants to paint or draw, too. Her specialty is heads with arms that shoot out of the sides and little stick legs (by the end of the summer, the heads have teeth). Sometimes they are self portraits, and sometimes they are other people. We have sheets of drawn heads all over the house and in the backseat of the car (it seems that every place she goes gives her an opportunity to draw something). Toward the end of the summer she presents a drawing to me that is a “snowman jumping rope” and a “broken teenager.”
We are about to go into Mexico for lunch, and she picks up a drawing from the and says she has to give it to the man (we don’t know which man). When we go inside, she hands the drawing the person who shows us to our seat.
“She drew it for you,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. I don’t what he does with it from there.
~
She and I have gotten home past her bedtime because we had dinner at a food truck court (burgers and gelato). We both go outside while I take the dog out, and immediately she strips down to her underwear and is in her tiny pool. It’s really hard to stick to bedtime on the weekends.
~
She and I are eating red-fruit popsicles on the front porch. It’s very hot and windy. As she slowly eats her popsicle, the red fruit juice flies from her and keeps hitting my white blouse, which I have miraculously kept stain-free. I get up to get a napkin, leaving her on the front porch. There she is, behind the porch door, her face dripping with red, like a pint-sized vampire waiting to be invited in.
~
Before her Saturday swim class, my husband and I drop off our daughter at the kids’ area at the gym so that we can work out. While I’m finishing up in the gym, she and my husband walk up to me and ask if I have her bathing suit.
I do not. There was some confusion. He thought that I had packed it in her gym bag, but it was still hanging somewhere to dry.
Either way, we don’t have it. She is very upset about this. In my few years as a parent, I have never felt so bad about something we’d done. We pace around, trying to keep her calm. We think of all the options. There’s not enough time to go home and get it. Our friend who is coming to swim class doesn’t have any spare swim shorts. I almost ask a mom whose five-year-old girl is finishing swim class if we can use her swimsuit.
My daughter is sulking in the gym lobby while we wait to return our locks at the front desk. I have only one last thing to try. I pull the pack of fruit snacks from my purse. She lights up and runs over to me to get the bag, and is happy again.
I am sad for when fruit snacks won’t fix everything.
~
We’ve invited our friends and their son over for brunch and tiny backyard pool time. She sees her friend every day in day care, but they are both really excited to see each other. Plus, to accompany the waffles I made, our friends (the parents) brought fried chicken. So they are our best friends now.
After we eat, the kids are bathing-suited up and ready to go in the pool, but they are both bothering each other. He does something, and she hangs her head down and slowly walks away until we intervene. Then she upsets him and he hangs down his head and slowly walks off. Soon, they are both slow walking around each other in circles with their heads down. Little kids are so sensitive.
They are still best buds.
~
My husband is out of town for four days, and on Friday night my daughter and I watch Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for the first time. Between taking the dog out every ten minutes and also not paying attention, I only catch about 1/3 of it. She loves it, and watches it again the next morning. And the next morning. Throughout her three viewings, I’ve watched the entire movie. It’s very funny. She loves talking like Steve the Monkey, and especially likes Baby Brent. If you haven’t seen the movie, Baby Brent’s Sardines has a commercial where Baby Brent pulls a wagon full of sardines. Kids should “watch out , Baby Brent,” as the wagon of sardines falls over. He says “Uh-oh.”
No one is as committed to anything as my daughter is to reenacting the Baby Brent sardine commercial from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
She does this all day on Saturday, but since I missed that part of the movie on the first watch, I have no idea what she’s doing (although it’s very funny). By the end of the weekend, quotes from the movie are about 50% of what she’s talking about. I feel like my husband needs to watch it immediately just to get up to speed on what he’s missed. I buy the movie for her for $5 at Target, and when my husband watches it for the first time, I actually get excited for him to see it. Now he knows what we mean when we tell each other “Steve!”

~
I bring home a tomato from a coworker.
“Oh I love tomatoes,” she tells me.
“You do?” I ask.
“I’m not going to eat them until I’m an adult,” she says.
~
My husband’s friends are coming to dinner. The couple just moved to Richmond. My daughter and I hadn’t met them before, but she’s really excited to meet the male half. His last name is Butts.* She cannot stop talking about him. The night before they come over, the word “Butts” is said a record-breaking number of times at our dinner table (a million?). This freedom is overwhelming to her. She has never talked about another person with such enthusiasm. It’s made me lift the ban on the use of the word “butt” as an improper noun. It makes life a lot easier to have one less thing to monitor. Also, “butts” is funnier than bottom. And I like to say “hang on to your butts” while driving. It’s a win-win.
~
My brother is throwing out the first pitch at the Flying Squirrel’s game. Or, really, the tenth first pitch of the night. He gets free tickets because of it, but he has to leave for work as soon as it’s over. The short time leading up to the (tenth) first pitch is awesome. She plays her first round of mini golf for $1 before we go inside the Diamond. My brother gets me, my daughter, my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew on the field with him. The kids get some personal Nutzy time, my daughter gets to play catch with her uncle, and I get to enjoy the amazing view from the field. It’s an “‘80s Night” theme, and one of the ten pitches is thrown by the Ghostbusters. After the first pitch** we sit in great seats (I now think it’s worth it to buy the $11 seats). The weather is perfect for a ball game. It was overcast all day, but not humid. And after the parade of snacks: hot dog, popcorn, and Dippin’ Dots, my daughter continues to happily hang out for maybe twenty minutes. This is the first time we’ve taken her to a baseball game that I actually got to watch a significant part of it. It was really nice, and a glimpse of the good things that come with non-squirmy ages. It doesn’t hurt that she’s sitting next to her cousin and they’re both playing on their chairs. Whatever works.
~
My sister and her family move back to town in May (she’s been away from Richmond for seven years). This is a life-changer for me for many reasons. First, while she gets the house ready, I spend a couple of days hanging out with my nephew. I probably spend more time with him in one weekend than I have in the previous two years of his life (while I am his only aunt, it’s still important for me to be the best). She is better at seeing family than I am, so through her I see my grandparents, parents, and brother more. She’s been there when we needed a babysitter. My daughter will do anything if involves going to her aunt’s house. And I’ve already decided she’s hosting Christmas for the rest of our lives. It’s perfect.
She and I see movies together. I can’t remember the last time that happened — maybe Kill Bill Vol. 1. Our second movie night is at the Byrd — which she hadn’t been to in almost ten years (“It’s absolutely the same,” I assure her). And because she’s a good sister, she agrees to go to Shyndigz with me to get a piece of peanut butter pie.
My last memory of my sister in Richmond prior to that was when we both had apartments in the Museum District. After Hurricane Isabel I was sitting on my front porch and she was riding by on her bike. Neither of us had power. She had just been to Ukrop’s and bought cookies. I cooked her a bagel in my oven. I had power the next day, but she didn’t have it back for a couple of weeks.
~
My daughter has been having a hard time falling asleep lately. She’s up until almost 10 P.M. sometimes (way past her 8 bedtime). After she calls out for me from her room, I come back and sit down with her for a little while. This probably helps keep her awake, but I don’t know what else to do. I tell her a few stories. After stories she wants me to sing. I can’t recall the complete lyrics to many songs when I am not hearing them (it’s a weird problem I didn’t know that I had until she was born and I wanted to sing to her), but she requests songs from my small catalog.
“Sing ‘I’m fat,’” she requests. That is, unfortunately, one of the limited songs I know the lyrics to.
I sigh, and softly sing, “Your butt is wide, but mine is, too.”

I have mentioned before that I hate reading books because reading books is for dopes and staying up until 11:35 p.m. reading your Twitter feed is the way to go. But then, after a steady decline over the last decade, I realized that I read maybe four books in 2013 and felt sad. I was previously the type of person who always had my face in a book. I hid novels during English class in high school in the books we were reading for class.  I remember road trips as a kid by what books I was reading that kept me from wanting to get out of the minivan to do things. I was so well read by the time I went to college, and then PFFFTT (deflating balloon sound), here I am at four books.

2014 is the year I bring it back. I have challenged myself to read a book a month. And so far I have. I have had a couple of softballs, and was already reading the book I finished in January, but it feels good to be in that habit and I have read some good stuff this year.

January: House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Age of Innocence is one of the books I read last year and loved it. HOM was pretty great, too. I haven’t read much from that time period (when they’re set and when she wrote them). Wharton is funny (I guess “a wit” is more appropriate) and the stories were sad and fascinating and seemed scandalously honest about things. AOI didn’t end how I thought it would, which I appreciated.

February: Also Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume and New School by Dash Shaw. Blume’s book probably shouldn’t count, but it does here this year. I didn’t realize it until I reread it how much of a cultural touchstone that one is with me. I, like all girls, cite Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? as the book from my youth, but I like this one more. New School is a year-book sized graphic novel (though novel is stretching it since it’s more pictures than words). I really liked it. It took a few nights to get through but I could see reading it again.

This is not the cover of the version I read as a child but this one has Hitler and Ethel Merman on it.

This is not the cover of the version I read as a child but this one has Hitler and Ethel Merman on it.

March: Heartburn by Nora Ephron. I took out The Most of Nora Ephron from the library and read a lot of essays and even the screenplay to When Harry Met Sally. Heartburn is like a less-intellectual Fear of Flying (which I also reread last year) and was very light and fun (plus heavy marriage stuff, but still light and fun). I’m glad I finally read her work. I also watched Silkwood since Ephron wrote the screenplay, and liked that a lot. I’m late to the Ephron party, but I’m here. She’s not, though. R.I.P.

April: Running In the Family by Michael Ondaatje. Richard picked this up for me because it’s nonfiction and touches on post-Colonialism, two things that I like in books. This is a memoir packed with poetry and assumed memories about life in Sri Lanka. Quick and interesting. Good job, associate.

May: Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Stephen Levitt. The Freakonomics podcast is one of my favorites, and I finally got to the book. A lot of the chapters have already been touched on the podcast, but still held my interest. I think about the parenting and the crime rate chapters a lot.

June: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I can’t read this fast enough. READING IS AMAZING.

Even if I don’t meet the goal (which there is no reason why I shouldn’t) I’ve still read more books than I did the last couple of years. I’ve even been reading instead of burning through the latest season of Mad Men up on Netflix. That is an amazing show of self control.

Here are some things people often say to my daughter:

“Look at all that hair!”

“You’re getting so big!”

“Ana or Elsa?”

“Do you want to go to timeout?”*

It would be funny to talk to grown women the way we talk to pre-school aged girls. Can you imagine meeting up with a friend and saying any of those things?

This is not meant to be a meaningful post, I just think it’s a funny idea.

 

*Okay, I say that.

 

 

 

To me and her dad:

“Did you know about burritos?”

What she will do if her friend pulls her hair again:
“I’m going to punch him dead in the nose.”

When eating pancakes:
“I cut them out of an old blanket.”

(That is from a Peanuts strip. It’s what Violet says when Charlie Brown asks if she made the pancakes she served him).

When listening to “She Loves You”

“She does not! She doesn’t love you.”

While giving her dad a pat on the head:
“Dixie Donuts is closed. But it will be open tomorrow.”

On someone being from Wales:
“I’m from Sharks.”

20140221-200626.jpg

our snowman.

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