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    July 14, 2015

    A little late thirties mulling

    I turn 36 on Saturday. This is the first birthday I've felt uneasy about. I had absolutely no problems with turning 30, having looked forward to Actual For Real Grown Upness since about age fourteen. But now that I finally feel like a grown up, am taken seriously by other grown ups, have acquired some confidence and self-assurance, and, most importantly, FINALLY LIKE MYSELF, I am not terribly pleased about turning 36. 36 is the other side of 35. The "Late Thirties" side of 35. The downward slope to Middle Age. It doesn't seem OLD old, but it feels an awful lot closer. 

    We're going to Leavenworth for the weekend. Leavenworth is this cute little town in the mountains, a Fake Bavaria. I love Fake Stuff (see: Disneyland, Vegas) so I expect to be delighted. We plan to do a bit of outdoorsing, which is not my bag, but seems like something We Ought To Do.  If all else fails, the hotel has a pretty outdoor pool. The big kids have become swimming junkies this summer, so I feel good about our chances for a half decent time. 

    (Even though I just found out that Harry Connick Jr. is playing at the Chateau St. Michelle winery Saturday night and that would have been the PERRRRFECT birthday outing for Phillip and me, ALAS. People who do not like Harry Connick Jr. can exit the blog quietly, I'll wait.)

    Other things about 36:

    Is 36 when they start saying you're of Advanced Maternal Age? NOT PREGNANT. I am just SAYING. It seems unlikely we will have another baby (a nervewracking thing to put out there when you are hovering on the outskirts of Catholic Blogdom, but there it is), but just in case I WASN'T nervous about more babies, I have Advanced Maternal Age to consider. 

    (Somewhat relatedly: Have you seen 'Catastrophe' on Amazon Prime? It is not for people who are squeamish about squeamishy things and/or enthusiastic swearing, but SO FUNNY. Also Phillip likes it. Also a lot about being of Advanced Maternal Age. Heh.)

    At age practically-36 I still have not figured out what I will do when I grow up. I continue to be awed and cowed by ladies with careers. 

    Tonight we meet with another engaged couple to do some extremely amateur pre-marital counseling type stuff. If there is anything that makes me aware that I'm on the Late Thirties side, it's chatting with 20-something couples. 

    I have started thinking about writing again, but it seems the older I get, the younger I want to write for. I keep imagining stories my 8-year-old boy would want to read. 

    Practically-36-year-old me makes friends so much easier than 16- or 26-year-old me. 

    Oh God, 16 was 20 years ago. I mean, I don't MISS 16, but for the amount of thinking I still do about What Stuff Messed Me Up When I Was A Teenager, it seems like I should be, you know, over it by now. 

    One one hand I feel so Desperate Housewivesy - we're interviewing kitchen/bath remodel companies, my kids drive me crazy, I'm overweight, the best thing that's happened in weeks is hiring a lawn service to clean up my jungle yard. And on the other hand I spent two hours with my best friends talking about what it would be like if we created some sort of retreats/trainings/spiritual direction type place HOW COOL IS THAT. (SO COOL.)

    Inactivity, crazy pills, and a lifetime devotion to baked goods have me at my possibly highest weight (I stopped checking, ha), but hey, there's always Hot By Forty. Right? Right. 

    Aaaand, just like that I see it's 5:12 pm and I have yet to figure out what we're eating for dinner. Do we think 36 will be the year I learn to love cooking? I don't think so either, internet. 

     

    March 10, 2015

    SAHM, Entrepreneur, Official-Macaron-Taster, and now Art Teacher

    Tomorrow I'm starting something completely out of character which is Teaching Small Children. Never in my LIFE have I EVER wanted to be a teacher of small children, work with small children, or supervise small children. Even as a teenager, babysitting was my least favorite (though often only) way to earn money. BUT TOMORROW I'M GONNA DO IT. 

    See, my kids are poor, deprived, public school students and our particular school seems particularly deficient in art and music. They do art projects in class and I think 4th and 5th graders get to do band, but it bums me out that these aren't subjects that are taught anymore. Or should I say, that there isn't enough money for these subjects to be taught at OUR school. It's why I spent a not insignificant amount of time mooning over and hoping to send our kids to the Catholic school. THAT SAID, I really truly super duper stinking love our little neighborhood public school. I will just have to teach them art at home. 

    So yes, I did a bit of research and bought an actual factual Art Curriculum. It's called Meet The Masters and will do just dandy for not just my kids but the handful of my friends' kids I've invited to do it with us. (Because my kids are going to be more sold on this extracurricular if OTHER kids come and it's MORE like a REAL THING. You know? Instead of mom beating them over the head with a copy of The Starry Night?) 

    Tomorrow we're going to do a little introductory lesson where we make a portfolio to hold our masterpieces. But then it's 5 weeks of learning about a particular artist's life, learning a technique, and then trying it out on our own. I know nothing about art, which is not IDEAL, and I cannot draw or paint to save my life, but oh well. The thing is, absolutely everything I know about art I learned in 3rd and 4th grade when I was in a program called 'Challenge' and we did a similar art curriculum. Seriously. This is the only reason why I know any famous painters at all. I can APPRECIATE art - I absolutely love art museums, to the detriment of my poor husband - but I was too busy filling my schedule with poetry classes in college to take a single Art History course. (Art History, History, and Philosophy WHY DIDN'T I TAKE ANY OF THESE?) 

    Anyway. I am hopeful that my kids will come out of it at least being able to recognize a famous painting or two, maybe even know what the world "pointilism" means. We'll see. I mean, there are a million things I'd love to expose them to - dead European painters is just the beginning, yes? 

    I was telling Molly's teacher about it today and she said, "Oh, and then you can do it as an after school program here!" and I said, "YOU ARE TAKING THINGS TOO FAR, WOMAN!" 

    Groups of small children and art supplies - it can only be awesome, right? 

    January 09, 2015

    In the tired place

    In about an hour and a half Phillip will get home from work and I will FLEEEEE this house. My real life friends and I have booked a fawncy hotel room right across the street from Bell Square (which is a fawncy mall in the fawncy Seattle suburb) for two nights and honestly, I don't care if I spend two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. Actually I think I would PREFER to spend the next two days in my pajamas reading and sleeping. 

    I feel terrible because THIS IS JUST NORMAL LIFE, YOU KNOW, but Macaron Madness, Christmas, Winter Break, starting school again, helping my brother and sister-in-law with their move (baaaabysitting), taking Christmas down, getting life back on track - I kind of feel like I've got everyone's life back on track except mine. I am SO TIRED. I have been tired forever, but I feel like I'm reaching new heights of tired. So Christmas is put away, kids are settled back in routine, things are moving on the trip planning front, I earned some family brownie points, even the BAKERY is refocused, tightened up, strategized. But ME... I'm an overweight tired mess with straggly bottle blond hair and nails bitten to the quick and mountains of laundry following me around. 

    We booked this weekend a loooong time ago. One of us is super big on Friend Weekends Away and the other two of us are happy to make them happen. One of us is a super strong believer in taking breaks and resting and relaxing and taking care of yourself and the other two of us are grateful for her because otherwise we probably never would. We were supposed to go this summer and then I, uh, booked the bakery for the street fair. Oops. 

    The kitchen is cleaned and I stocked the fridge with fruit and cheese, the freezer with pizza, and the cupboard with bread and peanut butter. Phillip should be just fine. And there's a big football game tomorrow night and while I do enjoy a house full of people all excited about something and drinking adult beverages, I find this football stuff stressful and it'll be nice to be hidden away with friends who probably have no idea this football game exists. 

    I sort of hate the book I'm reading, so if you read this this evening and have a book rec, let me know. I'm finding I don't love a lot of the books Twitter loves, but I'm not sure why. I have this "no disturbing movie" policy that has now crept into what books I read. Except I still read heaps of war books? And fiction set during war? So I don't know what that's about. I kinda set you up to fail there, didn't I. Maybe don't recommend books to me. 

    I am just so tired. But even when I'm dead tired I still wake up during the night, so I'm bringing my trusty bottle of Target brand sleep aid. I'm not sure if I officially announced that my brain medicine is working. They told me "sometimes it takes up to 12 weeks". It got worse at 12 weeks. Like, a lot worse, and I was working myself into a place where I could go BACK to the brain doctor and say I have to try something else, do this whole thing ALL OVER AGAIN NOOOOOO, except things clicked into place around the 15 week mark. Which is crazy to me. When I went back on meds after Emma and they didn't work and I got on the massive hamster wheel of SSRI experimentation - I wonder if I'd just stayed on them a little longer, if it would have worked out like this one. Not that it matters NOW. Now I am feeling pretty un-anxious and just like myself. I have tons of weight I want to lose and I'm not sure I can - due to the medicine and my own lazy self. I want to cut my hair off, but I can't afford haircuts every 5 weeks AND bleach. I have a simple wardrobe of stretchy pants and slouchy tops that I attempt to improve with many scarves and expensive eyeshadow. I am close enough to the miserable anxiety place that I would not hesitate for a split second if I had to choose between Chubby and Anxious. So I feel thankful for that. And thankful I feel well. It took so long! and then I can't believe that it's gone! (For now.) (Always have to add that "for now".) 

    I should go pack. I should probably think of something other than pajamas to pack. Like I think I might be expected to go out to eat. Or shop. Or be in public. 

    I have such good friends. Here and in "real life". In the throes of planning another friend weekend (though that one's more the type to close down bars while wearing heels. So. I'm lucky to have both, aren't I.)

    P.S. I will tell you about the bakery next week. Please prepare your commenting fingers.

     

    January 06, 2015

    On budgeting, SAHMing, and Purpose In Life-ing

    Money talk is SO AWKWARD, isn't it?*

    Budgeting has not been a strong point in the Cheung Household (UNDERSTATEMENT), but we are giving it another go in 2015. For a long while Phillip paid all the bills and did all the money stuff and I was a proper 1950s housewife who knew nothing about nothing. Then he went back to school and taking over the money stuff was something I could help with - and shoot, I kept myself afloat through college, working and paying my own bills and whatnot, I'm not TOTALLY useless. And I developed my own "budgeting" system (mostly a very neurotic Excel spreadsheet and stacks of receipts), but I'd say that all of the budgeting we've ever done has been more of a "Oh, huh, look at all the categories we overspent in THIS month!" rather than a "Oh, huh, look at that category, we should probably not go out to dinner tonight." You know? I was SUPER GOOD at tracking what big spenders we were, basically. 

    Earlier this year when the bakery started taking over my life, Phillip went back to doing the money stuff. And he started using Mint, which I absolutely positively cannot stand. For unidentifiable reasons. I just do. Also Phillip's mode of budgeting was basically the same as mine (excellent tracking! not so much with the cutting!), except he added an element of OHHHH NOOOO and this is where everything went to pot. Many many MANY discussions this year re: our differing approaches to money, our differing views on what is enough money, our differing views on what to do with the money. I should say that we are in full agreement on the big questions; it's the small nitty gritty questions where we butt heads. 

    We had another of these painful conversations last night, and a lot of OTHER stuff plays into these conversations too, right? How you grew up, expectations, general levels of stress, how you cope, all sorts of really complicated things that you just have to accept and put aside and deal. We manage to do that by having a fight first, then having a productive conversation. Is there a better way to do this? Probably! We just haven't figured out how yet. 

    ANYWAY. For a multitude of reasons, not least because I never understood Mint, we downloaded the free trial of You Need A Budget and set the whole thing up. We are hopeful! I already understand the system better than I ever understood Mint, and Phillip appreciates having everything accessible and uploadable and not color coded in aqua and pink and yellow with circular reference errors all over the place (I didn't say I was GOOD at Excel). 

    But we did decide that we couldn't send EJ to preschool like I hoped. It's not a HUGE deal and we WILL find a way to make it work next year when she's four, but stuff like Europe Trips and house maintenance are the big deals currently. And preschool's expensive, even the cheap ones. I cut the housecleaner because they were honestly causing me more stress than helping, but I know that will be annoying as soon as it's time to clean a toilet. We made up good-sounding amounts for groceries and dining out and clothing, but have we ever adhered to those amounts before? This feels a bit like a new year's resolution to lose weight that's bound to crap out by February. I have a definite "oh, everything works out!" personality which drives my poor husband around the bend, so it's in the interest of our marriage that I stay engaged and concerned. And I plan to. I'd like to learn how to SAVE money and go to Europe AGAIN! (Phillip: hanging head)

    Any discussion of money, though, takes me into the Is It Okay That I'm A SAHM frets and I feel kinda insecure tonight. Especially reading everyone's tweets about their kick ass working moms today. I know Phillip would have preferred I stay working, though it wasn't a choice I made so much as my job sort of disappeared after I left it and I wasn't sure how to "go back" to work. And also we were making it work on one income. And I never liked my job. Or working in an office. And I really loved staying home. And yes, I have ALWAYS felt like someone was going to TELL ON ME or something, that's how much I loved (love) staying home. 

    I don't think I'm especially GOOD at it or anything. I am not SuperMom. I do as little housework and cooking as I can get away with. When they were babies I hung out with my friends with babies as much as humanly possible. I've done a lot of shopping and coffee drinking and napping. For a while I did a lot of exercising. My kids are clean and fed and taken care of, but am I teaching them to read or doing art projects or playing games? Um, SOMEtimes? Not REALLY? They know their families really well. They know about being kind. They are forced to eat vegetables every couple of days. ???

    I think one thing I feel confident about, but also mixed-feelings about, is that because I stayed home with the kids, Phillip has been able to pursue everything he's wanted to pursue. Grad school, business travel, switching jobs several times, without ever worrying about how to manage things at home. I have always taken care of that and I for sure don't know how he would have earned that Master's degree without me holding down the fort. (I suppose there's an argument to be made re: "but YOU'RE the one who wanted to have kids", but that's a dark mental pit that doesn't actually exist in the real world and I try to stay away from it.) 

    THAT SAID. I'm not sure what that gets me as a woman in the 21st century. I have family members and friends for whom it's VERY IMPORTANT to be able to earn your own living. And I... can't do that. Something happens to Phillip? Not sure what I'd do. I have nothing to fall back on. And I never found The Thing I Like Doing. Although... I think I HAVE, actually, but no one pays you to be a professional pray-er. (This is my problem, Phillip says. Everything I work hard at is not paid work. ALAS.)

    In that respect I feel failure-ish. It's all on my husband to support our family. Even if I WANTED to help, childcare would cost more than whatever I would take home. (At least now, while we still have one at home.) Perhaps I have let myself down? I have not been All I Could Be? Am not fabulous career woman, famous writer, rich business lady, cannot even buy my own lip gloss.

    But even THAT... I mean, I LIKE my life! I don't feel unfulfilled or unhappy. I DO feel guilty, sometimes, that I am not contributing financially. And that what I AM doing (bakery work, long weekends for churchy conferences) is somewhat hard on my husband without any financial gain for us. Most of the time I feel like I have plenty of time to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up, though I suspect it doesn't involve an office or more schooling or any sort of financial independence. Gah. Uh... life would be pretty DULL without me?! **

     

    *I have an Asian-American husband, Asian-American in-laws, and two Asian-American best friends and this means I talk about money in public a LOT. The cultural differences here, they are big time. 

    **I KNOOOOOOW. I KNOW I AM WORTHY AND VALUABLE EVEN IF I DON'T HAVE A PAYCHECK. I'm just saying, if I kept writing about that this blog post would be eons long. It's ALREADY eons long. I AM AMAZED YOU GOT THIS FAR. 

    December 30, 2014

    A retrospective, a looking forward, a commitment to unhealthy foods

    Everybody's all "resolutions!" and "goals!" and "no more sugar!" and I'm all WHEN ARE THE KIDS GOING BACK TO SCHOOL. I hate to be that way, I really really do, but I'm having a hard time. It's not that the kids are home and driving me crazy so much as there is no routine and if anyone in this house needs routine it's the 35yo mom. I need Things On Which To Hang My Days, and when there's no school and everyone you know is traveling or sick or too far for the casual afternoon dumping-of-the-children-to-entertain-themselves-in-the-basement, life gets difficult. Plus it's the DARRRRK time of year and I HATE being stuck at home in the long dark afternoon. When Phillip got home tonight I nearly fled the house for the nearest movie theater (dark, but blissfully lacking in people asking for snacks). Instead he found some chocolate in a dresser drawer and I spent the next hour in the bath reading a post-WWII spy novel. THAT was lovely. 

    So yeah, no resolutions or goals for me. Yet. Maybe. Although I typically don't like to do resolutions - my biggest goal in life is to not fail at anything, so NOT making resolutions profoundly helps with that. 

    I think, at the end of 2014, I find myself in a place of looking back over the last couple of months and thinking, "Hmm. I could do THAT better." 

    Case in point: Christmas. Christmas was different this year. We did our own thing on Christmas Eve for the first time ever - the children's Mass (Jack and Molly were in the choir SO CUTE), then coming home, eating pizza and snacks, opening up our family presents. It was low key and easy, but I realized later I was annoyed that we didn't really have a PLAN. And even MORE later I realized that what I wanted was a TRADITION. As in, we ate the things we always eat on Christmas Eve. We opened the presents in the way we always open presents. Except we don't have those traditions. Yet. We have the way my family has always done things, but PHILLIP didn't grow up with that so he didn't KNOW, but then maybe we could mix it up a little ANYWAY... I just sort of wish we'd spent 10 minutes talking about how we wanted Christmas Eve to go. That said, it was lovely and the kids were super fun and it was really nice not having to rush around the next morning with church and getting ready for brunch with Phillip's side of the family. 

    But next year...

    I also want to find a way to make preparing for and celebrating Christmas more about JESUS. SIGH. This was doubly hard this year because of the bakery, aka Macaron Madness Month. I forgot and/or left out a lot of Christmas party things I always do and this was doubly true of Actual Christmas. We didn't even do the chocolate Advent calendar! The absolute laziest thing you can do for Advent! 

    I don't know if we'll still have a bakery next year (lots to discuss this month! STAY TUNED!), but even so, I've been reading a lot about the people who don't put up the tree until Christmas Eve and make the 12 Days of Christmas a THING. Part of this is appealing. We always leave up the decorations until the Epiphany and wouldn't it be nice if Christmas wasn't suddenly slam bam OVER on the 26th? What would it be like to turn our annual Christmas party into a TWELFTH NIGHT party?! (I am seriously digging this idea.) That said, this is a way of being counter-cultural that would be VERY DIFFICULT for all involved... Like, I just don't think I could wait until Christmas Eve to put up our tree. We do our big Christmas shindig ON Christmas Eve! I don't want to explain why it's not the Christmas season YET or get huffy about it in blog posts and you guys I LOVE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING AT THE MALL I JUST DO. And I don't think I could draw out the present opening for 12 days (although is this something everyone does or just the person whose blog post I was reading?) But TALKING about the 12 days of Christmas, maybe planning a thing to do on each day when there's so much more time to observe the season... I don't know. This is definitely something I want to talk to Phillip about in the car, when he's a captive audience. Anyone here do that or considering it? I think if I wasn't spending the week before Christmas planning a party and getting rid of the kids for the weekend and worried about how everything is decorated, I miiiiight have more time to talk about running for your lives and having a baby in a BARN. Etc.

    What else. Oh, I hate my house. It's like now that I'm not bakerying 24/7 I have time to be irritated with my house again. It also doesn't help that one of my friends is planning to put her own house on the market this spring and constantly texts me with Redfin links to new construction. I mean, I love it, but it doesn't help with the fact that I have a poorly designed bathroom and my kitchen countertops are embedded with 25 years of grease. And I SERIOUSLY can't do anything about it because any money we might be able to spend on the house in 2015 has gone towards lodging in London for a week OH DEAR GOD. I swear, London will be the reason my kids don't go to college. 

    BUT I LOVE YOU, LONDON. I have spent the better part of winter break on AirBnB and VRBO.com looking for the perfect vacation rental. (It does not exist.) I have read ninety-seven articles about London With Kids. I have calculated how much it will cost to see a musical (this will be the reason the kids have crooked teeth). I am super excited to go to Italy and I am somewhat excited about our few days of just-us time in Paris, but London OH. I really do love London. I think I can love Paris too - I've only been as a 17-year-old trying to lose the adults who were constantly on my case and as a 21-year-old with her college roommate (and trying to lose her too) (I have since grown as a person). Being there with my One True Love will surely make a difference. And Italy... well, I mean, it's just a GIVEN that Italy is my favorite and everything there will be as spectacular as it always is. London is just the place I always hope I get to go to and LOOK! I DO! WHEE!

    (Prague is my other favorite. And if all the stars aligned I would actually be on a Tour of Important Eastern European Locations In 20th Century History, but we all know no one wants to go on THAT trip with me, amirite?) (WARSAW! I want to go to Warsaw!)

    ANYWAY.

    Things. Needing them done differently.

    2015 may be the year I find a regular babysitter. In 2015 Emma will start going to preschool. I'm trying to find a place to start her in January, though her age (a very young 3) and the never-going-to-happen-potty-training situation are making this task difficult. Maybe this will be the year the business becomes, you know, real. Real-er. Or it becomes the year we decided to put it aside and I get all obsessed about my house again, who knows. We will travel lots. (I have $750 in Alaska Airlines vouchers from my disaster Colorado trip that I need to spend by June!) The Blathering is HERE! Partly in my HOUSE! My kids are getting older which is very much freaking me out. I'll turn 36 which is definitely on the downward slide to 40. Oh, I should probably lose some weight too. NOW we've got ourselves a proper resolutions post! 

    I could take care of my house better. I could be a better wife. I could read better books. I could learn to dress better. I could bite the bullet and do better at being a Good Parishioner instead of hiding in the back. I could definitely be a better keep-in-touch-er. 

    But I think the thing I most want to do is keep moving... I want my heart and brain to keep expanding, you know? New stuff. More people. Bigger world. So more of that, 2015. And if it means I have to let the clean floors and no chocolate vows slide, well, I'll power through. 

     

     

    December 20, 2014

    Christmas Party 2014 Post Mortem

    Except for year my sister got married in December and we did a St. Valentine's Day Massacre party instead, we've thrown a Christmas party every year we've been married. It's been a white elephant party and a collect-canned-food party and one time I tried to create a dance floor (FAIL), but it's always been a invite-pretty-much-every-single-person-we-know-and-eat-and-drink party. And I really love having it. 

    In the last few years - the first year we lived in this house, especially - I have tried to out-Pinterest Pinterest. Which is sad/funny since I'm not much for crafting. Buntings and hot chocolate bars and cute labels for everything. Our house has high ceilings and I would spend DAYS stringing lights and garlands and tinsel, carefully placing mason jars full of cranberries and tealights in the high window sills. I would fret about no one coming, then I would fret about too many people coming, then I would stress about food and make millions of to do lists. 

    The day OF the party, I would clean and decorate and prep food and slump onto the couch, usually about 4pm, and wonder why in the world I do this every year and GOD THIS IS THE WORST IDEA EVER. Then I would pick myself up, put on the dress (which would be the least bad dress out of all the dress options, sigh) and do my makeup and hair and put on tall shoes and THEN I'd find myself kicked into gear. A glass of wine while I'm putting out the last minute stuff, Phillip hunched over a laptop and the TV stuff, trying to get the music to work (WHY DOES THIS TAKE HIM SO LONG, EVERY YEAR, YOU THINK HE'D CREATE A MACRO, DO THEY STILL HAVE THOSE?) and I would start to fa-reak. out. about. everything not getting done and THEN! 

    People would show up. And I would have the best time. Seriously, so much more fun than LAST year. 

    Then: the half hearted late night clean up. An "eh, that's good enough" and passing out with your dress still on, on top of the covers. The next day: did people have fun? Really? Did they like the food? Did they think the people were cool? I'm sure they did, our friends are awesome, but I don't know, what about that one couple who didn't seem to talk to anyone else? Did I ignore them? Oh crap I forgot to put out that decoration! I meant to light those candles! I didn't put embarrassing party prep materials away! I forgot to hide the potty seat! OH NOOOOOOO WORST PARTY EVERRRRRRRR

    So. 

    This year was very much the same. The same Phillip working on a tertiary level of party prep vs. me frantically putting food out and hoping he will notice and HELP ME FTLOG, the same very old friends, the same mix of super new ones, the having of the best time, the same people staying late, the same stuffing of leftovers in the fridge and passing out, the same groggy wakeup and second guessing of every moment. 

    But certain things were different. I did not have TIME to Pinterest this party. In fact, I didn't manage to put up a large chunk of plain old boring stuff I ALWAYS put up. I did start decorating early and I thought I had time to do it all, but it turned out I sort of didn't care and also suspected other people wouldn't even notice. (They didn't.) 

    I did not make punch. No one came up to me and demanded to know where the punch was. No one has emailed me yet to say how disappointed they were I didn't have punch at the party. (Basically, I forgot about punch.)

    I forgot to light the candles. 

    I forgot to put on shoes. I got my shoes OUT. I just... didn't put them on. And when I realized my shoes were in the middle of the floor instead of on my feet, I chose to kick them under the table. I also left on the leggings I wore all day under my party dress. Eh. 

    I didn't make ANY FOOD. Like, for serious. There has not been ONE YEAR in all the party throwing years when I don't pore over appetizer recipes and STRESS and FRET and WORRY because I need the party food to be SPECIAL and FANCY. No. This year I went to Costco. I bought all the chips and bread and crackers. I bought all the dips. I bought all the fancy Italian meat. I bought all the cheese. I did roast some peppers and I did throw some meatballs (from Costco) in the oven. There was no itemized list of when to cook things in the oven this year AND IT WAS SERIOUSLY THE BEST THING EVER. Also, no one complained or has since called or emailed me to complain or be disappointed. The fact that I think this is a possibility may tell you a little something about me. I know it's weird to be afraid of disappointing people with store bought food when the food I MAKE is often VERY DISAPPOINTING, but no one has ever accused me of being rational.

    We still had the obscene table of booze and mixers (thank you, Duty Free Store!) but it wasn't decorated very nicely, I didn't have time to write up drink recipes in pretty handwriting, and I just sort of threw the bar equipment on the table and hoped for the best. I'm not aware of anyone being disappointed by the haphazard bar layout and/or lack of a second bottle of Maker's Mark. (I had one. Downstairs. Dudes, if I put out ALL the Makers Mark, they won't drink anything else!) 

    The biggest possible disappointment was the severe shrinkage of the dessert table. The morning of the party I made three ridiculously easy bar cookies and brownies, cut them up, threw them on platters, cut up some toblerone and threw some truffles in a dish. Done. I didn't THINK this would be a big deal, because I usually have ten tons of cookies left over after the party anyway, but it was disappointing to ME. There were no Thumbprints sweets on account of every macaron being worth their weight in gold around here, and people at Phillip's work had been asking if they'd get to sample Thumbprints stuff! No, they just got my lame bar cookies. But you know? I don't think people were for REAL disappointed by this either. 

    I didn't do anything new. I didn't try anything different. 

    But, as usual, the people made the party. We have the old friends who come every year. And because Phillip keeps changing jobs and because I'm conning all the school parents into being my friends, we had a lot of new folks too. And I know this sort of thing is not for everyone, but I REALLY REALLY STINKING LOVE gathering all my people. I love introducing them to each other. I love feeding them and plying them with drinks and getting dressed up and not having kids around and meeting peoples' spouses and learning what neat things people are doing and I JUST LOVE IT. I'm an established introvert and like everyone else, I hate small talk too. But you just start asking people about themselves and they have such interesting answers! It's also possible that I am just surrounded by super fabulous people YAY ME. 

    I suppose the one TRULY terrible thing that happened last night is that my blog - oh yes, THIS BLOG RIGHT HERE - was outed, and not even by a BLOG FRIEND. Yeah. HI, FELLOW SCHOOL PARENTS! WELCOME TO MY MANY NEUROSES! I UNDERSTAND IF YOU DON'T WANT TO HAVE THAT PLAYDATE ANYMORE.

    I guess... it was not my favorite party in that I didn't feel super spectacular about how everything LOOKED or TASTED, I would not have given myself an A+, no one is going to pin a picture of my beautiful tablescape. TORTURED SIGH. But you know, I am growing as a person, don't you think? Look at me all "Who cares if I wear shoes! Who cares if the candles aren't lit! Who cares if I just left this plastic tub of spinach dip on the table in the middle of everything after I dumped it into a bowl? C'EST LA VIE!"

     

    November 26, 2014

    It matters to me

    I'm going to say a few things about Ferguson on my blog. Even though I have a POLICY of not saying things about things like Ferguson on my blog. Even though, even beyond the POLICY, no one cares what things I have to say about Ferguson. I'm breaking the POLICY because while it's served me well, I think, in this one instance, it may be hurtful to someone I know, a black woman from St. Louis. 

    This whole time I've been thinking: what can *I* do? What *can* I do? 

    Everywhere I read, the call to white people is: speak up! But I want to say to them: have you met me? I... don't do that. I have a POLICY. 

    And also, I don't LIKE to speak up. I feel like there's a lot of people on the internet who are there ONLY to speak up. About everything. So many opinions and thoughts and stances about so many things. And I feel like there are lots of valid opinions and thoughts and stances about many things and I want to respect yours and I would like to LEARN about yours and maybe, one day, we can get to what I maybe think about things...

    But I am wondering if the only thing I can do is speak up. Not to... I don't know. ENGAGE people, necessarily. Heaven forbid I have to engage with anyone. And not to join a chorus or a conversation and certainly not to start a debate or change a mind. I have negative skills in those areas. Also, quite honestly, it appears that all of my people are on the same wavelength here. Is it even necessary for me to speak up? 

    I have been praying for God to show me what matters in this situation. I mean, what I can AFFECT in what matters, if that makes sense. I felt wrapped up in the rightness or wrongness of the grand jury decision, trying to figure out what I thought about all of that, but praying too, praying that God would take away the things that didn't matter and leave the things that did. Slowly, over the course of this one day, God rendered all of my thoughts about Ferguson unimportant except one: the fact that my black friend from St. Louis is hurting. 

    So I want to sit here, on Thanksgiving Eve, ruminating over my blessings and I want to speak up. I want to shout: ASHLEY! I SEE YOU! IT MATTERS TO ME THAT YOU ARE HURTING! IT MATTERS TO ME. It matters to me.

    I don't need to know how I feel and what I think before I grasp and abhor the fact that someone meaningful to me is hurting. I pray for the ability to sit in the tension, the humility to give up thinking I need what I think I need, the courage to walk alongside my sister in Christ, to pursue a Jesus-focused understanding. I think that's what I need to say out loud. That I'm here, Ashley, and I see you, I see this, I want to see it better.  

     

    November 18, 2014

    Macarons and fat pants

    Got an email today that made me panic for a second. It contained this sentence:

    You must complete the permit process prior to operating a cottage food operation. 

    But then I saw that it was addressed to a "Michael McKinsey" and it was from a guy purporting to be from the Fresno County Department of Public Health. So. I'm guessing it's kind of spammy? But still? Weird? There was an attachment that obvs I am not clicking on, but now I'm like even the spammers now how to give me anxiety attacks. Of course I am all ready to hit back with, "THIS IS WHY WE RENT SPACE IN A LICENSED KITCHEN, [INSERT FAMILY UNFRIENDLY TERM]", but I think I'll just ignore for now. Or furiously google the guy who supposedly sent it. 

    It did make me remember the cottage food process we DID undergo and how I was going to write a Sternly Worded Letter to send to allll my representatives.... yeah. I AM still frustrated and irritated and a tiny bit super angry defensive about that, but I don't have TIME to take that on. I AM VERY BUSY BLOGGING OKAY? And other things. 

    Tonight the "other things" began to take on a distinctively egg whitey glow... MACARONS. So Katie's husband is a manager for a catering company with a big time corporate client. And because 1) we have a connection and 2) Katie makes awesome treats, we ended up on the official Holiday Menu that all the corporate clients (who pay for things with corporate credit cards, ahem) see when they are choosing their Holiday Soirees. Or Holiday-Themed Meetings. Or what-have-you. Although it was kind of a bumpy start (FOOD BUSINESS PEOPLE. ALL NUTJOBS.) (DOES THIS NOW INCLUDE ME?) we already have 6 orders for December. Kind of a big deal for a teeny tiny upstart baking company who celebrates 6 orders in a month. Except, it's only mid-November. And these are for a Major Local Corporate Behemoth. And now we are freaked out about HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE ALL THE MACARONS OMGGGGGG. 

    (Do you like how I always say "we"? Like I have ANYTHING to do with making macarons? I WILL, for your information, be making a bunch of things for the "assorted cookie platters" which are also on the official menu, but macarons? HA HA HA NO.)

    On the other hand! WE MIGHT MAKE MONEY IN DECEMBER! THAT WOULD BE SO NOVEL! (No really, that would be... amazing.) 

    The only thing I don't like about this deal is that they aren't advertised as THUMBPRINTS macarons/assorted cookie platters, we're just contracted through BIL's Catering Company and so no single person is going to look us up later and order her own macarons. But whatever. I'm not COMPLAINING or anything. 

    I've also finished all the listings for our online store AND figured out the shipping questions. I'm not sure I answered those questions WELL, but I did my best, and we will see how it goes. IF anyone buys anything through our online store. Which I haven't put up yet. Because Katie still has to go through it and say things like, "Um, no, I'm not doing that." But soon! (I hope. All I really feel like doing is sleeping. But. Sigh.)

    The sleeping? I am just going to hope that this is because I have not been religiously taking my iron pills. Back in August when my mental health had gone seriously south and I was Distraught and Desperate and DONE, when I started the new SSRI I stopped taking all the [expensive] [gigantic] vitamins and supplements my naturopath had me taking. I mean, they obviously weren't HELPING, right? And no medical insurance was paying for THOSE pills [lots and lots and lots of them] so I just stopped. I WAS ANGRY, OKAY? But I also stopped taking the iron (I wasn't in the best head space, you understand) and now I'm wondering if the iron actually WAS helping me or I'm in an especially tired place right now or WHAT IS WRONG JEEZ. I wake up exhausted. I spend my whole day wondering when I can sit down and conk out for a minute. And Sunday morning at the retreat I went to last weekend I woke up with this super weird back pain thing and now I'm Fatigued AND Falling Apart. IT'S TERRIBLE. 

    And it's just making me aware (as opposed to deliberately choosing NOT to be aware) of how poorly I am treating my body these days. After not eating + nervous tummy during the Worst Week Ever (August 2014), I'd 1) lost quite a bit of weight (silver lining!) and then 2) began to SERIOUSLY make up for it. I mean, after that I was all, "You eat whatevvvvver you want, Body. You just do what feels good." And I did! I don't think I was eating my feelings so much as eating was something I COULD enjoy. So I was gonna ENJOY IT. Bring on the Nutella! 

    But now... hrrmmm. My fat pants are too tight. You see? And while I am in a much better headspace this year re: How I Look, I have enough sense to know that I am not taking care of myself. I am not eating ANYTHING that's good for me. I am not getting outside. I am not getting any exercise. I am sleeping terribly. And even though I KNOW that the longer I keep up this "lifestyle", the harder it is to change, I'm finding it hard to care. My anxiety stuff is not totally figured out. My work/parenting balance is not at all figured out. I sort of feel like... well not that I'm doing the best I can, but that any sort of check on what I eat or how much I move is alREADY setting myself up for failure. You all know how much I love to fail!

    When I mentioned how much I despair over pants, a good friend said, "I don't feel like you should be worrying about that right now." Which is so nice! But the rest of the world says, "If you don't start NOW, you never will!" I feel like the rest of the world is right, and also totally has me nailed. I'm waving at them while I eat another leftover toffee bar from the subscription boxes we sent this weekend. HEY THERE, WORLD!

    October 20, 2014

    Why don't you all come over and we'll eat our way through the bakery leftovers

    I thought the anxiety was getting better, and I think it WAS, for a while, but not so much anymore, and I don't really know what to do about it. I mean, eventually I will call my doctor and she will probably put me on something else because I'm at the max dose of this one, but I sort of dread making that call and it will take a few days for me to actually do it. That call means the thing I was most nervous about is the thing that happened - that the meds wouldn't work, that I would still be anxious months out, that I have to start over on something else, that maybe NOTHING works - and I haven't wrapped my brain around it yet. 

    In the meantime I am making lunches and going shopping and shipping cookies and writing emails and having friends for dinner. I can do my life. It's just in the quiet alone moments my body is on big time high alert and the rest of me is totally stymied as to why. As long as I don't think about it too much, it's only a massive drag. If I think about it too much, it becomes something a lot worse. 

    I feel like... well, if I'm going to feel like I'm about to go on stage at any moment or give a very important speech, I would like to, you know, ACTUALLY GO ON STAGE. Because 1. there would be a reason and 2. I've always wanted to be a Broadway star. 

    That said, anxiety has rarely stopped me from doing the stuff I want to do. There was that one time where I didn't quit a job I knew I should quit, because I needed that safe, predictable, known place to be every day. But that was a million years ago and now I just DO stuff because no way is anxiety going to shut me down. I mean, it might, maybe, but this is why I carry a bottle of Klonopin everywhere I go, right? HA. 

    So I am looking at invitations for the Christmas party we throw every year, even though 1. I will probably still be anxious come Christmas party time and 2. isn't the holiday season a manic time for bakery owners? I've heard this is the case! Perhaps I should not block out an entire week in December for decorating my house! But I think I would be tremendously SAD if we canceled the party this year, even if we just turned it into a, I don't know, an Ides of March party or whatever. This probably means that I will for SURE bust the party budget because dudes, we ARE going to be bakery busy and in order to pull off a party I must HIRE OUT. (Not that I have a REAL problem with this. It just looks bad on the Excel spreadsheet.) 

    And also I continue to book social occasions for myself, along with Asking Random People To Do Them With Me. The great testimony of my life, as I see it, is that once I was a desperately lonely and unhappy 15-year-old, crying in her closet from the shame of eating lunch by herself every day, praying for just one single friend, and now I am abundantly miraculously blessed with the most amazing friends I could ever hope to have. Ever. I swear it. Plural! MANY. And where it seems many women my age are despairing about making new friends with other adult women, I am supernaturally driven to seek out Potential Friends and pester them until they break down and hang out with me (out of exhaustion? perhaps.) I say "supernaturally" because OH MY am I NOT AT ALL "naturally" outgoing or extroverted or brave or confident in knowing other people want to get to know ME. I think better of myself than I used to - I suspect this is a product of getting older and I enthusiastically welcome it - but I am still wracked with insecurity when I meet someone new. ...it's just that I then invite them to a party. HEY. PARTIES ARE FUN.

    I say that I fake extroversion well? But really I just honestly do like KNOWING people and I very much enjoy GATHERING them, especially if wine and snacks are involved, and when it seems like someone should enjoy something I enjoy, I compulsively invite them along. Sometimes this doesn't have the desired results. See: my OB and my hairstylist are not my best friends. I've had to get over that, alas. And sometimes it does. See: I agonized over how to invite my kid's teacher to a thing and then I just finally DID it and she immediately and excitedly said yes and omg we are totally going to be besties. 

    ANYWAY. Sometimes the anxiety makes me MORE like that. Because the more time I spend with Other People, the less time I have to sit alone in my house and wonder why I am anxious, which then makes me more anxious. 

    Blargh. I just don't know what the next steps are. Try another med? What if that one doesn't work? I know it's bad news to start thinking too far out, but it's HAAAAAARD to keep yourself in check all the time. I am asking for help when I think I need help, I am seeing the appropriate professionals, I make sure I don't spend EVERY day at home with only children for company, I keep myself busy with household stuff and bakery stuff. But I don't feel like I'm getting better. I've always, eventually, felt better. But then I've always, eventually, felt anxious again. And at this point it just sounds EXHAUSTING. And I'm already exhausted. I'm being challenged to look at this as a chronic thing, accept it even, and I'm trying and finding that to be a better perspective than my usual Fight Fight Fight stance. That IS helpful. But I think right now I feel sad about it too. Maybe the other part of that testimony is that God knew what a rough time my brain chemistry was going to be and gave me the people I needed when I really needed them. And they include you guys, too. xo

     

     

    September 30, 2014

    Wishlist

    Phillip is making me dinner tonight. Phillip! is making dinner! It's 8pm and the kids are in bed which is how this can possibly happen, but YAY and ALSO! Let's look at what else is on my wishlist! 

    The Lorac Mega Pro Palette

    LMP

    Swoon. I forget when I bought the Urban Decay Naked 3 palette (earlier this year I guess). I was ashamed to spend that much money on MAKEUP, but YOU GUYS, I will never buy drug store eyeshadow again. For serious. And since eyeshadow is really the only kind of makeup I like to play with, and cool purples and golds are made for ME, I think I need this Lorac palette. @temerityjane, Queen of What To Buy At Sephora, highly recommends and yeah, I just think this should be mine. I am happy to work with one blush, two mascaras, a handful of drugstore lipglosses I almost never wear, a few different shades of foundation, and my trusty Maybelline dark circle concealer, but I NEEEEEEED nine dozen flavors of eyeshadow, yes? 

     

    Rain Boots

    Rainboots

    I've lived in Seattle how long? but only bought my first pair of rain boots last year. And guess what. They don't fit around my calves. I ordered them with points from Amazon and I was too embarrassed to send them back and maybe I would lose a few pounds and WHATEVER. I need rain boots that don't cut off my circulation when I stuff my legs into them and dash to school pick up. These LOOK like they'd be forgiving for the wider-calved ladies, but looks are deceiving and also they are seventy dollars NO. But cute! 

     

    New Countertops

    Countertops

    I know I should just be happy I have a house with a functional kitchen and it IS functional and it WORKS and except for the doll-sized oven all its issues are cosmentic but I HAAAAAAATE the tile countertops. Hate hate hate. I didn't hate them until I began to use the kitchen and who in the WORLD thought a countertop with a million little grooves in it was a good idea?! OR the oak trim at the edge and the oak trim "backsplash"? I'm not a germaphobe at all and I'm seriously grossed out thinking about how many years of crud have built up in the teeny gaps and grout lines. UGH. My kingdom for a solid slab of SOMETHING with an undermount sink. The above would do quite nicely. In fact that whole design and look would fit my house perfectly. Now to harvest my money garden! 

    A New Winter Coat

    Coat

    I love this coat. I stared it a good long time when Garnet Hill was doing 25% off women's fashion. I LURVE IT. But... not really sure how this would look on someone with boobs and no waist and ill-fitting rain boots. So I let it go - SIGH - but I actually really do need a winter coat. Last year when I was so angry and upset with myself for gaining weight, the only coats that fit me were the two puffer jackets my FIL of all people had brought home from two different trips to China. One was a knock off Prada! FAWNCY!And I wore the HECK out of those coats (the biggest size, because I am much bigger than Chinese ladies remember), so much so that I broke the zipper on the one I liked best and I can't wear it anymore. I NEED a new coat. And I am maybe five pounds under what I was last year, but! I am not (as) angry and upset and I FREAKING NEED A NEW COAT SO FIND ME ONE, INTERNET!

    All right, I could go on, but dinner (rice noodles! YUM!) awaits. What would YOU like to spend your imaginary money garden money on?!

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