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    July 21, 2014

    Maggie Cheung's Tips For Cruise Ships

    1. Find a ruler. Now hold this ruler perpendicular to your body, maybe about chest level, and slowly move it around your personal circumference. Mentally deduct two to three inches from the ruler's length and this will give you a rough approximation of how much space you will have in your stateroom shower. In preparation for showering in this space may I recommend some sort of juice cleanse or fast, to shrink your body and add precious room to move in your Shower Closet (TM Lisa). 

    2. Also, if you were to prepare with a juice cleanse or cabbage soup diet or some other suspicious crash diet, the 20 pounds you gain on a cruise could possibly just be a net gain of 10 pounds. Something to think about. 

    3. Also in the shower! (A lot of my tips are shower-related.) There is just a plain fabric drop cloth hanging between you and an absolutely soaked bathroom. Try to position your showerhead so that you don't totally soak your Shower Closet, but more importantly, stuff the edge of your curtain into the little metal ridge running along the wall so that the shower curtain itself doesn't submit to the laws of physics or gravity or thermodynamics or WHATEVER IT IS and attempt to smother you while showering. That is the GROSSEST FEELING, is it not? The Wet And Used-By-Others Shower Curtain Saran-Wrap-Attack? UGH.

    4. Bring a lot of cash. Lots and lots of cash. This is not for shopping in the glorified duty free stores on board the ship or for purchasing any drinks that are not water, coffee, or Unidentifiable "Juice" Drink (these are easily charged to your Sea Pass ID card!) no no no this cash is for TIPPING. Keep it in your suitcase until the very last day when you will spend hours partioning it out into little envelopes for the dozens of waitstaff who prevented your children from erupting into horrid twerpy brats the dining room, thereby enabling your SURVIVAL AT SEA.

    5. Sea bands. OMG SEA BANDS. Curses on all those people who said, "Oh, cruise ships are so BIG! You won't feel it rocking at ALL!" These people are big fat humongous liars. Even people less sensitive than your trusty blogger felt the ship rocking at times, and you know what keeps you from barfing over the edge on a regular basis? SEA BANDS. They are some sort of Weird Alternative Medicine contraption that appear to make no sense, but they 1) won't put you to sleep like Dramamine 2) aren't prescription like that patch you can put behind your ear, but are 3) just ugly. But would you rather wear sweatbands with your formal dress or spend that evening throwing up in your Shower Closet? I'm just saying. 

    6. The cruise ship will make a big stinking deal about their award-winning children's programs, but YOUR children, who love nothing more than Structured Guided Playtimes, will mope their way out of the first Adventure Ocean session mumbling about "boring". AND THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? At your first stop in Juneau you take the Courtesy Shuttle to WalMart and buy packs of cards and board games. And then: 

    7. Find a Nice Quiet Place. There are dozens upon dozens of places to hang out on a cruise ship. This is because your stateroom is the size of your college dorm room (only with a king sized bed AND two bunks AND a Shower Closet) and no one in her right mind will choose to hang out in her stateroom WITH HER CHILDREN. HA HA HA. Plus, if you hang out in your stateroom, how will you hand over your Sea Pass card willy nilly to all the crewmembers happy to charge it for you? HOWEVER. You are sharing this cruise ship with TWO THOUSAND STRANGERS and they, too, are looking for a Nice Quiet Place. (Unless they are childless white folks in their late 40s to early 60s, and then they are Wild and Crazy, hogging the hot tubs and all the beer.) What I'm saying is: you need to find The Place where you and the kids can camp out for a few hours with games and books and iPads, where snacks are readily available. Don't wait until Day 3 or 4 to realize you need this place, Future Cruisers, DO IT IMMEDIATELY. The sooner you find Your Place, the sooner you will begin to ENJOY your cruise rather than wondering what in the HELL you have gotten yourself into for an entire WEEK.

    8. We have now come to the How To Manage Mealtimes section of Cruise Ship Tips. ARE YOU READY? Okay, so for breakfast? (And lunch and dinner.) Your sit down meal will take, on average, two hours. TWOOOOOO HOURRRRRSSSSSSS. Now! Your trustly blogger is the type who thinks civilized people eat their evening meal at 8pm, that it SHOULD be a loungey easygoing time with plenty of wine and dessert. However! CHILDREN WILL NOT AGREE WITH YOU. Thank God you signed up for the First Seating (5:30ish mealtime) because you won't ACTUALLY eat dinner until 6:45. Bring your crayons! The kids' menus from the previous night and the night before! BRING THE IPAD, NO ONE WILL CARE. What is a lovely luxurious Nice Restaurant Dinner experience (every night!) for the adults is near torture for the kids. Even if they are delightful and well behaved kids. Two hours in a restaurant shoved up to a table full of food you don't want to eat is hard for one night let alone SEVEN. 

    8.5 This is where you find out your dinner waiter is made of solid gold and deserves his weight in tips. 

    9. BREAKFAST. We did sit down breakfast once. Because the cafeteria/buffet-style option is SO VERY CROWDED. However! Again! Your kids just want to eat cereal! (Or pancakes loaded with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and chocolate chips - hey, you're on a cruise ship) and both of these options are readily and quickly available in the cafe. DO THIS, even though it's crowded, because you are traveling with a whole bunch of other people and it's been agreed that Sit Down Dinner is your one big gathering time. Save your Sit Downs for Dinner! DO IT! Dinner is where you get your made-of-gold waiter, the one you think is super cute and sweet and kind and charming and friendly and helpful and MAYBE he is the best part of the cruise. Do not waste your sit downs on BREAKFAST!

    10. Lunch! SKIP LUNCH. OMG, people, the eating eating eating. Phillip described the cruise the other day as, "Oh, and then I look at my watch, and it's already time to eat again!" YES. THIS. The last two or three days  of the cruise we realized that a big pancakey breakfast, a light snacky lunch from one of the snack bar type food acquiring areas, and a Sit Down Dinner was the way to go for us. One day we did the Sit Down for each meal, most days we did the buffet for breakfast and lunch and the Sit Down for dinner - our best days were the days we more or less skipped lunch. 

    11. If your kid wears diapers they are not allowed in cruise ship pools. My experience hauling an indignant, confused, and CRUSHINGLY SAD Emma out of the pool - because a crewmember noticed she was wearing a diaper (A SWIM DIAPER) and people who are not potty trained are not allowed in cruise pools - soured at LEAST an entire day of our vacation, maybe more. The rule makes sense to me, but I DID NOT KNOW IT EXISTED and I felt TERRIBLE for HOURS. This was our first afternoon on the ship and I had no idea what to do with us or where to go or WHAT and it was TERRIBLE and I BLAME YOU, ROYAL CARRIBBEAN. (Maybe I should read up on vacations before I take them.)

    12. Don't waste half an hour wondering where the pull down beds in your stateroom are, and fretting over having to ask for a different room - your stateroom attendant, whose entire world revolves around your hallway of rooms, will blithely enter the room and pull the beds down from the CEILING and say, "No worries!" And you will feel stupid!

    13. Speaking of your stateroom attendant: a large chunk of that cash I recommended you bring will go to him. I am not sure what kind of creature the stateroom attendant is. Nocturnal? WIthout need for sunshine? Every single time we left our room we returned to find it in pristine condition - linens straightened, towel animal amusingly propped, our pajamas folded, our toiletries lined up, our things moved to more sensible storage spaces. If you care very much about privacy may I recommend not getting your period on the first day of your cruise? Pro Tip. 

    14. Shore Excursions. I have no tips for these because we did not do them. Ha! Maybe that IS my tip, since I will guarantee we spent less money than those people. I did throw some money down so my middle child could pan for gold in Skagway, Alaska (for three minutes) (with a pre-filled pan) and she enjoyed this, but we found this opportunity without the middle management of the cruise ship and I was with my Bargaining Is Always An Option! SIL so we paid, like, half price. 

    15. I assumed that part of the draw of cruising is the tropical weather... which you don't really get on an ALASKA CRUISE. Those you take for the scenery, yes?! Try to go on your cruise when the scenery is not shrouded in clouds! Pro Tip!

    16. All right, all right, I am a giant pain in the ass about weather and scenery and blah blah NATURE, but the Tracy Arm Fjord? With the glacier that comes down right to the water? I quickly forgave the ship captain for waking me up on my stateroom loudspeaker at 7am, imploring me to "Get up! And enjoy the beautiful view!" I mean

    17. The Cruise Ship Thing the Cheungs As A Whole enjoyed the most was the live music and dancing. The Cheung brothers are a musical pair and their children like to boogie. Quite possibly the best moment of the cruise was watching all the grandkids own the dance floor in their "formal" wear while the nightly easy-listening band crooned Killing Me Softly and Oye Como Va.  

    I suppose those are my thougths on Cruise Ships In General. Tomorrow I may have some Alaska-Specific Tips. And maybe some Grown Up Specific Tips. Like how the dude at the pool bar will pour you a glass of wine TWICE the size of what you get in the restaurants. Pro Tip! 

    July 20, 2014

    Life Fails and other quick thoughts I must dash off so I can think about something else

    I owe you a huge, no really, HUUUUUUGE, cruise review post. And I have a LOT to say. 

    But! Right now! I am feeling so overwhelmed and upset-ish and wondering if there's anything I can do... see, since I started a business

    my hopes for a deck container garden have crashed and burned, as in nearly all the plants are dead or on their way to dead

    my yard is more overgrown and hideous than when we moved in

    the laundry room has become a I Really Need To Throw This Out room

    Emma's room is half kid room, half playroom disaster, half bakery storage (that totally adds up to a whole)

    I never clean my kitchen anymore, beyond doing the dishes, and it NEEDS it, even with professional housecleaning every other week

    I haven't done a single house project and my house NEEDS ME

    It's the yard stuff that's getting to me this week. I came home from the cruise and looked outside into the backyard and with an extremely sinking feeling I realized it's the middle of JULY - another year I don't fix up the yard and make it decent. 

    My excuses in previous years were 1) pregnant 2) immobile baby 3) I planted a garden but the damn raccoons ate all my seedlings AND we redid the deck creating backyard havoc for months. This year it's the bakery. My top priorities are Handing Out Snacks and Keeping A Baby Bakery Business Running. Everything else is TOTALLY COMPLETELY HORRIBLY falling by the wayside. 

    Even seeing my friends. And I am normally extra super good at making time for friends. 

    I just... it's OKAY that my yard is a mess. It is. I am not a bad person for having a disaster yard. I am not even an IRRESPONSIBLE person for having a disaster yard. Or dead plants. Or nothing pretty by my front door. Or only a handful of green beans to show for the $$$ I spent on plants and containers for the deck this summer. Or the fact that I don't feel we have properly USED our outdoor space this summer. THINGS HAVE BEEN BUSY AND I CAN'T DO EVERYTHING RIGHT? RIGHT.

     

    July 07, 2014

    Really REALLY quick takes

    This was the first anniversary I didn't write about on my website. Number eleven. I feel... fine about it, actually. I think my first anniversary post was Two. That's a lot of anniversary posts. And his birthday comes up so quickly afterwards! So: on June 28 we celebrated 11 years of marriage by hanging out with my family at the beach and hosing sand off our three children. 

    Here is a quick Phillip story. He just told me that he has this fear that he's going to get sick right before the cruise and they won't let him on the boat. He is not even the slightest bit sniffly. What is the word for someone who is terrified of getting sick, but not like CANCER sick, just "I have a tickle in my throat and now I have to lay in bed for a week" sick? 

    Anyone bought anything from an ecommerce site called Storenvy? Heard of it? It looks pretty cool - it's a free alternative to Etsy. I'm hunting for a way to sell some of our super standard stuff online without putting people through that whole email process. I can't get rid of the email process - we ARE special order! 

    Storenvy also uses Square, which I muchly prefer to PayPal. 

    Thumbprints shipped 23 cookie subscription boxes this weekend. This afternoon, actually. We spent the whole weekend baking and packaging and preparing and boom, they're out. 23 doesn't actually sound like very many, but 1) I thought we'd get MAYBE 5 subscriptions and 2) there are only 2 of us. With small children. And husbands with full time jobs. So. 

    Sometimes I think it's wildly inappropriate to share Insider Bakery Info with you. But isn't that what blogs are for? Who's going to fire me?

    I keep remembering I am going to Edel and getting excited. How sad is it when you keep FORGETTING that you are going on a big time out of town ladies' weekend? 

    I keep forgetting because first I am going on a CRUISE. Which I have actually become quite excited about. This is due to a number of Fancy Dresses I have acquired and we all know how much I love THOSE. I was telling my MIL about the clothes I bought for the kids for "formal night" and she rolls her eyes and tells me not to worry about Formal Nights, they are maybe not as formal as I think. BUT GUESS WHAT, Royal Carribbean, I am going to wear my beaded dress ANYWAY and my kid is going to WEAR THAT TIE. 

    I have yet to talk to anyone who did not like the Alaska cruise. But I still need to buy those seasickness bands. 

    I really really really want to go get a pedicure, but all the places I know close at seven. And it's six fifty six. BAH.

     

     

    June 30, 2014

    Pls to advise re: cruise ships (with children) (and irrational Titanic fears)

    We don't have a ton of orders lined up for July - actually, if it weren't for the subscription boxes I'd be worried. But because subscription boxes are starting we are scheduled to make over 500 cookies in our rental kitchen this weekend. Katie says this is possible. I... am not sure. 

    Between the subscription boxes and preparing for the street fair the first weekend in August, the bakery is giving me hives. Good hives! But oh man, SO MUCH to prepare for and think about. With the additional stress of knowing that EVEN THOUGH we are doing better each month, the thought of being able to pay ourselves seems light years away. My whiteboard displays six different bullet lists noting everything from renting a canopy to printing labels to noting the subscription box that needs to be sent two weeks late to "buy blue sprinkles" to "try sealing bags with flat iron?" Wait, let's ignore that last one as I'm sure some food inspector person will take issue AHEM.

    WE ARE DOING WELL. But the rest of life has to happen too, and I can't focus my entire brain on the bakery, and I think this is what's been hard lately. I've also had to think about the end of the school year, having the kids home, family vacations, moving bedrooms, who's grown out of what, etc. etc. I've been short and snotty with everyone in my family because of it. One of my STRENGTHS is to sit down and zero in on something and get it done, but one of my enormous FLAWS is the inability to un-focus when something else needs my attention. This is why I have flown into fifteen rages over someone requesting a drink of water. 

    It's also why I have been cranky about something WONDERFUL and FUN and EXPENSES-PAID in my life, that being a week-long Alaska cruise with Phillip's side of the family to celebrate his mom's retirement. I am ASHAMED of my crankiness while also not really trying to un-crankify myself. My issues are: 

    • I have been and forever will be terrified of Massive Bodies of Water and potential Titanic Scenarios. I just am. Drowning is my thing. I have never wanted to go on a cruise and I truly am anxious about the Out In The Middle Of The Ocean-ness, no matter how many times my dad snorts in reply and tells me that we're "only" going up the Inside Passage and I need to get over myself. 
    • You cannot check your email on a boat. At least not as many times as I prefer to check my email. And when I'm able to do so it will be $$$. Did you hear I have started a new business? And am the main point of contact for all potential customers? 
    • I just LOOK at a boat and get seasick.
    • We're going on a cruise to ALASKA, where it will most likely be Not Warm, in the middle of July which is one part of the year in which my city is reliably warm. As a Warm Weather Hoarder, this also makes me anxious. 
    • How much weight am I going to gain a cruise? No really, HOW MUCH. OMG.

    Okay, so those are the major cranky factors. I am doing my DARNDEST to focus on the following:

    • When the Babysitters Club went on a Bahama cruise it was super fun and they met lots of exciting people and also Intriguing Love Interests and my inner 12-year-old awaits the many possibilities for At Sea Adventure.
    • The opportunity to bring a bunch of cute dresses and wear all of them. 
    • The opportunity to go out every night. I am TOTALLY the person who will love a cheesy song-and-dance cruise ship show and I TOTALLY intend to watch at least fourteen. 
    • A connecting room with my in-laws means I CAN watch fourteen shows. 
    • The kids will love it. 
    • Phillip has always wanted to go on a cruise. 
    • Katie will take care of everything at home. 
    • DESSERT TABLES. There will be dessert tables, right? 
    • I don't HAVE to get off the ship and sightsee in Alaska. My MIL totally has my back if I just want to hang off the deck, gaze at an iceberg or glacier for a few minutes, and then go find the on ship spa. I don't have to go PAN FOR GOLD or whatever crazy excursions we've looked at over the last few weeks. I CAN BE A HORRIBLE UNINTERESTED IN SIGHTS PERSON. 
    • MIL also tells me there are lectures on the boat! Lectures! I love lectures! I hope they are not ALL about the history of Alaska. Do you think there will be a WW2 expert on board?
    • I am also STRONGLY considering blondness in honor of my 35th birthday (well, as far as my colorist will take me, which will maybe be 3 strands of blond mixed in with proper grown up hair) and I QUITE like the idea of being a BLOND lady with CUTE DRESSES on a SHIP in the EVENINGS with a DEVASTATINGLY HANDSOME CHINESE MAN on my arm and my CHILDREN in BED. Right? That sounds FUN.

    Okay, so, now it's your turn. Hit me with your best cruising tips, people. Seriously. I have never done this before and have waited until now to give it more than two seconds' thought. Pretty sure my SIL has every detail imaginable under control, but JUST IN CASE! TELL ME EVERYTHING.

    June 26, 2014

    I wrote so so much about rearranging rooms aka Boringest Post Ever

    You guys, what follows is a 9 thousand word treatise on rearranging bedrooms. I'm so sorry. You can just stop here, really, I think you should. 

     

    With gritted teeth, clenched fists, and deliberately steady monotone voices, Phillip and I have agreed on a Kid & Guest Bedroom Situation for this wackjob of a house. OMG I NEED A DRINK. 

    Let's refresh, shall we?! There are two big bedrooms, a bathroom, and a playroom downstairs. Upstairs we have a master bedroom, a bathroom (with doors at either end into the hallway and the bedroom, WHO THOUGHT THAT WAS A GOOD IDEA) and a smaller bedroom which is currently EJ's. The big kids share the slightly smaller of the two bedrooms downstairs. The other downstairs bedroom, with a door to the bathroom, was the office/guest room and is now just the guest room. Got all that?

    So the GRAND MASTER PLAN is to have all the kids downstairs and turn the playroom into a loungey TV space. If I get them their own mini fridge they will never even have to come upstairs and I think when they are teenagers this will make us all quite happy. This is a FANTASTIC house for a family with teenagers. 

    But not so much a family with Small Children. Like now. And ever since we moved here I've been plotting what the next bedroom arrangement should be and when we should do it. The plan has always been to move Emma and Molly into the other room downstairs, the biggest one with the ginormous closet and access to the bathroom, it's just been a matter of when. Will EJ ever stop singing for hours in the middle of the night? WHO KNOWS. 

    This whole thing has been complicated for me, though, by the Guest Room Situation. A complication which - I'm just going to say it so none of you have to say it the comments - IS KIND OF DUMB. We have serious multiple-night houseguests MAAAYBE three times a year. It's not like we have family coming to visit on a regular basis or anything like that where people have a sort of designated "this is Grandma and Grandpa's room when they visit!" room. Nothing like that. So I agree with you: KIND OF DUMB to worry about it. 

    The thing is though, I PRAYED for a big house, people. Not because I was going to have fifteen children (you HAVE met Phillip Cheung, yes?) but because I wanted to be able to offer space to whoever needed space. I wanted to be able to house whoever needs a house, whenever it happens. This is important to me! I know it's not rational! I know it complicates things! But I GOT the big house. A weird wackjob of a house, but a big house with lots of space and we have extra beds and air mattresses and tons of sheets and DO YOU NEED A PLACE TO STAY TONIGHT I HAVE ONE. 

    So! You are saying. Move Molly and Emma downstairs, you still have EJ's vacated bedroom UPstairs! Guest room! Problem solved! Especially because Phillip suggested we create our office space off the kitchen instead of in EJ's room. 

    Okay, so the thing about THAT is that I think that room would not be COMFORTABLE for guests. And I KNOW I KNOW, this is where the "KIND OF DUMB" really kicks in. Also a bit of "must be nice for you to pick and choose where your guest room is!" So yes, I get it, this entire post is obnoxious. 

    But let me continue to be obnoxious. The reason I'm not excited about an upstairs guest room is not just because it's smaller, but because it's not as private - it's right off the living room - and the bathroom is NOT ideal. The bathroom upstairs is the bathroom everyone uses. It also opens into my room. We'd all have to share and cooperate and be way more aware of each other's personal hygiene. Even when our money tree finally starts producing and we're able to remodel the bathroom the way we want, the guest space will still be fairly public and also tiny. 

    Not ideal, but still workable. But we've had this giant bedroom with a bathroom available the whole time we've lived here, and multiple families have been able to camp out in that space and scrub all their children in the big bathroom down there and lay out all their gear and it makes me SAD that we would be taking that away. Even though it's not a regular occurrence. SAD. 

    Lately Jack has been wanting his privacy and we've been talking about having your own room and Molly getting a GIRL room and I've been plotting. Plotting plotting plotting. What to do, what to do, and getting frustrated with Phillip every time I come up with an idea because he shoots it down and offers no solution and BLARGH. I was just about ready to buy a trundle bed setup on Craigslist for the playroom (Molly and EJ in the playroom! TWO empty spaces to work with!) but Phillip was NOT cool with that. "It's not a ROOM!" So. Here is my new idea and the best we've got so far: 

    We ARE going to move the two girls into the big bedroom downstairs. I'm going to paint it pink. It's going to be a GIRL ROOM. Jack will keep his bunk beds. We have an extra twin bed in that room already, but we're also going to get the Brimnes twin trundle bed from Ikea. This turns into a huge bed when you pull out the trundle. Do you see where I'm going with this? We'll put their dresser in the enormous walk in closet. We'll probably move Molly's desk in, and maybe EJ's current toddler bed - it can be where her frillion stuffed animals live. (Jack and Molly care naught for stuffed animals and dolls, but EJ has a stuffed animal in both arms at all times.) The current guest bed - a full bed left by the previous owners - we'll move upstairs into EJ's room. 

    SO THEN. We have a guest room upstairs. With a full bed and an Ikea wardrobe, maybe Phillip's old desk, and a closet full of bakery supplies and computer junk. I am very excited about this room. And when an internet friend comes to stay HINT HINT, she'll have a pretty, grown up room to herself and can use whichever bathroom she wants. 

    But when our Montana friends come, for example, with their ten tons of gear and three darling children, we can move Molly and Emma upstairs (or into Jack's room, or into the playroom), we can pull out the new Ikea daybed, move some toys into the closet or the playroom, and they can have that space to themselves. Put one of the kids to sleep in the extra bed, hose the kids down in the bathroom, be near the playroom and Jack's room where the other kids will be camping out. 

    I feel like... there are OPTIONS. I feel GOOD about this. As I type it out it sounds nuts that we didn't just decide this in the first place - I think I was invested in having a dedicated guest room, or making sure Molly and Emma wouldn't have to give up their space, or that the guest room wouldn't also be a place where kids wanted to play. But we can have that upstairs when it works, and then an option downstairs when it doesn't. And both spaces will work for US in the meantime - kid room, and bakery headquarters. Also! Phillip didn't make a frowny disapproving face when I suggested it! I AM SO FREAKING RELIEVED YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

    June 23, 2014

    Places I Want To Go

    Discussion has begun re: Cheung Family Invades Europe Spring/Summer 2015. Well, we've been TALKING about it for a long time, but now our talking includes things like, "So, are we really doing this?" and "Huh, how are we going to pay for it?!" 

    The most that's been decided is the fact that Phillip and I BOTH want to go. I've always wanted to go (OBVS), but I was a teeny tiny bit surprised that Phillip didn't even hesitate when I asked him the other week. Yes! We are in. It's just that sticky financial piece... also the time off piece...

    My parents are planning to rent a house nearish their old north Italy digs. This would be about an hour away from Venice. And they are planning to be there from mid May to mid June, or thereabouts. Those are my only parameters so far. The only thing on the itinerary is: Take Advantage Of Parents' Rented House, Also Child Wrangling. 

    But everything else?! 

    So okay, knowing me, I would like to do everything. Yes. I would ESPECIALLY like to see all things I haven't seen, namely most of Eastern Europe, ie: everything I've been reading about for the last two years. But can you imagine? I mean, besides the fact that WE CAN'T DO EVERYTHING, dragging three kids through museum after monument after historical site after famous square... Phillip would kill me first. 

    But now I'm like... DIRECTIONLESS. We could do anything we wanted. Except not, because of the not independently wealthy thing. But say we're starting in Venice. Venice is for sure. I would go to Venice every single time I go to Europe, several times, for all time. And this is good, because Italy is the country that doesn't send me into spirals of omgIdon'tknowhowtodoanything. But from THERRRRRE...

    I was thinking Sicily! Sicily was the first place my family lived when we moved overseas and I have put the food and beaches and weather on a pedestal in my memories. I could definitely see us having a Beach Vacation. And if I started to feel like I needed to go somewhere new I could insist on SARDINIA! Haven't been there! I hear the beaches are FANtastic. 

    But Phillip, because he is a giant pain, would probably prefer to go NORTH. He likes order. Also giant hunks of meat, both things easily found in Germany. He loved Germany! I like... Bavaria. I would be very into visiting Munich. My dad has drawn me a little map of a circular driving itinerary - Venice to Milan to Innsbruck to Munich with lots of stops in between. That is a big possibility.

    ORRR we could get one of those cheap intra-Europe flights (I just made up that term) and go to... PARIS. or LONDON. or BERLIN. or PRAGUE. or somewhere big and city and famous and fabulous... and I think that might be terrible. Also expensive. But happy for ME, the person who wants to go everywhere and see everything. Unhappy for everyone else.

    The kids, I think, want to see some of the things they see on Rick Steves' TV shows and eat gelato. And stay long enough to get un-jet lagged. My parents want to take the kids on a bunch of outings they used to do with their elementary school classes. I want to ________. Phillip wants to _________. I suppose we should figure out how to finish those sentences.

    ANY IDEAS, FOLKS? Or anyone who's traveled with kids to Europe? Or, best of all, anyone with any fancy secret tips for how to fly us all there without totally draining the savings account?  

    June 19, 2014

    Time to sit back and unwind

    Last day of school. I cried at the assembly. I mean, I'm a crier, but it was such a good year for my big kids. They go to a small neighborhood public school. It's one billion years old and it shows. Everything in it - the furniture, the walls, the fixtures, the windows - is grimy and worn and unappealing. Everything except the teachers, that is. They are bright in every way, happy to be there, and happy to see my kids. Ever since Jack's first day of kindergarten my mom's been advising me to make myself known in the school, make sure the teachers know I'm paying attention, make sure I have relationships with people in the school. So I'd probably be standing around after school talking to the teachers anyway, but it turned out to be fun. They are fun, creative, interesting people who invested big time in my kids and maybe it's a little weird that Jack's teacher and I made plans to hang out later this summer but OH WELL YOU ARE JUST JEALOUS. 

    Like, I'm sad-in-advance for Jack to go to middle school, not only because he'll be a middle schooler (ACK) but he'll be leaving THIS school. Oh, the crying that will happen THEN. 

    It was an early dismissal day (honestly, I haven't seen the point of going to school this entire week) so Emma didn't nap and I didn't exercise and I feel like a bloated slug right now, especially after our celebratory ice cream snack and restaurant french fries dinner. But it was a super good day. Jack's class sang Sara Bareilles' 'Brave' as a way to "send" the 5th graders to middle school - when I heard they were doing that I thought it was a bit weird/awkward. Isn't that kind of a grown up song? But of course Jack's teacher found a way to first grade it up, with hand motions and shouting the "SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY!" and: tears. Molly's class sang "Let Us Eat" to the tune of "Let It Go" to honor the lunch ladies. And her teacher gave me a shout out at the assembly for helping him come up with the words (except I'm pretty sure all I did was say, "Do you want me to make Elsa capes?! I can make Elsa capes!" and him going, "Wellllll...")

    More tears on that one. 

    These things make me cry anyway, though. I could never get through even the first round of Pomp and Circumstance as part of the high school band playing at graduation, even when I didn't know any of the graduates. I remember going to the end of year ceremony at the Catholic school when Jack was going to preschool there. It was the most TOUCHING and MEANINGFUL THING and I still want to weep about my kids not going to that school!

    Except they're at THIS school, which is wonderful, and we love it so. 

    Our chunk of the city is growing the fastest, which means more money for stuff like building a new school (breaking ground 2016! Supposedly! Who really knows!) but also much larger new schools, I'm betting. Our school is one hallway big. I swear all the kids know each other. It's a hallway in major need of structural updates and plumbing from this century, but it's been such a good hallway. 

    I spent a large chunk of my kid-free time worrying about the bakery. I'm not going to hash out today's anxiety here, though I am VERY TEMPTED. It feels so good to write out all one's worries! But I tried hard to focus on the big kids today and not let the bakery stuff overwhelm me. We took pictures, we got ice cream, we spent a long time on our school year scrapbooks that I never remember to update until the last day of school. I'm so proud of them. 

    Tomorrow we'll sleep in, not get dressed until we feel like it, then drive to Grandma's house where cousins are staying for a few weeks and just... hang out. It's summer. There are no camps, no lessons, just a lot of family vacation time and driving-our-mother-crazy time. And then, maybe next week, a furious looking up of camps and lessons that still have availability...

    And now it's just going to be like this for the next twelve, thirteen years. First grade, second grade, third grade, fourth grade, a whirl of steps up a ladder until one day they're gone OH NO THE TEARS ARE BACK.

    June 16, 2014

    In which my various neuroses are still getting the better of me

    A few weeks ago we bought two Ikea table tops, two sets of drawers and a cabinet and made ourselves a joint office space in the back of the Random Kitchen Area that we now call The Office. It's fab. I love it. The best part is sitting at our respective places late at night, Phillip showing me YouTube clips, me reading bits of Twitter. Shut up, you're just jealous. 

    But in moving Phillip's office from the big downstairs room to the Random Kitchen Area, we left a lot of stuff we don't know what to do with in the old office. His old desk, heaps of papers, some computer junk. Most of the papers are moving upstairs after I spray paint our filing cabinet (moved upstairs, crammed into the exact right number of inches between the new desk and the wall. If the weather ever gets nice again I'm spray painting it a nice glossy white and topping it with some red storage boxes, oh be still my color coordinated organizational heart.) 

    Now, though, we have a giant empty bedroom full of JUNK. Well... it's also the GUEST room. We occasionally have guests. The previous owners left a full size bed in that room and we never moved it, we just set up a twin size mattress and box spring right next to it. (Our most frequest guests have 3 kids and the littlest one stays in that room with them while the other two sleep in Jack and Molly's room on air mattresses.) There's a little nightstand and lamp and a bookcase full of stuff we don't know what to do with. It has a door to the downstairs bathroom and a ginormous closet. Seriously ginormous. It also has a door to the front yard with its own little deck. It's a great room and the grand plan is to move Molly and Emma in there, as soon as Emma doesn't need to sleep right next door to us. (Emma sleeps upstairs with us, Jack and Molly are downstairs. Weird house. I know.) 

    BUT WHO KNOWS WHEN THAT WILL BE? I mean, we COULD do it now, but EJ is STILL doing her obnoxious singing-herself-to-sleep bit, often not falling asleep until ten or eleven, plus she gets random nosebleeds and still wears diapers. I am saying it is CONVENIENT to have her right next to me. 

    That said, it is INCONVENIENT for my SANITY to have this giant yet useless and junk-filled and cluttered-up room in my house. It is STRESSFUL. I imagine I could just shut the door and ignore it. Or I could say, "Fine, play School in the empty bedroom and fill it with markers and tape and paper and I just won't go in there so I won't get upset about it!" But I think I am not a good enough person to do either of those options. Instead I sit here fuming because it is not a freshly painted and beautifully decorated little girls' room, that EJ's room is crammed full of stuff we don't want in the living room and a too-small toddler bed instead of the new guest room/bakery staging area, that Jack's room is still Jack and Molly's room instead of Jack's Big Boy All To Himself Room. I WANT EVERYTHING TO BE THE WAY IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE. 

    I have several plans to make it so. One requires many pots of money. One requires NO pot of money, just a lot of elbow grease from my husband. The thing we don't really have is time. It will take time to make things look the way I want them to look and I don't HAVE ANY TIME AAAUGGHHH. Phillip keeps saying we'll revisit this whole mess in late July, after most of our big family stuff is over. But how am I supposed to not have a daily freakout over the Inefficient Use Of Space until then? DOES HE KNOW ME AT ALL?

     

    June 15, 2014

    I updated, meh, why am I even bothering OH LOOK COOKIES

    Oh HELLO THERE. I am feeling crankypants towards the blog - I wrote this super huge post last week - a post I actually tried to WRITE WELL and put THOUGHT INTO - and Typepad ate it. @)#%*#$)%*#!)%$!)#*!)@#*%!#()_$*%

    And having to rewrite an already perfectly written blog post is a HUGE BUMMER so I didn't bother. And now you will never know all the GOOD things that happened on my Colorado trip, you only get the return trip drama. And I suppose you only get that if you follow me on Twitter. And now I wonder how many sentences I can start with the word 'And'? Clearly I am not working hard on writing THIS post well and/or thoughtfully. 

    I suppose my Colorado post boiled down to the following points: 

    1. Always, ALWAYS, meet up with your internet friends. @kate_welsh and I had a great time in a hotel bar in Charleston, but now we've had a great time at a restaurant bar in Denver and now I want her to live next door. 

    2. Hanging out with 9th Grade BFF was exactly what I thought it would be, only a frillion times better. I am not kidding. I was weirdly un-nervous (I AM ALWAYS NERVOUS!) but it honestly never occurred to me that seeing her again would be anything but fantastic, and I was right. I love being right! I'm a quasi-military brat, she's a true one, and it was so fun for both of us to realize that HEY we DO have someone who "lasted". I am busy getting the guest room ready for when she visits. (WHEN ARE YOU VISITING?)

    3. Colorado Springs is a WEIRD PLACE, YO. I don't use 'yo' lightly, but there's really no other way to say it. What a weird WEIRD place. I felt that way the first time I went, about 8 or 9 years ago, but it's exactly how I remember it. Only more of it. It might be my inner city girl, but I swear it's not just me. 

    There you have it. Only there was a lot more in my previous post. Perhaps you are relieved. 

    As I type this out, all my internet buddies are retweeting my super casual comment about Thumbprints introducing a monthly cookie subscription box. And... well, my corner of the internet has proved its extreme awesome over this last week, but I never dreamed they'd love the FPC's and my little bakery as much as they do. There's no way I could have started a bakery without you guys and you're showing that there's no way we'd be moving forward without you either. I planned to do some obnoxious tweeting tomorrow and the next day, some Facebooking, etc., but you are doing it for me. I'M GOING TO CRY NOW.

    ALSO today is Father's Day. I suppose I should write something shmoopy about fathers. 

    I know I've told you this before, but I'll tell you again. When we were in college, Phillip and I did a camping trip with some other friends (possibly the last time I went camping). We weren't dating yet. In the morning I crawled out of my tent looking and feeling like Death On Toast. I caught Phillip's eye - he was looking at me kinda weird, but never said anything. A few years into being married he told me that when I crawled out of that tent I looked like a mom and he'd had this flash of some day in the future when we'd be camping with all our kids. (ALL OUR KIDS. HE SAID THAT.)

    I COULD have taken that the wrong way, but I didn't. And I'd always sort of known he'd be an amazing dad to the bunch of kids we'd have. In the future. When we got married. If we ever started dating.

    As for my adopted dad, the sainted FIL, not sure I know a cheerier, friendlier, takes-care-of-absolutely-everything-you-need sort of person. Really. I mean that one zillion percent. 

    And MY dad... I would write something about him, but that would probably make him feel WEIRD and while he thinks it's lovely that *I* have internet friends, he's not sure that HE wants internet friends and could I just please leave him alone in his library? Unless I would like to talk about the article on Ukraine I just read, or Israel, or have I read that book he gave me about education yet, did I see what so and so wrote about that, maybe we just need to sit down and discuss what is wrong with US foreign policy? That sounds good. Do we have an entire afternoon? Did I bring enough Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars? Excellent.  

     

    June 05, 2014

    #maggiekatenachodate

    I am going out of town tomorrow! I LOOOOOVE going out of town. Ever since EBJ (and my mother) talked me into spending more than one night in Sacramento for the event that turned into the Blathering, I have been Going Out Of Town's biggest fan. 

    This isn't an escape quite up to Blathering level, but I'm RAWTHER EXCITED regardless. I am even bringing my big kids! Crazy! Except for the part where we land at 10pm and I have to rent a car and do all that annoying paperwork (and then drive a strange car) with two sleepy children. But! It shall be done! And if it really truly can't be done I can always call my brother to pick us up. HA.

    So my brother and SIL and their three boys live in Colorado and I visited once, after my first nephew was born, before I had my own kids. Things are very different now! THREE boys plus one extra adorable new niece, for whom this whole trip is planned. She was officially adopted a few weeks back and my brother and SIL are throwing a party and as you know, if there is a party, I must be there. 

    I'm super excited to bring the big kids (Jack and Molly and my two older nephews are kind of The Older Cousins in our family). Even though my brother apparently has to work all weekend and my SIL's whole family is coming and WHO KNOWS if and when we'll see anyone, but guess what, I have made plans for THAT as well. 

    Because! The first thing we do when we wake up on Sunday is drive an hour and a half to my 9th grade BFF's house. And guess what I haven't SEEN her since 9th grade. No wait, she had a flight layover at the base I moved to after 9th grade, so I did see her one night when we were in 10th grade. BUT SINCE THEN? NOT EVER! And we haven't even kept in great touch or anything! I *could* be really nervous or whatever, but I am so not. Well, I might be once I start driving to her house. But even so, 9th Grade BFF is sort of the first person I identified as My Kind Of Person and I have every reason to think she still is. I am BEYOND excited to sit on her couch and talk for hours. I have no idea what we're going to do with our kids. Lock them outside? That'll work! (What *should* be making me nervous: that I am not HER person. EH! We'll work around that.) 

    AND THEN AND THEN! On SUNDAY I get to hang out with @kate_welsh!!!! Hence the hashtag title, which, has anyone ever been hashtagged in a blog title in such a beautifully rhyming way? I THINK NOT. I think the only thing we have planned is 1) nachos, but really, what more do you need? YAY!

    Oh, and Sunday afternoon is the Party. I've been told, though I'm not sure if this is still the case, that the family of New Baby should wear mint. Mint! So! LUCKILY the Easter outfits I bought the kids are pretty minty AND coordinate well with each other, so Jack and Molly are all set. But while mint (a version of aqua?) is one of my favorite colors, I felt sort of silly hunting for an appropriately Minty outfit. Instead I'm going to wear ORANGE. Ooooh, rebellious. But I found a minty scarf? And minty earrings? I feel like they'll still let me into the party? 

    (Just watch, the whole Wear Mint thing will be so over and my kids will be the weirdos wearing the coordinated matchy minty outfits FINE, I SEE YOUR PLOY, SIL.)

    Long long LONG ago I used to write more about my brother and I would refer to him as The Captain, since he was, indeed, an Air Force captain. But he has recently informed me that he should now be referred to as MAJOR. Even though we don't really REFER to him anymore, do we. His first name is Matthew and from now on I think we will call him Major Matthew. Isn't that adorable? I love it. Almost as good as a hashtag. 

    Even though this was a crazypants week (I didn't even tell you about how the cleaning ladies ruined my oven!) (And I own a BAKING BUSINESS!) (GAH!) I feel pretty organized and settled and ready to jet off tomorrow evening. I have a giant in-Sharpie list of stuff to do, but I don't have to get the kids out of school until about 1 tomorrow and that's HEAPS of time, right? 

    OH AND THEY CUT MY TREE DOWN TODAY OMG THAT WAS WILD! Darn it! I think I have TONS to say about my tree! Starting with: people who cut down trees for a living are PRETTY FUN. But anyway. I'm about to turn into a pumpkin. Please think good thoughts for the whole being-able-to-sit-with-your-small-children-on-an-airplane thing, thanks.

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