Always Look on the Bright Side

Dear Erin,

Speaking of limeades, do you remember when we were little that sometimes after a long day we would have popcorn and frozen limeades for dinner? I never realized until I was an adult that limeades are practically margaritas. I wonder whether Mom and Dad were ever tempted to help their own limeades take that final step. I certainly would understand the temptation now.

Oh, also speaking of limeades – and cherry limeades especially – did I tell you that there’s a Firehouse Subs opening close to us? I’ve been doing a little happy dance ever since I found out: a real piece of home will be here. After all, it actually started in Jacksonville, and we used to go to the very first one! When Charles and I moved to CA, I missed a whole lot of people I loved and things I was used to, but there were 4 food-oriented places especially that I wished for. Chik-Fil-A (now right up the street); Cracker Barrel (who knows if it will ever get here); Publix (probably not in my lifetime); and Firehouse. Of course, we’ll go once or twice and that will satisfy for awhile, but it will be nice to have it as an option when we’re craving the warm, melty, steaminess of one of their subs.

But let’s set aside the food talk for a bit. Except – hold on, let me go get some more coffee; those three cups I’ve already had aren’t doing the trick.

Okay, so my life right now revolves around the boys, and primarily the two-year-old, which is exactly how he thinks it should be. You mentioned Little Man’s daily tantrums. Little Mister’s got them, too. Mostly because he wants to do what he wants to do, although he does have his mysterious fits that arise for reasons incomprehensible to me.


See that tiny blond speck under the basketball hoop? That would be LM, refusing to leave the park.

I’m starting to work out strategies that sometimes achieve the desired results, but occasionally – like right after I took the picture above – I still have to resort to carrying him like a sack of potatoes, and I think as he shouts and flails, “Someone is going to think I’m kidnapping this kid.”

So let me think of some of the fun aspects of having a two-year-old, for the sake of both you and me.

  1. In our house, hiccups are “pickups,” the piano is a “plano,” and all food is “num nums.”
  2. He’s recently started saying unprompted, “I love my mommy.” I think he got it from a book, but it still makes me melt inside.
  3. Sometimes he walks around with his hands in his pockets and just looks like a thoughtful little man.
  4. The rate of his learning is kind of scary but totally awesome. I wish I could absorb knowledge as effortlessly as he does.
  5. Everything becomes a game. One of his current favorites is for me to drive a toy car on a paper with a street scene drawn on it. Then I say I’ve seen someone in trouble, and they need an ambulance. He drives the ambulance over, and then drives it to the hospital on the other side of the paper. This is called “race” for some reason.
  6. He loves music. Current favorites include They Might be Giants, Electric Light Orchestra, the Frozen soundtrack, and pretty much any upbeat classical music. He likes to sing along with songs he knows, and he can almost carry a tune on a good day.
  7. This is what stickers are for:
  8. He loves to read, and we’ve graduated from the super-simple board books to actual stories and picture books, which is awesome.
  9. He still loves to snuggle up at bedtime, even if he puts bed off as long as possible.
  10. Every once in awhile, I still get a three-hour nap out of him.

Hopefully this will help you enjoy your own two-year-old, remembering that it’s not all meltdowns in the grocery store and fighting like a wild animal not to get put in the car seat and running away in parking lots. (To be honest, I’m really hoping it will help me.)

I’ll Take A Cherry Limeade, Please

Dear Kristen,

Remember me? I’m your sister!  I bet you forgot you had one since I’ve been silent on this here blog for…..cough……well, forever.  I’m sorry!  I’ve been off in Lime Land.

Lime Land: noun.  A state of being that is interesting, tart, confused, and slightly under appreciated.

You know the saying, “When life gives you lemons…”?  It categorizes things in life that are hard, and then you’re supposed to think optimistically about it to make it all better.  But what if I want to know that the hard things are necessary and good, even if hard?  I don’t want to just mask it with superficial sugar.

Life has been different for the past couple of months.  Hard, but not really hard, per say, just…life.  Limes are a wonderful fruit, perfect for understanding us.  They make things interesting, different. Are they for savory things or sweet?  Are they sweet and innocent or appropriate for bars and the night life? They’re all these things!  Limes force someone to do a double take, they evoke thoughts of sunshine, and they’re cute and little and awesome.

Limes added to rice make a WHOLE different dinner.  Limes in a pie?  Nothing is quite like it – even lemon meringue pies can’t compare with the delightfulness of Key Lime Pie.  Limes take mixed drinks to a whole new level – a drinkable level in my opinion.  Give me a Moscow Mule without a lime and I won’t touch it.  Give it to me with a lime…I’ll taste it!  Don’t mask the lime, just let it meld with everything to give a richness to it.

And my favorite, a Cherry Limeade.  All things wonderful in a glass.

So…we’ve been in Lime Land.  Which really is just normal life.  Can I give you an edited run down?img_4027

  1. Munchkin is in Kindergarten.  It has been emotional and hard at moments.  But she is doing great…and its nice to have only one kid talking my ear off all day instead of two.  (Is that bad?)  She’s growing up, making friends, learning new things, and none of that is a bad thing.  In fact, they’re beautiful life things!
  2. Little Man has had an allergic reaction to something – maybe a dye free and fragrance free dryer sheet, maybe some other mysterious thing. But it doesn’t bother him!  And since we have lots of fun with allergies around here, it wasn’t NOT expected.


    Mommy, can I have a cherry limeade?

  3. Our just over a year old (and slightly past warranty) dishwasher broke.  We could spend the amount of money for a replacement expensive dishwasher to fix it or buy a new one.  We bought a new one. A less expensive one.  (Our track record for appliances is abysmal at best.  Thanks Consumer Reports for teaching us that even you are imperfect.) Our kids, however, have enjoyed their “rocket ship” continually since we got it. (Yes, we’ve just had a huge box floating around our house.) So there’s been lots laughter to combat the memory of weeks of hand washing. (And the old one became a cheap therapy session for some high schoolers who broke it all into little pieces…) img_4191
  4. Little Man is a full blown two-year-old, which means tantrums on a daily basis.  And I can’t think of anything to make this better.  But he will get through it.  We will survive this.  We’ve done it before.
  5. We’ve been in and at weddings and wedding events for the past few weeks – and although tiring – weddings are always awesome. img_4176
  6. The weather has cooled down, which means its time for pants.  Which means Munchkin Meltdowns before school because she decides she doesn’t like the jeans she picked out at the store YESTERDAY any more.  Hello, mirror.  Its so fun to see my five-year-old face sassing me in the same way I did Mom years ago.  Sorry about those moments, Mom.

This isn’t a comprehensive list.  But really, if everyone wrote down all the challenges and joys of a week (not to mention a couple months), it would be epically long.

Our Lime Land life has had its share of challenges and joys. But combined it makes for a rich life.  So I’ll take a Cherry Limeade, please.  Some sweetness, some tartness, and more than a little splash of interesting.



The Turn of the Year

Dear Erin,

Fall is in the air, at least technically. So is a hurricane over at the homestead (Hello, Hurricane Matthew! Please make a sharp right turn and go blow yourself out over the middle of the Atlantic without hurting anyone else. Kthxbai.)

Although he isn’t going to preschool yet, Little Mister picked up a bug from someone and has very generously shared it with his brother. Poor Cap’n Wiggles – not even 5 months old yet and already on his second cold. Neither kid seems to feel especially poorly, but number 1 is more ornery than usual, and number 2 doesn’t sleep well (so by extension, neither do Charles and I), and both boys seem to be covered in mucus, and I’m pretty tired of the whole thing.

To compensate, I’m devouring things:

  1. Coffee – Mostly from my own coffee pot of course, but oh gracious, have you tried the Chile Mochas from Starbucks? Who cares about Pumpkin Spice Lattes, when you can get coffee blended with spicy chocolate. Yummy yummy! as LM says. Not that I let him drink them. They’re mine, all mine.
  2. Cookies – The most dangerous discovery at the grocery store in the last two months is the bags of frozen, premade Toll House chocolate chip cookie dough. It is now way too easy to have fresh baked cookies (ahem, every night, cough cough). There might be a few in the oven right now.
  3. Books – You reminding me about YA books has been a minor revelation over here. I’ve finished 3 in the last not-quite-three weeks, plus half of the new Harry Potter, the beginning of another, and I have two on hold at the library. It’s slightly depressing that this is what I’m reading these days, but at least I’m reading. It’s like scratching a bone-deep itch that’s been going on so long that I forgot about it, or like when you start drinking water and didn’t even realize you were dehydrated. Will try to write on this and give more specifics sometime in the next few weeks.

These are all making me pretty happy (underneath the constant tiredness), and to add to that, the knitting is picking up again. Things usually slow down in the summer, and with the Cap’n added to our family mix this year, my interest in yarn took such a nosedive over the last few months that I semi-seriously wondered for a bit if I would ever pick it up again.

Silly Kristen. So, a little back story here. Little Mister has a huge head. It’s been consistently above the 90th percentile for his age since he was born. And what with that and the fact that he was born in March, I’ve only made him three hats:

Little One Swirl Hat

His welcome-to-the-world hat. Newborn size. Fit him for about a minute.

Little One Viking Hat 1

His Viking hat, which is pretty much perfect. Six month size.


And his hipster hat, which was too big when I made it and has therefore lasted a really long time. No idea what size.

The point is, he never needed a hat when his head was between the newborn and 6-month sizes, so I never made one. Thus there isn’t one to pass down to little brother.

So little brother needs his very own new hat to wear until he grows into the Viking hat. I knew what I wanted, and amazingly, it worked out exactly how I imagined.

Look what I made in the last couple days.


The hat, not the boy.

Isn’t it cute? It’s not a pattern; I made it up – a basic beanie shape with a slight trick at the top to make it pointy like a little elf hat. But I actually got the math worked out right and the thing fits! Also, no idea what the yarn is at the moment, but it’s thick and fluffy and is probably way too warm for our climate. Who cares? It’s adorable!

So, yeah, I’m unreasonably pleased with myself after this experiment, and the answer to the question of whether knitting would ever be back on the table is a definite yes.

Geeking Out – Disney!

Dear Erin,

School has started, so summer must be over. I’m glad about that; for a lot of reasons, September was welcome this year. We’ve had a few days recently that have even felt a little like fall here.

But before we trade in popsicles for jack-o-lanterns, there’s one last entry in the summer series to go. What’s the last interest I have a history of geeking out on? Why, Disney, of course!

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that my interest in Disney is nothing compared to a lot of people you can find on the Internet. But I could – once upon a time – sing every word to every song from Disney’s major animated releases from The Little Mermaid to Mulan and plenty from before then.

And you could, too, fellow Disney geek, so don’t pretend otherwise.

We all have our ways of expressing our love. Some people dress in costumes, some Disney-fy their normal wardrobe, some memorize the movies, some memorize the songs, some create their own works in response (see: WAY too many things on YouTube).

And some lucky stiffs get to go to the parks on a fairly regular basis.


One of the benefits of growing up in the Sunshine State and still having family there is that I have been to Disney World more than I probably should have – not that I’m complaining – enough that at one point, it got a little boring. (First world problem, I know.)

But it’s not boring any more!





A fantastic first trip for the boys. But it makes for a bit of a long day:


Bring on the Disney! It’s going to be fun to geek out in a whole new way.

Geeking Out – Community

Dear Erin,

Okay, by “next week” I obviously meant “two weeks from now,” but that’s only because more important things intervened in both of our lives between then and now. (Note to readers: Not our story to share, so I’ll leave it there, vague as it is.)

This is the second-to-last week of the Summer Series for me, and the last entry on what might in any way be called a “cult classic.” Next week will be about as mainstream as you can go. (Think about that for a week, and see if you can guess what I’ll be writing on!) But this week, I share my love for something so niche (apparently) that it got cancelled several times, and a considerable piece of its legacy is the constant labeling of the audience as both “devoted” and “small.”


An NBC sitcom – sort of – about a diverse group of people becoming friends and finding second chances in a community college. But of course as we now know, it was really about paintball, pop culture references, and behind-the-scenes drama. At least those are what it will be remembered for.

Community premiered in the fall of the year I started teaching at a community college, and I started watching only in order to snark at how wrong this silly network sitcom was going to get the college realities. As I remembered it, the pilot was a little too neat, the first episodes generic, and then it got good around Halloween. I have no idea why I thought I had kept watching that long if it wasn’t all that great.

I just rewatched the pilot again, and now I know why I kept watching: it’s because most of the elements of what Community would become were there from the beginning. The eventual weirdness was certainly toned down, but it had the arch, clever dialogue; certain ridiculous elements (like agreeing to trade a Lexus for a semester’s worth of test answers); and the good-heartedness that provided a foundation for the group of main characters.

The show’s presence on Facebook recently did a Top 5 episode countdown, which saves me some trouble (all of these are good; maybe not my top 5, but good):

  1. Remedial Chaos Theory – the group is at a party and rolls a die to see who has to go get a pizza from the delivery person at the front door; depending on which number comes up, reality changes. Incredibly inventive and clever in a Groundhog Day kind of way.
  2. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – the group plays d&d with a suicidal student to make him feel appreciated. They take it way too seriously but accomplish their mission. Impressive for how complex a fantasy world is created in the mind of the viewer just through dialogue.
  3. Modern Warfare – “the paintball episode” where reality was thrown out the window and all the stops pulled out. Epic fun considering it’s taking place on a community college campus.
  4. Pillows and Blankets- this one features the world’s biggest pillow and blanket forts, and their associated communities (North and South), which are at war with one another. Think Ken Burns’s The Civil War. Don’t really remember this one well, to be honest, but I do remember it being ridiculous.
  5. A Fistful of Paintballs – another paintball episode that was Western themed and just as clever as the first, although it didn’t seem quite so funny since it was no longer unexpected.

I’d also add the epidodes “Epidemiology” (a Halloween party turns into a real-life zombie scenario) and “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (the whole episode is done in stop-motion animation).

All good – if you like that kind of thing. If you’ve been following this series, you might have a good idea of what I like, and it’s usually cute, clever, and/or weird. Often all three. Community is just the same, and it really doubles down on the clever and weird fronts, so be warned. You might not want to be a part of that “small but devoted” fan base the show was known for.

Next time, we go mainstream.