Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pay Back

Some of you may remember that Zoë is not actually my real name. I decided my given name just didn't fit me, so I tried on a few options and after some months of what my surrounding authorities and guardians must have feared was a blossoming personality disorder, I landed on Zoë and have remained so ever since. "When did you change your name?" people always ask. "Third grade," I reply, and then they choke on what they're eating a tiny bit, or make that kind of laugh that sounds like they're gulping at the same time. 

From that point on for a few years, I went through a frustrating phase where I was always fighting the system and reminding my parents, "NO! It's ZOË!" I just couldn't understand what was so difficult about it. But eventually, in sixth grade, three years later, the name took, and even distant relatives got the hang of it with only occasional slip ups. "FINALLY!" I thought to myself. 

Well . . . pay back is coming my way. I worried and stressed and agonized over my baby's name choice because of all I'd gone through around my own name. I figured, "No matter how well I choose her name, she's going to want to change it, she'll be my daughter after all!"And I figured, when that day came, I'd smile, nod, and chuckle to myself knowingly, quickly going with the flow and using her name of choice. That day has come sooner than I'd expected. My dear sweet little Sofia Arabella has decided that she is now, "Mario." Yes, that is Mario, as in Nintendo's Mario and Luigi. 

And now, all I hear, a hundred times a day is, "NO! It's Mario!" Because as much as I am smiling and nodding and chuckling to myself, I just can't get with the program and remember to use her name of choice. Let's hope that within three years, she's grown out of it. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I am about to crush your childhood. Sorry about that.

Jeff and I introduced Eiley to Beauty and the Beast on Sunday evening, and we noticed a few major issues that we'd apparently repressed in the past. Won't you join our disbelief and wide-eyed confusion? We have five main complaints here:

1. The narrative at the beginning tells us that the Beast has until his 21st birthday to love and be loved in return. On his 21st birthday the final petal will fall. In Be Our Guest, Lumiere says "ten years [they've] been rusting, needing so much more than dusting." Therefore, using the analytic powers of math, we can deduce that the Beast was 11 years old when he answered the door and turned away the ugly old woman. ELEVEN. The boy should have been rewarded for not letting a stranger into the castle, not cursed. Good grief.

2. Mrs. Potts is - what - 60 at youngest? And Chip is her kid? What kind of uterus is she packing?! MIRACLE.

3. Chip is probably 5 or 6 years old, yet the curse is almost ten years old. Did Mrs. Potts have him while she was a teapot? If so, with whom? What is the biology on that business? You know, maybe don't think about that one too hard. Things could get weird.

4. Wasn't the Beast a prince? Didn't anyone care that the Prince kind of disappeared for ten years? Also, the village mob found the castle pretty easily, but it's clear that they hadn't been there before. Oh, hey. Never noticed this giant, creepy castle here a mile away from our tiny village. Huh. Imagine that. Let's murder its inhabitant!

Photo borrowed from here.
5. Pretty sure that Belle had Stockholm Syndrome. 

We brought this up at a party last night, and the best argument we heard was regarding complaint one, and that Lumiere was exaggerating the ten years, getting over-dramatic because "you know...he's French." Another thought was that he was nearly 21 to begin with, and the old lady froze their ages in time. I thought those were fairly solid theories, but I'd love to know your theory too. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Conversations with my two-year-old: Snack requests

Have you seen the convos with my two-year-old videos on youtube? I love them so much. Probably because I can relate:

9:30 am in our apartment.
"Mama? I hungry. I anna burger." - Eiley
"You want to eat a burger?" - me
"(Smiling) Nooooo. I an rice!" - Eiley
"You want to eat some rice?" - me
"YES!" - Eiley
"Seriously? You want some rice right now?" - me
"Yes Pease! Rice!" - Eiley
I walk over to the fridge, pull out rice and show it to her. 
"This? You seriously want this?" - me
"(Smiling, like she knows she's messing with me) Nooooo. Crackers! Crackers! Crackers!" - Eiley
"You want to eat some crackers?" - me
"No, Mama." - Eiley, who then opens a book, clearly done with this discussion.

End scene.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Stina "Minty Poo" Ahmann Nevill

Christina "Stina" "Minty Poo" Ahmann Nevill went to be with the Lord two days ago after a long and gracefully-fought battle with cancer. Stina was my Resident Assistant my sophomore year of college, and we were RAs together my junior year of college and I adored her. Some memories:

When we were RAs together, she somehow got the nickname Minty Poo. I honestly am having trouble remembering how that happened. I think she told a story about minty poo, or she really liked someone's story about minty poo...can anyone help me out with this one? Wow, this is a terrible memory about Stina - it involves me not actually remembering. Fail. Oh, except I remember that Stina had such a great sense of humor that she thought it was hilarious to be called minty poo for an entire year.

She once made turkeys out of Nutter Butters and candy corn and then made a video of the turkeys falling in love.

Stina had a contagious smile and a contagious joy.

Her smile almost supersedes the fact that this might be the worst picture ever taken of me.
In my sophomore year of college, I heard some bad news one night and I could not stop crying. I did not want to talk about it. I could not talk about it. Stina happened to be stopping by our room and instead of plying me with questions or trying to fix things, she simply stood by my loft bed and laid her hand on my ankle until I cried myself to sleep. I'm certain she was praying. I will never forget that.

Stina was silly and totally inappropriate. She liked to play a game called BVB. I hated that game. She also liked to play "take video of residents while they're showering without showing any nudity, of course." I lived in fear of that. She never got me, but the girls who did get videoed got her back with a bucket of ice water dumped into her hot shower one morning. She took it in stride (by running out of the shower and tackling them).

Just some normal college kids...and Karl.
She played the violin beautifully, but I don't think I knew that until she was playing at a recital. It was like - surprise! She was humble about her skills.

Stina was fun. I only got to see her once after she graduated, at our RD's wedding in Oregon. She was my date - picked me up from my hotel and everything - and even though we hadn't seen each other in almost two years, it was like no time had passed. She was that kind of friend. You could just pick up where you left off and feel instantly comfortable.

At the end of my sophomore year, Stina held our last section meeting and told us that if we felt led, we could wash the feet of anyone who we wanted to serve in that way and pray for them. Two hours later, I think we had all washed each other's feet and we had just as much water as when we started because everyone was crying. (WOMEN. AmIright?!) Stina could facilitate community and worship. She could facilitate it something fierce.

Standing in a pond, like you do.
You know how when people pass away, we only remember how wonderful they were and we sweep the rest of their memory under the rug? Well, I know Stina wasn't perfect because she was human and all, but I cannot come up with one bad thought about her. She sought to glorify God in everything she did, she had a great sense of humor, she was loving and generous and kind and talented and beautiful. I hope to be more like her when I grow up.

I miss you, Stina.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Goodwin Games and TV Cancellation Heartbreak

Dear People on the Internet,

Can you all please watch The Goodwin Games? It's only been on for four episodes, but I love it already. It has a fresh, albeit totally implausible if one's disbelief isn't properly suspended, premise of three estranged siblings brought back together to compete for their recently deceased genius father's fortune which they didn't previously know he'd amassed. It stars Noel from Felicity, Barney's stripper girlfriend from HIMYM, and a dude I found mildly annoying in the first episode but already now find completely endearing. There's wit mixed with childish humor mixed with unexpectedly sweet moments - a combination very similar to Go On, may it rest in peace.

And shows like Go On are why I'm writing to you today, Internet. I've experienced too many cancellation heartaches recently. I won't dwell long, but let me tell you about a few fallen heroes:

Bent. This was a long while ago. I think it was about a type-A girl who hires a hot contractor who is not dependable. Antics and sexual tension ensued. 

Emily Owens, MD. COME ON. How do you cancel Meryl Streep's daughter's show?! Shouldn't there be a law against that? There should be a law against that. This show was like Grey's Anatomy: Lite, and isn't that what we're all really searching for in this world?

Ben and Kate. Sure, the premise wasn't original, but I liked Ben and I liked Kate. Ben was a lovable loser. Kate was mega awkward and an imperfect perfectionist, a hard combination to live out but one with which I related. 
 Go On. I think all the major TV networks are just playing a joke on Matthew Perry at this point. This is his third failed venture since Friends. Go On was at times too wacky for me (I loathe the word wacky and I loathe wackiness), but for the most part it was witty and completely sweet. It did remind me of Community at times - a group of people who should never be friends become a ragtag family - but I wouldn't think that's grounds for show murder. 

Smash. Just kidding. I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did. That show took itself way too seriously. Good music though. (Pats Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee on the heads condescendingly.)

Up All Night. The biggest heartbreak. So many times while watching this show, Jeff and I felt like we were watching our relationship. And we find ourselves vastly entertaining, so of course we wanted it to continue. But then LORNE wanted to switch to multi-cam and he ruined everything. Freaking Lorne. (Lorne, if you're reading this, I'm just joking. Please let me be on SNL just once. Please.) Anyway, Up All Night was hilarious, sweet, and honest. Winner. Except, you know...loser. 

I suppose one could draw the conclusion that I have poor taste in television since all of these got canceled, and to that one who is drawing that conclusion I say this: Dancing with the Stars has been one of the top rated TV Shows in the recent past. That's bad ballroom dancing starring, at best, C-list "actors." So maybe good taste has little to do with keeping a show around.

In conclusion, watch The Goodwin Games. Let's keep this one alive!


Meet the Goodwins!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

anything once: making an indoor play tent

My mom is addicted to Pinterest. If she hears an interesting quote in real life, she thinks about which of her boards she could pin it on. She has 52 boards and 1409 pins, and I've mocked her more than once for her addiction. However, she also discovers such fun ideas, like making an indoor play tent for Eiley's room! 

We decided a few Saturdays ago to move full force on this idea, and we headed over to Hobby Lobby. I absolutely hate to admit how much I like that store. I mean, they play muzak versions of CCM. On one trip there I endured an instrumental version of Michael W. Smith's "Place in this World" played entirely on sax and synthesizer. So basically the place is like a giant Christian elevator filled with craft and decorating supplies, but I can't deny that it's magical. My mom and I went without a firm plan on how we'd create the tent (how hard could it be, right?), and we walked straight over to the fabric section where there was...a free pamphlet with ideas on how to make indoor play tents. What?! MAGICAL. 

Steps to creating a play tent:

1. Purchase super cute fabric. Guys. I actually used the Pythagorean Theorem to figure out how much fabric we'd need. I still had that in my head from Geometry, which was in my sophomore year of high school. Please at least pretend to be impressed (except you, Manny. You may say something like "pshaw" and return to being a genius). Anyway, to make a tent that was 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide, we'd need a little less than 4 yards of fabric. 

2. Purchase 4" wide ribbon, at least 4 yards.

3. Purchase embroidery thread and needles and an optional fancy threader thing to make threading the needle easier.

4. Purchase wooden dowel. We chose one that was about 3 feet long and 3/4 inch in diameter. The diameter isn't super important, as long as it's strong enough to hold the weight of the fabric.

5. Sew the ribbon onto the edge of the fabric so it has a bit of a finished look. We did this by hand, which was the only time consuming part of this process and wasn't totally necessary. We watched some fun movies though, so it didn't really matter.

Shhh...she's concentrating!
6. Cut two holes at the center of the fabric, where you plan to hang the tent.

7. Wrap ribbon under wooden dowel and through the holes in the fabric.

8. Affix something to the ceiling in two places that correspond with the ribbon locations. My husband used something that enabled him to screw a metal hoop into our ceiling.

9. Tie the two ribbons to the hoops or secure them to the ceiling some other way.

10. Attach the sides of the tent however you choose! I thumbtacked one side to the wall, then used Eiley's crib to hold the other side down. You could also use carpet tacks or think of something else.

11. We hung string lights over the tent for some extra lighting in there, added a couple pillows and a cushy blanket as a carpet, and voila! Awesomeness.

This was a success (even though I admit I've been enjoying the tent more than Eiley)! And, of course, you can find it on my mom's Pinterest board, "we saw, we pinned, we DID."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Our Romantic Fifth Anniversary

Jeff and I celebrated our fifth anniversary on Friday. Well, I use the term "celebrated" loosely. We did meet up at Rubio's on his lunch break for about 45 minutes. We also had dinner together for about 30 minutes before he went to perform in a production of "The Matchmaker" in Hollywood. He brought me flowers, I wrote him an epic card. Doesn't sound terribly romantic, does it? Well, let me tell you about romance. 

The day after our anniversary, Jeff helped me prepare for a party I was throwing that evening. He cleaned the house and took care of our toddler while I ran errands, then he assisted in arranging tables and thought through seating for me. I didn't ask him to do any of that, especially since it was for a bridal shower that he obviously wasn't going to attend. He just offered. That's romance.

The day after that, I came down with a mystery illness that left me shivering in bed, crying for no apparent reason other than miserable aches. He gave me medication, held me to warm me up, and didn't even call me a wuss when I cried. That's romance.

The day after that, I was still sick and he came home from work with the worst migraine ever. He laid on the couch, and I took off his shoes and put his feet up for him. Romance.

Once his Excedrin kicked in he felt better, but I was still sick so he prepared soup for my dinner. Romance.

In the midst of all this, our Internet stopped working, and like a freaking genius I pushed the reset button on our router. Apparently that put everything back to factory settings, which meant we had no clue what our password was because we changed it from the original back in October. I am ashamed to admit I'd done this once before many months ago, but somehow forgot about that ordeal and did it a second time. Instead of telling me I'm an idiot (which would have been accurate), Jeff just sat down and fixed it. It probably took a couple hours, but he was so calm about it. ROMANCE.

We're going to get away some time next month to celebrate in a happier, more traditionally romantic way, but I'm proud of the solid marriage that Jeff and I have even when life isn't all a shiny, fairytale romance. I'm grateful to be married to such a wonderful man, and I'm pleased to team up with him for better or worse.

Engagement picture by Chris Humphreys

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Too easily pleased

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

anything once: ikea hacking a children's table and chairs

I've been wanting to get a children's table and chairs for Eiley's room - something her size on which she could color, play with her tea set, have snacks, etc. All I could find were super expensive ones, ugly plastic ones, and this $20 one from Ikea:
Kind of makes you want to fall over from boredom, right? Well, I figured it would be easy to paint it and make it more exciting. I did a bunch of research and saw that I would be the 293877th person to refurbish the set. You can find my favorite versions of it here, here, and here. So basically I took all that research and used what I thought would be the best (read: easiest) components of each version to come up with my own. Here's a step by step of the process I used, though I recommend making it your own:

1. Purchase Latt set from Ikea. 
2. Purchase laminate cotton from discount fabric store. They only had three options for laminate cotton where I went, so I chose the least hideous. If you plan ahead (I don't like to do that in life), you can find a ton of options online. You'll need half a yard.
What I chose:
Find it here or at Jenny's Fabrics in Huntington Beach
What I'd have preferred, but whatever:
Find it here
3. Purchase paint and spray adhesive from Home Depot. I bought two pots of sample paint with primer. One pot would be more than enough to do two coats on this set, but I opted to do some embellishments in a second color.
4. Put baby to bed and turn on a terrible CW show on Netflix. I chose Revenge.
5. Lay down a giant plastic bag. Wouldn't want to get any paint on the floor! 
6. Take parts out of Ikea box. Paint them. No need to sand since this set comes unfinished. I do recommend priming if you get inefficient non-primer paint. Things should start to look like this:

7. Cut the fabric to perfectly fit the tops of the tables and chairs. Adhesive spray the dickens out of the fiberboard and glue the fabric to them. 
8. Using masking tape, leave space to paint a stripe on the bottom of each leg of furniture. 
9. Pick up pot of accent paint.
10. Since you didn't secure the top of the paint when you opened it earlier, accidentally drop open pot of paint all over couch and self.
11. Take off clothes so you don't get paint everywhere else in the room. 
12. Swear like a well-mannered sailor.  
13. Run around downstairs scrubbing couch cushions, shirt, and jeans in the sink and washing machine. 
14. Think about crying but laugh instead. Hey, there's no paint on the floor!
15. Put on PJs and perch on the end of the couch since the cushions are drying in the kitchen. Paint those accents because all that needs to be worth it, good grief.
16. Assemble table and chairs. Jeff helped with this since he had returned from rehearsal toward the end of step 15 and I looked like something had attacked me.
17. Remove masking tape. 

Voila! Only 17 steps and 4.5 episodes of Revenge to get to this masterpiece:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Children's Books Take Six: More

I have realized I go through binging phases. I get really excited about a thing, over-do it a bit, and then don't touch it with a ten foot pole for ages. I think I did that with picture books awhile back. Today, I binged again. We piled up with as many books as our stroller could carry back. And I found a gem. Have you read the book, More, by I. C. Springman, that just came out in 2012?

If the answer is no, get to your local bookstore or library and change your answer to yes. This is a lovely book, sparsely texted, appropriate to its theme of countering excess.  A magpie gets carried away collecting too much stuff, and some kind mice help him undo his disaster. I love a book that is rich enough to be enjoyed on multiple levels. Not only is it a sweet story of hoarding and learning to cut back, it is a story of sharing and cooperation and generosity. I hope you'll enjoy it too! And in the spirit of the book, I needn't say any more. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dear Sofia, Happy 2nd Birthday

Dear Sofia,

A year ago, I reflected on our life together regularly and wrote about it on this blog. But in the past several months, our lives have been so full together, it has been hard to find space to stop and consider who you are becoming and who we are becoming together. But today, on your second birthday, I want to hit pause for a moment and let myself revel in the wonderful "little lady" you have come to be.

I can't seem to stop from staring at a collection of photos from your first year lately. I barely recognize that baby, you've changed so much. You have hair now, you're several inches taller, and you're a little girl, not even a toddler, certainly not a baby at all.

Sofia this time last year = cute santa baby
Our little lady now
A year ago, I told you, you were a woman who knew what she wanted. Now you are a woman who can tell us, very clearly, exactly what she wants, how she wants it, and how she feels when she doesn't get it. Watching your language explode this year has been the most shocking, marvelous delight. 

For a few months there, you put up a strike on saying names. Instead, you would refer to people as, "the green girl who is happy." If I quizzed you about a person to see if you actually knew what names referred to which people, you could indeed tell me that Kelly drives a "white van," and Theresa drives a "red car." You knew their names (and all sorts of other details about them!), you just refused to speak them. 

Just about a week ago, you finally gave up the strike and have so much to tell us about all of your friends. "Charlie says 'yes! yes!'" and "You do sing songs with Lili at the library," and "You did grab from Hazel." Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, while you are amazingly verbal, you speak all sentences as if from my perspective. The pronouns can get very confusing. "I do want some coffee" you exclaim with vigor, as I respond with serious concern, before I realize, you know just how much Mama needs her caffeine in the morning. 

You are richly empathetic. When I cough, you gaze at me with compassion and suggest I get some tea. When you see that someone you love adores you, you scamper over to give them a kiss. When you see that someone is sad, you rush to give them a hug. In fact, you take such joy in cheering people up, that you regularly request that Daddy and I draw you a crying child, just so that you can grab that paper to your chest to hug the boy or girl, "Now he is happy," you resolve as you go about your own doodling. Indeed.

Entering into the world of toddler arts and crafts has been one of the most fun experiences of my motherhood. You are getting so good at coloring in (and around) shapes, you can draw up, down, left, right, and a slanted line from top left to bottom right, though the inverted slant seems to throw you for a loop. You'll figure it out in time. For some reason, seeing you achieve the ability to draw circles round and round gives me particular happiness. You are becoming quite adept at using a glue stick. You glued all of our Jesse Tree ornaments together for me with amazing focus and determination, nearly all in one sitting. We also love to finger paint. You love for me to cover your whole hand with a color so that you can make prints all over your page. You had great fun making hand print salt dough ornaments as gifts for Christmas. Though Mommy learned a little lesson about doing two "dough" activities back to back this Christmas season. When we made ornaments only one day after having used the same cookie cutters to make cookies, it became nearly impossible to explain to you that ornaments were not to be eaten. 

A year ago, I told you that your favorite color was "blue circle" because of a particular block you were obsessed with. Now, I see such passion for beauty that I don't know that you could pick a favorite color (though I've seen some consistent leanings towards green, which may of course be my own bias for that color), much less a favorite creature, or flower, or even food. 

A year ago, I told your pediatrician that getting you to eat solid foods was one of the banes of my existence. We could barely keep you in your high chair long enough to keep your weight from dropping below the 5th percentile. Yesterday, we said goodbye to that high chair all together and promoted you to a booster seat. You are eager to try colorful curries and exotic noodles and steaming soups, as long as you are informed of what you are eating, and prefer your foods dissected and separated. I don't doubt this is a temporary blissful little phase where you are willing to try new things, but I'm enjoying it while I can. And of course, just because you'll try it, doesn't mean you will eat it in great quantity, or in efficient time. I recently let you eat some granola and clocked you at a 3-5 minute per oat rate of consumption. I about lost my mind with impatience. Now I'm the one who is eager to get you out of your seat, instead of the other way around. 

You still love your Christmas snoopy, and this year you even figured out how to turn him on yourself. You love to dance any chance you get, be it with Auntie Nina in the kitchen, with Mommy in the playroom, with Daddy at each break of the hockey game, or with your stuffed animals along to the music of your birthday card. Your still primarily use the move of bobbing up and down, but now you will often do that while running in circles at the same time. You never fail to make us laugh. 

A year ago, we could barely get you to sit still for the length of a board book, now you can't get enough  of reading. I even started in on a Winnie the Pooh chapter book the other day and you stayed cozy in my arms for the length of a whole chapter. That is my bliss. You made us read Richard Scarry's "Best Friends" about Huckle Cat's birthday so many times (nearly every time we put you to sleep - that's twice per day for months on end), that I felt I had no choice to throw you a Huckle and Lowly birthday party today. I sewed you your own Huckle and Lowly dolls, and though the stitches are all showing, his overall straps do not match up, and he looks like he has crazy eyes, you grabbed him to your chest and said, "you love him!" and that made my day. 

Not only will you let us read your Bible stories to you now, but you have memorized most of the words for yourself and can recite them aloud to us. You also say many of the words in the Lord's prayer along with us at bedtime. You pray for birds, for squirrels searching for acorns, for the sun, for Big Mama and Big Papa, for Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie Nina and Tio Eddie, for your friends, for people you've seen who are sad, for people who have shown you love, for food that you like, for pain that you don't. It is inspiring to see you learning to pray. 

After preparing for Christmas through the advent season by reading various parts of the Christmas story, we attended a service at our church where they read and sang songs that walked through the whole story together. We were amazed at your engagement with the service, your interest in what was being said, your comprehension and ability to join in with what you knew of the narrative. Hearing you say, "Immanuel means God is with us" is a sweet gift for Daddy and me. One of the sweetest hours of my life was spent watching you play pretend with the characters in our manger scene. I hope these are the first of many steps you take in walking closer to Jesus. 

We have been trying to introduce you to God. We recognize that everyone is doing spiritual parenting, it's just a question of how you're doing it. We're trying to be intentional. We tell you about how God loves us, how He is with us, how powerful and compassionate He is. We think we have a lot to teach you. But then you come back with questions or statements of complicated theological musings that we don't always have answers for. We love that you challenge us, and we hope we'll always be able to admit that we don't have all of the answers, we hope you'll make sure we always keep searching for truth and seeking to know God more fully through His son, Jesus. You once asked me, "Where is Heaven? You will look for it." Amen and Amen.  

I never knew a child could exhibit so much amazingness. I never knew another human being could make my heart feel so very full. You inspire my heart to love God more. Sometimes at the meal table, you will reach your arms out to either side to draw Daddy and I in to one big family hug. You give Daddy and I such delight that we can't help but love each other more dearly. We still go bed every night, gazing at pictures of you. This is what it means for a heart to fill to overflowing. I continue to be undeserving of you, my sweet. Your birth and your life continue to be one of the greatest gifts I've ever been fortunate enough to receive. 

I love you bunches and tons, tons and bunches! Happy Second Birthday Sofia Arabella!