Friday, September 28, 2012

and maybe some Sky Blue Sky, too, if I'm lucky

Happy Friday, everyone!  I am so looking forward to this weekend.  We have swim lessons, a backyard dinner party, and a pretty fantastic outdoor concert planned.  Actually, my weekend is already off to a good start as I had an unexpected visit from a good friend today, and plenty of time to chat.  Sometimes I forget how much I need those visits, you know?

It's already Friday evening on the east coast, so I'll keep this short.  Have a great weekend.  Go out.  Sleep in.  Move.  Relax.  See your friends.  Play with your kids.  Eat something extravagant.  Do it all, or do nothing.  Just be good to yourself.

And thank you for reading.  It means a lot to me.

To kick things off right, here's the song that I can guarantee I will be humming until Sunday night - Sunday night when I will be crossing my fingers and holding my breath in hopes of seeing it performed live:

Our love, our love
Our love is all we have
Our love
Our love is all of God's money
Everyone is a burning sun

Have a great one, friends.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

Come As You Are (on sax)

I'm having a difficult time thinking straight today, an issue that has to do with things such as quality, money, morality, and the fact that I can't find a handbag that I like that won't a.) fall apart on first usage or b.) cost more than a car payment.  Or c.) stay on my shoulder where it belongs.  Or d.) compel me to hide the label when I'm at Target because, really, who do I think I am?  Or e.) damn my eternal soul for even spending more than five minutes worrying about a handbag, of all things.  I am considering the option of carrying my wallet and lip balm in a paper sack from now on.  Or maybe switching to a fanny pack.  Fanny packs are back in, right?

One year of selling handbags to celebrities at Nordstrom eight years ago and I am ruined, people.  Ruined.  I was much better off when I worked at Walgreen's that summer after my college freshman year.  Fluorescent lights, slow-jazz versions of Nirvana on Muzak, empty (stolen) condom boxes to clean up every night, and that 32-year-old blonde-haired blue-eyed leather-skinned over-permed ex-cheerleader from the makeup counter who would sit across from me at the break table every day, and between each shaky chain-smoker's drag of her cigarette she would glare at me with narrowed eyes and say, "You never get out. (inhaaaale.) You think you will.  You think, It's just one summer.  And then fifteen years go by... (exhaaaale cough cough cough)"

I kid you not.  Aaand the next summer I got a job at the grocery store.  But you know what?  I had a crappy handbag then and I loved it.  So there.

Incidentally, I think I might be the most neurotic person I know.

Anyway, because my mind is too addled to write anything thoughtful today, here are some cute pictures of my Lena.  She has been begging to get frozen yogurt after school, so I took her on Tuesday.  The food was absolutely terrible.  I mean, it tasted like dirt, for reals.  But we had a great time, and she spent the majority of it a.) drawing and b.) smiling ear to ear.  Maybe this is how to cure neurosis.  Or maybe this is just the incentive.  Either way, as it turns out, six dollars for crappy frozen yogurt holds much more value than any money I will ever spend on any handbag.

Look, Mom!  It's a girl horse and a boy horse and they're falling in love!

And that is all the financial advice I have for you today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


One day you look at your calendar and realize that nine months have evaporated down to three, and you still haven't figured out how to turn the office into a nursery.  You fret, you reorganize, you loan your fancy side table to your sister-in-law and move the desk into the living room.  You shop for cribs and realize everything you really like costs more than what you paid for all of your own bedroom furniture combined.  You read advice on drop-side cribs and crib bumpers and buying used.  You learn about crib mattresses - waterproof, hypoallergenic, organic, all natural, expensive.  And now you are down to two months, you know, unless baby surprises you early...

Finally it begins to come together.  You settle on an inexpensive crib in exchange for the bedding you love (which you will later learn is almost entirely useless to your baby outside of just the fitted sheet, of which you bought one, which, let's face it, was not your best moment in decision-making).  The expensive rug which could work for a girl or a boy (ha!) goes on sale, your parents buy you a comfy matching rocking chair, you score some cute drawer pulls to dress up the Ikea dresser, and suddenly you have a nursery.

Details: fairies on the walls, cuddly friends in the crib, a pale pink-and-white lampshade with rickrack detail.  Your belly is getting awkward, and you find yourself spending more and more time in that comfy rocking chair, loving what has come together in this - what was this?  an office?  really? - wondering if it is really and truly possible that a baby will live here soon.  A baby.  A real one.  Yours. Really?  Hoping she will like her room, too.  Hoping she will like you.  Wondering what on earth she will be like herself.  When you sit here, time stops and your breath stops and the world is entirely too much to grasp because it is all too big and it is all too small and time is also rushing forward so fast how did we get here?

She arrives, and your world is upside-down.  Wonderful.  You lay her in the crib for a photo-op, but she spends the first three months in a Moses basket in your bedroom - she is just too entirely tiny to be anywhere further than arms-length from you, and in that crib she looks utterly abandoned in a great continent of pink and blue floral bedding.  She is perfect, but the first time you diaper her at home on her brand-new soft chenille changing pad you quickly realize you've made a new-parent blunder by jumping the gun.  She isn't finished, yet, and the moment the diaper is off she poops again with remarkable form, sending an impressive spray of yellow and brown muck three feet out, showering the changing table, the pastel walls, the rocking chair, the pale pink-and-white lampshade with rickrack detail.

This is only the first lesson she gives you in nursery decor.

That was yesterday.  Today she sleeps in a toddler bed.  Her blanket is the same blanket you bought with her crib set, but even though she is a small nearly-five-year-old it barely seems to cover her.  At night you go in and shift her dangling legs back into her bed and try to make the blanket cover her splayed mess of limbs, and then you peek over at her two-year-old sister in the crib - a different crib, the one you found on Craigslist after the first crib was recalled, the crib your husband just turned into a toddler bed this weekend.  A crib you are going to put back for sale on Craiglist in two or three weeks, when the bunkbeds show up, when you redo their room, when it becomes their bedroom.

Because it is no longer a nursery.

Monday, September 24, 2012

from space shuttle to sofa in 54 hours

Happy Monday, friends!  How was your weekend?

Mine began here:

(which was amazing)

and ended here:

Oh well.

There were other things in between.  Other things such as swim lessons, turning Evie's crib into a toddler bed, cleaning out the garage and crying over a bag of old baby bibs, make-your-own-sushi (and meet other school parents) night, warm croissants and homemade frittata brunch with friends, and the Emmy's (WHY do I watch?  Jon Hamm, Lena Dunham, Michael J. Fox - I was rooting for you!).

No excitement planned for today, though.  Today I am going to sit on the sofa and try to catch up on paperwork, emails, photos, and phone calls without moving my back too much.  Beginning with a call to Mom, because I miss her.

This might be the least exciting blog post I've ever written.  Next time I'll try to take an extra muscle relaxant before writing.  Wait, I know - every time I tweak my back I think of this clip, so you hereby have my permission to imagine this is how I'm spending my day today:

Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Now that the days are growing shorter as we head into autumn, I am reading more and more posts about how truly dreadful this event can be for people who suffer from depression.  The sun arrives too late and leaves too soon, and without even consciously registering the change your body begins to rebel against being anywhere but in bed, and the gray skies seem to crush all the way to the ground beneath your feet, daring you to find the energy to take another step forward, whispering the lie that another step forward is only another step further into the gloom.

I can completely relate to this.

At the same time, I welcome autumn.  I beg for it to come faster.  From June to October every year I hold my breath, willing the intervening months to pass.  My Irish genetics may be well diluted by now, but they must have something to do with the fact that I am simply not built for summers.  I do adore vacationing with my family, having Jimmy home on hiatus, watching our girls bounce around in swimsuits at the beach, and certainly those long, spectacular sunlit hours.  All the while, though, I am melting.  When I think of summer, my first thoughts are those of sunburn, sweat, mosquitos, window-box AC units, AC-induced summer colds, flushed skin, sunburn, sweat, chaffing, greasy sunscreen, bugs in my house, dry feet, hot cars, skimpy clothes, the hours I haven't spent at the gym, sunburn, and sweat.

I know.  I'm a total grouch about summer.  I do try not to be, but it's annoying to be sweating IN the shower.

In short, I think my version of Seasonal Affective Disorder applies to summer most of all.*  Yes, I am genuinely better off with sunshine in my daily diet.  But in the summer I have to hide from the sun, because if I don't, I get terrible sunburns in stupid places like from exactly mid-shin to toe and those sunburns never go away they only fade into stupid tan lines no matter how much I try to exfoliate or moisturize or re-sun the entire leg with sublock only on the lower half.  It's not my fault.  Summer hates me.  Or I am summer inept.  Whichever.

So when those fall catalogs begin showing up at my door, I am ALL IN.  Jackets, yes.  Sweaters, yes.  Scarves, boots, blankets, pants and skirts that cover my leftover sunburns, YES.  Every item in every store is plaid and wool and pumpkin themed, flavored, scented, shaped, stamped, appliqued, bedazzled, and I DON'T CARE.  Bring it on.  Even orange is a welcome sight to me after the blinding neon of the summer months.  I welcome it all.

And yes, I have it easier living in Los Angeles where the humidity is low and the winters are mild.  And no, I don't mean to dismiss so many people who are looking ahead to dark days and who suffer terribly in them.  Having my own depression to manage, I understand.  I understand the sinking feeling, the fear, the suffocating dread.  Losing the sun is hard for me, too, albeit not so very hard as it is for others.  If you have SAD, then you are on my mind every September.  More importantly, if you think you could have SAD, please take it seriously.  There are ways to manage it and avenues to get help.  To wit:

Wikipedia entry: Seasonal Affective Disorder
SAD treatments and help
someone to talk to

It's still way too hot here in LA, but the mornings and evenings have been deliciously cool, and this morning I had the sincere pleasure of breaking out my nearly-worn-out fancy-cozy clearance-sale polka-dot soft wool socks.  You probably heard me cheering at approximately 9am PST when I first slipped them on.  And when I can sit outside with a jacket and a cup of hot coffee at noon and not immediately melt into a puddle of sunburned sweat attacked by idiot flies, (pretty), when I can do that I will sit in the sunshine all. day. long.

I get my Vitamin D in the fall.  Maybe this year it will be pumpkin-flavored.

* When I drafted this post I thought that SAD was specific to the winter months, but when I went to search out the links for information and help I learned that it can apply to any season.  I think this is information well worth knowing, because I know for myself, I genuinely struggle through summer.  I should also clarify, though, that I have never been diagnosed with SAD.  If you would like to read some personal writings by someone who deals with SAD in the winter months, I recommend dooce.  

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I told you she was trouble

Evie and I were supposed to be out buying groceries this morning, but she really (really) needed a bath, and since Lena is a little on the outs with baths these days this morning seemed like a good chance to let Evie enjoy hers without any extra fuss.  And then this happened:

We're going to run out of milk now because I just died of cute overload.  At least my priorities are straight.

Monday, September 17, 2012

just remember who made your warm babas every night for almost three years

When your first child is by nature an extrovert - one of those happily charismatic spirits who naturally possess the ability to draw strangers in from across a crowded grocery store - it can be tricky to get to know your younger, introverted child.

At least we are finding that to be the case with Miss Eve.  Even though I'm a classic introvert, myself, (Lena clearly takes after her daddy), I haven't yet figured out how to draw Evie out.  It isn't that she's shy around her own family, but she does actively keep her accomplishments to herself.  I didn't even know she could count to three until my Mom overheard her counting to herself last summer.  Counting to thirteen, no less.  And it isn't as though I hadn't tried to count with Evie before; she simply kept the information to herself, the same way she used to fight to feign nonchalance when she was a baby, because Heaven forbid you catch her laughing at Elmo!

She is, of course, fun and cute and SUCH a lovey cuddler.  She giggles and laughs and plays and stamps her feet shouting NOH! AH DHON WIKE DAT! any time we offer her, say, a cup of juice when she wanted that OTHER cup of juice.  But Jimmy and I both have the distinct feeling that she is keeping some parts of her personality to herself for now.  Most of what she says she likes are just the same things that her big sister likes, and we're not buying 100% of that.  I think this kid has more to offer.  I think she's holding out on us.  I think she's just taking her time.

Actually, she reminds me quite a lot of my big brother, Eric.  Eric is probably smarter than both me and our brother Mark combined (sorry, Mark, but you did get the bulk of the charm), and Eric is artistic, creative, and hilarious, too.  But you have to keep an eye on him to catch it all.  Kind of like this kiddo. Although I suspect that she has some of her Daddy's mischief in her, too.  Like I told Jimmy last night: if the girls grew up to be bank robbers (not exactly on our list of hopeful outcomes, but bear with me), I'm pretty sure Evie would get Lena all dressed up in a crazy hat and a ridiculous clown mask, put a big burlap sack with a dollar sign painted on it into her hands, and send her into the bank whooping and hollering and Lena would have such a blast because OH BOY this is going to be the BEST BANK ROBBERY EVARRRRRR!!!!

And then Evie will quietly rob the bank across the street.

Or hey, maybe she's just headed for Wall Street.

Mama wants a house on the beach, baby.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Cole's Gift

photo by Keri Dummerth Photography

This Sunday will be September 16th, one year since my four-and-a-half-month-old nephew, Cole, passed away quietly with his parents and all of his grandparents at his side.  For months I've known I would post something about Cole here in honor of this anniversary, and now the time to write has come and I still don't know what to say.

We still miss him.  We are still heartbroken.  We still know that our grief is nothing compared to what his mama and daddy must still be going through.  It has been a year, now, that they have not held him, patted his fuzzy head, held his tiny hand, inhaled his baby scent, heard his tiny squeaks, kissed his spectacular cheeks.  

A year does not make it seem right.  A year does not make one feel, oh, yes, this IS how it should have been.  Not for me, anyway.  I know there has been a lot of grace, even some joy found in the last year, and Jennifer has told me as much herself.  She and Eric have shown incredible strength and faith and honesty amidst their loss, and Cole's story has taken root in the hearts of many people - God's hand has been very evident.  But the anniversary of losing a baby is still just genuinely, achingly sad.  We wish with everything in us that little Cole was still here.

One thing that Cole taught us is that even a tiny, very sick baby needs and responds to loving parents.  Cole was blind, and rarely opened his eyes.  He was beset with seizures all the time.  All.  The.  Time.  We know that physically his brain was not put together properly, and it was a miracle that it could even tell his body to breathe on its own or regulate its own temperature.  This is a baby who was supposed to be so improperly wired and so busy surviving on the most basic level that he should have been completely oblivious to any of his surroundings.

And yet I can tell you from personal experience that Cole visibly reacted to having his parents nearby.  You could see him respond to Eric's voice, you could see him calm when Jennifer held him.  And although I couldn't be there, I am told that the weeks he was at home he seemed, well, at home.  That kiddo knew he was loved and cared for.

Jennifer and Eric are now partnering with a foundation called Orphans Treasure Box to begin Cole's Gift, a grant program for people adopting children with life-threatening illnesses.  Think about that for a second - children who are deathly ill and have no parents to love on them.  I'm going to let Jennifer tell you about it here:

It has been nearly a year since we lost our sweet baby Cole. Orphans Treasure Box is a registered non-profit serving orphans and adoptive families by selling donated, used books on Amazon. My friend, Beth Wendling, started and runs Orphans Treasure Box in Champaign, IL. In memory of Cole, she has created Cole’s Gift, a $2000 grant that will be given yearly to a family adopting a child with a life-threatening illness. In addition to Cole’s Gift, OTB is helping the Longshore Family, who just adopted a 14 year old, HIV positive teenager from the Ukraine, and the King Family, who are adopting three sisters from the Philippines. Also, OTB is currently raising money for foster homes to be built in Thailand, where orphans age out of the system at age 10. Please consider how YOU can help raise money for Orphans Treasure Box. Here are three options:

1. Go to the Orphans Treasure Box book store on Amazon and shop for used books. Books are organized alphabetically, so typing keywords in the search box will help. 

2. Donate your used books! If you are in St. Louis, please contact me to arrange for drop off or pick up from now until September 20th. If you are in another city, you may ship books directly to: 

Orphans Treasure Box
2511 Pinehurst
Champaign, IL 61822 
Tell the post office you are shipping books, and you should receive the book rate. Please NO encyclopedias, church cook books, or anything with mold. Your books will be sold on the Amazon site. Be sure to include your name and address so a receipt can be issued to you. 

3. Make a monetary donation. Please make out your check to Orphans Treasure Box and write Cole McKee Shannon on the memo line. Mail to:  

Orphans Treasure Box
2511 Pinehurst
Champaign, IL 61822
We are excited to honor Cole’s memory by helping children in need! Please pass this along to your friends and family. 
To learn more about baby Cole, please check out my blog. 
Thank you all!
Jennifer Shannon 
“The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with JOY.” Psalm 126:3

Thanks to everyone for thinking of Cole, especially this weekend.  Make sure you don't miss Jennifer's lovely blog.  And maybe you will send Jennifer and Eric an encouraging note, too.  I know nothing makes them happier than knowing that Cole is remembered.

photo by Keri Dummerth Photography

You're in our hearts, Little Mac.  Always.  We love you.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

almost five

You guys, in three weeks and two days my first baby girl is going to be five years old.  She writes some and reads a little and somersaults and rides a bike and can count to five in Japanese.  Seriously, it's milestone after milestone around here, and I am dizzy.  One thing hasn't changed, though, and it's this face.  This angelic, wide-eyed face which could easily melt your heart into a useless pool of butterscotch except that it's all an act - my silly-pie Lena can only manage it for a second or two before falling apart in belly giggles, rolling on the floor in a continuation of her daily 14-hour ham-fest.  Only occasionally do I catch this little innocence act on camera.  Here it is once before, almost exactly three years ago:

I know, I know.  If she ever figures out how to use this face to attract a date, we are seriously, honestly doomed.  I know.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Hey, it's Monday!  Again!  How does that keep happening?  Well, in an effort to cheer you up I thought I'd show you what I'm in love with right now.  You know, aside from my kids and my husband.  Obviously.

Oh, and before we get started, I have not been given any incentive to write this post.  Nobody is paying me, giving me goods, or otherwise tempting me to blog about their products.  These are just things I found recently and love.

1.  Friendship bracelets

This might surprise you, but I do actually know what the current fashion trends are, generally speaking, despite the fact that you will most often see me in jeans and black t-shirt.  Because if Einstein wore the same thing every day, I can too, right?  And he didn't even accessorize!  Unless you count the hair.  But I digress.  I am really enjoying my friendship bracelets right now, and I didn't have even to make them myself or suffer through seventh grade again to get them.  I think we can all agree that that's what we call GENIUS, Einstein.

These beauties came from Ashley Goings of Under Those Neon Lights at Etsy, and on top of being pretty much perfect they were also affordable and custom-made.  She let me choose my own designs and colors, the bracelets are gorgeous and sturdy, and I couldn't be happier with the results.  And they sparkle just a little bit.  If you are at all interested in wearing friendship bracelets this fall, I can't imagine shopping for them anywhere else.

This is another Etsy find,  this time from the uber-cool shop Son of a Sailor.  It's a black and white chevron bracelet, so you pretty much can't go wrong as far as trends go.  I love it on its own, but lately I wear all three bracelets at once.  They make me happy.

(Incidentally, I find photographing my own hands to be an odd experience.  They just never look right. Other people do this naturally, and the photos always look normal.  I'm wondering if this is like hearing your own voice on the answering machine?  To me, my voice always makes me sound like I've been drugged.  I swear, I drink caffeinated coffee almost all day long.)

2.  Silver star earrings from Lucky Feather

To my knowledge neither stars nor stud earrings are particularly trendy at the moment, but feathers are, so I'm on trend by proxy, yes?  Anyway, I found these at my favorite local gift shop, Lundeen's, and am in love with them, maybe for no other reason than they make my two-year-old laugh and say, "Tinkle tinkle wittah stawh!" every time she notices them.  That, combined with a very affordable price, and I will probably wear them forever.  Or until Evie grows out of her toddler voice, which I'm sorry to admit, I sort of hope is never.  But that would be weird.

Lucky Feather appears to be available from various retailers on the 'webs.  However, I did find the star earrings online here.

3.  butter London nail polish in Blagger

I don't know where the name "Blagger" came from, and maybe it's a jab at bloggers, but if that's the case I might possibly love this polish more (which seems pretty impossible at the moment).  And here's the part where I tell you that I have color issues.  I am very color sensitive, and I realize this might sound ridiculous if you don't share the condition with me.  But you're dealing with someone who used to get headaches in Burger King as a child because the lighting and colors were so awful.  So, while I dislike spending more than four dollars on a bottle of nail polish, I find that I can't bear to purchase something that isn't JUST the right color.  This blue, for example - I fell in love with it on sight, and then scanned every less expensive bottle of polish in the store for something similar before giving up and buying this one for $14.  Absolutely worth it, though.  It's fun, it's different, it looks good against my skin, and nails (ha!) that blue-with-black color pairing that everyone is so into right now.  At least, it does when I wear my black corduroy TOMS wedges, which I do often, because so help me it WILL be autumn soon.  Dammit.

(Again with the photographing myself thing - I took so many photos of my toes wearing this color in many locations, and every photo looked awful.  Apparently my toes are not photogenic, so you will have to use your imagination.  Of course, this color would be great for fingers, too, but polish on my fingernails lasts all of six hours on me, so that will only happen if you invite me to your wedding or a red carpet event which is scheduled to last for under six hours.  Hence the bottle-only photograph.)

Mom - I'm sorry I swore.

4.  Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter Chocolate Bars

Jimmy picked one of these up for me yesterday, proving once again that he is my soul mate, because after the first bite I told him that I've changed my mind and want to be fat.  Unbelievably incredibly yum.  Better than TJ's peanut butter cups.  Yes, I just said that.  YUM.

5.  David Byrne and St. Vincent, Who

I picked this up from Dooce last week which makes me think that everyone on the planet has since discovered it, but if you haven't, listen.  It will instantly perk up your Monday, I promise.  And I will skip the usual David-Byrne-Is-A-God-Among-Men lecture, because really, if you don't know that already, how can it be taught?

That's it for now.  Have a great week!

Friday, September 7, 2012


In just a few hours we will have officially survived the first week of kindergarten.  I say "we" because I had no idea that beginning school would be an all-hands-on-deck family affair.  The prep, the meetings, the paperwork, the schedule - I seriously didn't even have time to use up all the tissues I packed for the first day.  Crying is for later - first we want to tell you about the PTA!  And there's a book fair!  And parking rules and drop-off procedures and you need a TB test to volunteer!  So I still haven't made it to the sentimental sobbing stage, yet, and honestly - it might have passed.  Because I still have lingering paperwork, and we're still adjusting to our new schedule.  I know, you're thinking OMGs, a schedule??  THE HORROR.  I get it.  And I've been very lucky to have five years of minimal schedule and lots of pajama days.  Not anymore.  Unlike our preschool's luxurious hour-and-a-half drop-off window with a squishy cut-off time, we are on a daily deadline, now, and it's been a huge adjustment.  But, somehow, perversely, I'm actually enjoying it.  Even though I'm not a morning person, we were up, dressed, fed, packed, brushed, and off to school today, and then it was all of 9am, I was out of the house with a cup of coffee in hand and let me tell you that was AMAAAZINGS.  So take that, school year!

Okay, maybe I'll save the gloating for when we've survived all the way through June.  For now, so far, so good.  Very good.

Anyway, the schedule is new, but not nearly as interesting or cute as my girls.  My girls who were super duper excited about kindergarten on the first day!  (Evie, too, who will not stop asking when she gets to go to "keengahddn?")  We've had some raw emotion-type outbreaks from Lena since the first day, so I think all the newness of being in a bigger, more structured environment full of new faces and a new language is more overwhelming to her than she knows how to express, but overall she seems to be having a great time.  I am so excited for her, too.  I wish so badly I could see her in class and know how her day goes every day.  She will remember these days, these teachers, these kids, this school.  I still remember almost everything about my kindergarten experience: my desk, my new supplies, My vintage Mickey Mouse metal lunchbox, the way the room smelled, learning to read....all of it.  Now it's her turn.  She's living her childhood right now - the childhood she will (hopefully) remember for the rest of her life.  I just want to jump up and down and tell her - This is your life, kid!  It's just beginning.  You have all the possibilities in front of you.  Go get 'em!  Learn everything!  Be nice.  HAVE FUN.  And always, always, always - Mama loves you.  Always.

It's been a good, good week.

Have a great weekend, everyone.