Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Cuteness Captured

I love the One Day app.

Love love it. I love that my girls love being interviewed. I love that Madison tries to be the videographer and interview Reagan (although she doesn't quite have it down). I love that I can capture not only their thoughts, but their little voices, right now, on the fly, and I don't have to worry about sitting down and editing anything.

This month One Day has their holiday interview questions ready to go. I interviewed both Madison and Reagan about Santa and here's what I learned.

1) Reagan is definitely focused on a "Milli" toy (as in Milli Measure from Team Umizoomi). We recorded her interview a few times (because she kept getting up and walking away) and she was hyper focused. A Milli toy. A Milli toy. A Milli toy. After searching through several Toys R Us stores, Adam and I admitted defeat and paid the premium on Amazon.

(Can I mention how irritating it is that my kids become obsessed with fairly obscure shows? We went through this a few years ago with Little Einsteins. On second thought, I think I'd rather this than Dora or Calliou. Never mind).

I kept hoping that I was mishearing her and it was a Minnie toy (like Santa guessed and which are readily available at any number of stores near you), but no such luck.

2) Neither girl has any idea what the names of the reindeer are. They know Rudolph, but beyond that they can't be bothered. They do, however, remember the names of the fake reindeer on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Of course they do.

3) Logistics are not a concern. Santa is coming. He's making our wishes come true. All that business about what he does all summer or how he gets in the house...inconsequential. No one cares. Don't question the magic.

Ready for the cuteness?

Cuteness. Cuteness everywhere.

Oh, and there's a great giveaway going on. $150 Visa gift card? That might work really well for finding some toys that Santa (cough) couldn't manage to get his hands on.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Our Imperfectly Perfect Christmas Tree

Our Christmas tree almost stressed me out last week.

First of all, let me remind you that I'm not someone who stresses about Christmas or any of the hoopla. I know. Go ahead and hate me. I happily send Christmas cards. Our Elf moves every night (although he will never cause mischief). I love the excuse to shop. I love feeling blessed as I wrap piles of gifts. I love hosting the family on Christmas Eve. I might occasionally comment that I've got a lot to do, but when the stuff you have to do is stuff you like doing, it's not a big deal.

But...last week I almost let myself get a little worked up. Traditionally Adam and I put our tree up two weekends before Christmas. We get a live tree and we like to leave it up through the beginning of January. We've found that this particular weekend usually gives us the most life out of our tree. We still have plenty of time to enjoy it before Christmas and it's not drooping and dry for the big day.

Anyway, our tree had been cut and was sitting in a bucket of water in the garage, waiting for us to put it in the stand, string the lights and decorate. And suddenly I was very aware that my Facebook feed was just full of beautiful Christmas trees. Beautifully decorated, gorgeously lit, show quality Christmas trees. Coordinated colors, draped garland and ribbon, impeccable spacing. These trees are spectacular.

And not at all like our tree. 

Our tree is a mishmash of childhood ornaments from thirty plus years ago, ornaments given to me by ten years of students, ornaments the girls have already begun to accumulate.

Some of them are missing pieces. We have more than a few one legged or one armed characters.

We have ornaments that the my mom made years and years ago that the girls have swiped from her tree.

We have the free ornaments that we've collected from random places.

It's not like I can say that every ornament has special meaning or a great story. Sure, we've got a beautiful ornament we picked up on our honeymoon, intended for our first tree in our new home as a married couple. We have a beautiful "First Christmas" locket with our wedding picture. We have a new home ornament, several "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments for each girl, and bells we've collected every year from our church's Christmas Eve service. But we also have ornaments that have no special origin story other than "I think I bought this in an after Christmas sale one year when I was living in my apartment" or "this was tied onto a package of candy I got one year in my stocking...I think I was in middle school". And those stories might not even be true.

So I can't even claim that our eclectic tree is totally sentimental. Because it isn't. It has sentimental parts, more so than a perfectly gorgeous department store tree might have, but there's some definite filler and the filler isn't even pretty.

And let's talk about the placement of these ornaments. They are not perfectly spaced and distributed. The bottom is heavy with kid friendly ornaments and the top is loaded with breakable bulbs. The middle is a little sparse. There are no ribbons or garlands. And I even decided to forgo the "filler" balls that could tie things together.

It's not color coordinated.

It's not impeccably designed.

It's not even delightfully eclectic because it's comprised solely of memories.

I've always loved our tree, but as I looked at all these pictures - and many of these pictures are from friends who also have small children - and then at our boxes of ornaments, I started to feel like our tree might be a little inadequate. A litte shabby. A little messy. A little...dare I say it...embarrassing? Did I need to step up my game? Can I post a picture on Facebook without having to justify it with a passive aggressive comment about how "it might not be the most beautiful tree, but it has meaning", implying that I'm judging your pretty tree because it's soulless? Which I'm not even doing? Ugh.

But, as is my Christmas tradition, I decided not to let it stress me out and I just ignored those thoughts for a while. Adam put the tree up and the girls helped him string the lights. And after dinner on Sunday we all gathered in the living room to decorate.

And I loved my tree all over again. Clumps and missing limbs and ornament gaps and all.

I love it, not because it's full of meaning for me (although it is), or because it's so beautiful to someone who may see it in their newsfeed, but because of how the girls see it. They own this tree. They helped pick it out at the nursery. They helped Daddy string the lights. They did a huge chunk of the decorating. They talked about each and every ornament they hung and asked questions about where we got it and when we got it.

And they think it's gorgeous.They walk by and talk about it. They lie underneath and sigh. They point out their favorite ornaments. They don't see it as anything more or less than the gorgeous trees they see anywhere else. It's just another Christmas tree, equal in every way, except that this one is the best because it's ours.

Perfect. Pin It

Friday, December 12, 2014

Good Grammar - If You Don't Have It, Fake it With Grammarly

Sometimes, when people realize I'm a writer as well as just a mom, I feel like I have to quickly clarify that with "well, not always a real writer".

This isn't actually fair to me. Or anyone who writes anything, really. If you are writing down words, it doesn't matter where or how you are doing it. You are a writer. Some of my writing has made it into books, but some of my writing never makes it past my journal. And trust me, even the stuff that has been published isn't always gold.

But when people hear that I write words down for people to read, they occasionally get very careful around me. I had someone tell me she was afraid to send me an email, because she was sure that I was looking closely at her grammar and syntax and all that other stuff.

People. Do not be afraid to send me friendly emails. Or texts. Or whatever. I love hearing from people. I am almost never judging your grammar in a text message or a quick email question. Autocorrect, typos, writing in speech patterns instead of proper syntax...all those things are OK by me. If they weren't, I'd have to judge myself a lot more often that I already do. I think anyone who has read this blog knows that, although I do proofread for spelling and obvious mistakes, I don't follow all the writing rules. I blog like I talk - with the occasional made up word and a lot of rambling and sentence fragments.

The only time bad grammar makes me truly stabby (see? Made up word that my computer doesn't recognize) is when it's something that you should have proofread and should read a little more professionally. I'll get emails or newsletters that obviously were written to be somewhat professional and authoritative and they are ripe with errors. There are some blogs out there with great musings and funny thoughts, but they are so full of misused words and basic errors that I can't in good conscious share them - or even read them the whole way through. This, in my mind, sort of destroys your credibility. And Adam and I spend many a morning sipping our coffee and poking fun at some of the professional, work emails that he gets that read like a study in homonyms and punctuation.

And this season, I'm enjoying one of my huge pet peeves in the form of holiday cards. Namely, when to use an apostrophe.

Hint: if you are trying to make a word or a name plural, that is NOT the time. NOT. THE. TIME. If your last name is Grammar, and you sign your card "Best Wishes, the Grammar's", I will judge you. Sorry.

But there really isn't a reason to be paranoid. Sure, you might not remember every rule from high school English. That's cool. I don't even think most "real writers" do. But you can still write a professional sounding email, or newsletter, or blog post, or holiday letter.

There's a service that was recently brought to my attention called Grammarly. They asked me to do a two week trial of their premium service. I was a little concerned that someone had given them my name as a gentle hint, but I decided that I'd try it anyway.

Grammarly is sort of like spell check on steroids. You can install a plugin where it automatically checks your stuff in emails or documents, or you can upload what you've written to the site. Either way, it'll go through the document and find all your errors, and then you can decide whether or not you did them intentionally (sorry, Grammarly, I'm keeping "stabby" and some of my fragments) or you'd like to fix them before you out yourself as someone who doesn't understand the difference between you're and your (I tried many of the common mistakes and Grammarly caught them all). It finds errors that Word just can't. If you can't remember whether you need "aloud" or "allowed", or whether you want "affect" or "effect", Grammarly can read the context and figure it out. It's like having a second set of eyes that won't judge you, and it can save you from outing yourself as someone who writes "walla" instead of "voila" and thinks that grocery stores have "isles" instead of "aisles". If you are someone who wants to come across as an intelligent professional, it's definitely worth it. Although it'll probably mean that Adam and I will have to find something new to talk about over our morning coffee.

And don't worry, I'll still forgive your Facebook statuses.

Grammarly provided me with a free trial and sponsored this post in exchange for my honest opinion. I honestly DO care about good grammar. Don't make me stabby.
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