Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happiness and Cheer

The holiday season is upon us and I have finally found a moment to update the blog. If you have found us using the QR code on our postcard--congratulations! You are either under the age of 40, not still living under a rock, or took the time to Google "squiggly black square" and went through the tutorial on how to use it. Woo hoo!

Two thousand eleven has been a whirlwind of a year and I can't believe we've finally made it to Christmas Winter (as we must call in in School District #81) break. We aren't yet at the halfway point in the school year, but it's quickly approaching. Summer can't come soon enough for us here. I would be satisfied to never see another snowflake ever again and it's looking like I might get my wish this year. Although, I did teach Owen to catch them with his tongue and now at the slightest hint of a gray could, he opens his mouth wide. It might be freezing outside, but that melted my heart. Aside from Owen being occasionally happy to see a flake or two, JJ and I often comment that if we woke up tomorrow to 90 degree heat we wouldn't have a single complaint. Alas, it is still winter and we have to make the most of it.

Each time this year, I feel the anxiety welling up inside me due to the money spent, rushing around finding gifts, and worrying that I might have missed wishing someone a Happy Christmakwanzikahorwhathaveyou. I stayed up last night thinking about how stressful this time of year always gets no matter how I try to not make it about money and presents. It seems like each year, I declare that I won't be buying gifts or doing the typical Christmas thing, and somehow I get lured in. It never fills us up, never makes us happy, and always seems to leave a little twinge of guilt that I couldn't make it about what I want it to be about. And wouldn't you know it? I had a wake-up call.

Remember when you were a kid and you didn't finish your cereal and your parents would say, "You know there are starving children in Africa who would be happy to eat your soggy Cheerios!"
I remember thinking, Well if they want me to mail my rotten food to them, I will. It's a horrible thought, I know. I didn't want my parents making me feel guilty for not finishing my meal. In that same line of thinking, I used to say that whatever our issues and circumstances are, they are important because they are our individual reality and that matters. I can't compare my difficult situation to a starving child in Africa's situation. I can't let that lessen the pain or discomfort I am feeling because what I am feeling is real, too. The counselor (and human) in me wants to validate every single inconvenience, but the realist in me has become acutely aware that is does matter that others are less-fortunate. The starving child in Africa actually should change our lives. The two friends we have with the same "rare" form of cancer do make me less prone to complaining about colds, flu, and aches or pains. The people who got my old wool sweaters, hats, and jackets it UGM this week should change my perspective on our material wealth. Of course I can't complain--I'm getting off really easy.

This post isn't meant to beat anyone over the head and force anyone to take back all their gifts and exchange your 8-foot tall Christmas tree for a Charlie Brown twig. I am simply realizing that Christmas has nothing to do with spending money, sending cards, or listening to Christmas songs. None of those things are bad--in fact for you thoughtful people out there, it's an act of love and care for those around you. I just look at what is happening in the lives of those around us near and far, loved ones and strangers, and I can't help but feel like I am missing the mark. I am missing the true Christmas. I am missing the revelation of the Christ Child and all that he came for.

When I delivered my old stuff to the UGM this week, I drove past the bike rack outside its front doors. I was struck not only by the fact that in this cold weather, people are still riding bikes, but also by the two or three children's bikes that were parked there as well. I began crying as I left the parking lot, thinking about the fact that there were children just like Owen inside that building warming up and eating a hot meal. No home to call their own. No Christmas presents. No parties with hams or pie. Their reality washed over me like an ice-cold river. I ached for it to be different and better, fully knowing that it might never be in this life, but recognizing that the message of the season is that it will be different in another life.

My heart longs for the hope that Magi felt when they heard about Jesus. It aches for our friends to feel the awe and wonder of his healing power. My soul reaches out in recognition of God's holiness and pure love. In justifying the busy nature of the season, I feel the pain of the thought that I have missed the opportunity to experience these things. But how small-minded of me to think that these aspects of God only come once a year. Isn't this the longing of a weary soul each day that it is on this Earth? It should be, anyway and how often I forget.

These are just the thoughts of a human becoming aware of my personal selfishness and pride. My hope is that I can remember the message of this season each day. I have a feeling that if I carried the hope of the Christ Child in my heart more fully throughout the year, that I wouldn't feel so jaded about the rush of Christmastime. Our prayer for you, our friends, is that you feel that hope and longing for the true meaning of the coming of Christ. We hope that you understand the invasion of Christ in your life and that the true message of Christ is alive in your hearts all year long. Thank you for loving us and loving the people around you. You all do it so well and this world needs the love you are giving it. Enjoy what you've got and continue being grateful.

Merry Christmas.


Monday, March 7, 2011

On the slippery slope to Carrot Top, or: Letting Mother Nature Down


As my hair snaps off into my lap, I consider renaming vivalavancils.blogspot.com. I wanted to call it failblog.bogspot.com, but there is already a "failblog" which really just looks like a blog with videos of situations I get myself into daily. My spring cleaning effort (read: experiment) has so far, been a giant failure. I put something I thought was shampoo in my hair and it seemed to turn it an orangeish hue.

Did anyone else become violently ill after looking at this photo?


It turned out to smell like a cleaning product, but I suspect it was Old Spice Body Wash because I smelled like the man my man actually smells like.

I also found some organic face toner and used that. I have no idea what face toner is for, but at some point in college a woman convinced me I needed it (the year was 2004 to be exact) so I bought it and after not knowing what it was for and decided that it wasn't important enough to use on my face before my 8 AM Old Testament class, I stopped using it. It somehow managed to follow me into our home and wind up back on my face 7 years later. I think a good rule of thumb is that any product you have had for longer than the time it would take you to use it up had you been using it on a regular basis is likely not safe to use again 7 years later.

I also had to ask a sales clerk at Bath & Body Works what color Sea Island Cotton shower gel is supposed to be and it turns out that chartreuse (while beautiful) is not it.

All of this is to say that I have moved on from my experiment and have used some of the soaps to clean things which surprisingly/horrifyingly worked (it can clean my sink AND my skin?). The other stuff I rinsed out and recycled or repurposed the containers.

Anyway, this little experiment has taught me two things about myself:

1. I don’t like showering all that much so when I do shower it has to be nice (so I got shampoo that didn’t burn my hair off and face wash that actually eliminates blemishes rather than causes them)

2. That I love the Earth enough to want to change the way I live my life rather than make up for the crappy things I have done in the past.

OK. I am now moving onto other things like being a grump about this horrible weather. Speaking of turning orange, I see a tanning bed in my future...





12-9-2009-jersey-shore-02.jpg


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Cleaning

It isn't time to open the windows and let the sound of birds and the fresh, clean air drift though our windows. We are ready for that, but Mother Nature and that freaking Groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, are in cahoots and have a different idea. It is 9. Yes, 9. As in degrees. It's the worst. I was to be cleaning and purging myself of all the items we have claimed over the years, but I am either too cold to move or I gather these items, but taking them to the trash is an actual life or death situation. I might never make it back from the garage and I'll wind up eating the garbage I just threw out and peeing on myself to stay warm like Bear Grylls inevitably ends up doing on every episode of Man Vs. Wild ( I wonder if his wife is ever like, "Bear! Really? Right now at the super market? Peeing on yourself won't make this line go any faster!").

"Hey, it's either eat this raw fish, or drink my own pee, lady. You choose."

So, as I am fuming about this frigid day, I hop in the shower to warm up and I get a brilliant idea. I am looking around at the five hundred products we have in the shower fully knowing that there are five hundred more in the medicine cabinets and drawers and I decide to use them all. No, not like that minute, in the shower, but until they are gone. The thought of only having the products I actually use and need (which would be like five) is somehow very freeing. Here are the rules:

1. Use all bottles, big and small--yes, even travel-sized and samples.

2. No buying any products just because you don't like something. This means that when that nice bottle of shampoo is gone, we're using Head & Shoulders.

3. We may throw out expired products (nobody wants to use Gold Bond Medicated Lotion when it's past the date. That's more like A Thousand Tiny Fairies Softly Blowing By--With Burning Hot Blister-Causing Daggers in Their Hands).

4. We don't have to use seasonal products like sunscreen and bug spray ("Katy has an interesting oily glow today and smells faintly of the pool and deet.").

5. We have to actually take all the vitamins we have (unless they are expired, of course and even then, I enjoy a good hallucination as much as the next person, so why not?)

6. We don't have to use medicated products unless we need them. I don't want to burn my face off unless I am actually having an acne outbreak--then, bring on the benzoyl peroxide!

This may mean that the next time you see me you might think, "Wow, Katy's scent reminded me of this perfume from the Gap I used to wear in Junior High."

And you would be right.
Because I still have a sample bottle of Dream and a huge one of Om.

So far, it's not looking impossible, but I do have an inordinate amount of Lip Venom to get through (remember that stuff?).

Lisa Rinna remembers Lip Venom!



How can you begin spring cleaning before spring's officially decided to show up?

We have a long way to go

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I 'Just' Had a Baby--Really.

I have come to the awful realization that JJ and I are on the slippery slope to 30. I keep saying that we are in our early 20s, but it's obviously (as in legally) not true. It hasn't been for a couple of years. This means that not only do we have to start acting our age, but we also have to accept that we are indeed old enough and wise enough to have a child. JJ will look over at me at least once a day and say, "We have a child. In our house. Like, a living, breathing, pooping, small human being." I sometimes can't believe that I am someone's mother and my prayers often consist of asking God why he is entrusting us with another human's life. Then I ask for patience, wisdom, and an anti-wrinkle cream that doesn't cost over $5 and comes in a bigger jar than .5 ounces.

These wrinkles are likely caused from all the smiling we do with Owen who is a ham and an absolute joy to be with. I can hardly wait to wake up in the morning and go get him. There is nothing like laying in bed and listening to him wake up with coos and laughing, then going into his room and peeking over the crib only to see him look up with a big toothless* grin, kicking and wiggling. From the moment he wakes up, he is going a million miles a minute. Tucker usually comes into Owen's room with me and the mere sight of Tucker sends Owen into a frenzy. The converse is also true, but the type of frenzy Tucker experiences at the sight of Owen is not so much a happy feeling as it is truly terrifying for him. We try to keep the two at a distance, but the braver and more mobile Owen becomes, the more aggressive Tucker is. If I had a crystal ball, I might see a de-clawing in Tuck's future and more handfuls of cat hair in Owen's.

Owen just learned how to roll from back to front which is a problem at night when he accidentally wakes himself up by rolling over. He really enjoys categorizing his toys by putting like toys in piles which actually kind of freaks us out. He's eating well and basically loves everything he tries except of course, anything other than water from a bottle**. This is pretty limiting for me as it means that Owen refuses to eat while I am subbing (this can be up to 9 hours). He's obviously not starving at 22 pounds and 29 inches. I just put 12 month PJs on him and I want to cry. He's just getting so big and learning so much every day. There are times when I am holding him and he's snuggling (very rare) and I just cry. I am so thankful for him. I am proud beyond any sense of pride I have ever had in myself and I am deliriously happy. Don't get any ideas--pooping, crying, eating constantly, drooling, and pooping some more will not get YOU on my good side.

So, at 7 months I have to now stop using the excuse that I just had a baby. I have to finally tighten up these abs (or the muscles that used to be abs--sort of) and begin figuring out how to actually parent, not just sustain his life. Here are a few pictures of our bubbly, crazy, seven month old on the slippery slope to 1 year.

* He now has a tooth as of this morning
**We discovered the right bottle and he's eating whatever out of it
How quickly things change in a couple of days!


Check out the dinosaur toes. He's a Snuggleosaurus.

Still loving that bath time. He's taken a few nosedives into the water trying to grab that octopus. Don't worry, I eventually put the camera down long enough to retrieve him from the water.

Rocking and occasionally moving an arm. He can stay this way forever for all I care.

He loves to look at his shadow.

Trying to get a picture of his 4 inch hairs that I refused to cut--until this day. I finally cut them and it still makes me sad they are gone. I think Tucker ate them.

No matter how we put the blanket on, he's always snuggled up when we peek at him.

Tucker, disguising himself as one of Owen's toys.
"Categorize this little man!"

We are SO ready for spring!

New 12 month PJs! Yeesh. He will eat us out of house and home when he's a teenager.

I am ready for some new books, but Owen seems to not mind that this is billionth time we've read Green Eggs and Ham.

Hanging out at YoungLives Club with Auntie Shauna and his baby buddies.


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