Thursday, February 28, 2013

It Gets Better

And just like that, life starts to get noticeably easier. Suddenly there is more than enough parking along the side streets near Maggie's school. Suddenly the sun is up and light streams through the bathroom window when I wake up before everyone else to get in the shower. Suddenly I realize that it's been about two weeks since I've worn my enormous arctic explorer cocoon/down coat. Suddenly Maggie notices that our daffodils are starting to come up in the back yard slush pile.

I know we're still going to have to do battle with a lion or two before we finally get to lie down with lambs, but today I'm suddenly feeling like life is a little less difficult than it was yesterday.

(Apologies for the terrible pictures. Come for the words, leave for the photography!)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Notes From the Nightstand: Accordion Crimes

I have probably read this book four times now. I love all of Annie Proulx's books (The Shipping News is her most famous one, I think), but this is my favorite, and one of my favorite books ever, really. The combination of history and music and narrative takes everything I love and rolls into one nearly perfect experience for me. I return to it again and again and probably always will.

Accordion Crimes isn't exactly a novel in the traditional sense, but I feel like it's a little more than a book of short stories. When I read Olive Kitteridge, which is a series of stories about the title character told from different people's points of view which together tell Olive's life story, I was reminded of Accordion Crimes. The pieces are separate but combine in a satisfying way to tell a larger tale.

Proulx's book follows a green accordion from it's creation in Italy and immigration to America with it's Sicilian maker in the 19th century through seven other stories set in various immigrant and ethnic communities across America up to the present day. Each chapter (or short story) introduces the little two-row button accordion into a region, a culture, a musical tradition, an era of American history that, when strung all together, tells a vagabond story about us as a nation and a people - how alike we are, and how different. From Sicilians in New Orleans to Germans and Tejanos in Texas to French Canadians in Maine and French Cajuns and Black Creoles in Louisiana to Poles in Chicago to Irish-American and Basque ranchers in Montana to Norwegians in Minnesota, we Americans have a complicated set of identities, histories, habits, and tastes. Individual experiences combine to tell a common story of migration and settlement, music and food and religion, xenophobia and assimilation.

Music is one of the great treasures of American culture. In our attempt to hold on to our pasts, to maintain our identities in a New World, we have hung on to the musical traditions of our ancestral homelands, celebrating them and preserving them. But we are an amalgamation nation, and it's not surprising that the music has been combined and melted down and reshaped by Americans into new styles and new sounds: jazz, blues, zydeco, bluegrass, country, and rock. So often, the little unassuming, under appreciated accordion is at the center of it all.

The stories Proulx tells are not pretty. They are as harsh and cruel and violent and dirty and tragic as migration and homelessness are. America is rough country. The characters are not particularly lovable or genteel. They are survivors, scrabbling at the edges of civilization, determined not to be snuffed out. And if you listen to any traditional American music, you will hear their sorrow, suffering, and defeat, mixed with their joy, celebration, and perseverance. This is what it means to be American. This is our story.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Just a Typical Saturday Morning at Our House

I believe the Whos down in Whoville refer to Kate's contraption as a "great big Electro-who-cardio-shnook." She certainly makes ear-splitting noise, noise, noise, noise on it. Tomorrow we're going to try to round up teams for a Zoo-ziffer-car-zay match. Bring your roller skates.

We had the girls' yearly check-up appointment with the doctor this past week. Kate is 36.6 lbs. and 41 inches, and Maggie is 36 lbs. and 43 inches. So... yeah. Kate is in the 60-somethingth percentile for both height and weight for a four year old and Maggie is 13th percentile for height and 5th percentile for weight for a six year old. They've both always about around those numbers, so the doctor isn't all that concerned about Mags. She's just a pixie changeling. Kate had her final round of vaccinations (until boosters at 11 years old), and then we all went out for burritos to celebrate.

All is well here, if not exactly peaceful.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Alabama Shakes brought down the house on SNL this weekend. We're sometimes amazed at how even great bands can sound really terrible on SNL, but these guys were perfect. Brittany Howard is a revelation.

I hear their music described as blues-rock and garage-rock, but I think their album sounds more like Muscle Shoals swampy 60's soul and R&B. It's more Janis Joplin than Jack White. Either way, love it!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Maggie is 6 Years Old!

February 2012 - 5 Years Old












February 2013
(This is the best photo of her from her party yesterday. Nice.)

Happy 6th Birthday, Pretty Girl!

20 Questions with Maggie, age 6

  1. What is your favorite color? purple
  2. What is your favorite toy? stuffed animal cats
  3. What is your favorite fruit? strawberries
  4. What is your favorite TV show? Twisted Whiskers
  5. What is your favorite outfit? It used to be both of these outfits: the flower outfit and the polka dot outfit, but now Kate has the flower one. **
  6. What is your favorite game? a cat game when I get to be the cat
  7. What is your favorite snack? cupcakes
  8. What is your favorite animal? cat
  9. What is your favorite song? Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  10. What is your favorite book? any kind of cat books
  11. Who is your best friend? Catherine
  12. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play in the snow
  13. What is your favorite meal? snacktime
  14. What is your favorite drink? milk
  15. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas
  16. What do you want to be when you grow up? a vet
  17. Where is your favorite place to go? the toy shop
  18. What is the best thing about school? recess
  19. If you could do anything you wanted, what would you do? eat cookies
  20. If you could have anything you wanted, what would it be? 100 cats

** Both outfits in one picture!

Here are the other 20 Questions posts.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Nemo 2013 Update

So, I haven't got around to posting these photos all week because I couldn't find the darn camera! Mike and I scoured the house and even the garage and the car looking for it - turned out it was underneath the computer desk. That's a good spot for it! Why didn't we think to look there sooner? Seems obvious now, sure.

After three snow days (Friday, Monday, and Tuesday), the girls are back at school - not that there is anywhere to park there, which is a real problem with no apparent solution except to keep parking in the middle of side streets and walking the girls down a gauntlet of traffic and running kids and icy ruts. I tried to do the drop-off circle yesterday morning - which is discouraged for kindergarten parents with kids still in car seats, but nothing about this situation is ideal - and we managed without getting honked at, but Maggie told me later that she cried when she got inside because it was too scary to go by herself. (Ugh! Bad mother!) So that's out! We're back to just trying to get to school on time without getting killed. Hate!

Where is that flippin' groundhog with his worthless promises?! I want to poke him in the eye.

Since the storm, we've had:

Maggie's 100th Day of School celebration (please bring 100 of something, counted out by child)

and Valentine's Day cardapalooza (please have child sign all cards themselves) - Luckily I avoided all baked goods responsibility and I'm not crazy enough to do goodie bags or fancy homemade cards. Let's encourage girls to have low expectations for future V-days. Sanity is a priceless gift.

and now I'm in the thick of prepping for Maggie's birthday party on Sunday afternoon and actual birthday on Monday. Calgon, take me away!!

And now, without further ado, pictures:

Before Shoveling

We couldn't actually get out the back or side doors at all. Mike went out the front door where the porch roof kept the snow back a bit so we could at least get the door open. But then he had to trek all the way around the house to get the shovel where he had left it on the deck the night before so he could get to it easily after the snow blocked the garage. He thought he was SO CLEVER!

This snow drift is three-quarters of a Maggie high.

Before she got "freeze bite" and needed hot chocolate to cure it.

Me, actually shoveling snow. Ugh. Mike did most of the work, but I still couldn't lift my arms for two days afterwards.

Finished (after two days of shoveling)

Front yard - yes, the piles are higher than the cars

Piles around the deck after shoveling the driveway.

Sled Track - Double Black Diamond


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mind Boggling. Pigs Flying. Hell Freezing.


Mumford and Sons (and others, including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Alabama Shakes) are playing a two-day concert in Guthrie, OK.

Let me give you a moment to let that information sink in. Never mind. My mom told me about it yesterday and it still hasn't sunk in. No need to waste time waiting for it to make sense, because it never will.

And they revealed this astounding piece of news on my birthday. I think they are trying to subtly reach out to me, make contact, be my friend. Don't you think they're playing this concert just for me? I think they have a secret crush on me. That's what's going on here. Poor guys, I'm already taken!

Anyway, this concert series only has five shows total (at this point; will they add more?) and Old Crow Medicine Show are playing two of the other dates (Ohio and Canada). If OCMS were going to be at this Guthrie show, I'd... well, I just don't know what I would do, but it would be embarrassing. For Mike.

Hey, Mumfords, let me know if y'all need a place to stay. I know some people.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Katie Sez...

... Dad, guess what! Guess what, Dad! I was with Mommy this morning and we went to take Maggie to school and we were walking up to the school and then we went up to Maggie's school and she went in the door to go into the cafeteria and there was a teacher there waiting for the kids to come inside and Maggie went inside and then... And then...

Mike: And then?

... and then, Mom said, "Let's go." and then we turned around and left the playground and then we went back up the stairs to the street where the traffic lady is and she said, "OK," and then we crossed the street because the cars and trucks and buses were stopped for us and then we got to the other side of the street and it was very cold and my legs were tired of walking so far and my cheeks were getting too cold and my snow boots were on my feet because of the snow even though there wasn't any snow on the sidewalk and, uh...

Mike: And then?

... and then there wasn't any ice on the sidewalk even in front of the house that has the pipe that comes out and wooshes water across the sidewalk sometimes and the water sometimes freezes there and it will be very icy and we have to hold hands and walk so carefully and not pretend to skate on the ice because Mommy says we'll all fall down and break our arms if we do that and she doesn't want to break her arm but there wasn't even any ice today by the house with the water pipe but I had my boots on and my feet were very warm but my face was getting cold and my legs were getting tired and then... Uh, and then...

Maggie: Dad! Hey, Dad!
Mike: Wait, I'm listening to Kate's story. I think we're just getting to the good part.

... and then I wanted to run down the street to our car but Mom always tells me I have to stop at the driveways and look to see if a car is coming and I try to stop but sometimes I forget and then she won't let me run down the street especially if there's ice and there wasn't any ice today and then I let go of Mom's hand and she said, "Watch out for cars in the driveways!" and then I ran down the sidewalk and I did stop at all the driveways to look for cars but there weren't any and then I would keep running...

Mike: And then?

... and then right before I got to our car I fell down on the sidewalk and I ripped my new red leggings that Gram and Grandpa gave me for Christmas and they were all dirty and my mittens were all dirty but they were not torn and Mom said it was lucky I had them on because my hands weren't scratched up...

Mike: Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Were you OK?

... Yeah, I was OK.

Mike: And then?

... and then Mom hurried fastly to come pick me up and my leggings had holes in them and Mom put me in the car and then we went home in the car to our house and we listened to music in the car and my leggings were torn up and my mittens were dirty but not torn up and then Mom took me in the house when we got home and then Mom put a princess band-aid on my knee and it was a Sleeping Beauty band-aid...

Mike: Oh, that's good. And then?

... and then she threw away my leggings in the kitchen trash can because she didn't know how to knit them but then I told her that Gram can knit and Gram can knit them back together and Mom said she didn't think so and then I drank some hot chocolate.

Mike: Good story, Kate.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Piece of Cake

Tomorrow is my birthday. I'll be 37.

One year closer to wearing pantyhose with sandals and elastic waist jeans with impunity.
One year closer to using my hearing loss as an excuse to ignore things I don't want to acknowledge or answer questions I don't like.
One year closer to being considered adorable for dancing awkwardly in public to rap songs.
One year closer to hugging hot guys I don't know and saying, "Aren't you a looker" without them calling the police.
One year closer to having more cats than children.
One year closer to having a good excuse not to have to drive.
One year closer to saying "the secret to our marriage's longevity is that neither of us is dead!"
One year closer to rocking that feisty old broad status.
One year closer to eating the grapes in the produce aisle at the grocery.
One year closer to wearing hats.
Once year closer to mispronouncing words on purpose for comedic effect.
One year closer to cantankerousness.


Check out the awesome cake my mother-in-law and sister-in-law made for me:

It's based on this version of the cover of my favorite Agatha Christie mystery:

Mardi Gras colors are more seasonally appropriate and tastier than black and red frosting! Look how hard they worked on this project - a schematic drawing:

Ack! There's a murder hidden inside! Red Velvet.

Thanks so much, ladies! Best cake ever.

Tiny Furniture

Someone stole Mike's phone to record her handiwork...

The Artist, Reflected in Her Own Work

*All images by Margaret Fowler