...from the fabulous Maria (and her equally fabulous husband, Drew):
...from the fabulous Maria (and her equally fabulous husband, Drew):
...sometimes being a paper snob is really hard.
(What is it the kids call that? #Firstworldproblems?)
I usually start looking for a Christmas card around September 1 and finalize my decision arouuuuund December 15. Painful.
I did some looking this year, and here's some I really, really liked (note, some of the ones that are an illustration, I would've probably printed our family photo on the back).
I ended up going in a completely different direction. That I love. Will share it here once it hits the mail.
...I posted this picture on Instagram the other day:
Clara and Gracie act completely like litter mates. They are about the same height. They run and chase each other. They nip at each other. They vie for their momma's attention. If Gracie could laugh, I bet she'd be laughing right along with Clara.
And they are impossible to get a picture of.
It's happening, you know, I am falling in love with her. Mostly because my kids already are.
...This is my last month on the creative team for Studio Calico.
But this time, it was my choice. You can read about the last time here. I could copy and paste a lot of the things I said on that post, but here's the gist:
The scrapbooking industry is so different than it was ten years ago when I first joined the game. Truthfully, I find the emphasis on social media and self-promotion exhausting, and, when I try to do it, it always feels…unauthentic. I love to scrapbook. I always have. But in this industry, that just isn’t enough any more. And that’s OK, but it’s time for me to walk away because that’s who I am. A hobbyist. Someone who loves watching her children look at their scrapbooks, not admiring the latest product or technique, but the memories. Scrapbooking is a small part of a big life. And it will continue to be just that.
My last PL spread for Studio Calico using the Blue Note Project Life Kit:
...we have a lovely target. It is clean and bright and shiny and new and never crowded. Ever. We spend a lot of time there. Well, I should say Ken spends a lot of time in the regular aisles fulfilling my list. I spend a lot of time in the toy aisles. Well, and in the Starbucks.
Ken had an amazing idea a few months ago during a particularly painful tear-them-away from the toy aisle episode. He told Charlie to take a picture of the toy he wanted and we would send it to Santa.
Sometimes Charlie wants to take the picture, sometimes he wants to be in it. I love the little collection we are gathering.
...there is no such thing as privacy with a puppy.
She's like a newborn, except there's no bouncy seat you can strap her in while you take a two-minute shower. So she just comes in and licks your legs. Awesome.
Oh, and she doesn't wear diapers. And treats our liriope like it's an all-you-can-eat-buffet.
She is the first thing both kids ask for when they wake.
She is sweet. And learning. We all are.
Tonight, Charlie was looking at all the family photos next to our kitchen table when he pointed to the picture of Charmer and said, "She looks like Gracie. We need to take Gracie's picture and put her up there instead."
Broke my heart a little bit. I said, "Charlie, Charmer was your puppy when you were a baby. And we'll always love her. But we'll take a picture of Gracie and put it up there next to Charmer."
...I'm sure someone has done this before (there are no original ideas anymore), but I decided to do time lapse photography of my Cuppa Studio Calico projects. I started a little into the first spread. The pictures aren't great, I only scrapbook at night, and there's a Charlie layout thrown in there for good measure, but here you go...my thought process:
Also, thank you for your sweet welcome wishes for our Gracie. Updates to come.
...Charmer Kurz broke our hearts three and a half years ago. Grace has huge paws to fill, but I hope she lives her life never knowing that. I do not know if I will ever love another dog as much as I loved Charmer, but I can tell you in the 36 hours that Grace has been home, a part of my heart that I worried might be closed opened up again.
So how did it all happen?
No, she is not one of Margarita's puppies, but Margarita and seeing my kids with her set something in motion. We decided to start casually looking for an "older" puppy or adolescent golden. With us, it will always be a golden. I started to contact breeders, seeing if they had any older dogs they were looking to sell. This is what happened with Charmer, a breeder had held her back for show and then an ear or a tooth or something was not just right so we got her at 10 months-old.
I posted on a few golden retriever message boards (some people are passionate about scrapbooking, some about golden retrievers) and someone sent me a link to a breeder in Virginia who was looking to place an older puppy. Named Grace.
This was the picture I found when I went to the breeder's website:
What's the line? "You had me at hello?"
I looked at that picture obsessively, e-mailing back and forth with the breeder. When we decided to start looking for another dog, I had told my friend Laura I was so excited to know that our next dog was out there, somewhere, and I was just waiting to open an email and see her. Two days later we drove down to meet Grace. This was a week ago.
She had a cowlick on her nose and big fluffy ears. She will be sandy in color, not as blonde as Charmer. They are two different dogs and that is good.
And yesterday, she came home.
She did not puke in the car, which endeared her to both of us immediately. To know Charmer was to love her, but to travel with her was not fun.
I got teary with some of my friend's references to Charmer. Especially this one:
She matches the hardwood floors exactly. Very camouflage:
And the kids? Oh the kids. I was a little worried about Charlie. New things can be hard for him. Clara just kind of rolls with it. But that little boy? He took to her immediately. "Race! Come here!" Because Charlie had just turned one when Charmer died, I had no idea how good it would feel to see your kids with a dog they knew was theirs. (I also think they both like having something to boss around).
Clara, attempting to read Grace a book. She didn't appreciate the literature.
The other great part is seeing Ken with her. There was one person in the world who loved Charmer more than I did, and that was Ken. He's a man who needs a dog. A golden.
Welcome home, Gracie.
...charlie was on his bike and clara on foot, hence more photos of the less-mobile child.
Telling a story about something:
Charlie would stop just so Clara could, "Give me a push!"
She also always wants to sit with her legs crossed and sometimes watching the effort it takes for her to cross them makes my heart hurt:
...Because there's gotta be somewhere to keep these pictures so they can stay in our family history. Forever.
Clara refused to sit by herself, so for her package, we got a family portrait. Maybe I should photoshop Ken's head in there and call our family Christmas photo done? Could we be wearing any more colors or patterns?
She was even happier for her class photo. I hope her teacher uses this for her Christmas picture:
Charlie's portrait? Olan Mills-worthy:
His class picture? Hm. Not so much:
In 2002, Ken, Charmer, and I found out that we were moving back home. Back east. Lo and behold, HGTV's Dream House that year was in St. Michael's, Maryland. I took it as a sign. Sure it would be a three-hour commute for Ken, but I figured if we won it we could buy a small plane for him to commute in.
It's easy to have pipe dreams. Kind of like daydreaming about the outfit I'll wear for the press conference when I win the lottery.
I entered my entire family online every day. I even mailed in postcards. On the night before I knew the winner was being notified on live TV, I cleaned the house, anticipating visitors.
And, well, if you haven't already guessed, we didn't win.
Today, mom and I visited the small town of St. Michael's (now only 45 minutes away) and on our way there I began an ernest search for the Dream House location. It wasn't that hard to find. It's a rental house (for a mere $850 a night) and the address was right there.
So the house wasn't exactly in St. Michael's. If where we live is rural, this location was outright desolate. The abandoned gas station about a mile from the spot advertised gas at $2.15 a gallon. Yeah.
As we drove down the long driveway (me worried the entire time we were going to get arrested. I'm a big rule follower), a huge deer jumped out of the front lawn, the house's only inhabitant. The "Doggie Dream House" was pretty forlorn looking and the whole house in general just looked...sad.
You know me. Still felt like a celebrity sighting.
Friday night I experienced something I've never experienced before. Food poisoning. I literally, literally, literally thought I was dying. In my anguish I even told Ken it was worse than child birth. I later relinquished that statement, ladies, don't worry.
Clara wanted to put a Dora band-aid on my IV wound (I do not have good veins), and Charlie kissed my belly to make it, "Fee better." Today I finally started to feel like a member of the human race again and even made it out to the farm with the kids, then took a two-hour nap.
...a few months ago, I began the process of genetic screening. It was over almost before it started.
As I sat with a genetic counselor, it became clear that although there is a whole lot of cancer in my family history, there's no real pattern. There is breast cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer, and now uterine cancer. But nothing showing a distinct genetic reason, which is what is needed for an insurance company to cover the $4,000 BRCA1 and BRCA2 tests (the tests that Angelina Jolie had done).
The best situation, the counselor explained to me, was to have my great-aunt Sally, my grandmother's only remaining sibling (and a breast cancer survivor) be tested for the gene. She went on to say that it's important for an older generation to get the test done so more members of the family can know if they are impacted (there are cousins I don't even know who if Aunt Sally tested positive for BRCA1 and BRCA2 could then get tested themselves). If I were to get the test, it would only be Clara and I who are impacted by the results.
My dear Aunt Sally, who hosted our family reunions in my childhood and braved frigid temperatures to come to my skating competitions and tell me how proud my grandmother would be of me, who is in her mid-90s, went for the test a few months ago.
And today we found out that all of the genetics tests came back negative.
I texted a few friends, who cheered. It was only Ken who said, "How does that make you feel?"
And this is what I said...
I know this is good news. I know it should feel like good news. I know I should be responding to texts and e-mails with words like, "Hallelujah!" and lots of exclamation points.
But if we had the gene. If we had the gene. If we had the gene, at least we could DO something about it. We could have a piece of paper, hold on to something concrete.
I know this might seem trite or insulting to those who have the gene. But you have to realize...not having the gene didn't keep my grandmother from getting breast cancer in her 40s, or my mom from getting cancer too. Environmental factors? Absolutely. Of the half-dozen cancer cases I discussed with the genetics counselor, most of them were at one point heavy smokers. Most likely they were exposed to asbestos at some point. But you can't look at a family tree, at my grandmother's five siblings, three of whom are dead from cancer and one from a heart attack, and not tell me that there's a genetic pre-disposition, somewhere, even if those environmental factors played a role too.
I am a very literal person. I like proof and evidence and truth. I like concrete things I can hold on to. I know I can eat right, I can exercise, I can get annual exams. But the truth? The truth is I am scared. The truth is I think about all the years I didn't get with my grandmother. I think about what my mom has lived through for the last three years. The truth is that not having the gene just makes me feel more like a ticking bomb than ever before.
My grandmother, Mary, and I circa 1980.
...no, the kids aren't driving me to drink. Well, at least yesterday they weren't.
Meet Margarita, our friendly liquor store golden retriever.
Margarita is pregnant with nine golden retriever puppies. Nine golden retriever puppies. Her baby daddy is Cruzan, the store owner's other golden.
She is the sweetest, kindest, gentlest golden. She reminded me of every golden retriever I've ever loved. "They will be Christmas puppies," the owner, Jim, told me. Born the end of October, ready to be waiting in a box on Christmas morning.
I thought about Margarita and those puppies all night last night. I thought about Charlie carefully touching her back and working his way up to her ears. How he insisted on going back in the store to say goodbye to her one more time. I thought about the cackle Clara let out as Margarita nudged her in the chest with her nose, asking for another rub. I thought about the glee that opening a box filled with a golden puppy could bring. I thought about the unconditional love a dog, especially a golden, gives at the end of some of the hardest days.
And I realized...My heart is ready.
But the reality is we just can't do a puppy. At least right now. I asked Jim if he could keep the puppies and we'll take Margarita. One thing is for sure, I might become quite the wine sommelier in the next few weeks as we make excuse after excuse to visit her and her growing belly.
...sharing my latest, which can be purchased here.
...let's pretend that we went to the beach this past weekend and I'm not more than a week late in getting this post up.
The last trip to the beach of the year is always beautiful. The crowds and the heat are gone. But it's bittersweet too.
Clara's first order of business when we arrive at the beach is always, always, always "Eat. Chips. Eat. Eat!"
Her first priority at the beach is never sleep, hence the dark circles under her eyes.
Charlie was really excited about a family picture. He suddenly lost all muscle tone in his body.
We took a trip to the kid's favorite park.
And yes, I wore my athletic shorts and sweatshirt the entire weekend. And no makeup. I did brush my teeth and hair.
I love this picture of the four of us. Charlie still prefers the "baby" swing even though his feet barely fit through the holes. Both kids love swinging. But I love this picture for another reason. You can kind of tell that Ken and I are talking to each other. I can remember exactly what we were talking about - something work-related. I love the conversations we have about work. He's one of my most trusted advisors. So glad my dad captured this and all of these pictures.
...Clara was in my office the other day looking at "pictas and mooovies" on my computer when I heard a voice over the computer I hadn't heard in awhile. It was Charlie. Charlie from - what feels like - a different lifetime.
The first video is baby Clara (and my awesome feet and our awesome rental rug) but Charlie in the background. So it's about two years ago. The second, I believe, was right around his third birthday.
He had so much to say. My heart hurts when I hear this, for all the things we missed hearing him say. For all the things he was trying to tell us that we didn't understand. I hear parents every day taking for granted the fact that their child simply speaks. I do it myself with Clara. How well are they listening? How well am I listening?
I don't often realize how far he's come until I hear it in contrast. And on the day where I heard his voice come through the computer, we were outside and he was busy telling me that there was a monster in this tree and if you got too close it might bite your finger.
You might not have understood his story, but I did, and someday you will too. I can't wait to hear what else he has to say.
...If I could just be a blogger, I'd be a really good blogger.
If I could just scrapbook, I'd be a really good scrapbooker.
If I could just be a shopper, I'd be a really good shopper.
My pretty much favorite top of all time went on sale at Anthro this week.
If I could just be Clara's dance coach, she'd probably be on the Disney Channel already.
Move on over, Miley.
And if I could be a miracle worker and make my mom just feel better, I would be a miracle worker.