If Only

Do your kids have “if only” names?

I love my kids names, but they do, in fact, have “if only” names.

If only Mr. E hadn’t said “OH HELL NO”. If only it worked with our last name. If only someone else in our family hadn’t used it already. If only Mr. E didn’t say “Luke, I am your father” every time he heard the name Luke. If only I lived in L.A. If only I wasn’t so certain about classic, steady, boring names.  If only I hadn’t known that weird girl in Junior High. If only Mr. E hadn’t had that very annoying next neighbor.  If only I didn’t cringe a little bit every time I pictured telling my mother the name for the first time.  If only I were a little more brave or a little more crazy or had smoked a little more pot in college.

You know what I mean.

Eli’s “if only” name is Hopper.  I have loved that name from the first moment I thought of it, and at no point did Mr. E EVER consider letting me name that child Hopper, and yet, I’ve really never thought “Damn, I’m so glad I didn’t name this kid Hopper.” I loved it then, I love it now, and in a different time and a different life, I’d have named the kid Hopper.

Katherine’s “If Only” name is her middle name, Willoughby.  At the time we thought it was just a little too unusual and as much as I love it, I didn’t want to seem like I was trying really hard to be different, because that’s just not for me.  And really, she is SUCH a Katie.  (And we call her Dubsie a lot too.) But I still do love the name the Willoughby, and I don’t think I would have regretted it if I’d just gone ahead and gone for it.

Sometimes I wonder if we have another baby if maybe that baby will get the “If Only” name. I’m not even sure what it would be, I think it’s different for every kid, but if that baby does arrive some day down the road (NOT PREGNANT) and his or her  name strikes you as a little crazy pants?  You will know why.

So now here is where I have to ask because I really want to know – do your kids have “If only?” names, or did you give them the exact names you were set on right from the start, with no looking back?

So erudite, these children of mine:

(That kid is so totally a Hopper.)

Fall Garden Update

I think I am even more excited this year about my fall/winter garden than I was about my tomatoes this summer.  If you want a tomato in Sacramento in the summer you can roll out of bed and find yourself at a farmer’s market just about any day of the week, but fresh lettuce in the winter is pretty hard to come by, and plus who wants to drag themselves to a cold dark farmer’s market in December to buy lettuce?  Not this girl, that’s for sure.

This is when living in California really starts to pay off.  You can’t grow EVERYTHING all year long, but you can grow a damn sight more things here in November than you can in Vermont, let’s just say that.

My very favorite part of having lettuce growing in my backyard is the availability factor – it probably saves me money, but I’m not going broke buying lettuce or anything.  However, being able to go pick fresh lettuce any time I want a salad but not having heads of lettuce rotting in my fridge that I feel pressure to use up? AMAZEBALLS.

If you live in warmer areas of the country where you barely get a freeze, it’s really not too late to just throw some lettuce seeds in the ground.  I tested and amended my soil with fertilizer and some compost, but really, you don’t even need to do that.  Just make sure you read the directions on the package.  All these tiny seeds go under no more than 1/4 inch of dirt most of the time.  Not that you would bury your lettuce five inches deep and then wonder why it doesn’t grow, but really.  READ THE DIRECTIONS.

This year I planted lettuce, spinach, chard, peas, beans, carrots, and golden beets.

The chard is going to town.  I am ridiculously thrilled by my chard.  The beans are just sitting there, hanging out, not sure if they’ll do much, but it was worth a shot.  We have lots of lettuce coming up, although it’s still pretty small.  It’s been pretty hot so hopefully it’s not bitter.  (This is why you can’t grow lettuce in high summer – it turns bitter.)

The other thing I like about having this garden is that you can grow stuff that you have a harder time finding in the store.  I am growing golden beets, I can never find those in the store.  And rainbow carrots!  Next I want to try to plant pink turnips and broccoli romanesco.  I can find the pink turnips but they are expensive, and I can’t find the broccoli romanesco anywhere.

You do have to wash this stuff a lot when you pick it, but I think it’s worth it.  I can’t wait to put chard in every single thing I eat this winter.

It’s super easy to find out what you can plant in your area in the fall or winter – mostly you need to not have too many hard freezes.  We usually have one or two and the lettuce comes through that ok, although you can cover it with a sheet if you really want to.  But I know even in really cold places there are some things you can plant – just google it.





Tiny Prints: Holiday Cards

This is a sponsored post, Tiny Prints is giving me 50 free holiday cards to write about, well, uh, holiday cards. 

So you know how when you get married everyone says “No one will remember your invitations, it doesn’t matter, people just throw them out.” Well, I think it has been well established that I am just that special kind of crazy pants, because I am that person (besides you and your mom) that will remember your wedding invitations.

I’ve just always been this way – I have particular ideas about the pieces of paper that I send out and when it comes to holiday cards I have a specific set of parameters for my cards.  Actually, this reminds me a lot of my baby name preferences.  Arbitrary and based mostly on insanity but nevertheless making perfect sense to me, and since I’m the one sending these cards out, well, there you go.

Anyway. When it comes to Christmas cards, here’s what I am looking for:  a flat card made of real paper, not photo paper, aproximate dimensions of 5×7, containing one picture of the entire family including parents, suitably Christmassy in spirit, plus a nice colorful envelope.  I’m not going to write anything on it so I want to be able to get a nice cheery message in somewhere on the front.

Tiny Prints is awesome for a pick like me because I can very easily find the 14 or so cards that meet my weird standards using their preferences in the side bar, and then I can favorite the ones I like the best, and then after I upload the one or two pictures I have that I am thinking of using I can see really quickly which cards work for that picture and which cards don’t.

Also, please note, they have the best customer service ever.  I bought Katie’s birth announcements on Etsy and although I am a fan of supporting small business, I don’t think I will ever stray from Tiny Prints again, because truth be told, I wasn’t wowed by the picture quality of the announcements and I felt like I had very limited recourse when I didn’t like them.  With Tiny Prints I know exactly what I am getting, there are no print quality surprises, and the only person I know who ever had an issue with an order got a new order shipped out for free no questions asked.

Here’s the picture I am using:










Please note I did not take this picture, Leslie Callan took this picture.  When I take the picture, it looks like this.

Here are the cards I picked out, most of which were easily eliminated because the picture didn’t work at all, or else the picture worked but I just didn’t get that “that’s the one!” feeling from it when I plopped the picture in.

Nostalgic Cutout. I love the red and overlay but the overlay cut off Eli in the picture I wanted to use.

Bright Patterns: Goldenrod.  Love the yellow, but because my picture isn’t very Christmassy, it didn’t really work.

Bubbly Holidays.

Joyeux Noel.  This was my favorite on first glance, but it also didn’t read Christmassy enough with my picture.

Transparent Trees.  So cute! The trees, however, landed right on Erik’s face.

Banner of Dreams.  So gorgeous and old fashioned! This is the card I would send if I didn’t have kids and I could take 75 pictures so I could get one that worked just right for this card. Alas, children ruin everything.

Simply Merry. Another favorite, also didn’t work with my picture.  (See, this is why it’s nice to have so many options and to be able to see so easily what works with a particular picture, because it’s really hard to get a lot of good pictures of four people when two of them are children and one of them hasn’t showered or brushed his hair AHEM.)

Colorful Letters. I also love this one! So bright and fun and holiday ish!  The letters were right over our faces, however.  Next year!

Spread Cheer.  This is the card that I chose, and while initially it didn’t jump out at me as the one, once I had tested out each card with our picture, it was the clear winner.


You can go pick out your own holiday cards at Tiny Prints, right here.

And if you are a blogger who wants to participate in this campaign, you can fill out this form, here.

And if you get this card in the mail from me, please act surprised!













Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I think 2011 (are we in 2011? Sometimes I forget what year it is when my children wake me up at FIVE AM KILL ME NOW.), anyway, 2011 or whenever the blazes year it is now will go down as the year that I grew disillusioned with young adult fiction because so much of it was just so truly uninspired this year.  I thought maybe I was over the Wanna Be The Hunger Games Thing or over the Wanna Be Twilight Thing but it turns out that actually I don’t care what it’s about as long as it’s well written and interesting, so I guess what I am tired of is crappy writing, but regardless, I am having a hard time finding books that don’t make me want to throw them at someone’s head four pages in.

Anyway, long story short, (sort of ish) I had a flight to get on and nothing I wanted to read and as you do, I emailed Janssen* and asked her what she’s been reading that she liked, and she told me to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  Which I actually already had sitting on a library pile on my nightstand, but I’d read the first two chapters and it hadn’t done it for me so I hadn’t picked it back up, but I really do trust Janssen and so I gave it another go and you know, I really really liked it.

In fact I only managed to read half of it before I left for Austin and so rather than wait to finish it when I got home, I bought it on my Kindle in the Sacramento airport on Wednesday morning, and if that’s not a thumbs up I don’t know what is.

Anyway, recommend.  It’s fantasy, but a nice blend of real world fantasy and magic and our world mixed with another world, and it was a super fast read and very romantical, which I like.  It reminded me a lot of the Mortal Instruments series, so if you liked those books, I bet you’ll like this, and if you hated those books, maybe this isn’t for you.  Also, the first two chapters sucked, so keep going past that before you make up your mind.

Actually, speaking of the Mortal Instruments, one of my favorite things about Daughter of Smoke and Bone is that while the author does go on a bit about  how GORGEOUS PANTS the main male character is, she hasn’t made the female lead a clumsy clutzy dud (I AM LOOKING AT YOU BELLA SWAN) and gosh goodness who knows why anyone loves pathetic ugly her.  Karou is pretty smoking hot in her own right and also kicks some serious ass, so that was a nice change for someone who gets really tired of hearing how the women in these books are homely losers but the hot dudes just love them anyway, so nice of them. Barf.

*Anyway, speaking of Janssen, we finally met up at the Texas Book Festival this weekend because even though we have been friends online for ages, we are tragically separated by many many states, and we sat next to each other during Sarah Dessen’s talk and snickered inappropriately about all the books other people liked that we didn’t.  It was only an hour or so (too short!) and we didn’t take a picture, but it was so fantastic to talk to someone who speaks just my language.   Normally I’ll say things like “Oh! Kate DeCamillo!” or “Did Will Grayson, Will Grayson get nominated for a Printz award?” and then I’ll make a rude noise when I find out that Ship Breaker won it that year and NO ONE HAS ANY IDEA WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT, but Janssen speaks that language too, probably even better than I do.  It was awesome.  She is lucky she does not live in Texas because then I would make  her spend every Saturday saying rude things about How To Say Goodbye In Robot with me.

Also, Laini Taylor wrote Lips Touch, Three Times.  It was not good, do not read it.

Blathering 2011: In Which I Use the Word Amazing One Billion Times

The year we first had the Blathering, and I got to know the 17 amazing women that showed up in my backyard, I was just happy that no one killed me and ate me, and that everyone got along so well and I don’t think I quite realized what an amazing thing we had cooked up between us, this idea that one day we were reading these words we all send out into the world and the next day we were all together and laughing and drinking wine and getting to know each other in living color, right here in real life.

And the next year we had the Blathering, I felt like we became real friends.  I didn’t know everyone as well as I do now, still, but the fact that many of the same people who came to Sacramento showed up all over again and that when we said “Let’s do this again” people bought plane tickets and got on a plane and showed up, that meant the world to me.  And that was the year we became friends.  Not friends in the computer or friends on Twitter but just real plain honest to goodness would pick you up from the airport when you travel by yourself with two kids and your flight gets canceled at 10 o’clock at night friends.

And this is going to sound weird, and I don’t mean it to sound weird, and I’m married and all that, so don’t mis read me, but this Blathering?  This was the year that I fell smack down butt crazy 100% percent in love with my friends, those once upon time strangers in the internet, and I’ve just never felt so loved back by people that I too am so crazy about, and there’s no words for how that makes you feel.  Because the truth is that these people ,these women I love, they just plain make me better, and not everyone in life does that for you.  When I am with these women I never feel fat.  I never feel ugly.  I never feel boring or not good enough or uncool.  I feel beautiful and smart and funny and appreciated and amazing and loved, and there’s something about being in a room filled with people beaming that feeling right back at you that gives you something better than all the tequila shots in all the land.  It is an amazing gift.

Sometimes the Blathering can be a little bit stressful because there are so many people who come that you cannot spend enough time with all the people you want to get to know. I didn’t have enough time with so many people.  All weekend it felt like a whirlwind, and I always try to at least talk a little bit to every person but I am worried sometimes that I come across as snooty or bitchy and I promise, I am just overwhelmed and a little shy, and I am worried about my decorations and the food and forcing myself on people who don’t care that much about talking to me, and I do wish I had ten times the amount of time to sit down across from that person whose blog I love and talk to her in person and to tell her how much her posts on kale and bad burritos make me laugh or how much I love her haircut or her daughter’s name, but there just simply is  not enough time.

But then I realized that maybe this is the true point of the Blathering – I have my ladies, I do. I have found my people, my 10 PM airport picker uppers.  And I met so many more people this weekend that I adored and I am totally going to also make them pick me up at the airport someday at 10 PM.  But also this year all the people I barely got to to talk to, most of them were people having their first Blathering ever, just like me three years ago,  and those people found people and then spent their weekend together figuring out that not only would people not kill them and eat them, but that just maybe they too had found Their People, and those little groups finding each other, those pictures captioned “my ladies”, the shared hotel rooms and the tweets back and forth to new lifelong friends, that’s the real magic of the Blathering right there, and even though I am maybe not in every single one of those groups, I am so glad that this crazy thing we started three years ago is not only wonderful for me, has not only brought me best ladies and new friends, but is bringing that same thing to other people now.

Because truthfully everyone should some day get to feel the way these ladies, these platonic loves of my lives, my best girls, everyone should get to feel the way they make me feel.  They laugh at my jokes.  They make me lasagna and car trifle.  They tell me how much it means to them when I write about Down syndrome.  They tell me I send the best text messages of anyone in the world.  They hug me goodbye even though I have the flu.  They drive me home when I get sick and take me the airport at 6 am.  They find me from across the room and they tell other people “See why I’m friends with these people?” and they tell me they love my shoes and they agree with my stance on cake balls (decidedly anti) and they inspire me with their parenting and they pull over for the 5th time when I have to go the bathroom again and they cry at my sad stories and they laugh at my funny ones and they tell me unbloggable stories about wooden vaginas and and they poke me when I am putting on eyeliner and they stand with me in the hallway when I need a little time out and they get in the shower with me when I can’t figure out how to turn on the hot water and they tell me they love my living room redecoration and they hang my crazy garlands from way high up on the ceiling and when you feel love like that beamed at you all weekend with the power of a thousand burning suns, you just can’t help it.  All that love just plain makes you better, and multiplied times the power of 50 and then the power of the internet and then the power of queso plus the power of sequined cowboy hats, well, pretty soon you’ve just spent a weekend having pretty much very best time of your entire life.

So thank you, ladies.  All ya’ll mean the world to me.

Thirteen Things…

You Should Maybe Know (About Me and Other Things) Before You Spend the Entire Weekend at the Blathering.

1.  I never turn down a tequila shot.

2.  I sometimes get shy in large groups.

3. I giggle a lot.

4. I have charts and spreadsheets and printouts and inspiration pictures for the Blathering Decor but I am still a wee bit stressed about it.  This is the never ending fate of a perfectionist.

5. My little sister has Down Syndrome.  I am totally not cool with the word “retarded.”  But if you slip up and say it around me, I am not a big enough ass hat that I will write your name on some list and hate you forever.  It’s when I explain that it hurts me and people insist on doing it anyway on PURPOSE that I really get upset.  But still. I’d really rather not hear it.

6.  I have the world’s worst booze tolerance.  If you see me throwing back shots me remind me to drink water.

7.  I am totally amazed, astonished and unbelievably excited that what was once a casual tiny idea in an email and then what was once dinner in my backyard has become something that 50 people are coming to!  It blows my mind how awesome you guys all are.

8.  I enjoy a sequined hat at least as much as the next person.

9.  I am so excited for a night in which I won’t be awoken by a shrieken baby, you have no idea.

10.  Every article of clothing I posses is apparently the same damn shade of navy blue.

11.  So there’s this certain famous blogging conference where it seems like beforehand people talk a lot about HOW to have a good time and then they all come back from it and talk about how they all had such a good time and I don’t know about you but it never really seems like most of them have actually had a good time.  There’s a lot of HOW to have a good time information out there for how much good time it seems that people actually have.  If you know what I mean.    Probably I’m wrong, probably it’s a laugh riot, but whatever.  Anyway.

The Blathering is…not like that.  You do not need to study instructions beforehand on how to have a good time.  It’s an actual good time, and it doesn’t matter what you look like or how many people read your blog or who follows you on Twitter or where you go to church or IF you go to church, we will be nice to you, and some people you might not click with and some people may not become your best friend but EVERYONE will be nice to you.  And some people might surprise you.  For example last year I finally met Lauren in person, and on paper perhaps Lauren and I don’t have a lot in common (she is churchy, I am not, she is a Republican, I am not), and in reality Lauren and I have SO MANY things in common that it’s a little shocking, in fact I think we understand some things about life that only other people who have been through those things GET and she has become one of my favorite people.  So as I said, you just never know.  But you can know that you will have a good time.

12.  I have never been to Texas! I have been studying up, but I still can never remember anything about the Alamo. I also can’t remember where we keep the peanut butter or my ATM password, so there you go.

13.  I am bringing 7 pairs of shoes.  This strikes me as excessive, but I cannot really persuade myself to do much about it.

Books I Read On My Kindle In August, September, and Part of October

136.  Q A Timeless Love Story.  I liked the writing and the storyline but the plot device (he lives his life over and over again, trying to fix it each time, by going back in time) got away from itself.

137.  Also Known As Rowan Pohi.  Not terrible, not great. It felt really really short? And sort of derivative of the work of Gary D. Schmidt, which I would rather read anyway.

138.  Blood Bones and Butter. I liked it, but I didn’t LOVE it.  I needed more about how she went from being a waitress to being an amazing chef.  And it made me feel really inferior with my cottage cheese lasagna and my Target sandwich bread.  AND she describes a scene involving a dead rat that’s one of the grossest things I’ve ever read.  But man did it ever make me want to eat my way through Italy.

139.  Gravy.  This was a romance novel, what can I say? It’s…interesting if you read the author’s personal blog, which is the only reason I bought it.

140.  Like Water for Elephants.  The only thing that saved this book for me was the actually very compelling parts about the circus.  Other than that I had NO foundation for why these two people fell in love and I kept having to imagine them as the actors in the movie just to imbue them with some personality in my mind.

141.  Forever.  This is the third book in that Wolves of Whatever Series, I am sure you can google it if you can want but I only have a short amount of time before my child loses interest in that damn cat piano so I am not going to bother.  Anyway.  The first book was ok.  Entertaining if not overwrought.  The second book was saved by Cole and his girlfriend, whose name I also cannot remember, because everyone else was so annoying it wasn’t even funny.  The third book was saved by no one and was just dreck. Boring dreck.

142.  The Twisted Thread.  I liked this, although the mystery was sort of not really a mystery.  But I liked the characters and the writing.

143.  Before I Go To Sleep.  I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would.  Everyone in it gave me a pain after awhile.

Well, that’s not as many Kindle books as I thought it would be. I have SO MANY ARC’s on my Kindle, but they don’t have to be returned to the library, so I often don’t get around to reading them, because the stack of books that has to go back or else is more compelling.  My list of new stuff I want to read is dwindling though, so I’m going to try to get through some more Kindle stuff before the end of the  year.   I have two and half months to read 37 books though, so I better get cracking.

Read any good books lately?  Do tell.