Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unplugged, Plugged: Hallmark

This post is another Hallmark sponsored post. I am being paid by Hallmark to write it, but all writing, ideas and opinions are mine. Thankfully, Hallmark and I share the same idea--that little moments are to be celebrated and that good people, good efforts and good intentions deserve a spotlight. See Hallmark Life is a Special Occasion for more details, like them on Facebook, and/or sign up for their e-mail messages HERE.

After yesterday's Unplugged Day, I'd like to tell you I'm writing this post with a pen--a good old-fashioned quill pen and some parchment that I just pressed from our own trees. And after I write it, I'm going to slip it in an envelope and take it to the town courier who will set off on horseback for his postal journey. Hallmark might get it somewhere near Christmas, and that's only if the courier didn't get eaten alive by wolves. He can't call for help, you know. No cell phone. Once my mail has been deployed, I will get back to churning butter and knitting booties and making bonnets for the little ones.

Well, that's not happening. I am, in fact, sitting amidst a mess of cords and hard drives and USB hubs with lights that, I swear, are blinking to the rhythm of Jingle Bells. My phone sits close on my desk, and I have to admit that when I went to write this, I was first sidetracked by three e-mails, a Facebook status update and a wicked clever attempt by Zappos who I know has placed a chip in my brain to memorize my shoe preferences because their ads only feature things I like.

Photobucket

I'll admit something else. When Hallmark suggested a few topics for September posts, I skimmed through them, saw "Unplugged" and knew I'd be selecting anything but that one. It's not that I'm addicted to technology--I have no problem stepping away from my phone or the computer. It's just that I didn't really want to dedicate a full day to purposely shutting everything off because I knew I'd just feel guilty for how much more I should be doing it.

But I was surprised at the outcome. I don't feel guilty. I feel reminded of the importance of balance.

Act One: The Part Where I Twitched

I woke up early yesterday. It is unusual for me to make my morning trudge toward the kitchen without a baby clung to my hip or a toddler tip-toeing behind me, but yesterday it was just me and the first rays of the sun and the quiet of a sleeping household. I spooned a few teaspoons of fake coffee into a cup, poured hot water over it and leaned against the island in my pajamas, contemplating what to do next. No kids. I could get so much done—tackle my e-mails, write, edit photos. But no, it was Unplugged Day and I wasn’t going to cheat. For all the times I couldn’t find my phone buried in the heap of junk on our catch-all counter, suddenly it stood out like chipped red polish on an otherwise perfect manicure, luring me near. It would only take a few minutes to scroll through my e-mail box, weed out some clutter and delete some spam, and I almost gave in, convincing myself Unplugged Day didn’t start until the kids woke up. But I stood firm, even though I twitched. Yes, I nervously twitched, the first sign that this day dedicated to stepping away was important in reestablishing the most important priorities, none of which are e-mail. Here’s the crazy thing about e-mail: it doesn’t disappear.

Watching the Today Show wasn’t an option, so I threw a load of laundry in, wiped down the counters, sat on the couch and thumbed through the girls’ scrapbooks, enjoying the silence and lack of pressure to get something done. After an hour of quiet, I realized how much I missed the girls and tried to will them to wake up. And when they didn’t, I took the opportunity to make French toast for them so that when they did, a good breakfast would greet them.

Photobucket

Photobucket

I won’t rattle on with a play-by-play of the day, but I will say, I didn’t twitch for long. In fact, my shoulders settled and, knowing I’d be sticking to my plan of not giving in, I enjoyed myself more. No pressure to get back with anyone, no stress of having to do work. Remember snow days when everything seemed better just because school got called off? Yeah. It’s kind of like that.

We didn’t churn butter or knit booties or make bonnets. We did the things we always do, but it felt a little bit like vacation spilled into real life because I made a point to enjoy them more—no pressure to get home, to finish up, to hurry up because there was something else I had to get done.

I watched my ballerina a little more closely.

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

I noticed more triumphs during Nella’s physical therapy and I clapped a little more enthusiastically.

Photobucket
Photobucket

And I followed my girls down the sidewalk in the afternoon and never once said “time to turn around.”

Photobucket
Photobucket
Photobucket

Act Two: The Part where I Missed being Plugged

I could easily end this with some predictable closing line about “time to turn around” and how a day of Unplugged changed me for good. But that’s not true. What’s true is that I did indeed realize it is so easy to adopt bad habits—to let e-mail and Facebook, texting and TV seep into our lives and stretch roots where they’re not invited. But, I also learned that there’re a lot of good things about being plugged, and there’s a reason I missed some habits yesterday that people so quickly deem as “bad.”

What is it that phones and computers and televisions plug us into? Is it evil? Hardly.

It’s people.
And me loves me some people.

I realized yesterday just how much an instrument technology is in connecting me with people I love. I reached for my phone in a store to take a picture of Hello Kitty pencils to send to Lainey’s ballet teacher because she loves Hello Kitty. But then I put it back. I pulled it out again to tell my friend Dot her niece was our server at Applebees because I knew that’d make her smile. But then I put it back again. No texting. My sister called me, encouraging me to get on Facebook stat to watch an amazing video that would rock my world, and I knew from her enthusiasm, it would be good…but it was Unplugged Day. Nope. Can’t do it. I wanted to know how my friend Elizabeth was feeling during her chemo, and I wondered if there was an e-mail from her just sitting in my box. And when I heard my phone ding during breakfast, I “accidentally” looked to see a text from my friend Amy who had just dropped her little Kayla—who shares Nella’s almond eyes—off for her first day of kindergarten, and Mama was a hot mess of tears. I admit, I cheated on that one. I couldn’t grab my phone fast enough to call her up and cheer her on. And that’s when I realized there are so many incredible things about texting and Facebook and blogs and e-mail, and curling up on the couch with Brett on a Friday night to watch a movie. I missed these things yesterday. And I didn’t feel guilty about missing them.

The amount of people that are online or that have televisions in their homes or that have data and texting plans on their cell phones—it shouldn’t be alarming in the What-is-this-world-coming-to? way. It should be inspiring in that there are so many opportunities to promote change and positively affect such a mass of people who are plugged in. It’s a different world today. And while yes, I wish we still had petticoats and carriages, dance cards and phrases like “come a callin’”, we have American Idol, Skype, On Star--and fabulous opportunities to connect with people. To make their day with an e-mail or a text. To use the “evils” of technology to make a difference.

Photobucket
Shoe shopping can make a difference too.

It’s all about balance. Recognizing when we need to pull back and focus on our own families and yet embracing the modern world and using its advances for good.
I don’t want to twitch anymore. That’s for sure. But I also don’t want to give up routines I love—like watching Little Bear curled up on the couch with my girl, saving reruns of Deadliest Catch to enjoy over Chinese take-out with Brett, Skyping with friends far away or texting pictures of Hello Kitty pens to ballet teachers who own the matching notebooks.

We’ll be repeating the Unplugged day for sure. I like the awareness, the focus, the calm it brings. Like a snow day.

Photobucket

Photobucket

But I also love relishing in the joys of being plugged in...to the many people that help make our life grand.

The courier has a long night of travel ahead of him and a treacherous journey to get this post to Hallmark before due date. Or I could just hit "publish" and save him the trip.

Plugged or Unplugged? Why not both?

Hallmark and I would love to hear about the Unplugged and Plugged rituals, traditions and routines you have that draw your family and friends closer together. Please share one of each in the comments. I’ll start.

1)Plugged: Our extended family--aunts, uncles, cousins, grandkids--have an e-mail chain that continues to keep us together long after my grandparents passed away. We're all on the link, and e-mails trickle in every week--with happenings, stories, challenges, etc. Without it, I wouldn't know my family as well as I do. I wouldn't feel as loved and supported and connected to the thing that matters most...family.

2) Unplugged: Bedtime book reading. All bodies smooshed in the bed, Brett and I acting as book-ends on the end to keep the little bodies from falling off. We read by nightlight and magically, the sisters grow quiet and stop fidgeting. We trade off who reads each page, and I laugh when Brett tries to attempt a funny voice. We don't do it every night--maybe we should, but we forget. But when we do? It's special. Really special. Kind of like a snow day.




Photobucket
Photobucket

To see all Life is a Special Occasion posts on this blog, click HERE.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I like you.

Today, I bid farewell to Coffee. Our relationship goes way back, and we've certainly had our starry-eyed moments like that one hot fireside date in Utah when he slayed me with his foamy cap, his rich and creamy sips, his double shot of caffeine. Oh, he's slick, that coffee. But his caffeinated dark side's been messing with my body, and I wanted to explore other options--date other drinks, you know. So I'm in the early stages of a relationship with this barley chicory root dude even though I'm not really the barley chicory root kind of girl. Our first date went well. With a little half & half, he has nice photogenic swirling capabilities. He says he has beet and fig extract which sounds like a pick-up line, but he called me for a second date, so we'll see how it goes.

Photobucket

*****

We enjoyed a weekend of ebb & flow.

Photobucket

Flowing out of the house for a birthday party, a grocery run, a trip to Grandma's and receding back home for Hi Ho Cherry-O, pajama lounging, and an important board meeting of the dolls where they discussed stock options and whose fake hair wouldn't stay in a pony-tail.

Photobucket
Okay, I'm sorry. Lainey says it's not a meeting. They are camping. My bad.

Saturday, we ventured out and about with a litter of Minnie Mice for Lainey's friend Aleena's birthday party:

Photobucket

It was, as Minnie Mouse herself would say, so adorable.

Photobucket

Nella discovered a new state of ecstasy with this lolipop. Like she knew it wasn't really for babies, so she went to town licking the bejesus out of it before I could take it away.

Photobucket

And the ears would have never made it to her head had she not fallen asleep. She's getting picky about headwear.

Photobucket

Lainey accompanied me for some routine errands Sunday morning, and I realized--as much as I always love to be with my kids, it's shifting from less of a responsiblity of taking her with me into more of an experience of complete pleasure. She buckles her own car seat, she tells me funny stories in the car, she helps me find oranges with thick skins and no soft spots, and she walks next to me--confidently yet ever-so-gently holding the edge of my skirt while I push our cart.

Photobucket

Her presence has flourished from daughter who makes me happy to little friend who makes me laugh. Who keeps me company.

Photobucket

As we were leaving the grocery store, I pushed my cart with the crazy wheel (This is a given. I am now sure I was predestined in life to only push carts with crooked, dragging, screaming squeaky wheels.) back to the car and encouraged my girl to buckle up while I loaded up the back. She stopped before she climbed in, looked up with her milk chocolate eyes and her infamous shy smile and said, "I like you."

We say "I love you" all the time--so much it sometimes trickles off our tongue without thought. But this was different. This time, like meant so much more than love, and I knew she carefully chose her sentence, just like I would carefully choose mine.

I put my bag down, squeezed her and smiled back. "I like you too, Lainey. Very, very, very much. You're my friend, and I like being with you."

Photobucket

I like you--it's simple, especially for a gushy girl like me, but I want to say it more because it feels so authentic and certainly far less used than love. And maybe that's what's changed with outings with my girl. I've always loved being with her, but I realized Sunday morning as I tilted my rear view mirror to watch her silver clogs kick to the rhythm of the music on the way home...
...I like being with her.

And I very much liked the rest of the weekend.

Photobucket

We spent Sunday afternoon with Grandma Colleen or, as Lainey says, Gramma Caleen.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

And finally, today was a little preview for tomorrow.

Photobucket

Heavy skies and a best friend smitten with pregnancy sickness prompted a half day of hiding under quilts, watching While You Were Sleeping (in my top ten rainy day feel-good movie collection), and forking into our homemade cherry pie while it was still steaming so that browned crust collapsed like pot holes into hot cherries underneath.

Photobucket
The extra "baby pie" we make with every pie now.

Photobucket

And nothing makes me happier than hearing silence for too long, running to check on trouble, and finding four kids--Nella included--just a hangin'.

Photobucket

Tomorrow is TURN IT OFF day for us. I'm looking forward to it. No T.V., no computer, no e-mail, no texting. All day. I honestly don't know the last time I spent a full day disconnected from the world, and I have a feeling I'll draw some insights from the clarity I'll experience. Perhaps caffeine isn't the only demon that's been messing with my mojo. I'll be back on Wednesday to write about it in a Hallmark sponsored post.

Photobucket
Thank you, Aunt Rebecca, for Nella's boots. She finally fits them!

*****

Giveaway winner for Bubblewish Light Set: Comment #139, Lace Escapades:
I babysit a little girl who does the exact same thing with her bike, so by the time we start walking home, I'm giving her a piggy-back ride while pushing her bike as well! :)

Congratulations, Lace Escapades! Please e-mail your contact info to
kellehamptonblog@comcast.net.


Wring out the last bits of summer sun with a Popina retro swimsuit...a nice last hurrah to summer, if you wish.

*****

Tomorrow morning I will go to second base with a cup of chickory root and enjoy my girls, uninterrupted. I think I'm going to love it. No, I think I'm going to like it.

Happy Monday to you and you and you.

Photobucket

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodnight, Irene

Bike rides always start off ambitious for us. Lainey pedals furiously several paces ahead, and I push Nella in the stroller with a steady quick step to keep up.

Photobucket

Without fail though, bike rides don't end well. We get to the mountains, the lake, the house with "that lady in the yard"--a.k.a. the Virgin Mother statue outside the big white house--and Lainey calls it quits. Her legs are tired, her helmet hurts her, her feet don't want to pedal. So she pushes the stroller and I walk three blocks home like this.

Photobucket

But she does draw a really nice pineapple.

Photobucket

*****


Ever been hit by a glitter baton? It hurts.

Photobucket

Nella loves it. Everyone else in the family hides it. And the two barrettes Nella is wearing are five less than she was wearing earlier today, thanks to her sister.

*****

Our evening began in the driveway tonight...

Photobucket

...and two minutes into this little ride, I had to run to save Nella from falling out because Sister was dozing off.

Photobucket

Recovering from some stuffy noses and restless nights, we are hoping to do a lot of nothing this weekend.

Photobucket

Photobucket

My wannabe weather man is excitedly watching Irene. We're hoping she's nice to the east coast, but I think he's secretly wishing it would have come a little closer to us. He likes the big to-do of battening down the hatches and running to the gulf the night before for a white-cap watching adventure. Thankfully, we've never been hit by anything too severe, or I'm sure he wouldn't be so eager. Irene's outer bands just barely grazed the gulf coast yesterday afternoon, showering us with a light rain and showing off an impressive cloud display to the East. So yes, stay safe and charge your batteries.

Photobucket

Photobucket

*****

Bubblewish joins Enjoying the Small Things this month in sponsorship with their dreamy twinkle light sets.

Photobucket

We added a colorful set of stars to Lainey's room...

Photobucket

...and a sweet set of pastel circles to Nella's.

Photobucket

A handwritten dream is attached to each strand, and each felted bubble is hand-stitched. Five percent of all sales is donated to the Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas, and code 10WISHES will get you free shipping on your order. One commenter will be randomly chosen from this post to win a a free strand of Bubblewish lights.

*****

Friday Photo Dump:


Photobucket
Yes, those are huge black olives on my fingers!

*****

We are sleepy tonight. And happy it's Friday.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Happy Weekend!