Wednesday, October 19, 2016

No More Sunday Dinners

there are stickers on the table, and it's old sourdough, but come over for french toast

During pregnancy (with all the pukes and exhaustion) I don’t really see anyone because we don’t get out much, and we rarely host. So at the end of both of my pregnancies, one of my top priorities was to get back in touch with friends I hadn’t seen for the better part of a year. My default invitation is dinner, but with two adorable children in my life, dinner feels like a herculean task. Menus. Cooking. Cleaning. I didn’t want to do it. And I didn’t for over two months.

Then, inspired by the cats, I decided I didn’t need to make dinner to invite someone over. You don’t even need food. You can just go on a walk together. You can play cars in the living room. But food is also pretty great, so I started inviting our friends over Sunday afternoon snacks. We’ve had root beer floats, or chips and salsa. Or -- and I’m not suggesting this, I’m just saying it’s happened before -- you can text them at 9:30 at night to invite them over for Costco muffins and salami. Then, because they’re your friends, because they’re good people, because they don’t judge you for this kind of stuff, they immediately text you back with a, “Hell yeaaaaaaahhhh.”

Have you sat down and shucked a pomegranate with someone you love lately? I’ve done it three times in the last two weeks, and I highly recommend it. The pretense of dinner isn’t what makes time with your friends so wonderful; It is your wonderful friends.

b perry

p.s. Five Rules for Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party (and Seeing Your Friends More Often) I read this article when I was a few weeks into my Sunday Snacks routine, and it resonated with me because I also gave up on dignified dinner invitations, and I’m seeing my friends more often.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Today's To Do List

let's title this Simpler Times

When I lived in Washington, D.C. I went to an art exhibit about lists. There were hundreds of lists on display, mostly written by famous people, mostly very poetic. Eero Saarinen wrote twelve things he noticed about his wife, “First I recognized that you were very clever.” Janice Lowry’s titled one list, “Fifty people I need to forgive.”

The exhibit was inspiring to me, so I bought the book and had it signed by the author. I dearly hope it’s somewhere in my parents’ basement because I can’t find it in California. Yet, even without it in front of me, I can paraphrase the introduction: Lists give us the illusion of control in an otherwise chaotic life. Or, a little more darkly, the illusion of triumph in what feels like an unaccomplished life. 

I have always written lists. And this Sunday, like every Sunday of my life, I wrote down weekly goals and taped them to my wall.
  • Take Kylee Martinelli’s 
  • Finish the Shadow of Man 
  • Have lunch with Rachel 
  • Buy outdoor Halloween decorations 
  • Invite someone over for Sunday 
  • Exercise four days this week 
  • Return Reija’s spatula 
  • Listen to General Conference talks 
  • Write up next week’s SLO itinerary 
  • Brainstorm Christmas cards 
And you know? It’s Wednesday night, and both my kids were happy today. I should have written that on my list. It’s one of the only things I’ve really accomplished in days, and I need that illusion of triumph.

b perry

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Special Family Picture Collection

Two-ish years ago I read Happier At Home by Gretchen Ruben. She talks about why we should have photographs in our homes, the importance of family ritual, and how buying physical possessions for happiness is okay too (it’s not just about buying “experiences.”). And I can’t remember if she recommends this specifically, but I wanted to create a family photo collection of some kind, preferably around some holiday. 

It’s tough to find a consistent set of Perry Family pictures for any holiday. Every December my mom brings out thirty years worth of Christmas pictures, and I wish I could replicate that for my own family. Sadly, Christmas is not my day for family pictures. Christmas is my day for staying inside, never putting on makeup, eating every carb, and watching all the movies. Every Easter it feels like Instagram is exclusively family pictures. We don’t take Easter pictures? There’s no reason, I just haven’t done it. Nothing for Valentine’s Day or St Patrick’s Day or Flag Day.   

But you know what holiday I always take a picture for? Halloween. I even have the three Halloween pictures where it’s just Chris and me (before we started creating the next generation of adorable geniuses). 

I wanted to get a special collection of Halloween frames to go with those pictures, but I quickly learned that if you’re looking for non-tacky, non-homemade, non-$billion, Halloween picture frames, you’re out of luck, Bucky. In two years of earnest searching I’ve only bought one. So I’m pretty sure I’m going to stick with a color palate, and buy Halloween frames if I’m ever lucky enough to find them. 

This week while Zoe napped, I turned on Toccata and Fugue, and Jack and I brought out the collection. His enthusiasm for the whole experience was infectious. He loves looking at family pictures, loves opening boxes, loves putting things in their proper place. And I loved it too. It's so sweet to start traditions with Jack. It’s exciting to see how our family has grown in five years. It’s fun to have our home reflect the change of season. 

I like the idea of doing this together every October. 

b perry

p.s. This yellow frame is what I bought for this year's pictures. There are two photo spots so we can have one family picture and one that's just Zoe on her first Halloween. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How To (not) Road Trip with Babies

 "Mommy? Racoon. Buckle."

When we got the minivan Chris pointed out that we would see our family so much more because we could just pick up and drive home. It was a comforting albeit amorphous concept to think about road-tripping with our children to see grandparents and cousins more frequently and theoretically whenever we wanted. 

Those amorphous, theoretical road trips became a reality two weeks ago when we decided to go to Idaho and then 24 hours later we left. We drove to Idaho Falls, a drive that took a little over fourteen hours from our house. Then I drove from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake, that drive took four hours. Then Salt Lake to Southern California, which took ten hours. Then back to Redwood City, seven hours.

Thirty-five hours, five states, and eighty zillion miles.

After two weeks on the road I felt like we had tried most of the road trip options you read about: a whole day of driving, a half day, mornings, afternoons. By our last trip (Apple Valley to Redwood City - omg that sounds like such a charming journey. It was not.), we were all desperate to be home, so we decided we would drive through the night when both kids were sleeping.

An hour into the night I thought I had everything figured out. I told Chris this was the way of the future! We were only driving through the night from now on! It’s so easy! Zoe is happy! Jack isn’t whining! Why did we ever try anything else?!

I’ll tell you why. After two hours behind the wheel I was delirious with drowsiness. By 10:00 Chris was driving and I was out cold in the passenger seat. I don’t know what we’ll do when we drive home for Thanksgiving, but we won’t be driving through the night.

It turns out when you are a sleep-deprived mother of two with a penchant for narcolepsy, driving through the night is not your safest option. Also? Road trip tips welcome.

b perry

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My Favorite Quiet Time Activity

the only picture I have of us baking together, back in July 

One of the things I love the most about Zoe is that she’s always been easy to soothe into a nap, and she's a great napper. But, poor Jack, with four naps a day, we’re spending a lot more time at home than we used to.

My favorite quiet time activity is cooking together. One recipe can usually get us through 45 minutes because Jack is absolutely bonkers about pouring right now. When the cookie recipe asks for two cups of flour, I measure out two cups and hand Jack a tablespoon. He spends the next several minutes saying, “SCOOP?! POUR?! DUMP?!” We’ve had a ton of success with Friday pizza nights, scrambled eggs in the morning, and a few simple recipes (like banana bread) from my hilariously over-pinned dessert board.

If we use an actual recipe I have to have all the ingredients measured out in advance and know the recipe by heart or it’s just Jack sticking his hands into butter and raw eggs while I take one split second to grab a measuring cup. We checked out a few children’s cookbooks from the library, but they’re a little advanced for a two-year-old so we haven’t used them much for recipes. They have great pictures and illustrations though, so Jack actually likes to read them together and he’s learned a lot of new cooking words.

So far I am the least stressed when we use mixes: muffins, brownies, pancakes, cornbread, cake etc. I used to be the most condescending about mixes; I refused to even buy them. But I’m happy to eat humble pie if it tastes like funfetti.

Do you have a favorite mix? I was thinking about doing a taste test for the best brownie mix, but Melanie Blodgett already did it and I just believe everything she says.

I'll probably still conduct my own study. For research purposes.

b perry

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

What if kittens are born in your backyard?

or: How I became a Cat Lady with six cats by accident in one night.

My friend Rachel and her husband took these pictures and they somehow 
managed to make my fluorescent-lit garage look amazing...

This summer, Chris and I looked into our backyard and saw a black cat and an orange cat sitting under our fig tree while five tiny kittens played in the flowers. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen, and we watched them most of the night. After about an hour, and then definitely by the next morning, we realized they lived in our backyard.

If it were up to me that would be the end of the story because I’m irresponsible and not a cat person. But Chris is very responsible. And even though he never had a single pet growing up, he cares a lot about showing compassion to animals.

He immediately started feeding mama kitty and Googling what to do next. The kittens were so small that we knew they were still nursing, and their mama was very skinny. We left her food and water two or three times a day, and gave them their space for a few weeks. After Chris talked to shelters and nonprofits and cat people, and we started working with -- I swear I am not making this up -- the homeless cat network.

They gave us food and litter and cages and a humane trap to capture the mama. In 48 very eventful hours, we captured her, got her spayed, and released her back into our yard. That same night, the volunteers brought the five kittens into our garage, administered the medicines they needed, and then it was our job to “socialize” them in preparation for being adopted.

We posted on a few social media outlets, and people started showing up. Like fifty people in the first week. That took my weekly visitor count up considerably (from roughly zero), and made me feel like it was me being “socialized.” Over time, the kittens started purring and wanted to be held and pet. I’ll never forget the first night they started purring while I pet them; what an extraordinarily rewarding experience.

The kittens have been an unexpected and delightful way to make new friends and get in touch with old friends. We had someone over for lunch most afternoons. We had a girls night where we sat together and passed kittens around. My book club held kittens for a couple hours of discussion. Dozens of friends texted to see if they could drop by for a quick visit. Our home was filled with people in way it never has been before, and it was really wonderful.

I think part of that is because the people who care about the welfare of small animals are generally decent people. As this whole kitten situation has wound down (all five are being fostered, having a tryout , or got adopted), I feel lucky not just to know these crazy cats, but also to have enjoyed the company of so many good people.

b perry

a few filter-free pictures of the cats below

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Celebrating Milestones

The American Pediatric Association writes, “entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age two.”

Jack turned two last week, and because we are The Perfect Parents, we abided by the guidelines laid out by the American Pediatric Association. He definitely doesn’t snapchat with me every morning. He totally doesn’t have all the songs in Frozen memorized. Until his second birthday, he didn’t even know about computers or phones or iPads. Nope nope nope.

But for his second birthday we thought it would be fun to have a movie night to celebrate his entertainment media milestone. We snuggled up on the couch, ate pizza, popped popcorn, watched Penguins of Madagascar, did the whole bit.

The American Pediatric Association advises avoiding entertainment media because “young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” The Brittney H Perry Pediatric Association also advises avoiding entertainment media but for different reasons. Specifically, when the entertainment media time ends, a child may “act like you're slaughtering a beloved family pet, like you've presented him with a saw with which to remove his own foot, like he's enduring the pain of a hundred lifetimes.” Under these conditions, the parent will likely have accompanying feelings of deepest regret.

It turns out that even for on a Special Occasion Movie Night, it is still THE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN when the Penguins go away. Those darn, wonderful penguins.

b perry