Pumpkins and Cheese

A quick note from the editor’s desk: I am completely and utterly swamped at work this week. If you’re asking yourself what I’m doing here then….. I’m asking myself the same question. But! I had to jot down a few things for posterity and all that before essentially ignoring my blog for the upcoming week.


Happy Fall y’all!

We took the dumpling to the arboretum this weekend – Luffy’s idea. We generally had a pretty great time. (I mean, outings rarely go off without a hitch or a single tear when there’s a toddler involved.) The Dallas arboretum has an outstanding pumpkin patch each year and we got some adorable photos out of the trip. The dumpling has even been practicing his picture-taking at school apparently because, after the first photo, he kept getting back up on the hay bench, saying “cheeeeeeeeeeese!” and then patiently waiting for his picture to be taken. Then he’d climb off and repeat the process. It was pretty adorable, though I did have to tell Luffy at one point to keeping humoring the little guy and that he could delete the pictures off his phone later. I probably scandalized a few of the very Dallas-ite mothers that were there by uttering that phrase.

The garden also provided a fun opportunity to people watch. You could definitely tell who was there to have family portraits done – lots of button-down shirts on young children and matching family outfits. We saw a few women having maternity photos taken. Another couple was announcing their pregnancy with photos (and the sex too, I imagine, as they were holding a little blue-painted pumpkin). I saw the afterglow of what I’m pretty sure was a proposal. We saw several men in tuxes pouring out from a Hummer as we were leaving. More than any of the others though were the 15-year-olds in their quinceanera dresses. We saw at least six or seven of them – floating through the crowds with an army of helpers to hold their dresses. An explosion of color and organza and rhinestones. Really brightened up the day.


The dumpling was particularly accident prone yesterday and managed to completely bite the dust in the gravel parking lot of the arboretum. Gravel: 1; Toddler’s chin: 0. He’s sporting a few ugly scrapes this morning as a result. I’m honestly relieved at that because it was the sort of injury where I’m busy counting his teeth while trying to console him, so a few scrapes seem like a good trade off. Just a few hours later, he took a tumble – head-first – off the couch. Not his finest moment(s).

Speaking of, I made a rookie parent mistake at the arboretum. Never, ever make something into a game unless you’re willing to repeat it a hundred times. What is this Belle? Amateur hour?! So the arboretum has this amphitheater built into the grounds. One of our challenges yesterday was getting the dumpling to move through the gardens. He’d get fixated on one thing and get mad as soon as we moved away, not really understanding that there was a lot to see. So, in a desperate bid to distract him, I pointed out the amphitheater’s steps and – 1! 2! 3! Whee! – scooped him up and over. I did it for all three tiers and then my intention had been to point out Luffy at the top and have him run up to greet him. That part did not go as planned, though my distraction worked well. Too well actually as the dumpling doubled back to go down and then back up and back down and back up. Again and again and again. Luckily, he got to the point where he wanted to pull himself up and over the step and I only had to say the wheee! part. But even with that… my glutes are so sore today.


On Sunday afternoon, we broke open the sidewalk chalk that I had pestered everyone into going to Target with me to procure. He seemed to enjoy it, though the bathtub crayons were a bigger hit. To be fair, the sidewalk chalk requires a fair bit of pressure to get decent markings, so he might be just a tad too little right now. We decided to go for a walk instead, and left the chalk in the driveway while we went. When we returned to pick up the chalk, we found we were missing one. Not really sure what happened, though I spent a few hilarious minutes imagine a squirrel making off with one.


A few events for the milestone books:

  • The dumpling took a 20 minute nap yesterday. He was plumb worn out from the arboretum and slept on the ride home. I planned to transfer him to his crib when we got home but he woke up as soon as we pulled into the garage. I then figured we’d just do an early bedtime and deal with the little terror he was bound to be by that point but…. and here’s the milestone part … the terror never came out. He played perfectly well all afternoon and when it was time for our early-bedtime, we actually questioned ourselves as to if he even needed it. He seemed fine.
  • We had a neighbor get-together planned for the Cowboys’ game yesterday afternoon. I decided to bake some brownies and I just want to say that I managed to bake them yesterday while the dumpling was awake and Luffy was napping. Why is that a milestone, you ask? It means that I was able to do a task that required both hands while the dumpling entertained himself. Incredible!
  • Last night, the dumpling woke up around 1:30 in the morning, literally screaming. He settled down immediately though, as soon as I walked into the room, so my first thought was a nightmare. However, after about half an hour of restless flipping had passed, and I heard this tiny little “mama?” from the crib, it finally dawned on me that I could try, you know, asking him what was wrong. I got no response when I asked about a bad dream, but when I asked him if something hurt, he pointed to his head. WHAT?!?!?! YOU MEAN HE’S ACTUALLY OLD ENOUGH TO HELP ME TROUBLESHOOT NIGHTTIME ISSUES?!?!?!?!?!?! I took him to go get a dose of Motrin and some water and put him back in his crib. Didn’t hear a peep from him until morning. I swear, 2am me would have popped some fireworks if that wouldn’t have gone against the whole go back to sleep thing I was trying to do.

And that’s all I’ve got for now. Let’s chat again next week, k? Thx. Byyyyyyyyyyeeeee.

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Corn dogs and cotton candy

We took the dumpling to the state fair this weekend!

After our last encounter with the fair, I’m honestly proud that Luffy and I even made it back. (Complete aside – one thing about having a small child is that we get out of the house A LOT more than we used to. Pre-child, Luffy and I could spend an entire weekend in our living room. Now we have usually get out at least once a day, if not more. It’s an interesting change.)

So yeah, we took the dumpling to the fair. We asked Luffy’s parents if they would like to come along. They, of course, can’t get enough of the dumpling so they happily tagged along. We decided to go early, before the fair even officially opened. (It’s much like a mall in that the fair grounds opened at like 8am, many of the stalls opened at 10am, the rides at noon, etc.) After scoring a great parking spot, we stumbled into the bovine livestock exhibit. The dumpling was delighted to see so many cows in real life. Then they moo-ed and he was a little taken aback by the sound (my own moo-sounds will probably forever disappoint him now). We stuck around for a while before wandering off to explore the fair grounds.

When we arrived, none of the rides were operating, but many of them were being tested and cleaned up before the day officially started. The dumpling loved looking at all the lights and dragging me from place to place. We meandered through the children’s ride section and then shared a funnel cake that Luffy procured from some stall willing to sell him something before they officially opened. (That was sort of the oddest part – most of the stalls weren’t “open,” but the workers were already there so sometimes they’d go ahead and sell you things and other times they’d just say they were closed. *insert shrugging emoji*) We wandered around some more before Big Tex officially opened the fair grounds.

Once the fair officially opened, the grounds quickly became crowded. The dumpling was walking around and I’m honestly pretty proud that he didn’t seem to get nervous with the crowds. He’d occasionally want UP, but for the most part, he just stared up at all the different people. Luffy’s mom got a corn dog for herself and then made the mistake of offering it to the dumpling to take a bite. I’m not sure if she was really giving it to him or just giving him a bite, but the dumpling definitely took it for himself. He carried that thing around for a good 45 minutes, gnawing on it here and there. We visited the car show and he (adorably) sat on the side step of a King Ranch truck for a while, daintily eating his corn dog. At one point, he and I made a game of circling a rectangular pillar, shouting “boo!” at each other on the other side. Later on, Luffy got me some cotton candy and I shared it with my little dude. He seemed to enjoy it.

When we started talking about leaving though, Luffy’s dad became transfixed with the idea of the dumpling going on a ride. (Or at least, that’s what I surmised, since, you know, there’s a language barrier there.) At first, I thought he wanted to take the dumpling on his first ride and I was ready to throw down over that one because hell-to-the-no I’M going to take him on his first ride. But then, I figured out that’s what his dad wanted in the first place. Oh. Ok. Right then. Simmer down Belle.

I cleaned the cotton candy off my fingertips as Luffy counted out the coupons. (Such a racket! They charged us for both the dumpling and me!) Once we had everything sorted out, I helped the dumpling up the ramp to the little car for the worm ride (or whatever it was). The dumpling seemed super excited….. right up until I put him in the car.

No. NO. NOOOOOOOOOO. 

Oh. Ok. Right then.

I meekly pulled him out and told the ride operator that, actually, nevermind. I was ready to scrap the whole ride idea then and there, but one more ride caught our attention on our way out. It was a little whale ride, with water and bubbles. We figured, might as well try one more – we’ve already got the tickets counted out. So I took the dumpling up the ramp and cleared our first hurdle when I was able to actually put him into the little car whale without protest. We sat there for a minute, before the ride started, as I futilely tried to explain to the dumpling what was about to happen and he slowly started to freak out about the fact that we weren’t doing anything. And then! The ride started. We just went around in a circle, the little whales doing a little (jerky) up and down motion. I mostly worried about him smacking his head on the handle bar since I couldn’t convince him to brace himself on it, but he seemed to have a great time! Such a great time, in fact, that we had to immediately do it again! Wheeeeeeeeee!

We made our way to the exit after that and headed home. All in all, I think we had a great first fair experience!

Of Football and Fall

Luffy and I watched our first football game of the season last night. It was (I believe) the first Thursday-night football game of the season and Luffy and I tuned in after I made dinner. I can’t tell you who was playing or what the score was. I can’t tell you about plays or points or suspenseful moments. What I can tell you about is the feeling of satisfaction that envelopes me when I hear the commentator’s familiar voice or listen to the sounds of the game.

That’s the thing: I don’t necessarily love football, but I do love when it’s on. It reminds me of fall and winter. Of cozy nights, curled up under a blanket. Of relaxed Sundays, with the crisp light of December filtering in through the windows. Of jeans and sweaters. Of friendly gatherings with beer and BBQ. Oh, such happy times.

I’m always glad when it’s football season again.

In pursuit of a coat

Let me preface this post by explaining that I’m not much of a shopper, especially clothes shopping. I really, really don’t like it. Is that shirt going to look better on me than the hanger? What size should I get in this? Does this color complement my skin tone? Is this supposed to fit like this or is it just too big? Is this a piece that I can mix-and-match within my own wardrobe? WHO KNOWS. I certainly don’t. I’ve never been able to waltz into a store, pinpoint a few fantastic purchases and sashay away.

But what I especially hate? When you need something specific. I talked about trying to find a dress for my brother’s wedding, but I didn’t go into much detail. It all started about six weeks before the event. I just happened to spot (which is the best way to find things!) a perfect dress. It was the color I wanted (navy), it was a style I loved (sophisticated yet sexy), it had sparkle, it was short, it was my size. It was perfection. The only downside was that I found it online, at a second-hand site (which was actually a decisive pro at first because a $380 dress for $60? Don’t mind if I do!). I could barely contain my excitement when the package arrived. Of course, if you read what I linked to earlier, you know that it didn’t work out. It fit, as in I could zip it up, but it did not fit my body at all. Weird bunching at the zipper and the torso section was too long.

Not a problem! I just sent it back and started perusing the same site for wedding dress v2. I searched and searched and waited for my return to be processed (the free return option only gives you the ability to get store credit which is fine, it’s what I wanted, I just needed my return processed so that I could apply those funds to the new dress). I found a second dress! Not quite the color I wanted (gray this time), but it was by a favorite brand of mine and it was embellished like I enjoy. In a moment of suspense, the dress was unavailable for a period of time (reserved in someone’s cart*) but then became available again. Whew! The moment my return was processed and my funds were available, I snapped up the second dress.

My only issue now was that the wedding was less than a ten days way. The dress v2 wasn’t slated for delivery until the Wednesday before the wedding – what if it didn’t fit either? So, I sucked it up and went to the mall (which, ugh, I haven’t been to a mall in ages and they are really sort of sad) in pursuit of a dress. I went to my go-to for cocktail dresses – Dillard’s – but I could already spot trouble. My brand of choice for cocktail dresses (BCBG) had absolutely nothing I wanted. So I moved on to the regular dress section and encountered my first (second? third? millionth?) problem – all of the dresses in the women’s section were too large to fit me off the rack. However, none of the junior’s dresses provided the sort of support I needed (now that I have breastfed a child, I totally get it when bra makers talk about shaping and structure). I found one dress I liked, but it literally was like the kitchen sink of dresses (short! full skirt! flower print! two piece! lace! sequins! a bow! let’s just bedazzle the heck out of this poor piece of fabric! wheeeeee!!!!!!). After I had been there for, no lie, two freaking hours trying on dress after dress after dress, I finally grabbed a dress that I had initially spotted and dismissed because it was sure to be too large. Let’s just say that it is the tiniest size 6 I have ever encountered. (To be fair, it’s a junior’s size 5/6 but seriously, it fits like second skin.)

So ANYWAY. I bought the dress (I actually bought it and the kitchen sink dress because I think I can at least take off the bow thing, and then it will be super cute and sort of mostly appropriate for a 30-year-old**). And I am so glad I did because when the dress I bought from the second-hand store arrived, it was laughably huge on me. Just enormous. I didn’t even hesitate to send it back. Again.

All of this is an illustration of the horrible, terrible fact that if you absolutely need to find something, you will not be able to find it. I think it’s just guaranteed that you will only ever be able to find amazing items (you know, the ones that fit you perfectly and complement your shape and color and look effortless) if you are NOT looking. Next time, I’ll try to con the universe by pretending to shop for a swimsuit instead of jeans.

I’ve dealt with this a lot recently – from the wedding dress to my hunt for a the perfect outfit to photograph. And this time of year always brings it up because every year I convince myself that I would love a pair of boots. And every year I search high and low for a pair of boots. And EVERY. YEAR. I do not find a pair of boots. I do not own a pair of boots and yet I swear I have been searching for a pair of boots for the last five years.

And now I have another dilemma: I want a new jacket. I have a fleece jacket, for the casual look. I have a beautiful wool coat for the (few) bitterly cold days. I have a gorgeous rain jacket for bridging the in-between (or for those times on the weekend when I want to look more put-together than a gray fleece jacket from Target). The problem is that the rain jacket isn’t really warm. Cute! Functional! But warm, no. So I’m trying to find something that (a) looks a touch classier than your average fleece zip-up, (b) is not as buttoned-up as a wool coat, (c) looks good on me, and (d) is warm, but like Texas-winter warm (ie – I do not need it to be cold rated to -30, lololololz). Is that too much to ask? Should I lower my bar? Ugh, tell me now. Perhaps I should have started looking in the summer.

*Interesting side-story. The second-hand site allows you to mark items as “favorites” so that you can quickly view them again. It reserves items in a basket for 24 hours and marks them unavailable for you, but you can still view them. So it allowed me to sort of follow along as some other girl out there, with a taste and size similar to mine, also shopped for a cocktail dress. The black one (I assume) she ended up choosing was cute, although I think she should have risked it for the pink Kate Spade number.

** That’s right folks! As of TODAY I am 30. Oye. Where does the time go?

Desperate Texans

It’s common knowledge (at least I think it is) that Texas doesn’t really experience four proper seasons. We get an eternal summer (from about April through August September October) and then maybe two or three weeks of what would traditionally be considered Fall. Then we move straight into Winter and emerge on the other side for a few weeks of Spring. So you can’t really blame us for celebrating when we get a random “cold” snap a week into October. It’s 2:30 here and only 68 degrees out. When we woke up this morning it was in the upper 40’s!! Grab the jackets!

Now, bear in mind that it will be 75 before the end of the day. Plus, the sun is shining, so there’s no longer a chill in the air. So that’s why I laughed to myself when I saw a woman exiting Target earlier in jeans, boots, a long sleeve (white) tee, and a vest. Was she overdressed? Hell yeah. Was I gonna blame her for relishing in weather more fitting of October? Nope. You do you, Han Solo girl. You do you.

Speaking of clothing, why is it so challenging to find an outfit for photos?

I’ve finally decided on a location for our photos and now I’m trying to plan coordinating outfits. The guys are easy (oh thank heavens). I’m putting them in jeans and either dark gray or light pink button downs. Luffy is fully outfitted already and I have already found the shirt for the dumpling, I’m just waiting to purchase until I decide which color route I’m going. But for me? Ack. I can’t seem to find anything suitable.

Maybe my expectations are too high? I want it to look timeless (which strikes out practically every trendy top out there right now because, no, I don’t want to look like I’m on my way to Coachella). I want it to be flattering, especially since I’m still carrying an extra pound or two and would prefer not to focus on that in every frame. It also must be somewhat dressy because it has to stand up to the button downs. I’m also leaning towards a jewel tone, or something that will add some color to my skin tone (my olive complexion can leave me a bit washed out looking in my go-to shades-of-gray wardrobe).  A sweater would be a perfect option here, except that I am not a sweater person and, thus, do not have a sweater on-hand. And it’s not sweater weather yet, here in Texas (see above), so stores aren’t really carrying them. Buying online is always an option but because this has to fit my petite frame perfectly (re: flattering and timeless!), it’s a bit harder to pull off.

So yeah, that’s my current gripe. I’m critically eyeing my closet every time I go in there for inspiration as the date of our pictures draws closer (two weeks out!). Meanwhile, I also have nothing to wear to my brother’s wedding in a week and a half, although I’ve already secured flawless attire for the men in my life. (Credit where credit’s due: my husband is a groomsman so my brother technically procured his tux choice. Plus, my brother’s the one who found the dumpling’s bow tie and suspenders. So yeah. On second thought, I haven’t done much at all.)

Hello again!

Well hello there! Nice to see you again; it’s been a while, no? I, unfortunately, had to buckle down before Thanksgiving to get through all the work stuff that I needed to get done. And then Thanksgiving happened and I was too busy stuffing my face cooking for my wonderful family to post anything.

So! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Luffy and I, with Jas in tow, set off to my West Texas hometown Wednesday morning. We made record time now that the speed limits are pretty much all at 75 MPH (which means we go 82, but shhhhh). It was wonderful to see my parents and they’re at the tail end of a home renovation so it was weird/fun to see my childhood home look COMPLETELY different. My mom and I dived right into cooking (a new Brussels sprouts recipe for that evening’s dinner) and drinking (champagne, our favorite). Jas dived right into being Queen and ruling over my parents’ three boy cats (with much hissing and growling). Luffy dived right into eating (ice cream cones that my parents always get for him, like I never feed him anything fun). It was glorious.

On Thanksgiving day, my mom and I made doughnuts for breakfast (baked, for the record, pumpkin and a plain powdered sugar one). Then I made mini cheesecakes and an accompanying caramel sauce. My mom started cooking for Thanksgiving lunch. Everything came together right on time for my half brother and his family to join us. It was all delicious, of course.

(A side note – I have the perfect cautionary tale of why you should never ever, EVER drum up more enthusiasm for a dish/present/whatever than you actually have. Several years ago, my half brother’s wife made a pie for Thanksgiving. It doesn’t really have a name, that I know of, but it has a chocolate cookie crust (think crushed Oreo’s), with a peanut butter filling (it’s lighter than peanut butter, I’m thinking perhaps peanut butter with whipping cream), with a whipped cream top, drizzled with chocolate and peanut butter sauce. Now. Reread that. Do your teeth ache just reading it? Cause mine do. One bite is good. Two bites are ok. And any more than that are just upsetting. The pie is so sweet – too sweet. Plus, I’ve come to loathe these types of desserts that are “no bake, just throw crap in a pan then refrigerate and who cares that everything going in is super sweet on its own and that it’s not really a pie but more like a blob of semi-firm ingredients!” – ahem. Anyway, the first time she brought it, I was being my nice self, I’m sure, and gushed about how delicious it was. The fact that I only made it through 1/4 of my slice blob clearly didn’t matter. But that’s ok! I was just being nice. Surely nothing bad could come from being nice! Flash forward five or six Thanksgivings and she’s brought that pie EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. This year, she even brought two. TWO! When we can barely get through half a pie with the obligatory post-Thanksgiving-feast slice. And this, my friends, is why you never say you love something when you kind of just tolerate it. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!)

The rest of Thanksgiving passed with a haze of tryptophan and snacks and football until about 6:15, when my phone rang. As I answered the 1-800 number, I saw that I had also gotten a notification from my Amex app. A sense of foreboding spreads…. Sure enough, an automated voice on the other end of the line was notifying me that suspicious activity had been noticed on my Amex account and that I should verify that I had made the following purchase. In a panic, I hit the option to repeat and urgently asked Luffy if he’d used my credit card that day. He hadn’t. I hadn’t. But someone had.

When I responded that I hadn’t made the transaction, I was immediately forwarded to a live-person-type representative who went over the charges with me again. Strange transactions from Google Payments and some restaurant I’d never heard of. I assured the rep that I hadn’t even used my card today – I’d been at home! He shut my card down immediately, issued me a new one, and marked the transactions that had gone through as fraudulent, assuring me that I’d bear no responsibility for them. YAY Amex!! He was very polite and exceedingly helpful and I will forever be grateful that Amex was watching my card while I was enjoying the holiday.

When I got off the phone, I recapped the conversation for Luffy and pulled up my card activity through my app. There were about eight transactions that had gone through, totaling about $90 (Amex had declined the transaction when the thief had tried to push through a transaction for $164). You could see that they’d done several small payments to see if the card number was good. Once they finally had it, they pushed through increasingly larger transactions.

I’m not responsible for any of the charges, of course (YAY Amex!!), but it is a very strange feeling, to have one’s credit card number stolen. I feel vulnerable, like I’ve had my privacy invaded. I have no idea how or where they got it. If it was a pull from a swipe of my card at a physical location or  a hack into a database that stores my info. I don’t know if they got it months ago and just got around to selling it/using it or if they stole it recently. All I can do is update my accounts to my new card information and hope that it doesn’t happen again.


So that put a bit of a damper on Thanksgiving. We tried to turn the evening around though (champagne to the rescue!) and dug up old videos of my brother to initiate his girlfriend.

The rest of the week passed quickly with family activities. More baking. Watching movies together. Cooking. Chatting. Watching more movies. Fun times. And Jas did eventually stop hissing at my parents’ cats every time they moved – success!

 

Happy Birthday to me!

Luffy and I celebrated my birthday over the weekend. He picked up a bottle of my favorite champagne and got all  my favorite (and his least favorite) flavors of macaroons (lemon and pumpkin)! Plus I got full control of the TV to binge-watch my current favorite guilty-pleasure show (Gossip Girl). All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. And I got it because I learned a very important lesson about relationships.

You see, when I was younger, I always thought that birthday surprises, among other things, just happened. And I don’t mean that someone didn’t have to plan it. More that Person A automatically knows what to plan out and how to celebrate Festivity B with their partner, Person C…… and that was slightly convoluted. Let’s try again. I thought that when I found my lobster, he would just know how to celebrate my birthday or Chistmas or our anniversary. SPOILER ALERT!! That’s not always how it works. Some people, like Luffy, need direction.

Luffy’s just not a big celebration guy. I’m not sure if it’s cultural (the Chinese have very few holidays and rarely give presents that aren’t cash) or personal. You would never find him decorating for Christmas or gushing about his “birthday week” (lololol). Truth be told, he doesn’t even have his birthday listed on Facebook and actually chided me when I posted a happy birthday note on his wall the first time. (True story – his boss texted him happy birthday this year and his legitimate FOR REAL response was – how did you know it’s my birthday? He was very disappointed to learn that apparently his work’s HR program reminds bosses when their employees have birthdays.) This is what he wants, so I respect it. True, I tell him happy birthday about 500 times (in person) on the day, because I am genuinely glad that he’s around and I love him to pieces, but I’ve stopped any sort of public declaration of love and devotion and OMGEES IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes – I always thought that having to dictate your own celebration would make it less special, less exciting. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out this weekend that it did not. Not one bit. A couple of weeks ago, I said I’d like champagne and cupcakes and a day of doing nothing (Luffy had wondered if I wanted a present… and, you know, what to get). Luffy took those marching orders and delivered my favorite champagne, and a cupcake, AND macaroons, AND excellent girly TV, AND my favorite lazy meals (brunch out and cheese/salami/fruit plate). It was fantastic. And, on Friday night, as he was detailing out our plans for Saturday, I was over the moon excited and couldn’t wait to begin.

So yeah. Never be afraid to ask for what you really want. He may be my husband, but he can’t read my mind.