Monday, September 15, 2014

5 Websites That Will Make Your Monday More Bearable

Aaaaaaand it's Monday again. I was digging through some old posts, trying to toss organize old posts, i.e. "How badly will this embarrass Marshall one day? Just a little? Ok. It stays!" I found this little pick-me-up and thought it deserved a repost. This week, I'll be reacquainting myself with subject matter I haven't thought about since before Facebook was invented, so I imagine I'll need a manatee or two. What about you? Crazy week ahead? 

5 Websites That Will Make Your Monday More Bearable

5 Websites That Will Make Your Monday More Bearable

After I wrote Friday's post about trying to find moments of calm, my good friend Leah posted a comment about a site she and her daughter love called Calming Manatee:

"When you go to the website, there is a picture of a manatee with a thought bubble about being calm and taking a deep breath. Then every time you click the screen, you get another manatee and another calming thought. Enjoy!"

I was instantly in love, and not just because of my deep-rooted fondness for manatees. (I started a Save the Manatee club in 6th grade. You can imagine what that did for my popularity.)

Calming Manatee motivated me to look for other similar sites on the Internet, sites that have no other purpose than to make you feel good.
Brace yourselves.

5 websites that will make your Monday more bearable:

Calming Manatee--My personal favorite is "Sit down, let me brush your hair while you talk."

Emergency Compliment--This site does just what its name implies: it generates instant compliments with the press of a button. Just keep clicking "I still feel crappy" to your heart's content. Click the "Thanks! I feel better" button, and you'll have the option to order one of the compliments as a print.

The Nicest Place on the Internet--Sometimes you just need a hug. Visit this site to get virtual hugs from friends all around the world. It's not the same as your mom, but you'll see the earnest expressions of kindness on these huggers' faces. Very heartwarming. If you're feeling like sending some love, you can submit a hug too!

Do Nothing For 2 Minutes--Need a calming breath? Time to disconnect? Here's your chance to do nothing for 2 minutes. If you click your mouse or press any key on your keyboard, the timer starts over. Try it!

Cute Roulette--If you're an animal lover, this site is for you. Cute Roulette is a compilation of short videos to make you smile. I highly recommend Dancing Dog. (I woke up my husband from his deep post-run sleep to watch this one.)

Maybe you're home with a new baby and you're in your 3rd shirt of the day before 9AM.

Maybe it's your first day of work without your little one.

Maybe your coworkers are difficult. Or your commute is. Or your career itself.

Maybe you're scrambling to get out of the door on time and feeling guilty that your child's "lunchbox" is a reusable shopping bag with a piece of painter's tape with his name on it. (That would be me.)

Maybe you're missing someone you love.

Take 2 minutes to grab a cup of coffee and an emergency compliment, and let's tackle this Monday.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A weekend of just us.

It's 9AM on Tuesday morning, the Tuesday after Labor Day, and I'm sitting in an empty apartment. My son is off for his first day of Pre-K, and my better half is making the world of e-commerce a better place. In two days, I'll start my own adventure conquering another Master's degree, one syllabus at a time.

With all of the impending change that Fall will bring, we decided to spend this past weekend just the three of us. We ignored any BBQ invitations, work emails (almost), and piles of please-organize-me clutter. Even your most hilarious status updates and albums of Labor Day fun were no match for the Thompson determination to squeeze out the last days of summer, just us. #eyesonthefamilyprize

On Friday night we ordered Chinese from our favorite take-out place and washed that goodness down with our juices of choice, orange juice for M and the $2 Chuck variety for Mommy.

A weekend of just us.

Saturday morning we had biscuits and gravy at Citizen Coffee, where Marshall scored extra strawberries by mesmerizing our server with his best "What's your name? I'm Maaaarshall." (Insert flirty smile.) Then we each got haircuts in preparation for the main event: Fancy Restaurant Night.

A weekend of just us.

Marshall really wanted to go to a "fancy restaurant," so I made reservations under his name at a crabhouse a couple of blocks down from Pike Place Market, overlooking the water. After afternoon naps, we got all dressed up (Marshall in his Jimmy Fallon coat and bow tie), and headed downtown. The staff made a big deal, treating him as our host. M brought one of those junk mail credit cards with him so he could "pay," and the servers brought him ice cream with chocolate syrup for dessert.

A weekend of just us.

Sunday we made pancakes and then took the bus over to Discovery Park, which is all kinds of beautiful. We hiked leisurely, eating wild blackberries along the path, explored the woods, and threw rocks on the beach. Daniel and I were so excited about Marshall's amazing restaurant manners, from the night before, that we decided to go out for fish and chips for lunch. That ended with Daniel escorting a cranky Marshall out for a heart-to-heart. You win some, you tantrum some.

A weekend of just us.

Sunday night we made this pasta, which was light and delicious and tasty, and Daniel and I watched The Help after Marshall went to sleep. (I know, I am the last person on the planet to see this movie. I'm also still crying my eyes out.)

A weekend of just us.

Monday we spent roaming downtown, shopping for back-to-school items and eating burgers. Marshall ran into one of his best friends at the jungle gym in the park, and then we took M to his first movie in the theater. I have no pictures to document this, because I was worried I'd be that person with the cell phone. Given that Daniel was already that person, playing 2048 all the way through the previews until he felt my now-stop-that Southern woman glare, I should have just gone for it.

I was that person at the bus stop this morning, though, balancing my sweaty yoga mat in one hand while snapping iPhone shots with the other. Marshall's parting words to me as he and Daniel boarded the bus to Pre-K: "And Mommy, if you see a spider web, just kick it. You know your job."

A weekend of just us.

See ya, Summer 2014.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Less on the grid.

I slipped away these last 3 (ok, maybe 4) weeks.

Into hectic but exciting work.

Into places of preparation away from the busy-ness of megabytes and status updates.

And in between those two extremes of intense work and peaceful quiet, between not having enough time to savoring the vastness of it, our Superman turned 4.

Superman turns 4.

We celebrated with a family outing to our first Mariners' game.
First Mariners game.

We spent some time with these giants of creation, older than all of us.

The redwoods.

We explored our city more, a favorite pastime for us, from buses and trains to planes and ferries.

Exploring Seattle.

Although I never achieved anything close to "off the grid," I was "less on." "Less on" was exactly the right spot.

And, in the words of Pete the Cat, "And I will do it again tomorrow. Because it's all good."

Monday, July 21, 2014

July raves & faves

Oh July. I long for you all year, and then when you get here, I realize how hot you are. Then by September I've forgotten again, and so the cycle repeats, over and over.

I find it terribly ironic that I have become addicted to hot yoga, a practice in which I subject myself to  extremely challenging poses in a 102-degree room, just inches from the next sweaty person, but find myself complaining about the high-80s in my non-air-conditioned apartment.

My hypocritical nature aside, here are some July favorites in the Thompson house:

July raves & faves

We are all about Neverland on Queen Anne Avenue right now. I got Marshall the DVD of Peter Pan for our flight to North Carolina, and he is hooked. (Right?) Marshall's new favorite game is to play Peter Pan and Wendy. Marshall always insists on being Peter Pan, and Daniel makes a very gracious Wendy. Marshall loves reenacting the scene where Peter Pan loses his shadow. Daniel also loves reenacting this scene, because his main job as Wendy, in this particular part of the story, is to sleep. (Sometimes I get called in to "Wake Wendy up, Mommy!")

This simple hummus recipe from my friend Claire is a keeper. I like it best wrapped in a flour tortilla with cucumber and carrots.

My aunt Nancy, a.k.a. Coolest Person Ever, introduced Marshall to Monkey Lunchbox. I have it on my iPhone for situations that are particularly hard for impatient preschoolers, like last week when we were stuck in rush-hour traffic on a very, very hot bus with the all of Amazon and Marshall decided a a fortissimo "Why aren't we moving, Mommy? Why aren't we moving, Mommy?" ostinato was in order. Monkey Lunchbox to the rescue!

I've been accompanying for a choral festival the past week, and I've fallen in love with Corigliano's Fern Hill. Spend some time with it, if you have the opportunity.

And because Daniel and I were both working with the choral festival, we've also become fond of I list when and where I need a sitter and how much I'm willing to pay, and sitters respond with their availability. We've found three different sitters so far with this site, and all three have been amazing. If you live outside a 50-mile radius of a set of grandparents, you might consider checking it out. (If you currently live within a 50-mile radius of a set of grandparents, do not move away. Ever.)

Happy Monday, friends.

Full Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that will take you to Amazon, and if you choose to purchase items, I will receive a small (very small) amount of commission on your purchase. The price is exactly the same for you.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Remember When

Do all parents find themselves marveling at how fast children grow? Marshall turns 4 this month, and I just can't seem to catch my breath. Last night in his bath, he told me "Cucumber starts with a 'C' and so does Conquer and Concrete Mixer."

When did he learn that? Just yesterday we were giving him his very first bath, right?

True confession: There's a line in Alan Jackson's Remember When that makes me cry every time I hear it. And by "cry," I do not mean "tear up gracefully." I mean "ugly cry uncontrollably to the extreme embarrassment of all those around me."

This is what I picture when I hear that song:

Remember when...

Remember When

the sound of little feet...

Remember When

was the music...

Remember When

we danced to week to week.

Remember When

And maybe you're not the sentimental parent who finds herself singing country tunes with baby pictures in one hand and a box of tissues in the other, but sentimental or not, don't you wish the dance were much, much slower? I certainly do.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

10 Things I love, and love to hate, about summer.

We're three days into Seattle's Summer, official start date July 5, and we are all collectively in that honeymoon "Look! There's the sun again today!" phase. And when I write "all," I mean all of Seattle.

Summer fun on the playground

There is a palatable lift in everyone's mood. Sunday afternoon I saw a dad completely blissed out as he watched his toddler waffling around in the community wading pool. During my run last evening, I got an unsolicited High Five from a bearded gentlemen giving himself a pep talk before Monday-night trivia at the local tavern. And the delighted laughter from the crowds at Kerry Park, gathered to watch Rainier in all her summer glory, is contagious.

It's not very often that this Southern girl sees 80 degrees anymore, so I hope you don't mind as I tap dance my way through 10 things I love, and love to hate, about summer.

1. More light. In the summer, we have daylight until almost 10PM here, which is like a nice enjoy-it-while-it-lasts gift from Nature, because in the fall the sun has a very early bedtime--lights out by 4:30PM.

2. Less stuff. The simplicity of the season gets me every time. We work a little less. We worry a little less. We even wear a little less. At least, that's the goal, right?

3. Picnics galore. My best friend and I used to take wheat thins and Cheez Whiz to the beach with us for picnics. We covered ourselves in baby oil, which my dermatologist just loooooves to note in my chart (not really, no), and we chatted about what it would be like to actually marry Mr. 8th-Grade Hunk. Now,  I've traded the Cheez Whiz for homemade hummus and the baby oil for SPF Gazillion +, and we talk about what it would be like to actually have a retirement plan.

4. Air conditioning? Meager at best. It rarely gets above 90 here in the summer, but before you start to envy me too much (I see your eyes beginning to roll, Austin friends), consider how the high 80s feels with no air conditioning. It gets a little steamy here in the Emerald City. I only know of one place that has air conditioning, a diner a few doors down from ours. They're very popular this time of year, as you can imagine.

5. This soup, which I'm making tonight.

6. Our community wading pool. The City of Seattle has several wading pools sprinkled throughout the public playgrounds, and ours is open three afternoons a week. Such a simple idea, and so fun.

7. Sun dresses. I've got my eye on this one from Zulily. (Hint, hint, Daniel.)

8. Tomatoes. My fondness for tomatoes developed over time. When I was growing up, my dad ate a tomato sandwich every day for lunch during the summer, and I remember thinking, "Why would you choose tomatoes when you could have peanut butter and jelly?" Now I can't get enough of them. I especially like this tomato-corn toss I found on the Pinterest.

9. Baseball games. In case you haven't met your quota of "singing preschooler" YouTube videos, here's Marshall's version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame from last summer:

Which leads me to...

10. Marshall's birthday. Marshall arrived, 11 days past his due date, during the hottest summer ever in New Jersey, at least it felt that way to me. This year we are celebrating by going to a Mariners' game. Marshall is especially excited about the peanuts and crackerjacks.

This post was part of a #TuesdayTen link-up. You can share your favorite things about summer there, or in the comments below. (Or both. Why not?)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The tale of 3 car seats, and a little reunion crasher named Arthur.

My real-life version of Goldilocks:

One car seat was too small.

One car seat was workable.

And one car seat was nowhere to be found.

But I'm getting ahead of myself....

Traveling with a preschooler

This last week my dad's side of the family held its every-other-year gathering. We travel to different locations each time, and this year, after much deliberation on our secret Walworth Facebook group (Your family has a Facebook group, right? It's not just mine?), we settled on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Because of the way our award travel worked with Alaska, our best deal was to fly to Atlanta, rent a car, and drive up, which seemed like a great idea when I was booking it. Uncle Cole was enthusiastic. "Adventure," we said!

I packed up Marshall.

Uncle Cole packed up his BBQ sauce.

And away we went.

[Before I continue, I should share that I am unabashedly devoted to Alaska Airlines and really talked them up to Uncle Cole. "Prepare yourself, Cole. They are the best! The BEST!"]

After an hour of sitting in the plane, still at the gate, we heard the following message, "Well, folks. We realized that this plane has no gas, so we're on 'the list' to get fuel. We're not sure how long that will take."

Uncle Cole turned to me, "This is your favorite airline, Lauren?"


By some vacation miracle, they held the plane for us in Portland, so we made our flight to Atlanta. The BBQ sauce, however, didn't. Instead, the BBQ sauce got a Delta flight to Atlanta. Uncle Cole reminded me that Delta has the little screens behind each seat. So while our BBQ sauce caught up on House of Cards, we got meal vouchers for the Burger King in the Atlanta airport.

Our car seat though? No idea, they said.

Alaska Air loaned us a car seat, which turned out to be too small because I cannot accept that my 3-year-old child is the size of a large kindergartener. Thankfully, Alamo knew better and loaned us a better one. At about 10:00PM Eastern, we were on the road to the North Carolina coast, with a dozing preschooler, an angry uncle, and two car seats, neither of which was ours.

Our 48 some-odd hours in North Carolina were fantastic. I was still working, so I alternated cuddling with babies and working on music festival dinners, catching up with my uncles and selling ads. I tortured Marshall by making him put his feet in the Atlantic Ocean, and I bought some watermelons from the cousin of the cashier I met in the town's General Store. (I received no "We found it!" calls about the car seat.)

Everything was just Walworth-perfect until Arthur.

Of all the East Coast beaches, we happened to pick the one island that had a tropical storm headed its way, a tropical storm that turned into a hurricane.

I grew up in Southeast Alabama, close enough to the Gulf that hurricanes were a common part of our late summer-early fall weather narrative, but this was my first hurricane evacuation. Marshall thought it was monumental enough to document.

Traveling with a preschooler

Thankfully, we got out in plenty of time, and after a few friendly-but-naggingly-persistent calls to Alaska, I was able to get our flights switched. "But we still can't find your car seat, Ms. Thompson."

We spent our time as displaced-by-a-hurricane travelers the only way we knew how--eating as much fried food and drinking as much sweet tea as possible, and when we arrived at the Alaska ticket counter at the airport, there was the car seat, looking appropriately apologetic for its waywardness.

The trip back was the Alaska Air I knew. The plane already had fuel. We departed early. We arrived in Seattle an hour ahead of schedule.

Uncle Cole still wasn't sold. Maybe next time.

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