Halloween gets mixed reviews around our house. I happen to really like Halloween. I didn’t like it in college, when everyone else my age loved it. But I have found a new love of the holiday since having kids. I like the happy, fun Halloween decorations and costumes. I think it’s a fun holiday and a chance to just be a little silly for a night.
But Chris? Not a Halloween fan. He doesn’t mind the kids dressing up, but that’s about it. He doesn’t get into the costumes or decorations or scary movies. Even handing out the candy to trick-or-treaters is my job.
As a compromise, we don’t go all out or do anything crazy for Halloween (this year, I forgot to even buy a pumpkin!), but I do insist that we dress the kids up and go trick-or-treating for a bit.
We invited my friend, Tara, over with her son B to go trick-or-treating with us. We didn’t go to too many houses because we had six short legs walking with us, but we did go to a few of our neighbors.
The first few houses we went to, Bean wasn’t sure what was going on. I’d walk him up to the door and remind him to say, “Trick or treat!” Then he’d just stare into his pumpkin bucket when candy was dropped in there. After two or three houses, he was like, “Oh! I get it!”
Gracie? Well, she was content to just hang out in her Baby Bjorn and chew on her flower petals. She’s pretty easy to please these days.
After trick-or-treating, Bean and I sat outside on the front step and gave out candy while Chris put Gracie down for the night.
It was a lot of fun until a super scary mask walked up our front walk. Bean literally crawled up and over the back of his chair, crying and shaking. It was so sad! I don’t know why I didn’t think about scary costumes walking up. The kid who was dressed in the mask was really nice. As soon as he saw Bean starting to freak out, he started trying to pull his mask off while saying over and over again, “It’s okay, Buddy! It’s just pretend!” But Bean did not care at all whether it was pretend or not. Scary masks were unacceptable. So, we went into the house and watched “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
He found this very acceptable.
All in all, it was a great Halloween. Everyone got to do what they wanted to do – Chris didn’t have to dress up, I got to hand out candy, Bean got to trick-or-treat, and Gracie…well…she got to eat flower petals and hang out with daddy. Life is good.
Saturday morning we got an early start and headed to the Atlanta Zoo for “Boo at the Zoo.” It was FREAKING FREEZING at the zoo that morning! I bundled the kids up as best as their Florida wardrobes would allow. They looked like little, fat sausages!
“Boo at the Zoo” was pretty awesome. Bean and Gracie got to wear their costumes around and go trick-or-treating at different parts of the zoo. Not to mention, all the animals they got to see. Bean was in heaven!
Bean really loved the petting zoo, too. Chris and Ginny took him in there to pet the goats and sheep and when they started to “baaaaa,” Bean thought it was the funniest thing ever!
Aunt Ginny, however, was a very baaaaaaad girl in the petting zoo. She started fiercely petting this billy goat on his head. She kept yelling over to me, “See, kids can’t get in there and pet them this good!” And then she’d keep on scratching his head. The goat actually seemed to really like it. He kept lowering his head and leaning into her hand, just like our dogs do when they’re getting scratched.
Then, all of a sudden, the zoo keeper came running up to Ginny, yelling, “That is not acceptable behavior! THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR!” Apparently, the goat was about to head butt Ginny or something. Anyway, Aunt Ginny was asked to leave the petting zoo area.
And we all died laughing.
After the zoo, we loaded up in the vans and began the TWO HOUR journey to find turquoise and yellow damn balloons. NO ONE had turquoise and yellow stinking balloons! We went to grocery stores and florist shops and everyone was either out of helium or out of turquoise balloons or out of yellow balloons.
Oh! And did I mention that at this point in the day, both kids were tired and cranky and crying? Yeah. It was loud and frustrating and, yet, still very funny.
Finally, we found balloons at a grocery store, but they were the ones with the grocery store logo on it. And, to of the four of them popped on the way out to the car, so that left us with only two balloons for the meet and greet.
Add that to the fact that the park we planned to meet in was REALLY hard to find and it made our little shindig more like a destination wedding. You really had to hunt us down to come meet and greet, so if you had trouble finding our area, sorry about that!
Other than that slight mix up, the meet and greet was a huge success! I got to meet such sweet people! Like Arden and Anne (with an E or without?) and Linda and Jessica and Lauren. And it turns out my suspicions were true. My readers ARE normal people!!!! WHO KNEW!?!?!
This is Arden. She brought cupcakes. Ergo, Arden is awesome.
And this is Lauren. She and her sweet husband hung out with us while Bean had a total meltdown and demanded that Emperor Zorg not touch the ground, even though he threw Zorg on the ground in the midst of his temper tantrum.
(By the way, I stole this picture from the post Lauren wrote about the meet and greet…Sorry, Lauren…)
I really loved having the chance to meet people face to face, to hear real voices, and to have people talk back to me. You don’t get that with a blog. We’ll definitely do more meet ups in the future. They aren’t nearly as scary as I thought they would be! It really was like hanging out with people I’d known for years.
So, I can’t write about this without sending a big THANK YOU to my seester and publicist, Ginny. And by publicist, I mean she gives me unsolicited advice on what I should be doing that I’m not and then she bosses me around until I do things her way. She’s bossy and a know-it-all and she would drive me crazy if she weren’t right on about 98% of the unsolicited advice she gives. So, here’s me. Thanking my sister for pushing me out of my comfort zone, for like, the one millionth time in my life.
Thanks to everyone who came out to meet and greet in Atlanta! I really loved meeting you all and can’t wait to meet more of you soon!
“I hate you and I hate what I’m about to tell you, but as your PR person OR WHATEVER, I’m passing this message on to you.”
Needless to say, I locked both the kids and the dogs in the playroom so I could give her my full attention.
(To protect the pure ears of my readers, I’m going to BEEP Ginny out in the following conversation. She has a mouth like a sailor sometimes…)
“You won a (BEEEEP)ing trip to Costa Rica,” she barked at me.
“I won a what?”
“A trip. To Costa Rica. You (BEEEP).”
Let me back up even further. About a month ago, Ginny sent me a link to a contest called, “The Gift of Happiness,” on Facebook. Apparently, the country of Costa Rica is giving away one million dollars in trips to their beautiful country to people who pursue happiness in their lives. Ginny thought it sounded like me, what with all the “blooming where you’re planted” crap I went through last year. To be entered, you had to “like” the Facebook page and then enter the contest.
So, I did.
Turns out, one of the girls who works at the PR firm who is hosting and promoting this contest knew my sister and so she contacted Ginny – not to tell her that GINNY had won, but to tell her that I had won and could Ginny put her in touch with me.
Sisterhood doesn’t get much more bitter than that, let me tell you.
Being the big person that she is, though, Ginny set up a meeting with Chris and me and the PR company while I was in Atlanta last weekend so that we could get more information about the trip and find out exactly what this whole “Gift of Happiness” thing was all about.
It’s about the coolest, happiest, most incredible thing EVER and you are getting ready to be GREEN with jealousy.
(And, yes, that last sentence DID require TWO words with capitalization.)
(So did that last one.)
Chris and I have, quite literally, been given a gift of complete happiness! They are sending us to COSTA RICA for EIGHT DAYS over my spring break in March. JUST CHRIS AND ME! ALL EXPENSES PAID! We are going to stay in crazy nice hotels (three of them!), tour different parts of the country, and do crazy things like horseback riding up into volcanoes and zip line through the rainforest. AND THAT’S JUST THE BEGINNING!
We get to choose from FIVE DIFFERENT PACKAGES, all of which include amazing hotels and incredible opportunities to see and experience Costa Rica.
Dude. Seriously. They’re picking a ton of random people for trips like this! Get ye to their Facebook page and enter yourselves! Then we can sit with our mouths open and USE CAPITAL LETTERS TOGETHER!
I mean, even saying this sounds INSANE! I can’t even believe it! Seriously! I’m actually LAUGHING OUT LOUD as I write this!
We met with the PR team and I tried my hardest not to sit there with my mouth hanging open as they told me about this, but I don’t think I was successful. I’m pretty sure I looked like a freak. But I COULDN’T HELP IT! This is one of the CRAZIEST THINGS THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ME!
Next week, I’ll post each of the trip options that we can choose from and, if I ever figure out this new polling thing on my site, I’m going to let you guys vote on which trip option we choose. HOW FUN!
I’ve been to Costa Rica before. I went in high school on a mission trip and, like many mission trips, I left feeling like the people there had made more of an impact on me than I had made on them. Their happiness and contentment with life radiated through each interaction I had with them. I’ve never forgotten that. After the past two years Chris and I have had, I’m not just excited that we have won a trip. I’m excited that we’ve won a trip to Costa Rica. If I’ve learned anything in the last two years of crazy transitions, ups and downs, and successes and failures, I’ve learned that happiness is truly about blooming where you are planted. And nowhere is that philosophy more ingrained than in the Costa Rican culture.
I don’t believe in chance or luck or even fate. I believe in faith and in a Plan bigger than I know or understand. Is it God’s will that I sit on a beach in Costa Rica? Probably not (but wouldn’t that be cool if that was how God worked?!?!). But I do believe that we get exactly what we need in life at the exact time we need it. And never have Chris and I needed happiness more than these past few years.
I’m grateful for Perfect Timing. And for happiness.
And for Costa Rica.
And for luxury hotels.
And for second honeymoons.
But mostly, for the Perfect Timing thing.
I don’t like to be told what to do. (Who does, really?) And if that something that I need to do involves making a change in myself? Well then, whoever is brave enough to tell me to my face had better be wearing a helmet and a sports cup.
Just about the only people in the world that I can take direct criticism from are Chris and my sister. Ginny keeps me in check when I’m being stupid or immature. She tells me to get over things, grow up, and let it go. And though I sometimes get mad at her in the conversation, almost always, I go away somewhere by myself to lick my ego’s wounds and then I think about what she said and usually I make some changes. Sisters are great for reality checks.
Chris hardly ever criticizes me. Ever. He’s a good man and patient beyond belief, so when he tells me I’m doing something wrong or need to make some changes, I usually listen up. You’d think having that much of an impact on a person would give him a power trip, but it never has. He is selective when it comes to asking things of me and because of that, I always take him seriously.
On our way to Atlanta, after the kids had fallen asleep for the night and while we sat in comfortable silence, Chris came right out with a request.
“I need you to make a little more effort, Kate,” he said.
He had said this to me the week before, but it had been in a tense voice over two cranky kids and dinner on the stove, so we had just fought about it for five minutes and then moved on. It wasn’t productive (or even kind) at all. But hearing him speak to me thoughtfully and lovingly helped me let my guard down a bit so that I was really able to hear what he was saying.
The immediate problem he needed more effort in was with our money. Since my meltdown last year, Chris has taken over our finances to take some of the load off of me and I cannot tell you how helpful that has been. He took it over completely and except for an occasional, “Go easy this week,” I really hear very little about our money. Which is why I am ashamed to admit that the few times Chris has come to me to help him make financial decisions, I have pushed him away or melted down and not been able to have the conversation.
“I know you’re still anxious about money,” he told me in the car. “But we’re doing okay now and I really need you to get back to the point where you can help me make some decisions. It’s not fair that I have to decide budgetary things about our money by myself. It’s too much pressure for one person. You should be able to help me. Not with the day-to-day, but with the long-term planning. I need you to get to a place where you can help me.”
I listened to what he said and I knew he was right. In fact, maybe some of my anxiety would go away if I was more involved and knew what was going on. Once I agreed to make more of an effort, Chris thanked me and then said, “Actually, I need you to make a little more effort around the house, too.”
That’s when I started to get defensive. I do a TON around our house – cooking, laundry, diapers, bath time, bedtime, blogging… Who was he to tell me I needed to do MORE?
But Chris, knowing me so well, reached over and held my hand before I could explode and told me to listen. “It’s not about chores. I need you to make a little more effort with responsibilities. Things like sorting the mail, instead of refusing to open it. Answering emails, instead of asking me if I’ve looked at them. Our household is just a little messy right now and I need you to get to the place where you can help make it better.”
Once again, I knew just what he was talking about.
The truth is that last year when I had my meltdown and crawled into my black hole for a while, it was all those little things that I lost track of. I stopped opening mail – even to the point of not paying our bills. I stopped checking my email because there was just so much of it and it overwhelmed me. I didn’t manage our family calendar. I’d make appointments and then not go, or I’d forget to make the appointment altogether (case and point, Gracie STILL hasn’t been baptized and I forgot to schedule her six month vaccinations). I stopped planning our meals and clipping coupons. If it required planning or patience, I basically gave up doing it. Partly because I was depressed and partly as a solution to the depression. I cut myself some slack. I asked for help and I learned how to take help when it was offered. And there wasn’t a thing in the world wrong with that.
But now, things are better. I’m not overwhelmed (more than normal…). I’m happy and healthy and our family is back where we needed and wanted to be. And so, Chris was right. It was time for me to start taking some of that responsibility back for myself. I’ve had a whole year of excusing myself from details so that I could get better. And I did. But now, it’s time for me to start picking my load back up again.
I told my friend, Sarah, about the conversation I had with Chris and when I confessed that I was a bit of a mess at home, she was shocked.
“Your classroom is one of the most organized places I’ve ever seen,” she had said. “Maybe you just need to implement some of the same procedures that you use in your classroom in your home.”
I decided she was exactly right. What my home life needed was structure. We have a pretty clear routine, but we don’t have many structures or procedures in place. In my classroom, my students know where to turn in homework every day and where and how to check out books from my library. They know where the extra pencils are kept and they know where to keep their materials throughout class. I needed some of that same structure in my home and then maybe it wouldn’t be so overwhelming to me to take on some of that responsibility again.
I decided to start small. Our entry way in the new house is a little tricky because you have to come up a flight of stairs before you put your stuff down. And when I would finally get upstairs, hauling all my stuff and two kids in the afternoons, I’d usually just fling everything into a big arm chair and that’s where it’d stay until we left the house again. Papers piled up there, random mail, coats, keys, cell phones, shoes – it was just a big mess. So, last weekend as soon as we got home from Atlanta, I asked Chris to move one of our small cabinets into that entry way.
It has a key bowl to hold keys and sunglasses (because I am ALWAYS losing both of those). There’s a plug for my cell phone charger (because I am ALWAYS losing that, too).
And there is storage space down below to hold all of our daily bags that we use – lunch bags, diaper bags, my school bag, my purse, etc. Now it all has a place.
Now, I have a place to sort through the mail and put my things so that my house doesn’t look like a college apartment. Is that a solution to all our problems? Not by a long shot. But it is a beginning step for me. I know myself and I know that I have an urge to please people and so my first instinct is to just take on the world because Chris asked me to make a few minor changes. But if I do that, I’m going to sink again under the weight of everything. So, I’m starting with small steps. Like meal planning and doing a load of laundry every night.
And this weekend, I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning out the NEWBORN clothes from Gracie’s closet (see how bad it had gotten?!?!).
None of these are life changing, but they are changing my marriage day by day. Chris really appreciates me stepping up and helping more. He likes coming home to a house that isn’t going crazy and not having to search around for mail or step over piles of laundry. And, you know, so do I.
Chris and I have been together a long time and through all those years, I’ve come to see him in a lot of different roles. Sometimes he’s my husband and sometimes he’s like a brother. Sometimes his presence is commanding, like a father, and sometimes he is like having a third child. But the role he plays in my life that I am the most appreciative for is the role of my best friend. Having a kind, loving voice of reason who helps me become the best version of myself is a quality in our marriage for which I am very thankful.