All is calm.

I’m drinking whiskey and eating sugar cookies. There’s a full moon over the creek. Eric and I just watched Boyd Crowder get sprayed with nameless bad guy brains on TV. Merry Christmas from us and Raylon Givens.

This has been the most low-key of our sixteen married Christmases, and especially more so than last year’s. Then we thought we had some free time between family gatherings, but it was really just that I’d incorrectly written down the time we were supposed to be at dinner. Last year was peaceful for a few hours, but then there was a lot of (my) phlegmy, embarrassed crying while we scrambled to get across town.

This year we’re just home. We ordered pizza at 2:00. Pizza. I’ve been in my PJs all day–I did take a shower, but I reapplied pajamas. This is an achievement in holiday celebration: to leave one’s house to celebrate with family, but remain in Bumble pants. Because of a little bit of stomach flu in Eric’s side, Big Partington Christmas is postponed for a few days. I have done nothing productive today. I thought about reading, but the closest I got was napping near my book. There are about four hours I sat alone on the couch in the sunbeam by our Christmas tree, and I can’t account for what I did.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas, but it does feel great. We opened presents here this morning and walked our way through what will surely be a Christmas–our first Christmas–we’ll remember, simply because it was new. New is weird in the moment, though. Being together was good, as always, and the fact that we have more space has still yet to wear off. This dummy of a year ended with us settling into a place that’s so full of possibility. And our kids spoil us by being so polite, thankful, and well-behaved. I just can’t communicate effectively how much I enjoy them. I don’t sleep the night before Christmas because I can’t wait to see them open their gifts. This year was no different, and seeing them as big people in our big new house was great.

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I’m forgetting to mention that last night we had traditional Christmas Eve at Grandma’s. No soup, because a gift of a giant ham to Grandma and Grandpa meant a menu change. This is perhaps why I am craving broth today–but that gives me an excuse to get something cooking this week. Last night was good, easy. Just family being together and lots of thoughtful gifts from the most amazing grandparents a person could have.

After our Christmas morning at home today, we drove to my mom’s (in our PJs) to exchange gifts with my parents, sister, and brother in law. Our kids can’t get enough of their cousins right now, and the frenzy of tween/teen energy was enough to fill the house. There were the best kind of creative, personal gifts. I ate my weight in doughy, homemade cinnamon rolls. Last night I had some of my mom’s (also homemade) crescent rolls, so today was just more of the dough diet. I am hoping to round it out tomorrow with something fried, since lately most of my consumables are yeasty and/or covered in buttercream.

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Things I want to remember: Henry, buying cat leggings for his sister and insisting we all get Christmas jammies. Taking selfies with Grandpa Ed. Special gifts from Grandma Lila with handwritten gift tags that say “Love” over the From. Addie, spending all morning testing out the makeup in her new Caboodle from Melissa. The fact that they still make Caboodles. Eric, being so good at Christmas, so acutely aware of what makes his kids and wife happy. Finding TWO Mervyn’s boxes, even though Mervyn’s closed in 2008. The perfect smell of coffee and bacon and cinnamon rolls and cheesy breakfast potatoes at my parents’. Sharing sour watermelons with Roo. Henry snuggles in front of the Xbox, while he explained to me things I don’t understand about games I’ll never play. The 20 minutes Cookie was actually nice to me. Eric’s red flannel.

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I can’t complain. My heart is already full, and Christmas isn’t even finished yet.

Dad Tunes

Remember life before digital music? It’s hard, right? I’m an mp3 hoarder (which already makes me old, sigh) and a Pandora addict, and I can’t tell you what it means to be able to google any song I want at any time so I can listen to it. No more having to wait for a song to come on the radio. No more listening to five CDs on shuffle in the car, until you know every word and want to tear your face off if you hear that one song again.

When I was teaching dance, until the very end (near 2008-ish?) I was limited by whatever CDs were in the room. I got really good at choreographing combinations for across the floor to Ace of Base and Gloria Estefan. If I hear Lawrence Welk’s “Begin the Beguine,” I lapse into tap class warm-up shuffles (7-7-3-3-1-2-2, anyone?). At home I had Sarah McLachlan on a loop for most of my junior and senior year so I could feel bad about my feelings to bad music.

But no music is as familiar to me as the stuff in my dad’s CD collection from about 1993-1997. I remember it was a thing for him, his stereo. He had a case of music and these giant, padded headphones with a spiraling cord, and he’d lay on the floor with his head propped against the couch and just listen with his eyes closed. I didn’t get it, but he assured me that was a dad thing to do, music. Listening. Tapping out the drum solo to “Wipeout” with your hands. Knowing about singers and whether someone was “a Beatles person” or a “Beach Boys person.”

The other day I heard Phil Collins’ “Take Me Home” on Pandora and I was instantly reminded of Dad’s CDs. Once I started searching for albums, I realized my musical influences are a study in eclectic tastes. (And, truthfully, that I remember the things best that were danceable. Anything I learned at the studio, I practiced in the living room.) I created a Pandora station for myself (Dad Music), but I thought it would be fun to post some samples here of the mid-90’s stuff the Scotts were hearing.

Highlights of Dad’s CD Collection
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Phil Collins: Serious Hits Live

I didn’t know what Genesis was until my 20s, but I did know all the words to “Sussudio.”

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The Best of the Doors

Honestly, I was kind of scared of the Doors, thanks mostly to the album cover and Jim Morrison’s prominent nipples. This one might have been a cassette tape–I can’t be sure–but I remember driving in my dad’s car as he tried to explain “Riders on the Storm.”
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Jim Brickman: By Heart

This was when I discovered I could work better to music without words. This became my homework soundtrack, and my sister danced a piece to “Angel Eyes” when we were in high school. I played it to death.

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The Big Chill: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Just one of many soundtracks that introduced us to oldies. I liked this one, though, and it got some major play time. I think Melissa and I choreographed a few dance numbers to it in the living room. “Good Lovin” is particularly right for a spontaneous dance party.

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Tony O’Connor: Rainforest Magic

What was the name of that nature store in the mall in the ’90s? I have spent two days trying to remember. I think that’s where this came from, and its sister albums that featured things like ocean sounds. I didn’t really take off in a pan flute direction in my life, but I used to borrow this one when I got my own CD player so I could fall asleep to it.

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Dirty Dancing: Original Soundtrack

Played loud and proud, all the time. I watched this movie 400 times and probably listened to the soundtrack just as much.

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Madonna: The Immaculate Collection

I was almost as scared of Madonna as I was of Jim Morrison’s nipples–for unclear reasons at the time–but she seemed like somebody “bad.” (And I was nothing if not hyper-concerned with goodness vs. badness in the world.) For this reason, I stuck close to the beginning of the album, and was fond of skipping around the house to “Holiday.”

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Jurassic Park: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Earliest exposure to John Williams. Jurassic Park album as gateway to other movie scores.

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The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack

Ridiculous and embarrassing: I choreographed my first dance to “The Queen of the Night.” I wore a blue and red sparkly crop top.

I know.

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Kenny G: Silhouette

We are so deep into embarrassing territory now. I will just leave Kenny G here without comment, except to say that I enjoyed his smooth version of curly-haired sax playing.

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The Glenn Miller Orchestra: In the Digital Mood

This is the soundtrack of my youth, the album my dad would play (loud) to signal that we were about to clean the house. I kind of dreaded it, but Glenn Miller is actually great housecleaning music. We’d clean until the album was done playing, and it was a happy thing to hear. To this day it puts me in a good mood.

It’s funny to think about how limited musical exposure used to be. My own kids have access to anything they can search. Someday I’ll have to teach them about laying on the floor with your eyes closed, and why it’s important to find joy in whatever songs you have.

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Saturday afternoon we had a house full of humans.

We threw a housewarming party, and road-tested the new digs. For the first time in our lives, we have a house big enough to party. A house big enough to hold our larger-than-average families. A house big enough to open.

I couldn’t sleep the night before because hello, of course I couldn’t, so even though the better part of last week was spent spending and shopping, and doing, I woke up at 3:00 AM to try to worry myself into a successful fête. I nudged Eric and told him I was too nervous about the party to sleep and he murmured mmm and promptly rolled over. I had made an Ina-worthy checklist the night before (complete with timetable, you guys) but I was still consumed by my trademark middle of the night anxiety. So I did what any good HSP does, and I got out of bed at 4:00 AM to start cooking.

Actually, nobody tells you this (bakers, maybe?) but 4:00 AM is a nice time to cook. It’s super quiet and nobody is trying to steal anything you make, and you can cook in your PJs without anyone’s judgy eyes on you. I flipped on Downton Abbey and Mrs. Patmore kept me company while I chopped brussels sprouts and dipped things in chocolate. Not for the same dish, no.

I felt a lot of pressure to entertain well–I always do–I come from a line of warm hosts and hostesses, of people who know how to put some cheeses on a plate and make you feel welcome AF. So I had convinced myself I needed to get this right. All week as I was shopping and cleaning and planning, I found myself wondering what my parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents would do, and when it came time to answer the door, I was happy with how that strategy served me. I don’t have it down, yet, but I learned from the best.

I prepped everything I could (which took me until about 8:30 or 9, who can remember?), showered, ran to JoAnn Fabric one more time because I CAN’T PARTY WITHOUT WASHI TAPE FOR LITTLE TOOTHPICK APPETIZER SIGNS, and was home in time to style the craft project that lives on top of my head. Side note: I gave up on dressing/styling myself for school back in about September, when the house crap hit the fan, and that added an extra level of difficulty/awkwardness to Saturday’s dressing, hair curling, and heel-wearing. All was well, but my current girl game is weak. Perhaps I will continue to dress like a male PE coach for the remainder of the year and then style myself like a lady again for the fall of 2016.

Anyway. The party was a smash, and not because of anything I did–it was wonderful because my husband worked his tail off getting the constructiony things done, and I had help doing the kitcheny stuff, and my house was filled with love and friends and people who like us. People who were like damn, that was kind of an ordeal getting into this place, you guys, but hey why don’t you walk me around and point at your rooms? We had neighbors come by, old friends, new friends, family, and friends who are like family. Just the best mix of people.

By 7:30 PM my eyes were too tired to read, and I fell asleep at 8:00 without remembering to eat any dinner.

Sunday I just floated around on my cloud of clichés. I am lucky as all get out to have such a beautiful family, lucky to know so many wonderful people, lucky to have a home to bring everyone together. This feels like our grown-up house, like the space where we get to grow into the life we wanted at 19 (before we had any kind of clue how to get it).

Hemnes, Schmemnes.

After I went to Bacon & Butter on Sunday, and after I took my first of what I hope will be many neighborhood walks with Kitty, Eric decided we were going to Ikea. I didn’t know he even had an interest in Ikea, but I jumped at the chance to go.

Before someone mentions how cheap Ikea furniture is, how sub-par, lemme interject. I know it’s not what you’re going to call “real” furniture. But it’s not awful looking, and I need a coffee table that I can put my feet on and then sell at a garage sale when I get sick of it. I need some bookshelves, man. So we’re going to have cheap furniture in between our “real” furniture and we’re all going to be okay. I’ll leave you to your lathe–we’ll agree to disagree.

Anyway. I’d been making an Ikea list for weeks, so when Eric announced he wanted to go I changed into my comfy shoes and hopped in the car. There’s been so much to buy in the first few weeks of this new house. I am uber-thankful for that weird month between mortgage payments when you buy/sell a house, but we’re nearing the end of that beautiful time and that beautiful (spendable, extra) income. I am going to get myself to Ikea to buy some canisters, $2 toilet brushes, and step stools, dammit, because next month we have to pay the man.

I was kind of tired when we left, and I also didn’t think about it how thorough Eric can be. It’s one of the things I love about him–he is meticulous as all get-out, and as such, he proofreads every single review I write before I send it to an editor. But homeboy’s thoroughness really begins to shine in a museum or box store. He’s not going to miss a single thing. We are going to see the entire place, which means we are going to walk every single aisle and look at every single tag/blurb/display/sign.

So we did that. My body started to give out near the bed frames, and by housewares I was looking for empty end-caps to grab a sneaky sit.

Despite my tiredness, It was fun, and I’m happy that all of this house doing and shopping means the two of us get to spend time together looking at house stuff in a way we really haven’t since before Addie. It’s fun to have a new, empty house that we can fill up with dreams*.

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*and stuff that gets assembled with an Allen wrench.

Dog Friend and October Things

I am happy as a clam, but I’m nowhere near as happy as Hurley, who has made it his personal mission to follow me around the new house. I suppose this isn’t too different from how he had to be near me in the old house, except the old house was so small that he didn’t have to get up. There are so many new dog places in the new digs. He’s been busy trying to never be more than two feet away from Mom.

The house is good. It doesn’t feel like ours yet, but I’m not complaining. I think this is due to two things: 1) it’s not in my head yet that we deserve something so nice. Yeah, I know that we are paying the mortgage, so I am not being completely ignorant about how it works to qualify for or pay a home loan. But space is so NICE. After you tell yourself for years that where you are and what you have is good enough, I think it just takes a while to adjust.

2) All of our stuff has a place to go. I have never experienced this in my married life, and since my married life is basically the history of my entire adult life, I have never experienced this in my entire adult life. No, all of our stuff is not here. But most of our regular day-to-day stuff is, and it fits in the cabinets. I can tell you that that was something I never imagined happening. Not because we had a crapload of stuff (I think we do okay, Marie Kondo-wise), but because the storage in our previous homes was just so teensy. Eric’s favorite room in the house is the giant pantry under the stairs, and I totally get it. When you can have your extra AppleJacks and your extra TP in the house, you are livin’ right. Thanks, Master’s degree!

UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledDon’t go all OCD on me. Those TV wires are going in the wall, stat.

School is good. October is here and busy as ever with Homecomings and ordinary school doings, but that’s when I’m happiest. Everyone always has something to do, which means there’s less attention on everyone being new and having to prove how awesome they are. And if I manage my work (paper) load wisely,  by October it doesn’t get so out of control that I need to take days off so I can grade. My kids (students) get it–well, I hope, at this point–they get me and they get what The Mrs. Partington show is and is not going to be. It’s routine time, and I thrive on routine time. The monkeys are wrapping up swimming (shh… I can’t wait for a break from sports!) and even though I pretty much hate fall, I am ready for some time inside my new house under 25 blankets.

I haven’t done anything extraordinary lately in terms of reviewing, but I do find that having an office feels like an extravagance. It’s a luxury to leave my stuff out on my desk and to know I can walk in and sit down in a quiet room whenever I need to read or write. I’d been having a rough stretch while we moved from house to house, and now that we’re settled I feel like myself. Reviewing comes with occasional waves of self-doubt and frustration, and I (fingers crossed) think I’m heading out of a bad one. It helps that I have been reading good books–I’ve been excited to work through them on the page. I hope now that I am back working every morning again and since I have a place to “go” to work I can also get back to some serious pitching and planning. It should surprise absolutely nobody that I work better when I have a place and a plan.

So that’s October. I just read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly yesterday because I was having a bout of surgery-related pain (I know, still?) and I decided the cure was a long day in bed with a self-helpish book. I was inspired by everything Brown had to say, but particularly what she says about how we live in a culture that perpetuates the idea of scarcity. (I am not enough, I do not do enough, I’ll never be enough, I’ll never have enough… those tapes we play in our heads.) She says the antidote to the kind of misery and the shame that comes from that kind of thinking (the kind of thing that’s guaranteed to ruin any moment because we’re already thinking about how it can go wrong) is gratitude. Duh. But I mean, she’s right, and it didn’t hurt me to read it. (Brown’s TED talk is pretty good if you’re not the readin’ type.)

Anyhoo. I’m feeling thankful today, and I have so many reasons to be.