26 November, 2011

Secret Santa

The names are on a sheet of paper.

The Mistress of Ceremonies is dressed for the draw.

She had big shoes to fill in the style department from last year's Master of Ceremonies.
2010 Master of Ceremonies

And the Gale family annual Secret Santa draw has begun!

Meanwhile, the locals observe the tradition with absolute befuddlement....

...and decide to engage in more amusing activities.

My husband's side of the family is scattered all over the U.S., so each year the grown-ups draw a Secret Santa. We load our Amazon wish lists, set a limit and let the giving begin! This tradition helps us save our money for spoiling the kiddos...
Iris & Ramona
Leo & Elena

Family is the elixir to all life's troubles. May the upcoming holidays bring you abundant joy that lasts all next year!

11 November, 2011

Finding the Through Line

On the tracks, not off the rails.
Warning: The structure of this post is silly but the ideas are honest. Roll with it.

Yesterday afternoon I had drinks with a friend in town for business. We always have a nice time chatting about everything under the sun. During our visit, he brought up a question I also had on my mind. Don't you just love it when you are on the same wavelength of thought with someone? It happens every once and awhile, and when it does I like to run with it.

My friend, whom I've known since grad school in Iowa, felt he's changed so much over the years he was curious if he had an overall through line. What were the core foundations of his personality? What has remained constant through time? Meaty existence questions. 

Inciting Incident Where No Basement Rambles on Contemplation of Self
Giving birth to Ramona forced me to go inward and contemplate the self more than I've ever done in recent years. To borrow my friend's metaphor, I too have felt a quieting of the cages rattling within. And perhaps that is what the through line of any personality truly is: the presentation of your best qualities to others while you have an inward drama unfold, fraught with tumult, comedy, tragedy and sometimes melodrama. 

Rising Action of Understanding the Self
I know the little girl I was is different from the young woman I was, and the young woman I was is different from the older woman I am today. I celebrate the fact I have identified and overcome some ridiculous behavior patterns and kept the ones I think are the basis of who I am. Much like a play, if there is no change, nothing happens. And atrophy is the enemy in the action of a play and life.

We are constantly editing and adding to the script that is our lives. I believe the hardest part understanding ourselves is we hold within us all the drafts of our personality. We have to carry the past, present and future of who we are. If you know someone long enough, you carry many drafts of that person, too. This can be why we get frustrated with people--they might be referencing an earlier draft of yourself and not seeing who you are in the present. You want to say, I've grown, thank you! I am not that person anymore! Can't you see I am an ever-evolving into who I am?!?

Further Rising Action
During drinks with my friend, we were both able to say the things we are not anymore. But the lingering question was well then, what am I after all the things I know I am not?

I know I am not a person who runs away from what is true anymore. I used to feel so unworthy of honest, calm and rational love that I found any and every way to reject it. It was as if I was a moth to the flame and I latched on to anything that would be hot and colorful and scorching to the senses. I would form irrational attachments to people, places and events. I would do anything but actually accept that I was very much worthy of abundant joy and happiness. Don't ask me why, but the idea of a cool, relaxed and mature love was something I simply felt I hadn't earned. 

But damn it, I have earned every bit of it. My children remind me of it daily. Their love is so overwhelmingly wonderful I have to stop myself from tearing up at least once every day. Ramona tries to say "Ma Ma" or Iris and I cuddle on the couch and everything is right in the world.

Also, I am the luckiest girl on the planet simply because I get to be in the presence of my husband every day. I have tried so many times in my life to not accept the fact he loves the heck out of me. He has seen every part of my personality, all my goodness and bullshit and still says, "yes" to it all. That is exactly what I've always needed.

As the drinks ended and I drove my pal to the airport, I thought more about his questions (even though I was singing The Cure and being ridiculous, I was multitasking in the mind). My answer to my friend's questions is he has always been a good person, has always been awkwardly charming and has always been a good friend to me. He's seen some ugly UGLY stuff from me and so far is fine with it. Thanks, friend. That is incredibly important to me.

As a grad student in a playwriting and dramaturgy program, we were always taught to make strong choices with characters in our plays. They must undergo some dynamic element of change or the play's action with suffer. Throughout our lives we will either grab at an earlier draft of our behavior patterns or we rewrite it and move forward. It is that simple.  

I raise my glass to the current draft of my life. Cheers to the draft you are working on or living in, dear readers.

19 October, 2011

Space Cadet

Have I ever mentioned how lucky I am to have two amazing sisters-in-law? Quite simply, they are fabulous. They both are brilliant, loving, funny, amazing cooks and the best girlie-girl posse you could imagine.
Jeanette & Jeremiah. This photo is from 2007. Jeanette likes to hide from the camera, even though she is incredibly photogenic. ;)
Lisa & Jason, 2007 BC (Before Children)
Lisa is expecting their third child. As they have a son and a daughter, they are having a surprise delivery. I secretly hope it is a girl so it can be Gale Boys=5, Gale Girls=7. For Granny Carla's sake! She needs her turn at some little girls. But, with Nathan and my track record, we might keep the girls kicking in this family.

If you are not reading my sister-in-law Lisa's blog, All Things Gale, you really should. It is our favorite niece and nephew update site as well as a wonderful testament to parenting young children, experimenting in the kitchen and enjoying the simple pleasures of life. 

Lisa recently blogged about her very early morning with the kids, and I immediately thought, Oh what a kindred spirit I have in Lisa today! Last night was a rough one for the other Gale household as well.

It all started when Nate and I had a date night. For couples with children, "date night" is when you promise to take a shower, cuddle on the couch and watch back episodes of your favorite TV shows. Canoodling if you don't fall asleep. Oh yeah, we are talking ONE HOT DATE!

After turning in around 11:00pm (late late late these days), the next conscious memory I had was Iris tapping the top of my head sometime around 1 am. She had a shin splint and was in a lot of pain. I had excruciating shin splints during my growth spurts at her age, too so I could commiserate. I don't believe I truly woke up until Nate handed me Tylenol and a glass of water in Iris's room. When she finally calmed down, she exclaimed, "Mommy, you and Daddy are the best. You never get mad when I wake up in the middle of the night and need you."

Then 2:45am rolled around and Ramona decided to get up and have a little squealing party. It felt as if I slept five minutes between 1:30am to 2:45am. Ramona started sleeping through the night a month ago (I know, right!?! I pleased the universe to deserve such a gift), but occasionally gets up to eat. Of course she wakes when big sister woke us. After a feeding and a cuddle, I hit the pillow around 3:20 am-ish. 

Then the 6:00am alarm. I turned it off and passed out. Nate get up around 5:00am every weekday. He let me sleep in until 6:40am. Screw roses, whispering sweet nothings and buying me crap--letting me sleep is one big wordless "I love you." I really lucked out with this guy.

As Lisa mentioned in her post, "What makes motherhood so remarkable is the almost automatic and willing self-sacrifice. It's involuntary and instinctual!" 

I couldn't agree more. Even a few short years ago I would waste my mental and emotional well-being on people, events and perceived missed opportunities. The person I am today is well past all that racket. I am truly proud of myself--I went from completely self-centered to selfless without a sense of self. The only challenge is I come off as a complete nutter from sleep deprivation, but the people who know and love me roll with it. 

At this moment my brain hurts, I wish I could take a nap and I want a coffee. So long as I don't believe a lobster is chasing me from lack of sleep, I think I will survive. Tired but incredibly happy.

04 October, 2011

Mixtape Monday (On a Tuesday): Battle of the Supergroups

The last Rolling Stone issue featured two reviews of new Supergroup albums--Mick Jagger's SuperHeavy  and Sleeter-Kinney/Helium/The Minders' Wild Flag. I am very MEH about SuperHeavy, but Wild Flag has some sweet guitar licks and dreamy girl vocals.

I am a fan of Supergroups as they are the emblem of the greatness of collaboration. It is a collision of musical styles and influences: the ultimate postmodern stew. Sometimes it can sound like a hot, messsy tug-of-war for aural supremacy, and yet it often can forge new, undiscovered landscapes of sound.

Below is a little playlist of some of my favorite Supergroups. If you see an obvious omission of a Supergroup, I have a) yet to discover them or b) do not like their mega mush of music. Stop, Collaborate and Listen. (You're damn right...I just quoted Vanilla Ice).

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16 August, 2011

Little Bird Style Files #4: School Supply Shopping

My little lady starts Kindergarten next week, and I am so verklempt! My little baby, my sweet girl who once looked like this,

now looks like this, and is starting elementary school.

Lately, Iris added eye wear to her fashion repertoire. I like to call the fake glasses "practice." My husband and I both started wearing glasses in third grade. Little lady, your days of being two eyes are numbered.

In other news, we are moving right along as a family of four. Ramona brings so much peace in our lives. Since I was pulled away from Iris by grad school and crippling baby blues, I always felt I did a crap job of mothering a little infant. Ramona completely restored confidence in my ability.

Iris loves the fact she now has a dress up partner. Look at the ballerina dress on Ramona. It is so ridiculous, but in the good way. Grandma gifts are so much fun and silly!

Last week I did a serious deep cleaning of my closets and gave Iris all my old formal/prom dresses to wear. She is sporting my freshman winter formal dress from somewhere in the 1990s/Friends/grunge-on-the-horizon era. I am rather certain it is not going to be in style ever again. *Fingers crossed*

09 July, 2011

Mixtape Monday (on Saturday): The Labor & Delivery Playlist

Of course I made a playlist for Ramona's labor and delivery. Music is what I need to survive, focus, calm down and swoon from love of life. Naturally, all this is necessary to bring a child into the world.

I wasn't sure how much music to put on the playlist. With Iris, I pushed for 2.5 hours before she arrived. With Ramona, I pushed for about 30 minutes before she arrived. I started listening once the labor and delivery nurse said, "Okay, you are ready to deliver this baby."

Once the nurse says "go," the delivery room moves like a pit crew at the Indy 500. Tables, equipment and people bustle in, getting ready for the smack down of life entering the room. It is not a time for the mother to lose her cool. I threw on my headphones and focused. Below is how far I got through the music I created for the playlist.

It should be noted that Ramona came into the world at 6:01am CST on June 22nd. At the very moment she arrived, Jeff Buckley's "Hallelujah" was playing. Right at the 6:10 mark on the song when Buckley sustains the "hallelujah" for over a minute. Oh yes, I totally cried tears of joy.

They put her in my arms as I listened to Plants and Animals's "New Kind of Love." At the 5:36 mark when the whimsical flutes emerge and the band quietly whispers "new kind of love."

Talk about making an entrance, my dear Ramona.

There is no need for words. No need to describe every detail. The soul of my experience is in the music.

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30 June, 2011


Of all the many comments newborn parents receive, the question of "Who does he/she look like?" tends to dominate the conversation. It is a difficult question to answer as they change so much day to day and week to week.

Ramona is definitely her father's daughter with her ears, her chubby cheeks and her adorably knobby-kneed chicken legs. Her face reminds me a lot of her sister when she was a newborn. And the hair.......well let's just say it is the most surprising thing about her. Our firstborn, Iris, was completely bald until she was two years old. When Ramona's head first emerged during birth, my husband and I said, in unison, "Woah! Look at all that hair!" According to my mom, I had brown hair upon birth as did my brothers. But not his much! Maybe there is some credence to the old wives' tale "If you have bad indigestion during pregnancy, your baby will have a lot of hair."

Have fun trying to figure out where Ramona gets her smashingly good looks.

Iris, 1 month old. 2006

Ramona, four days old. 2011

Eight Days Early

Today is supposed to be my due date with Baby #2. We are so glad she decided to come eight days early.

Meet little Miss Ramona Yvonne. She is already busy with baby activities such as hanging out with big sister,

Meeting her family,

watching sister dance while breastfeeding,

sucking her thumb,

and doing some light, restorative yoga.

I did not pose her. She is a natural yogini.

She is growing chubbier and more alert each day. We are to the point of bursting with love for her. Having a newborn in the house is the greatest gift--you are reminded of the innocence we all have entering this world.

19 June, 2011

Father Knows Best. Sometimes.

This is my Daddy. Yes, I am a grown woman and still call him "Daddy." It suits the man fine I think.

Iris is crazy about her Grandpa. And corn dogs. 
I have mentioned before blogging is a challenge to me. I like to challenge myself. That is the only reason I am doing this. I tend to live life and forget to tell people about the contents. I haven't even blogged about San Francisco yet and that was way back in March. Working on it.....

The following photos were from this past October 2010. My parents drove up to visit us and we all attended the Texas State Fair in Dallas for the first time. I think it is well agreed it is now an annual tradition. That is what Fried Frito Pie does to you.

Fried Frito Pie is like manna from the gods. Imagine Totinos Pizza Rolls but with Chili.
Sometimes I have those moments where I love and hate the fact my parents know me better than I know myself. The naturally defiant and secretive me thinks and says (very much like those girls they send to boot camp on The Maury Povich Show), "You don't KNOW ME!!! Hell naw!" But at the end of the day, they know you.

At the time of our visit to the Texas State Fair, my husband and I were trying for another baby. We wouldn't know for another week or so if we had hit the target so to speak, and if we didn't try, try again!

My Daddy kept a very keen eye on me the entire day of the Fair. He mentioned how giddy I seemed to be. He took notice when I scarfed down a Fried Frito Pie, a ginormous basket of nachos, a frozen chocolate-dipped banana and a 45 oz. lemonade in about 45 minutes. He also noticed riding the carousel with Iris really knackered me out. By the time I had consumed a funnel cake, half a watermelon, another lemonade, a cotton candy, two roasted ears of corn, refused beer because it "sounded gross" and mentioned it was tiring work to eat a turkey leg, he knew what was up. As he helped me finish the turkey leg, he very calmly said, "Juliebird, you are soooo pregnant. I just know."

"Whatever, Daddy. I am just eating like this because its the Motha Frigging Texas STATE FAIR! I don't think I am pregnant," I replied.

Then he got THAT LOOK on his face. The look my family knows well. The mischievous smarty-pants grin that says, I know better and you don't.   

Four days later, I found out indeed I was pregnant. Fine Daddy, I will give you credit on this one. Your intuition was flowing from all the deep fried delicious that day. Secretly, I liked the fact you knew something I didn't. You can see the subtle shifts in me. You know when I am upset, to the moon with joy and when I am not telling the truth. It is the one thing about you I love the most--you keep me honest. 

You're a great Daddy. So glad you're mine.


Happy Anniversary, Love. Seven years and you are still my best pal and the funniest, sexiest, smartest and most interesting person in my life. How did I get so lucky?

Yeah, we smile like kids in a candy store a lot together.

A lot of people don't understand us, and I am perfectly fine with that. After all the challenges good and bad to our marriage, the times when we thought it was this close to ending or we were too worried about ourselves to worry about each other, I am so thankful we always stopped, screwed our heads on straight and marched on. It makes me love you even more. 

When I was a kid, I witnessed a couple married 75 years blessed in our church. The woman was so old and feeble the husband had to practically carry her up to the altar. The priest renewed their wedding vows and said, "And to their testament of love, even through problems, heartaches and challenges known only to them." Even as a child, I knew that was the kind of relationship I wanted with the person I chose to spend my life. And yes, at times we've done the absolute worst to each other and yet we've never given up. Giving up is easy, and you and I never do anything the easy way.

I can already hear you. Alright Jules, enough of the cheesy crap. Let's make out. You'd never say it, but I know you're thinking it. I agree. Let's listen to some songs that say far better than what I can say and snog for a few hours.

You are all the reasons. Always will be.

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Preggers Update

I am two weeks from my due date. The last month. With the first baby, I was too busy going to grad school to really pay attention. I was lucky to grade all my papers and have the crib assembled before she arrived. Thank goodness she was a week late.

This baby is entirely different. I have all the time in the world. The baby room is done. Everything is ready to go. I even made meals and put them in the freezer. What. The. Hell? 

It is my hope the nesting overdrive is the cause of my body's innate understanding this baby might come a week or so early???? PLEASE???

Mistress Preggy Pants

Truth be told, I am not a big fan of being pregnant. Babies are awesome, but I am not a fan of all the unpleasant side effects of pregnancy. Nausea, indigestion from everything, trouble sleeping, swelling face and ankles, not being able to put on your own shoes without help, you name it. Thank goodness it is only nine months and the reward is so very sweet. 

The worst thing for me is I get needy during pregnancy, and I don't like to be needy. I don't like to need someone. That is a whole other story I've already spent good money in therapy to tell, so it probably won't show up here.

Then my husband gives me an awesome back rub or he scoops me some ice cream. Or he cuddles with me even though he is not a cuddler. He tolerates my irrational mood swings about really asinine things. I need him, especially his sense of humor as he watches me attempt to put on my underwear every morning. Let's just say it is equivalent to a penguin attempting to put on a pair of underwear. Or a really cute gibbon. 

I cannot wait to meet this little person growing inside me. And I cannot wait for her to meet her nutty big sister and her wonderful dad. 

Happy Father's Day to all the baby daddies and stepdaddies out there!

18 June, 2011

One Crafty Day

Two weeks ago I took Iris to Hobby Lobby to select art supplies and craft projects for the summer. You are probably thinking, "Wow, No Basement, you are one awesome Mom full of ideas!"

Nope. Not at all. I did it for me.

I would like to sit on the couch and sip lemonade and watch crappy TV and not interact with anyone. Seriously, if you were carrying a 25 lb. bowling ball around your waist in the middle of summer, you would relax your parenting expectations, too.

Yesterday we worked on fairy tale puppets. This $5 kit of four fairy tale characters kept us busy. All afternoon. I had to take a nap after we made the puppets. Confession: making these puppets was a lot of fun.

After lunch and my nap, we got to work on the puppet theatre space. Iris is so lucky her Mommy was a theatre major and took courses in Stagecraft and Scenic Design. I effing rocked that Target box into the awesomest 18th century proscenium arch theatre you ever saw. Oh yes, the proscenium is pink. With sticker detail work. Totally historically accurate. 

Making the puppets and the stage was a lot of fun for Iris and me. We spent a lot of great time together, and I had someone interested in a little conversation about theatre. I could hardly wait for the paint to dry on the stage and have our first puppet show.

Then came rehearsals.

I love Iris and appreciate her independent mind, but she is one ball-busting auteur theatre director. After running through the show, Iris said, "So, you totally have the fairy queen's lines down, right?"

"Oh man, I have to memorize all that!?! I thought you would say it for me and I could just wiggle the puppet around," I replied.

[Insert a big sigh from Iris] "Alright, I will say the lines for you. And the fairy queen shouldn't wiggle, she should float. You know, like how Glinda floats into Munchkin Land at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz. And don't forget every time I say the unicorn's name, you should let out a big, 'NEIGH!' Alright, Mommy?" 

"Yes, sir!" I replied. The above dialogue was not mean-spirited or sassy. I don't allow that kind of talk in my house. But darn it if it didn't have a specific vision, and it was really hard not to snicker a bit. I wonder if people snickered at Shakespeare or David Mamet or Sam Shepard when they directed their work for the stage?

Below is our first production of Sir Charlie Saves the Princess. Enjoy!