kindergarten: where content of character is everything

humanaeproject(photos: Angélica Dass)

in the world of my 5 year old, people aren’t black or white. people have beige skin or brown skin . . . or sometimes pink. they are not defined by the color of their skin — nor are they judged by it.

my blonde-haired, blue-eyed, beige-skinned daughter was born into a world where the only president she knows is African American. she lives in a city that is 54% African American. she attends a public school here where 74% of the student body is African American and Hispanic. that there are kind and unkind people, geniuses and morons, leaders and losers with skin tones running the gamut and that their skin tone is utterly inconsequential to what they all have to offer is beyond obvious to her. it’s beautiful to see it in action.

last week, her class studied Martin Luther King, Jr. as a lead up to today’s day off in celebration of his life and accomplishments. on the way home in the car on Friday, she told me all about it. she described the Civil Rights icon as smart, good, nice and charming. but it was difficult to gather what she actually knew about what he did and what he stood for. as we pulled into our garage, she arrived a the part of the story where “this one police officer really didn’t like Martin.” she paused a moment and asked “Mommy, why didn’t some people like Martin Luther King?” and i wondered how i was going to explain this one in a way that she would understand that wouldn’t also completely freak her out.

“well, sweetie, not everyone believed in the same things he did,” i began.

“like what?” of course.

“well, he believed that all people should be treated the same — they should have the same rights and opportunities — no matter what color their skin is.” i think i did okay, i think i did okay . . .

“uh, duh, Mom.”

“i know, right? but a long time ago not everybody believed that people with beige skin and people with brown skin should be treated the same. and people with brown skin didn’t get to do all the same things people with beige skin did.”

“well, that’s just crazy, girl! CRAZY!

“i know, girl. totally crazy.” i got this. hit me with somethin’ else . . .

“Mommy, can i have dinner?”

and with the exception of one weird question about whether we were supposed to pray to Dr. King in the sky on his birthday (yeah, really.), that was pretty much our discussion about why we have today off of work and school.

in general, my feeling is that if everyone acted like 5 year olds, the world would be an absolutely unbearable place. but in this one respect, i sure wish people would channel their kindergarten selves way more often.

p.s. the unique photos above are part of the Humanæ Project, a series of images created by Brazilian photographer Angélica Dass, “who intends to deploy a chromatic range of the different human skin colors.” each subject’s skin tone is matched to a corresponding Pantone color, to create a metaphor about how much more complex we all are than simply black or white. it’s really beautiful, meaningful and thought-provoking work that i hope comes to Atlanta. go check it out.

Friday favorites: best of 2015

happy 2016, y’all!! i’m tired. and not just because i stayed up too late on New Year’s Eve and drank too much! (i mean, maybe that’s about to happen. i’m writing this one early — for once — so i’ll have to let y’all know!) and not because i had a terrible year (i’m already seeing the Facebook posts about “good riddance to 2015!”).

no, we just had our normal post-holiday visit with our folks in the northern colonies . . . a 5-day jaunt to Richmond and DC to visit our parents and friends, which was fantastic, as always, but wow. just so much after the whole month or so of activities. with crazy weather, we arrived back in Atlanta around 10:00 Wednesday night. i had to show my face in the office for a bit on Thursday. and then finally, finally settled down to a little quiet with surf ‘n’ turf cooked (and being eaten on a rotating basis since we all are more in nosh mode than sit-down), 3 girls upstairs in the playroom watching the Seacrest New Year’s Eve show (better than 3 girls screaming in my kitchen! — i just made them promise to let me know when One Direction comes on!), the husband watching football in the livingroom and me in the office drinking wine, reflecting on the past and wondering about the future.

whoooooooshyogapantsfeelgoodrightnow . . .

so i know i haven’t posted in a long time. there has been a lot going on here. nothing totally bad. and nothing totally good. but enough life stuff to have kept me focused on other things and not writing regularly. i’m working on what fixing that looks like, as well as broader new year’s resolutions and such. in the meantime, before i can look forward, i wanted to spend this post looking back at some of my favorite moments of 2015 (in no particular order of course!). it really was a good year, as years go. hope y’all feel the same! and if not, as they are saying in Facebook memes, today is the first blank page of a 365-page book — write a good one!

France
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i mean. there could not have been a more amazing vacation and week of togetherness for me and my family than our Spring Break in France. can’t wait for Hawaii 5-0 (neither can you! stay tuned . . .).

glamping!
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seriously, yurts-so-good was maybe the funnest weekend of the year. despite getting in uber trouble for joining the wiccans in their full moon ceremony (sheesh), this was an epic weekend with amazing friends who i hope we’ll keep forever. so. much. love.

Lily
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there have been a lot of ups and downs since she arrived on our scene last January. for example, ups: she is an amazing snuggler. downs: she eats everything . . . shoes, rugs, the house (literally) . . . somehow, the ups make up for the downs and just less than a year later, i cannot imagine life without her.

Parker
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no. my cat dying was not one of my favorite moments. i still miss him terribly. that last morning with him, when i knew it was not going to end well, we had a good snuggle and a good conversation. and in that last few hours, i know we solidified everything we’d meant to each other in the past 15 years. big, good stuff.

DC
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Spy and i never actually lived in this amazing city at the same time. maybe crossed paths at The Tombs, we’ve decided, but that’s it. post-Christmas visit confirmed our love for all the in-town awesome. we really don’t get back there enough and visits always make me miss it. just maybe Miss Girl will go to Georgetown like her dad and we’ll just have to be up there like all the time . . .

fall vibes: apple cake

over the past few years, this apple cake has been my traditional contribution to Spy’s office Thanksgiving potluck. tomorrow’s the big day, so i’ll be whipping this up at halftime this afternoon. it’s such a great recipe, i wanted to share it again. enjoy!

peaches & poppycock

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we woke to a gorgeous, crisp autumn day today that seemed perfect for baking one of my favorite fall treats — also one of the recipes i’ve really been wanting to make with the apples we still have from our apple picking trip a few weekends ago.

my grandmother’s apple cake is one of the things i really look forward to making every single year. it’s seriously like crack for me. something about the combination of apples, fall spices and butter in a gooey, sweet, melty mix makes me crave this thing with my breakfast coffee and become perfectly capable of devouring half a cake in one shockingly short sitting — and then grabbing the other half for a snack later. i am positively terrified about the fact that Spy leaves tomorrow afternoon for a 10-day Europe trip and i will be left in the house alone with this evil…

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turkeys and pumpkins and printables, oh my!

i LOVE Thanksgiving. the minute Halloween was done last weekend, i tore down all the spiderwebs and creepy stuff and started getting psyched about having a homeful of people i love in a few weeks. my mom, father-in-law and sister-in-law will all be visiting with us for the holiday. it’s the first time we’ve ever done Thanksgiving with more than one guest (usually my mom). i love cooking all the fabulous dishes we usually only get once a year and always make too much food. so i’m happy that this year, i have a better chance of not having leftovers until April!

this year, we also have new-to-us family china that we inherited several months ago, when my father-in-law moved into a smaller place. the gold trim was hand painted on by Spy’s great aunts, so it is special and i wanted to create a great table to show it off for the first time in our home.

after a few hours of online searching and buying, my chargers, runner, napkins and napkin rings were all delivered over the course of this week. i dreaded going to Michael’s today to hunt down leaves and other baubles to fill in around my standard candles. probably the only worse fate on a Saturday in Atlanta is Ikea, which i did anyway. tackling both excursions would have sent me into the bottom of a bottle of bourbon that i’m not sure i could swim out of. so, i was really lucky to find enough sparkly things at Target that are technically Christmas, but still read fall and woodsy  . . . and Thanksgiving. score!

i did a trial run today (sans silver and glassware), pulling 2 white pumpkins off the front porch (that still probably need to be washed), dismantling an old wreath and adding a few mason jars with tealights to my standard orange pillars. i think the end result is a nice mix of dressy and casual with burlap contrasting sparkles and gold, real pumpkins contrasting glitter-covered pine cones and mason jars contrasting fancy china and white linens. y’all, i have literally never even attempted to put together a table like this, but i am positively in love with how it turned out and can’t wait to sit down to it in a few Thursdays!

to complete the look in the dining room, i loved the idea of doing some printables in a space where we usually rock this nice quote about home — also something i have never really done before. here’s a dirty little secret about what goes on around here: i create all my images in Keynote and save them out to jpegs. it’s a process, but it has worked thus far. it’s a fine solution for web images, but they’re not hi-res enough for great printing. and i cannot even think about doing the math to create files large enough to get converted to hi-res and not be the size of a postage stamp. i couldn’t find anything anyone else had created that i loved that was also downloadable at a decent size i could print at home and frame in a standard frame.

then, late one night, i remembered the Canva account i recently signed up for. life changing, y’all! seriously. super simple way to create print documents that look great without having to buy and learn any expensive software. there are templates for a bunch of different types of images/documents from Facebook headers to posters and business cards, with some ability to manipulate designs and create your own from scratch.  some matte photo paper and a couple  Ikea frames later and i have a fun display that included zero drama to create. you’re welcome to download them here.

i’m thankful that my holiday look has come together . . . now to start working on what we’ll eat and how we’ll spend our time together while everyone’s here! what are you doing to get ready for Thanksgiving?

happy blogiversary: 1 year, 10 lessons

blogiversary.001
i can’t believe it’s been an entire year since, following much deliberation and obsessing, finessing and freaking the fuck out, i quietly and haltingly, over several glasses of wine, took the password protection off this bad boy and unleashed it on the world. i was so nervous, y’all. what would anyone think? maybe no one would ever read it and that would probably be way better for everyone involved.

i was utterly shocked the next morning when i woke to find Continue reading

Sunday supper: lowcountry boil

Lowcountry Boil

for the last Sunday supper of the unofficial summer, i wanted to do something seasonally appropriate. i’m feeling like i’ve done so many variations of burgers and grilled chicken lately, i was bored to tears by that idea. we also have had kind of a crazy couple days and i really wanted something i could just throw and a pot and leave alone. and so the lowcountry boil idea was born.

though i’ve eaten variations tons of times, i’ve never actually made this in my own home. this Garden & Gun recipe was kind of a baseline to check myself, but i love the confirmation from chef, Mike Lata, that “The recipe is a forgiving one; freshness and taste trump ingredient specifics and measuring cups.” hallelujah. next time, i will actually plan this one, instead of pulling it together on the fly. and note to self, next time, don’t use the corn that’s been in your freezer for 4 months, you redneck.

i did a side of our standard sautéed zucchini, yellow squash and sweet onions, and the whole thing was really delish! anyhoo . . . starter recipe with my notes in italics below. enjoy and have a happy Labor Day, y’all!

Mike Lata’s Frogmore Stew

Buy
½ cup (at least) Old Bay Seasoning (i used about half Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, half Old Bay and an extra tablespoon of cayenne pepper)
16 small new potatoes, about 1-inch diameter, rinsed but not peeled (about ¾ lb.)
½ lb. smoked sausage (kielbasa), cut into 16 ½-inch-thick coins (i forgot to get kielbasa, so i used turkey italian sausage. browned it first, then cut each link into 4 pieces)
2 medium sweet onions, peeled but not trimmed, quartered lengthwise from stem to root
3 ears fresh corn, shucked and  cut into thirds
16 largest available fresh shrimp, preferably white Carolina shrimp with head on (you may want more depending on size of shrimp — you also may want to go ahead and decapitate and peel these guys if you’re not trying to impress with the presentation because heads, tails and legs are a bitch to deal with when you’re actually eating.)
8 stone crab claws (about 2 lb.) (totally did not have the crabs, but threw in enough shrimp to make up for any seafood deficiency.)

Do
Bring a large stockpot (at least 12-quart) of water (filled 2/3 of the way, about 9 quarts — i used half chicken stock and half water) to a simmer. Add Old Bay and simmer to infuse. (The water should be abundantly seasoned and aromatic.)

Add potatoes, sausage coins, and sweet onions, and bring to a lazy simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 15 to 18 minutes.

Keeping water at a lazy simmer, add corn, and cook until kernels are slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp and crab claws, and cook until the shrimp becomes pink and white (instead of opaque), about 5 or 6 minutes. Strain solids from cooking liquid, and transfer them to an oversize platter.

Serve with soft butter and olive oil (for potatoes and corn), sea salt, Tabasco, and cocktail sauce. Lemon wedges and chopped hot peppers (like jalapeño) are also sometimes served as accompaniments.

stick a fork in me

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I’m done, y’all. I am sitting on my front porch at ten-something Monday night, slathered in Miss Girl’s various eczema meds after bath time, listening to the rain and drinking one last glass (?) of wine. the long weekend has been a whirlwind of pool time, cookouts and random bulk cooking with a smattering of “OMG I have to get some shit done before Tuesday!”

I’m exhausted. it’s been perfect and amazing, but as I say every Sunday “I still need one more day!” seriously beginning to think it’s a personal problem! am I alone?

anyhow, I know I’ve been gone from here for a bit. figuring some things out and trying to relax. (for instance, I am not doing a post on the chocolate ice cream I made today. it is a boring process and the pictures suck as a result. who needs to see that?)

so…hope y’all all had a really wonderful Memorial Day weekend! looking forward to getting caught up on reading and to diving back into posting a bit.

have a great week, y’all!

motherhood: a no wuss zone

Woodward Family 2012 (11 of 42)(photo: Sarah Esther Witherington)

i desperately wanted to do a mushy post about what i love about being a mom. everybody loves a list! especially for a holiday like Mother’s Day! it would be super positive. it would be sweet and touching, with a cute anecdote here or there thrown in. y’all would feel all warm and fuzzy when you read it.  Motherhood as an institution would positively glow. . . . and then i sat down to write. and it felt fake. i mean, like Bruce Jenner league not being true to myself fake. ugh.

don’t get me wrong. i love being a mom. i wouldn’t give it up for the world. but it’s damn hard, y’all. like every minute of every day, whether you’re even thinking you’re in a mommy moment or not. no matter how much wine or coffee you throw at it, you’ve gotta be strong to survive.

no judgement if you’re one of those women who sails through it with spotless white pants and no roots, making organic bento boxes for lunch every day while your 6 adorable children always say please and thank you and always put their things away in their perfect Pottery Barn Kids rooms. i’m just saying that is not my reality. for me, the truth is something more like this:

motherhood ruins your body.
puh-leeease. nobody cares about your post-baby stretch marks or lumps and bumps. that is the least of your worries. i’m talking about real shit that actually hurts. a lot. like DeQuervain’s tendonitis and sciatica. because holding and carrying your child (and all their crap) makes you crooked. period.

i’m talking about deep bone exhaustion and brain fog that lasts for years after your precious baby starts sleeping all the way through the night. sleep deprivation is a way of life. because even when she’s 5 or older, you’ll stay up too late after she’s down trying to get done the 16,000 things that you’ve put off all evening, while feeding, playing an hearing about her day, bathing and putting her to sleep is your priority in the brief window you have with her between getting home from work and bedtime. because school starts way too early. and because there’s soccer early on Saturday. because she’ll stop napping long before you’re ready for it. and because then she’ll be a teenager and you will pretty much never sleep again worrying about what on earth is going on with her.

an orthopedist and a sleep aid will be your BFFs. and don’t even get me started on how long it takes to find time to get your hair or nails done.

motherhood destroys your mind.
this is your mind. this is your mind on motherhood.

so you’ve got complete sleep deprivation working against you. now add in the 34,000 things you have to remember and do on a daily basis, not to mention thinking 3 steps ahead of what might happen next. some of it is just about keeping another human being alive. some of it is just all the other associated tasks: which babysitter is coming which night? is her gymnastics outfit clean? get a birthday present for Saturday’s party. remember to sign the field trip permission slip. remember to pay after school care. crap, who’s picking her up? where is the soccer game this morning and which jersey? please let the soccer game this morning be rained out so i can sleep another hour. some of it is actually interacting with your child, keeping all her friends and latest interests straight. since when is Elijah your boyfriend? and why are you on your third boyfriend at 5 years old? this is not going to be pretty at 15. gaaahhh. and WTF is Sweet Crush Road/Lightening Crush Road?

is it any wonder you have no idea what day of the month it is or what you were supposed to pick up at the store? girl, you’re lucky you made it into work wearing all appropriate items of clothing and might actually match.

motherhood saps your spirit.
now, you’re sleep deprived and in physical pain. your mind is shot because it will no longer hold the 87,000 things you’re trying to stuff in it, you don’t understand half of what is happening around you or remember what you were thinking 6 seconds ago. you don’t have the energy to say hell no to one more birthday party or can i just have ice cream for dinner? and you pretty much feel at least 30% crazy at least 90% of the time.

roll with it. whoever that sane, strong, organized woman you were before you had kids was, she is long gone now, girl. you are no longer in charge. it’s easier to accept it than to fight it. and accepting may truly be the only path to self preservation. perhaps after she goes off to college, you will find the time, energy and focus to really feel your own spark again for more than like 4 hours at a time.

but here’s what motherhood also does.

  1. it makes the little things less important. you realize what really matters when you have something so massively consequential as someone else’s health, happiness and learning to shape and oversee.
  2. it shows you the world through eyes that aren’t judgemental or jaded.
  3. it lets you step into the world of some amazing little people who aren’t afraid to be wrong, sing off key or make up anything they damn well please — and actually believe it.
  4. it shows you what it’s like to never know a stranger and give without expecting anything in return.
  5. it helps you remember what it was like when no possibility was impossible.
  6. it makes you fall in love again and again every single day until you actually think your heart might explode.

and these are the things that make it all worth it, a thousand times over. those and also, the snuggles.

i have had an amazing day so far, complete with sweet gifts and cards, Spy-made Bloody Marys, a massage, a great workout and being left alone to write this. i hope all the other moms out there are getting whatever makes them happy and relaxed today. we all work so hard and should be proud — even on the days when it feels like everything’s falling apart. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all!

7 things i’ve learned in 7 years of marriage

Kristin Erwin-John Woodward Wedding

seven years ago this afternoon, Spy and i got married at pre-Revolutionary Yeocomico Church, where Mary Ball Washington’s family and the Lee family once worshiped. we followed up with photos at the family rivah house and a reception at one of the finest old Richmond clubs, complete with Confederate generals on the walls and juleps in proper pewter for Derby Day. hell yeah!

after a 9-year courtship, 1 broken engagement and too many bits of drama to count, there was a lot that could go wrong here, even given the genteel Old Virginia of all the officialness. we still suspect there are bets out there about how long all this could possibly last. well . . . i’m happy to say that today, we are 7! a happy, ridiculous, crazy 7. sorry to all y’all who lost money on us again this year!

here are 7 things i’ve learned on the amazing ride so far. some of them seem pretty obvious, but i guess people always repeat them because they are just so true.

1. always hold hands.
when we walk. when we sleep. even when i’m mad, i hold his hand sometimes, because i know it’s just a moment that will pass and it helps me remember the bigger picture. it’s one tiny, sweet way to show affection and confirm that we’re in this together.

2. 50/50 isn’t a thing.
there is a division of labor in marriage and it’s never equal. but if everyone gives as much as they can at the time, it works. that means some days and in some ways, you will carry it. and some days and in some ways, he will. it’s not an excuse to be a slacker, but more of an acknowledgement that all you can do is your best and if both of you always do your best, it will be good enough.

3. always say thank you. and mean it.
really. appreciate both the little things and the big ones. it makes you a happier, more positive person in general. as a spouse, actually acknowledging that gratitude out loud is kind of a crucial part of #2.

4. choose your battles.
be happy that the dishwasher is loaded, not frustrated that the plates aren’t facing the way you would load them.

5. don’t be that couple.
you know, the ones who do everything together. it’s annoying and it makes you boring — to everyone else and your spouse. go do something without your SO from time to time and the 2 of you will have so much more to talk about when you get back between the experience itself and the interesting, independent person it helps you be.

6. always laugh.
definitely always make each other laugh. even when we’re mad, we somehow manage turn a fight into something to laugh about — eventually. we’re lucky that way.

7. always grow.
he’s not exactly who he was when  i met him. neither am i. accepting the new people we are and that we’re becoming is so huge in staying with someone for the long-haul. and it always keeps things interesting. (see #5.)

weekend scenes

Chick-fil-A Parties Are the Best!

woo-hoo! we survived, y’all. this was the single busiest weekend we’ve endured enjoyed since i don’t know when! i’m currently relishing a Sunday night moment of calm before it all starts again. before we finally leave for France on Friday night, Spy and i will see our beloved Hartsfield-Jackson just about more than we will see each other. he’s off to Chicago tomorrow for a couple days, then i head to Houston for the day on Thursday. we certainly are jet-set if nothing else. (ha!) besides, how boring it would be to hang out in Atlanta, have a normal week and do trip planning, packing and everything else for a 10-day Europe trip with no distractions? gaaahhhh … hope y’all had a great weekend, too, and happy Monday and a (much more) sane week for everyone!

1. soccer
2. Chik-fil-A birthday party
3. Atlanta Science Festival
4. Consular Ball
5. James & the Giant Peach/High Museum
6. Neighborhood Easter egg hunt