What I read in July

I haven't done a "what I read" post in a while.  Mostly because I was starting to feel a bit squicky about writing reviews, however casually and neutrally I tried to do so.  In fact, I've started to feel a bit squicky about even reading them.  But I have been reading a lot and I do love to share that because I myself get so many book recommendations from other bloggers, it feels kind of like my way of contributing to the conversation.  So, without any judgement or opinions, in no particular order, here is what I read in July.

Shift by Hugh Howey, Midwives by Chris Bohjalian, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood, The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

Naturally I liked some more than others.  Some were newer and more relevant, some were recommended by friends.  Some I could get totally fangirl-gushy about and others not so much.  But I like the idea of just keeping it positive, if a bit cryptic, and being grateful that I even have the luxury of reading books at all.  Good or bad, they are all valuable.  Maybe that's enough.

crappy drafts and rocky roads

While I was on vacation this summer I got an idea.  Like, a Big Idea.  It was all I could think about while we were traveling and by the time we got home my Wunderlist app was full of lists and notes and details I wanted to remember to work in once I actually got started.

But it's summer and I have kids and I live in a small house (I'm writing this blog post from my kitchen while the girls eat their lunches) so it was hard to find the time and space to really work on anything that didn't involve crayons or watercolors or inflatable pools in the back yard.

We are so incredibly fancy.

But the other day I finally - FINALLY - found an hour to sit down and start.  It felt good but, ya'll, it isn't good.  Yet.  It is probably the roughest rough draft I've ever produced, no kidding.  It's a mess to the point of being overwhelming to even look at.  (I'm exaggerating, but only slightly.) 

Starting a project - wether writing a story or designing collateral for a brand launch or opening a new shop - can be so discouraging.  It's hard to feel capable, like you know what you are doing enough to justify the time you are about to invest.  So today I closed out my mess of a document and took 30 minutes (broken up into 5 minute chunks, between fetching drinks and coloring fairies and ironing psychadelic perler bead tiles) to watch this video.

Jen and Omar are the designers behind These Are Things and I've loved their work since that first fateful map showed up in my blog reader.  I can't honestly say that I learned "how to stop worrying and enjoy the ride," but their presentation is a funny, genuine look at the ups and downs that even the most successful creative businesses experience - the things that aren't always obvious from the outside.  That whole idea of a highlight reel not telling the entire story isn't a new one but it is always so reassuring, for me personally, to hear it from someone who has worked and succeeded and failed and worked again.  

The truth is that starting can be hard but carrying on can be hard as well, it doesn't really get easier for any of us.  Crappy drafts and rocky roads are all part of the creative adventure.  Everyone has them, even if they don't want to admit it the way Jen and Omar have.  Rough patches may feel like good reasons to change direction but getting past them is what gets you into the club, it's what unites us as artists and entrepreneurs.  It's all good stuff.  Good messy stuff.  

cape cod

We spent the 4th of July on Cape Cod and it was as beautiful and refreshing as you'd imagine.

I don't have too many photos to share because, while we managed to squeeze in a couple of beach visits, some strolls through the farmer's market, and a very tiny amount of sight-seeing, mostly we were there to visit with family.  And, despite Hurricane Arthur coming through and sogging up our July 4th plans (my daughter was really disappointed when they canceled the fireworks) it was a wonderful visit.

washington, dc

"I'm never going again.  It was so un-fun.  It was boiling, it was too crowded, I did not enjoy it at all."

Those aren't my words above.  Those are Gwyneth Paltrow's words from a couple of years ago, when asked about the Met Ball (the one where she wore the big pink dress that, as much as I love Gwyneth, gave me a serious case of the Opinions).  I'm very immature and follow much more gossip than I should so that quote was, naturally, the one that was echoing around my brain as I dragged ass through Washington, DC, the second stop on our road trip.

Now, don't get me wrong.  Washington has long been one of my favorite cities - and still is - but I had never been in the summer before this year.  And I had never been with my kids.  And those two key elements made a huge impact on my experience.  I wouldn't say I'm never going again or that I didn't enjoy it at all, I just probably won't go again in July or with a three year old.  It wasn't that the trip was bad, per se, it was just that it all unfolded at a much fiercer pace than we are accustomed to and by the end of our time there we were thoroughly exhausted.  But we had some really wonderful moments (like going to the White House and getting to pet Sunny Obama!) and those are the ones I hope to remember.

One especially cool thing we discovered: the Young Readers Center inside the Library of Congress!  It was the perfect place to hang out and cool off between tours and museums and monuments.  They had books, obviously, but also coloring sheets and comfy chairs and a puppet theater.  It's a little spot I highly recommend anyone with kids (or anyone who just loves reading, which you don't actually get to do on the public library tour) should check out.  The bonus for us was that we took a wrong turn at some point and got to wander, unguided and totally illegally, through some of the rare book rooms and back hallways of the LOC.  We didn't touch anything or make any trouble but it did give us a fun story to tell.

no place like home

I'm back!  Hoooray!

Our two-week, 4300+ mile road trip ended on Monday, when we rolled up to our wonderful little house and promptly passed out.  Vacation is so much fun but so much work, especially with kids.  And especially especially when it is July and boiling outside and there are crowds and traffic (and hurricanes! eek!) to contend with.

Still, I am not at all complaining.  It was a wonderful getaway and honestly the crowds and traffic and bad weather were such a teeny tiny part of our experience.  We were very lucky.  Most of the time it was sunshine and mountains and scenery that makes your brain just explode with inspiration.

I'm gathering all of my thoughts and organizing all of my pictures so that I can share them with hopefully some bit of insight here.  I always feel like I learn so much on vacations - about the places I visit and the people I meet and generally how I aspire to set up my life - that it takes a few days for it all to settle neatly into my mind.  But I hope to be back tomorrow with more about our travels and all of the new, fun things that are coming up!

p.s. I only got through one book during the trip.  Shift by Hugh Howey, the follow-up to Wool.  I all-caps LOVED it.  Can't recommend that series enough.  

summer vacation

We are getting ready to embark on our summer vacation so it will be quiet here on the ol blog for a little bit while I scrub my house clean (because coming back to a dirty house is unpleasant) and wash every stitch of laundry we own and figure out how to pack it all into the car.

But!  When I do get back I promise lots of details about our adventures (if you want you can follow along on Instagram) and some fun new features here, including a partnership with a brand that I am really excited about!

Until then I hope everyone enjoys the beginning of the summer - tomorrow is the official first day!

art

Even though I have very fond memories of being 8 years old and totally crushing it during YMCA summer camp craft time, I have to admit that these days when it comes to setting up fun artsy activities for my own kids I usually draw a big fat blank.  I have a deep appreciation for art and design, I just don't have a deep well of ideas to draw from and present to my little ones.

We've been doing a lot of perler beads, if you get what I'm saying.

Fortunately for me, there are about a billion and one good ideas on Pinterest and a billion and one super cool, hip, crafty blogs to keep me inspired.  Art Bar is my absolute favorite.  I can not recommend it enough if you are looking for simple, open-ended, kid-friendly art ideas.  I think I pin literally every craft she posts (even if I haven't gotten around to actually making many of them).

There are also lots of "grownup" artists that I have discovered through the wonderful world of blogging and Pinterest.  If you follow any of those yourself then Michelle Armas is probably a familiar name.  Her personality is amazing, she's the kind of girl everyone wants to be friends with and her art speaks for itself.  I've been following her for a few years and it has been fun to watch her style shift and evolve.  One of the most fun (for me) things about Michelle is that from time to time she will reach out to her online community via the blog or Instagram and ask for help naming new paintings.  Imma pat myself on the back here and say that I have a very good track record for naming Michelle Armas paintings.  Literally every time I've suggested something she has used it.  In fact, after the last one I told her I would step off and let someone else have a better chance.  My brain clearly has an unfair amount of Michelle-Armas-wavelength-y-ness up in it.

This is the first one I helped name: Marco Polo.  The original appears to have been sold and, as far as I know, she hasn't offered it as a print.  Kind of a bummer because I really dig it.

This one is Emperor Metadata (I suggested the Metadata half of that name).  

And, most recently, my personal favorite: The Other Olivia.  I love this one for a lot of reasons, not least of which is how much the name means to me personally - it was the title of the book I wrote last year.  But the fun thing about art is that it could mean something different to everyone who sees it.  

Michelle was sweet enough to send me a print of this one and I am going to get it framed and hung right above my desk, where I can see it all the time.  The Other Olivia is available, both the original and several print sizes, in her shop.  Go get ya one!

unplugging

Happy Friday!  I'm guest posting over on The Happy Family Movement blog today!

Josh and Jenny Solar, founders of The Happy Family Movement, asked for a guest post specifically about how we unplug during the summer and, since we are currently counting down the days to our big ol roadtrip, I knew exactly what to write about.

Click on over to read about why I'm wild for a road trip (and also am a teeny bit crazy).  I mention Mad Libs more than once so you know it's good.

summer

Last weekend we went to the beach for the first time this year.

And yesterday my daughter celebrated her last day of 2nd Grade.  So now it's officially summer.

Our to-do list is filling up fast with sleepovers and playdates and one massive road trip (more about that later, for sure!) and, as excited as I am about everything to come, I'm feeling a definite need to streamline my days and get more organized than I have been in past years.  I'm on the hunt for a really great daily planner (recommendations welcome!).  I've heard good things about Whitney English's Day Designer and my friend Emily Ley is also launching a redesigned Simplified Planner but I don't think I will be able to get my hands on either of those for a few months.  So, for now, I think I just need something basic that will get me through this crazy busy season.  I can't use my phone calendar.  For some reason that has never worked for me.  I want an actual paper space with little lines and numbers where I can dedicate time each day to checking email and blogs and news (I love the Circa app for that) and writing so that those things don't bleed over into our reading and play-doh and running-in-the-sprinkler-because-our-poor-grass-is-toast times.

I love the freedom and spontaneity of summer.  I just want to make sure that, you know, we have the spontaneity jotted down somewhere in a nice, neat, orderly way.

another year

A few weeks ago I wrote about how excited I was to sign my baby up for preschool.  Somewhere in between then and now, I let the nagging voice in the back of my mind speak up a little louder and I realized that I wasn't as excited as I originally thought.  Maybe it was doubts about the school I had chosen.  Maybe it was something to do with the 5,000 words I scrapped from my work in progress, the fact that my original plot wasn't happening.  Maybe it has something to do with her big sister finishing up second grade this week.  Maybe (probably, definitely) it was something to do with my grandmother passing away on Sunday.  There have been a lot of big moments around here, the kinds of moments that naturally result in sitting back and evaluating where one is going and how well this brief and precious life time is being spent.

Whatever the reason, or the contributing factors, I accepted the fact that I don't want to send her off to school.  Which is kind of strange because I do want that time to myself.  I was really looking forward to the freedom, a break from the routine I have been in for the past 8 years.  I'm not one of those gushy moms who just love love loves doing mommy things and is perfectly content to spend every day chasing her kid around.  I'm not.  But I do love my girls and I'm willing to spend every day chasing them around.  I'm willing to give my youngest the same amount of time at home that her sister had.  I'm willing to give her another year of all-day-every-day Barbie conversations and coloring with crayons and library storytimes and yoga in our own living room (that's not a paid link or anything, I just have found that my girls really love that particular kids' yoga dvd so I thought I would share).  

If I'm being honest, the decision to keep her home is twice as agonizing as the decision to enroll her was (and not just because of the nonrefundable registration fee…).  In a way it makes this year ahead of me much harder than the previous ones have been because I put "school" on the table and then took it off.  The burden will be on me now to provide more structured activities at home to make up for it - because mine is one of those kids who will totally remember and ask, "When am I going to preschool, mama?" so it will be better for everyone if I have some workbooks and little lesson plans in my back pocket.  Not exactly what I would call "home schooling," just slow schooling.  A My Little Pony lunchbox isn't a bad idea, either, even if she only ever takes it out on our patio for lunch.

Having her home will slow everything down.  But not necessarily in a bad way.  It will all be a little more spontaneous and creative.  It will mean less regular progress on my writing and blogging ideas.  But I've done it before, I've written books in the wee hours of the morning and the late hours of the night, in the pickup line at school and on my lap on the couch while Sesame Street was on.  The words count a little more when the time to write them is so tightly rationed.  It may not be my ideal setup but I know I can manage it.

In the end for me it's just another year.  And it's not like I didn't sign on for exactly this.  I chose to stay at home, after all.  If there is one thing I have learned in my (admittedly very few) years of parenting it's that there is never any one right answer, there are a million different and equally meaningful paths to choose.  Sometimes you have to start down one and then backstep to get to where you really need to be. 

the bridge

The other day I posted this picture to Instagram and Facebook, with the caption, "Some days I get here and I'm like, 'I eat bridges like you for breakfast.' And other days I get here and I'm like, 'Yeah…no.' I can get over this side but coming back is twice as steep. It's brutal. I'm sure there's a life analogy there somewhere."

It's a higher, harder ride than it looks from this little iphone shot.  Not impossible, just hard with a 40-pound trailer + 35-pound kid to haul.

Well it didn't take long for the analogy I was searching for to pop up.  Someone on Facebook commented that perhaps I should add a motor to my bike.  It was a serious suggestion.  Not that I should use it the whole time, just turn it on when I came to a bridge or some other obstacle.  I commented back, gently, that adding a motor to my bike would defeat the whole point of riding it.  

Because getting over the bridge as easily and quickly as possible isn't the point.  Actually, getting over the bridge at all isn't the point.  The point is getting over under my own power, building my strength however slowly, starting up and turning back as many times as I need to before that one magical day when my legs are strong and my lungs are full and I find myself on the other side before I've even thought about it.

It's the same way with creativity.  The point isn't to publish the first book you write or to sell out at your first solo art show or to get the first wedding you ever photograph published by Martha Stewart.  Whatever you make, whatever you aspire to put out into the world, the point isn't to get it in everyone's face as easily and quickly as possible.  The point is to work at it, to earn your spot on the shelf (or the wall or the kindle, choose your own adventure here).  So that when you do get to whatever is on the other side of your personal bridge you can be proud of the effort that carried you there, you can truly call it your own.  The process matters, even on the failing days.  That's what makes us better.  We should try to appreciate it, to be grateful for it, and never ever ever give in to the temptation to take the easy way out.  

The work is a gift we can give ourselves every day.  

Although, full disclosure, shortly after I took this picture I started searching craigslist for a lighter trailer because, hey, we don't have to make it harder on ourselves either.  ; )

what I read in April

Is it just me or was April really weird this year?  I don't have a more specific way to describe what I'm feeling but something was kind of off all month.  Maybe it's a chicken or the egg thing with my reading then.  Was my reading list weird because it was a weird month for me?  Or was it a weird month because my reading was so hit-and-miss?  Hard to tell.

Let me first preface this by admitting that I was trying to expand my Young Adult horizons and was not entirely successful.  There were several books that I actually read all the way through but chose not to list here because I wouldn't even know what to say about them.  They weren't necessarily bad and if I were an actual teenager I probably would have loved them.  But I'm 32 and they made me feel 32 and I think it's best to just put those aside and not dig too deeply into it.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  So good.  I mean, just so good.  There's nothing I can say that others haven't said better already.  I'm only sorry I waited so long to read it.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.  This book was recommended by a blog-friend, who was certain I would love it.  Sadly, I did not.  At all.  I actually disliked everything about it, which I just have to laugh at.  I had a very strong negative reaction to every character, every plot point, every bit of the setting.  It was gross and weird and confusing and, in certain spots, lazy.  When I hear aspiring writers complain about the state of publishing, I always assume it's because they've just read something that sat as poorly with them as this book did with me.  That said, lots of people liked it.  It has decent reviews on Goodreads and it was suggested to me by someone whose opinion I totally trust (and would take recommendations from again, in good faith).  But it was not for me.  And it actually made me think that I could be barking up the wrong tree altogether when it comes to YA.  Not the first time that thought has seriously entered my mind…but that's another post.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey.   I loved this book.  This book gave me nightmares.  And not just the way you get nightmares when you see or read something vaguely unsettling  and then later dream of equal-but-differently unsettling things.  I literally had nightmares about the exact things that happened in this book.  Which was great!  It scared the crap out of me!  Hooray!  Apparently I don't know much about science fiction because a peek at Goodreads informs me that it was all totally derivative and unoriginal and terrible but I enjoyed it because I guess I just don't care enough about little details like that.  It got soft near the end but not soft enough to keep me from reading the next in the…series?...trilogy?  See what I mean about the details?  Either way, a win.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  I hadn't read this in at least 20 years but it still felt so familiar, which is the mark of a classic.  This time around was a pre-read for my daughter, a consideration for her book club selection (ultimately we decided no on this one because we have a mixed crowd and there are the occasional mentions of God and Faith and Things Much Too Sensitive For Me To Discuss With Someone Else's Second-Grader but she loved it on her own anyway).

Percy Jackson something something something something by Rick Riordan.    I don't know the proper title here.  Percy Jackson is part of it.  Also, "The Lightning Thief."  And maybe "The Olympians?" Or maybe that's only for the series as a whole?  Or the movie?  Another pre-read for my daughter.  This one we borrowed from the library and there were several variations on the title, I think ours just said "The Lightning Thief," but that doesn't seem accurate.  Either way this was as cute as everyone already knows.  Cute and predictable and great for kids.

So, overall, a weird but not unsuccessful month.  You'd think by my age I'd have a firmly defined set of parameters for what I do and do not like to read but it seems I'm still pushing at the edges, trying to figure it out.  It is equal parts fun and frustrating.

time

Last week I went in to sign my youngest baby up for preschool.  I have to use the term "baby" loosely, since she's 3 and quite independent and not at all babyish anymore.  But, like so many moms before me have said, my baby is my baby.  Full stop.

She's thrilled about starting school next year.  She can't wait to pick out a backpack, "a pink one, with princesses please."  She's excited about the friends she will meet and the parakeets her new teacher keeps in the classroom and the huge tub of play-doh she spotted when we toured the room.  

I'm excited for her.  And for me, too.  Because it has been 8 years since I really had a day to myself.  8 years since I have had "free" time or anything resembling regular "office" hours.  For almost a decade I have had a kid at home full-time and I have loved it.  I really have.  But after a decade at any job most people would be ready for a change.  And I am.  I am.  I have to just keep reminding myself that I am ready, that this is the way it goes, that it will be different but totally fine.  Totally good.  It seems like a big, scary deal right now but really it's just a normal, lovely, positive transition.

I'm focusing on the time.  Oh, that wonderful time I will have to myself.  A few hours a week in which I can eat lunch without sharing and clean without "help" and write without distraction.  Such luxury!  I feel like I can build an empire in that time, like I can accomplish such wonders in 9 hours a week!

The reality, probably, is that by the second month I'll be running out the door at the last moment to pick her up, frantically trying to figure out what I got done while she was gone, wishing for just 20 more quiet minutes.  That's the way things usually seem to go.  But for now I'm sticking with my optimism.  It will be grand and glorious and beautiful and peaceful.  I will write future bestselling books and blog posts so adventurous and encouraging they'll knock your socks off.  My laundry will all be done, my house scrubbed, fragrant bouquets of foraged flowers arranged just-so on the bookshelves and tables.  My kids will miss me just enough to be elated when I show up to collect them at the end of their days and the glittery popsicle-stick projects they bring home will be the most amazing works of art I've ever seen.  

Positive thinking.  Yes.  There's always time for that.

new car weekend

I haven't had a new car in a very long time.

In fact, the last new new car I had was the one I bought when I moved to Florida for college thirteen years ago and that one, despite being fresh off the lot, was truly a piece of crap.  I was fond of it because it was the first car I'd ever owned but it was a terrible, mis-guided purchase.

I've had plenty of cars since then - some that I've liked, some that I've not liked, some that I didn't even choose myself but inherited and didn't feel right saying no to (like the old minivan that my stepmother turned over to me after my Dad passed away, which I hated but forced myself to appreciate for four long years) - but none of them have felt exactly me.  Our 2006 Forester XT came closest.  That was fun car but it was rotten on gas and was getting old and noisy and worn out.  This past weekend my husband decided that he was tired of spending every weekend in the garage fixing things so we finally took the plunge and got something brand new.

It's a Subaru Crosstrek and I'm obsessed.  I've always thought it was weird when people talked about loving their cars, feeling like their car was practically a member of the family.  But I get it now.

The past few days have been Florida-perfect - blue skies, sunshine, 72 spectacular degrees - and we took full advantage of it.  We cruised around in our new dream car, singing like goofballs, hopping out to snap a picture when we found a scenic spot or to watch baby alligators (from a comfortable distance) swimming around.

I am literally counting the days until we get to drive this beauty up into the mountains.  Our summer road trip can't come soon enough!

p.s. Jen of Jen Loves Kev recently posted an ode to her old car, which she traded in for a minivan, and it's really cute.  Although I'm definitely NOT on team minivan, I totally feel where she is coming from now.  Her post, full of adorable pictures of her family adventuring with their Honda Element, makes me want to take lots of adorable pictures of my family adventuring with our Crosstrek!

advice

I'm at the point in my creative career, not for the first time and maybe not even for the last, where I feel like it's highly possible that I'm just wasting time.  I feel like perhaps I should just hang it up and learn a trade, go into a comfortably secure and grounded career field, become a landscape architect or learn how to carve spoon rests and sell them online.  These are two of the thousands of ideas that have literally come out of my mouth in the past week, met with varying degrees of skepticism by my poor bewildered husband.  "You know, something practical," I insist.  

His raised eyebrows suggest that he and I define the word "practical" in slightly different ways.

So then I always always stop and give myself a pep talk.  The time will pass anyway, it's all you've ever known, you are who you are.  Affirmative nonsense like that.  It's an exhausting cycle.  This time around I was happy to let Junot Diaz do the pep talking, via this quote that I originally found on a blog whose name I can't remember and then again on Goodreads after much frustrated googling.

Junot is cooler and smarter than I'll ever be so if I'm taking advice (if we're taking advice, all of us) it might as well be his.

kids' books

Sadly, I will not be writing a "what I read in March" post (I might be the only one who is actually sad but those are my favorite posts to write!) because I only got through one book this month.  One!  And it was a re-read to boot, not worth dedicating an entire post to.  But March was busy with regular life stuff.  It was the first extended period of time where I've really felt I was living the stay-at-home-mom life I envisioned before I became an official stay-at-home-mom.  So, even though I didn't get many new books tucked under my belt, I did plenty of other satisfying things that still put this month in the win column.  For one small example, I evicted this frog from a houseplant on my desk.

frog.jpg

I have no idea how long he had been living there.  Long enough to sufficiently camouflage himself, which is plenty long enough if you ask me.  No free lunches here, pally.

One interesting reading-related thing did happen this weekend, though, that I thought was worth bringing up and maybe starting a conversation about here.  I was chatting with a couple of new friends about books and I mentioned The Hunger Games (assuming that pretty much every self-proclaimed bookworm has read that one by now, right?  I mean, surely!) and both of them replied, "Oh no, we don't read kids' books."

Oh yeah.  Right.  Because we're…not kids…of course….

Honestly?  I had forgotten that The Hunger Games was a Young Adult series!  I literally had to sit there and sift through my memory back to when the first book came out and confirm for myself that, yes, it had been shelved in YA.  As had the one book I read in March.  That's how far down the young-reader rabbit hole I've gone, the line is impossibly blurred.  I've done it in the name of research, as someone who has ideas about writing for young readers, but still.  I read so many "kids' books" and so many blogs by authors of "kids' books" that I also seem to have lost perspective on the fact that there are, in fact, grownups who exclusively shop the grownup section of the bookstore (or the kindle app, or whatever).

In an effort to shake up this little rut I've gotten myself into, I decided to kick off my April reading early with the grownup-est book I could get my hands on.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  I started this afternoon, fully prepared to hate it, and found myself as entranced as nearly everyone else in the book world.  Unfortunately for me, I got the book from my library two weeks ago - I waited months for my name to come up in the queue so, even though I was pretty sure I wasn't going to like it, when my straw was finally drawn I wasted to time checking it out - and it is due back on the 5th!  So now I'm trying to cram this 800-ish-page story into my brain like that one bear in The Lorax movie.  You know, the one with the butter?

And there I go with the kid stuff again.  Wish me luck.  I clearly need it.

spring break

Last week was Spring Break for my oldest daughter.  We had perfect weather and managed to get a lot of really fun non-schooly stuff in - playdates and a theme park and a whole lot of coloring and gleup-ing - as well as some less fun (but equally important) things like orthodontic appointments.

While we were at Universal Studios, we sneakily peeked over the 8-foot barrier around the new Harry Potter attractions.  Mostly it was a construction mess but I want to go to there.  I want to go to there in a major way.  I hear talk it's supposed to open later this year but, unless I somehow get myself invited to a private grand opening event, I doubt I will get in before 2015.  When they opened the first area, at Islands of Adventure, it was total insanity for months.  Even last week, with all of the Spring Breakers and visiting college kids, it was more crowded than I am used to.

When I wasn't refereeing my two girls or squeezing my phone through a crack in a fence to get a shot of a half-built theme park facade or learning the ins and outs of caring for braces on a seven-year-old, I also found a few minutes to check an item off of my neverending to-do list by printing up photos that have been wasting away inside my computer for over a year.  In an effort to keep the costs and clutter under control, I opted for photo books rather than individual prints - one big one for all of 2013 and smaller ones for each month of 2014 so far.  My goal is to keep up with them this way so that I don't get as far behind as I did last year.

They're pretty and they certainly are convenient and, overall, I'm mostly happy with how they turned out.  But there is a little voice in my head asking if maybe I shouldn't have gone the 4x6 route after all.  There's something nice about being able to pop a print into a frame or send it off to a family member without having to dismantle a whole book in the process.  I recently co-hosted a baby shower for a friend of mine and we used baby photos as part of the display.  They were adorable and the grandma-to-be said she had a blast going through old albums and picking them out for us.

I worry sometimes that we are going to miss out on these more tactile experiences because we are so used to technology these days but I guess that's a bridge I'll cross when I get there.  For now I'll just revel in the ease of it all and be grateful for the time it frees up.  Time I can spend on more productive things like, you know, obsessively googling artists' renderings of the new Diagon Alley and dreaming of the delicious treats they will serve up at Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor and saying old lady things to myself like, "What will they think of next?"