the best way to spread christmas cheer is sniffing candles that smell like beer

Four or five years ago, I walked into Bath & Body Works in search of Christmas candles. What I found was a line wrapped around the store and women holding cartons of three-wick candles on sale for $8. And that's how I learned about candle day. The next year, I forgot about this beloved sale but just so happened to walk in on candle day again.

And to think some people don't believe in God or miracles!

We haven't had as many funds available the last few years for seasonal candles, so I burned through my stash, vowing to buy more when I could. I stocked up on a few fall ones in September, but I've been waiting for candle day to buy some Christmas ones. That day was Saturday. As I walked through the parking lot to the store, I passed a woman wearing reindeer leggings and a dazed grin, carrying no less than 20 candles. She looked like she had been put under a spell with a potion of Vanilla Bean Noel and Hot Apple Toddy scented wax with a touch of glitter.

I was handed a shipping container upon entry to hold all my candles. I pushed and squeezed and shimmied my way through the store, looking for certain candles I desperately wanted to sniff. I inhaled so many fragrances that all the smells ran together, and I couldn't actually discern the scent of any of them. The store had to be breaking every health, fire, and safety code imaginable. Like moths to a flame (quite literally), the store was packed beyond capacity. It was, as the kids say, lit. It was like Times Square on New Years Eve, but instead of standing in the cold and snow, it felt like we were stuck in a sauna whilst dressed in winter gear and shoving scented wax up our noses. In both circumstances, Justin Bieber's Christmas music was still heard loud and clear over the crowd. There were people grabbing every candle they could find, stacking containers on top of containers full of candles the same way your average Midwesterner buys milk and bread before a snowstorm hits. There were also the candle aficionados handling the whole event like a wine tasting by taking a whiff of one candle, pondering the aroma and picking apart each individual nuance of the fragrance and comparing it with others, oblivious of the frenzy around them. Then there were the clueless, who stumbled in the store looking puzzled and confused, trying to figure out what all the fuss is about. So young, so naive.

I found all the candles I wanted and some I didn't know I needed and filled my container halfway with my treasures. I settled into the line, which was wrapped around the store twice, with Winter Candy Apple, Peppermint Marshmallow, Winter, Lavender Vanilla, and one free Gingerbread Latte body wash. I contemplated more of my favorite Fresh Balsam and Marshmallow Fireside, but I still had them at home. I was in line behind two grown men, both more excited than I was at the prospect of $8 candles. They compared candles between stories of bar hopping, and the one in front of me said "I got the Limoncello candle because I got hammered on that once." There is a special candle out there for every single one of us.

After that comment, he whipped around and asked me what I got. Before I had a chance to answer, he shoved a candle in my face and said "YOU HAVE TO SMELL THIS." Mahogany and Teakwood. It smelled the way I imagine the offices of the two great Rons (Swanson and Burgundy) would smell like. I sniffed every candle I saw on the long journey to the register that--wait for it--waxed on and on, and I moved as carefully as possible, trying to avoid the fate of another shopper who twirled around and knocked a display of candles on the floor, covering everything in shards of glass. I'm still shocked it wasn't me.

The whole experience was a bit of a sensory overload, and I kept asking myself if candles are important enough to withstand this sort of chaos. When I looked at my receipt and saw that I bought 4 candles for the price of one, the answer was a resounding yes.

My good Christmas luck must've run out at Bath & Body Works, because when James flipped through the stack of Christmas cards I had addressed that afternoon, he said "Do you realize you put the return address labels where the stamps go?" All the fragrances must've gone to my head. I went to light a candle later that night, and our candle lighter chose that moment to run out of juice, which is starting to become a pattern. It just burned me up.

Except not literally, because our candle lighter broke and we're out of matches.


currently, vol. 25

reading: I just finished The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines. I adored it. Memoirs rarely live up to the hype to me, but this one did. The format was a little strange and read like the transcript of an interview or documentary, but I couldn't put it down. Their life has been fascinating from the start.
watching: If I watch the Christmas Pooh movie one more time I'm going to rip my hair out (I've been sick so the tv has been on a little more than usual--I'm desperate). I find myself humming the background music all day long.
cooking: Chili tonight! It's cold and dreary, so it's the perfect chili day.
eating: not gonna lie, about to get another piece of pumpkin pie. Lay off me, I'm sick.
frustrated by: blueberries. There is a pint of blueberries in my fridge that has declared war on me today. Twice they've managed to fall out of the fridge and scatter everywhere. A couple of them camouflaged themselves on the navy blue kitchen rug, and of course I stepped on them. Don't even get me started on Gracie asking for more berries with her breakfast and then throwing them across the dining room. I will be cleaning up renegade berries for the next 6 months.
loving: listening to my vintage Ella, Frank, and Bing Christmas records while eating lunch with G, getting Christmas cards in the mail (which reminds me, I still need to send ours out), being able to spend my days with my girl, even though she's been a giant handful today, and being able to borrow movies from the library. I'm waiting on Little Women, and I'm so excited since I finally read the book and fell in love with it.
overwhelmed: by Christmas gift exchanges. Every day I get more requests to participate in white elephant exchanges (I hate those), sock exchanges (you buy socks and then fill them up with gifts), and the like. It's exhausting and stressful. It takes planning and creative saving to buy gifts for our family, let alone for someone I barely know. Is that rude? Probably. But I don't ever want Christmas to be about stressing over money and gifts. Can I bake you cookies instead? I'm good at that.
thinking: our home is so cozy and comfy with Christmas lights and decorations. I love it.
listening to: the acoustic Christmas playlist on Spotify. It's perfect for my mood. There's been several variations of I Heard the Bells, and I love the line "God is not dead nor does He sleep." Edit: I've now I've moved on to the Little Women soundtrack. It makes me want to buy a grand old house and decorate the insides with fresh greenery and garlands.
planning: a grocery list and stocking stuffers. I'm currently taking suggestions for both.
sniffing: a peppermint candle.
feeling: like it's time to go grab that slice of pie.


is your house on fire, clark?

I think this was one of my favorite Thanksgivings ever. My parents came for a few days, and we sat by a roaring fire eating food and pie and watching our favorite Christmas movies. We ordered some food and I cooked the rest. Minus a cornbread disaster in which I forgot a crucial ingredient, everything was delicious, AND I still have almost an entire pumpkin pie to eat all by myself. This is the true reason I never got rid of my maternity pants. Gracie was so excited my parents were here that she ran laps around the house with her walker while screaming her head off. My dad brought her an early Christmas gift. I sent him a picture of a toddler latch board I saw online, and he recreated it for Gracie. For a kid obsessed with opening, closing, buckling, snapping, and zipping things, she's in heaven.

We didn't do any Black Friday shopping, but we did go out for Chinese food, ice cream, and coffee. And then mom and I wandered around the local yarn shop picking out knitting patterns, as us young and hip women do. They left on Saturday, and to cope with the sadness we pulled out the Christmas decorations. We were wrapping the tree with lights while we watched OSU beat Michigan in double overtime, and even though I don't usually care about football, I was jumping up and down screaming. If I were Gracie, I would've done laps around the house with the walker. I spent Saturday and Sunday evening watching the Gilmore Girls revival and feeling every feeling there is to feel. I have a hunch my overthinking of the whole thing is the cause for my current case of insomnia.

And now we're back to real life, and I woke up with my fourth...FOURTH...illness of the last two months. Never in my life have I been sick this much at once. I think this calls for pumpkin pie and another viewing of Gilmore Girls.

Also, if you think of it, please send up a prayer for Ohio State. There was an active shooter (or stabber?) on campus this morning which is only a few miles away from us.


let's hope it doesn't take another 19 months to do it again

The people in our lives have been so good to us. Friday was a sad day, James was working late, but our friends had us over for a play date and then took Gracie and me out to dinner. We had plans to go to the zoo after, but it was past G's bedtime and she was starting to melt down. Then the stars and babysitters aligned on Saturday, because James and I FINALLY went out on a date. The first one since Gracie was born. The last time the two of us were in a car with an empty carseat was when Gracie was 5 days old, and he was driving me back to the hospital because I was in so much pain. I may or may not have purposely planned this date on the opposite side of town as the hospital.

We went to a craft beer and burger place for dinner. We went when I was pregnant, but half the menu had something pregnant women can't eat, so we had to go back when all bets were off. I had a burger smeared with brie and date chutney and there wasn't a highchair next to me. It was BLISS. We walked to the movie theater after dinner. Everything was decked out for Christmas. The trees and buildings were covered in lights, Christmas music was playing, and IT WAS SNOWING. The first snowfall of the year. I almost cried I was so happy. I skipped through the snow, declaring it to be magical, and making everyone around me roll their eyes. It could not have been a more perfect evening, and I don't know the last time things have gone so right.

We shared a cherry coke and saw Hacksaw Ridge. It's been a couple days and I can't stop thinking about it. BEST WAR MOVIE EVER MADE. It was violent and gory which I didn't like, but the story was so powerful I'll never forget it. We sat in our chairs, completely stunned, once the credits were rolling. We talked about it all evening and all day yesterday. Go see it immediately. I'm already dying to see it again.

My best friend and her husband drove up to watch Gracie for the evening. By the time we got home, she was sound asleep in her crib. They did an amazing job with her, as I knew they would, and we are eternally grateful. Joellen knew I would love Hacksaw Ridge and made sure James and I could go see it. Not only did they drive an hour to babysit, but she brought me a stack of books to read and a toy for Gracie. When we got home, they were full of stories of how much pizza Gracie ate (I'm so proud), and how she told them she was ready for bed and then told them "bye!" when they put her in her crib and didn't immediately leave the room. She kills me. Once they left, Kelsey facetimed me from an Avett Brothers concert during one of our favorite songs. The only thing better would have been if I could've airdropped myself at the concert.

Gracie did fantastic, but the cat was not thrilled with the fact that we left her with a babysitter too. She woke us up all night meowing, and her final jab was to wake the baby at 5:30 am, which meant we were all up at 5:30. On the bright side, James made us a huge stack of pancakes by 7. I finally got my pancakes! And they were everything I had been waiting for. So much redemption in one weekend. The cat, on the other hand, has been on a hunger strike.

All weekend long I've been thinking about that movie and how brave those men were/are. I don't want to know what I would do on the front lines of war. It wouldn't be good. And then I tripped while walking into the bathroom and fell on the floor crying. So yeah, I wouldn't do so well in war.


taking a 19 month old to the grocery store

See also:
taking a 7 month old to lunch
taking a 10 month old to church

It's the week before Thanksgiving and all through the fridge, not a drop left of milk, not even a smidge. It's time for the weekly trip to the grocery store, though this time you need food for over a week and for Thanksgiving but with roughly the same budget. The pressure is already on.

It starts on a high note when you finally find the cranberries you've been hunting for all month. Your favorite produce guy who gives away free bananas and teething tips isn't working, but that's ok because you snagged a banana when no one was looking and handed it to the baby. Things start off well but go downhill once the toddler decides that carts are, in fact, a torture chamber. She takes her shoes and socks off, throws them on the floor like she's throwing trash out the window of a moving car, and bellows about the inhumanity of her current predicament while you whirl the cart down four different aisles three times in a row because where are the dang French's onions? The green bean casserole is your responsibility this year but nothing is making sense. You finally find them on an end cap by the beans and bread.

The babe is now screaming, so you make a beeline for the deli. The man at the deli counter gives her piece of cheese on the sly every week, and she could really use that cheese right about now. While waiting for the yellow american, you scan through your grocery list that your precious child scribbled all over while you were searching for the last loaf of Honey Oat bread. You have to figure out what you crossed off the list, and what she marked off. She's happy with her cheese, so you take a deep breath and finish your shopping. Instead of your normal orderly fashion, you zig zag through the store, retracing your steps more than once because you realize you never grabbed something your daughter already crossed off the list. When you pass the bakery on the way to the meat counter, you make a mental note to grab a donut once you've gotten the chicken.

The toddler is now shouting for more cheese, because her bunny crackers and free banana and cheese slice were not enough for her. While you check the eggs, she stands up in the seat of the cart and dives into vast abyss of the cart itself, screaming for her beloved cheese. Once you realize what's happening, she surfaces, triumphantly clutching her bag of deli cheese. She rips it open and snarfs down another slice while you stand and watch, frozen in shock and a little bit of awe. It's like that scene in Anchorman when Will Ferrel says "You ate the whole wheel of cheese? I'm not even mad. That's amazing!"

You put her back in the seat but she tries to wrench her way out of it, screaming to be held. You put her on your hip but quickly realize there's no easy way to steer a full cart one-handed. You put her back in the cart and start sweating bullets as she screams at the top of her lungs. You regret not grabbing the alcoholic eggnog instead of the nonalcoholic. You do the cart/hip dance for the next ten minutes while you throw green beans, crackers, and ravioli in the cart as fast as you can. You're so flustered you forget to grab the painkillers despite your pounding headache.

She whines through the entire checkout, asking for more cheese and also to be held. You flip through your coupons and hunt for you debit card while she opens and slams the door of the fridge holding water bottles next to the tabloids. As you walk out to the car, you realize she must've also scribbled on your mental list, because you forgot to get the donut. Somehow, this is more of a crushing blow than forgetting the painkillers. She cries the whole way home and asks for water, but refuses to drink out of the sippy cup you hand her because it's not your cup.

You bring the groceries inside and accidentally drop a bag. Out of all the bags you're holding, you drop the one with the eggs. Half of them break immediately. You clean the remains out of the carton and put them in a bag as you notice your offspring darting out the door you didn't close due to the egg fiasco. You run to grab her and return to find the bag tipped over and the counters covered in raw egg. You clean it up while your girl empties the fridge and whines for lunch. You put her in the highchair with lunch while you put the groceries away, and finally sit down to eat a bowl of soup while the babe empties the silverware drawer, bringing each fork and spoon to you and covering the floor in whisks and spatulas.

You put her down for a nap and crash on the couch, but she doesn't go to sleep. Even with the monitor turned down, you can hear her pounding the wall and singing songs about Pooh Bear. Just as your headache reaches a fever pitch an hour later, she falls asleep for a short nap. Your husband is working late and you're exhausted, so you throw the kid in the car and go to Krispy Kreme less than a mile away because you earned that donut. You hand your card to the cashier as he hands you your salted caramel donut.

A moment later he hands your card back and says "Ma'am, your donut is free today."