family

My Favorite Ornaments on My Tree (List-cember #1)

Hello and happy December List-cember to you! I have made it a tradition on my blog that in December every post is centered around lists, and here we are again, in year five!

You can check out some of the previous List-cember posts here, otherwise let’s get started!

If I’m being honest, alongside my sister, I broke every rule this year. We watched our first Christmas movie before Halloween and had our Christmas decorations up by the first week of November—but can you blame us? There’s just something special about Christmas time and all the goodness that comes with it, and this year we were in a hurry to get to all that good stuff.

Usually during List-cember I give out “superlatives” to the many ornaments in my life, but this year, after having spent so many months isolated from family, friends and all things “normal”, I just wanted to highlight some of my favorites.  These are the ornaments that make me smile and give me hope that good years with good memories and even more good ornaments to commemorate them are ahead of us.

1) The Burrito

Ornaments are meant to highlight people and things that you love, right? Well one thing my family can agree on—almost every time we order-in for dinner—is burritos. My sister likes to joke (even though she’s serious) that she has Chipotle on speed dial, but our burrito backlog goes far beyond the local chain. So for a time of year when so many other foods and food groups reign supreme, I love having an ode to burritos up there on our tree, reminding us that yes, you should order-in tonight, you deserve it.  

2) The Fireplace

Some of my favorite ornaments on my parents’ tree are those with family names handwritten on snowmen, stockings, Santa hats, etc., so when I saw this ornament a couple years ago, I couldn’t resist bringing it home and making one of my own. And with our roommate Rachel moved out into a new house now, this ornament is even more special, as it now commemorates the time we all lived together, which is full of so many happy memories.

3) Yoga Santa

I love me some yoga, and I got even more into it this year during quarantine. Yoga Santa reminds me to relax, and to stop stressing—because compared to a guy who has to deliver presents to the entire world in one night, how big could my problems really be?

4) New York

Last year my family took a trip to New York for a whirlwind weekend to see the New York Giants play. It was only a few months before the world took a turn for the ‘rona and is one of the last times I remember being out and about without a mask on. So while I look at this ornament longingly for a time before 2020, I also look at it with the hope that one day this will all be behind us.

5) The Shark

My roommates and I nabbed this guy when I signed us up for a bar crawl a few years back. He came in our gigantic fishbowl of a drink and, me being the sentimental being that I am, stuck him in my purse to keep forever. For reasons lost to time (and alcohol) we named him “Timothy Bruce Henry” and he might be the only homemade shark ornament I’ll ever encounter.

6) Candy Cane

These are a staple on my grandma and grandpa’s tree that were handmade by my grandma herself. And not to paint myself as a thief, but (along with shark) I also stole this. But it was from my grandparents’ house and they have lots of extras and definitely would have freely given it to me if I asked—so it’s only, like, half stolen.

7) Michael Strahan

As a Giants fan you can’t not like Michael Strahan. And as a loyal Giants fan, you can’t not look at this ornament and feel desperately nostalgic for a time when you were a Superbowl champion. *sigh*

8) Jameson Distillery

For the longest time it was my sister’s dream to go to Ireland, and in 2016, we were able to make that happen. Then, in June of last year, we were able to go back—and even visit London and Paris too!—to show our family the place we’d fallen in love with, which made it all the more incredible. This ornament is from one of our favorite places, and where, without shame, we all got a little buzzed at 10:00 a.m. on a weekday morning.  

9) Turtledove

Similar to the candy cane, this ornament has special meaning as it came from my grammie and papa’s tree. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t steal this one, though I might say I did, just to up my street cred. Because as we all know, stolen turtledove ornaments are worth infinite street cred.

10) Cheeseburger Topper

While tradition is key during this time of year and one might expect to see a star or an angel at the top of the tree, we consistently and unabashedly put this cheeseburger with legs on top. I can’t tell you why or when it started, only that it is strange and glorious and weirdly normal at this point. It makes me smile every time I see it, and especially every time someone comes over and takes brief moment to pause and ask, tentatively, “is that–is that a cheeseburger?

The Solvang Postcard

In the fall of my senior year of college—which as I type this I realize was nine years ago, YIKES—I studied abroad in Australia. While there, one of my absolute favorite things was to write and receive letters from friends and family back home.

I love mail in general, but being a whole continent away and receiving things from the people I loved back home not only made the first few weeks easier to adjust, but made the remaining five months all the more fun. I was practically a regular at the post office, and there was an entire drawer of my desk filled with envelopes, stamps, and handwritten letters that I still have to this day.

One that stood out was a postcard from my grandpa. “You’re not the only world traveler!” the note on the back started, “Grandma and I went to Denmark. Played golf & ate at Anderson’s Split Pea Soup Restaurant. Quite a trip – took 1hr & 15min each way. Saw lots of Danish shops & houses. Took 3 days so we were exhausted when we got home. Love you bunches – Gma & Gpa”

Maybe it was the startling opening of my grandparents being in “Denmark”, maybe it was the note explaining it had taken them one hour and 15 minutes to get there—from California—or maybe it was just because I hadn’t head of Solvang before, but I never forgot this postcard. It made me smile thinking about my grandma and grandpa on vacation, golfing and exploring this strange and—judging by the pictures on the front of the postcard—very cute town.

A few years later, after my grandma passed away, this postcard became even more sentimental. I felt like it was a tangible memory from their marriage and of the life they lived together—a little piece that they wanted to share with me, that I could have forever. And so just as I kept the postcard, I kept a constant curiosity about Solvang—wondering what it would feel like to stand where they stood all those years ago. And this past weekend, I finally got the chance.

To celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday, our family of five spent the weekend in Solvang. We walked around and saw all the Danish shops and houses, we ate split pea soup at Anderson’s, and though we didn’t play golf, we did go wine tasting and feed some ostriches. (Yes, you read that right.)

We did Solvang our way, just as my grandma and grandpa had done it their way. And even though our trips were almost a decade apart, I still felt like they were right there with me. I still looked for the two of them walking down the street up ahead of me, and imagined them sharing split pea soup in the booth next to us.

Being where they had been made the postcard come to life, and caused it to hit me in a different way. It made me sad knowing that when my grandpa wrote that note to me, none of us had any idea we’d be losing grandma less than a year later. It made me wonder and worry about what might be coming in this decade to follow my own trip to Solvang. But then, it also made me think again about their trip. About the forethought they had to grab a postcard for me, one of their 11 grandkids and 3 great-grandchildren (at the time), and about how much that said about them and the love they had for each and everyone of us. It made me happy to think that they went on this trip and so many others, building their lives together and sharing it with us.

On our last day in Solvang, I grabbed a small, souvenir windmill that is now sitting on my desk. Maybe one day someone will ask me about it and I will pull out the postcard to explain where it all started. Maybe that will inspire another generation to take that trip, and as they walk down the streets and eat split pea soup they’ll look for me just as I looked for my grandma and grandpa, and just like that we’ll all be together again.

This Post Was Brought to You By Amy Grant

The living room is empty.

My dad is at work and my mom is in the other room, maybe cleaning or reading or talking on the phone.

I am eight years old, and I am in the mood to dance.

I sift through the CDs on the shelf, press the power button on the stereo, and open the tray of the seven disk CD player that I have already flagged as something I need in my own house when I grow up.

Amy Grant’s The Collection goes in the disc one spot. I turn off shuffle.

I hear the CD start to spin and I wait, wiggling my toes on the large oval rug where I usually spend my Saturday mornings hunched over my favorite yellow controller playing Zelda on the N64. The moment the music starts, I skip to track seven. Then I scoot back to the center of the room and place my hands in front of my face—my fingers spread wide.

The opening notes start and I wait, holding my pose, until Amy Grant starts to sing Emmaaaannnn-uel, upon which I start moving my hands up and down and around my face, assuming I look as poised and mysterious as the high level contemporary dancers at my dance studio—while in reality I probably looked like I was trying to swat a fly away from my face in slow motion.

When the chorus hits, I throw my hands in the air and jump around, singing my heart out, free, though never distracted enough to miss the next round of Emaaannnn-uel’s and their corresponding hand choreography.

When the song ends, I consider starting it again, but then skip forward to track 11, like always. There is no choreography to this song, just slow swaying around the room. I hold my hands out in front of me as if I’m dancing with someone, and move from the living room to the dining room and back, unaware (and unfazed) that a good portion of the song is in Hebrew.

As the last few notes fade out, I return to the rug, preparing for my big finish. I Have Decided comes blasting through the speakers and I begin to march around, agreeing with Amy with animated fingers that point to the ceiling. I close my eyes and wave my fists, willing her words, her decisions to be true for me too, and it makes me feel grown up. At the end of the song, I walk over and turn down the music, then lay down on our green couch.

The next song starts and I bob my head but I don’t stand up. I turn over on my side and look at the doorway leading to the hall. I know that if I turn left through that door I’ll find my baby brother’s room and the room I share with my sister, and if I turn right I’ll find my mom and dad’s room, where I’d spent last Sunday night sleeping on the floor because I had a nightmare. But I don’t move, I just lay there for a while, bobbing my head without a care in the world, already wanting to start the CD—or my version of it—over again.

How My Family Watches Postseason Baseball

Postseason baseball is in full swing (pun intended), and in my family that means there is a lot of pacing, a lot of swearing, and a lot of yelling that makes our dog hide under the table.

And since I can’t invite you over to watch baseball with us because playoff sports are a borderline intimate experience that not everyone can (or should) experience together, I thought I’d give an inside look (and listen) at the goings on inside our house when our favorite team is in pursuit of a championship.

Superstition

  • At the start of the game we all choose a seat, and though it’s unspoken, it’s a well-known rule that these are our seats for the rest of the game—no matter how long it may last.
  • Rally caps are a must when we need to score runs. Generally this means turning our Dodger hats backwards, but depending on the need or the overall intensity of the game, creativity with and interpretation of “rally cap” may reach unexplored territory.
  • “Nervous pee” is a thing, as is “lucky pee” and “unlucky pee” and it is up to the owner of the bladder in question to determine what decision can most benefit the team.

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Trash talk

  • This is a full family effort, and often builds into full fledged bullying, which I only condone because it takes place inside the walls of our house, never to be repeated…until the next game, upon which we only build off our ruthless ~creativity~ and whittle you down to your very bones.

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Friendly fire

  • When our boys are performing poorly, it is not uncommon for us to begin trash talking them in our best not mad but disappointed, or at times not disappointed but furious tones of voice, because it is important for us groaning couch blobs to let the elite athletes competing at the highest level know they could try harder. And honestly I think they would agree.

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Unexpected affection

  • This is mostly my mom and I. While brutally loyal to our team, if you put an underdog, a comeback story, or just a kind humble man in front of us, a small part of our heart will melt and we will mumble good luck to them—not in this moment or this game, but in the future, far away from us and our championship, where we hope they will thrive and be happy.

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Endless jabbering, clapping and apologizing to the dog

  • At a certain point encouraging anecdotes like “let’s go” or “you got this” become as easy and mindless as breathing. If given a nickel for every time one of us mumbled a cheer to ourselves, the room, or to a player by their first name, we might be able to buy season tickets for life.   
  • Our dog, Meeka, is not a fan of yelling or even minor bursts of enthusiasm that aren’t directed towards her, so there is a good portion of time dedicated to calling her over to apologize for all the screaming—only to scream again a few minutes later. As a result, she usually spends games under the table or outside barking at passing dogs, probably saying things like, “my family is crazy!” or “please take me with you on your walk, baseball is on again!” or maybe “Go Dodgers! All other teams are inferior!!”

No matter what, every game is an emotional nightmare journey, one which I’m sure will turn us all grey before our time—but I love every minute of it. 

91 Birthdays and Now I’m Counting Too

This past weekend we celebrated my grandpa’s 91st birthday.

It was a happy day filled with good food, lots of sunshine, and a big reminder of the many good things (and especially good people) I have in my life.

The most important person of the day, the ever handsome, ever lovable birthday boy, pulled up to the party in one of his most stylish (and one of my favorite) Dodger themed button down shirts, some nice pants, and a pair of shades. Throughout the day, I couldn’t help but look over at him, sometimes catching him looking at me, maybe to wave or stick his tongue out, and wonder how he was feeling.

When asked how he is doing, his go-to answer most days is that he’s doing okay. He says he feels old, and on some days, on especially good and sassy days, he’ll slick his hair back and tell you he feels oh, just as wonderful as ever. And while I know there are lots of hard layers to his answers—that he’s tired, his knees hurt, he misses my grandma, he’s not sure how much longer he wants to stick around—there are also good ones—he’s proud of the family he’s built, he’s always excited to hear what we’re up to, and he’s curious to see what another day holds. Still, I can’t help but feel like there is so much I don’t understand and can’t understand until I (or IF I) am lucky enough to reach the age of 91.

It’s hard to believe that I’d have to live the life I’ve lived twice more to reach my grandpa’s age. And if I do, it’s hard to comprehend how much I will see and learn and experience in that time. Not to mention, how different the world (my world and the world at large) will look in 61 years. It’s startling and overwhelming, but also inspiring because it makes me realize how much life my grandpa has lived.

I would consider myself very lucky to be sitting in a backyard on a Sunday afternoon 61 years from now, looking out at a family I built, and eating a cake they made just for me. And I’d like to think in that moment I’ll think of my grandpa. I’ll think of how perfect the weather was at his 91st birthday and how lucky I felt to be a part of it. I’ll remember the sound of the excited chatter and the laughter and the clinking of drinks. And then maybe I’ll look over at a certain granddaughter or grandson who I catch looking at me and I’ll stick my tongue out.

There is More

Since I have been lucky enough to continue going into the office for work, I am among the (far fewer) commuters in the morning and afternoon. And lately on my way home, I have been taking the freeway a few exits past my own, and then driving up and down the side streets around my neighborhood, just listening to music and decompressing. I like looking at the different houses—especially the front doors, I love a pop of color on a front door—and seeing which roads wind into each other, which ones dead end, and which go up into the hills.

I also like driving around and finding the little spots that hold memories for me, some good, some bad, some from over a decade ago, and some from only a few months before everything shut down.

I can drive down the street where the food trucks park on Friday nights, where my cousin once jogged down the very windy, cold street to get a churro for us to split before the cart closed.

I can drive past the pancake restaurant my friends and I use to eat at once a week in high school, before we spent the night driving around blasting music—sometimes with added choreography.

I can drive past the front lawn where I saw the boy I liked take prom pictures with another girl.

I can drive past the park where I ate cake with my best friend the week before she moved away.

I can drive past the house with the orange tree out front, where my grandparents use to live and my papa used to let me sit on his lap while he pulled into the driveway.

On some streets I can hear myself laughing so hard with my friends that I can’t breathe; on other streets I can feel the heaviness of a hard day and hear the sad songs carrying me home; and on some streets I think of a specific person, specific food, specific weather pattern or specific song for reasons I can’t remember anymore.

More than anything, the driving around reminds me that the world is still out there. It reminds me that I’m alive—that I’ve lived a life. And it gives me hope that I still have lots of life left to live.

There are more memories to make out there, more spots to claim pieces of my mind and my memory. There is more than what I see from inside my house, more than what I feel inside my own head, and more than what we hear on the news or social media. There is more out there and we will find it.

Strange Things I’ve Heard My Sister Say While She was Playing Animal Crossing

My sister works hard. She has a tough job that keeps her mind (and schedule) constantly busy and so when her workday comes to an end, it’s no surprise that she looks for ways to decompress. Sometimes this comes in the form of an early bedtime, sometimes it’s exercise, sometimes it’s dinner with friends, and sometimes it’s Animal Crossing.

Having played the game when it first came out on the Nintendo Game Cube in 2001, she was excited when the new version for the Nintendo Switch came out earlier this year, and bought it on a whim while we were out on one of our very first quarantine shopping trips.

Personally, I don’t play the game and so my understanding is based solely on what she tells me. Thus, in the time I’ve spent sitting in the living room watching TV while she plays Animal Crossing in the chair next to me, I have heard plenty of out of context comments that, while I have no doubt make sense to her and other players of the game, tend to sound a little strange to those of us who remain uneducated in the *island* life.

Here are some of my favorite things I’ve heard her say:

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How much is this antique chest? Ugh, it’s 20,000? I only have 80,000 left because I spent all my money on turnips.

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I feel like there’s a trick to catching sharks that I don’t know.

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Damnit! I got stung by bees again.

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I dug up all my money trees today.

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*talking to our friend Kristine on the phone who was also playing Animal Crossing*

Kristine: Would you like a piano, a guitar, or a keyboard?

Natalee: I’ll take any of those instruments because I’m trying to create an instrument land.

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Should I give my sea things to back to the beaver or sell them to Tom Nook?

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I’m just shooting down balloons with presents.

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I love that you can change clothes in the refrigerator.

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I need another retro chair to complete my kitchen.

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*gasps* I’VE FALLEN IN A HOLE!

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Me (while Natalee showed me the house she’s built in the game): What are those things hanging on the walls?

Natalee: All of my awards.

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How do I make my mailbox cuter?

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This green goat really isn’t that nice. I tried to make him leave by giving him a trash wall that I built, but all he said was, “not sure what I’ll do with this.” I hate him.

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I made a new summer wreath for my door.

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Somebody gave me a karate outfit today. It wasn’t very flattering.

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Has anyone seen where I put my scuba mask?

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Hold on a second, I have to take my fossils to the museum.

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How to Make 2020 Memorable (In A Good Way)

This past weekend I was sitting on the beach with some family, listening to music and watching the sunset, when my cousin Amanda posed a question.

I know that 2020 hasn’t been great, but I think we should each try and think of something that we’d like to do by the end of the year to make our year positive and memorable.

We each took the question in, and then went back to the music. We hummed and danced and occasionally used anything close by as a microphone, all while letting that question twist and turn in our minds.

I had a particularly hard time coming up with an answer, which surprised me, especially because I am such a goal oriented person. But even when ideas and answers were brought up—like seeing a drive in movie or going to the Grand Canyon—my mind still drew a blank.

At one point, I lay my head back on my towel and looked up at the sky.

“Look!” I said, pointing up at the now dark, starry sky, “I think that’s the big dipper!”

The group looked and excitedly agreed and then eventually fell back into swing with the music, this time with the intent to “get our cardio in,” which mostly meant jumping up and down in time with the music, running around our spot on the beach—which was by that time was completely dark and empty except for us and our little electric lantern—spinning with our arms out and our heads tilted up towards the sky, anything that made us feel good, got our hearts racing a little faster, and gave us an excuse to eat an ice cream cone later.

On the drive home (which did include an ice cream cone) I still thought about the question. I was the only one to not give an answer. But when I got home and I relived the afternoon and evening in my head, and I looked at the pictures we’d taken of the sunset and the videos of us singing and dancing around our speaker, I realized why I had struggled so much.

This year has been tough for all of us—in ways we all understand and in ways only you and me can understand. I have had obstacles and hardships you haven’t and vice versa. This year will forever be memorable, but it is not over yet, and sometimes I feel like I’m in survival mode, hiding and waiting until it is.

But just as I wrote in this blog post a little while back, and just as Amanda brought up on the beach, there are still ways we can make this year good. There are still things we can gain from 2020 that we might not have had the time, energy, or inspiration to in any other year.

So I encourage you (and me, because I still haven’t thought of an answer) to think about a way you’d like to make 2020 memorable. It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant or expensive, it just has to be something that gives you that good feeling—like sitting on the beach with people you love and singing Celine Dion into a shoe microphone.

The goodness of 2020 is still up for grabs, and I think it’s about time we went out and found it.

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If you have any ideas for how you want to make your 2020 memorable, please leave them in the comments! We could all use some inspiration. white-smiling-face_263a

Learning Internet Slang (Part 5)

It’s that time again, my friends.

Time to search the corners of the internet for the strangest slang terms in circulation and then see if my friends and family have any idea what they mean. As always (in my opinion) the guesses were better than the actual answers, and we even decided to completely redefine one of the terms—at least in the confines of our family.

Here were the results:

1) Speaking cursive

Urban Dictionary Definition: speaking so abstractly it sounds like gibberish; usually performed when intoxicated.

Dad’s Guess: Being very elegant and precise when you talk. Because cursive is impossible for me.

Natalee: You have the most “print” style writing ever.

Mom’s Guess: Quoting someone else.

Natalee’s Guess: Talking fancy? Like, “Now you’re speaking cursive.”

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2) Simp

Urban Dictionary Definition: someone who does something nice for the person they have feelings for in the hopes that it will make that person want to date them.

Natalee’s Guess: I put “so important.” As in the “s” from so and the “imp” from important, and you would say, “that’s a simp thing to remember.”

Mom’s Guess: Simple. “That’s so simp, I could do that in a minute.”

Natalee: That’s where my head went first too, but then I thought, “That’s too simple.”

Mom: Too simp?

Natalee: Exactly! That’s so simp!

Dad’s Guess: I did the same as mom. I said easy, as in, “I could do that for you, it would be totally simp.”

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3) Big yikes

Urban Dictionary Definition: a situation that has evolved from a “yikes” to a more severe type cringy, uncomfortable, embarrassing or otherwise unfortunate moment.

Mom’s Guess: Holy moly! Big yikes! Something bad.

Natalee’s Guess: Oh no. Wowza. That’s a bummer. Big yikes.

Dad’s Guess: Super scary but in a stupid sense. Like if my parents almost caught me with alcohol when I was younger, big yikes.

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4) Wheeling

Urban Dictionary Definition: used to describe the phase before two people start dating

Dad’s Guess: When you decide you’re down with being a third wheel on a date, you’re just wheeling.

Natalee: Hey guys, I’m wheeling tonight.

Everyone: OOHH I like that!

Natalee’s Guess: Following someone or going after them in a pining or obsessive way. Like, “I’m wheeling for you.”

Mom’s Guess: “I’m taking off, I’m wheeling to the beach.”

Me: *gives real definition*

Natalee: I like dad’s way best.

Me: I agree, do all parties agree that this is our new definition?

Natalee: Motion carries.

Me: *bangs imaginary gavel*

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5) Periodt

Urban Dictionary Definition: when you finish a sentence and you know you were damn right, another way of saying, “and that’s final.”

Natalee’s Guess: End of story.

Mom’s Guess: Over it. Periodt. Done.

Dad’s Guess: Mine’s horrible. I thought it was something a guy would say to his friend about how he was on his own tonight because his gal is on her cycle. Like “period time.”

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6) Curve

Urban Dictionary Definition: to ignore, avoid or sidestep someone’s obvious expression of interest through flirting or any means of advance.

Natalee’s Guess: An unexpected turn. That took a curve.

Dad’s Guess: When someone’s telling you to change the subject fast. Like if I was talking to Troy (my brother) and he saw mom coming and thought I should change the topic he would say, “curve.”

Mom’s Guess: Twisted. She cray cray. She is curved.

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7) I’m dead

Urban Dictionary Definition: you died of laughter; something was so funny that you laughed so hard you died.

Mom’s Guess: That’s when I’m in trouble with my mom. Big trouble.

Natalee’s Guess: When you are so over or cringed out by a conversation that you are dead.

Dad’s Guess: Anytime that something affects you so much that you can’t take it anymore.

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8) JOMO

Urban Dictionary Definition: Joy of Missing Out; when you cherish moments of aloneness.

Natalee’s Guess: It’s the opposite of mojo. When you’ve lost your mojo, that’s when you’re jomo. “I feel really jomo right now I need my mojo.”

Mom’s Guess: I don’t know, something with motion? Like, join the motion.

Dad’s Guess: Well that’s funny, because mine was join the movement.

Mom: Come on, jomo with me!

Dad: We’re going to the park today, come on jomo!

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9) A Karen

Urban Dictionary Definition: the kind of person who is unhappy when little things don’t go their way; the “can I speak to your manager?” kind of gal.

Mom’s Guess: Is it the opposite of bye Felicia? Instead of I’m over you, bye Felicia, it’s *smirk* hellooo Karen.

Natalee’s Guess: She’s like that voice command in your car that always goes, “please fasten your seatbelt.” She’s such a Karen. Like, she’s such a bitch.

Dad’s Guess: It’s the boomer version of a female. When a younger person feels that they are out of touch with reality or too set in their ways. “Don’t be such a Karen.”

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10) Clout

Urban Dictionary Definition: being famous and having influence.

Mom’s Guess: If you have clout you are respected.

Natalee’s Guess: Yeah, you carry weight around here. You’re important.

Dad’s Guess: Reputation that elevates your status.


 

You can find the previous version of this post here.

An Ode to Tuna Noodles

Dear Tuna Noodles,

Thank you, for being you. Thank you for your egg noodles. Thank you for your tuna. Thank you for your cream of mushroom soup. But most of all, thank you for your 100% not organic or diet friendly or doctor recommended Velveeta cheese.

Thank you for all of the evenings that you cooked in the oven at my grandparents’ house, in my childhood homes, and in friends’ kitchens. Thank you for your heaping portions on the plastic plates that my cousins and I decorated and my grandparents kept on a shelf just for us; and for those on the spring pallet glass plates that my parents still have in their cupboard to this day; and even for those in deep set bowls that somehow still managed to encourage a second and third helping.

Thank you for being easy to make, for giving me something I could cook with my grandma and my mom, and by myself when I studied abroad and wanted a taste of home. Thank you for the memories you unlock with every bite—be it a weeknight conversation at my grandparent’s long, padded dinner table, a lazy Friday night sat on my parents’ kitchen stool with the broken leg, or a living room crowded with family, pets, and TV trays set up in front of a Dodger game.

Thank you for teaching me what comfort food is, and for giving me a recipe to share at every bridal shower I will ever attend. Thank you for giving me something to fall back on and to build up from. I’ve come a long way in my cooking, and I can only hope I have a long way to go, but you will always be my first love. So thank you for all the love. And again, for the Velveeta.