A party on the lake, moving, our future dog??

Whew, what a week! But a good one.

To start the week off, we attended Maddy’s surprise party on a lake. Photo sampling below:

Maddy’s surprise party on the lake.
The party planner and the birthday girl.

It was really marvelous and such a peaceful, happy gathering. More photos on Flickr.

We are in the thick of packing and moving right now, and my brain is too distracted for many eloquent words (I haven’t read a book in a few days, which feels very strange), so this will be brief. We also may have met our future dog on Friday night. But more on that later!

A weekend with the family

Betsey! Soon to be India bound! So good to see her after so long.

First, I had a sleepover with Betsey. It was wonderful. She is so much fun and so wise.

Family game of knock out. I am stupendously bad at basketball.
Kate and Sam, feigning friendship.
Kate takes on the brownie batter.

Then, on Friday, I took a half-day at work and drove home for an early celebration of Dad’s and Kate’s birthdays and to surprise the siblings. (They were surprised, but a little disappointed that it was me, because Dad had led them to believe that he was bringing home a puppy.)

It was so nice to be back there, to wander around Fisher Farm with the dogs, to eat dinner with the whole family, to drape ourselves over furniture and be totally unhelpful to mother, to sleep in the harem again. I have missed them all.

Tuesday recap

Here’s some stuff I did over our Christmas break. Now I need to catch up on work… clean the house… nap…

All holiday photos on Flickr. Maybe later I’ll talk to you seriously. And then debut my top 10 (fiction) books of 2011!

Monday Snax

Family + Dublin
My family + our surrogate dog, Dublin.
Thanksgiving girls
Girls of Thanksgiving. L to R: me, Dana, Grace, Emily, Kelsey, and Nicole.
Proper Pratt siblings
Pratt siblings on our best behavior. Win is so stoic.

Ah, Thanksgiving. It was so ideal. The weather was divine; the food, miraculous; the company, perfect. As always, it is difficult to get back into the weekly routine, but I feel sufficiently rested and hopeful. I left ineffably thankful for our families. And I got to spend plenty of time with dogs, which was naturally another thing to be grateful for. Photos from the holiday weekend on my Flickr.

Snax with leftover turkey and cranberry sauce:

The Extraordinary Syllabi of David Foster Wallace. Kind of thankful I’m not taking a lit class with DFW. Although I think it is totally wonderful that he assigned The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. (Slate)

Women Who Write Like Men and Men Who Write Like Women. A somewhat interesting corollary to my thoughts on this matter? So, it turns out that men and women do actually use pronouns differently, and so we can overgeneralize and say that there are some “men who write like women” and some “women who write like men.” Haven’t processed the implications of this, but it’s still interesting. (Full Stop)

Joan Didion on Stage. More Didion (because I’m reading The Year of Magical Thinking right now, probably). And because she is snarky and cool. (The New Yorker’s Book Bench)

Living with (Millions) of Books. Houses without books look soulless. (English Muse)

Jonathan Lethem’s Alphabetical Absolutism: How Writers Keep Their Books. Photographs of contemporary writers’ bookshelves. I liked Junot Diaz’s thoughts on the matter of buying more books than one can read in a year. (The New Yorker’s Book Bench)

Peter Jellitsch Draws the Wind. Now that’s a crazy endeavor. But how cool is this? Very. (Fox Is Black)

Bicycle Portraits, Part III. This looks like a beautiful book. Would make a gorgeous gift for the avid cyclist in one’s life. (Miss Moss)

30 Tech Gifts Under $100. It seems all people want these days are gadgets, so this is a small but helpful gift guide for design-friendly digital-age presents. [Side note: Can I talk about how much I hate the asterisk in the Design*Sponge title? I always want to leave it out, even though copy editor rules tell me you’re supposed to punctuate a title the way a firm punctuates it. Still. I think it is stupid, Bonney. Even though your gift guides and your general website are great.] (Design*Sponge)

Constellation Calendar. Ooh, love. Even though I can’t identify a constellation to save my life (except probably Orion’s belt). (Unruly Things)

The Class Comforter. The sweetest. I would like to have that job/get someone else in my office to have that job. (Sweet Fine Day)

Ready to give thanks

Sam and Emma at Thanksgiving, many years ago. Maybe 2003?

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I am beside myself with excitement: Win, Guion, and I are trekking down to the Old North State in about an hour. Cannot WAIT. There shall be much food, laughter, and loving of dogs.

Wishing you all peace and merriment. See you Monday!

(Tell me that’s not the cutest picture you’ve seen all day.)

On not being the golden child

Mom and Sam
Mother with the sleepy golden child, Christmas 2010. Source: Me

TIME magazine’s cover story from this past week was a selection from Jeffrey Kluger’s new book, The Sibling Effect. The article, titled “Playing Favorites,” documents the phenomenon that is well-known to everyone with siblings: Mom and Dad have favorites. The basic premise of this article is that if your parents tell you they don’t have favorites, they’re lying. We’ve always protested this was true in our family, but now we have psychology and science on our side.

The general consensus of psychologists quoted in this research is that moms tend to favor the first-born son and dads tend to favor the last-born daughter.

In our family, this theory works out. Sam is a flawless demigod in my mother’s eyes; he is incapable of wrongdoing. Grace, on the other hand, has been the beloved of my father since she arrived as the beautiful, sassy blond angel. It’s not that Kelsey and I were unloved or ignored. Far from it. Kelsey became my father’s prize thoroughbred, the champion athlete, and I was my mother’s ongoing project. Since I was little, I always felt that she disciplined me the most because she saw herself the most in me. (And besides, even if I’m not my mother’s favorite child, I’m definitely my grandmother’s favorite grandchild.)

The child hath returned
Father with his favorite, who hath returned from the vast expanses of the Earth. Source: Me

We are lucky in that our parents’ favoritism tends to shift around from season to season, though. We commonly joke about our standing on the parental totem pole. Dad even once made a list of his favorite children and he likes to remind us where we rank (Dublin is almost always #1, followed closely by whomever is spending the most time at home). This shifting around in ranking does make it difficult to pinpoint who is the favorite, and in that way, I think we avoided the insecurity complexes that might have come from having parents who were obvious about their favorites.

I never believed Mom when she told us that she didn’t have a favorite, because I felt like it was impossible. You have four kids, four very distinct humans. How could you not like one just a little bit more than the others? I remember finally getting her to yield slightly on this issue. “I don’t have a favorite,” she once told me, “but I love all of you in different ways.” “Aha!” I said, triumphant. “But then you do have to love some of us a little more than others! If you love us all in different ways, then it is impossible to love us all equally.” She rolled her eyes and went out to putter around in her garden. We constantly bug our parents about this, because all we want is for them to admit it, so we can each justify all of the perceived, minute injustices we suffered for the sake of parental favoritism.

The only thing I’m worried about when/if I have children is this: What if I’m not very skillful at hiding my favoritism? What if it’s evident that I love one kid more than the other? At the end of the article, Kluger gives some practical advice: Just lie about it. Tell the kids that you love them all the same. And then maybe they’ll believe you.

What about you? Are you the golden child? Do your parents still deny that they have a favorite?

(P.S. I think these photos I’ve shared are deeply revealing and provide strong proof for my long-suspected hypothesis.)

Family love: Sam

I am writing a series of posts about why I love my (immediate) family. This is the final installment. You can read the other posts here. All wedding photographs courtesy of the incomparable Meredith Perdue.

Sam, Sammy, Samantha, Lil Bro Peep

When Samuel Chase was born, it was, collectively, the best thing that had ever happened to us three girls. He was our living doll, our breathing plaything. And he was a BOY! We had never seen one of those before. He was also the most adorable baby ever created. I wish I had photos of him as an infant to share here; these pictures would make you weep, overwhelmed by the unbelievable CUTENESS of this child. It was unreal.

We fed him, stuffed him in doll strollers, changed his diapers, bathed him, spoke for him. Mom likes to say that he didn’t learn to walk until he was three because Kelsey carried him everywhere and that he’s still a reticent talker because he’s used to the family women, his four mothers, speaking for him. Poor boy.

329/366By the misfortune of his birth order, he was forced to play with us girls. He was always a good sport, though, and tolerated our dressing him up in Grace‘s endless treasure trunk of costumes. One memorable evening, when he was about four, we put him in Grace’s beloved Queen of Hearts satin dress, outfitted him with a blonde Dolly Parton-esque wig, and called him Samantha. This proved to be immensely entertaining… until Father came home and saw his only son prancing around in a dress. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY SON??” he bellowed at us when he walked in the door. We all burst into tears–Sam most of all, because he didn’t understand what he’d done wrong. Again, the poor child. How he suffered for us.

He got shafted a lot, as the youngest. The family travel rule was that whoever was lowest to the ground had to check under all the beds before we left a hotel. This thankless task consistently fell to Sam, although he has now surpassed all of us women in height. (Grace would now be the Lowest to the Ground.) He’s always been Mom’s favorite, which was natural and unsurprising to us all, but he was never given any special privileges. He was an occasionally dramatic child (often having “the worst day of [his] life,” multiple times, before the age of eight), but probably for good reason. Dad was always intent on cultivating manliness in him, and soon Sam took over all of the yardwork and mechanical maintenance tasks that we girls once had to perform. He was expected to be good, strong, and capable. Luckily for all of us, Sam is all of those things.

Over the past few years, however, Sam has developed a wickedly good sense of humor, a softened blend of my father’s cutting sarcasm and Sam’s own gentle wittiness. I think it surprised us, to learn that Sam was funny. He spoke so rarely that we often had no idea what was going on in there. He is delightful company at any moment. And he will almost always make you laugh.

the ones that got away: maySam is known as having the best heart in our family. We tease Mom about saying this so often, but she only does because it is true: The man has a tender heart. I don’t know how it happened. By all accounts, he should have wound up bitter and confused at life, at his unfortunate birth order. Instead, he is deeply compassionate to all people, understanding beyond his years, and emotionally profound.

The story Mom tells about Sam’s exposure to Jesus always gets me, even though I’ve heard it a hundred times. Sam was about three and Mom told him the basic outline of the Gospel: God sent Jesus to earth for you; he loved lots of people while he was here; he extends love to us even though we don’t deserve it; and then he died on a cross for us. At this last point–the crucifixion–little Sam burst into tears. Mom was surprised. “Sam,” she asked, concerned, “why are you crying?” “Mommy,” Sam said, “why would Jesus die for ME?” It is a simple question, and the truest expression of humility that I know.

I can’t even tell you about Sam’s speech to me and Guion at our rehearsal dinner without wanting to break down and sob. I didn’t cry during our entire wedding weekend–except for Sam’s toast. It was simple and pure and unrehearsed. At its most basic element, Sam just wanted to make sure that I knew how much he loved me. I certainly did, and I always have. He is a good brother–the best, in fact–and my life would be profoundly empty without him. I need to do a better job of telling him that, in the manner that he told me: Simple, pure, unrehearsed.

Monday Snax

Birthday lilies from my lover!

I just have to say, I had such a wonderful weekend. I spent most of Saturday with Anna. We met at the farmers’ market, which just opened for the season, and picked up food for brunch. The highlight of the market, though, was the farmer who had a truck bed full of 10 week-old shepherd mix puppies. SO wanted to take one home. Of course. But I resisted. After brunch, Anna and I picked up her family’s young German Shepherd, Heidi, and took her to the beautiful Pen Park, where we roamed with Heidi, who swam in the Rivanna River, chased some deer, and carried a huge log for about a mile (like this, except the log was even bigger). We also got caught in a freak hail storm in the middle of a giant field. It was exhilarating. I want to do it all again tomorrow.

Saturday night, Guion and I went to dinner at the lavish Tavola as a belated birthday event. So good. And then on Sunday, we got a great (albeit short) visit from Dad, Sam, and Sam’s hockey teammate. They passed through Charlottesville on their way home from a tournament in D.C. We had burgers outside on the downtown mall and reminisced about life back home. It was great to see them, even though Sam is HUGE. I am not used to that child being six feet tall.

Snaxy snax with snax sauce:

Myths: From the Rise of the “Model Minority” to the “American Decline.” A very thoughtful and insightful piece on the subtle racism and expectations that Asian Americans face today. (Serenastyle Blog)

The Allure of Rue Montorgueil. Let’s go to France. To this street. Tomorrow. (Lost In Cheeseland)

The Rough Guide to the Waste Land. A travel guide through Eliot’s epic. (McSweeney’s)

Map of the USA from a Californian’s Perspective. Haha. At least we get to be the “Fashion Bloggers” state! (Delphine Ephemera)

Drop-Your-Jaw Embroidery. This has been heavily circulated in the lady blogosphere already, but it’s still pretty amazing: embroidered classic book covers. I think Black Beauty is my favorite. (Little Is the New Big)

Three-Year-Old College Student Really Wants to be New Jersey’s Governor. OMG. I love children. (Daily Intel)

Solid Bond in Your  Heart. Japanese children kill me. This photo, too. Tears! (Hamada Hideaki)

Dad and Emma

Dad and Emma, circa 2004

They were so in love. Today, I miss my Daddy and my late puppy, Emma. Our beautiful and neurotic Australian Shepherd. See the following e-mail exchange:

ABBY TO JFARSON:

So, I had this very vivid dream last night that Emma came back to us. We understood, somehow, that we were given a second chance with her, and this time we couldn’t let her die. It was very sweet and sad, particularly when I woke up.

Here’s an idea: Why don’t you get Mom an Aussie puppy for your anniversary!? BEST IDEA EVER! She will love you forever.

We bought a fish and a TV last week. I got my deposit back from McCauley Street, so we used the money to buy an HD flat-screen TV. We don’t have cable, but we watch Netflix on it through Guion’s laptop. It’s pretty awesome.

Miss you guys; see you in November??

xoxoxo
A.

JFARSON TO ABBY:

Eeeeemmmmma. Prettiest dog literally I have ever seen. Well there is one dog … Hint starts with S

ABBY TO JFARSON:

S? Samson? I can’t think of one among all your favorite dogs, unless you spelled Cheyenne with an ‘S.’

Too many people in Charlottesville have great dogs. Every time I go out and walk around the neighborhood or through the downtown mall, I feel the desperate need to get a dog. Sigh.

JFARSON TO ABBY:

You have a problem.

S – Samson is close.   Remember that tick-infested, mangy coated smelly dog.  Still a great dog though, but not the dog I had in mind as the coolest, smartest, greatest.

I tell Sam all the time that if he was a dog he would be this mystery dog.

The greatest dog ever is Sam, next door the Alexander’s dog.   All you have to do is spend time observing that dog and that will cure your desire for a dog.    I love telling Sam that he is just like Sam the dog.  It builds him up.

See you in November 2012.   I really hope it is not before then.

Have a good life.

JFARSON TO ABBY:

I called Sadie, Kiki because that was her real name.   Foxy?  Foxy – really now.  You are getting old and forgetful.

So dogs. You have me consumed with dogs now.

Here is my analysis of people trapped in a dog’s body:

DaDan is Blue (Quillen’s dog)

MaMaw is Belle (quillen’s dog)

Sam is Barney (Beutel, friendly guy dog)

Kelsey is Dublin

Grace is Victoria

TT is  Ebony

I am Chino (big studbolt wolf dog, killer of bulls and horses and buffalo)

Guion is Jake (Dave’s 1st)

Gran is Chance

Dave is Scoop

You are Emma (cute as can be, can run like the wind, smart, trainable, barks until she gets her way)

See you in Nov. 2013