At the End of the Day

Posted by Carly Morgan

It’s just about 4:17 and I need to make dinner in the next 58 minutes or hungry people will start to settle around our dining table and complain.

I am currently laying in bed wearing pajamas while my two-year-old relaxes next to me, playing on my iPhone. His sister has a iPad somewhere in another room.

We didn’t homeschool today.

I also didn’t do any laundry today, I haven’t emptied the dishwasher, and I thought I was going to the grocery store but it didn’t happen.

When Kyle walks in, the house will look pretty much the same as it did when he left to go to work nine hours earlier. If he’s lucky, it will also smell like dinner fresh from the oven. Right now, I’d put my money on a dinner of leftovers, sandwiches, or cold cereal.

You might wonder why I’m writing this, since I obviously should get up and throw something in the oven, empty the dishwasher while dinner cooks, and do a quick sweep to pick up whatever the kids have pulled out today. After all, I’m the stay at home mom. If I can’t do dinner and a toy sweep, what the hell am I doing?

I’m not going to lie, I struggle with this thought a lot since I stopped doing as much writing. I wanted to step away from blogging so I could focus on my family and spend more time with my kids and I’m doing exactly that. I just…I thought it was going to be more…productive. Like we would make lots of crafts and go to the library all the time and build all these memories around the city. And we do, I guess, but it doesn’t feel the way I thought it would feel. We made a banner about Spring today but that just meant scribbling on lots of paper, fighting over the tape, and reminding the kids to complain because it’s cold outside.

We also cleaned up from breakfast, which involved spilled milk, multiple trips from the table to the kitchen, dropping each utensil eight times, and rubbing the table with sopping wet washcloths (doing nothing beyond spreading the syrup around) and then trailing water around the house as they tried to dry the table with the same soggy sticky rags.

We read books, put the books away, did a puzzle, put the puzzle away, made a train track, put the train away, etc. Ultimately, exhausted with trains and puzzles and each other, we retreated to our own screens for some down time. I should totally make them do coloring pages instead. Or we should play a board game. Or I should have them help me chop veggies for dinner so they can learn about healthy food AND life skills.

I’m not. And maybe this is why people argue that daycare is better. In daycare, every minute would be occupied with some age appropriate activity and each day would bring something exciting. I would love to do that at home, but honestly I can’t. Sometimes the trains and puzzles are all I have to offer.

I want to believe that this time is good for us. I want to believe that they’ll remember that I was home with them and that we played and read and that I let them “clean” the dining room by destroying it. I also want to believe that I’m contributing to the household just by keeping them alive while Kyle is at work, even if they aren’t reading Chaucer or starting their own businesses. But man…right now, I have to admit that it’s hard to step back and see the big picture on this motherhood thing that sometimes feels like it has eaten my life.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I don’t want to be home with them, because it’s not so simple. I love being home with them, but I don’t know how to quantify it. I can’t tell how to clock my hours here without that paycheck and a quarterly performance review. Is this right? Am I doing good work? How many points did I lose when we had chicken nuggets because I knew the kids wouldn’t eat quinoa today?

And the big question…if I’m not meeting my own low bar for parenting, how could I ever manage “real” homeschooling through grade school?

Eva

Family History: Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day

Posted by Carly Morgan

I grew up believing that I was primarily Chinese and Irish. I knew that I was also Polish and thought I had some German in there somewhere, but my dominant background was Chinese and Irish. It became a running joke when Kyle and I got together. He liked to tell people that I was Chinese Irish and that I could build a whole cross-continental railroad by myself.

My Irish came from both sides. We had family stories about my great-grandma Grace being the product of an illicit affair between an Irish missionary and a young Native American woman. That story, if you remember, was blown to hell earlier this year when a little DNA research revealed that Grace didn’t have any of the genetic makeup necessary to make that story a reality. In all fairness, we have no idea at this point where Grace came from so she very well could have some Irish in there, but that’s no reason to start pulling out the Guinness.

(Just kidding. Any reason is a good reason to pull out the Guinness.)

 

Guinness

 

Anyway…

The Irish family story on my dad’s side was actually even better, from a family history standpoint, because it was a snapshot into American history and much more credible than illicit missionary affairs. The story was that my grandfather’s grandfather came to America from Ireland as an O’Lane, but he came during a time when people hated the Irish so he dropped the “O” to try to blend in. Interesting, no?

Sure, there were a couple of issues. For one, I couldn’t find a Peter O’Lane in any ship manifesto for the right time coming in to New York when I looked…but I assumed he just changed his whole name while he was at it. Then there was the issue of nobody noticing that this really Irish-sounding guy was Irish just because of his last name…which I chalked up to being a descendent of people who were really good at acting.

Or not.

I wanted to do some research into my Irish history for this holiday so I pulled out the big guns and started to really dig into the county birth records. I found Peter’s, and his dad’s, and his dad’s dad, and so on and so on and so on…

Let me introduce you to my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather:

 

Oil painting on canvas, Colonel Thomas Lane. A painted oval head-and-shoulder portrait of Colonel Thomas Lane, turned slightly to the right, gazing at the spectator, wearing a breastplate over an embroidered brown coat and a white linen/lace cravat.

Oil painting on canvas, Colonel Thomas Lane. A painted oval head-and-shoulder portrait of Colonel Thomas Lane, turned slightly to the right, gazing at the spectator, wearing a breastplate over an embroidered brown coat and a white linen/lace cravat. (Source)

 

Confused? Trying to see the Irish in there? Well, you can stop looking.

I am descended from a long long line of Lanes. British Lanes. British aristocratic Lanes, in fact, who came over in the late 1600s to buy land in America and (most likely) hire other people to work it. I’ve gone fifteen generations back and there isn’t an Irish person in site. Not through any of the wives. Not through any of the inlaws. These people are serious British.

So where did the O’Lane story come from? Hard to say. The most likely scenario is that somewhere along the line people lost track of how the family got to America and the O’Lane story was an honest attempt at what they thought was the truth. That probably happened somewhere between my grandfather and his grandfather, since people before that time wouldn’t have been trying to prove Irish heritage or assume their family tree was all salt-of-the-earth farmers. There was definitely a disconnect between the aristocracy and the group that ended up in Kansas, where my grandpa was born, so a little family history invention makes sense.

As for me, I’ve done at least ten generations in every direction for my dad’s family and if anyone out there was Irish you certainly couldn’t prove it on Ancestry.com. So thank heavens for St. Patrick’s Day where we all get to be Irish for a day. Sláinte!

To Eva on Her 5th Birthday

Posted by Carly Morgan

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Ladyface,

You beautiful girl. I’m not really supposed to tell you that you’re beautiful because all of the how-to-mom books tell me that you’ll grow up believing that only your outsides matter, but your light is shining so bright it’s ridiculous to pretend I can’t see it. You have a happy face, kid, and I’m so glad that you share that joy with everyone. And no, you can’t have a makeup kit.

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Before you were born, I had a whole person in my head that I imagined you would be. I thought you were going to be a lot like me (but smaller) and instead you are your own you and you are so YOU sometimes that I look at you and I don’t even know where you came from. You are so social and outgoing and forgiving of everyone around you. At the zoo last week, a little girl pushed you off of the tiger statue so she could climb on it and you told her that you liked her dress and that she had pretty hair. She was so excited that she ran back to her mom to share your compliments and you got your tiger back. I would have bit her at your age. I’m so glad you didn’t. I don’t always understand how you can love the whole world at once but I’m glad you do. And no, you can’t have your whole preschool class over for a sleepover.

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I do worry about your squishy little heart, just because you give it out so freely and I know that someday somebody is going to step on it and you’re not going to know what happened. I would love to wrap you up and keep you in a safe space forever but I’ve already lost that battle a few times over. I didn’t think you were going to have allergies or asthma and then I didn’t think you were going to be able to push through that and find a new normal and I certainly didn’t think you’d cheerfully accept it and show us what strength looks like in little packages. I’m sorry for the tests and the hospital visits and the fact that we can’t have a dog, but I hope you’re proud of yourself for keeping your chin up. And no, you can’t have the huge aquarium we saw at the dentist’s office.

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I have lots of hopes for you and dreams about what you might become, but if you’ve taught me anything in the last five years it’s that you’re writing your own story and I just need to hang on and enjoy the ride. So I’ll just say thanks for the happy and we love you so, baby girl. And yes, all those presents are for you.

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Happy birthday, Evangeline Delaney Morgan.

Love, Mama

Zootopia: My Reactions and an Interview with the Directors

Posted by Carly Morgan

New Disney movie!!

We saw a screening of Zootopia a couple of days ago and I have to admit that I was a little iffy on this one. If you’re ever worried that I’m fluffing my reviews up because I’ve drunk too much of the Disney Kool-Aid, let me remind you that I was among the first to report back that Disney’s Chicken Little was NOT worth seeing in the theater and since that was another anthropomorphic animals comedy-esque film, I walked into this one with a very low bar and an expectation that it would be somewhere between straight-to-video and hey-that-one-scene-was-so-funny.

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Ok. It’s actually really cute.

Yes, the animals are wearing clothes and some of the humor is directed way over the heads of any kids I know, but it’s beautifully made, the characters are very rich, and the story had a lot of angles that could start some great family conversations (reminiscent of Inside Out). Kyle absolutely loved it and said it reminded him of the great buddy cop movies of the ’80s and we both noticed the insane detail in city that serves as the background for most of the story.

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As for the kid take-aways, it’s your typical little-guy-wins-by-being-kind Disney film, but there’s also a great relationship between the two main characters, Judy and Nick, and it’s the best example of a non-romantic male/female friendship I’ve ever seen in a family film. I always had best friends who were boys when I was growing up and there was never a good model for that because the assumption is that the guy is always saving the girl or that she “wins” by having the guy fall in love with her, which is an awkward game for 8 year olds who are all “thanks but nope” about each other. Loved that about this movie.

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I actually had the chance to sit down with the directors of Zootopia today and chat about that relationship and they had some great points to make about the character development. (Light spoilers here, I guess, but it’s really not that kind of movie…)

Byron Howard: I think it’s nice that Judy is such a strong character that she doesn’t feel like she needs another character to complete her. In a lot of these cop shows, you have very strong emotional relationships between partners and we loved that potential for this movie. You almost want to see them get together because the chemistry is so good between them, but we didn’t want to make that romantic.”

Rich Moore: I like that Judy is a character that isn’t looking for romance to make her life better. She’s following a passion – a calling – and that doesn’t involve a man who is going to get her to that level. This is a maturation story of self-discovery, but she does need a friend throughout the story. She has the world against her and Nick becomes that common misfit who has had the same background. It’s difficult for one person to heal themselves in a vacuum but when a conversation between two people that share common stories can happen, that’s healing.”

They also had some great things to say about the cast and how perfect each person was for his/her character:

Rich Moore: “It’s not by chance that the characters start to look like the actors. We shoot a lot of reference video of the actors as they’re recording and our animators look at that reference video, not to copy exactly what they’re doing but to see what the expression or mouth shape was on a certain line. It starts to seep into the performance so even though you have this character with an animal face, it starts to look like the actor because the animators are picking up on those things.

We were really lucky to get the top people that we wanted for this film because what we do is we build a board of characters and actors that remind us of the character. We put it up to get everyone in the room on the same page and from that we start to think of who would be good to play those characters. Using that as the pool, we go to our casting director and say “we see them as this person” and she’ll go out to try to get those people. We were so lucky – every character, she was able to get our top pick. This is our dream cast.”

Byron shared a great story about an unexpected source of inspiration from his childhood and it would kill it if I transcribed the whole thing, so I’ll just share my audio file from the interview. I don’t usually do this, but it’s only 13 minutes long and they said so many interesting little things that I know my Disney fan friends would love to hear. It starts just a little bit late into the interview because I’m a dope who was too excited to hit record before I started asking questions…

 

Thank you to the directors for making time to chat!

Zootopia directors

Zootopia comes out on March 4th, which is both this Friday and Eva’s 5th birthday (don’t ask me how that happened!) so I hope you go and love it and send pixie dust birthday vibes to my girl while you’re leaving. I don’t know what we’ll be doing but a 2nd viewing is not outside the realm of possibility…

Zootopia screening

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