Monday, April 24, 2017

Career Change?

I really love my job. I love teaching college students--traditional and nontraditional. I love talking about literature and advocating my liberal feminist agenda. I don't love grading papers, but I really love (most of) my colleagues and (most of) my students and the fact that I have to sit down and read novels and it's "work."

The thing is, I almost went to law school.

I had a total freak out my senior year of college. I was graduating with a business degree, but I loathed my business classes and had chosen my major because I didn't know what else to do with my life (Terrible choice! If you don't know what to do with your life, AT LEAST do yourself a favor and choose a major in the humanities). I talked with a friend who'd graduated a couple years before me with a business degree and he was working in a cubicle. He tried to sell me on it (and he's since become very successful doing something business-y, I think), but it sounded TERRIBLE to me. I went to a career fair at Mizzou and I remember talking to the nicest person at the Edward Jones table who was telling me that I could be a financial advisor and I felt like I was circling the innermost circle of hell. Like all my instincts were screaming RUN, but I just kept smiling and nodding and clutching my resume in my sweaty hands.

I thought for a long time (probably about three weeks in undergraduate time) about what I wanted to do. My favorite classes were literature (Shakespeare) and political science. It was probably because they were the two best professors I had, but still. The classes were great. So, naturally, I decided I should either go to law school or graduate school for English literature. Both professors were really encouraging.

And I couldn't decide.

Instead of just choosing one, I studied for both the GRE, the subject GRE in English literature, and the LSAT. I made myself crazy. (And the guy I was sort-of-but-not-really-dating at the time didn't help). I took all three exams between October and December of my senior year of college, and I basically cut back on eating and sleeping in order to make that happen. Things I did not cut back on: partying and going to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night. Which begs the question: WHY do we let 21-year-olds make big decisions?

Also, 9/11 happened my senior year of college, and it completely altered my mindset about the future. I wanted to do something that mattered, but also something that I actually, genuinely cared about--not just something that was easy for me to get good grades in. It was like it had just occurred to me for the first time that my life could get cut short without warning, and I wanted to do make the most of it in the meantime. Also, I think I was scared of graduating and being a "real" adult. (Haha, if only I knew now that this is a concept that still eludes me at times--except when ordering salad at the deli counter, obviously.)

I actually scored better on the LSAT than I did on the GRE, which made me lean strongly toward going to law school (Look! I'm already good at this!) but my parents were not encouraging about the idea of me becoming a lawyer (seriously, like when I reflect on it, I'm kind of surprised at how discouraging they actually were... the phrase "sell your soul" literally came into the conversation), and I really had no idea what I would want to do with a law degree. Did I want to be a public defender? A prosecutor? A divorce attorney? How do I sign up to be Elle Woods? Could I be a law professor? Would I rather be an English professor? In the end, I got accepted to a few pretty good law programs and a couple of not too bad literature programs. I visited all of them, and I decided to do a PhD in literature because the financial aid package was better. (The potential return on investment was actually MUCH WORSE, but I was an idiotic 21-year-old, so such practicalities didn't really cross my mind.) Also I didn't really "decide" so much as defer law school for a year because that's how uncertain I was and I feared I would change my mind.

I'm not sure what made me stick with graduate school, honestly, because my first year was basically horrible. I didn't do that well. I felt like a total imposter. I was convinced that everyone else in my class was better prepared and smarter than I was. But maybe it was a case of the devil you know? Or a perverse determination to stay the course and prove to myself that I could do this even though it was the first time in my life that school didn't feel easy.

Anyway, I'm not exactly sorry that I made the choice I made. As I said, I mostly love my job and an academic lifestyle suits me in so many ways, and I'd rather read a novel than do pretty much anything else except hug my kids. I'm especially grateful for the flexibility and the autonomy of my job--those things are invaluable in my mind.

But, sometimes I think about what I'd do if I were to do it over and I had to do it differently. I like to imagine that I would have gone to law school and found my footing in criminal law (because civil law seems super boring to me). Then I would have gotten involved in the innocence project and gone to work for the Southern Poverty Law Center or something similar. I could write books about my work and then maybe teach law students.

Would I really want to do this?

Well, I think I'd be capable of doing it. Like, I could be good at it. And I think it's such important work, but I'm not sure I'm really best-suited for it. I imagine that such work requires really long hours, and reading boring stuff, and it probably also demands an enormous emotional investment, or an enormous amount of energy devoted to NOT getting emotionally invested.

I hate reading boring documents, and also the literal life-or-death stuff is undoubtedly way more stressful than the students who merely think their GPA is life-or-death, so I think that's something I'd really struggle with.

But still... my fascination with criminal law cases, with false convictions and unjust incarcerations, with the school to prison pipeline... sometimes I wish that I could do something more concrete with my concerns and my sense of injustice. (Besides talk about with literature students... we occasionally get off on a tangent.)

So... I'm curious. If you were to go back to school and drastically change careers, what would you do? Or how and why did you decide to do what you did? Can you imagine yourself doing something else?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

And now, the quiet grief.

Here's something new.

The thing about grief is that it's bottomless and endless and nonlinear and constantly ebbing and flowing... and yet, the basics are always the same thing on repeat into infinity. 

I miss her. I wish she were here. I don't know exactly how that would fuck with the space-time continuum or the butterfly effect or whatever metaphysical corridor in which we exist, but I will always want to be a mom with three [visible] kids. Stair step little girls. I want them all here.

What is new is not that I miss her; it's when I miss her.

It used to be the lead up to holidays. The empty days and dreadful anticipation. All I could think about was how much I'd looked forward to sharing that day with Eliza--my plans for photos and gifts and the start of ongoing traditions and how everything had crumbled. I'd imagine all the other people with babies--those I knew and those I didn't--making their plans and enjoying their holidays. I imagined those who knew me thinking of me with pity, with relief that it was me and not them who landed in the slimmest of odds, the deepest of grief. But then when the day arrived, we changed plans, ran away to Mexico, ignored the calendar, found a distraction, and the actual day wasn't as brutal as the wind up had been.

After Zuzu was born, the anticipation was a little bit fun again, though always bittersweet. Still, I was eager to experience holidays with my rainbow baby and even when my heart ached, I refused to let my grief cloud her experience. It sounds odd, but I didn't ever want Eliza's death to be a source of resentment or weirdness for Zuzu. So even when I could hardly stomach a Christmas tree or Zuzu was still too young to care about hidden eggs, I did my best to make her holidays festive. She'd see more of my tears and hear more about death than most kids on a regular basis, I'm sure, but I didn't want grief to overshadow holiday memories. 

And yet I couldn't help but miss Eliza right in the thick of it. We'd be surrounded with family at Christmas, baby Zuzu being lovingly passed from one auntie to another, and suddenly I'd feel the weight off all I lost. It was thrown into relief by what we were so luckily able to experience with Zuzu, but it was still breathtaking, the heaviness of that pain. I'd think that a holiday was going ok, I'd be enjoying myself, and then I'd consider the age and stage Eliza would be, and I would feel my throat thicken with unshed tears. I knew that Zuzu had filled part of the void in my heart, had brought joy and color back to my life, but the very happiness of her existence made her sister's life less visible, and it would take all I had not to cry at the dinner table, infuriated by the unfairness of it all.

I'm better able to really enjoy holidays now. It's almost impossible not to, seeing them through the eyes of a four year old who says things like, "Easter Eve! Oh, this is going to be the best night of my LIFE!" Her wonder and enthusiasm is precisely why Santa and the Easter Bunny exist. Coco is her little mimic and they never fail to make me laugh and to make me appreciate the hugeness of my good fortune.

But later, when Easter Eve and Easter Day are over, when the candy has been hidden in the top of the pantry and there's just a stray plastic egg half here or there, when the girls are listening to a story book brought by the bunny, when Cooper is snoring, and pastel dresses are piled in laundry baskets, when we begin the ritual of returning to ordinary life... now that's when I miss Eliza most.

I've gotten distracted, you see. It's easy to do with two little kids and all the drama that comes with them--worries about dog bites and lingering coughs and antibiotics and probiotics and nap schedules and sassy attitudes, and fun things like afternoons at the park and cuddling during the scary part of Disney movies and both girls wanting Mama's lap and pictures in those pastel dresses.

But once they're (blessedly) asleep, my heart remembers. It remembers that all day long, while we had such fun, while we saw the world through the magical lens of childhood, while we laughed and hugged and kissed and played with new toys, my oldest daughter was missing. 

It remembers the ache, which was ignored during the bustle and excitement, but has not gone away. It was just lying dormant, waiting for the moment when I could give it my complete attention. That's what it does now--it waits. Waits for the end of the day, the moment of sinking into a hot bath, the moment of folding warm towels alone in a cool basement, the moment of sliding into clean sheets in a dark room. And then it reminds me... I'm still brokenhearted. My family is still incomplete. We are smiling in this photograph, but I'm still a bereaved mother.

What's also new is that I don't feel guilty about waiting until later, until after, to have my moments of intense grief. I don't think it's a betrayal to Eliza to throw myself into Easter with her sisters and delay my grief until later. If anything, she's the reason I treasure those moments so much, and if time does give us any gifts, it allows me the space to have that enjoyment.

But in the quiet spaces at all the end of the day, I take my grief and I cradle it tenderly and I miss my first baby and my would-be biggest girl and I cry. And after a while, I marvel at the fact that somehow, six years later, I haven't cried myself out of tears.

Life is sweet. But I miss her still.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Mom Day Monday

Today was one of those days where I felt like a mom. By which I mean, I ordered egg salad at the deli counter while pushing a whiny two-year-old in a shopping cart and holding the hand of a four-year-old, and I was wearing a maxi skirt. SUCH a mom, right?

Random cute pic of the girls:

Other things (mom-ish or not) that I did today:

I got the girls up and dressed, made oatmeal and frozen pancakes for breakfast, and listened to songs from The Lion King soundtrack on the way to the girls' school. We watched the movie for the first time on Saturday (in preparation for taking Zuzu to see the play this week) and the girls liked it, but Zuzu got really anxious at the scary parts. She sat on my lap and bit one fingernail down to the quick. We'll be sticking to "Mickey Mouse's [Godforsaken] Clubhouse" for a while.

I listed to Pod Save America on my way to work and then started my work day at 9:00, checking email and hand writing stuff in my planner (so old school). I'm working on writing down every little thing I have to do. This gives me the satisfaction of crossing many things off a list, but also helps my poor brain because I can't remember it all! I also skimmed the short story I was teaching this morning (because I've already read it a zillion times) and I more carefully read an article about family and sexual politics in Much Ado About Nothing in preparation for my afternoon class.

At 10:00, I led discussion slash lectured on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez story called "Death Constant Beyond Love." We discussed magical realism and post-colonial literature as counter narratives to the dominant (white) discourse and also the idea that we all ultimately die alone. Super uplifting! Also I explained drawing and quartering a human, which is something that evidently most of my students were not familiar with. (Who's not teaching them medieval torture techniques?!)

After back-to-back lit classes, I went to my office to enter participation grades (mostly a way to penalize students who are on their cell phones or without their text books). Then I walked over to grab lunch in the dining hall with my friend/colleague, Rob, and we talked about Survivor and the huuuuge drama on last week's episode, which we both just saw over the weekend. I won't plot spoil in case you have it DVRed, but was so shocking! We also chatted at lunch with a part-time instructor who is going to start an MFA program at NYU this fall in game design. It sounds so cool! I'm really excited for her, but sad that she won't be teaching/inspiring our students next year.

At 1:00pm, it was time for my Shakespeare class and discussion of the aforementioned article. They had good things to say about it, and we also talked a bit about attitudes towards marriage (still a huge social expectation, regardless of gender/sexual preference, and with no other personal "accomplishments" that are comparable). We also talked a bit about the transformation of the word "cuck" (from "cuckold"--a man whose wife cheats on him, and a serious concern for Shakespearean characters like Othello and Benedick). We also talked a bit about challenging gender roles and a young woman in my class commented that she runs cross country and can drive a stick shift, but she couldn't get a job as a valet last summer because men don't trust women to drive their cars. I don't frequent a lot of valet-park establishments, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a female valet. I sure hope there are exceptions to that rule...

After class, it was office hour. I checked email, graded, and requested a couple library books. (I want to read Thirteen Reasons Why before watching the Netflix series all my students are talking about, and I also want to read Sheryl Sandberg's new book Option B about life after loss, so I put it on hold.)
My office hour was up before my work was all finished (story of my life). I fretted about the stack of ungraded essays and wondered how I'd get 22 of them graded by Friday (spoiler: I probably won't).

Then it was time to head out. I had to leave work at 3:00 to have enough time to get to the girls' school, get them loaded up, and get to the doctor's office by 4:00. The downside of a 30 minute commute. The upside is that I was able to finish listening to the podcast.

Coco had a doctor appointment because she had a run in with a chihuahua over the weekend. It started out a friendly encounter that appeared mutually agreeable, but the moment I relaxed and quit hovering, something went awry and poor Coco ended up with a dog bite on her sweet little cheek. She was freaking out, I was freaking out. It was awful. It didn't bleed, but it did break the skin in a couple of places, so I called the pediatrician today to ask about potential for infection. It's already looking a lot better, but he wanted to see her, and he ended up prescribing an antibiotic. (Dog saliva: not as bacteria-laden as cat saliva, but still not something you really want inside an open wound.)

So we left the doctor's office and stopped at the Whole Foods a couple blocks away to get a probiotic and some other groceries. Coco was hungry/hangry/whiny, so it was not super enjoyable. She kept asking for peanutbutter, like she just wanted to scoop it from the container into her hands? I also have stopped indulging in the option of opening a package of food for my kids in the store and letting them eat it before we've paid for it. I've realized that's a [white] privilege not afforded to everyone. Fortunately, the ciabatta bread samples were legit equal opportunity, so my children dined on crusty bread while I bought overpriced produce and egg salad.

We spent ten minutes in line at the pharmacy drive through, listening to "Hakuna Matata" on repeat, and Coco's medicine still wasn't ready and they said it would be 15 more minutes, which made me feel very ragey and not at all hakuna matata-y. I said I'd be back and headed for home, but my car was running on fumes so I had to stop for gas while the girls continued to rock out to "Hakuna Malala," as Zuzu calls it.

Poor Cooper didn't get a walk tonight in spite of the beautiful weather because by the time we made it home from those errands, I only had 40 minutes to make dinner, switch the laundry, clean up the kitchen, and get out the door to swimming lessons. Cooper let me know how he felt about this by pulling my bag down from the bench by the door and eating the granola bar and several of the cough drops that were in it while we were at swimming lessons. He's such an A-hole sometimes. (But at least he doesn't bite kids' faces!)

I scrambled eggs and made toast for dinner with a side of grapes (cut up, because I'm totally paranoid). Zuzu was eating her toast and then said, "Look! I ate my toast into a gun!" And it did kind of look like the shape of a revolver. I told her that seemed kind of scary and she said it was just toast. I asked her what guns are for and she said that poor people have to use them to shoot animals for food. That seemed like a sufficient explanation for now, though not without its own socioeconomic baggage....

The girls were excited for swimming, so they got their swim suits on and packed their pajamas without much nagging, and I tossed the laundry in the dryer and started another wash before we headed out the door.

Swimming lessons went well. The girls wore new swim suits from the Easter Bunny. Zuzu's is a size 5T tankini that says "Mermaid at [Heart]" on the top. Coco's is a size 24 month tankini. I'm not sure why the Easter Bunny brought her such a small size, but I guess she is a bit of a peanut because the bottoms were so big her little butt crack was hanging out. (Add "take in swim suit bottoms" to my planner's to-do list.) Zuzu was a good listener and Coco was very brave jumping in (and her bottoms didn't fall off!), so lessons were successful.

Of course my kids dawdle getting out of the pool, so we missed the first round of shower rooms but we got a fully-accessible shower on round two, which was nice because the handle is low and the kids can sit on a bench. It was not so nice when I grabbed a towel for Coco and turned around to discover her LICKING the bench in the shower (omg! at least she's already taking an antibiotic?), but I got them shampooed and lotioned and in their pjs, except for Zuzu's underwear which had either disappeared or never made it into the bag when I asked them to pack their pjs and underwear at home. Commando car ride!

We drove home via the pharmacy while the girls snacked on Cheerios and more cut up grapes in the back seat (they're always starving after swimming) and then once we got home, Coco took a dose of her meds and they brushed their teeth while I switched the laundry again and then loaded up the diffuser with water and "serenity" blend essential oil.

Bedtime consisted of Brown Bear, Brown Bear (an old favorite), Hello, Laura (a board book version of Little House on the Prairie that's basically like "Laura likes living on the prairie" but has cute pictures), and a funny book they got for Easter about a polar bear who loses his underwear and then realizes he was wearing it the whole time but it was white so he couldn't see it. Perfect for Zuzu tonight!

Post-swimming bedtime is always pretty easy (yay for physical exhaustion!) but I did get a text from David letting me know he'd finished up with interviews at work and was going to grab a bite to eat with the interview team. I replied something like "Enjoy dinner out while I work full time and parent our children and take them to the doctor and go to the grocery store and do the laundry and cook dinner and clean up the kitchen and drive to swim lessons and bathe and dress the kids and put them bed." And then I added some smily emojis so it didn't sound totally bitchy. I know David works hard and is a supportive and active co-parent, but mercy. Today I kind of felt like I did it all, all by myself.

(Speaking of co-parenting, it made me smile this morning when Zuzu said she wanted to wear a headband to school and I said okay, but she seemed to be anticipating me saying no because she said, "Daddy already said I could!" and I said, "Okay, that's fine." And then she said, "I know, because Daddy said I could and you're a team." Yay for putting up a united front!)

Now it's past my bedtime (my phone helpfully reminds me when I should go to bed to get 8 hours in before my alarm goes off...) but I want/need to read more tonight (I'm determined to finish Chernow's Hamilton before the month is out and I'm teaching The Shining in my gothic lit class and have a few more chapters to get through--it's scary as hell!). Plus I should fold the laundry that just buzzed... Definitely don't think 8 hours is going to happen tonight.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

More Conversations with Zuzu and Coco


Um... That's Not Exactly How Evolution Works
Zuzu: (in the car, in lecture mode, talking to Coco) Do you want to learn how TVs are maded? They are made out of glass and plastic or wood.
Coco: TV! I watch a show!
Zuzu: Do you want to learn about little girls? Do you want to learn how they are monkeys that turn into people? I think they are monkeys that get old and turn into people. Did that happen to you, Mom?


Grammy's Birthday
Me: We're going to celebrate Grammy's birthday this weekend. What should we have?
Zuzu: Cake! No, blueberry muffins! (pause) And we're going to need milk, and wine, and beer.



Storm Warning
Zuzu: (coming inside the house as it starts sprinkling outside, talking excitedly) I was trying to get Coco inside because I heard a warning that lightning or thunder can shoot you in the heart. And if it gets in your body, it might make you die. Or get dead.



A Good Place to Be
Zuzu: (in the car, observing a tree that fell in the park) When we go THIS way, the tree is out YOUR window, and when we go THAT way, it's out MY window!
Me: I like how your mind figures out the world.
Zuzu: And the world is a great place to be! There's all these buildings and places to be... The world is a good place to be.



Unreliable Witness
Me: Coco, what's the matter, honey? Do you feel bad?
Coco: Yeeeeeesssssss.
Me: What hurts? Does your ear hurt?
Coco: Yes.
Me: Which ear hurts?
Coco: (looks doubtful, points to one)
Me: Does it really hurt or are you just saying that?
Coco: I just saying that.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Thoughts on this and that

It sounds so cheesy, but this morning doing yoga, listening to the sound of the girls giggling as they played outside. When David asked me if I wanted any treats from the store, I meant it when I said that I already have everything I want.

(I trust that everyone who reads the blog of a bereaved parent knows that such statements always include the caveat "except that I'd like all my children to be alive." The sometimes unstated but always unchanging truth of my life.)

* * * 

As with all things decorating, this is a matter of personal taste, but you know what I'm not into? Stuffed animal heads on the wall as decor in a child's room. I've seen panda bears and unicorns and objectively, I guess they are kinda cute. But maybe since I grew up in a place (a small town in the Midwest) where animal heads on the wall are frequently displayed hunting trophies made from taxidermied animals, I just don't see the appeal of the visual implication that you slaughtered a unicorn and have mounted the head of a dead magical creature in your baby's room. Am I the only one who sees them this way? Target seems to have made them quite popular, so maybe I just have the cynical eye of a vegetarian who grew up in a community where hunting season is a holiday.

* * * 

Zuzu has a bit of a cold--drippy nose, yucky sounding cough, low grade temperature off and on. This morning was the highest it's been--100.5 under her arm. It came down from there (without Tylenol or anything) but we decided not to go to church and spread her germs around. She's pretty droopy, but when her temp goes down she rallies, and I think it's good for her to be out in the fresh air and sunshine, so I'm letting her play outside. I just know she's not feeling like herself because we had a few friends over last night and she climbed up on my lap and fell asleep while the other kids were playing.

* * * 

Yesterday the high was only in the low 60s, but it was the first sunshiny day we've seen since returning from spring break. David put fresh mulch in all our landscaping garden beds and even though a week of rain is no fun, the grass is so green and the yard looks really nice. We had a dwarf Japanese maple that didn't make it in our front garden. It actually died a year ago, but we left it last spring or summer just in case it miraculously resurrected itself. It didn't. So, David dug it out and we replaced it with a little spiral tree (my choice from the garden shop down the street). I think it's so cute!


Here's a shot of it in context.


David works so hard to keep the yard looking nice. I think he's crazy, but I sure appreciate the results. My friend asked last night when she came in if we do the yard ourselves or hire it out. He makes it look so profesh!

* * * 

I'm planning to get a swimming pool membership this summer, but we need to be "sponsored" by someone who lives in the community. I had thought we could ask a friend of mine, but she recently moved. But David has a good friend whose parents live in that area, so we are hoping they'll let us put their name down as our sponsors. I'm already looking forward to lazy summer afternoons of going to the pool and then heading home for dinner and early bedtimes.

I decided to enroll Zuzu in one special camp this summer. I want our summers to be long and lazy for the most part, but I thought that one week would be exciting and good for her to do something new. We have a fabulous arts organization in St. Louis called COCA (Center of Creative Arts) and they do all kinds of programs and performances for children and adults, including amazing theatre and dance opportunities. I'm not pushing Zuzu toward a career on the stage, but I do hope she'll enjoy going each morning for a week for their "Big Top Circus" camp. I'm a little nervous about it, because she can be hit or miss about this stuff (one gymnastics center we attended was fantastic, the more conveniently located and less expensive tumbling classes were a total bust as she refused to participate). She seemed enthusiastic when I mentioned circus camp to her; later she asked if Daddy could do it with her (uh... no. It's for 3-5 year olds.). So I'm really hopeful that she'll love it, and it will be fun to have a few mornings of one-on-one time with Coco-puff. 

* * *

One of my friends has been doing Jazzercise for her workouts. I used to do Jazzercise when I was in graduate school. I loved it and it's so inexpensive compared to other gyms or workout classes. There is an element of ridiculousness to it, but that's what makes it fun and the time passes quickly. Plus, it's a great workout. I haven't signed up yet, but I'm thinking about it...

* * *

It's April! I did not do (or receive) any great April Fool's Pranks, but if I'd gotten my act together, I would have tried making meatball "cake pops." Doesn't that sound revolting?

Friday, March 31, 2017

Spring Break: Arizona

We had such a great time visiting my aunt and uncle and enjoying the Arizona sunshine. My one regret is that we didn't have enough time to meet up with a couple of other friends and fellow BLMs I know who are in the area, or my cousin Casey and his family. We'll just have to go back for another trip! 

Here's a quick recap, with a few pics.

I ordered these dresses before we left, knowing that my rainbow-loving rainbow babies would be into them. I did not realize quite how NEON colored they were, but it made them easy to spot on the playground. The girls really love wearing matching clothes right now, so even though Coco has plenty of hand-me-downs, I can't resist getting them a few matching things each season.


Trivia of no interest to anyone but me: Coco's feet are ahead of Zuzu's feet schedule. So while she's wearing the same clothes that Zuzu wore at the same age, she's outgrown the shoes. Zuzu's feet were too small for these cute white sandals (Striderite, size 6.5) until after she turned three, and even then they were very roomy. I was pleasantly surprised that we had these little-worn sandals that were a perfect fit for Coco-puff.

My aunt had this poster made for Zuzu's first visit to Arizona (oh, my heart!).


She looks a little different standing under it now.

And she surprised us with a matching one for Coco!



The first full day that we were there, we went to the park and let the girls splash in the pool and generally just took it easy. That night, we went to dinner at Ajo Al's. When I was a kid and we'd stay with my grandparents in Mesa for a week each spring break, my aunt Peggy would pick me up and we'd go out to dinner, just the two of us, at Ajo Al's (she did the same with my brother). One of my favorite memories probably from the time I was in fifth grade or so is driving in her Camaro to the restaurant, eating a cheese crisp for dinner, getting fried ice cream for dessert, and then going back to her house and watching Romancing the Stone. If we didn't get fried ice cream, she'd make chocolate waffles back at her house (a secret family recipe that is so delicious). Anyway, the girls wore adorable coordinating dresses to dinner, and agreed to pose for a picture in Peggy's front yard.

 Coco ended up getting a grease stain on her dress that I'm still working on, but that's because she ate three slices of cheese crisp. Zuzu decided she doesn't like cheese (WHOSE CHILD ARE YOU?) so she ate plain tortilla. Eye roll. Here's a picture of Coco enjoying her cheese crisp and Aunt Peggy enjoying a chip:


We met up with friends from Kansas City and went to a spring training game. The weather was lovely but the sun was so hot. I was glad I packed the girls swim suits because the rash guards meant less surface area to get sunburned. We brought a couple of golf umbrellas, but when the afternoon sun is high, shade is scarce.


Mia's due date was two weeks before Eliza's, and I did a lot of wandering around the ballpark with the girls, so people assumed all three of them were mine. This picture makes my heart itch for so many reasons.


The girls were good sports about spending time in sports bars on the trip. Between the World Baseball Classic and March Madness basketball, there were a lot of sports to watch on TV.


We did a little shopping one day in Old Town Scottsdale. Zuzu choseher souvenir bag of "gemstones," which kept her remarkably entertained. She ate a hotdog bun for lunch, and then an old man who was having lunch at the next table asked David if he could treat our girls to ice cream. Zuzu isn't much for sweet treats, but she licked the strawberry ice cream and when it fell off the cone onto the floor, she happily ate the plain cone.


Meanwhile, Coco was not messing around and did a very good job of eating her cookies & cream ice cream cone before it melted. We're so proud. (In the background behind her in the black hat you can see the guy who bought their treats.)


I wanted a family picture, but we are all squinting into the sun and Coco was beyond ready for nap.


I'd promised a splash pad, so we sought one out and went to Scottsdale Quarters (I think that's what it's called). It's a pretty upscale shopping area (Lululemon and Free People overlook the splash pad) and that part would have been way more fun if I'd been there without kids. I managed to browse in Gap for a few minutes, and if I'd wanted a wool sweater, they were having some great sales!

This picture of the girls cracks me up because it's such a representation of their demeanor at the splash pad and really in general. Zuzu is ALL IN, completely soaked in the first moments of arrival, jumping up and down in the fountain. Coco is much more cautious, taking it all in, observing her sister, and refraining from getting her hair wet. I just love them both.


Peggy's pool isn't heated, so she really uses it just in the summer months. But a little thing like 70 degree water is not going to prevent Zuzu from swimming. She jumped in every morning and every afternoon, splashing around, jumping, and swimming, until she was so cold that her body was shivering violently. Then we'd wrap her up in a big towel and carry her inside for a warm shower. Coco put her feet in, but on one of our last days, she decided she was brave enough to jump in, if Aunt Peggy would get in the pool and catch her (Mama refused because I'm the meanest--that water was FREEZING!). They had a great time, though it wasn't long before all three of them were ready for warm showers.


Every spring break should involve plenty of popsicle eating on the patio. These matching dresses were $5 each at Wal-Mart. The girls love that they have pockets, and I love that I'm not worried about a drippy popsicle.


One of the highlights of the trip was having my friend Brandy and her husband and kids come by Peggy's house for chocolate waffles. The kids played wildly and it was so much fun to see them together. It had been a long time since Zuzu and Ben had been in the same place, and the last time I saw Brandy in person, Claire and Coco weren't here yet!


It was five days of fun and sun and no real schedule (we didn't even try to keep the kids on central time, and Coco skipped a nap for the first time in her entire life), we were both sad and ready to get home and back to the familiar routine. 

Truth be told, I was actually ready for ANOTHER vacation, this one without my children, because of that old truth that vacationing with kids is actually just parenting them somewhere else, only with less sleep and more junk food. NOT EASY. 

As I mentioned before, poor Zuzu got sick on the way to the airport (and barfed again mid-flight), so the trip ended a bit dramatically, but even thought I had to go back to work feeling a bit more crazed than relaxed after a week in the sunshine, I'm glad we went. Traveling with kids always means a few more battles and the internal debate about whether to just chill (so what if she only eats grapes and plai tortillas, it's vacation!) or be consistent about enforcing naps and schedules. David and I pretty much opt for Vacation Mode when possible, but toddlers need consistency and naps. So it's still true that a vacation with kids is just parenting in anew place with less sleep. But still worth it!  


As we move from the "baby stage" of life, I do have a lot of mixed, bittersweet feelings. I've said this before, but I think part of me will always want another baby, or another chance to have what I'll actually never get--grief-free baby time. As sad as I am about leaving behind that stage of curled up nuggets of baby with their perfect smelling breath o my neck, I'm also finding that hanging out with these two as they get older is pretty fun. Especially on vacation.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Zuzers

She's been "challenging" at school this week.

Last night she was still awake when I got home from book group at 9:20pm. When I got out of the shower at 9:45, David was asleep and Zuzu was no where to be found. She was downstairs eating slices of wheat bread.

This morning when I asked her (again) to get dressed, she said, "Ugh. Are you kidding me?"

When she told Coco goodbye today, she said very seriously, "You're sick, so you cannot kiss anyone. Only hug them."

In short, she's pushing boundaries, being sassy, and generally asserting herself in the best and worst ways. I worry about her, about the spirited defiance and delighted enthusiasm with which she greets the world.

I don't always know what to do with her, but I sure do love her.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Show Switch - Ask the Audience

I think I've mentioned before that we bought season tickets to the Fox last summer as an anniversary present for each other, mostly because we wanted first dibs at the Hamilton tickets when the show comes to St. Louis in the 2017-18 season (April of 2018!!!). I'm a Hamilton nut, as evidenced by the fact that my two year old can sing along to the soundtrack (questionably appropriate language at times, but worth it for the history lesson, I say). We've enjoyed all the shows this year--David's favorite was Once and my favorite was Cabaret. It's been a great way to get in a monthly date night and have an excuse to dress up.

David's school is taking a group of students to see The Lion King this April, so we bought discounted group tickets so that Zuzu and I can go along, and I'm really looking forward to taking her for the first time. She's a little young for an evening show, but I think a matinee with a group of elementary school students will be her jam. I've seen Lion King before and I think she will love it--I need to remember to show her the movie before we go.

Anyway, I haven't seen any of the shows that are in the upcoming regular season. We also have the opportunity to switch out one show from our regular package to something that's not in our series. Sound of Music is coming one weekend in February, and I know I want to take Zuzu to that show. My question is, since I'm not familiar with any of these, which show do I trade in for it?

The King and I

The Bodyguard

Get On Your Feet (I danced to this Gloria Esteban song in sixth grade, so it's possible they may want me to join the show.)

School of Rock

The Color Purple

So... which one of those should we NOT see? Which one would you switch out for Sound of Music?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Break Stupor

We returned Monday from our spring break trip to Arizona. We had a great time, and I will recap the trip (this week! seriously, it's on my list!) but for now: bullet points. Mostly about barf.

* Zuzu barfed on our way to airport. Said her stomach hurt and we blew her off, then she blew chunks all over herself and the backseat of the rental car. Then I had to hang my head out the window and dry heave after I smelled it. (Note to next drivers of the black jeep grand cherokee from Alamo: Sorry. We used all our baby wipes and did the best we could to clean it up.)

* Zuzu barfed again about an hour into the flight. She was in the window seat, I was on the aisle, David was across the aisle, and Coco had (luckily) just moved over to sit on David's lap. Zuzu told me her stomach hurt and then I watched the color drain from her face. I leaped up and ran to the back of a plane to ask for a barf bag (there weren't any in our seat pockets). The flight attendant gave me a garbage bag and I raced back to the seat and caught some/most? of it. Somehow it seemed to ricochet off the bag, splattering poor Zuzu's face and hair. A bunch of barf ended up on the sleeve of my sweater, and a nice splattering all over the middle seat and the back of the seats in front of us.

* With the help of the very nice flight attendants who provided lots of paper towels, I was cleaning up the mess when Coco decided suddenly that it was completely unfair that her sister get all of Mama's attention and she would throw a massive tired-two-year-old-temper-tantrum until I finally stopped cleaning up barf, stuffed my sweater into a garbage bag, and picked her up and held her while David finished cleaning up the seats and Zuzu.

* Two-year-olds have no compassion for illness. There will be no sharing of strollers, mamas, blankets, or other comfort objects just because someone barfed. Two-year-olds are kind of selfish A-holes sometimes, but very cute when they dance.

* Zuzu didn't cry at all when she threw up on the plane, even when puke was dripping down her cheek. She just sat there, all pale and pitiful, while we cleaned her up, then she fell asleep for the remainder of the flight.

* Love is kissing the forehead of a sleeping person even when they have barf breath and barf hair.

* I swear next time, wherever we go, we're scheduling a two-day cushion at the end of the trip before we have to be back at work/school. Laundry is pretty much done, but after staying home with barfy Zuzu yesterday, work feels hectic and scrambling.

* Zuzu also barfed when we got home from the airport. David was fumbling with the key to the backdoor and I was doing that thing where you're yelling at your spouse in your head, "Oh my GOD just find the right key already!" but thank the baby Jesus it took him thirty seconds to put the stupid key in the lock because Zuzu unexpectedly barfed (mostly just water, which she'd been guzzling moments before) all over our back steps. I leapt backwards out of the way to save my shoes, but still held her hand and tried to make comforting noises while also fighting the urge to dry heave. At least we could just hose off the steps.

* I'm reading an amazing biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow--the one that inspired the musical Hamilton. It's fascinating, and it's making me appreciate Lin Manuel Miranda and his lyrical genius even more--he's pulled so many key phrases out of Hamilton's actual letters and writings. I'm really enjoying the book, although I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked over spring break due to the fact that hanging out with a preschooler and toddler basically consists of being interrupted every thirty seconds, even on vacation.

* We have a high of 50 degrees today. That's FREEZING, you guys.

* I had to drop out of a book group that I joined.The purpose of the book group was to discuss issues of race and social justice and the first book we read was Waking Up White, which was fantastic and illuminating. This time, new session, new group, and we were going to talk about a Jodi Picoult novel. I haven't read much Jodi Picoult but I know she's pretty popular and I figured a novel would be a pretty quick read for me. I knew that the plot started out with an African-American nurse treating a baby whose parents were white supremacists. I did not know that she was a labor and delivery nurse (I'd just assumed ER or pediatric nurse), and I did know what happened to the baby. I won't plot spoil it all for you, but at a certain point in the first 100 pages, I knew I would not be finishing this book or participating in a discussion group about it. Ugh. Unexpected grief-smack.

* I think I'm still on Arizona time. Took me forever to fall asleep last night and I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I may need a caffeinated pickmeup.

* Flying into the airport in Arizona reminds me of going there as a kid to visit my grandparents who lived in Mesa. This was way back in the day when they could greet us at the gate, and it was so much fun to run off the plane and see them and get scooped up into hugs. My grandma always smelled like delicious perfume and always wore her jingly charm bracelet. I'd hold her hand and when we got in the car, I'd turn the bracelet around and look at all of the charms. I was feeling so nostalgic about this that I wore her charm bracelet to work today. It makes the same jingling sound that I remember, but I wish I could ask her about a few of the charms whose stories I can't recall.

* Zuzu created several pictures of desert plants and animals and we taped them together to be a poster that she took to school today. Her teacher said that she could share it during circle time. She was so proud of it that it made me misty-eyed and I showed off this photo of it to my childless colleagues because I am insufferable (they were kind enough to admire it).

Lizard * Jack Rabbit * Road Runner
Rattlesnake * Prickly Pear Cactus * Saguaro Cactus

* I ordered a swimsuit. A one-piece mom-suit. I read something recently that really resonated with me--the idea of body neutrality. I don't want to hate my body, but it seems to be asking a lot to love it--especially when I'm feeling pale and cellulitey. As this article suggested, I'm actually happiest when I'm not thinking about my body--when I'm not self-conscious and I'm not worried about what I look like. It makes a lot of sense--neutral is also pretty ideal when it comes to your body feeling physically healthy. So I'm not looking for a swimsuit that makes me feel like a supermodel, just one that lets me not have to tug and tuck and think about it when I'd rather be playing in the sand with my kids (or, let's be real, when I'd rather be reading a book in a lounge chair while David supervises our children).

* I let my students out 5 minutes early today. They commented that Spring Break had changed me. LOL. I'm so chill now.

* Papers to grade, Shakespeare to read, congressional phone calls to make. No rest for the weary and all of that. It's Wednesday but it feels like Monday, which makes for a short but very packed week.

xoxo

Friday, March 10, 2017

Curie

My brother and his wife had a baby girl Tuesday. They named her Curie Talcott Taylor (after Marie Curie, and my mom's mom, whose maiden name was Talcott). I personally thought Ada Lovelace Taylor would have been a nice choice and also a shout-out to a female mathematicians, but they didn't give me the option to name her. Go figure.


Anyway, since this is a blog about ME and MY FEELINGS, I just want to say this:


I'm thrilled for them. I'm so happy that she's here and healthy and that her mama is also doing fine. I'm relieved the way I still am about every baby who is born healthy and alive.


And yes, I would be lying if I said there was not a pang of jealousy. I'm jealous of everybody in the world who has a healthy living baby. But I am not feeling pangs of resentment. I obviously wish I had had that living-baby birth experience three out of three times, but I don't begrudge them theirs, and I'm also relieved to be able to say that honestly.


Would I have felt the same way five years ago?


Probably? I mean, this is my baby brother. But the pangs of jealousy would have been way, way more intense and painful if this had followed more on the heels of Eliza's death. I'm grateful for the time and space that allows me to celebrate this baby with only the faintest twinges of sadness for myself.


I'm grateful for the passage of time that has made it easier for me to love generously and not react to other people's families as a personal attack against me (because it was IMPOSSIBLE for me not to take other people's babies personally for a good long while--and it's still not always easy!).


We won't get to meet Curie until June, when we meet up with them for a beach vacation (yay on so many levels), so we're face-timing tonight so the girls can say hello to their new little cousin.


And yes, it's still true that when I imagine photos of three little girls on the beach, my heart itches.


But whether there are three girls where there should be four, or two girls where they should be three, or (perhaps in a few years) five girls where there should be six, my heart will always itch. I will also miss her. I will always, always wish that Eliza were there.


And even though I know that having Eliza here might have put everything on a different course, I can't help but imagine that, had she lived, our plans for having two-maybe-three kids would have given us our same three little girls--Eliza, the baby we planned and hoped for, Zuzu, the younger sibling we knew we wanted her to have, and Coco, the unexpected baby who was the best surprise ever.


The truth is that as thrilled as I am to welcome Curie to the family, it's also impossible for me to see pictures of any baby swaddled in that striped hospital blanket and not to think back on my own experiences... the soul-crushing, sickening disappointment of loss, and the rainbow babies who brought us that sweetbitter mixture of grief and euphoric joy. Curie as a newborn can't help but remind me of what we've lost, but she's also one more sweet baby to be thankful for, and I'm thankful to be in a place in my grief and my life where I miss Eliza, and I also can't wait to snuggle this new little babe.


Welcome to the family, Curie. You adorable, tiny feminist. I love you already.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Country Bunny

I took the girls to visit my parents last weekend.

David stayed home, purportedly to "catch up" or "get ahead" on dissertation work, so as to justify taking a week off to vacation in Arizona. Actually, he seemed to catch up on sleep (alone, naked, in the middle of the bed, MUST BE NICE) and maybe he also did some work, too.

Meanwhile, I single-handedly navigated my way across the state with two small children in the car. If you'd like a sense of how the drive went, let me give you this example:

As we were leaving my parents' house on Sunday, I got about two houses down the street and realized I may have left my sunglasses. I pulled into a driveway and turned around to head back and see if I'd left them on the kitchen counter (I hadn't--they were in my bathroom bag, but that's not important to the story). Zuzu asked what I was doing and when I explained that I needed to go back and get my sunglasses, she asked, "Do you know the way back?"

(We were TWO DRIVEWAYS away.)

I said yes.

She said, "Are we still in Nevada?"

I said, "No wonder this drive seems interminable to you."

But four and a half hours later, we made it home.

While we were hanging out with Grammy and Bops and the girls were soaking up the grandparental attention (from which Zuzu would brutally detox on Monday morning with a colossal meltdown when she had to get up and go to school), I put the girls to bed Saturday night and as we searched the hodge-podge of books at my mom's (minus my favorites, which I already confiscated and took home), I came across a treasure of a book called The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.

picture from here

You guys. This is the BEST Easter book ever.

I vaguely remembered it from when I was little--that is, I remembered some of the illustrations once I started reading it to the girls.

But we must not have read it too often (and it may actually have been my mom's when she was little? Our copy is a slightly moldy paperback, published in 1967). But it's still in print! And it's a perfect Easter or pre-Easter treat.

What I somehow didn't recall from the book is the kick-ass message (also, I'm not the first person to notice this--turns out The New Yorker and the Washington Post were already on it).

Anyway, so perfect for this time of year, here we have the story of the Easter bunnies. According to the book, there are five Easter bunnies, and they are selected by a Grandfather Bunny who chooses not only the best and brightest and fastest of the bunnies, but also those who are kind-hearted. It's a huge honor to be chosen, so every bunny wants to be the Easter bunny, and you only get the chance to try out when one of the bunnies retires.

Anyway, there's a little brown country bunny who wants to be an Easter bunny, but she's a small, brown country bunny (and also a girl bunny), so it seems that there's no chance for her (Easter bunnies are white and have long legs, if you were wondering). Dreams deferred,* she grows up and meets mainstream social expectations by having a bunch of bunny babies (twenty-one to be precise).

So now the little country bunny is saddled with twenty-one bunny babies, and what does a single mom with twenty-one children do?

She teaches them to take care of themselves--they cook and clean and decorate (natch). Some of them also go into singing and dancing to keep up morale.

picture from here

So she's got all her bunny kids keeping house and entertaining her (one of them pulls out her chair when she sits down to dinner), and they get word that there's an opening on the Easter Bunny team, so they all go to watch the competition.

At this point, if I'd been ask to predict the plot, I would have said that one of her bunny babies (perhaps the chair puller-outer) would get selected as the new Easter bunny, and she would have the satisfaction of being the mother of an Easter bunny.

BUT NO.

The little country bunny HER DAMN SELF gets selected as Easter bunny because she's fast and clever and organized. And even though she's saddled with a litter of bunny babes, she's taught them all to be self-sufficient, so it's no trouble for her to travel for work.

And then she goes on an Easter bunny adventure that involves some struggle and setback and some magic shoes.

picture from here
I love this story! The story of a mama bunny whose career dreams are still alive even though she's got a few gray hairs and (undoubtedly) some loose skin and a bunch of whiny kiddos. She totally leans in, and she nails it.

Also it's less than ten bucks on Amazon right now. Stick in all the Easter baskets you've got.



*If you caught this reference, name it in the comments and you win an A in my literature class.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu AND Coco

Making Valentines

Zuzu: This is so beautiful. This one is for me!
Me: Well, we're making all of these for your friends.
Zuzu: But, I also love myself.



Happy Hour

Zuzu: What would happen if kids drank wine?
Me: You would get sick.
Zuzu: And die?
Me: Probably not. But you'd get sick and not feel good.
Zuzu: And stay home from school?
Me: And Mommy and Daddy would go to jail because we aren't allowed to give kids wine.
Zuzu: Jail?
Me: And then where would you live? With Miss Hannigan in an orphanage?
Zuzu: No. I'd live with Grammy and Bops.



We Seriously Don't Go There That Often

Coco: Target!
Me: Yep. There's Target.
Coco: Where Coco, Zuzu, Mommy live!



Overheard...
Zuzu: I love you, Coco.
Coco: I love you!
Zuzu: It's good to have someone in your family who loves you so much.


Pizza Party


Zuzu: I ate my pizza all gone.
Coco: I ate my pizza all gone in my tummy! I ate my pizza all gone in my foot!
Me: It went all the way down to your foot?
Coco: Uh-huh!
Zuzu: My pizza went all the way down to my vagina.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Winner, Winner, Early Bird Dinner

Let me share a life hack with you that I'm maybe totally late to the game in discovering... or maybe I'm actually a couple of decades early, come to think of it.

We had awesome plans for Saturday night--we were meeting up with a group of friends (four other couples) to do an escape room! (so fun, right?). We'd actually scheduled this originally in December, then it got canceled due to ice/snow, so we rescheduled and because we're all busy people and some of us work on weekends, the first time we could all get together again was February 26. So the anticipation was huge! And the plan for us to be there at 6:30pm on Saturday night.

Most of the gang lives out in west county, so they were going to do the escape room and then head back toward home for dinner/drinks after. Because we live in the city and we both have 30 minute (or more) daily commutes, that plan wasn't ideal for us. We talked about going out to dinner downtown afterward, just the two of us. Then one of the couples asked if we wanted to go with them to an early dinner before the escape room to a restaurant near our house that they (and David) had been wanting to try.

I checked with our babysitter that she could adjust her timeframe, crossed by fingers that the Copper Pig would have something vegetarian for me to eat, and we agreed to meet for dinner shortly before 5pm.

After all this planning, the escape room ended up getting canceled. Womp womp. I'd even bragged about it to one of my classes. But they had evidently double booked us or lost our reservation or something. Thankfully, the organizer of our group called about it before we all showed up there, but it was really disappointing to get that text about 3pm on Saturday.

Since we already had a babysitter coming, though, we decided to stick to our dinner plans and YOU GUYS. It was the BEST idea ever.

We snacked instead of eating lunch so we were hungry when we got to the restaurant just before 5pm. Carol and Aaron had already grabbed a table (not difficult to do, as there were only a few other people in the restaurant). We had great service, delicious food (they substituted jackfruit for meat on my veggie-cheesesteak and it was great!), a couple of cocktails, fun conversation. And we were finished at the restaurant by 6:30pm! We went out for ice cream and STILL got home by 7:30pm.

An added bonus: Our babysitter got to sit through the ridiculousness of the dinner hour with my children and we didn't have to deal with their demands or complaints. She played with them and wore them out and when we got home, they assumed it was really late and that we'd let them stay up! So bedtime was a piece of cake. After we put the kids to bed, date night got to continue in sweatpants on the couch and Victoria on PBS. It was awesome.

I realize that everything about this revelation is the definition of incredibly lame, but I am embracing the lameness of this stage of my life. 5-8pm date night is the answer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oh, Heeyyyyyy There.

Here are a few things I'd like to talk about:

What is UP with March and February having matched up dates and days of the week? It is making life confusing yet also making it easier to remember what day of the week certain dates fall on. But I keep flipping back and forth in my planner and forgetting which month I'm on.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it on here or not, but I found a crazy deal on flights to Phoenix and we booked a spring break trip to Arizona (in March). We'll stay with my aunt and uncle in Scottsdale, meet up with friends from Kansas City who will also be in Phoenix to watch some spring training games, and meet up with friends who are moving to Scottsdale and will be there to scope it out. I'm really looking forward to it--I think the girls are at a pretty easy travel stage and we should have a good time.

I swear I don't compare my kids except to marvel at how special and unique each of them is, but you guys, Coco in general is SO MUCH more chill than Zuzu. That's not to say that she doesn't have her moments, but Coco at age 2 is at least as easy as Zuzu at age 4, so that pretty much sums it up. Traveling with 2 year old Zuzu was dicey. Traveling with 2 year old Coco is going to be a cake walk.

(I hope those aren't famous last words... knocking on wood now).

I forgot to mention these when I was talking about favorite things around the house:


These light switch extenders do exactly what their name suggests--they extend down from the switch so your kid can turn on and off the light herself. At first I thought $20 for a 3-pack of glow-in-the-dark plastic moons on sticks was a bit steep. But I got so tired of "Moooooooooom, can you turn on the light?" and lights being left on all the time. So I ordered these and installed one in each of the girl's rooms and one in the bathroom. Game changer! It took a few days for David and I to get used to them, but now I don't even notice them.

I'm working on having my kids be more independent (Montessori school sent home an article about it). I know they are very capable, I just either get impatient or want to avoid a mess and so I intervene. But I'm really trying to step back from that. I bought a small glass pitcher (with a lid) for milk that I put in the fridge so they can pour their own without trying to lift the heavy gallon, and moved their cups to a kid-accessible cabinet. (This summer, they'll be cooking their own breakfast--I just have to figure out the best way for them to access the microwave for oatmeal and frozen pancakes since it's mounted above the stove...).

I finally saw Hidden Figures--I ended up going with friends to a Saturday morning show at 10:25am! It was great because I had a leisurely morning but after the movie I still had my whole day to be productive.

(Although, on this particular day, "productive" meant taking a tired and cranky four-year-old shopping for new athletic shoes. Is anyone surprised that this did not end well and we came home with zero new shoes? The little turkey flat out refused to try on any shoes that weren't pink and insisted on wearing pink tennis shoes to school today that are a size too small. After a tearful meltdown when I refused to spend $30 on a hideous silver pair that featured two characters from a cartoon that she has never actually seen, I was so fed up that I came home and ordered a few different pairs of shoes for her to try on and keep/reject at home.)

Saturday night, David and I saw Something Rotten at the Fox which was especially fun for me since I'm teaching Shakespeare this semester ("He's the Will of the people!"). We also ate at a nearby restaurant where we'd eaten a couple months ago before another show and split a pizza and a bottle of wine. It was really great, and it made me think about where I am on the spectrum of wanting novelty or wanting familiarity. I choose familiarity/predictability over novelty a LOT, you guys.

I don't know if it's because life in general feels busy, or if it's especially because the political climate makes me anxious, or if it's still a holdover from grief/trauma. Even when it comes to fun stuff, I'm just more apt to choose a place I've already been, a restaurant I know I like, and even order the same thing off the menu. Even the clothes I buy are starting to look the same--shirts in the same style or color or pattern (how much navy blue does the average person have in their closet?). I order the same flavor concrete every time I got to Ted Drewes (the All Shook Up--Reese's peanutbutter cups and banana). Am I just boring?

I'm not sure if it's a habit I need to resist, or something I can just rest in for the time being. I think especially because I'm making an effort to do more and do new things when it comes to political activism and social justice, I am not going to worry too much about the fact that I'm basically a boring person who enjoys routine.

In that regard: Despite the fact that I don't like talking on the phone to people I don't know, I've been calling my senators almost every day. I've found the website 5 Calls to be really helpful if you're not sure what issues are currently being discussed in Congress, or what exactly you want to say about them. You enter your zip code and then choose from the sidebar what you want to express your opinion about.

I called Roy Blunt on Friday to see if he would be holding a Town Hall meeting in St. Louis over the President's Day recess. He is only holding one online--on Twitter or Facebook. I think that stinks because it means he is unavailable to constituents like me who don't participate in those social media, and it stinks because he seems unwilling to meet his constituents face to face to answer questions and concerns about really BIG and important things that his party is pushing for--like repealing Affordable Care. But I now have his office (and Claire McCaskill's) on speed dial, and I leave a voicemail to talk or someone in their offices almost every day. It's going from an uncomfortable novelty to a familiar habit!

Politics aside, where you stand on the novelty/familiarity spectrum? Are you a creature of habit, or do you seek new adventures?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Few of My Favorite Things

My aunt Beth (the great) wrote me a note a few weeks ago about embracing hygge in this time of political anxiety, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot. There is a danger to turning off and tuning out the news just because it makes my chest feel tight and strained. Only people in positions of privilege can afford to ignore what's happening, and it doesn't mean that we should. So I'm trying to strike the balance between staying informed and freaking the eff out. I'm working on showing up and donating money to causes that are fighting for the things I believe in (this week, this, and this) (and not even big sums of money--I'm convinced that a little bit helps and that if we all gave $5 to the causes we believe in, we could do amazing things).


And I'm also doing some hygge work at home. Lighting scented candles, putting a tablecloth on the table, buying a new floor lamp for the living room to replace the one I've never liked very much, just creating a warmer, cozier home that can at least provide some creature comforts in the face of news that leaves me feeling powerless and confused (I mean, seriously. What is happening?)


So here are some things that are making me smile at home when I turn off the news feed and settle in for watching West Wing. #martinsheenismypresident


This felt food from Farm Fresh Felt Toys:



The whole shop is adorable--I'm also obsessed with the ravioli and farfalle pasta--I think my kids would love "cooking" with the pasta (though I can also imagine tiny pieces of pasta showing up in random places all over my house). I first happened up on the shop when searching for a donut ornament for Coco for Christmas, to commemorate her donut-themed party when she turned one (I am following my mom's tradition of getting my kids an ornament every year that reflects their interests or hobbies, but I realized that I didn't get anything in 2015, probably because that December was another difficult one for us). Anyway, the donuts are super cute and I've just ordered the eggs to put in their Easter baskets.


DoTerra OnGuard foaming hand wash

Image result for doterra on guard foaming hand wash


I love this. the smell, I love the foaming action. The dispenser is certainly not the cutest one in existence, but it gets the job done and it's not breakable. The previous dispenser we were using had a lid that pushed down and fit really snugly, so I never imagined it being a problem, but when it got dropped off the edge of the sink (not once, but twice), the top popped off and handsoap exploded all over the wall/vanity/floor/toilet in our bathroom. There are worse things to clean up than soap, but it still took a lot of towels to get the residue all cleaned up. This is lightweight, not breakable, and something I feel good about my kids using, so I'll happily tolerate the dispenser, even if it's not designer chic.


Also, I'm on a little bathroom refreshing kick upstairs, so stay tuned for my reveal of a couple of simple changes that are making me happy.


Happy in Our Skin book

Image result for happy in our skin book


This book was included in one of our We Stories sets. The words are just okay--sometimes the rhyme feels a little forced--but the pictures are adorbs. I love the mixed families, that it shows kids in wheelchairs playing at the park, and lots of adorable babies. (Coco loves looking at the babies.) My favorite thing, though, might be that it features a couple of moms who have visible tattoos. Think about it--have you ever seen a children's book that showed a mom with a tattoo snuggling a sweet baby? I love it.

Mermaid swimsuit


I did not love Gap's swimsuit offerings last year--it seemed like a lot of animal heads growing out of crotches (wow, that visual sounds much more disturbing that it actually was, and I REALLY hope that's not a search term that gets someone here). Anyway, this year I couldn't say no to a mermaid swimsuit, and I'm *really* hoping that the introduction of this suit will allow me to phase out the well-worn and much-loved Ariel swimsuit that my friend Molly handed down to us.


Diffuser


I'm such an essential oils dork, but this thing has been a neat bedtime trick. The girls watch the light show and using lavender oil or a blend for "sleepy time" makes the room smell yummy and soothing. It's become a great little nighttime ritual. (And you can't beat the price of that one for less than $20, but I like the look of this one also).


Okay, so those are a few of my favorite things. Now I need a recommendation. Anybody have any really good kid mittens? Waterproof is not essential, but I'd like them to be warmer/more substantial than the tiny stretchy ones you can buy at Wal-Mart for $1 a pair. They can't be too bulky (like ski mittens) or my kids refuse to wear them. I'm SO READY for mitten season to be over, even though it hasn't been a very cold winter at all. It's just such a hassle and my kids completely strip down to get in their car seats (well, not to nakedness, but no jackets, hats, or mittens) so things get lost in the car between home and school even if we have everything when we walk out the door--it's maddening! So, bright-colored, warm, not-too-bulky mittens that aren't crazy expensive but are worth keeping track of. Anybody?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Little Girls: The Musical Numbers

I like to listen to music in the car with the girls and after tiring of the soundtrack to Mary Poppins, lately we've been listening to an Amazon playlist of showtunes (sidenote: If you have Amazon prime and you aren't using their music app, which is basically like spotify but without commercials because you pay for prime, then you are missing out!). I was listening to a 90s mix playlist, but one day I was belting out "You Oughtta Know" right along with Alanis and when it was over Coco said, "Mommy? I no like dat song." And I was like JUST YOU WAIT, HONEY. But then I decided maybe we could some Broadway hits instead of angsty tunes from my high school years (also, I don't think it's really appropriate to sing, "I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me" in front of my kids.. Sidenote: Is there a Kids Bop version of Beck? Asking for a friend.)

After "Seasons of Love" from Rent and "Luck be a Lady Tonight" from Guys and Dolls came and went without comment from the backseat, "Hard Knock Life" from Annie came on this playlist and the girls were immediately interested in the little girl voices. They wanted to know who was singing it and why those little girls didn't know Santa Claus.

Molly: Santa Claus we never see.
Annie: Santa Claus, what's that? Who's he?
All the Orphans: No one cares for you a smidge / When you're in an orphanage / it's a hard knock life.
Zuzu: Why doesn't Santa go to the orphanage?
Me: Uhhhh...

So we started talking about orphanages and orphans and how Miss Hannigan probably took the presents or told Santa not to come. They had so many questions, so I told Zuzu we could watch the movie together.

Of course, they watch something and then they immediately want to act it out. In fact, when it comes to Annie, I was really, really hoping for this. Sure enough, Zuzu said, "Mommy, will you be Miss Hannigan?"
Let me see. Will I drink heavily and mostly be in the other room while yelling at you girls to CLEAN UP THIS DUMP and to keep scrubbing until it SHINES LIKE THE TOP OF THE CHRYSLER BUILDING?
Yes, let's pretend this is a new game and not everyday life.

But seriously, it's been pretty hilarious. Coco doesn't really like me yelling like Miss Hannigan (or my enthusiastic rendition of "Little Girls"), so then she insists on being Miss Hannigan and Zuzu just runs around doing somersaults and yelling, "I love you, Miss Hannigan!" and it's pretty funny.

Coco also calls her "Hannie" instead of "Annie," which I think is because their babysitter's name is Hannah, but in any case is adorable. Coco's song request remains "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from Mary Poppins while Zuzu always asks for "Hard Knock Life" in the car now.

But Hamilton is still getting some air time--and just last night, I overheard Zuzu singing, "Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now."

I have to say, in spite of everything--executive orders, political appointments, my anxiety about the future of our country, and the pile of grading I'm supposed to get through this weekend--when I heard her singing that, I could not have agreed more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Marshmallow Test

Zuzu participated in another study for a local university's graduate students' psychology lab. They are doing a version of the marshmallow test, which is where a child is given a marshmallow and told that if they wait and don't eat it until the test administrator returns that they will get two marshmallows. The child is then observed to see whether they eat the marshmallow or trust the administrator and wait for his/her return.


Variations on this study have been done to see whether the willingness and/or length of time a child waits depends on whether the test administrator is someone the child has spent a bit of time with before the test or not, or whether they observe the test administrator doing something dishonest before leaving the room (like tearing up a paper and then lying about it).


The study we are participating in is considering race and racial difference as a potential factor in how long a child would wait, so Zuzu was given the marshmallow and promised a second one by an African American woman.


Zuzu performed exactly as I would have predicted.



Two minutes and fifty-three seconds into the experiment she had not eaten the first marshmallow, but she had followed the test administrator out of the testing room, opened the sliding door, and peered into the waiting room to ask when she was going to come back with another marshmallow.


(I should also add that the child isn't really left alone in the room--there is a grad student in there observing, but she is hidden from the child's view.)


The graduate students seemed a bit surprised by her appearance in the doorway--perhaps most kids just sit and wait (or sit and snack) instead of wandering by themselves through two sets of doors and one dark room back out to the waiting room?


I was trying to imagine what I would have done as a four-year-old. I was pretty impressed by authority and wanted to please my teachers, so I probably would have tried really hard to sit and wait for her to return (they try to get the child to wait 15 minutes, which is an eternity when you're four).


But I had to laugh because OF COURSE Zuzu wanted to get both marshmallows, so she certainly wasn't going to eat the first one before the teacher came back, but OF COURSE she wasn't just going to sit there by herself and wait it out when she could be proactive about the situation and demand the marshmallow NOW.


When her preschool teacher asked me how it went, I told her what happened and she was delighted. "That's leadership!" she said. Which is a lovely way to look at an impatient and demanding four-year-old, and is precisely why she teaches preschoolers and I do not.


But seriously, as frustrating as it can be to raise a four-year-old proactive leader who isn't afraid to ask for what she wants exactly when she wants it, I hope that is exactly who Zuzu continues to be in another decade and for the rest of her life. Give 'em hell, honey. You totally deserve more than one marshmallow on a reasonable timeline.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Resolution Check-In

In the interest of accountability and the recent statistic I heard that 95% of people have broken their new year's resolutions by the end of January, I thought I'd do a quick little check-in:

1. Read 50 books. 

I've gotten a good start here, thanks to a week of break at the start of January. I read:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

I'm almost through my umpteenth re-read of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, but it doesn't really feel like it counts since I'm reading it for class. However, it does take up a lot of my free-reading time, so I think I probably will count it since it's a novel. I'm also reading The Merchant of Venice and I've already read/taught Othello and Hamlet this semester, but I'm not counting plays.

I'm currently reading Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (for book club next Friday) and You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Williams and once I finish those I'm itching to start Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye and It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too) by Nora McInerny (of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast).

Three books a month is not going to get me to my goal of 50, but I'll make up for it over the summer.

2. Drink 4 big cups of water a day.

I'm making some progress here. I took Amelia's advice and I'm starting the day with a big cup of water before I even get out of bed. I'm also trying to drink more water at room temperature (so European!). Goes down easier when you're chugging it, anyway. I try to guzzle a glass in the morning and a glass before bed and figure I drink two other big cups when I'm eating/drinking throughout the day.

3. Yoga.

Oh, man. I was doing SO WELL. I did 25 days straight of yoga with only one Saturday off when we went to a brewery in the middle of the day for David's friend's birthday and I defy anyone to drink two pints of Zwickel in the late afternoon and then find the motivation and wherewithal to do anything besides watch television for the remainder of the evening. But still! I was so proud of myself and then I managed to really actually seriously hurt my back and I was STILL doing yoga everyday thinking it would help and then my chiropractor advised me to rest one night, and it really did make my back feel better. So I took a couple days off to let my muscles recover and now of course I need to get back into it and it feels SO MUCH HARDER. Last night, I opted to wash my hair and read Northanger Abbey instead. Ugh.

4. Spending freeze.

This went pretty well. Slowed unnecessary purchases for sure. I'm modifying it by tracking my own non-essential spending the old-fashioned way: I write down purchases in a notebook! Crazy, right? We've decided to enroll the girls in the expensive swimming lessons starting in March because every year we go to the YMCA and then we remember why swimming lessons at the Y drive us crazy (mostly because the class size is such that each kid spends most of the 45 minutes sitting and watching everyone else rather than getting individualized attention. So, we'll be budgeting accordingly for March and April, but I think it will be worth it, especially as Coco will have her first independent lessons! Such a big girl.

5. Back up photos and blog writing.

Yeah... I'll get right on this.

6. Write.

I've been better at blogging than I have at book-working. I have come no where near 300 words a day. I need another strategy... Will contemplate and revisit.

7. Reach out.

Attending the women's march was one step in this direction. Joining a book reading group through the (liberal, progressive) church we've started attending was another. Continuing to look for ways to contribute, learn, and volunteer through We Stories is another effort I'm making. Such efforts are always very rewarding, but oooooh they are not easy. I saw a sign from the March on Washington that said something like, "So Bad, Even Introverts Are Here" and I was like, "Mmm-hmm yes." So I'm working on it.

8. Take more videos.

I have been doing this! I have a youtube channel I've been uploading to from my phone (still don't know how to do it from the video camera, but we'll get there. Maybe I can make that David's job? He does nothing in terms of memory-keeping for our family, so it would be nice to not feel like it is solely my responsibility to capture the adorableness of our children's childhood). I've enjoyed keeping this resolution, and it's a reminder of what a good idea it is to resolve to do things you really WANT to do (like read and take videos of my kids).