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.


Friday, March 10, 2017


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.


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!

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.


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).

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu

What Happened When Her Friend Broke His Leg

Zuzu: One time he fell and there were a lot of bruises so he had to have a cast put on and then there was a buzz machine and then the cast came off and the bruises really hurt him. And when people have a cast you have to wear your shoe under it.

Immaculate Conception, According to Zuzu

Zuzu: When I'm a grown up, my bones can make a baby.
Me: How does that work?
Zuzu: God is in everyone's bones and he helps them make a baby.
Me: Um, who told you that?
Zuzu: I just figured it out.
Zuzu: Or maybe God is in your tummy?

The Peanuts Thanksgiving Special Has a Lot of Questionable Content, Actually

Zuzu: Where did we come from?
Me: Our ancestors? Like our family?
Zuzu: Yes.
Me: England, mostly. Our family sailed over here on the Mayflower.
Zuzu: Really?! Why did we not die like the rest of them?

Some of Us Are Good Listeners; Some of Us Have Other Strengths

Me: (telling my mom about taking the girls swimming) Coco doesn't really venture where she can't touch and you can tell her not to go past here and she won't!
Zuzu: Coco listens?
Me: Yes, she listens to me. It's amazing.
Grammy: you should listen to your mommy, right? Do you listen to your mommy?
Zuzu: Hmm. Not a lot.

That Time I thought I Actually Had the Right Answer, but It's Possible I Misheard the Question...

Zuzu: Mommy, why are some grown ups short?
Me: Well, bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Remember, you can't tell what someone is like by just looking at their outsides.
Zuzu: When I grow up, I'm going to be short like you and Daddy.
Me: (laughing) You think we're short?
Me: Uh...
Zuzu: Straight up! (runs out of room)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Rise Up! And Also Do the Laundry

I was feeling really good and on top of my life a couple of weeks ago. It turns out that I need a four-day-weekend to get caught up. After I threw out my back last Sunday (woe, that makes me sound SO elderly), I was barely holding my life together this past week. I'm feeling much better now (three trips to the chiropractor later), and I've realized that the barometer of organization and productivity for me is how I'm managing laundry. If I fall behind in that area, I'm falling behind on EVERYTHING.

Anyway, I'm almost caught up on laundry now, AND I washed our duvet cover (which does not happen weekly) so I'm basically an overachiever.

One thing I've been doing differently in 2017 is using my written planner even more than usual. I bought a cheap one from Target instead of the Bando planner I had last year, and it's serving me well because it has smaller sections for individual days of the week and a full page checklist for a weekly to-do list. This just seems to work better for my life--I basically operate in weekly chunks at work and at home, so I like seeing my goals for the week (everything from "grade reading journals" to "b-day gift for Gemma") and I cross them off when they're accomplished without worrying about which specific day I get to them.

Anyway, I'm busier than ever according to this little planner, mostly because I want to RISE UP Hamilton-style, so I'm making time to call or e-mail or write my friend senator Roy Blunt almost everyday. I want to DO something and make a difference and make my voice heard on these issues that are so important to me.

But the thing is that I also still have to teach class and attend meetings and do laundry and clean up breakfast dishes and help the girls make Valentines cards and sometimes it just feels really hard to reconcile all of these things.

I swear I'm going to stop short of turning this blog into a political rant, but this Muslim ban? No. Freaking. Way. I know that our current POTUS doesn't read books, but I happen to read a shit-ton of them, and whether we are talking facts or alternative facts, I've read enough fiction and non-fiction to know that is a bad, bad way to get things started.

(BTW if you, like me, are freaking the freak out about Betsy DeVos and her desire to cut funding for special education, or Jeff Sessions and his record as a racist bigot, please see this informative post and then call a senator... any senator.)

In other domestic news of the more local and much cuter variety, we had a big event occur today: Zuzu's bangs finally got long enough that I decided to even them out. It's a little bit Mia Farrow, a little bit Lisa Loeb, but she's very satisfied with her almost-even hipster bangs.

We attended a birthday party today (only because it was for her BFF Gemma--otherwise we would have been marching at the St. Louis airport because OMFG does anyone remember that JESUS CHRIST was literally a refugee? I'm just saying.) Zuzu ended up stripping down to her underwear and I was like, "What is happening?" and another mom was like, "well, there's some nudity going on" and then I was like, "Well, a party ain't a party until a Duckworth girl strips down to her skivvies" and then all of the other parents stared at me, so I was like, "Uh, Zuzu, what are you doing?" and she was like, "Putting on this princess dress" and I was like, "Okay, well, if you could hurry it up."

(See the cutie on the right? Zuzu bit her at school last year. #nohardfeelings #imstillmortified)

She wore an outfit to the party that she selected for herself at the store and begged for and I totally gave in, which does not bode well for basically our entire shopping future, but it was so cute how satisfied she was with herself in the mirror even though now that we've gotten it home she absolutely insists on wearing the dress backwards which drives me batshit crazy, but if there's one thing 2017 politics are giving me, it's perspective. The dress is red, which makes it a "Princess Elena of Avalor dress" as far as Zuzu is concerned.

(They are holding hands because they were both star struck slash mildly terrified of the princesses.)

Getting naked at inappropriate times is a current theme for Zuzu at the moment... She was wearing a swimsuit at home the other night when a friend/colleague from work came over for dinner. He's young and single (and straight, so if you're local and interested, let me know... it's my dream to play matchmaker) and the poor guy was totally awkward uncomfortable when I told Zuzu to go put on jammies and she stripped down to her birthday suit in the middle of the living room.

"It's not polite to get naked in front of company" is one of those sentences I didn't expect to come out of my mouth when I extended the dinner invitation to Rob.

Last Saturday we had dinner with our friends Mark and Christine (and their rainbow baby Joel). I'd been looking forward to this, but it was kind of like all of our children conspired against us. Christine and Mark had taken Joel on a long walk and Joel hadn't napped well in the afternoon. Zuzu had swimming lessons followed by no nap and Coco had gone swimming and had a short nap, so everyone was overtired and crabby and/or WIRED. I'd had a conversation with the girls on our way over there about being good house guests and being polite, but such conversations have a way of being conveniently forgotten.

Basically, the adults tried to eat pizza and talk amidst my children chasing Christine and Mark's dog Howie in circles, and then Zuzu got naked to supposedly put on her Owlette costume, but then she refused to put on the bottoms (and removed her underwear) and when I suggested that she cover her nether regions, she insisted "my bottom needs to air out." And proceeded to bounce around nude-from-the-waist-down on Christine and Mark's leather sectional while Coco tried to drag out all of Joel's toys and they both kept putting baby chew rings in their mouths.

(We're available for dinner any night this week if anyone would like to invite us over.)

It was seriously so obnoxious that we barely stayed an hour, which was crappy because we love hanging out with Mark & Christine & Joel. That night was just not meant to be. The fact that both girls were sound asleep in their beds by 7:15pm illustrates how tired they were, but their behavior was still mortifying.

But, you know, a party ain't a party until a Duckworth girl gets nakie!

In other real-life news, Cooper emptied the entire contents of my work bag in order to eat a sucker while we were eating dinner at the Hi Pointe drive-in, which was good but ridiculously crowded. My parents came to visit us this weekend and babysat while David and I saw An American in Paris at the Fox (It was fantastic! I didn't realize how much ballet there would be, and I loved it! Now I want to be a ballerina.) Then my poor mom got sick (congested and generally miserable) so I'm hoping that she kept her germs to herself.

Oh, and Coco helped David make a just-for-the-hell-of-it cake

I had dinner with my college besties last Wednesday and the last time we'd gotten together was election night. We'd toasted to a female president. {Enormous sigh of sadness.} At least the dinner was fun and it was good to see them.

Now it's Sunday night, and as I look ahead to this week, I'm thinking about political action that is meaningful and feasible, preparing to teaching The Merchant of Venice and Northanger Abbey and haiku poetry, making Zuzu select her clothes the night before so as to avoid the standoff we had on Friday morning that resulted in her screaming, "These pants are tooooo SOFT!!!" as I forced her to get dressed on our way out the door, and I'm feeling pretty pleased that my DIY Essie gel manicure is still going strong. David and I have a date to see La La Land on Thursday, and I am planning to skip viewing the Super Bowl in order to watch Hidden Figures with some friends.

Life is parenting + work + political anxiety + superficial pleasures + trying to find time to hang out with all my favorite people.

Plus trying to read all the books I want to read!

I really need a four day weekend every week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Woman's Place

I attended the Women's March on St. Louis on Saturday. I'm so glad that I went and I'm embarrassed that I actually considered not going for a while. I bought a t-shirt as a donation to the march in Washington, but I wasn't sure that I actually wanted to deal with the crowds and the port-a-potty situation and all of that.

(The port-a-potty situation was stoooopid, but the Hyatt turned its men's room into a women's room in the lobby and my kidneys and I thank them.)

I would have liked to bring my whole family, but Zuzu has swimming lessons Saturday mornings, and I didn't want to have her miss that. Even more importantly, I wasn't sure about negotiating the bathroom situation with a two-and-a-half year old. So I met up with friends at the metro station. We were in two different lines for tickets, and my friend Lisa picked the right line so she made it to the front when Erin and I still had at least thirty people in front of us. We got our four tickets and got on the train. Every seat was full and people were standing when we left the station, and at each stop there were more and more women (and men and kids) in pink pussyhats with signs.

I actually felt really bad for people by the time we'd hit a few more stops, because they'd cheer as the train approached, but when it slowed to a stop they could see that we were so sardined on there that there was no way anyone else could get on. At one point, the doors couldn't even open because so many bodies were crammed in there. It was pretty intense and I ended up basically doing a backbend over a stroller for the thirty-minute ride into downtown. (At the time this felt exciting and funny, but in retrospect it was a terrible idea because I was sore the next day and then ended up injuring my back as I twisted around and bent over to pick something up. It's not quite as bad as it was this past summer when I hurt it trying to get Coco into her stroller, but I ended up at the chiropractor yesterday and now I feel very middle aged.)

(It's especially insulting because I've been keeping my new year's resolution of doing yoga every day for 31 days AND I have a new ergonomic chair for my office and STILL I injure myself. In fact, last night I ended up lying on the floor icing my back with a frozen hunk of ham because our ice packs have mysteriously disappeared, which was disgusting and of great interest to Cooper, who couldn't stop sniffing me.)

Anyway, the march was powerful and uplifting. There were funny signs and serious signs and angry signs. My friend Megan hooked me up with one to carry and made a pretty awesome one herself.

(I will also say that I feel really conflicted about the Not My President signs... Because YES I completely agree. There's nothing that could have made me vote for a Trump/Pence ticket and he is not the president that I want to see in office. At the same time, he is my president, and that means it is his fucking job to make decisions that are in MY best interest and the best interests of the American public at large. I greatly fear that the choices made by this government will be motivated by an economic pursuit that benefits few at the expense of many and by a religious conviction that ignores the separation of church and state and also ignores scientific facts.)

The energy was fantastic, the crowds were peaceful, and the speakers were uplifting and inspiring. We met up with my friend Drea who is a sociology professor whose research basically includes attending protests of all sorts, and she managed to lead us up pretty close to the speakers. I felt lighter knowing that I was surrounded by people who feel passionately about the same issues that have stirred my heart and my logical mind this election cycle, but I also felt frustrated that the voice of the majority has been ignored in this election. It worries me so much that a man who lost the popular vote but won the electoral college doesn't see those numbers as a call to listen and carefully evaluate his decisions. I've also been frustrated by people who voted for Trump who are now calling for bipartisan cooperation and unity. I don't want to be an alarmist, but I am alarmed--at the cabinet choices, at the scaling back of universal health care, at the limitations on women's rights to reproductive care.

Drea knew some of the people in the photo below, who are from another local university. I thought the guy's sign was great, but also the fact that his message is relevant is heartbreaking.

After the march I was very, very tired. I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before, and as the adrenaline high subsided, I mostly just felt sad and scared. It seems SO EASY for hard fought rights to get stripped away. I also experienced a sense of frustration and futility because I imagined that many people believed (as I did) the confident projections that Hillary would win, and so they didn't bother to vote. I have no basis in fact (or "alternative fact," if you will) but I feel strongly that if we could have predicted the way things would shake out, we would have had far greater voter turnout and a completely different outcome. (Also maybe if Georgia wasn't illegally redistricting and restricting voting access for people of color...)

I also realized as I reflected on all of this, what a different place I'm in personally than I was in 2012. Four years ago, I would have felt (and voted) the same politically that I do now, but my political passion would still have been overwhelmed by my own grief and my new role actively parenting an infant (baby Zuzu!). The fact is that it was hard to give a shit about anything because I was turned inward on my own suffering and I was more obsessed with how much Zuzu was eating/sleeping/pooping than I was interested in what was happening politically.

I'm in a different place now. Part of my role as a parent is to shape this world to be the best place possible for my children to grow up. This means that I am REALLY worried, but I am trying to hold on to feeling empowered and proactive and energetic. I am not going to STFU. I am going to speak up and speak out. I am going to vote in every fucking local and state-level election. I am going to make the phone calls and send the letters and do everything I can to fight against misogyny and racism.

Love trumps hate, and if I'm confident about anything, it's that my place as a HUMAN is in that revolution.

Friday, January 20, 2017

In This House, We Believe:

This yard sign goes up at my house today.

I believe everything this sign says. I also know that many of my neighbors disagree with some of the important points listed here (we live on a rather conservative, white, Catholic block). The fact that it feels sort of daring to put in up in my yard indicates to me how much more I need to do to speak up and take action.

I can't attend the Women's March on Washington, but I'm wearing this to work today and marching in St. Louis tomorrow.

I'd take Zuzu with me, but she would have to miss swimming lessons so we all know that's a nonstarter. And I know these are relatively small gestures, but they are also important. Here is where we begin. We begin where we are. We begin where we live. Here are the values I want to model for my daughters.

(Special thanks to Sarah for making me aware of this sign! If you want one for your yard, they are available here.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On Stealing and Nice Girls

Disclaimer: I hesitated to publish this because the thought that someone might form a negative opinion of my Special Snowflake is stressful to me, but the research I've done on this indicates that it's actually a typical, developmentally-appropriate (though obviously not socially appropriate) behavior for a four-year-old. Zuzu has an understanding of right and wrong, but she doesn't have much in the way of impulse control. And we've obviously established that she is not a people-pleaser, so she's going to have to figure out how to regulate herself, which is hard for a four-year-old, I know. Still, I hope that someone reading this will tell me that it's not impossible and that she will quickly outgrow this phase! Anyone out there have experience with this? Please tell me I'm not the only one who has a four-year-old with metaphorically sticky fingers as well as literally sticky ones.

Zuz got a few of these tiny little "palace pet" toys for Christmas. They are tiny, pastel-colored dogs and cats who coordinate with and therefore belong to various Disney princesses. They are kind of cute, really, or maybe I just have a weakness for all things in miniature. But they join Peppa and her family for rides in the PJ Masks vehicles and they dance with the little Mickey and Minnie figurines and the girls are pretty crazy about them and play with them a lot.

The other night, Zuzu had a handful of the little animals and she said, "Mommy, can I tell you a secret?"

Of course I said sure, and she held up a tiny pink dog and whispered in my ear, "I stole this from Mesa."

(Mesa is my cousin's three-year-old daughter, and we celebrated Christmas with them on New Year's Eve and the girls played together and all received palace pets presents from one of my aunts.)

Naturally, this confession prompted a long and Serious Conversation about stealing... it's wrong, it's a crime, it hurts people's feelings, we don't have the right to take things that don't belong to us, if you want something so much you should talk to Mommy and Daddy about it, you can save up piggy bank money and we can find it at a store, or maybe offer to trade Mesa for something else, but we absolutely cannot take things that do not belong to us... Blah blah blah. Followed by, "Do you understand me?"

She seemed to get it, and I was thinking that maybe the confession meant she was feeling guilty about what she had done. I was actually feeling kind of GOOD about our conversation, like she really understood where I was coming from and maybe even had a bit of a grasp on the morality of what is right or wrong.

That night before bed I told her I love her and she said, "Mommy, next time I tell you I stole something, can you not freak out about it?"

I must have just gaped at her with my mouth open for a moment because I mean really???

The next day, she had the nerve to ask me if she could play with the little pink dog (which I'd confiscated during our previous Serious Conversation), and of course I said absolutely NOT and told her we'd be sending it back to Mesa.

She burst into tears and sobbed as though I'd taken her most precious possession and tossed it in the garbage.

So then we had another, briefer, but still Very Serious Talk about why we're returning the dog to Mesa and a review on stealing (not okay, against the rules, makes people sad). I said to her, "Think how sad Mesa feels since she doesn't have this doggie to play with."

(Side note: I talked to Mesa's mom and the pink palace pet has not been missed at all--in fact, Brandi isn't sure it was actually Mesa's. But obviously that is Not The Issue. Whether or not Zuzu actually stole it, she believes she stole it, and I want her to feel remorse about it. I mean, I once stole a tiny fuzzy bear that was for sale for a quarter by the cash register of a fabric store, and I never confessed it to my parents, but I did feel guilty about it.)

Zuzu seemed to be actually considering how sad Mesa might be feeling, so then I added, "Think about how you would feel if Mesa came to your house and stole one of your toys."

Zuzu whirled around and looked at me indignantly. I thought perhaps we'd had this amazing breakthrough of empathy and understanding and we could maybe avoid a not-too-distant future diagnosis of sociopathy plus klepotmania.

"Mesa would NEVER do that!" Zuzu said, "She is a NICE GIRL!"

* * *

I admit that I had to walk away because I started laughing when Zuzu valiantly defended Mesa's reputation, apparently not realizing that she was thereby defining herself as anything BUT nice.

But, honestly, this is something that kind of weighs on me. David doesn't seem to think it's a big deal, and I do understand that she's not necessarily defined as a criminal based on what she does when she's four. I just want to make sure we're handling it appropriately.

After reading up on it, I realize that I need to not go overboard on the lecturing. Actually, it's not all that unlike our go-to lines when Zuzu was three years old and having some behavior issues. Instead of talking about how it hurts people or makes them sad, what I've read suggests I just need to establish the firm expectations: "In our family, we do not steal." The big picture explanation of why we don't do that can come a bit later.

Logically, I understand that approach makes sense for a pre-schooler. But also I just want to make sure she gets that stealing is ACTUALLY WRONG and not just that if she gets caught stealing she'll get in trouble.

Also I'd like her not to end up in juvenile detention, mm-kay?

Monday, January 16, 2017



I love listening to podcasts and I actually consider it a small perk of my job that it gives me a quite 30 minutes in the car to listen to something without the chatter of small children making unreasonable requests or complaining about things I can't control ("Mooooooommmmmmy, the sun is bothering me!"). Anyway, right now I'm listening to a lot of the Folger Library's Shakespeare Unlimited podcasts because I'm teaching Shakespeare this semester and I like to learn things on the podcast and then casually mention them during class as though I actually learned them in graduate school or by doing scholarly research like a legit professor.

But the podcast I want to recommend is Terrible, Thanks for Asking. It's so great. It's about grief, and the host of the podcast is Nora McInerny, who lost her husband to brain cancer and miscarried their second child within weeks of each other. Her father passed away a few weeks after that. So she knows something of grief, and she's honest and real about all of it. She also brings a guest in for each episode, so the first one is specifically about young widowed mothers raising their toddler or preschool age sons, but later episodes cover other kinds of grief as well--professional failure, depression, traumatic brain injury, and, yes, stillbirth and infertility. It almost always makes me laugh and cry.


My book club selected A Man Called Ove for this month's discussion, and then (sadly) had to cancel our last meeting because of weather. The book is a real gem, though. It's a little bit formulaic in the beginning, but as things unfold the characters become less cartoon-like and more and more endearing. By the time I got to the end, I had cried actual real tears and I didn't want the book to end.

Our next selection is Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, which I just started this weekend and am already loving.

I've also been reading The Time Traveler's Guide to Elizabethan England. I listened to part of it in audio, but it's a nonfiction book that I'm preferring to read rather than listen to. Also, it speaks to my genuine nerdiness that I didn't realize that a book about the history of Elizabethan England written as though it's being offered as very (very!) thorough instructions for a potential time-traveler might not have universal appeal. Imagine my surprise when David didn't want to listen to the audio book on our Midwestern tour over Christmas! Anyway, perhaps it will only appeal to a very specific taste, but I think it's fascinating. Hashtag nerd alert.

As part of our We Stories curriculum, we're now focusing on books about America with the girls. It seems especially important right now that we spend time talking to our kids about America's diversity and our (complicated) history of immigration. We've read several good books, but my two favorites are Emma's Poem (about the poem who wrote the poem for the Statue of Liberty) and Of Thee I Sing (children's book that Barack Obama wrote for his daughters that nearly moves me to tears each time I read it).


David and I caught up on the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock series. They are so good my only complaint is that I have to be focused to watch them! Last night I tried to finish a photo book of our summer vacation while watching (yes! crossing off 2016's resolutions at long last!) and I need to re-watch the episode.

I've been having a hard time listening to NPR because the news feels bad to me. But I love Samantha Bee and I can't get enough of Full Frontal. As much as I like it, I'm also kind of glad it only comes on once a week, because I don't enough time to watch all the TV I want to watch, and that makes it easier.

Last night after I'd put Coco to bed and David was reading with Zuzu, I watched a funny new show called Teachers. It made me laugh out loud a couple of times, and David said he didn't want to watch it because he has a hard time with comedies that are mostly based on secondhand embarrassment (see: why we're not listening to NPR news so much these days) but he laughed out loud, too, when he came downstairs and it was still on. I think anyone who works in an elementary school would find it pretty funny.

Friday, January 13, 2017

On Swimming

Zuzu started swimming lessons again.

If  you'd ask me, I'd say that I'd like to spend my winter Saturday mornings sleeping in (until 8:00am) and then drinking coffee while reading blogs or reading a novel and then leisurely doing a yoga video from youtube. Of course, I expect that this is all punctuated by loads of laundry and various requests from children (seriously, my kids start EVERY SENTENCE with "Mommy, I want...") but mostly it's pretty chillax.

Zuzu has started swimming lessons on Saturday mornings, so now my Saturday mornings are filled with the stench of chlorine instead of a lavender scented candle and a one-sided best-friendship with Adriene of Yoga With Adriene.

We held off on enrolling Coco in swim lessons after last year's disaster, but hoped that she would just want to play in the shallow part of the pool during Zuzu's lesson.

I don't like swimming at the indoor pool at the Y because I am a grumpy high-maintenance spoilsport, but really the water is so full of chemicals and it's never warm enough and also I don't want to feel pressured to shave my legs, and I really only want to put on a swimsuit in January if I'm going to the beach somewhere warm and tropical.

Anyway, David swims with Coco while Zuzu has her lesson and I just sit in a plastic chair and watch them all while drinking my coffee and getting a headache from the glare and the noise and the chlorine smell. Also, I struggle with what to wear because it's freezing outside but it's warm and humid in the pool area, so I was sweaty last week in my t-shirt and hoodie.

The truth is that I could stay home and David could take the girls himself and then I could have exactly the kind of relaxing Saturday morning that I want--lavender candle and laundry and yoga and whatnot--but somehow it is worth the chlorine smell and the journey out of the house in the cold and wrestling kids into and out of coats and carseats and wet swim suits and all of that because, you guys, Zuzu loves it SO MUCH.

She is thrilled to get in the water. She sits on the steps, listening (actually listening) to the swim coach, quivering with excitement as she waits for her turn. There are four kids in her class, so it's not the one-on-one attention she had in her private lessons last summer, but she does a great job. It just kills me that every time she goes under water, she comes up with a huge grin on her face.

Toward the end of her first lesson, they had the opportunity to swim freestyle across a section of the pool. The coach walked with them and helped redirect them if they got off-course. She held one little girl's sides to help her get across. When she asked Zuzu if she'd like her to hold onto her, Zuzu said with great confidence, "No, I can do it myself!" and flung herself face-first into the water with glee.

After the lesson, the coach came up to me and commented on what a strong swimmer Zuzu is and said that she did so well that she should have no problem passing into the next level at the end of class.

I was grinning as big as Zuzu.

Is there anything that feels better than hearing someone praise your kid? It's better than a compliment for yourself.

It's like sharing the secret that you hold in your heart all the time--that your kid is the awesomest and the best and the cutest and the smartest and they just need the right place and the right guidance to let them shine and be fully themselves.

And when someone else sees that and recognizes it and articulates it? It. Is. Awesome.

I just felt so proud of her, so proud of the way she is fearless and excited in the water. I marvel at the way swimming is something that truly seems to come naturally to her--all we've done is try to foster the delight that she's had literally since the day she was born.

(In those early days home from the hospital, she loved baths so much--her first smile was in a baby bathtub on our kitchen counter--but I started to dread giving them to her because she would SCREAM when they were over--no matter how warm the towel or how soothing the lotion, girlfriend wanted back in the water!)

So now I'll trade in my relaxing Saturday mornings to sit in an uncomfortable chair, wearing too many clothes for the indoor air temperature, breathing in the humidity and chlorine, because I want to watch my girl splashing gleefully in the water.

Like legions of parents who sit huddled under umbrellas in lawnchairs in freezing temperatures, or who fan themselves listlessly in the blazing sun as their thighs melt into outdoor bleachers, or whose ears ring from listening to squeaky shoes and loud buzzers in high school gyms that have terrible acoustics and smell like dirty wrestling mats, something that I never thought I wanted to do on a Saturday morning has somehow become a highlight of my week.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Christmas Redux, Part III: Traveling

We left St. Louis the day after Christmas to set off on our trek across Missouri and Kansas. Aside from the binky incident, our time in the car was blessedly uneventful, but we were busy. (Speaking of the Yucky Binky, I took Cousin Amanda's advice and took Cooper to the vet to get his butt squeezed (anal glands expressed) before we headed to Kansas. The vet tech who took care of him was very nice and declared that his glands were "Really thick and full." gag-gag-gag.

Butt juice aside, here are some of the highlights.

A conversation with Zuzu the day after Christmas:

Me: It doesn't sound like you're using a kind voice to talk to your sister.

Zuzu: Well, Elsa isn't here anymore so she can't tell Santa.

* * *

In the two days we stayed with my in-laws, Cooper peed on the carpet, and ate double his allotted food as well as David's parents' dog's food and a bunch of people food scraps he was not supposed to have. This resulted in him vomiting four times. He also stole a cinnamon roll right out of David's mom's hand, and another one off of Coco's high chair tray, so he was basically following Zuzu's logic (Elsa the Tattling Elf is gone, so eff you all).

* * *

Cooper had a vet visit that cost a million dollars because we ran a bunch of blood tests to find out if he has diabetes or kidney issues causing the peeing in the house.

No diabetes, thankfully. He's just fat because he steals cinnamon rolls.

His kidney numbers came back on the high end of normal, though, so we're shifting him to a low-sodium diet.

* * *

The girls had so much fun playing with their cousins. The weather was nice enough that they could play outside so they had some time at a park while we were in Kansas and got to play outside when we had family Christmas at my aunt Tammi's. They definitely get wild, but they have a great time together with minimal need for Peace Talks.

* * *

I struggled a little bit not just with missing Eliza, because that's all the time, but more with feeling like she was completely forgotten by everyone else. But my cousin Amanda gave me three ornaments, one for each girl, and it meant so much to me to see Eliza remembered in a visible and tangible way.

* * *

Crafty Cousin Amanda also got me a shirt with the message "This Wine is Making Me Awesome" on it and it's one of my favorite Christmas gifts!

That tagline went well with the sampler I painstakingly cross-stitched for my mom: JOLLIEST BUNCH OF ASSHOLES THIS SIDE OF THE NUTHOUSE.

It's a quote from her favorite Christmas movie (Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase) and also an excellent caption for virtually any family photo we take.

* * *

On NYE, we went out to my aunt's house to eat and play dominoes and let the little girls run wild. They had a good time playing and stayed up way past their bedtime (we were there until 10:00pm). When we got home, we discovered that Cooper had managed to drag a bag down off the dining room table and get into a container of beef jerky that had a plastic screw-top lid. He ate the entire thing, then washed them down with a package of birthday cake Oreo cookies. So much for his low-sodium diet!

He was so stuffed that his stomach was distended and he looked like he was about to pop. I was freaking out because I figured at best he'd be puking all night and at worst the salt in his system would send him into kidney failure.

We crated him for the night to keep the barf off the carpet and put a big bowl of water in with him to help him flush the salt. I was tossing and turning all night, worrying about him and hearing him slurping up water. The next morning he hadn't barfed at all, he peed about a gallon when I let him outside, and pooped twice. Then he seemed to be feeling fine.

I'm calling it his last hurrah of 2016, as he must have known that 2017 would bring him a new diet and exercise regimen.

* * *

The girls have done a lot of singing this Christmas season, but I always want to remember how Coco sang the ABC's. Of course, when I tried to video her, she didn't perform it the way she usually does. I'll have to try and capture it again soon. It goes like this: "A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I J, K, ELLA LELLO PEE, COO, R, S, T, U, BEE, DUBERRY, X, Y, AND Z!"

* * *

My favorite gifts this Christmas? Tickets to Rent when it comes in May, Aveda hair products, a cute pair of earrings I might have hint-texted to David, the Hamilton biography that inspired the musical, and Hamilton: The Revolution which is all about the musical.

Of course, my MOST favorites were the gifts the girls chose for me when they went "shopping" at our friends' church in Kansas City: Coco selected red fuzzy gloves, and two jeweled broaches. One is shaped like a rose and the other is a silver bow with jingle bells on it. Zuzu got me a set of two square plates with gingerbread men on them and a larger square serving plate. They also made us candle holders at school by mod-podging tissue paper on small glass votive holders. Treasures, all!

Also funny was the ornament Zuzu selected for David. She'd told me it was baseball, but I didn't expect it to be a KC Royals ornament! Cracked us up. She knew it was baseball, but didn't quite get that it was for the wrong team. Of course it will be lovingly and prominently displayed every year, just like the grandma ornament I once got for my dad.

* * *

I got ornaments for the girls this year and tried to commemorate something about them for 2016. Zuzu was easy--she got a mermaid ornament. Coco was a little more challenging, but I ended up getting her a pink baby stroller ornament. It's probably intended for new babies, but it will always remind me of the circles she makes around our house pushing her little pink stroller!

* * *

And that wraps up the Holidays 2016. Back to the new year!