Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cornstarch

I've used cornstarch for two important and bizarre projects in recent weeks.

The first was preparation for Zuzu's birthday party. I made "Magic Snow." This calls for two 16 oz packages of cornstarch plus one can of shaving cream and a generous helping of glitter. (I quadrupled the recipe for tons of Frozen fun, but mixed it up one section at a time).

I found that it worked best when I layered it in a big plastic mixing bowl or bucket. Put in cornstarch, add a layer of shaving cream, repeat. Then mix it all up with your hands in a big bowl--it feels cold and powdery at the same time. I'm not someone who loves sticky stuff on my hands, but I didn't have any trouble mixing this stuff. You'll want to store in a gallon ziplock in the freezer (mine sat for over a week while we were on vacation), and presto! Fill your water table (or a plastic bin) with magic snow and Frozen figurines!

It is messy, though, so I'd definitely recommend doing it outside. If you had just one or two kids playing (and they weren't prone to snowball fights), you could do it inside on tile or linoleum, or on some kind of tarp or cover. I put the water table on top of a plastic tablecloth because I'm not sure that cornstarch and shaving cream is good for grass (or vacuums?).

The second use of cornstarch was for an unexpected dilemma. I'd been home with the girls all day and was relieved when David got home from work. He was downstairs (presumably keeping an eye on the kids) and I was on the phone with my mom upstairs. I'd already gotten the girls bathed and in their pajamas, and I was  irritated when I heard Coco crying as she walked in the door to our bedroom because I am sometimes a heartless monster who just wants David to deal with her issues. Anyway, she walked into my room crying and saying, "Eyes! Eyes!" and that's when I looked at her and realized that she had vaseline smeared all over her face (including her eyes) and all over her hair.

So then I did what any not-really-heartless mother would do--I quickly wiped it out of her eyes and then took a photo.


She had NOT been downstairs being supervised by her father. Instead, she had been unsupervised in her nursery, where she climbed up on the changing table, grabbed a tub of vaseline, and proceeded to smear it all over her head and face.

(Sidebar: We used to have a shelf above the changing table on which we stored lotion, diaper cream, nail clippers, and various other baby accessories, including a rarely-used tub of vaseline. That shelf has since been removed, as nothing up there was safe and it seemed to only encourage climbing.)

(Sidebar #2: I have NO EARTHLY IDEA why she would decide to smear vaseline all over her head and face. I mean WHO DOES THAT?)

She did not appreciate my photo documentation.


Anyway, this vaseline issue was a huge conundrum. I mean, you can't just rinse this out! After I wiped her face a little more thoroughly, I gave the sad baby a binky and googled "How to get vaseline out of hair." (Also? I'm grateful that she is still a little sparse in the hair department because a full head of hair coated in vaseline would have been even messier.)

Given the title of this post, you probably saw this coming, but the solution to vaseline in the hair? Cornstarch. I ran down to the kitchen, grabbed our can from the cupboard, ran back upstairs, stripped Coco down and put her in the tub, and then applied a liberal sprinkling of cornstarch.


It had the added benefit of making her look like she was in a stage production playing an old person--brought back fond memories of my sixth grade production of A Christmas Carol.



let the cornstarch sit for a minute, then I shampooed as usual. Her hair still felt a little gunky/greasy , so I did it again.

Then I used shampoo one more time. (The water was still beading up on her face and arms where she had rubbed the vaseline, but her hair seemed mostly clean.)

The next day, her hair was a little bit greasy, but after we went swimming, the chlorine water seemed to take care of any residual vaseline.

So, there you have it! Two excellent reasons to stock up on cornstarch.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to School Brain Dump

Well, last week happened. Faculty meetings for me started on Monday. School for the girls (4 year old preschool for Zuzers, Toddler House for Coco) started on Wednesday.

You may notice there is a problematic two-day gap between Monday and Wednesday in regard to child supervision, especially as David's school started a week earlier. Fortunately, my parents saved us by having my dad come to St. Louis with us on Sunday and then my mom drove up on Monday to meet him. This meant that my dad was Home Alone with both girls all day Monday, which was a long day for everyone (except Coco, who took a two and a half hour nap).

When I walked in the door and greeted Zuzu and asked if she'd been a good listener for Bops, she said, "A little. Not really."

SO. There you have it. My dad was really glad to see my mom when she arrived Monday afternoon, and relieved to have some back-up on Tuesday, I'm sure.

Coco's first day of school was hard on my heart.

It started when there was another set of parents tearing themselves away from a little boy who was crying. I'm kind of a contagious crier, so seeing him cry made me want to cry. And then Coco started crying and calling "Mommy! Mommy!" and I started crying as I walked out the door. And then I couldn't stop.

I cried walking to my car, I cried the entire way to work, I cried on the phone with David. I texted me coworker to warn her that I was a mess and I tried to pull myself together as I walked into the building, but she gave me a hug when she saw me and I cried again. I'd go to a meeting and keep it together, but then I would get a picture from Coco's teachers of her playing happily), though the first one I could see her wet eyelashes and pouty lip, which made me sob hysterically in my office) or of her napping peacefully, and I'd lose it and cry again. It was brutal. I was ready to quit my job and home school them forever except that actually I was really excited to be back at work. So conflicted.

Anyway, I think a lot of it was complicated by that quiet nagging grief of starting preschool and toddler house and nobody starting kindergarten. This has been a slow, creeping feeling. There was no major trigger. I didn't love seeing back to school kindergarten pics on Instagram, but they didn't feel like a knife to the heart, either. There wasn't One Day when everything felt terrible. Except, I guess, for last Wednesday, when I cried all morning. It felt like I was crying about Coco, but I think it was more than that. By lunch time I had managed to stop sniffling, but I had to take ibuprofen for my crying-hangover headache in the afternoon because my essential oils were not cutting it.

Coco is still not thrilled to be dropped off at school, but she likes her teachers and they promise me that her tears dry very quickly. In pictures, she's always looking happy or focused, raking the yard or coloring or playing in the sandbox or washing her hands. When I ask her at home if she had fun at school, she always responds very enthusiastically, "Uh-huh!" so it's just that initial moment of separation that SHREDS MY HEART on a daily basis.

Zuzu, on the other hand, has had a seamless transition in terms of drop-off. A hug, a kiss, a see-ya-later, got-stuff-to-do. When we went to an ice cream social for parents at the school on Friday afternoon, Zuzu didn't even hang out with us. She was super excited to see us, but then went off to hang out with her friends who were also too cool for their parents. But it warmed my heart on Friday morning to see her run over to the toddler house playground (with her bestie) to comfort Coco when I was leaving. Coco quit crying when she saw Zuzu, so I'm really happy they are at the same place.

Both girls have been pretty worn out and tired from the new transition (David and me, too!) so Coco goes to bed easily and Zuzu gets tantrumy in the evenings (charming). The other night she demanded something and said, "If you don't do this, I'm going to BREAK ALL YOUR THINGS!"

(She talks to her dolls A LOT about "consequences," which is pretty reflective of how often we're having those conversations at home.)

We also have hit the wall on what Zuzu wears.

Now, here's the thing. I LOVE dressing my kids. I love picking out their clothes. I love seeing them in cute outfits. I think that part of it is just that I happen to enjoy clothes, but part of it also is that since I'm not with my kids all day, I want the people who are with them to see that they are loved and well cared for and the only way I know how to do that is by dressing them in matching outfits and brushing their hair. They may be stained and ratty and tangled by the end of the day, but they at least they start the day looking like someone cares about them.

(Sidenote: I totally realize that no one is actually judging me if my kids are dressed like ragamuffins because people understand stubborn toddlers and preschoolers, and I certainly am not judging people whose kids clearly are picking out their own clothes, but it still makes me feel better when they are wearing cute outfits.)

I am willing to work with what Zuzu wants (mostly dresses, the softer and twirlier the better). But I like to give her two options and have her choose. This worked pretty well last year. This year, though, she'll say, "No, I'll show you what I am going to wear." And she'll go to the closet and pull out something else. This results in me hiding a lot of clothes, but I can only do so much. She has adorable shorts outfits that I'm begging/bribing/manipulating her to wear, but she's not having it. Today she insisted on wearing a ratty pair of leggings with her new favorite t-shirt (a rainbow shirt from Target) even though it's going to be 85 degrees today and I tried to convince her to wear shorts. So I guess she dresses herself now and I just learn how to roll with it and be flexible. Insert gritted-teeth emoji.

Also? Yesterday I asked if she wanted an orange with lunch. "I'm not really into oranges anymore, Mommy."

Transitions are always rough, so I'm reminding myself that we'll find our footing next week. Or at least by midsemester. In the meantime, lots of after-school snuggles and early bedtimes for everyone.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Failed It | Nailed It

In my final week of SAHM-hood, I was ready to go all out.


My version of all out: Fun, enriching, educational activities! Baking and cooking meals from scratch! Keeping on top of all housework! Not raising my voice or threatening to take away privileges! It was going to be EPIC!

Eff that noise, you guys.

I slaved away over applesauce muffins (with secret ingredient! Pureed butternut squash!) and homemade macaroni and cheese (with same secret ingredient!).

While the muffins were baking, we went for a quick walk up to the corner of the block and back, just to get some fresh air. The girls chatted with neighbors and I felt like my exercise clothes were justified because: walking outside = exertion! But the day went downhill from there.


Lunch was a disaster. The muffins went over better than the mac & cheese. When Zuzu literally took a bit, optimistic bite and then spit it all out on her plate, I wanted to throw my own temper tantrum. She just ate her fruit and then politely said she was full. Coco barely ate any mac & cheese either, but I was NOT WILLING to let it go, so I packed it up and put it in the freezer for another day when they are super hungry.

After my roasting of squash and pureeing of squash and mixing of muffins and cooking of macaroni, the kitchen was basically wrecked, and since I was preoccupied with cooking and cleaning up, the girls were doing things like coloring their legs with a gold Sharpie that they dug out of my desk drawer, which they know they are not supposed to get into (good news though: Honest soap might not touch it, but there's nothing that chlorine won't remove!), begging to watch TV (even Coco, who doesn't really care about TV except for the occasional episode of Peppa Pig, has caught the fever from Zuzu and will join her chanting "Show! Show!"), and digging lip gloss out of my purse to smear all over their faces and, inexplicably, the back cover of Between the World and Me.

I emerged from the wreck of the kitchen (now tidied up) just in time to yell (and then apologize for yelling after Coco burst into tears) about the Sharpie, gently wipe the back of Coates's manifesto as well as their faces, and then carry a violently protesting Coco upstairs for nap. She went to sleep easily, but when I went back downstairs, the turning off of the TV (even with my clever use of the sleep timer) resulted in outrage and outrageous behavior. Also threats: "If you don't turn on my show again, I'm not your girl anymore."

I tried to engage Zuzu in the preschool workbook we've been going through this summer, as well as the ongoing process of writing her name (she can copy it just fine now, but writing it from memory appears to be impossible, which makes me crazy because it seems to be an issue of effort rather than ability, which reminds me of potty-training, which makes me back off because: There is literally nothing I can do.).

Usually, she enjoys work time, and we sit together at the dining room table, and sometimes I can even read or go back over syllabi during this time, but today it was just a battle. She wanted to skip ahead in the workbook. She wanted a different marker. She didn't want to do work. She was NOT going to write her name. She was a complete pill. So wretched. I'd pick something up, and she'd throw it down on the floor again. She kept asking to watch TV and threatening to stop loving me if I didn't let her. I told her she'd lost the privileges of all shows for the day and she was going to have more consequences if she didn't stop being so nasty.

Coco got up from her nap and they had a relatively pleasant snack of muffins and milk (trying to salvage my efforts in the kitchen) and then I decided to take them to the park for the double benefit of fresh air and not trashing the house, and park time was fine. Coco's been napping later in the day, so by the time we got home it was time for dinner. I thought the muffins would buy me some time, but it was HANGRY time and I was the whipping boy.

I decided the best option was to whip up the no-fail solution of scrambled eggs. After all, they are farm-fresh from our backyard and the girls love them. Coco had finished her raspberries and crescent roll and had probably eaten two-thirds of her eggs when she accidentally dumped the whole plate on the floor. Cooper finished her meal, which was apparently the greatest tragedy of her life so far. I was paralyzed for a moment, trying to decide whether it was worth scrambling her another egg (I'd already washed and put away the pan!) when she was really almost finished anyway and she has an annoying habit of finishing her food, asking for more, and then not touching her second helping.

As I tried to settle the screeching Coco, retrieve her scattered plate and fork, and get Cooper out of the kitchen (after letting him clean up the eggs), Zuzu said, in her MOST irritating, sassy, and demanding tone, "Mommy! Milk!" and then waggled her empty milk cup at me.

I yelled.

One of those ironic moments when I'm saying things like, "You cannot just DEMAND things and talk to me in that tone of voice. Can you not see that my hands are busy trying to clean up this mess? You need to ask for things NICELY!" while I'm talking in precisely the kind of tone and at the volume level that I'm telling her is inappropriate.

This made Zuzu cry, which was shocking because she NEVER cries and just goes to show how tired she was.

Of course, it also made me feel TERRIBLE.

Then Coco was sympathy crying. Total fail. 

I solved the Coco problem by giving her a spoonful of the small portion of eggs still sitting on Zuzu's plate, then followed Zuzu into the other room to apologize. She said, "Mommy, I want you to never do that again." (Hard to promise that, kid, but I'm trying.)

By that time, it was about 6:00pm, which meant only one thing: bathtime and bedtime. I was just over the entire day.

The girls took a leisurely bubble bath (lavender-scented bubble bath is really the BEST) and I kept the lights off in the bathroom because there was enough daylight (you know, since it was only 6pm), so it was very soothing.

After bath, we snuggled up in the rocking chair in Coco's room and they took turns choosing books to read and I read everything they wanted, even Rudolph.

Usually if I'm home alone at bedtime, I let Zuzu watch an episode of Sesame Street while I put Coco to bed, but she'd lost all TV privileges so I told her she could go to my room and look at books or she could rock with us. She put up a single cry of protest, "I want Sesame Street!" and then she laid her head down on the arm of the chair and fell asleep instantly.

Coco took longer to doze off, but I just sat there and rocked with both of them for about half hour. It was a sweet, peaceful end to an overall unpleasant day. I vowed that I would have more fun tomorrow.

And so the next day, we went to Target and Trader Joe's in the morning and then we went OUT to lunch and then I read my book on the couch while letting Zuzu watch a show and after Cooc's nap we went to the pool, and when we got home I threw together an easy dinner and opened a bottle of wine and the whole day was much more pleasant.

I wish there were a moral to this story. I don't know what makes some days so much easier than others. I guess I can just be glad that I've had some of both this last week so that I can be both glad to be going back to work and nostalgic about what a great summer we've had.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Olympians

We've been watching a little bit of the Olympics around here. There are too many commercials to hold the girls' interest for long, but I've been trying to catch or record some of the women's gymnastics to show them.

As someone who never really got into team sports, I've always liked watching gymnastics the best. It's not just the unbelievable athleticism packed into these tiny women who defy gravity, but also the showmanship. I was thinking about how gymnastics is the only sport where the top competitors are wearing glittery eyeliner and hair ribbons. As a kid, that's precisely what appealed to me about the sport: it involves costumes! But it's also a little weird. Can you imagine if we expected swimmers or sprinters to pose and grin before and immediately after their races?

Zuzu has taken preschool gymnastics and she loved it--running, flipping, swinging, hanging upside down, jumping on the trampoline. She enjoyed it and I liked watching her. I wonder if it might be a sport that she'd want to pursue as she gets older. On the other hand, I realize that competitive levels of gymnastics have unpleasant implications for thinking about weight and body image.

I appreciated this article by Meghan O'Roarke: "Is Watching Gymnastics Worse Than Being an NFL Fan?" that talks about the toxic elements of the sport, and the true danger that's involved in the training and execution of more and more difficult moves (moves that Simone Biles makes look easy--she is amazing!).

And I really liked this essay by Amelia Morris that comments and expands on O'Roarke's article, comparing the exacting standards for performance, appearance, and grace that we put on gymnasts to the unrealistic expectations that our society assigns to women and to mothers. Do really difficult work, do it looking good and while wearing eyeliner, and watching what you eat, and be sure that you're smiling the whole time, dammit! Or, as Morris puts it: I want my body to work; for my belly to stretch to carry my children; to stretch—to put it gently—even more in order to birth them; and for my breasts to fill (read: stretch) with milk and therefore grow larger than they ever had been in my pre-child life. And yet I also want my body to “bounce back” to my pre-child level of thinness, to my pre-child muscularity. (Bounce is actually a horrible word for it, since, in order to work out—to run and jump—like I once did, I now have to wear two sports bras.) And then I want to adorn this imaginary post-child-yet-pre-child-level-of-thinness body with loose, shapeless dresses, wear no makeup, and appear effortlessly beautiful

This balancing act seems especially intense now as I feel all of the conflicted feelings about school starting next week--excited! devastated! happy! stressed! relieved! anxious! I don't expect to carry it off with perfect grace, either. I know I'm going to feel cranky for the first two weeks of the semester, and then we'll be in a new routine and it will be fine. In the meantime, we'll do what's necessary to make the transition--early bedtimes, pizza for dinner, and taking the time to get everything ready the night before. I know pre-planning will make all the difference, but I'm going to try to go easy on myself. I might wear eyeliner, but I'll skip the leotard and hair ribbons. And I'll happily eat pizza. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Baby has a Birthday!

Yesterday, Coco-Puff turned two.

Her face here pretty much says it all:


So of course I had to do a little photo trip down memory lane--the past twelve months of Coco.

On her birthday, last year: August 7, 2015

September 2015- She was barely walking!

October 2015 - Sturdy and happy at a family wedding

November 2015 (I loved those sweet moccasins!)

December 2015 - That sweet little pink nose!

January 2016 (this is her "I know I'm in trouble" grin because she got caught playing with the laptop)

February 2016 - big blue eyes look green in that hoodie

March 2016 - cracking us up in Grammy and Bops's backyard

April 2016 - wearing my vintage baby dress

May 2016 - last day of toddler room, loving on her baby

June 2016 - on vacation in Tahoe

July 2016 - at Moonshine Beach

This past year with Coco has been ridiculously fun. I've loved watching her relationship with Zuzu develop. It's so sweet to see how much those sisters love each other. Coco's vocabulary is exploding and two recent additions are "mermaid" and "plip-plop" (which she always wants to wear, even though she often can't get her toes in quite the right spots). Her new, most frequently asked question is "What you doing?" And when she's offering an affirmative answer, it's almost always an emphatic "Uh-huh!"

She has strong opinions and is not afraid to throw a serious screaming fit in an effort to get her point across. She's at the stage where I sometimes dread going to stores (I've said, "You're being that kid in Target" to her the last two times we've gone). 

She is still a mama's girl and I love her tight squeezes on my neck when I lift her out of her crib in the morning. She has such a great little sense of humor. Being home with her all summer has truly been a gift, but I'm also looking forward to seeing all the ways she grows and learns when she starts school in a week and a half, sporting her new "back-back" and looking like a big kid, no doubt.

In some ways it feels like she's growing up fast because she tries so hard to keep up with Zuzu. But she's little and her hair is still thin on top and she will always be my sweet baby.

Happy birthday, Coco-Puff! We love you so, so much.

Our birthday girl and her made-with-extra-love birthday cake
Same girl, less hair, one candle
brand-spanking new Coco-Puff!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pedal

I went to a fundraiser last weekend at my friend Beth's house.

First I went over there on Friday to help set up. We were hanging out, making signs, putting together raffle baskets, drinking wine, eating Chinese food... 


Somewhere in there, Beth told us that she'd had an appointment with her surgical oncologist. The first in a year! Everything looks good for her, but the doctor mentioned a slight increase in her risk for pancreatic cancer.

It's not likely. (Of course, you know how I feel about statistical odds...) But it's still shitty. She cried when she told us because after two years of treatments and surgeries and recovery, she wants to stop being afraid. And now she feels like there's one more thing to fear.

***

Beth found out she had cancer on Coco's birthday.

That's not quite true, but that's how I remember it in my head. Beth had told us she'd get results on Wednesday, so when she called on Tuesday when I was home from the hospital, I blabbed on and on about Coco's labor and delivery and how I was feeling and how sweet the baby was and how much I missed Eliza and how relieved I was that Coco was here and healthy.

Beth let me talk, asked questions, and celebrated Coco with me. And then, after we'd been on the phone about thirty minutes, she told me the biopsy results were in. Cancer.

I will never forget how she put my baby before her health issues. (I also felt like a huge jackass, but she'd told me that she wouldn't know anything until the next day.)

After I got off the phone with her, I held my new baby and cried. I was scared for Beth and I was scared with Beth. Breast cancer at 34? Cancer? It seemed impossible except that it wasn't.

***

My greatest fear right now is that one of my kids will get cancer. 

I know there are other scary things that could happen--and scariest of all is perhaps what you can't even imagine. But childhood cancer is real and it terrifies me. There are so many stories of survivors. And then there are those families who have to limp forward with a piece always missing.

***

At the event, Beth and Curt had a place up at their house where you could grab a card and write the name of someone you were there for and hang it up--a real life reason you wanted to fight cancer. I felt sick to my stomach for a moment in that hallway, because it seemed like I could have filled that clothesline by myself. Beth. Brad. Erin. Gpa Vance. Gma Peggy. Gpa Gene.... And the list doesn't really stop there.

***

Toward the end of the night, Beth thanked everyone for coming and told the story of hearing a dad speak whose daughter had been given six months to live. She got on an experimental drug trial at Siteman Cancer Center and three and a half years later, she was there with him.

The money that people donate to Pedal the Cause matters. Every dollar of it goes to research at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Siteman Cancer Center. Research saves lives. 

This year, Beth and Curt are both riding in the race and they've expanded their team as well. I'm on the team even though my butt is not meeting a bike seat (not this year anyway). I'm doing my part to raise funds, to raise awareness, and to try to eliminate the fear of cancer, eventually.

If you're reading this, and you have $5 or $10 to spare, please know that it will make a difference and consider making a donation here:


I would love nothing more than for these girls to grow up and think about cancer the way we think about polio or the measles.



Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Conversations with Zuzu

Scene: I'm giving the kids some instructions--probably asking them to be peaceful and not leap off the couches.

ZuzuMommy, I want to tell you something really important. (Dramatic pause, then stage whisper.) The grown-ups don't tell the kids what to do. The kids just do whatever they want to do.

***
Scene: In the kitchen, discussing something totally unrelated.

Zuzu: Mommy, do trees have bones? 

***

Scene: Hanging out on the couch after lunch. Coco is napping.

Zuzu: (*toots*)
(Pause)
Zuzu: (politely) Excuse me.
Me: Do you need to go potty or was that just a toot?
Zuzu: Just a toot!
(Pause)
Zuzu: A stinky toot!

***

Scene: Walking over to our neighbor's new pool.

Zuzu: (with much authority) Coco, these are the rules of the pool: Don't wear a Binky. Put your toes on the edge to jump in. DON'T throw a fit after we swim.

***

Scene: Practicing soccer with daddy. Kicks the ball past him.

Zuzu: That was awesome! I love winning!

***

Scene: The jewelry I'd put on the bathroom windowsill is missing. Upon further investigation, I find my bracelet on the floor in Zuzu's room.

Me: Zuzu, do you know where Mommy's wedding ring is?
Zuzu: No.
Me: Are you sure?
Zuzu: Well, it might be in my piggy bank. I think maybe I put it there a long time ago when I was a baby.

(It was in the piggy bank. We then had a chat about not touching my jewelry, but really I should know better than to leave it in the bathroom where it's easily accessible!)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Office Makeover

This year my university is taking away the faculty lunch privileges we've had since I was hired--no more free lunches in the dining hall! (It was a huge perk, even though the food wasn't always great, to NEVER have to pack or think about lunch!) Our lunches have been reduced to two per week, which is a huge bummer. I'm bracing myself for lunch-packing three days a week, and it means that I will need a mini-fridge in my office, and a microwave.

There's actually a fridge and a microwave in a lounge near my office, but they are disgusting and I can't even. (When I have needed a microwave on a few occasions, I would actually go down to the biology labs because the students are required to keep those SUPER clean.)

My office has a little nook in it that has largely been unused--I've been storing empty cardboard boxes in there and I put up a coat hook. My plan is to transform that nook to a little kitchenette with a mini fridge and a microwave and a small set of shelves for holding snacks. Anything to make the transition to bringing a lunch a little more palatable. (At least my kids' school serves them lunch so I don't have to deal with that yet.)

I nabbed that great chair at Goodwill, and I'm anxiously waiting for this heatwave to break just a little bit so that I can spray paint it. I think I'm going to try a laquer finish so it will be super shiny.

In a fit of wanting ALL THE SHINY THINGS, I also decided to upgrade my ugly black IKEA task lamp by replacing it with a little gold number from Target. Turns out a little bit of gold can make me happy at my desk!

We're having family photos taken next weekend, so I plan to frame a couple of new pictures, and I bought a thrift-store painting that I will probably put up somewhere. I have been considering getting a rug, but I think it would end up being something that I'd trip over or something that would just get filthy from other people walking on it, and I don't need the aggravation.

Now if I could just finish up my syllabi, I'd really be ready for the semester to begin!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Summer Daze

I wanted to take a minute to write about what a "typical" day looks like this summer. We've had our moments, but I'm already starting to view this summer with dewy-eyed nostalgia when I think about the school year starting. So here's just a quick record of how we've been spending our time...

The girls demand breakfast upon waking. We've been eating a lot of frozen waffles, but they aren't crazy about syrup (and I don't usually offer it) so they like topping waffles with yogurt. They get fruit on the side and they drink milk. These kids are going through so much milk--I told David we might as well start buying two gallons a week. I'm still giving them organic Vitamin D whole milk instead of 2%. Nobody else drinks milk in our family and they seem to burn through the extra calories, so I've just kept buying it. Is there any reason I should switch?

If they don't have waffles, they're big fans of silver dollar pancakes (I buy the premade frozen ones because I can only do so much kitchen clean up every day until I start feeling resentful) (also topped with yogurt) and sometimes a bagel with cream cheese or apple cinnamon oatmeal. Always banana or berries on the side.

I generally try to plan some kind of outing for the morning. The girls are most suitable for public consumption between 9am and 11am, so if I need to run errands, that's when it happens. Mornings might take us to the library, Goodwill, the grocery store, or, like yesterday, to the chiropractor (yay for kid-friendly!) and then a quick stop at a friend's house to drop off baby girl clothes.

If I don't have a plan for the morning, the girls are usually good about entertaining themselves and playing together--some version of "family" or superheroes or some other game that involves Zuzu urgently shouting, "Coco, quickly!" and Coco repeatedly informing her that her baby is "coooold" until she can be wrapped in a cloth dinner napkin.

Lunch comes early for us, no matter what time they eat breakfast. They want lunch by 11:30 am most days. I usually keep it simple--leftovers from the night before, frozen meatballs, pasta, hummus and naan, and then fruit on the side and (on a good day) veggies. Steamed broccoli is their favorite, though they will nibble on raw baby carrots.

We've gotten in a routine of letting them watch a show together after lunch. Coco loudly requests "Pig!" and Peppa Pig is the first show (aside from Sesame Street) in which she's ever shown any interest. Peppa's episodes are 10 minutes long, so they watch one (or maybe two) of those while I'm picking up the kitchen and finishing my own lunch, and maybe sitting down to check e-mail on my phone.

Then it's time for Coco's nap. I remember Zuzu at this age, and how she fought me at nap time and I had to read book after book and then physically hold her on my lap, rocking her until she finally gave in to exhaustion and slept for a bit. Coco is not nearly that difficult. We read three books (right now she's obsessed with Green Hat, Red Hat which she calls "Haht! Haht!" and Moo, Baa, Lalala, and Baby Listens. She also loves Busy Chickens, but it migrated downstairs, so out of sight out of mind, at least for the moment. After we read, I ask her if she wants to rock or go to bed. She usually says "Rock" and then snuggles up against me and closes her eyes. I wonder if I should keep rocking her to sleep with school getting ready to start, but she dozes off so quickly and it's such a sweet part of my day that I'm reluctant to stop! Sometimes she'll be restless and then I lay her in her crib and rub her back for a few minutes and she goes to sleep that way.

While I'm putting Coco down, I let Zuzu watch a show. She has graduated out of Mickey Mouse's [Godforsaken] Clubhouse, you guys! I never thought it would happen, but I feel a little sad that Mickey and his inane foibles are no longer on regular viewing around here! She's moved on to this Nick Jr. show called PJ Masks which, from what I can tell, is about three kids who put on pajamas with masks that then turn them into kid super heroes so they can fight kid bad guys. Zuzu pronounces the show "PJ Masquez," which I initially found very confusing, but the theme song does sound a little bit like that when they sing, "PJ Masks! PJ Masks!" The girl character is Owlette, and Zuzu is a big fan so now when she's acting out the show, she's usually Owlette and Coco is Cat Boy.

The only problem with PJ Masks is that Zuzu's interest in it is so INTENSE that when it's time to turn off the show after 30 minutes, she can't even handle life. We've had screaming fits that are so bad it's made me consider not allowing any TV at all whatsoever. I know it's because she's also tired and resisting nap, but the battle is problematic. I found a bit of a workaround by setting the sleep timer on the TV. No negotiations--I may even be downstairs folding laundry or something and the TV shuts off so that it can "recharge."

She'll ask me periodically through the afternoon if she can watch a show, but I am pretty firm on limiting her (David is much more lax about TV, and I could write a whole post about this and how I resented my parents for limiting my TV so much and also not getting the Disney channel when ALL OF MY FRIENDS got to watch Avonlea in middle school, but now I don't want my kids watching much TV whereas David got a lot of unlimited access to TV and seems to think it's fine for Zuzu to watch more than I what I would allow...).

After PJ Masks we sit down at the dining room table to do some "work." She has a preschool workbook with the alphabet, so we do a few pages each day and then I have her practice writing her name. I'd really like her to be writing it independently when she goes back to school, but I'm not sure that will happen... I also taught her to do all lower case letters except for the E, and I have no idea why. Anyway, as much as I love her Montessori curriculum, I've just felt compelled to have her work on some traditional alphabet stuff, and I need to pick up a math workbook so I can morph into a hardcore Tiger Mother.

After working, we color or play a game or read books or do puzzles. Sometimes she'll play independently, but never if I actually wish that she would!

Coco usually wakes up around 2:30 or 3:00, and wants a snack immediately. If I don't have a clear plan for the afternoon, I almost always regret it. They are pretty good about running errands at this time if we didn't make it out earlier, so we've done some afternoon grocery runs and yesterday went to Home Depot for spray paint. Every afternoon finds us eating popsicles (their favorites are frozen yogurt tubes) on the front porch so that Zuzu can stalk the neighbor kid and see if he's home.

We have gone to the swimming pool more often than I expected this summer. It's so kid-friendly that I've felt okay about taking both girls by myself since Zuzu can touch in almost all of the pool and Coco is not as bold as her sister. It's even better if we meet up with my neighbor and her two kids because two moms with four kids is much easier than one mom with two kids.

If we don't go to the pool, they play together at home and trash either the living room or the backroom or the basement. I try to keep the chaos confined to one room for my sanity. They also get pretty fighty in the afternoon, mostly because Zuzu would benefit from a nap herself.

My big parenting tip is to keep a bag of popcorn in the car. I buy the sea salt kind (already popped) in whatever brand is on sale and keep the bag and two little plastic bowls in the console of my car. It's the perfect snack when they are whiney at any point during the day. They always want popcorn at the pool, but when they start asking for it, I know that it's time to head out, so I get them out to the car with the promise of popcorn (and I've been known to grab a handful or two from time to time).

We usually can't hold off on dinner until David gets home, so I fix something simple for the girls. I keep thinking we need to be better about family dinner but right now it just feels too hard, so I'm just accepting this phase of life for what it is.

And what it is is usually scrambled eggs at five o'clock.

Then it's a countdown until David gets home! If it's not so hot and swampy, we try to take a walk or play outside when he gets home, but a lot of times he's not home until after 6:00 now, and the last couple of nights they've already been in the tub.

After bath is often an energy kick, which makes me crazy sometimes and makes me laugh all the time. They run around (naked) and goof around and chase each other and have dance parties and finally we settle them down to read books and brush teeth and give good night kisses.

Typically, David reads to Zuzu and I read to Coco and on a good night they go down easy and early and then we go downstairs and hang out. On a rough night, Coco fusses, I rock her to sleep while reading blogs on my phone, and David falls asleep listening to an audio book with Zuzu.

Right now it feels like this has been our routine forever and like it would go on and on, but in a few short weeks everything will be different! And I know I'll be both sad and ready for the change.

Any tips for getting through that witching hour of 4-5pm with a four-year-old and two-year-old? Anyone else keep popcorn in their car? It's basically my greatest parenting discovery ever.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Free Consultant

I got a text from my friend Carol last week.

"We are going to paint Noah's room this weekend. What color?"

At first I thought this was maybe a little weird. Why would she text me to ask me what color to paint her son's room?

Then I realized... I know the answer to this question!

Because sometimes I daydream about how I would decorate a boy's room. I went quickly to Pinterest and put in a few search terms, then sent Carol a couple of ideas. She loved the neutral horizontal stripes (yes!) but her husband vetoed them, so they went with the other color suggestion I'd sent.

A couple of days before this, my friend Angie had texted me a photo of her kitchen and asked if I'd add cabinet pulls or not. When I saw it, I knew immediately the hardware I would want to put on the cabinets and sent her the link from Home Depot's website.

Then my friend Katie wanted to know what kind of window treatments I'd do on a big bay window on a budget. My answer (supported by Pinterest) was dark curtain rod, breezy white panels from Ikea with clips, and inexpensive bamboo shades from Home Depot or Lowes on the windows for contrast.

I'm constantly second-guessing all my own decorating choices (including the paint color I just put up in the half bath...) and it takes me FOREVER to decide on something for my house (like a light fixture or new curtains or kitchen hardware), but for some reason it's really easy for me to tell other people what they should do!

But seriously. You want nursery themes that aren't too themey? I've got them in my brain file.  Wondering if you should wallpaper your laundry room? You should! Thinking about what sofa would look best in your mid-century ranch? For some inexplicable reason, I've been thinking about that, too! What would I do if I moved into a new build and wanted to give it some personality? I've been considering this. You know, just in case?

I am actually super glad that people are asking me for ideas because it makes me feel like it's a good use of my time to read home decor blogs and magazines and browse Pinterest for ideas that are completely unrelated to my house. Kristin's bathroom reveal has me wanting to totally gut my bathroom and just carbon copy everything she did, but since that's not realistic at the moment, I'll just wait until someone asks me what color they should paint their bathroom.



Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pain in the A$$

I threw out my back on Wednesday.

I'd taken the girls to Lowes, where I bought spray paint for my new office chair and got a bunch of paint swatches for the half bath and as we were getting ready to leave the store, I needed Coco to get back in the stroller. The parking lot was fairly busy and since Zuzu was being an Authentic Mermaid at that point (meaning she couldn't walk due to having a mermaid tail instead of feet), I'd put the girls in the double stroller. Of course, Coco didn't want to get back in and decided to fight me, so as we created a small scene near the check outs, I bent over the stroller to buckle her in, lifting her slightly to adjust her in the seat as she flailed around, and suddenly I felt a pop and hot pain rushing through my low back.

It hurt so much it took my breath away. I felt like I couldn't stand up and I couldn't bend over. I was just stuck in this awkward half-bend-squat and I couldn't breathe. But I was partially blocking the exit doors, so I forced myself back around and, holding on to the stroller for support, hobbled out into the parking lot toward my car. Once I got there, I didn't know what to do. I wasn't sure I could lift Coco up into her car seat. Zuzu climbed up on her own, and I did manage to get Coco into her seat somehow, though my back hurt so much that I was crying by that point.

Then I called David because I couldn't bend over to fold up the stroller. And I was in so much pain I just needed someone to feel sorry for me.

Of course, he was in the middle of something at work and couldn't talk. And it was a million degrees outside, and I was standing in a blacktop parking lot.

I finally forced myself to squat down and yank on the stroller releases to get it to fold, and somehow I got it into the back of my car.

Then I sat in the front seat, sniffling a little bit because my back hurt so much.

I drove home with my jaw clenched, self-medicated with ibuprofen and a heating pad, and really just laid around until David got home. My back hurt from my tailbone to my sacrum. It especially hurt to go from sitting to standing, it was excruciatingly painful to bend forward, and I could only lift Coco if she stood up on a chair first. Even lying down very still was uncomfortable, though that was the most tolerable. I had trouble sleeping, and once I sneezed and the shooting pain through my spine was so intense it brought tears to my eyes.

I decided that the pain was serious enough that I should see a chiropractor. I'd never been to a chiropractor before, so I texted a few people to see if I could get recommendations, and the next morning I called to see who could get me in first. I ended up driving to one that is pretty far out in the county, but it was a good experience.

She had me show her my range of movement without pain (VERY limited) and then she pushed gently on my back in a few places. Then she showed me on a plastic skeleton spine which of my vertebrae were twisted in two different directions, and how the nerves were getting pinched. This was obviously the source of a lot of the pain, but then my surrounding muscles spasmed and tensed up, which was also a contributing factor.

She had me lay down in another room and put little pads on my back to do electric stim massage, which felt weird, and she put a big ice pack on my back while that was happening, which felt awesome.

After fifteen minutes of that, she had me turn on my side and was like, "Okay, I'm going to adjust you now!" Then she put one hand on my knee and one hand on my shoulder and pushed and POPPOPPOPPOPPOP all these cracks and pops went in my spine at once. It was INSANE. And awesome. She did the other (less painful) side and there were fewer pops and I felt some instant relief.

I still have a lot of muscle soreness, though, so she instructed me to go home and do gentle yoga stretches and keep icing and taking ibuprofen as needed.

My back feels best when I'm standing or lying down, and the most painful thing is actually standing up from a sitting position--especially if I'm holding a sleeping toddler when trying to do so! I go back next week for a follow-up visit.

I'm really glad I went, and I feel sort of vindicated that it was a legit real injury. I was bummed in particular because I've been doing crunches and flutter kicks and planks on a really regular basis this summer and here I was, hurting my low back in spite of my core workouts! It's making me feel kind of dismayed about turning another year older, but I hope it was just a freak accident and I can continue to do preventative exercises. Mostly I'll be relieved to be pain-free again--soon, I hope! In the meantime, I'll just be hobbling around here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Thoughts on Turning 36

I'm struggling with this birthday.

I looked back at last year's blog posts to see if I was freaked out about turning 35, but there's nothing. I don't remember being particularly freaked out about it. In fact, I think I expected to feel freaked out about 35, but then I just... didn't. Of course, my birthday happened to fall at the tail-end of our trip to West Virginia and Pittsburgh for my brother's wedding, so I believe I "celebrated" it in a minivan driving from Cleveland to St. Louis, and we didn't make a big deal out of it, but I just don't remember having a bunch of internal angst about it, either.

This year feels different. And it's not just about wrinkles around my eyes or the fact that my mid-section is still pretty melty looking, no matter how many crunches/flutter kicks/planks I do.

Earlier this month, I was seriously considering whether I want to have another baby. I've now concluded that this longing was actually a combination of nostalgia since Coco has stopped breastfeeding and I'm overwhelmed by how fast time is going and how quickly my babies are growing up, general freak-out about getting older myself, and misplaced grief. I don't think we are missing baby number four. I think we are missing baby number one. And I'm sad to be done having babies.

And while 36 may not be as monumentous as 35 (or 40) in terms of our general culture, my birthday comes toward the end of summer. Birthdays obviously invite reflection on the past as well as looking ahead to the future, and and July 28, all "future" thoughts turn to August and the start of school.

In a family where the dad is a principal and the mom is a professor, back-to-school is obviously a pretty big deal. Everything changes and life is a little stressful and exciting and requires much more planning and organizing and coordinating than summer days. This year, Zuzu will stay at her Montessori Special Snowflake School, as a PK4, and Coco will start at the same school in the Toddler House. All of this is fine, and I love that they'll be at the same place again.

But I'm turning 36 and I should have a five-year-old starting kindergarten.

And I cannot help but believe that turning 36 would feel easier if I had a kindergartener. I would feel like I'm where I am supposed to be in life, if that makes sense. After all, that was the plan.

Maybe that sounds weird, but I really think it's true. I didn't mind turning 30 because I'd accomplished what I'd hoped to by 30: I had my graduate degree and I was pregnant. BOOM. I was OWNING 30. I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

(Side note: I realize that 30, 35, 36, whatever looks different for everyone and I don't think people in general who are 36 or 40 without a kid or a kid ok kindergarten are not where they are supposed to be--this is just my own expectation for myself, and I know it's arbitrary but I still feel the loss.)

So I was 30 and life was meeting my expectations, then my baby died and I didn't give a crap about my degree and I still can't believe I actually managed to land a job that year when I was basically a lump of professional apathy and personal devastation.

My friend Christine is a BLM whose first baby, a little boy named Matthew, was stillborn last July. Her birthday is in December. She's five years younger than I am, so this whole thing is unfolding for her along the exact same age/timeline as it did for me (except that she got pregnant with her rainbow sooner than I did and is expecting Matthew's little brother very soon). As I watch her walking this path at the same age and in relatively the same place in life/marriage/career, I try to reassure her that things get easier. That a rainbow baby really does bring color back to the world. That right now being a BLM feels like an entire identity, but in five years it will feel like an important part of a bigger identity.

But I also have to tell her that the milestones are still really hard, and sometimes in unexpected ways. Summer is generally the happiest time for me--the season of Zuzu and Coco's births, David's birthday, my anniversary, time off of school/work, vacations, and I'm a fan of warm weather. But there are still occasional grief slumps, and I guess I'm in one.

I can't help but recall my 31st birthday, which was undoubtedly one of the most miserable days of my life. I painted a console table on my deck in the sweltering heat and humidity and missed my baby so much I thought (hoped?) that I would literally just fall over and die. By the time I turned 32, Zuzu was here, and the distraction helped, but I definitely don't feel like celebrating my birthday the way I used to.

This year I'm definitely in a better place, but alongside this grief is a lot of anger this year. I'm furious that Eliza isn't here. I'm angry that I lost whole years of my early thirties to grief. I'm mad that the cohort of kids and parents I should know with Eliza as a kindergarten is forever lost to me. I'm already pissed off that I'm going to have to brace myself for first day of kindergarten photos on IG (still not on FB for mental health reasons) and that as much as I'm excited to celebrate the start of this academic year for Zuzu and Coco, some of that joy is overshadowed by how very much I want there to be three little girls lined up on my porch steps. I'm so angry about her not being here and it's like I'm suddenly recognizing all over again what I thought I'd known all along: She's always going to be gone. I'm always going to miss her. I'm never going to catch up to where I thought I would be. No matter how many babies I have, none of them is going to start kindergarten this year.

I know it's not true that everyone my age has a child entering kindergarten this year. I know it's not really any easier to lose a baby at 25 or 28 than it is at 30. I know that there are many people whose families have not been created according to plan. I know that there are many people who lose years of their lives to illness, to cancer, to depression, other kinds of grief. I know I'm not alone this struggle, even when it feels that way.

But it's MY birthday, so I guess I'll cry if I want to. And when I think about turning 36 right now, that's kind of all I want to do. Maybe I can get it out of my system now and actually enjoy the day when it rolls around next week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SAHM

Last week I told David I was ready to quit my job, stay home full time, and maybe even have another baby.

Today has returned me back to reality. Coco is a reminder of how much the age of 22-26 months challenges my sanity, and why I was literally afraid to leave the hospital with her when she was an infant because I had to return home to balance the needs of a newborn with the 25 month old cyclone of toddler irrationality and stubborn willfulness that was her sister.

They were both up too late last night. It's easy to indulge them when they are being sweet and cute, but they are like gremlins. Keep them up late and [the next day] their fangs come out. (By "fangs," of course, I mean incessant whining, and by "incessant," I mean SERIOUSLY INCESSANT.)

Today I thought we'd do something fun for all three of us that also includes air conditioning: a trip to the Goodwill store!

Coco tried on several pairs of heels that must have been donated by a charity-minded drag queen, which some shoppers found hilarious, but I mostly found annoying (at least the shoes were big enough she could keep her sandals on while wearing them). Zuzu cried when I refused to purchase the following items she requested:

(1) Hello Kitty bikini bottoms, size 3T
(2) pink and gold metallic tankini halter top, size 14
(3) worn out Speedo one-piece, size 7/8
(4) green straw fedora that still had the tags on from Target's bullseye spot circa St. Patrick's Day
(5) a random sundress, size 9 months

I did score a Hanna Andersson dress and a cute Gymboree shirt with a unicorn on it that pleased her very much. They didn't have much in Coco's size that I liked, and also they really need no clothes, so I reined it in.

In the few seconds she managed to escape my line of vision, Coco scaled a smal kids bookshelf, then jumped from couch to couch, then climbed on a ten speed bicycle (that was fortunately very securely attached to a stand). She and Zuzu each got to select a book (Zuzu chose The Little Mermaid because there's nothing like teaching little girls to silence their voices in order to get a man!Coco chose something random with a cat on the cover, though she fought me for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer just because I assumed she wouldn't be interested (and we already have a copy) but when I placed it back on the shelf, she sure was mad about it.

We finally checked out and I impulse bought a green chair for my office. (How much would you pay for this chair? And should I paint it white?)


It fit nicely in the back of my CRV, except it required me to remove the double City Mini stroller that lives in the back of my car. So then I shoved the folded up stroller into the front passenger seat and drove home with it partially resting on my lap. Zuzu told me she was buckled in, and I made the mistake of trusting her (view blocked by the aforementioned anti-feminist diatribe and the maxi dress she would wear every day if I didn't hide it in the laundry). So she was only partially buckled on the way home.

Coco was exhausted but took forever to settle down and required rocking to fall asleep. Zuzu whined and whined to watch a show. Cooper freaked out when there was a sudden storm. 

The highlight of their day was receiving mermaid outfits from my aunt Terri for belated/early birthday presents, 



but the whole time they played in the kiddie pool outside, they whined for snacks, then ate all the snacks I fixed, then when I FINALLY sat down to watch them play and eat my own bowl of frozen grapes while reading a book and drinking iced tea, they swarmed me, ate all my food, fought, screamed about the chickens, fought some more, and made me so frustrated and sweaty I said we all had to go inside for baths.

And it was still an hour before David would be home from work.

I yelled a lot and made loud irritated noises with my throat, which Zuzu now does in my direction, which is the MOST irritating thing ever, but I have no one to blame but myself. 

I also caught Coco shoving some slippers down the defunct laundry chute in our hallway and further investigation revealed the chute was stuffed full of dress up clothes, Minnie and Mickey figurines, a while bunch of loose and dried out baby wipes, a pacifier, and a swim suit. The swim suit was a recent addition. No telling how long the rest of it had been down there. 

Dinner was a cluster of whining alternated with crying and also Coco's charming new party trick: she plugs her ears with her figures and just shouts to make noise.

I'm hiding in my bedroom right now with a glass of wine, and guessing from the silence downstairs that David caved and let them watch a show. It's nearly bedtime, so wish me luck.

Oh, and in case there was any doubt: We're definitely sticking with the original plan of me going back to work next month!


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Around Here Lately

Watching...

Bloodline on Netflix. OMG. I guess I'm just echoing the masses here, because it's Netflix's most popular original show, but wowzers. We just finished up the second season and I was completely riveted by the Rayburns and all their effed up issues. I actually screamed out loud during one episode at a particularly shocking moment. I am INVESTED in John's campaign for sheriff. What can I say? #ilycoachtaylor #cleareeyesfullheartscantlose

Listening...

I just can't quit with Young House Love, and now they have a podcast. So I've been tuning in. They recently interviewed Tiffani Theissen (of Saved By the Bell and 90210 fame) so now I'm watching Dinner at Tiffani's on the cooking channel. Even though I am not much of a cook, I think having a cooking show would be fun. The podcast is mostly about decorating, and they do a little phone interview with a different decorator or celebrity each episode. John and Sherry are also the cutest.

Reading...

Just finished two fantastic books in a row. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield (St. Louis resident! We don't know each other but otherwise would undoubtedly be good friends) is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. It's not easy to do Jane Austen justice, but this interpretation of an Austen classic is the best thing since the movie Clueless retold Emma. I loved it and knowing how the story would end took absolutely none of the enjoyment out of it. If anything, I was even more curious to see how Sittenfield would (or wouldn't) mix things up. I think she hit just the right combination of true-to-the-original and unexpected twists. My book club is discussing tomorrow night, so I'm interested to see if other people liked it too, or if I'm just a super dorky nineteenth-century-Brit-Lit crazy person.

You'd think that book would be a difficult act to follow (and it was!), but the aptly-named The After Party by Anton Disclifani (former St. Louis resident! We were in grad school in the same English department at the same time! I actually know her in real life and she is so cool she's intimidating except she's also funny and kind) was perfect. In some ways it's interested in social expectations and, like Austen, walks that line of critiquing social conventions while also recognizing their value in offering people a sense of purpose and stability. The real story, though, is in the secrets people keep even from their closest friends. I appreciated that while the book had me certain that something was going on with Joan, the revelation was surprising and retroactively changed the way I felt about some of the characters. I liked Anton's first book The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls but I liked this one even better.

Drinking...

After reading The After Party, I want my summer drink of choice to be a gin & tonic, and I want to drink it while wearing a 1950s-era dress with my hair in a high ponytail. But because this is my real life and I've been staying at a condo in Branson where I have neither gin nor tonic on hand, I'm drinking lime beer. David is a beer snob who cringes at my choice, but what can I say? It's light! And refreshing! And delicious with tacos or burgers!

Smelling...

Garlic. Actually, the smell has (finally) dissipated. Or I've become so accustomed to it and it has settled into my pores and now I just can't smell it anymore. A long time ago, David bought a huge jar of minced garlic and put the jar in the fridge downstairs but put some of the garlic in a plastic container upstairs (pro tip: don't store minced garlic in plastic!). Anyway, just recently the plastic container was nearly empty and REEKED, so (unbeknownst to me) David took it out of the fridge and put it in the dishwasher. When he ran the dishwasher, instead of cleaning the garlic smell out of the plastic container, it transferred the smell of garlic to everything plastic that was in the dishwasher (so basically a few glasses and the girls' plates). The whole kitchen smelled like it. I texted David (who conveniently got to go to work the next day) and told me we might have to move. Then I consulted Google and ended up running the dishwasher a couple more times with Borax and vinegar in it. I also burned an almond chai candle and opened windows and turned on the ceiling fan. Seems to have worked. Bonus: no vampires in the vicinity.

Wearing...

I've been wearing the heck out of a swim suit I bought on a whim last summer--a retro-looking one-piece I ordered from Mod Cloth. It's so vintage looking that a friend asked me if it was actually vintage (Can you imagine how gross that would be? It's not like swimsuit materials holds it shape and elastic deteriorates over the years.). Anyway, this looks-old-but-is-actually-new suit covers everything so I can chase my kids around the pool without reflecting on how my belly button looks like someone knifed an old balloon, but I still feel like it's cute without trying too hard. And mostly it's super comfortable, which has somehow become my number one concern in clothing and shoes. This probably explains why I'm also wearing Birkenstock sandals and a pair of khaki cut off shorts that are literally a pair of khakis that I cut off. Perhaps I am in no position to be giving fashion recommendations.

Zuzu is wearing a new favorite dress--a sweet little white dress with blue embroidery from Crew Cuts that she got for her birthday from our neighbor kid whose mom works at J. Crew.


Coco has been wearing a lot of rompers, though her legs are looking shockingly long.


Weaning...
Done. Like totally and completely done-zo. A month ahead of schedule. 23 months of Mama Milk, and Coco just sort of up and decided at the beginning of July that she was over the Mama Milk. It kind of came out of no where, as I thought she'd continued to be pretty enthusiastic. We were nursing every night before bed and first thing every morning. But then on vacation we had some mornings where she woke up eager to go play or bedtimes when she was asleep in the car and transferred without waking up. Still, once we got home we were right back in our routine. And then, she just sort of seemed to lose interest. One night she nursed for such a short period of time, I asked her if the mama-milk was all gone. "Uh-huh," she said, but she didn't seem upset about it.

After a full day (morning and night) without her asking for mama-milk, I texted a friend telling her that Coco seemed to be finished nursing, but then the next morning she wanted to nurse when she woke up, so I thought maybe I was crazy... But that was the last time she wanted to. She hasn't asked or even acted remotely interested since then. I'd planned to nurse her until she turned two and then I figured I'd be ready to wean (and hopefully she would, too), but of course she had plans of her own.

I'm glad that she made up her own mind, but it's also kind of bittersweet that my baby is getting so big. 23 months of nursing made for such sweet times with her. It just feels like the End of an Era, and although I'm excited about what the next stage of life will hold, I have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving the baby phase behind. And of course I know a lot of that is natural, but I can't help but wonder if my extra-intense-emotions are more about losing a child than raising two of them. (Hashtag story of my life.)

Contemplating...
Still thinking about a rug for the upstairs landing, though I've moved a little red bench up there that looks pretty cute and fits the space well, so now I've at least narrowed my rug choices to "rugs that have red in them." I tend toward a more traditional rug (the modern one I got for my living room I ended up selling to my good friend Carol, where it looks adorable in her more modern house). I need to decide if I want it to be 3x5 or 4x6, but it's also not a super high priority. I just mostly like to look at rugs online, I guess.

Counting down...
Days until school starts. I read somewhere recently that the end of July is like one long Sunday evening for people who work in academia. I'm feeling that. I know there's still time to relax, but I keep thinking about syllabi and meetings and to-do lists. I'm actually went into my office yesterday because I'd rather do some work now so I can quit thinking about it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Post-Vacation Stupor

We are driving home right now from spending a few days in the vacation Mecca of the Midwest: Branson!

Tacky t-shirt shops and family-friendly variety shows aside (we actually skipped both of those attractions this time), we enjoyed our stay. We had a condo that adjoined my parents' condo, and the girls always have so much fun with Grammy and Bops. We spent a day hanging out at the condo resort and its two pools, David and I made a quick trip to the outlet mall where he bought way more than I did, we spent a day in Silver Dollar City, where Zuzu enjoyed her ride-with-an-adult status of 39" tall and went on every ride that allowed her, including a kiddie roller coaster and Fire In the Hole (twice!), and Coco bemoaned her 32" stature but did rock out on the kiddie rides. (Actually, I'm not convinced she enjoyed them as much as she was determined not to be left out.) 



Serious adrenaline junky.


Coco started out holding the handle but once the ride started, she wanted to hold my hands.


The girls are a perfect pizza pair--Zuzu likes the crust and Coco likes the cheese.


Zuzu was very uncertain about the train robbers in SDC, but Coco was unfazed (also: look at all her teeth!). Zuzu was pretty stoked to dip a butterfly candle. Rainbow butterflies are her thing right now.


Grammy treated them to lollipops at the end of the day.


Our last full day in Branson was a rainy morning, nice and lazy, followed by an afternoon at Moonshine Beach, where Zuzu perfected her underwater flips and dives, and Coco got a little too adventurous for my comfort in the water.



It was bittersweet to be at Table Rock Lake, as this was our first trip back to the area since David's grandma passed away in December. I kept thinking we should be heading over to her house to tell her all about the day's adventures. She would have loved seeing how much fun the girls had in the water.



Zuzu was so proud of the rainbow butterfly sand art that she made with Grammy at an art night for kids at the resort. I was a butterfly princess for Halloween when I was five. Maybe we will resurrect that costume this year. Coco could be an entomologist!

Now, both girls are snoozing in the car (Cooper had his own "vacation" at Pepaw and Memaw's house with their dogs, Xena and Xanders, and was overjoyed to see us today, poor guy). Their pink cheeks and sun-streaked hair is evidence of a good vacation, and we are heading home to make the most of the last four weeks of summer.