Friday, October 9, 2015

Conversations with Zuzu

Scene: Talking to Zuzu about the night she was going to stay with Grammy and Bops. I'd explained that she was going to sleep on her cot in Grammy and Bops's bedroom.

Zuzu: What color is Grammy's bed?
Me: It's blue.
Zuzu: What color is Bops's bed?
Me: Blue. He shares with Grammy.
Zuzu: (laughing) No, he sleeps in his chair!


Scene: Pulling into the carport after work/school.

Me: All right, kids, we're home!
Zuzu: Mommy, we're not kids!
Me: You're not kids? Then what are you?
Zuzu: Girls!


Scene: Driving on highway where lanes are shut down and it's under construction. There are several temporary concrete barriers lined up along the side.

Zuzu: Oh, Mommy! Look out your window. That wall is broken. We need someone to fix it. Like a hero!


Scene: In the car, discussing age and growing older.

Zuzu: Now I am three.
Me: And next you will be four. And do you know what you'll be after that?
Zuzu: Yes.
Me: What will you be after you're four?
Zuzu: Seven.


Scene: At dinner. Zuzu is drinking water from a big-girl cup without a lid.

Zuzu: This is my water wine. It's for big kids and babies.


Scene: Telling Zuzu that David will be home later because he's getting a hair cut.

Zuzu: Who is cutting his hair?
Me: I don't know. Probably a nice lady. Or a nice man.
Zuzu: Or a mean lady!


Scene: Zuzu is playing with Coco, I go to kitchen to get a drink, Coco starts seriously crying.

Me: Oh no, Coco! What happened?
Zuzu: (fake sad voice) Poor Coco. I just blasted her with my true love powers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Project Madonna Arms

I recently read that really busy people make time to work out by getting up super early every day--like 5:00am.


My answer to the time crunch that doesn't allow for exercising has been not exercising. (Now you know my time management secrets.)

But a few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is a professor in the sciences sent out an e-mail asking for volunteers to help her exercise science class by signing up for personal training sessions with one of her students.

And for some inexplicable reason, I replied and said I'd do it.

So now I have an undergraduate personal trainer, and I have to commit to exercising on campus with my trainer 150 minutes a week.

This is a recipe for total embarrassment.

But I'm totally cheating and doing it during some of my office hours because I'm on campus anyway and that is when my trainer is available.

Today was our fitness assessment. My trainer (a dude I'll call Chad) has to type up my results and send them to me, but he totally knows how old I am, how much I weigh, and how many push ups I can do, which is generally information I deliberately do not share with my students. So that's weird. Thankfully, I've never had Chad in class so I only know him in the context of being my personal trainer, but it's still kind of weird.

Some things I learned:

* I can walk a mile in 13 minutes (Takes me 14 when I'm pushing a double stroller, takes me 18 when I'm dragging Cooper's lazy butt).

* I don't use proper form for push-ups (even modified push-ups) because using proper form makes them really effing hard. (Your chin is supposed to touch a book on the ground!)

* My lower ab muscles are virtually nonexistent; hence, my goal: improved core strength. (My other goal: make my arms look like Madonna's.)

* I feel naked when I'm wearing workout clothes on campus where I'm likely to see students I have in class.

Training starts for real next week, and I know I'm going to whine about it.

Chad has his work cut out for him.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Weekend of Wild Things

After my sad despair on Friday afternoon, the weekend was a pretty good one. I didn't watch the news. I did a lot of socializing. In fact, I saw a couple of friends Friday night that I don't see very often and we had one of those evenings of conversation and wine where you lose track of time--I thought I'd be home by 10:30 and when I first thought to glance at the time, it was almost midnight. I can't even tell you the last time I was out so late! I'm so wild and crazy.

On Saturday, we took the girls to the Where the Wild Things Are exhibit at Central Library, which was really cute. Zuzu was acting so bratty as we were getting ready to go, didn't want to put her shoes on, and was being generally obnoxious. We practically had to drag her out to the car, which is weird because she's usually up for any kind of going out. In fact, I asked David if we should just skip it, but both of us wanted to go, so we decided to power through.

She continued to be difficult as we walked the block from our car to the library--it seemed like pure naughtiness and I was SO aggravated. As we climbed the steps to the library, we looked at the big banners with illustrations from the book, and I asked her to pose for a photo. She didn't want to cooperate, which I should have expected from Captain Contrarian. Then, as we started to open the door to go inside, she asked me to carry her.

And that's when I finally realized that she was SCARED of the seeing the Wild Things, but didn't want to admit it.

So I quickly explained that we weren't going to see real wild things, that it was all just pretend and for fun, and I showed her the cut-out wild thing monster in the lobby of the library.

Then she was all smiles, skipping and following the wild thing footprints up the stairs and to the display. If only we could have cleared up that misunderstanding MUCH EARLIER.

(Side note: I love when Zuzu substitutes the word "footprints" for "footsteps"--as in "Do you hear the Big Bad Wolf's footprints, Mommy?")

The display was cute and small and I took a zillion photos and blew up Instagram with them, even though my subjects were not always cooperative (ahem, Coco). 

Coco was actually hilarious--she loved having a taste of freedom at the exhibit (thankfully, it wasn't crowded). She didn't want to be carried and really didn't want to be held for the photos in front of the green screen that I coerced them into taking. 

She basically ran laps around the display, grinning and waving at other visitors.

Both girls fell asleep on the way home, so I went and visited my friends who recently had a baby while the girls were napping. I had a nice conversation with them and reminisced fondly of the days of sitting around holding a sleeping newborn and binge watching Netflix. Ah, good times.

When I got home, it was past time for us to leave for dinner, but of course since I hadn't been there all afternoon, no one was ready to go. Insert that emoticon that is gritting its teeth.

Thirty minutes later, we were more than thirty minutes behind schedule, but on our way. My friend Erin had invited us and another couple over for dinner at her new house. The girls were pretty well-behaved, although I did haphazardly childproof her living room as Zuzu and Coco came upon, among other things, cat toys, wire cutters, a box cutter (!), a box of kleenex just asking to be destroyed, and several pens and pencils.

We all went outside after dinner and sat around a fire pit. It would have been the perfect night for it, but it ended up being totally nerve-wracking for David and me. Coco stumbled around like a tiny drunk person, but didn't want to be held. She only wanted to (1) eat gravel or (2) run staggering as close to the fire pit as possible. Every effort to deter her from these two activities was met with very strong, very LOUD resistance.

Zuzu, meanwhile, entertained all present by pretending to make cupcakes out of gravel (gravel! the BEST TOY EVER!), singing "Let It Go," and occasionally asking me nervously if I thought there was a scarecrow behind the tree in Erin's yard.

She's also discovered poop humor and tries to tell poop jokes, which is a delight.

When we went inside for cake, Zuzu insisted she wanted a piece because it had strawberries on top, then didn't care for the sweet whipped cream frosting and asked if she could get strawberries without "that yogurt" on them. So she passed on the (delicious) cake and ate an orange.

Coco shared my cake.

On Sunday I went to brunch with friends from work to celebrate a birthday. I ate a gluttonous and disgusting amount of food and had a nice time, even though I wasn't feeling great.

In fact, I ended up feeling worse as the day went on. I thought I was just tired because Coco did another wee-hours wake up and then I couldn't go back to sleep (I ended up watching TV at 3am and finally dozing off some time around 4, only to have Coco wake up again at 6). But I never rallied (in spite of the coffee I had at brunch).

Zuzu refused to nap, and Coco slept in the morning and wouldn't go down in the afternoon. This was ominous since we'd invited friends over for dinner Sunday evening (this was basically the most social weekend ever). So I was forcing myself to clean house for company and do laundry and other stuff to get ready for the week even though I was just dragging. I'd invited our friends (and their daughter who is Zuzu's age) to come over around 4pm and I ended up calling them to delay start time by an hour because the meat David was making was taking forever to smoke and I still needed to run up to the grocery store to get bread.

I sent the girls outside with David to play while he finished up yard work slash meat smoking and drove up to the grocery store. As I headed to the bakery section, I realized I was being ridiculous. I was so tired and crappy feeling that if I were getting sick, I didn't want to pass that along to our friends, and regardless of their immune systems, I felt bad enough that I wasn't going to be any fun. I felt like curling up and going to bed, not chatting at dinner. If the roles had been reversed, I would have told my friend that we'd take a raincheck, but I still felt bad about it.

Zuzu was so excited about seeing her little buddy (which was probably part of the reason she hadn't napped, but as a result she was acting like a hell-beast all afternoon--and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible). But in addition to Zuzu's excitement, David and I had been looking forward to seeing these friends too! Still, there was no point in having them over so that I could stare blankly and mouth breathe at them. So I ended up calling from the grocery store to explain I wasn't feeling well and asked if we could reschedule. Which of course they were super nice about because, obviously, they are friends who understand such things. It was just a bummer that I didn't feel up to it.

When I got home, David had the girls already eating dinner and I didn't really feel hungry. By 6pm, I'd given them baths and put them in their pajamas. 

We loaded up in the car and drove back to the store to get ice cream, and then cruised around until they were both asleep. It didn't take long.

We got home, transferred the girls to bed (Coco required rocking, Zuzu was totally out), I ironed clothes and got stuff organized for the week, David made himself some dinner, and then we watched TV and went to bed early.

Whew. This week--this month!--is a busy one for us. I'm still feeling tired today, so I'm busting out the zinc and vitamin C and special tea and essential oils to homeopath myself to health! In the meantime, you'll find me drowning in stacks of papers to grade.

Friday, October 2, 2015

When All the News is Bad

This morning I listened to news reports about the shooting at the community college in Oregon and then I looked online at photos of Syrian refugee children sleeping out of doors.

And I'm basically ready to give up on humanity.

I think about the students in Oregon and I see my students. I look at those terrified kids sleeping out of doors and I see my kids.

And what really sucks is that the problems seem so huge and overwhelming and impossible that instead of feeling spurred to action, I feel tired and scared and sick to my stomach and I just want to go home and hold my babies and never leave my house.

Not exactly the way I planned to start my weekend.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Look Alikes?

David's grandma has been visiting us for a few days, and she keeps remarking on how much Zuzu reminds her of David's mom when she was little. Do you agree?

I see definite similarities!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Some Things (Will) Never Change

I wrote this post two years ago.

I could pretty much have written this part of it today:

We went to a BBQ at a friend's house over the weekend.  There were five couples there.  Among the ten of us, there are nine kids.

(And one dead baby.)

Four of these couples (including us) were pregnant in 2010.  There was a little girl there who is five months older than Eliza would have been.  A little boy who is two months older than Eliza would have been.  Another little boy who is one month younger than Eliza would have been.

They are so big, these kids.  Big, and gorgeous, and funny, and they say big words and talk in whole sentences and wear big kid shoes and have hair that requires brushing and they ate dinner sitting in little chairs at tiny tables and not wearing bibs.

We had plans to have a Christmas dinner party with this group of friends the week after Eliza died.  David and I didn't make that dinner party.  Or any parties after that.  For a very, very long time.  We've gone to dinner with the adults in the group a couple of times in the past year or so, and I meet up with the girls on a pretty regular basis, but this was the first time since Eliza died that we were around everybody with all the kids.

It was fine--I didn't want to have a meltdown or anything.  It was nice to see everyone and to see how big the babies are getting--there's also a little boy who's a month older than Zu and a little girl who's a month younger (both have older siblings).  Zuzu and Evie even wrestled a bit over the Cozy Coupe.  
But David and I talked on the way home about how much we miss Eliza when we are with all of these families-of-four.

It just never stops sucking.  The "big" little girls are taking dance lessons.  My friends are talking potty training and crib-to-bed transitions and where these kids will go to kindergarten.  I can listen to these conversations without crying (that's called progress, my friends!).  I don't even have to fake interest or pretend to be okay when it feels like my insides are melting.  I can really handle it.  But there is something totally surreal and breathtaking about watching my best friends live my alternative life--the one I might have had if both my babies had lived instead of just one.

These days, I don't feel bitter or angry or resentful about it.  I'm happy for them and I love their kids.  I just feel sad for me.  I just want it to be me, too, buying leotards and ballet slippers and princess underwear.  I just want Eliza in the mix.

It's a million times easier than it was--I mean there was a time when I couldn't be around any kids who were close to Eliza's age and not lose it.  But it also struck me what a life sentence it is that we're facing.  Their kids will always be doing stuff that Eliza will never do at precisely the time she would have done it.  Their lives will always be eighteen months ahead of mine when it comes to raising kids.  Their families will always be complete while mine will always have someone missing.

I remember my mom telling me about a classmate of hers who died in grade school, and how every milestone of his classmates--driving, prom, graduation, and then college graduations and weddings and class reunions--was one more thing his mom witnessed as a reminder of all her son had missed out on.

I would have never thought it would hurt the same for a baby who never lived outside my belly.  I could have never imagined that my love for her didn't require her to be alive.  I would have never understood how much I would mourn both my daughter's life and the life I would have had if she'd lived.

I'm grateful my friendships have survived the wreckage.  I think I need to try harder because my instinct for so long was to distance myself from things like family BBQ's and kids birthday parties (we haven't been to a single one besides Zuzu's since Eliza died) and I know we've missed so much.

It's just that we still miss her.  So much.

Grief gets so much easier to live with--shockingly easy, to the extent that it sometimes feels like a betrayal.

But when you boil it down to the part where she was here--or she was thisclose to being here--and now she's gone... That part still makes me crumple. And I guess it always will.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cultural Messages and Chocolate-Chip Cookies

I made chocolate-chip cookies last week. I baked a double batch so I could take some of them to a Pedal the Cure fundraiser that Beth and Curt were hosting, and would have some to take to my friends who just had a new baby, and would have some left over for our house.

Since I was baking them for other people, I didn't enlist Zuzu's help, but later in the day, she asked me if she could have a cookie.

She was so excited when I gave her the cookie. She held it in her hand and said, "This is so yummy, Mommy!" She held it up for David and my parents to see: "Mm-mm! This is good!"

She still hadn't taken a bite.

She took the tiniest little nibble off the side. "Yum-yum-yum!" she said enthusiastically.

And then she just kind of sat there with the cookie in her hand.

"Honey, you don't have to eat it," I told her.

"Okay!" she said. She put the cookie down the table and went off to play.

Zuzu obviously does not like chocolate-chip cookies. She doesn't have much of a sweet tooth at all. She isn't into ice cream, and she'll eat plain Greek yogurt by the spoonful.

But she obviously knows she's supposed to like chocolate-chip cookies.

A three-year-old, whose television exposure is pretty limited, whose parents generally try to eat pretty healthy, whose schools have never served sugary snacks, can recite the things she's expected to say about chocolate-chip cookies, even though she doesn't actually want to eat them.

It really makes me think about all of the other unintentional messages that we send her, and how readily she absorbs them. And then consider all the messages that our society is sending her about how she is supposed to act and look and think and feel.

Liking chocolate-chip cookies seems pretty harmless, and we all laughed at her enthusiasm for a treat she obviously didn't want to eat. But what happens when she starts to absorb other kinds of social messages? You know the ones I mean--Math is hard. Girls should be skinny. Alcohol makes everything more fun. A little more troubling than Chocolate-chip cookies are delicious.

She performed the cultural ritual of celebrating a chocolate chip cookie even though she didn't really want to take part in it. She wanted to be part of what everyone else makes a fuss about (even though we didn't realize we were making a fuss--we obviously were!). Like every kid, she wants attention, pleasure, positive reinforcement. That's normal. But it's scary to think about how quickly she'll want those things to come from places other than her parents, and how the cultural messages about what will bring her attention, pleasure, and positive reinforcement are not necessarily the messages I want her to receive.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Recap of the Week in Which David Attended Baseball Games and I Did Everything Else

Crafty Cousin Amanda texted me today to ask what was going on because the blog was silent.

The answer is NOTHING is going on, but also, of course everything. I seriously have not seen my husband to have more than a five minute conversation since Sunday.

So, here's a quick recap of my week for CCAmanda and anyone else who cares.

Monday, I left work early, knowing I'd be there all day the next day, and the girls and I spent some time outside and went for a stroller ride. David's dad came in town and David took him to the Cardinals game, so I was on my own for dinner, clean up, bathtime, bedtime.

Tuesday, I was at work from 8:30am until 10:30pm. BUT it was also the day that I went to dinner with Lea DeLaria, which just goes to show that being an English professor is very glamorous and basically the same thing as being a celebrity.

Really I was on the committee that organized her visit to our campus. She was gracious and funny and foul-mouthed ("Zero fucks given!") and her talk (part stand up comedy, part self-acceptance pep talk) was a successful event. But preparing for it was also time consuming and stressful and included a last-minute date change and I'm relieved that it is behind us and that it went really well.

And I have no shame, so I requested a selfie with Lea and she was super cool about it.

David went to an event at Zuzu's school Tuesday night, but his grandma had come in town to visit us (she's staying until next Tuesday) so she watched the girls while he was there and I was at work. In other words, David was not on his own for dinner, clean up, bathtime, and bedtime.

Wednesday was back to regular life for me (no more dinners with celebrities), except on less sleep than usual because I got home so late on Tuesday but was still feeling wired so stayed up to watch most of an episode of Castle before falling asleep with fifteen minutes to go, which is the story of my life when it comes to TV watching these days. It takes me an average of six attempts to make it all the through an hour-long show (40 minutes because I can fast forward commercials). I'm not even kidding.

Plus I woke up at 2:45am Wednesday morning feeling sick to my stomach, thought I was going to puke, popped two Tums, tossed and turned and moaned pitifully, then went back to sleep and woke up totally fine. Except tired.

Wednesday night I spent the evening at home alone with the girls while David and his grandma went to his league's championship baseball game. He pitched a shut out against a team that's averaged 12 runs a game all season. I'm sorry I missed it, but glad his grandma got to see it. The girls actually played together in the basement for a while, allowing me to work on sewing Zuzu's Halloween costume and we were in bed by 9:00pm.

Also, since David was at a baseball game, I was on my own for dinner, clean up, bathtime, and bedtime.

Yesterday, Thursday, I picked up the girls, sat in road construction traffic, and got home just in time to start fixing them dinner. David walked in the door, changed his clothes, and left to take his grandma to the Cardinals game.

Another baseball game. So I was on my for dinner, clean up, bathtime, and bedtime for the third time this week.

If the purpose of David's attendance at ballgames this week was to make me notice how much he contributes around the house, POINT TAKEN. He has been very missed this week. Both in terms of adult conversation and a second pair of hands.

Zuzu was actually on pretty good behavior this week (except for one day in the car when she was so pissed off that the Pandora radio wasn't playing songs from Frozen that she threw her milk cup at me and I had to take many deep breaths so that I wouldn't pick it up and pitch it right back in her face) so we really had a good time. I'm telling you, age 3 is SO MUCH easier than age 2 for this one. Milk cup throwing notwithstanding.

All week, though, we have been having lots of conversations about the Big Bad Wolf. It started with this crappy little tent that my mom picked up for her secondhand somewhere and we occasionally set it up outside for her to play in. Well, the top of it got torn because it's a cheap little secondhand tent. Zuzu was very perturbed and wanted to know what happened and how it got torn, and evidently my mom told her that the Big Bag Wolf blew it off.

Haha, funny joke, Grammy.

Except now Zuzu keeps asking me where the wolf was when he came to our house, if he was hiding in the garage ("By the lawnmower, Mommy?"), if he only comes after dark, if Daddy chased him away, if he lives way far away or in St. Louis... a million questions about the Big Bad Wolf and his geographical location. I'm trying to reassure her that since our house is made of bricks, he can't blow it down, but she pointed out the TV room (an addition the previous owners made) is not made of bricks (it has vinyl siding). So she's obviously concerned. I told her I'd chase the wolf away, and she said that she'd slap her hands together and say, "Get outta here, Wolf!" so it seemed like we'd settle the matter, but then a while later she'd bring it up again.

Nice work, GRAMMY.

Tonight we have no plans so we'll be back to a more equitable distribution of cooking and parenting duties, and I, for one, am thrilled about that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Weeknight Walk

The other night, Zuzu and I took Cooper on a walk around the neighborhood after dinner.

It had been a typical evening--not bad, not great--in terms of feeling the just-got-home crunch. I pull in the drive way after working all day and driving 30 minutes to pickup the girls, and then I unload the girls and all our stuff out of the car, and instead of getting to just crash on the couch and re-calibrate for a moment, or pour myself a glass of wine and grab a cookie, I immediately feel pulled in many directions at once because everyone NEEDS something from me.

Cooper needs to be fed. Coco needs to nurse. Zuzu wants a snack, a toy, a show, a prize, a visit from a babysitter, a particular dress-up dress. I need to start a load of laundry. I want to change my clothes. Sippy cups from daycare need to be washed. Diapers need to be rinsed. And all of these demands really need to be met at precisely the same time, the moment we walk in the door.

I sound like I'm complaining, but really I feel bad that it's not my favorite moment of the day. I feel bad that sometimes thinking about that post-driveway, pre-dinner timeframe fills me with dread. I'm happy to be home and with my family (or I know that's how I'm supposed to feel), but mostly I feel tired, stressed, like my head will explode from listening to the whining/crying, and resentful of David who is still in his car alone and enjoying a podcast (nevermind that he's probably sitting in traffic, wishing he could be home with us). Oh--and of course I also feel guilty for having all those negative feelings.

So I psych myself up. I take a lot of deep breaths. I smile because smiling makes you feel happy. And I prioritize like I'm an ER nurse dealing with worst-case scenarios first. Coco and I both want to nurse, and her crying is louder and more stressful to me than Zuzu's whining (plus she's harder to distract), so that takes priority. Zuzu's snack comes next, and poor Cooper has to wait until I've chopped an apple and given the baby a graham cracker--then I run downstairs to feed him and start the laundry.

That half hour or so when we first get home and everyone has ALL THESE NEEDS and is so LOUD about expressing their needs can really take it out of me.

The routine is getting easier as the weeks go by, but on this particular night, the weather was beautiful, dinner was finished and cleaned up, I had done all the mothering I could cram into two and a half hours, and I just wanted to get out of the house by myself for a little bit before bedtime.

But of course Zuzu saw me put the leash on Cooper and wanted to come with me.

There was a time when we seriously could not take Zuzu on walks around the block because she always expected that we would walk to the park and play on the playground and when that didn't happen, she would have a colossal meltdown and it just really didn't seem worth it to us to listen to her scream and watch her writhe in the stroller, pointing toward the park with fury.

But although she certainly has her difficult moments, turning 3 has been a good thing for us. So many people said 3 was worse than the "terrible twos" but that just hasn't been the case for Zuzu. Her ability to rationalize and accept explanations is SUPER helpful and a great improvement.

In fact, I was just thinking about how nervous I was about coming home from the hospital with Coco and facing long days at home by myself with a new born and Zuzu--who was two years and five weeks old when Coco was born. That was Zuzu's most difficult stage--she had so much energy and force of will, and yet limited understanding and self-expression. I remember taking her to the library that October and being so frustrated with her behavior--that I'm sure was developmentally typical, but felt just totally A-hole-ish to me.

She can still be A-hole-ish, but so far I am loving age 3 way more than age 2. So I told her to go put her shoes on, and off we went. The experience on this walk (eleven months after the library visit that made me swear never to take her anywhere out in public ever) was totally different. She held my hand, and we just talked.

I mentioned that I heard the cicadas and asked if she heard them. She replied, "Oh yes! And maybe mosquitoes, too!"

At one point, she wanted to let go of my hand and walk next to me, and I could just see how grown-up and independent she felt.

We chatted briefly with a neighbor whose dog was outside, and she noted that the dog was Cooper's friend and asked if maybe they could play together another day.

We talked with a neighbor who was out picking up a squirrel's nest that had fallen in her yard, and Zuzu was so interested in how the squirrels built the nest, and whether they had been inside the nest when it fell, and where they would live now that this nest wasn't in the tree, and what their new nest might look like, and why we couldn't see it.

(It's not lost on me that if I'd been alone, my exchanges with these neighbors would probably have consisted of "Hi." "Hello.")

It's such a cliche, but I love seeing the world through her eyes. I love that a walk through our neighborhood feels like an adventure. I love the way I find myself looking for things to comment on and the way she takes our conversations in unexpected directions. I love her quirky and sometimes hilarious attempts to understand how things work. She's just such an interesting little person, and I probably think that mostly because she's my own kid, but the way her mind works fascinates me.

(Sort of related to this is the fact that one of her teachers got her hair cut and she told me that Zuzu kept asking, "Who cut your hair? What was her name?" like she wanted to name of the stylist, maybe as a recommendation, or possibly to get that person into trouble. Her intentions were unclear.)

Last night, I thought I wanted a ten-minute escape from the obligations of my family at home, but really I just needed to get outside for a new perspective on parenting. This was the fun part of being a parent--not making dinner and cleaning it up and listening to kids whine for cereal instead, but just walking and talking about dogs and squirrels and mosquitoes.

These little moments don't always happen on a typical weeknight, but when they do, they're really, really good.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Update

Weekend Update reminds me of Saturday Night Live, which reminds me of middle school, which reminds me of the time that one of my classes did a video recording of a newscast from 1915. My friend E and I were the news anchors and we had to wear period-appropriate clothing and hair styles. Some of our classmates were news reporters in the field and one of the guys didn't have a shirt and somehow this resulted in him borrowing my friend E's shirt, leaving her cowering in only her bra and a pair of black pants in a bathroom stall in the sixth grade hallway. She's probably still traumatized by the experience. I had to race down the hall with her shirt so she could get dressed and get back in place to film our coverage of the sinking of the Lusitania after the guy borrowing her shirt got done covering news from the White House. Also the teleprompter was not in the right place for the news anchors to read, so the whole time E and I are reporting, we're giving the camera the side-eye.

This actual weekend, in my non-middle school life, we had zero plans, and it was awesome. David suggested we go to the zoo Saturday morning because the weather was awesome and I said, no, let's just stay home and do nothing.

Friday night, I picked up the girls and we drove out to David's school. They were having an outdoor movie night and showed the movie Home, which was super adorable. Before it got dark, it was a general playground free-for-all for all the kids, plus there were a few food trucks.

Coco's mind was blown. 

Zuzu (not pictured) kept right up with all the elementary school kids. I was so impressed that she wasn't at all intimidated by them. There was one point when she got off a piece of equipment and came over to me in a huff. She said, "That girl blocked me!" I asked her if she said excuse me, and she said, "No, she blocked me and I got really upset!" (I think the girl was concerned that Zuzu would fall if she climbed up high).

We made a couple trips inside for potty breaks, during which Coco decided she is ready for kindergarten.

Zuzu ran ahead and did not want to cooperate for my photo taking. She played her little heart out, and didn't stop moving from the time we got there (around 5:30pm) to the time the movie started (a little after 7:00pm). When it was time to go sit down for the movie, she was reluctant to leave the playground (and by "reluctant," I mean that she tried to bite my hand). But once we got settled down, she ate a picnic dinner.

The temperatures dropped Friday night, so I was delighted when she snuggled up on my lap and we pulled a blanket over us and cuddled while we watched the movie--such a sweet treat. Totally made up for the attempted bite.

Coco was thrilled to be on the loose at David's school, but had to be watched closely because she also wanted to climb up all the equipment like she was a third-grader. More problematic was the fact that most of the playground is filled in with pea-sized gravel, which Coco seemed to think was DELICIOUS. Every time I'd take my eyes off of her for a second to check on Zuzu, when I glanced back down, Coco would be shoving handfuls of gravel in her face. I spent a good deal of time freaking out and fishing pebbles out of her mouth. Fortunately, she cooperated by falling asleep in her stroller as soon as it got dark.

Saturday morning Coco got up at 6:00am, but after I nursed her, I went back to bed and David got up with her and let Zuzu and me sleep in until 8:00am. Once we were up for the day, we cleaned the house and put out fall decorations (yay pumpkins!). The girls played outside and we had a generally lovely, low-key day, except that Zuzu skipped her nap and got kind of nightmarish. My friend E (same name but not the same friend who was traumatized by the middle school newscast) stopped by and I tagged along with her and her parents to a couple of stores so she could look at potential furniture for her new house. Shopping was way more fun than staying home and listening to Zuzu scream-whine.

Saturday night they both fell asleep early (the only benefit to an afternoon of scream-whining) so David and I actually sat on the couch and ate popcorn and watched a movie and I caught up on a few blogs and googled a bunch of stuff I've been wanting to google but never have time! (examples: scuba skirts (I want one), how old is Kate Winslet (39), what will college cost in 2030 (you don't want to know), what if my toddler won't drink milk (the internetz kinda stressed me out on this one), and recipes for pudding cookies (yum).

Sunday morning I got up and hit the half price day of the Recycled Kids sale nearby. It's a huge consignment sale where any vendor can take their kids clothes/toys/paraphernalia and on Sunday it's open from 9-12 with everything half price (except for some sneaky things marked with a red dot because I don't know why). Anyway, I scored a few little outfits, the most expensive of which was a dress for $5.50 that Zuzu likes because it is tea-length and therefore "I look like a princess!" and I like because it has a Peter Pan collar and therefore is adorable. I also got a bunch of socks that look new, a pair of roller skates, a set of knee and elbow pads, a few matchbox cars, and a dress up Rapunzel dress.

Here Zu models the dress and tries to keep sister out of her dollhouse.

I stopped by Old Navy to check out their toddler leggings selection, but after a big consignment sale, paying $8 for leggings seems unreasonably expensive, so I didn't get much of anything.

It did make me think about my "buy nothing new" pledge and how it's actually much harder than a spending freeze because buying things gently used requires a significant time commitment to browse and hunt. And free time is something that I don't have a whole lot of these days. So it's a bit of a struggle. And then I bought a new shirt at Target.

I've also purged an enormous portion of my closet--I did a top swap with friends, I donated a bunch of stuff to my parents' church basement sale, and I have two more bins in the basement ready to donate. Basically I have NOTHING to wear and no time to buy anything new (except at Target). I'd like to use this as an excuse to subscribe to Stitch Fix, but I'm not sure I can justify the expense... (Maybe if I do the every-three-months option?)

David was home with the girls while I was shopping and pondering the state of my closet. Coco had a bad fall outside and got road rash on her forehead. She was running with cherry tomatoes in her hands and when she fell she didn't put her hands out to protect her noggin. I guess David was pretty scared when it happened, but by the time I got home you could barely see the road rash. She's so tough.

Today starts another long week, so I'm off to iron and set out clothes for the week. It's a tough job picking out clothes for everyone in my family, but someone's got to do it.

I wore this--and yeah, that's the new shirt. Pardon my weird claw hand holding my keys. Also the outfit was cuter with the pointy-toe flats I keep in my office. The whole damn outfit (except the shoes) is from Target. The belt is my favorite. I heart neon.

Friday, September 11, 2015

How Have I Not Written About This Poem?

After I posted the photos of my office, I went searching in the blog archives for where I wrote about Mary Oliver's poem, "Heavy."

And I couldn't find it. 

Maybe the blog post was all in my head?

At any rate, it's September 11th--a day of grief for many people--and I think I should write about this poem. I feel like I talk about it or tell people about it all the time (because I'm always foisting poems on people in otherwise normal conversations, natch). It was sent to me in the mail by my friend Erica, folded up and tucked into a card. I remember opening it and reading it, and crying the way you cry when everything is terrible and nothing can make it better except knowing you're not the only person who has ever felt this way.

I copied it into my notebook of quotes and poems I started collecting after Eliza died, and I carried the typed copy that Erica sent with me for a long time, frequently pulling it out of my bag or my pocket, unfolding it, smoothing the creases, and reading the words over and over again. 

I was bent. My laughter was gone. And yet, I could recognize a hopeful truth in this idea that it's not the weight of the grief you carry, but how you balance it "when you cannot, and would not / put it down."

Eventually, I put the poem up on the bulletin board in my office--a place where I balance both grief and books--and even though I am sure I know it by heart, I still read it almost every day.

It's a poem about life after grief. About how you live with it and around it. How you never really let it go, but it eventually stops feeling like such a burden and becomes a familiar part of you. How you kind of stop hating it and start recognizing it as a reminder of love. How you find space for your old self in and around the grief--but Mary Oliver really says it much better than I can, so here it is:

"Heavy" by Mary Oliver

     That time
     I thought I could not
     go any closer to grief
     without dying.

     I went closer,
     and I did not die.
     Surely God 
     had His hand in this,

     as well as friends.
     Still I was bent,
     and my laughter,
     as the poet said,

     was no where to be found.
     Then said my friend Daniel
     (brave even among lions),
     "It is not the weight you carry

     but how you carry it--
     books, bricks, grief--
     it's all in the way
     you embrace it, balance it, carry it

     When you cannot, and would not
     put it down."
     So I went practicing.
     Have you noticed?

     Have you heard 
     the laughter
     that comes, now and again,
     out of my startled mouth?

     How I linger
     to admire, admire
     the things of this world
     that are kind and maybe

     also troubled--
     roses in the wind,
     The sea geese on the steep waves,
     a love
     to which there is no reply?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

My Office

Some friends were asking me about what my office looks like, so I thought it would be kind of fun to share it online. I obviously haven't done much in terms of "styling" it. All the furniture is provided by my university, the walls are the basic cream color of all the walls in my building, and I've just kind of "decorated" with whatever I already had on hand. It's kinda random. Let's call it eclectic. Let me give you a tour!

View from the door. Sometimes I sit on the exercise ball at my desk.

Close up. I keep vitamin-C lozenges in the little bowl. The framed photo farthest on the right (slightly blocked here by a photo of David and me at Stonehenge) is of David and my family and me at my graduation from my PhD program. I was 8 weeks pregnant with Eliza and my smile is SO happy.
It's a great office space, really. Very generous size, with huge windows, which I really appreciate, especially because I spent many years as a grad student in a shared basement office that was windowless! I've been thinking that I'd like to personalize and glam it up a bit more--maybe get a cute chair to put in the corner with a reading lamp, and bring in a rug for the spot in front of the desk.

Instead, I have a gray classroom desk and no lamp in the corner. This is the view when I'm sitting at my desk. Gallery wall of Zuzu art and clock that needs a new battery.
The work space. Keeping it real, and not clearing it off for photos. I make a real effort to keep it organized, but there are lots of stacks of papers and books going on.

Do you recognize the girl in the portrait above my bulletin board? It's Buffy. The Vampire Slayer. The painting was created for me by a student I had in class the semester after Eliza died. I used Buffy as an example topic for a research project, and the students (most of whom had never seen the show before I showed an episode in class!) teased me about it, but also recognized the awesome.
It occurs to me now that I could definitely improve the aesthetic of my bulletin board if I better organized it, but I decided to ahead and share it as it is. I'll keep you posted when (if?) I make improvements. In addition to schedules, phone numbers, and reminders ("Good writing is all in the rewriting"), there are my favorite family photos, "Hark! A Vagrant" comic featuring the Bronte sisters, postcards from Europe, and my two favorite poems that I return to again and again: "Heavy" by Mary Oliver and "The Laughing Heart" by Charles Bukowski.

This is the bookcase on the left as you walk in the door.
The top shelf of this bookcase features a phrenology head, a plant, a silver Big Ben, and a framed print that says, "I like big books and I cannot lie." My diploma hangs on the wall. The Sunset Boulevard poster was a gift from a high school boyfriend that I just can't let go (the poster, not the boyfriend, though that did take a while, too), and that shelf is full of comp textbooks and my notebooks from grad school, and stacks of exams and papers from previous semesters.

The bookshelf behind my desk.
The print on top of this bookcase was created by a student for a presentation--it's a pretty gruesome illustration from the seventh circle of hell in Dante's Inferno when he's in the forest, that she mounted on foam core (and evidently did not want to take home and display?). The shelves also feature plants, a pink geode bookend, photos of Zuzu and Coco, and an art print of Jackie Kennedy, baby-loss mama, who reminds me to keep my sh*t together and also wear big sunglasses.

Close up of gallery art so you can see what a genius my child is.
That gray chair is seriously sad.
The poster on the wall is the silhouettes of Mr. Rochester and Jane Eyre surrounded by text from the book in the tiniest type. I bought it right after I found out I got the job, knowing I'd put it up in my office. The map of the world above it is a piece of wrapping paper I mod-podged onto a canvas. The ceilings are so high, I really just wanted to fill the space.

Sign by the door. #truth
Purchased after completing NANOWRIMO two years ago.
So, that's my office. Now that I've posted all these photos, I'm really feeling motivated to fix 'er up a little bit more... 

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Secret

I have finally discovered the secret to getting through the work week.

Are you ready for this?


I KNOW, right?

I am very affected by caffeine. If I drink it without eating enough, I get super jittery and shaky. If I drink it in the evening, I can't sleep.

When I saw a therapist in grad school, convinced I needed anti-anxiety medication, he told me to first try cutting out caffeine and also exercising.

(I was slightly irritated that his advice TOTALLY WORKED for me.)

So I chilled out on the coffee, quit drinking pop, and then I quit it entirely when I got pregnant with Eliza because I figured if it made me jittery, it would affect the baby, too. And then I didn't want anything even remotely questionable in my body when we were trying to get pregnant again. And by the time Zuzu weaned, I hadn't been drinking coffee in so long that I didn't have a chance to start up again before I discovered I was pregnant again.

But NOW!

I have quit pumping at work. I went to a La Leche meeting this week because I was having mixed feelings about this decision... I mean, I WANT to quit pumping, but Coco isn't a big fan of cow's milk (not the way Zuzu was) so it didn't seem as easy to quit sending mama milk to school with her when she's not really cool with the easy substitute.

But, Girlfriend is almost thirteen months old. She can drink water and catch up on mama milk when she sees me. I do not need to be pumping eight ounces a day at this point. The LLL leaders suggested I try rice milk to see if she likes that, but not to stress over it. I have some frozen milk (just a little bit, as I recently donated most of my supply to the Milk Bank), so I'll do some mixing and keep sending sippy cups of it as long as it holds out, but I'm NOT SORRY to say goodbye to the pump and to the washing of pump parts (except in the sense that it means my baybee is really not a little baby anymore, as though her WALKING and TALKING is not enough of a clue).

(Also there was the perk of having the excuse to get out of really boring work meetings sometimes, but I suppose that couldn't last forever...)

Anyway, what that means is that I am drinking caffeinated tea and having an occasional small cup of coffee and it feels SO GOOD! I slammed a nonfat chai latte before class on Wednesday and I was WIRED. It was awesome.

But my use is totally recreational, so don't worry.

I'm not an addict. It's cool. I feel alive. If you don't like it, you're on the other side.

(Anybody remember that song? K's Choice? C'mon, tell me you remember it. Mid to late '90s? Totally awesome. Love it.)

This week was a doozy, so the caffeine really helped.

Highlights of my week included:
* a pair of size 3T panties getting flushed down the toilet
* a pair of baby hands caught splashing in the toilet water (gag gag gag!)
* the poor dog getting shut outside for the night with everyone too tired to realize it so he basically shredded the weatherstrip lining trying to claw his way back in and shredded my heart with mama guilt for leaving him out because he is a special snowflake kind of indoor dog (at least it was a warm, dry night).

Oh, another great moment was when Zuzu got really mad at me and yelled, "I'm going to BITE you! With my MOUTH!" (She didn't actually bite me, so maybe we're making progress?)

David worked late last night, and my work continues to feel crazy. I don't know if I just forgot what the first couple weeks of the semester feel like since I was at home with a newborn last year, or if this year was just especially crazy. But I think it really has been especially crazy.

I'm definitely needing a long weekend. And I might even bust out the coffee pot for Tuesday morning!

Wild times here, my friends. Wild times.

Now excuse me while I go find K's Choice on Spotify.

Friday, August 28, 2015

It's David's Birf-day!

I asked Zuzu yesterday who was older, Mommy or Daddy.


She said this definitively, absolutely sure of herself.


David is older, thankyouverymuch, and I'm clearly the much younger trophy wife, if you will.

Except the trophy is my brain. Hahahah.

Oh mercy. It's Friday of the longest week EVAH and I'm feeling a little slaphappy.

Speaking of which, I'm celebrating my husband's birthday by going to a happy hour with work colleagues and leaving him to do the whole pick up and pre-dinner hour by himself. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HONEY! Also, Good Luck.

Zuzu and I will be baking him a cake when I get home, though. German chocolate upside down cake, which she will get super excited about and then not actually eat. Her unwillingness to eat sweets will not stop her from raving about how delicious it is, which is one of my favorite things about her: the fact that she doesn't actually like cake or cookies does not stop her from being SUPER enthusiastic about them!

Coco's mysterious viral spots are clearing up. Zuzu was a great sister at the doctor's visit. She turned to the doctor very seriously and said, "We need you to get these spots off of her."

Much to our dismay, the doctor could not get the spots off of her while we were there, but I'm relieved that they are mostly faded and never caused any discernible discomfort or distress. So WEIRD.

There was some distress when Coco somersaulted backwards down four stairs last night. We are hoping it was a "live and learn" moment for her, but I was totally freaked out when I witnessed it happening but couldn't get across the room fast enough to prevent it. Poor little punkin. It's easy to roll down stairs when you're small and round.

Her spill did initiate her into the club, though, because now the entire family has fallen down the stairs at least once. Cooper being the exception to this rule.

I swear we're not especially clumsy. The stairs are kinda narrow and we like to move fast. Fortunately they're carpeted and no one has been seriously injured, aside from our pride and dignity.

(But we all know I don't have much of that left at this point anyway.)

We have some fun things planned for this weekend, so hopefully I'll have something to write about besides how tired I am, how I get too many emails, and how my students need to buy their freaking textbooks already.

(Obviously I am super fun to hang out with right now.)

Before I go, here are some things I want to watch/read/do/buy, but don't have the time or energy to watch/read/do/buy. Maybe in a couple weeks when the madness of the start of the semester has died down but the insanity of midterms has not yet hit?:

The documentary Tig about comedian Tig Natoro and her life after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Euphoria by Lily King and (don't judge) The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

Festival of Nations in Tower Grove Park (okay--we are planning to try to do this tomorrow).

This shirt dress. So versatile, right? Plus it's cute and nursing friendly!

Anything else I should be watching/reading/doing/buying? Do tell. I need to know how much I'm missing out on by being too tired to function by 8:30pm.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When I'm Crying (And When I'm Not)

I miss her all the time, of course. It's not the burden that it was. It's just become a part of who I am.

But now and then, I get teary. And whatever the initial reason that my throat gets achy and my chest gets tight, and even when I start out crying about something entirely unrelated, I always seem to end up crying for her.

I'm glad to say that most of the time lately, it's less of the self-pitying kind of cry than it used to be. For so long after she died, I was drowning in self-pity. I hated the thought of other people feeling sorry for me, and my therapist would tell me that people feeling sad for me wasn't the same as being the object of pity.

But I felt so sorry for myself (as well as sad) that I couldn't clearly distinguish the two.

I still have moments of feeling plenty sorry for myself--I haven't morphed into a saint in the past 4.5 years, and I still have my why me moments.

But now when I cry it's not so much about the way things are as the loss of the way things might have been.

I'm no longer crying because I'm a pathetic wretch and my life feels like a horror story. I'm crying because I have living proof (times two) of how delightful and hilarious Eliza would have been, and I have to miss out on her forever, and to wish things otherwise now is so complicated.

Things are good. Really good. But they could have been so different.

So in my mind, I combine the way things are with the way things might have been and it's so perfectly perfect. Not in a fake and unbelievable way. Just... the way I wish they were.


At my brother's wedding, I felt kind of teary because he was so dang cute and happy and obviously in love. And then I felt kind of teary because I've been married eleven years and I feel so lucky to have David. And then I was teary because I wished my Nana could have been there. She would have loved it so much. She would have loved Brandon's wife. She would have made them a wedding quilt. She would have been thrilled to meet Jo's family. She would have been happy to have her family all together. She would have been so delighted that Brandon had "finally" met the right girl. And then--of course--I cried because I wanted Eliza to be a flower girl. The oldest one, the bossy one, the reliable one.

You know what's cuter than two sisters in puffy flower girl dresses?

Three sisters in puffy flower girl dresses.


I went to the lake last weekend with my girlfriends from college. I didn't want to spend two nights away from Coco, so I drove down Saturday morning with Zuzu and my parents met us there and took Zuzu home to spend the night with them as a special big girl treat, leaving Coco and David to have some one-on-one time. (We enjoyed our own special big girl treats in the form of booze.) It was a great day on the lake, and a fun night out, and we laughed and danced to '90s hip hop and told old stories and caught up on each others' lives and my stress level decreased considerably.

We played Cards Against Humanity and--without going into the details of the game, which is intended to be funny, gross, AND equal-opportunity-offensive--before the game started, I said, "Okay guys, there's a card in here that says 'Dead babies.'" I was going to ask that we just put it to the side so it (or rather I) wouldn't be a total buzz kill, but Stephanie (who brought the game) quickly said, "No. There's not."

And I wanted to cry because it was so freaking sweet of her to pull that card out ahead of time. And I wanted to cry because she had to freaking pull that card out ahead of time. Because of me. And my dead baby. (Yeah... that would have been mostly a self-pity kind of cry)


On Sunday we said our goodbyes and I still had some time before my parents were going to be back with Zuzu, so I headed for the outlet mall. I saw a cute fall dress I had to get for Zuzu, and I decided to get a coordinating outfit for Coco, and since they were such a good deal, I decided to pick up another coordinating dress for my best friend's daughter, who is six months older and wears a couple sizes bigger than Zuzu.

So there I was, in the check-out line, buying three little pumpkin outfits in stair-step sizes for three little girls.

(Don't judge--I declared my "buy nothing new" code did not apply to kids' clothes.)

I loved it. I loved knowing that the checkout girl was assuming that I had three daughters who were going to wear these outfits together for photographs in a pumpkin patch. I even let myself pretend for a moment that they were. I liked it so much I started thinking that maybe I should buy more clothes in bigger sizes for Zuzu to grow into.

You know what's even cuter than two sisters in coordinating pumpkin outfits?

Yeah. You get the idea.

The way things are + the way things might have been.


I didn't cry that day at the outlet mall, but I'm kind of getting teary-eyed now as I type that because it seems sort of pathetic and weird to even think about buying clothes just so strangers who work in children's clothing stores will assume that all three of my daughters are alive and I can experience what that might feel like for the length of the check-out experience.

But I'm also teary-eyed because I just watched a video of kids with Down syndrome getting letters announcing they've received college scholarships (You know what really gets me? The pride in their parents' voices.). I watched an interview my friend Beth did on the local news. I'm tired from the first couple of days of being back at school and back in a new routine that involves earlier mornings and longer days. Coco has a rash the doctor says is viral. Zuzu missed her nap today for her doctor appointment and as a result was screamy and hitty all evening until she finally passed out at 8:30 pm. I just wanted everyone to fall asleep so I could read Pride and Prejudice with no one talking to me. But aren't these the days I'm going to miss when the girls go to college? And Zuzu will be 18 in just 15 years...

All of these things make me cry, and then, quietly lurking in the back of everything else, is the grief. It comes back when I'm tired. When I'm emotional. When I'm not parenting as patiently as I probably should. When I've spent time with friends whose kids are the ages that my kids would have (might have) been. When the air gets just cool enough in August to remind us that fall is coming and after fall comes my season of sadness.

So... I'm tired. I'm feeling a little stressed. It's a busy time of year. Tears come easy. With grief comes tears, but for me it often works in reverse just as well.

With tears comes grief. It's been there all along, just waiting for a release.

And even when I'm not crying, I wonder who Eliza, at four-going-on-five, would have been.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ugh.This Week.

So a maintenance guy just opened the door to my office as I sit here at my desk.

With my shirt off.

Pumping milk out of my boobs.

I yelled, "JUST A MINUTE" and crouched below my desk. He closed the door in a hurry and then asked me (through the closed door) if they'd done any construction in my office.



My life is SO glamorous and not at all embarrassing ever.

I'm tired and stressed out and I don't feel prepared for the semester to start. My syllabus prep time this week has been taken up by teaching demos and professional development workshops that were useful, but they aren't going to teach my classes for me this fall, now are they? I spent all morning proctoring and assessing essays to place students into writing classes and my head is practically spinning and I still haven't finished and have more meetings to attend tomorrow.

Last night I was the most tired and stressed I can remember feeling in a long time. So, naturally, David and I got into a big fight about nothing important at all and I was SO PISSED that if we didn't have two small people to take care of, I would have thrown something at him and stomped out of the house and driven myself to go get ice cream.

But instead I had to act like an adult and talk to him in low, measured tones even though I wanted to be screaming.

And I didn't get ice cream.

Today was Zuzu's first day at her new Montessori school. She was very excited to go, all smiles at drop-off, and the director called me mid-morning to say everything was fine, Zuzu was acting like she'd been there her whole life, and when they went out to play, she was the first one up the climber. Girlfriend is adaptable! Much more than her mama.

As weepy as I felt this week, knowing that David would be doing drop off and would have all those cute conversations with her in the car in the morning, I have to confess that when they left the house and it was just me in the kitchen fixing my yogurt, the baby still sleeping upstairs, everything so quiet and peaceful except for the dulcet tones of NPR... It was really calming! Amazing how much more relaxed the morning feels without her little voice chirping at me a steady stream of questions, demands, and often-contrary remarks.

And I will be the one who picks her up in the afternoons, so we'll still get some car talk time.

Coco transitions next week from baby room to toddler room and by that time we'll have adjusted to the new morning routine and in another week it will be hard to remember the way things were before.

Which is probably what the poor maintenance guy is thinking now that he's seen me hooked up to a breast pump.

Oh, the indignity.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Let's Get Back to My Life

All I do is blog about kids anymore, and isn't this blog really supposed to be a modest and objective report ALL ABOUT ME and not about my remarkably brilliant and adorable offspring?


So let's get back to my life outside of and in addition to and okay yes probably also dealing with my kids, stream-of-consciousness style shall we?

For starters, I was thinking about the make-up tax on women, and then I was thinking about how many minutes of my life I spend running back in the house for one more thing I've realized we've forgotten just as we all get loaded up in the car. I do this almost daily. This morning, I did it THREE TIMES.

(1) binky (Coco's)

(2) sunglasses (mine)

(3) pump attachments (sonofabitch the worst part of this was that I was leaving daycare before I realized this bag was missing, so I had to circle ALL the way back--daycare is 13 minutes from my house and in the direction of my work) and was 15 minutes late for work. It's a good thing I'm not a surgeon. For SO MANY reasons. Namely the reason that when I see needles, I like to faint, but also the one where I inevitably end up 10 minutes late for everything, in part because I think nothing should actually start until 7 minutes after its declared start time. It's just a personal philosophy that I strongly believe in.)

Also after I dropped off the girls, I realized I still had Zuzu's bag with her towel, swimsuit, and watershoes, so I had to U-turn back to her school and then I literally RAN up to the gate and saw another parent going in with a preschooler and asked her to take the bag in for me and the sprinted back to my car. This mom happens to be pretty cool and I would actually like to be her friend so hopefully she doesn't mind maybe being friends with people who can't get their sh*t together.

And the thing is, I really TRIED to get organized last night. I made David help me, even. Everything was laid out and ready to go. The problem is I literally carry no fewer than seven different bags out to the car, so until I get a bellhop to attend me on a daily basis, something often gets lost in the shuffle.

The other thing is that I wasn't going to pump anymore because Coco turned one and I hate pumping, but I am really reluctant to stop nursing (probably because she's my last baybee and I am a motherhood cliche), also I don't like to be uncomfortably aware of my boobs, also sometimes it's good to have a legitimate excuse to excuse myself from meetings and go to my office and lock the door for thirty minutes.

In other news, I decided to make the most of our LAST DAY OF SUMMER yesterday, so by ten after eight (of course my goal had been 8:00am), we were headed up to the park. Zuzu wore her Rapunzel hair because nothing is more fun than wrapping a yarn earwarmer around your head when it's 90 degrees out. We did the park, then made it home in time to get to story time at the library where she made a superhero cape and mask, then we came home to eat lunch and then went to Target to buy Cheerios and have an excuse to drive around in the car until she fell asleep.

Turns out the general public loves a preschooler in a cape and Rapunzel braid. She got many admiring glances and comments at Target. Also she kept making loud and shrill pronouncements like, "This is a FUN place!" Someone should put her in commercials.

After Target, I remembered that I needed to pick up the thank you cards I was having made for Coco's birthday, so I stopped by the printing place. They'd e-mailed me the day before to say they received my order and it should be ready soon, so I just assumed that since it was a small order it would be ready for pick up.

It turns out, they were behind schedule, so they hadn't made my cards yet.

BUT it turns out that when you show up in person, and you're dragging a tired baby and a toddler wearing a yarn wig and a cape made from a plastic tablecloth who loudly announces that she has to go potty, they will graciously lead you through a storage room and printing press area that off-limits to the public so you can use the employees-only bathroom, and then they print your cards in 10 minutes while you wait.

I went to a snake oils class earlier this week, and roped a friend into going with me. I keep thinking I should do a whole blog post about how much I like using essential oils (while cloth diapering, feeding our backyard chickens, and swimming in my birthing pool--which has a leak, dammit!) but then I figure I'll just sound like a crazy hippie.

I mean, I'll pop an ibuprofen when I need to, but I have seriously found that peppermint oil can cure a lot of headaches, that lavender helps me sleep, that lavender added to the bathtub helps the girls go to bed a little easier, that lemon and lavender rubbed on my neck soothe a sore throat (seriously, I was a TOTAL skeptic but it worked for me), that lemon in my water makes me pee a lot (therefore: detoxifying), that On Guard smells delicious and nobody in my family was seriously ill this winter (except for me getting mastitis, dangit). So I'm just saying I like oils.

I also like pretending that I run an apothecary and fondling all the little bottles. David's obsessed with the Deep Blue muscle rub. If only they made an essential oil that cured cracked/strained ribs.

I don't think I've mentioned that David decided to come out of retirement and play baseball again this summer. He's slightly adjusted his pitching technique so that he's not straining his shoulder so much and evidently he's back and better than ever.

He always plays at the most inconvenient times (read: when I'm home alone with the kids and they are whiny and refusing to nap and a friend has invited me to do something fun like go to a thrift shop or watch Death Comes to Pemberly, (it's on Netflix you guys and SO GOOD)) and it always means that he's gone for at least three hours and then he comes home exhausted, filthy, and needed a shoulder rub which means basically that him playing baseball is more work for me. Plus an extra load of laundry for the uniform.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago he played a game that went into extra innings (because of course it did) so after he had to quit pitching, he was playing outfield. And he laid out to catch a pop fly, and he did catch it, but he landed on his ribs as he did so and has evidently strained something.

He's been in a lot of pain, and he consulted (outside the office) with a chiropractor who said that whether it's broken or cracked or strained, there's not really anything to be done about it.

Except be a total grumpy gus A-hole.

Seriously, David is not a whiner, but he has been cranky and short-tempered and not like his usual self because he is in pain all the time. Might also have something to do with school starting and not getting enough sleep, but mostly it's the rib.

Anyway, he thinks it's getting better. I sure hope so. In the meantime, I ordered a snake oil diffuser for my office that I'm super excited about. It will smell good! And healthy! And invigorating and/or relaxing! My scentsi will be jelly.

I've been feeling all the feelings about back to work and Coco turning one and all that jazz. Just when it's time for Zuzu to start her new school, I'm having serious second thoughts and may end up trying to convince David to keep her where she is. She has friends and I love the teacher in the classroom where she is now and it means I get more time with her in the mornings and change is hard and... ugh. I don't know what I'm doing.

Because I'm not buying any new clothes for myself right now, I want to buy ALL THE NEW back to school things. I'm holding out, though. My modified Buy Nothing New program is no new clothes for me or new stuff for the house (with maybe the exception of the right chandelier). I am not going to put new clothes for the girls totally off-limits, but I'm shopping consignment first (not that I really need to do much shopping for them at all--we are so fortunate to have hand-me-downs from friends and now they are making their way from Zuzu to Coco. Also, Zuzu is much shorter than my friend's daughters were at age 3, so some of the stuff they were wearing at age 3 doesn't even fit her yet.

I'm giving away some baby things to a friend of mine who is due in September. This has been somewhat emotional, but actually not as much as I would have expected. Partly because I've kept stuff that has sentimental value for me, with the thought that I might pass it along to a niece or nephew if/when my brother and his wife have kids, or I might even convince Crafty Cousin Amanda to make me one of those fancy baby clothes quilts.

Can we go back to Death Comes to Pemberly for a minute? I read the book earlier this summer (after my friend bought it for $1 in hardback at a thrift shop and then lent it to me). It's really pretty good, but the miniseries on Netflix is EVEN better. It's a follow up to Pride and Prejudice, starting six years after Elizabeth has married Mr. Darcy, when (gasp!) death comes to Pemberly in the form of a murder on the grounds and the dastardly Wickham is the chief suspect. The casting is superb (I love the actress who plays Elizabeth because she's pretty but she's not like Keira Knightley gorgeous so I think she better fits the Elizabeth Bennet of my imagination), and Lydia is fabulous and totally cute and the guy who plays Wickham is also on The Good Wife (he plays Finn the assistant ADA) and he's great. Highly recommend! (There is a living baby who comes into part of the plot, just FYI.)

Left on my to-do list for today: Finish up syllabus for at least one of my classes and get thank you notes from Coco's birthday mailed out. Guess I'd better get started on at least one of those.

August is a month of transition, which is perhaps why it's never been my favorite, despite the fact that two of my favorite people have birthdays this month. But we still have three weekends left in it, so I should make some plans for fun. (Preferably the kind of fun that will exhaust Zuzu early enough that I can sneak in an episode of Death Comes to Pemberly after she's asleep and before I go to bed.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Girls at the Garden

On Coco's birthday, I decided to take the girls to the botanical gardens and try to take some cute photos of the birthday girl (and her sister).

I had family photos taken around Caroline's first birthday, but since I knew we'd have a bunch of pictures at Brandon and Jo's wedding, I decided to postpone this year's family photos to the fall.

In retrospect, I probably should have just gone ahead with an annual summer family photo session since the girls were somewhat less than cooperative after the wedding, but live and learn, right?

Of course Coco was not really cooperating today, either. Every expression I captured appeared to be shock, focused intensity, or irritation. My smiley, happy baby was not smiley, and was frequently annoyed that my desire to photograph her conflicted with her desire to eat pebbles and mulch and climb over benches. I had one set of outfits in mind, but Zuzu wanted to wear a "princess dress," so then I just found one in Coco's closet that coordinated well enough. (Zuzu's dress is a Janie and Jack hand-me-down from her cousin Taylyn, size 3. Coco's dress is a hand-me-down from Zuzu, a Ralph Lauren purchased from Macy's on super sale.)

I keep making new year's resolutions to improve my photography skills, and I keep not doing it. These pictures illustrate the lucky moments and the not so lucky ones. You'll see that I didn't really know how to deal with the dappled light.

Overall, though, I was determined to keep it easy and fun. We avoided the children's garden and just wandered through the shady sections, stopping here and there to get out of the stroller and then I'd try to take pictures of them doing their things.

At the very end, I wanted to snap a quick posed shot of the two of them on a bench. You can see for yourself how well that went... But at least I knew enough to call it a day! We headed home for lunch and naps and I still ended up with photos that may not be professional quality and may not be the smiling, perfectly lit portraits I could imagine, but certainly capture the personalities of these girls.

Oh, hai! This was possibly my favorite photo of the day. Makes me laugh!
Cautiously standing. She started taking her first steps the night of her birthday, but she crawls much faster than she walks, so that remains her preferred mode of cocomotion (haha, you see what I did there?).
Sweet girl. No smile though.

I wish I'd gotten the lighting better here--those elephant ears are ridiculous, right? Zuzu genuinely put her hands up on her face and exclaimed, "OH MY GOODNESS!"

I actually love this photo too--it might be a framer. Always keeping up with sister.

Thoughtful Coco.

Acting like a princess by the fountain.
I'm not sure what I said that was so shocking.

Getting a good photo of the two of them is comparable to capturing a photo of Bigfoot.

My little daredevil

Wild child

She loved exploring these paths in the English woodland garden.

So did Coco--most of my photos here were blurry because I kept getting scared she was going to crawl right off the rock into the little stream.

Skipping across the stones

Sweet Zuzu girl
Sweet Coco babe


Things kind of went downhill from here--including my camera angle.
 And this begins a saga not unlike The Rape of the Lock.

I call it: The Theft of the Hairbow: a Story in Pictures.

Things don't turn out so well for the thief, do they?

It was clearly time to go home.