Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Year and a Half of Coco-Puff

Coco at eighteen months is a friendly, feisty, funny little peanut. She's still very much a mama's girl, but she's also Zuzu's shadow. You'll frequently find her clomping around the house in one high-heeled shoe, putting her babies to bed and tucking them in, or flipping through Brown Bear, Brown Bear, or any book about animals, especially ones with textured pages. She is obsessed with animal books right now, and barely tolerates books that feature anything else. Her favorite way to read is on my lap, leaning back against me and helping to turn the pages.


She's still a big fan of mama-milk, though we've negotiated our way down to twice a day (instead of 3-4 middle of the night nursing sessions!). It's still the sweetest way to end and start the day, so we're going to roll with this for a while, I think.


I was telling my mom the other night that when Zuzu was 18 months old, I had a written-out list of all the words she could say. I definitely don't have that for Coco, but she is talking quite a bit these days. "Mama" is often "Mommy" now. Every dog is "Bubba!" and she can also say "Cooper" and (of course) "Zuzu." She can say Minnie, ball, wash (sounds like weesh--and handwashing is a favorite activity, demanded every time Zuzu pees on the potty and washes her hands), binky, Bops, banana, apple, milk, kitty, shoe, sock, mitten, bye-bye, owie, brrrr, nigh-night... (Okay, the list is long enough and not interesting to anyone but me.)


She cracks us up because she'll frequently reply, "Huh?" to something that we say. Zuzu will repeat the question or comment over and over and Coco will continue to respond with "Huh?" as though she's just completely bewildered.


Picking her up at daycare is always so sweet. Zuzu is frequently with me, and when Coco spots us, she gets the hugest smile on her face and runs over us, hugging Zuzu and then turning to me with outstretched arms. When I pick her up, she squeezes me tight and then pats my back gently.


She will still wake up usually once during the night, requiring mama's assistance retrieving the binky and patting her back to sleep.


Her appetite is enormous right now--maybe it's a growth spurt? She eats more than Zuzu does and will often finish off Zuzu's meal! Favorite foods include little cuties, meatballs, apples (both girls like to gnaw on them whole), "icicles" (popsicles), cheese, broccoli, bagels, pancakes, and crackers. She has much more of a sweet tooth than her sister does.


Speaking of teeth, she's got a lot of them, though just three front teeth on the bottom row, which gives her a very cute, just slightly lopsided grin.


She loves dogs so much and was enthralled by the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet that played before the Superbowl. Cooper is really rotten about trying to snatch food from her hand, even when she's in her booster seat, so often her first reaction to getting a snack is to look at him and say, "No, no, Bubba!"


Zuzu often incorporates her into games, and Coco obliges playing chase and mostly cooperates when playing Frozen. In fact, I was surprised at how excited she was to put on the dress-up Princess Anna dress that she got for Christmas. She really seemed delighted with it, and will often choose to wear a tiara around the house, though she still won't tolerate headbands of any sort, and doesn't keep a hat on for long unless it's really cold outside. She also wants to be barefoot all the time.


Seeing the two of them play together is one of my favorite things ever, and I'm especially grateful for the way Zuzu is really patient and loving with Coco the vast majority of the time. Sometimes she's too demonstrative for Coco's taste, but aside from the occasional squabble over a toy, they really get along so well. I like to imagine it will always be like this, but from what I've heard from friends who have sisters close in age, I expect there will be some epic disagreements in our future!


Coco's bedtime routine is the easiest right now. She and Zuzu take a bath together. Coco likes baths, but doesn't love the water the way Zuzu does, and she's always ready to get out first. Her favorite part is running around naked after bath! I usually have to wrestle her into a diaper and jammies, and then she kisses sister and daddy good night, and we read three books (all featuring animals), then turn out the light and have mama milk and singing time. She pops a binky in and we snuggle just a minute longer before I lay her in her crib and pat her back for a minute or two to get her settled in.


Some mornings she's up and calling for me. She usually gets fussy if she wakes up before I'm in there. Other mornings she's still snoozing by 7:00am when I go in and open her curtains, and then she wakes up and grins as soon as she sees me. I love picking her up when she's all warm and cozy in her footy pajamas and she buries her face in my neck and cuddles me.


She is rarely cooperative about diaper changes, which is both irritating and puzzling. I don't remember this issue with Zuzu at all, but Coco is the squirmiest! I try to explain that it would be over fast if she would JUST HOLD STILL. But to no avail. At least she still lets me pick out her clothes without argument.


Drop offs at school are always smooth, which is such a relief. She loves her teacher so much, and is always content to go to her and sit down for breakfast when she arrives at school. Sometimes she waves goodbye to me, other times she's too focused on eating her second breakfast of the day. She sits at a little table with her little toddler friends and looks all grown up except with her funny baby hair that's filling in a bit faster than Zuzu's did, but is still pretty sparse on top!



Coco moves really fast these days. Her short little legs can really get her places. She still crawls up and down the stairs (thank goodness). Her round blue eyes are still pretty enormous, but she scrunches up and squints her entire face when she sees me taking a picture with my phone and says, "Cheeeeeese!"



Cold February days always have us looking forward to spring, to warmer temperatures (and baseball season), even though this has been a very mild winter (though today temps are freeeeezing and we have a bit of snow). I'm really excited about this spring and summer though, as the girls are older and I think will have so much fun playing together. I'm already envisioning trips to the botanical garden, to splash pads, and of course lots of walks to our neighborhood park with two little girls in sundresses.


In the meantime, we're doing the bundle-up thing. Coco laughs and says, "Brrrr!" anytime we step outside into the cold wind. It's so cheesy, but holding her close and hearing her giggle... well, it warms me up every time.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Playground Play... Am I Anti-Fun?

We had nice weather this past weekend (around 50 degrees), so I took the girls to the park Saturday morning. The sun was shining and we had a very pleasant time. They are in a big swinging phase, so we spent 2/3 of our time with me pushing them in swings (Zuzu is learning to pump her legs and was trying to teach Coco, who ignored her and giggled every time I pushed). Once they hit their fill of the swings, Zuzu headed for the big-kid equipment (the one that says "for kids ages 5-12") and Coco wandered around holding Cooper's leash, content to walk the dog and then play for a little bit on the little kid equipment.

The playground wasn't crowded, but there were several families there, enjoying the sunshine. I saw Zuzu talking to a little boy who looked just a bit older than her, and she must have told him her name because they were playing together and he kept calling for her to chase him, but she would then act shy and duck her head. So I watched them play for a while and then decided it was time to head home for lunch and Coco's naptime.

Zuzu has gotten SO MUCH BETTER about leaving the park without fuss. We talk about it on the way there, I give her a lot of transitional reminders "5 minutes," "2 minutes," "choose one more thing and then we're done," and then I throw in a positive incentive: "We're going to go have lunch and icicles!" But we've always tried these strategies, so mostly I think she's just gotten older and that's helped.

Coco, on the other hand, is now in the back-arching fit-throwing phase, so she fusses as we leave the park each time, and Zuzu sits next to her in the stroller acting all morally superior as though she weren't the one throwing the EXACT SAME FITS just a few months ago.

Anyway, I had just delivered the "Choose one more thing and then we're done" (thank you, Daniel Tiger's Mom, for all of my best parenting tactics), when another kid came onto the playground. He was there with his dad, who took a seat on one of the nearby benches. There were probably a dozen kids running over and around the equipment, and this kid (probably in fourth or fifth grade?) was older and bigger than almost all of them.

He was also carrying a toy gun.

It was OBVIOUSLY fake. It looked like a water gun--it was a bright neon green. But it wasn't one of the tiny little water gun pistols. It was like a super-soaker machine-gun style. You know the type. My brother and I had guns like this when we were kids. We had plenty of water gun fights in the backyard. They are awesome because they can shoot a stream of water really super far.

This gun did not appear to have water in it. At least, he wasn't shooting water at anyone.

But he was definitely pretending it was a loaded gun. At least, he was lurking around, hiding, running, carrying it,and pointing it like it was a real weapon.

And as I write this out, I think What's the big deal? He was a kid on a playground. Playing with a toy. 

But it TOTALLY creeped me out at the time.

I think it was because he was playing guns, but he was the ONLY ONE with a gun.

He was a big kid with a (toy) gun and there were all these little kids running around without (toy) guns, and we were on a playground and I didn't see him actually POINT the gun directly in anyone's face, but it was still freaky, I swear. He wasn't confrontational and the kids were paying no attention to him, but as I watched him act like he was sneaking and jumping around corners while carrying a weapon, my stomach felt all twisted up.

It's not like he was doing something WRONG, but it also wasn't something I really wanted my three-year-old to see. It was just weird. And I don't know if I was being hypersensitive (particularly given the fact that gun violence is obviously on my mind), but I really wanted to tell him to stop it.

I even considered going over to his dad, and asking him if he thought it was really appropriate for him to be pretending to use a gun around all of these kids who were unarmed.

I didn't do either of those things. I just thanked my lucky stars that Zuzu was in a cooperative mood and loaded the girls up in the stroller and got the heck out of there.

When I described the scene to David later, I asked him if he would have said anything to the dad, and he said no. I mean, what is there to say? Uh, could you tell your kid to stop PLAYING on a playground with a TOY? Maybe if someone had been scared, but none of the other children seemed bothered (although we left almost immediately, so I didn't stick around to see if he interacted with any of them). It's not like he was breaking any rules or anything. It just felt so inappropriate to me, though I was probably the only one there who cared. Am I crazy?

So what do you guys think? Am I overreacting to kids being kids? We actually HAVE water guns, even a couple of the small super soaker ones. I sometimes shoot Zuzu with one while she's in the kiddie pool (birthing pool, haha) in our backyard. I'm definitely NOT anti-water-gun. It was just SO CREEPY, the way he was acting. But now that I'm writing this out, it seems silly. What would you have done in that situation?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Conversations with Zuzu

These conversations mostly took place in the car, and they reflect Zuzu's recent obsessions: how people are related to each other and her upcoming birthday (in June).


Scene: Dropping Coco off at school. Coco is sitting with her friends, getting ready to have breakfast. Zuzu kisses her good-bye.

Zuzu: You are so beautiful, Coco.

***

On the way to school this morning, driving in the car.

Zuzu: (apropos of nothing, sounding frustrated) But Mommy, we've had a LOT of sleeps!

Me: Okay...?

Zuzu: So it should be my birthday!

***

Scene: Same conversation, just a bit later.

Zuzu: How old will I be after I'm four?

Me: Five.

Zuzu: And then I'll be a grown up?

Me: No, then you'll be a bigger girl.

Zuzu: And I'll get to go places by myself?

Me: Where do you want to go by yourself?

Zuzu: *silence*

***

Scene: A couple of weeks ago, in the car after picking up Zuzu from school. She's very cheerful and chatty.

Me: You must have had a good day at school today!

Zuzu: (suspiciously) Did [my teacher] tell you that?

Me: Uh... No. You just seem happy. (pause) Would [your teacher] tell me that if I asked her?

Zuzu: (pause) Maybe.

***

Scene: Once again, driving in the car after picking Zuzu up from school, talking about our plans for the weekend.

Me: And then I'll meet up with my friends Erin and Megan to do some work.

Zuzu: I have a teacher named Megan!

Me: Isn't that interesting? You have a teacher named Megan, and I have a friend named Megan, and Daddy has a sister named Megan.

Zuzu: No, he doesn't!

Me: Yes, he does.

Zuzu: No, you're daddy's sister!

***

Scene: In the car. On our way home from school.

Me: Remember, Bops and Grammy are coming to see us today.

Zuzu: Bops and Grammy are your parents?

Me: That's right.

Zuzu: And they're my grandparents. (pause) And Bops will be my bride!

***

Scene: In the dining room after dinner. Zuzu is recalling a story my mom told her about riding her bike with me in a baby seat when I was a baby. I didn't have on a helmet (because it was the early '80s), and she wrecked and the bike fell over. I believe the purpose of her telling this story was to encourage Zuzu to wear her helmet.

Zuzu: When you were a baby, and you rode a bike with Grammy, and you fell and hit your head. And did you cry?

Me: Uh, yeah, probably.

Zuzu: Did it hurt a LOT?

Me: Well, I really don't remember.

Zuzu: You should ask Grammy.

***

From deep in the archives:

Unrelated, but somewhat reassuring evidence of how some things never change, here's a list of 25 things about me that I made in 2009 that are pretty much all still true.

From 2011--a post that is evidence of how much things can change in five years.

And yet, in 2013, there were still ALL THE MIXED FEELINGS that I carry forward today.

And last year at this time? We were in the process of reactivating Faces of Loss, thanks to the leadership of my friend Brandy.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Two Out of Three

David has this ancient CD we like to put in on road trips. It includes the classic "Total Eclipse of the Heart," a little bit of Guns and Roses, and and a couple of random rap songs from the '90s. There's also this Meatloaf song about a guy who says he wants and needs his significant other, but he's never going to love her. The chorus goes, "But don't be sad / 'Cause two out of three ain't bad."

It's ironic, right?

The kind of ironic where the stated meaning is the opposite of the intended meaning. Like sarcasm, but without the tone.

Because being in a relationship where you're wanted and needed but not loved is obviously bad.

Sometimes two out of three is pretty damn good.

Other times, it's heartbreaking.

* * *

We visited friends over the weekend and the girls met their baby for the first time. It was ADORABLE to see how smitten Zuzu and Coco were with the baby. They haven't really been around a baby before and this little miss is about four months old.

I remember being in the hospital with Coco after she was born, and as much as I missed Zuzu, I felt a tiny bit of dread about going home because I just didn't know how I would keep up with both of them and balance both of their needs. Zuzu at age 2 year and 5 weeks had a LOT of needs.

Now, at 3 years and 7 months (OMG!) she's remarkably self-sufficient in many ways. Still challenging, no doubt, but also in a place where she can be a great helper to her little sister.

As I watched them peer into the car seat and coo at the baby and elicit dimpled grins from her, I couldn't help but think about what it would be like to have just one more baby.

* * *

You remember Plan A? It was two kids with an option for three.

Kid number one at age 30. Kid number two at age 33. With the option to slide in Kid number three just before 35.

I thought it was the perfect plan. (hashtag broken record)

Now here I am. At 35. Three pregnancies under my belt (or should I say, still muffin-topping out slightly out over my yoga pants). Two babies at home.

I have three kids.

I have two kids at home.

The math doesn't work. You guys know that.

* * *

Maybe I want three kids at home?

Do I want to have another baby?

I know I'm jealous of people who have three living kids. I'm not jealous of their mini-vans (haha), but I am definitely jealous.

I looked at that adorable baby girl, I looked at my girls fawning all over her. They were SO CUTE. I thought about how amazing it would be to have a trio of little girls. (In my mind, all my babies are and forever would be girls.)

But even as I sat there, smiling wistfully at the three of them, I wasn't longing for another baby. I wasn't feeling nostalgic for newborn diapers and middle-of-the-night breastfeeding and endless snuggles (uh, possibly because Coco is still serving that role in my life). I wasn't thinking back sentimentally to pregnancy, that's for damn sure.

I was looking at these three little girls and my heart was all twisted up.

I was happy. And I was absolutely aching for another baby: my five-year-old baby.

The thing is, I do want three kids. But I want the three I already had. And I just don't think that having a fourth would fix that.

* * *

Now, don't be sad. 'Cause two out of three ain't bad.

Dammit, Meatloaf. That song is ruined for me now.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Don't Want to Think About This, But...

We had active shooter training on campus a few weeks ago. It was a voluntary program. I couldn't go to the first half of it because Coco got sick and I had to pick her up from school early, but I went to the second day, which was when we actually had role-playing scenarios.

We were all in a classroom. One faculty member acted as the professor, the rest of us were in desks as students. And then the police officers and security personnel doing the training acted like different variations and levels of human threats.

It was terrifying.

Honestly, I thought that I'd go and hopefully learn something, but also slouch in the back and be snarky with a couple of my friends. (Basically the same approach that my students take to class.)

I certainly didn't expect that my adrenaline would shoot up, that my heart would be thumping, that my eyes would be sweeping the secondary-story classroom and wonder how long it would take me to bust open a window with a desk chair (the windows don't open).

At one point, I crouched in a tiny closet, my heart in my throat, listening to the computer-tech guy on campus yell-whisper for all of us to get down because he saw a gun.

During another scenario, we managed to escape the classroom (the goal is ALWAYS to escape--nobody stays alive by crouching down under a desk), but the exercise science professor in front of me paused on the way to the "safe zone" of the stair landing. Fueled by adrenaline, I actually SHOVED her with both hands and yelled at her to run.

When the shooter surprised us by being in the room, one of our "classmates," my instinctive reaction was to vault over a desk--literally, like I put my hands on it and swung my body over it (in wedge heels). And then I wondered about how much my choice of footwear could handicap me in a life-or-death situation.

Afterward, I talked with my colleagues about what we would do if we were in our offices and heard shots in the building. My office door has frosted glass, and my windows open out onto the roof. It's a bit of a drop, but I might try to block my door by shoving over a bookcase and then exit that way because in these big old buildings with plaster walls, it's hard to tell where the shots are coming from. And when people are running in panic, it's hard to know which way to go. I don't want to think about it.

I don't exactly feel safer having taken the training. I'm also not living in fear every time I'm in the front of a classroom. But I do think about door locks and barricades and the fact that the training--which I KNEW was fake--was so freaking scary.

I think about the fact that David's elementary school practices intruder drills and lockdowns. I think about the fact that he's in the front office and would probably try to be a hero. I don't want to think about it.

I think about the fact that Zuzu will be in elementary school in a year and a half. I think about her doing intruder drills. I think about her being scared and away from me. I don't want to think about it.

I think about the fact that Coco's daycare, which has babies from 6 weeks to preschool, has a lockdown drill. I know Coco and her baby-friends are oblivious, but I don't want to think about it.

I don't want to think about these things.

and it just about brought me to my knees.

The thing is, I grew up in a rural community where a lot of people hunt. A lot of people I know (including my immediate family) own guns. David has a shotgun--not loaded--in a case on the top shelf of a storage closet in the basement. My favorite sister-in-law is an avid and responsible hunter. You all know I can't do killing animals, but I've had fun shooting at tin cans balanced on fences. I'm not anti-gun.

(And the people I know who own guns are good citizens who would still be able to purchase them even if such purchases were well-regulated.)

But still. I'm scared of what guns can do. And I'm terrified that the people I love most in this world could become targets for some psychopath's misplaced rage.

I wish I had a solution, but I don't. I am joining the conversation, though. Even though they're talking about things I don't want to think about.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Game On

The semester has begun!

Also I went to PiYo on Sunday. I've done yoga and pilates before, so I was expecting an intense mat workout. Instead, I got an intense cardio/yoga flow/pilates abs workout that I am still feeling today.

I got this great groupon back in December for a fitness studio right by my house, but the catch is that I have to take all 20 classes within 90 days. That means at least one a week, sometimes two a week. So I'm already signed up for a regular yoga class and a barre class next Sunday. Working on my resolutions!

Can we talk for a second about Making a Murderer? I fell asleep during the first two episodes, got intrigued by the third episode, and now I think we're five episodes in, maybe six. I fell asleep during the last one we watched, but only at the very end. It's frustrating and intriguing and it feels much more strongly biased to me than Serial podcast.

SERIAL SPOILER ALERT COMING UP. SCROLL DOWN TO SKIP IT.


Speaking of the Serial podcast, I was totally in the camp of Adnan is innocent. One day at lunch, I mentioned the podcast to one of our criminal justice professors. He hadn't listened to it, but he downloaded it that day (and ended up assigning it to one of his classes!). When he'd gotten through all the episodes, I asked him if he thought Adnan was innocent.

Nope, he said. Definitely guilty.

I was aghast! Incredulous! Astonished! Noooo! The pay phone! The timeline! The potential library alibi! It doesn't work!

The CJ professor rolled his eyes. He pointed out that, based on evidence, Hae was killed by someone who knew her. She was killed without a weapon, which pointed to a crime of passion. And he was totally skeptical of Adnan not knowing where he was the day Hae disappeared: "I'm dating you? Or I used to be dating you? And you go missing? I'm sure as hell gonna know where I was that day!" So, yeah...

But he agreed that there really wasn't enough evidence to convict him, regardless of guilt or innocence.

Oh the criminal justice system! I'm relieved I chose grad school over law school, but I think in another life I would have liked the challenge of practicing law in the mucked-up, biased, mess of a system we have going on.


END OF SPOILER.

Okay, enough true crime. Back to my life. Coco has not been sleeping well, you guys. The last time she slept all the way through the night without waking up, crying, and demanding mama-milk? Christmas Eve. Over a month ago. Two nights ago, she was up FOUR TIMES. Last night, just once. I used a lavender + witch hazel spray on her sheets and blanket last night, and I really think it made a difference. Love the snake essential oils.

The thing is, we are going to have to get serious about NOT giving her mama milk every time she wakes up. I know logically that this is the only way to get her to sleep through the night. If you rewarded someone with $100 every time they woke up in the night and yelled, they'd keep doing it every night, right? So something's got to give with the mama milk reward--particularly since she's going to be 18 MONTHS old in a week and a half.

It's just that when I'm tired and stumbling in the middle of the night, I'd rather nurse her and rock her and get us both back to bed in 10 minutes than fight her and listen to her cry for who knows how long.

Ok. Not asking for advice. Just venting. Thank you for non-judgmentally listening.

In other news (cross my fingers and spit in the devil's eye) Zuzu has been doing well at school since Christmas break. I don't think it's an accident that David's been home and our schedule has been more predictable, in spite of the craziness with the floor work we had done. She even got to be the model student to show how to sit on the line! (I guess that's worth bragging about? We got a picture emailed to us, so it must be Kind Of A Big Deal.)

My brain feels frazzled right now. But it's Wednesday! The week is already half over. I told Zuzu today was hump day and she said, "No it's not! Daddy said it's Wednesday." Sometimes it's hard to live with a three-year-old who is sure she knows more than I do about everything. I do admire her confidence, though!

This is one of those blog posts where I get to the end and I'm like, "This is nonsense. I should not post this." But I'm just going to go ahead, because sometimes nonsense is all I got. And sometimes it actually sparks really interesting conversations in the comments. You never know.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

New Year, Almost 1/12 Over

I'm kind of freaking out about how close we are to the end of January. (I've made zero progress on my working out and photo organizing resolutions, and I've also taken very few photos this month even though my children are continuing a streak started at birth of being totally adorable, and I can't even remember what my other resolutions were at the moment, so I need to get myself in gear.)

Soon I will take some pictures of the new carpet and closet, but of course we didn't really take before pics, so that doesn't make for nearly as satisfying a blog post. I will go ahead and say that we got the super squishy carpet pad put in our bedroom and it's amazing, but also it's kind of over the top. Like walking on memory foam. I feel like I should be doing front hand springs or something.

I used to be able to do front hand springs. I know I could in college. Possibly in grad school also. I don't think I could do one now... Hmm. Is this something I want to work on? Maybe when the weather gets warmer. Yes, let's say that. Right now my motivation for activity extends to boiling water for tea.

The start of the semester is upon me (we had a January term that just ended) and I'm in that treading-water mentality. So many things I want to be doing and never enough time to get them done. 

This weekend I have to finish my syllabus for the poetry class I'm teaching, and also put our whole house back together. The entire upstairs is in complete disarray, and I want to really organize the girls' closets and not just throw things behind a closed door. Which means I really need more than a weekend!

We are in the process of selling David's grandma's house and auctioning off much of the contents. It's not easy, emotionally or organizationally. But, in a much-needed moment of hilarity, when we cleaned out the attic, we discovered a nude painting.

(David wants to clarify it is not a painting of anyone we know, least of all his grandmother.)

Whoever she is, she's currently part of our Valentine's Day decor. I texted a photo to David's aunt to show her we had displayed the priceless work of art and she wrote back, "I can't believe you took that home!"

As though I would consider NOT taking home a nude painting that had been hidden in an attic? Does she know me at all?


Go ahead--you know you want to click on the photo and zoom in on the painting.

My mantle (and the terrible lighting in this photo) will not win a blogger styling award, but the hodge podge of grandparent wedding photos, baby prints, thrift store treasures, and nudity just makes me feel happy. 

In other news, David is starting a doctoral program to get his EdD. Guess someone has degree envy! Hardy har har. It means that I'll be missing him while he's in class on Monday nights, but we will make it work.

Oh man I'm ready to have the house put back together. I give D a hard time about being rigid when it comes to tidiness, but living in this messy, mixed up house for the week and a half we had floors refinished and new carpet put in has been driving me bonkers.

Also driving me bonkers? We are three episodes in to Making a Murderer and haven't had time to watch more. Hoping we can manage to stay awake after the girls go to bed and get some serious tv-watching done.



Friday, January 22, 2016

Grief Group Sob Fest

I went to grief group last week. I remember stumbling in there in the early days and finding comfort in hearing people speak who were a few years out from their loss. The nurse who runs the group has encouraged me to come back for similar reasons--she says it's helpful for newly bereaved parents to hear the perspective of those who are further along in their grief. The idea was to try to be encouraging and empathetic, but also to demonstrate that life gets live-able again. I wanted to be the kind of Grief Ambassador who gave me hope that someday I'd be able to take a deep breath and not dissolve into tears every other second.

I don't know what happened though... I guess maybe it's just that December was a hard month and grief about Eliza got pushed back behind the grief and the busy-ness of losing David's grandma and celebrating the holidays. Or maybe I was just tired.

Whatever it was, I showed up for grief group and instead of being all, "Yes, I understand how you're feeling. Let me show you that things will get more manageable," I showed up and proceeded to basically ugly-cry for an hour and a half. I was a total bawl-bag! Like I could barely even talk at one point because I was so choked up. I cried my way through half a kleenex box!

I know I'm a contagious crier, so when someone else is crying, I always get a little teary myself. But then I just couldn't stop! I probably freaked people out. Look at me! In FIVE YEARS, you'll still be a total and complete wreck!

It is possible that I should not appoint myself Grief Ambassador. But I guess I just needed a cathartic cry, and ended up having mine in front of a whole bunch of bereaved parent witnesses.

I guess the truth is that five years in, you'll still be a total and complete wreck, but only for a couple of hours at a time, with mostly really good days/weeks in between.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to David on the phone in the car and I got emotional talking about some of Zuzu's behavioral challenges at school. I just worry about her. I can see how amazing she is, and I want to know that her teachers see that too, even when she's being a total brat and resisting transitions or not following directions. I was deliberately choosing my words carefully, so Zuzu didn't know what we were discussing, but she heard my voice sounding choked up and piped up from the back seat, "Mama? Are you missing Eliza?"

Yes, I am. Always, really. But, I swear, most of the time I can get through the day without crying!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Greetings from the Basement (New Floors in the Works)

It's not every day that I walk in the door from work and immediately pour a glass of wine, but today was one of those days. The thing is, I can't complain about it. We are having hardwood floors upstairs refinished and we're also replacing the carpets. So it's great! We have been wanting new carpets since we moved in. The carpets in our house are good quality, but they are worn and the dark teal color, while I actually don’t hate it, doesn’t really do it for me, either. We have a lot of the house's original hardwoods on the main floor, but the TV room (the addition) has carpet, as does the basement, and the bedrooms upstairs, so it's probably a 50/50 split total and will be more like 75/25 when we're finished. 

Anyway, I needed wine because the house is a wreck and we're all gathered together in the basement, which is in shambles because new carpet comes in starting Wednesday, so we have already cleared bookcases. The stain is kind of fumey--it's not bad enough that we need to move out for the night, but we are camped out in the basement with the girls. I'd open windows to some ventilation if it weren't 6 freaking degrees outside! With the girls' rooms emptied so they could be sanded and stained, our master bedroom is nearly impossible to walk through. The whole house feels like it's a chaotic mess, really, and even though I swear it's David who is anal and crazy, I can't WAIT for things to put be tidily put back together. (Hopefully before my friend Julie stays with us this weekend!)

As I said, we've been talking about new carpet since we moved in, but we weren't sure whether we wanted to recarpet all the rooms upstairs or have the hardwoods refinished. After talking it over and going back and forth a bit, we actually consulted with our realtor on what would be our best investment. And so we decided to pull up the carpet in the girls’ bedrooms and refinish the original hardwood floors that are underneath.

(I thought this could totally be a DIY project, but David is insisting on outsourcing it.)

The shitty and unforeseen expense that we (in retrospect) should have thought about is that when they pulled up the carpets, the baseboards no longer reach the floor. I assumed that quarter round would fix the problem, but the gap is too big for quarter round. So we have to either unattach and reattach the original baseboards, lowering them on a plaster wall that may or may not crumble, and then repaint the bottom inch of the wall (doesn't that sound SUPER fun?) or replace all the baseboards. We'll get quotes for both options and then decide, but either way I feel irritated. (Wine helps!)

In terms of investment, I trust that the hardwood floors are the biggest bang for our buck, since they were just sitting there (in pretty good condition) underneath the carpets. They really are nice, too. Our master bedroom has hardwoods under it, but the added sitting room and closet do not. I want the flooring to be consistent throughout our room (right now the carpet in the closet is jarringly different and it’s a huge peeve of mine), but I also don’t want to spend the money to put oak floors down in a 10’x12’ closet. I know it would look great, but frankly, I’d rather take a vacation or save for retirement or pay for college with that money! I also figure that carpet will be quieter in terms of muffling footsteps that are upstairs, and cozier when we’re talking about getting out of bed in the morning (or the middle of the night. Hi, Coco!).

We chose a fiber that is super soft and silky feeling, but is short. I know that “frieze” and twist-style carpet is pretty appealing, but after looking at a zillion carpet squares, I discovered that I prefer carpet that is tighter and tidier looking. (Also, David is totally anti carpet that has a "fleck" or color variation in it. I don't mind it, but he says it "bothers" him.) The new stuff will be a nice, boring beige, except I did choose a patterned runner for the stairs.

This carpet is soft, so it will show footprints and vacuum marks, but we don’t wear shoes upstairs and we are okay with that. I’m excited about having the same carpet throughout—although I usually try to keep the closet doors closed, I love the idea of being able to leave them open and have the look of a big master bedroom. 

The carpet in the TV room and basement will a similarly boring beige, but it's a combination loop and cut carpet, which adds some interest, I guess.

Anyway, January is shaping up to be a big month for some home improvement, which is kind of our trend for the past few years ago. You may remember the kitchen from last February? And the living room shelves from two years ago? I'll have to think about what's on the agenda for next year... 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Conversations with Zuzu

11.28.2015
Scene: Zuzu is getting ready for bed.

Zuzu: I don't want to sleep in my room. I'm scared.
David: What are you scared of?
Zuzu: Bats that appear on my pillow. And octopuses.

***

11.28.2015
Scene: Zuzu is in the bathroom. It's been a while.

Me: You going potty? You need any help?
Zuzu: Could you leave me alone, please?

***

12.5.2015
Scene: Zuzu is eating a popsicle--the kind that comes in a box with Frozen characters on these. She calls these "ice cones." They come in three colors--white, purple, and blue--but they all taste the same: like Hawaiian punch.

Grammy: What does your popsicle taste like?
Me: They all taste like Hawaiian punch with less red dye number 40.
Zuzu: Mine tastes like Frozen with sparkles!

***

1.4.2016
Scene: Discussing Minnie Mouse on our way up to take a bath.

Zuzu: Everybody knows it's all about the bows!
(If you're not familiar, this is like Minnie's motto or something.)
Me: (Because sometimes I just feel compelled to say something in response to that nonsense.) But we know, it's really all about being kind, and applying yourself in school, and being assertive...
Zuzu: And going poo-poo on the potty?
David: Yes. It's also about that.

***

1.10.2016
Scene: At the dinner table. The girls are being remarkably pleasant.

Me (to David): How did we get the two sweetest girls in the world?
Zuzu: From the store!

***

1.10.2016
Scene: I walk into the bathroom. Zuzu is using an eyeshadow brush to paint blush on the bathroom vanity.

Zuzu: Hello, Mommy! I'm making the bathroom beautiful!

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Weekend of Bodily Fluids and Closet Renovation

I'm not sure what it is about gross experiences that makes me want to sit down and write about it, but I think it's that when I experience something gross, I want other people to suffer with me.

(Like the time Coco kept handing me things and saying, "Tank oo!" while I was sitting at my desk for THREE MINUTES paying bills online, reaching down blindly to take whatever toy or binky or sippy cup she had in her hand. It was super cute until the day she handed me a soft, smushy dog turd, and I--after screaming, shrieking, gagging, and washing our hands--immediately had to text my mom, David, and my friend Erin. Because accidentally grabbing a handful of dog poop from your baby is not something that one should experience alone. Related: Cooper is a diva who thinks he is too good to poop in our yard, so unless he gets a walk in the morning, he poops in the finished basement. And, on at least one occasion, a temporarily unsupervised toddler collected a turd to hand over to her temporarily distracted mother.)

This weekend, we decided to reorganize our master bedroom closet, which will totally get a post of its own. For now, all you need to know is that of course such a project requires a trip to Ikea.

We went on Saturday night and took the girls. It was like a family fun date! It actually wasn't bad at all--the store wasn't crowded, and we ate dinner at the restaurant. The girls and David had Swedish meatballs, and I had meatless balls, and we were all happy. Even the shopping part was easy, as Zuzu enjoyed skipping from one arrow on the floor to the next, and admiring all the "beautiful" things. Coco was pretty content to ride in the shopping cart. Things were going so well!

It was 8:00pm before we got out of there, and as both girls were pretty tired, we decided to cruise around until they fell asleep. We transferred them both to bed, congratulated ourselves on a job well done, and opted to put off construction of the bookcase and dresser until the next morning so that we could watch Making of a Murderer because yes we are jumping on that bandwagon. 

At 10:45pm, we'd just dozed off when Zuzu came wandering in from her room, wanting to get in bed with us. David lifted her up and she snuggled in under the covers. 

I'm honestly not sure how much later it was, but the next thing I knew, I was awakened by her gagging and vomiting. 

And then David bolted out of bed. 

By the time I blearily turned on the lamp, it was already clear from the smell that she'd barfed. The lamp light revealed that she'd sat up, turned to the side, and puked all over him. Luckily, he's a stomach sleeper, so the vomit had hit him on his back and the back of his head (rather than, say, his face and mouth). At the time, though, he wasn't feeling so lucky. 

The stench was horrific (safe to say nobody at our house will be eating Swedish meatballs for a good long while). We were both fighting the urge to dry heave (well, I was flat-out dry heaving) as we proceeded to strip the bed (and strip Zuzu). David carried everything down to the laundry room, shoved it ALL in the wash together (even though I told him it was too much for one load--the smell was so bad he couldn't leave any of it on the floor of the laundry room). 

I comforted Zuzu and got her changed into clean pajamas and cleaned up--she actually had managed not to really barf on herself. Then she and I relocated to her room to go back to sleep while David showered and remade our bed. 

She woke up and puked two more times during the night (fortunately I had a stack of old towels ready to catch the barf) which meant that I slept NOT AT ALL, because every time she stirred, I was sitting up saying, "Are you going to throw up?" and grabbing a towel. 

Coco had this same stomach bug last week. She threw up twice during the night--strawberry yogurt and mandarin oranges--and she ended up rolling in it, matting it in her hair. She required a full bath before going back to bed, which infuriated her to the point of red-faced screaming in the bath tub. Poor little nugget. But she was so perky and happy the next morning, I thought it was a freak thing (too many oranges?) so I took her to school. I told her teacher that she'd thrown up, but she seemed perfectly fine and was fever-free, so I really didn't think much of it. I'd JUST gotten to my office when her teacher texted me that Coco had thrown up TWICE and needed to go home. Awesome parenting moment! I felt terrible. (In my defense, even when I got to school to pick her up, she was perfectly happy.) 

Zuzu was not quite the same--she was definitely feeling puny and ran a low fever yesterday afternoon. We indulged her in screen time and mostly let her hang out on our bed while we worked on the closet. 

She seemed to be feeling normal by bedtime, but we decided to keep her home today. I didn't want another Coco-incident! This morning, David got out of bed early to walk Cooper-the-Diva-Dog, and I got up with Coco. When Zuzu came into Coco's room to find me, I gasped out loud at the site of her, because she had dried blood all over her nose and face. Evidently, she'd had a nosebleed during the night! When I was cleaning her up, she sneezed, and bloody snot came shooting out. 

She told me, "I'm a little bit sick, so last night, I threw up in my nose."

If you count sweat from working on the closet, and factor in the wet diapers I changed, then there's hardly a bodily fluid that I didn't come in contact with this weekend. 

But the closet looks great! I just have a few finishing touches I'm indulging in (like a tufted ottoman! because after this weekend, I think I earned it.) and then I will share pictures. 

This just in: David's stomach is bothering him. PLEASE let this one skip me!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Back to the Grind

As usual, I was a little anxious about us getting back into the swing of things after a break. The alarm came mighty early on Monday morning. Zuzu did not want to get out of bed. Neither did I. It is very hard to get a three-year-old out of bed when she has sweet-squishy-sleepy-face and just wants to snuggle with you. She was tired enough that she wanted me to help her get dressed rather than doing it herself, so I shimmied her into a pair of navy leggings, a gray knit dress with silver thread running through it, and she wore her gold mary janes and a pink silicone necklace that she has been instructed to bite when frustrated (in lieu of her friends, natch).

By the time I got out of the shower, Coco was awake and fussy and still requires a hit of mama milk to get up and moving in the morning. I made coffee and slapped peanutbutter on a graham cracker, giving her part of a graham cracker to chew on (after letting the dog out because he is a food thief). I loaded up Coco, her bag of cloth diapers, my school bag with books, my water cup and my coffee, and headed out.

After two and a half weeks of unlimited mama-time, I was afraid that my little mama's girl might freak out when it was time for her to go to school, but she happily trotted over to her teacher. When I went to kiss her good-bye, she could barely be bothered with me, as her teacher was bringing her breakfast.

I was walking back out to my car when I got a text from David telling me that Zuzu's drop off went smoothly.

Perhaps we had all reached our quota of family togetherness time?

I got to work, snagged a good parking spot, and walked up to my third-floor office. I unlocked the door, unloaded my bags, hung my super cute 2016 calendar, put a few drops of essential oil in my diffuser, watered my plants, and sat down at my computer with a sigh of relief.

I love my kids more than anything.

But after two and a half weeks of nonstop togetherness, it was so awesome to be alone in my office. And it was pretty fun being back in the classroom talking to college students.

I'm teaching a J-term class that's not about literature but instead is about how to choose a major and how different majors can lead to unexpected career paths. It involves a lot of guest speakers and plenty of discussion about the purpose of college (vocational training? or creating well-rounded, ethical citizens?). Also I'm co-teaching it with a friend, so we're enjoying ourselves.

In case I start feeling guilty about how happy I am about being back at work (and away from the incessant demands of my children--I have SO MUCH respect for moms who stay home with their kids full time), I just need to remind myself that Harvard Business School's recent research shows that kids can also benefit from having a working mom.

So... me enjoying adult conversation, a captive audience listening to me talk, and peace and quiet in my tidy, sunlight office? It's really benefiting my children. We call that a win-win!

Monday, January 4, 2016

In Case You Missed This...

When I send out Christmas cards, I always like to include some kind of newsletter because those are my favorite cards to get. But NOBODY does this anymore! Except old people. Only a few people who sent us cards enclosed a note of some sort. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the photos, and you don't need a bunch of words to illustrate them. But I also want the hilarious braggy letters about the kids getting straight A’s and winning the t-ball tournament and traveling to Europe and winning chili cook-offs and all that stuff. I guess that’s one more thing to go to away in the advent of Facebook offering you an up-to-the-minute edited and glossy version of your friends’ lives. 


Forget the first world issue of whether sending a letter AND a photo card is an indulgence in over the top narcissism, because I'm already entrenched in that. Personally, I face the dual impulse of NOT sending a letter because I’m word vomiting our family updates out on the blog so maybe this is totally redundant, and totally wanting to send a letter because I love that tradition and I want the keepsake myself. 

The past few years, I’ve compromised by coming up with a year-end-summary to include that's not a bunch of paragraphs, and this year I tracked down an Etsy seller who made this super cute infographic thing for me. I'd love to send a card to everyone reading this, but just in case I don't have your home address, here ya go:


(By "tracked her down," I mean that I saw something like this on Pinterest but she didn't have it available in her shop, so I e-mailed her a special request and she agreed to do it. In my experience, Etsy sellers are the NICEST people. That includes My Crafty Cousin Amanda.)

I doubt that anyone receiving our cards actually enjoys the yearly recap as much as I enjoy creating it, but I actually would love to get one of these from each of my friends and family (you know, since I don't have Facebook to tell me this stuff!). Every year I slide our newsletter in a little scrap book with our photo card because I think it will be fun to look back on someday. I'm not sure if I'll stick with this format next year, or try to get creative with something else. I guess we'll just have to see what 2016 brings.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Calendar Girls 2016

Every year, I create a photo calendar for all the grandmas. I made them again this year, and I put one together for us. 

This was a bittersweet thing, because it started out as an annual gift for Grandma Peppa, who got to wear she saved that gift for last because she knew it would make her cry to look through it and see all the people she loved. In true Grandma Peppa style, she displayed this calendar but she didn’t write on it—she wrote all her appointments and plans on a freebie calendar she kept on her desk. I always found this bizarre—it’s not like writing on the dates “ruins” the calendar—it’s literally going to expire anyway! But I think it fits the same idea of having a formal living room in her house that no one was allowed to enter or sit in. Some people (including myself) would consider that a waste of space, but I think that it gave her more pleasure to look at it in its pristine condition than it would have if she had actually “used” it. Different approach to enjoyment of the same thing.

I usually do collage layouts on the grandma-calendars, so I can feature all the grandkids every month. But I do our calendar a little differently. Yes, it features my Special Snowflakes, so it’s not exactly cool, but I like to use pictures that are maybe a little bit unexpected. Not necessarily the “best” or most posed photos, but the ones that recall a funny moment or capture a hilarious face, or sometimes the one that just has the prettiest background or colors.  I force myself to just choose one photo per month rather than do a collage. This means I have to be picky, which is hard, but ultimately I like the clean way it looks to just have one photo per month. 

This year I narrowed my choices further by selecting each month’s photo from that month in 2015 (I ended up fudging this twice--August's photo was taken earlier in the summer, and September's picture was actually taken in October).  I also decided that the photo had to feature both girls. Sometimes my favorite photo of the month was just of one of them, but the “sisters” theme of this calendar required that they were both in the picture. This meant that I had fewer pictures from which to choose, since getting a decent picture of both of them at the same time is not easy! It also left with me with a month (September!) where I had zero pictures of the two of them together that weren't blurry or awkward. I managed to make my selections and get my calendar ordered when everything on the site was 50% off, so here are the pictures of sisterhood in 2015 that will be illustrating our calendar in 2016.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September


October

November
 

December


Can you believe what a little nugget Coco was in the early months of this year? It's crazy to me that she wasn't walking until August--it feels like she has been running around forever. And 2015 was really the year for Zuzu's hair--the difference between January/February and May is amazing! 

One of my big goals for 2016 is to do a better job of staying on top of photo printing and organizing, so this calendar feels like a step in the right direction. 

Do you create a photo calendar? Do you think they are totally lame or cheesy? I buy a Paper Source calendar for my office (and I love it!), but the photo calendar hanging in the kitchen makes me really happy.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015: Year in Review

I wasn't going to do one of these posts this year. I just kind of felt like it had been played out, and I have so many other posts running through my head that I'd rather write about. 

BUT, I'm a sucker for tradition. And when I have so much to write about, it's easier to just answer a list of questions.

This Christmas break has been nothing short of exhausting--we've dealt with the loss of David's grandma, the imminent arrival of Coco's molars, and an unprecedented amount of rain that resulted in water seeping into our basement and in through a kitchen window. We've spent ten of the past fifteen nights in beds that were not our own, and as we drove back to St. Louis this morning, we were all tired, cranky, I was overcaffeinated, David was overstressed, and the three in the backseat were mildly to moderately wounded (Coco has a scratch on her face from Cooper's paw caused by David; Zuzu has a scrape on her cheek caused by fall on ice; Cooper has puncture wounds in leg caused by another dog's canine teeth). FUN TIMES! 

Needless to say, the end of 2015 is hard to describe in few words, and left me with plenty of material for blog posts (I WILL be recapping Christmas, even if it happens in February and is of no interest to anyone but me and my mom). 

So now we're home. I'm sitting alone in the TV room, sipping on a cup of bedtime tea at 8:27pm. The basement water situation has been dealt with as best we could (at least it's not raining). In the few hours we've been home tonight, we've also mopped up a toilet that runneth over and a cup of spilled milk. There's piles of laundry, and Christmas decorations are still up, and I really need to plan the class that starts on Monday, but that stuff can wait. David is putting Zuzu to bed and I'm going to answer these questions and watch something on Netflix until I start to doze off and have to make myself go upstairs and fall into bed so that I can tackle the mile-long to-do list tomorrow. 

There are worst to end the first day of the new year.

(Also I just want to add that as I went through and updated the answers from 2014, I couldn't believe that I wrote those answers just one year ago--somehow it feels like 16-month-old Coco has been here forever, but I just met her in 2014! CRAZY!)

1. What did you do in 2015 that you'd never done before?
* Successfully potty-trained my kid (ha! Who am I kidding? She decided to do it herself. Finally. In August. Which is MUCH LATER than I would have preferred. I'm starting to realize that my preferences aren't always in line with her priorities. Go figure.).
* Worked out with a personal trainer. (Even though he was an undergraduate doing it for class credit, it still totally counts.)
* Took a family vacation road trip with my kids and my parents AND witnessed my brother get married. (It was fun, and really, I couldn't have chosen a better partner for him if I had picked her out myself.)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Goals for 2015: 
Figure out how to use my DSLR camera in manual mode.  NOPE. Didn't do it. Didn't use it enough even in auto mode. Relied on the ol' iPhone for pics. And focused on participating in activities rather than worrying about documenting them. So I roll my eyes at this goal. Maybe in 2020?

Be more active. Yep. While I didn't really get going on this until the final quarter of the year, my 8 weeks with a personal trainer made a huge difference in how I felt on a daily basis. 

Don't bring work home too often. I did well on this, mostly because I discovered that it was basically impossible for me to get work done at home. So I occasionally (often) spent longer days at the office than I would have liked, but I was able to spend my evenings with my family and not grading papers.

Make time for yoga. Not as much as I would have liked.

Be energetic and ready for fun. Eh. Maybe? Probably not as much as I would have liked. Note to Last Year Self: Goals like this are annoyingly vague. 

Give proofs of love. If proofs of love equal hugs and kisses for mah bay-bees, then yes. I hug and kiss the hell out of my kids. They are so delicious and squishy.

Goals for 2016 (specific and measurable!):
Read 50 books for fun.
Write (besides blog posts). More specifically, draft an academic article and write at least three other things non-related to academia--fiction or creative nonfiction.
Do something active 2 times a week (minimum).
Get your shit together when it comes to photos--order books, order prints, get organized.

I know I have much room for improvement, but three seems like enough. Also #2 and #4 are really super hard for me, so wish me luck.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Angie had her fourth baby and third boy, Ethan.
My friend Erika and Ben had their first baby and recipient of many Duckworth-girl hand-me-downs, Allegra.
Two new BLM friends had babies this year, and I delighted in the safe arrivals of Dom and Josie. Two dear friends adopted babies this year, and I delighted in the safe arrivals of Ruby and Matthew.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
David's grandma Peggy passed away shortly before Christmas.

5. What countries did you visit?
Stayed in the U.S., but visited three new states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
More time to read for fun, a more organized and functional closet, and an uninterrupted night's sleep on a regular basis (ahem, Coco).

7. What dates from 2015 will remained etched upon your memory?
July 25 - my brother's wedding and my girls' flower girls debut. And as of right now, that's all I can come up with!

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I think I did my job really well this year. I don't say that lightly--I stretched myself in my teaching and tried some new things and I really felt like I kept myself organized and used my time at work efficiently. I wish parenting were as easy for me!

9. What was your biggest failure?
Getting worked up over Zuzu's potty training was a huge mistake!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Mastitis in January. Strep throat in December. Also one night in December I had an upset stomach after making dinner of baked brie and red wine (go figure). So feeling shitty book-ended my year, but the months in between were pretty good!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
These new shower shelves and new containers for flour and sugar. (It's the little things, people! Also I'm not affiliated with The Container Store, but I'd like to be.)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
This is super sappy, but I've got to go with David on this one. The way he cared for his grandma in the past two months made me love him even more than I already did (and that's saying something, you guys). 

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
First name rhymes with Ronald, last name rhymes with Hump.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Montessori Preschool for the Most Special of Snowflakes (Who Occasionally Bites Her Friends) and Daycare for the Squishiest of Babies (Who is Becoming Alarmingly Toddler-Like)

15. What did you get really excited about?
Ikea opening in St. Louis

16. What song will always remind you of 2015?
"Fight Song" by Rachel Platten

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder?  This is a hard question to answer. Honestly, I think right this minute I feel sadder--losing David's grandma has made me miss my grandparents more, and wish that my girls got to see my Papa (my dad's dad) more often. Overall, I'd say I'm happier. Life gets easier and my clothes fit better as the girls get a bit older, and I'm looking forward to what 2016 will bring.
- thinner or fatter?  thinner (Thanks, Personal Trainer!)
- richer or poorer?  probably the same... I'm back to work full time, so my salary is back, but Special Snowflake Preschool cuts into Mama's Household Budget

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
creating photobooks and seeing my friends

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
worrying about potty training

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my parents at our house, then with my brother and his wife and my parents at my parents' house, also with my Papa and my dad's siblings and my cousins at my aunt Tammi's, and then we wrapped up the holiday with New Year's Eve at my best friend's house. It was fun, but I haven't had a good night's sleep since mid-December.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015?
With Jessica Jones on Netflix.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
see above! Although I'm also a fan of The Good Wife and How to Get Away With Murder, and David and I still tune in to Survivor (I heart Joe).

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
#13 might qualify here, although I don't know him personally, so it's hard to say. Maybe we'd get along fabulously and just disagree about EVERY IMPORTANT ISSUE EVER.

24. What was the best book you read?
Definitely Citizen by Claudine Rankin. 

I also really enjoyed Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacquline Winspear (#10 in the Maisie Dobbs series) and In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware.

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?
Here is where I admit that I actually like this Jason Isbell guy--David is a big fan, so he gets credit for this discovery. I'm always suspicious of his taste in music, but this is pretty great. If you're not familiar, listen to "24 Frames." It's my favorite. David's favorite is "Elephant."

26. What did you want and get?
Red rain boots, a kitchen backsplash, and a new rug for the living room.

27. What did you want and not get?
New light fixtures, a housekeeping service, a desire to cook dinner.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
OMG. Did I even go to the movies this year? I know I did. But what did we see? Oh, it was that Tom Hanks movie about East Germany. It was okay but not a favorite film. I think my favorite film would be Trainwreck because I love Amy Schumer, but I haven't actually seen it yet. Sigh. I should add "watch more movies" to my goals for 2016.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
We drove home from Cleveland. I turned 35. NOT a memorable birthday. Maybe next year.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying [besides your first daughter being alive]?
This is hard to say. It was really a pretty satisfying year overall. Sure could use a house cleaning service, though.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Comfortable = Flat Shoes + Skinny Bottoms + Flowy Tops + Scarves + Maybe Some Lip Color Because Now You Are 35

32. What kept you sane?
my girls, particularly when they are sleeping and I feel all mushy and overwhelmed with love for them. (If the question were "What made you insane?" I'd have the same answer, except that's when they are awake.)

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Amy Schumer


34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Syrian refugee crisis. It's so overwhelming that I confess my impulse is to want to shut it out instead of try to help, but I donated here, and I encourage you to do the same.

35. Who did you miss?

Eliza, of course, and grandparents whom we wish could have had time--or more time--with Zuzu and Coco. (same answer as last year)

36. Who was the best new person you met?
My new colleague in the English department--I'm so glad we hired someone I truly want to have as a friend.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
Different kids require different parenting. You do your kid, I'll do mine. And we'll both wonder most of the time if we're doing it right.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I remember driving the girls to school one morning and hearing this song and straight up crying in my car, and then I got home and e-mailed some friends and I was like, "HAVE YOU HEARD THIS SONG I'M A SOBBING MESS." Because, yes. This is exactly how I love those babies of mine.
So I'm gonna love you
Like I'm gonna lose you,
I'm gonna hold you
Like I'm saying goodbye
Wherever we're standing
I won't take you for granted,
'Cause we'll never know when
We'll run out of time
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(from "Like I'm Gonna Lose You" by Meghan Trainor and John Legend)
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Here's to 2016. May it bring you all the good.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

In Memory of Grandma Peppa

I wanted to share the words that David spoke at his grandma's memorial service, just as I posted what he said at his grandfather's service four years ago. I'm so proud of the kind of grandson that he was and is, and I'm grateful that he had such wonderful grandparents.

Here's his tribute to Grandma Peppa (and a few photographs):

I think this was her kindergarten photo.

High school photo

For 38 years, my grandma has bragged on me.  So today is my opportunity to speak to you about the kind, strong, and hard-working woman I called Grandma.

With David's grandpa Gene, first year they were married
I have always found comfort with my grandma.  She was calm, patient,  and always there when I needed her.  When I was a child it could have been as simple as a scrape on my knee from sliding while playing baseball or a cut on my face after trying to use grandpa’s razor.  She was there to clean me up.  As I got older, she was there for me when I needed a few bucks for a new baseball cleats or just someone to talk.  

Posing in front of a their car--I like her Audrey Hepburn look here.
Grandma was always kind and reminded me to look at the bright side.  Her positive energy seemed to light a room and make those around her better for knowing her.

with David's mom when she was little
Those who spent anytime around Grandma, you know she always kept herself busy, from cleaning around the house to working out in the yard.  Grandma took pride in her work and left no task undone.  I have seen her clean places that I didn’t even know could draw dust, and I have seen her rake leaves that hadn’t even fallen yet.  I remember when I was 6 or 7 she would put me in the high chair to eat or work on craft project just to make sure I didn’t make a mess around the house. And now that I have a house and children of my own, I have realized I have inherited the “Whillock clean gene” and I like a house free of mess and clutter.

That little baby is David!
I admired my grandma for working all day in the deli at Dillons grocery store and coming home with what seemed to me like a full tank of energy.  She would make dinner, do laundry, and make time to spend with her family.  Grandma never told me she was too tired or busy.  She would play dominoes and Candyland with me for countless hours and read to me before I went to bed. She was selfless and always served the people around her.  

That beautiful plaque says "Grandma, I love you. Love, David." She had it hanging up in her kitchen, and I'm going to hang it up in our kitchen.


As I was growing up, I played a lot of baseball.  My teams would travel the Midwest and my mom, grandpa, and grandma were not to far behind.  Grandma knew how much I loved playing baseball and she loved watching me play.  After a game, win or lose, her words were always of encouragement.  Grandma was always supportive in that way, not only of me, but for all those around her as well.

We threw a surprise 50th anniversary party for David's grandparents back in 2008. This was at the reception at their church.


Grandma always made holidays special.  We would decorate for all occasions, but for Christmas we would go all out.  We would make candy, put up lights, watch specials on TV, and decorate the tree.  It is tough losing someone this time of year, but I am thankful for the many traditions that I now passed down to my girls.

This is the view of the back of David's grandparents house, when you're standing at the lake and looking up toward the house. His grandparents took such good care of their property.


This is how I always picture his grandparents--hanging out on the back patio after working in the yard.
Growing up with Grandma and Grandpa, I used to watch how they would work together.  Whether they were bowling or playing cards, they were a dynamic team.  Grandpa would start a sentence or a story and Grandma would finish it.  Grandpa would call me on the phone, and Grandma would be telling him what to say from the background.  They were happy.  And not once did I hear them say an unkind word to each other.



Dancing at a wedding
Dancing at a wedding
When Grandpa was sick, Grandma stayed strong.  She fought side by side Gene as he battled cancer.  She took care of him down to his dying breathe.  Afterwards we told stories, we cried, and as much as she missed him, her faith, family and friends kept her strong.

With Baby Coco.
Grandma always told me how blessed she was to have a loving family and such great friends.  I think that is what I valued about her the most.  She taught me that relationships take work, that they require nourishment.  But she made it look so easy.  She said they she always looked for the good in people and they found the good in her.  She loved others and they loved her in return.  She always made her relationships with family and friends a priority.


with little Zuzu
After being diagnosed with lymphoma two years ago, Grandma battled through several rounds of chemo treatments.  Again, her strength to fight came from faith, family and friends.  In early September of this year, she was cancer free.  She began to live again.  
Kissing Zuzu in May 2013
She came to Saint Louis to watch me pitch in one last game and I was able to take her to a post-season Cardinals game.  

at the Cardinals game in October 2015
After watching David pitch the championship game in October 2015
She also found a friend in Harold, who in my opinion was heaven-sent because too soon we learned her cancer had returned, and she would need his support for her final journey.

in Grandma's kitchen at Thanksgiving 2015. Gma's friend Harold is on the end.
After her cancer returned, she knew her time was going to be short.  Grandma told me she was selfish because she did not want to leave her family and friends.  I can very much relate, as I too am selfish. I did not want to lose my grandma.  But today she is home, at home with her Lord and Savior, her parents, her brothers and sisters, my Grandpa Gene and I know she is taking care of my angel Eliza, just like she took care of me for so many years.  

She asked me to tell all of you here that she loves you and don’t worry about her, she is safe in heaven and she will see you again someday.