Wednesday, August 16, 2017

School Days

Coco had a hard time settling down at bedtime last night. We've been doing a lot of talk about school starting for the past few days, but at dinner last night when I said, "We're going to take baths and settle into bed so you can get up early. Because where are we going tomorrow morning?"

She replied eagerly, "The Magic House!!!"

Erm. Nope.

She seemed to accept school as a replacement for her magic house fantasy, and she told me that tomorrow she would eat lunch at school. But I know she's been a little nervous about the first day.

She was up at 5am crying for me. David staggered in there to see what she needed, but she needed Mama to snuggle and while Daddy is usually an acceptable substitute, this morning that was not the case. So I went in and lay down with her (and Zuzu, they were sleeping together in Zuzu's room) and hugged her and snuggled and tried to get her to settle down and sleep for a couple more hours.

At 7am, I had to wake her up and she was cranky. Basically, she was pissed off and crying from the moment she woke up. She wanted to snuggle. No, she didn't want to snuggle like that. She didn't want to pee on the potty (she kept screaming this as her pee was coming out while she sat on the potty--she was so furious). She would not wear the dress I'd selected for her first day. I kept asking her what was wrong, but she couldn't articulate what she was really feeling (nervous? anxious? tired? worried?), so she just opposed every suggestion I made and when I finally walked away from her to go into my bathroom and get ready, she ran after me and pinched me while screaming and crying.

Fortunately, Zuzu stepped up and once she got out of bed, she got herself dressed without any problem and tried to help me with Coco. She kept saying, "Coco, are you nervous? This is going to be a BIG DAY." I'm not sure if that helped or not, but her heart was in the right place.

After breakfast (their usual breakfast of champions--mini pancakes (the frozen ones) with Greek yogurt (honey flavored) on top and a side of berries, plus a glass of milk), Coco had settled down. We talked about what they want to be when they grow up. Zuzu said she wants to be a doctor, and then changed it to animal doctor veterinarian (which surprised me, but whatever) but Coco just insisted she wants to be a kindergartener. Zuzu laughed and said, "No, Coco, like when you're Mom's age," which made me laugh and sounded like such an adult thing to say, but Coco wouldn't change her answer, so that's what I wrote on the board for her. Then we went outside to take first day photos. 




Zuzu was so wound up she could barely hold still for photos, and especially wanted to show off her new rainbow shoes, 




but I could hardly get Coco to smile


until Zuzu did something silly behind me and made her laugh.



Coco kept saying she was cold (it was 80 degrees outside this morning and she did not have a fever, I checked) and she wanted a blanket, but I think she just wanted a comfort object to hold. So I gave her a blanket for the car and then we loaded up.

And then the garage door would only open halfway, so I called David in a panic because my car was trapped in the garage. I was able to detach it from the opener and manually lift it, so we still got to school!

There were a couple of kids (and one mom) crying when we got there, which made me tear up, but Zuzu was so excited to be there that she nearly fell leaping out of the car, and she ran and hugged her teacher right away. Coco was only slightly more hesitant, and she was happy to hold Zuzu's hand instead of mine. Zuzu went right into this little mother-hen mode, which was so adorable that I thought my heart would burst. She held Coco's hand or put her arm around her the whole time, walked with us to find her cubby and I put her blanket and stuffie and extra clothes in it, then we hung her bag on her hook, and Zuzu kept promising her that she was going to have "a great day!"

And then I hugged and kissed them and Zuzu led Coco out to the playground, where they were promptly surrounded by little girls in sundresses yelling, "Caroline! I missed you!" and giving her hugs and saying hello to Coco. It was so adorable that I lingered, watching through the window (with the crying mom, whose kid seemed to be doing just fine out on the playground as well).


I told David last night that I feel like we kind of "cheated" kindergarten because we didn't have to take her to a new school full of new kids and new teachers--she's back in her Montessori school, and big man on campus as the kindergarteners are the oldest and the leaders of the school. So in some ways, the first day of first grade for Zuzu will pull at my heartstrings even more. But as worried as I'd been about Coco, she ended up being brave (while holding Zuzu's hand tightly) and it made me so grateful for their sister relationship.




The house feels empty without them here and as ready as we ALL were for school to start, I miss them. I can't wait to hear how it all went when I pick them up this afternoon!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hey Kids, Is It Time for School Yet?

Coco has created a small domestic crisis every morning since she turned three. There was the eyeshadow pencil incident.


The "let's have breakfast outside" idea that turned into two bloody knees and a screaming three-year-old. The less explicable "woke up on the wrong side of the bed" grumpiness, the "Zuzu gave me a pedicure" morning


and on Saturday, the haircut she administered on herself.

This picture is the best "before" I have, in terms of showing length and bangs:



And "after" she chopped it herself.







You'll remember I was on campus at meetings Saturday, so I consider myself blameless for this one, but as a PSA, I will say that kids can reach drawers you think they can't reach, particularly when they carry stools in from down the hall. Coco is really interested in "zizzers" these days and she located the actual scissors I use for cutting their hair (I still cut their hair myself, based on years of intently watching my hairdresser to see what she does when she's cutting my hair, because I think it's fun and also I'd rather spend money on something besides kid hair cuts). Anyway, she used my super sharp purple hair scissors (in retrospect, I probably should have selected a less interesting color than purple) and she basically just trimmed around her ears and a little off the top in the front.

You know what style that is, right?


Yeah... So then I tried to trim it up. I took over an inch off the back, but it's not like I can cut a bob that hits ABOVE her ears. So she basically has a kind of pixie cut that's uneven around her ears and has a small chunk of bangs missing in front. Zuzu kept saying Coco has "boy hair" and I kept launching into gender fluidity lectures about how boys can have long hair and girls can have short hair and people can have any kind of hair they want, stop being so binary, obviously you've been watching too much Disney.

Coco as Prince Charming
Zuzu would appear to listen to these lectures and then turn around and say to Coco, "Let's play that we're married and you're the boy."


After bath... you can see the strategic comb-over that's mostly hiding a chunk of bangs she cut super short. We've been working on her bangs for THREE YEARS!

Anyway, haircuts aside, they played outside so much yesterday afternoon. It was a dream come true. David set up their little tiny playhouse in the woods and they gathered rocks and climbed on the swingset and just played while I sat and read a book (and also read stuff about Charlottesville on my phone and finally had to go put my phone away because the comment sections on FB were a reminder of why we're in this mess). It was really the sweetest thing to sit out in the perfect weather in August and watch the girls play and enjoy themselves just the way we imagined they would when we first talked about buying this house.

But after an idyllic afternoon, yesterday evening did not go well on the home front. We had been to a swimming party in the morning and Coco fell asleep in the car on the way home and Zuzu almost did, so they were both tired but of course no one wanted to nap after we were home, and I didn't insist on rests later in the afternoon because they were playing so peacefully in the backyard and I didn't want to throw off bedtime. But meal time was off because of all the donuts and fruit they'd eaten late morning, which made them not want any lunch and just ask for popsicles around 2pm. At 4:00pm, Zuzu came in and got mad at me over something (I truly have no idea what upset her) and she threw a lunch box full of markers all over the kitchen and as I stared at her, flabbergasted and completely pissed off, I realized she was probably hungry. Sure enough, they both ate fruit, cheese, bread, and two generous helpings of pesto pasta before 5pm, and then Zuzu was her sweet self again (she's basically one of those Snickers commercials).

As I was cleaning up the kitchen, they went on upstairs and I told them to get ready for baths. When I walked upstairs, I smelled something delicious, unusual yet familiar, but I couldn't quite place it.

I found the girls in my bathroom and the scent turned out to be the bottle of really nice bubble bath that had been a birthday present in honor of me having a master bathroom and a deep bathtub for the first time in my life.

You know who hasn't yet taken a bubble bath in the new house? Me.

You know whose entire bottle of bubble bath was poured down the drain yesterday? Mine.

I wanted to scream, but instead I just sighed in defeat, dragged the two of them down the hall to their own bathroom to get in the tub, and then declared my bathroom off-limits. No kids in there at all ever. I explained that they don't make good decisions in that room, so they can't go in there at all anymore.

In spite of exhaustion, soothing baths, and a million stories last night, bedtime did not go smoothly. Actually, Coco fell asleep while we wer ereading, which was the sweetest thing ever. But then Zuzu ended up waking her up, which made me feel so angry that I had to opt out of going upstairs because I was BEYOND my parenting patience threshold, so David went up there, but he couldn't get them to settle because he really wanted to be downstairs where had paused GoT to deal with their shenanigans and finally I went upstairs and said Coco would sleep in her own room because obviously they couldn't handle sharing a room, so then Coco was devastated and sobbing, and then I got her to bed and went to take a shower because Zuzu STILL wasn't settled/asleep, but then Coco was crying again, so David ended up bringing her into Zuzu's room and lying down with both of them until they were both asleep.

By that time, we were too tired to watch GoT.

So basically, it's been a fantastic summer. And now I'm totally ready for school to start.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sage

So we're having the kitchen repainted. The advice was basically unanimous, and since the color just looked seafoamy in my kitchen (and I think would look better with bright white trim as opposed to the creamy off white of these cabinets), it was needed for my peace of mind.

There are SO MANY greens and it was a tough decision. My friend Lindsey recommended a Glidden color called Fennel she says is the perfect green, but when push came to shove, I couldn't handle adding another card into the mix. In the end, I was torn between Benjamin Moore's Thicket and Sherwin Williams's Sage. David ended up casting a deciding vote for the lighter color (Sage) which is a little more gray and less brown than Thicket (or Dried Basil / Herbes de Provence, which also read more brown in our kitchen). I hope that it is authentic to its name and that we're happy with it in the end (because I doubt David will be eager for me to paint the kitchen three times in as many weeks...).

School is starting SOON. The girls go back on Wednesday, which is also David's first day with students. My faculty meetings start next Monday with classes beginning on the 28th, but I'll be working on syllabi stuff and class prep at Bread Co. after I drop off the girls on Wednesday. (I'm actually really, really looking forward to it!)

I'm in my office today even though it's Saturday because I have a meeting with adjunct faculty today and because I was ready to escape my house and feel like an adult who has time to think about things besides what the hell to feed my kids who want to eat all the time (Three meals a day! Plus snacks!). In all seriousness, I'm so excited to not be making lunch or cleaning it up for my kids in just a few short days. And in a burst of start-of-school-year organizing fervor and optimism, I'm even making a dinner plan to get us through the end of August (with the help of Blue Apron). (Not a sponsored post.) David and I are both going to be working longer than usual hours and the kids are going to be adjusting to a new routine (Zuzu can't wait for kindergarten, but Coco has been getting a little teary-eyed when we talk about school and asking, "But is Mommy going to stay wif me?" which then makes me teary-eyed, so I'm already dreading that drop off situation.). So the last thing we need is that hangry desperate feeling at 5:30pm when we don't know what's for dinner and we're too tired and hungry to do anything but pour bowls of cereal and pick fights with each other. I mean, I'm all for a cereal dinner now and again, but we probably need to be a little better fueled for the start of the school year.

Some things on my menu: tomato mozzarella sandwiches, pasta with spinach and roasted veggies, broccoli melts, quiche, and also take-out Chinese food (keeping it real, folks).

We STILL haven't found my essential oils OR our collection of Penzey spices. That's David's assignment for today while I'm on campus. Also I said, "Maybe you could like organize some of the toys in the basement?" hahahahahah #goodluck. Honestly, I thought that we were doing okay at keeping toys under control, but we have got to do some purging.

It seems like I should have another point to make here, but I'm tired from leading our department meeting (being NICE to everyone exhausts me) and I have to go to the grocery store on my way home and we were supposed to go to Grub & Groove in the park tonight, but I think we're going to just end up crashing at home. We've been getting the girls up early in the back-to-school prep mode and we definitely need early bedtimes to match. Plus, I'm really into Ozark on Netflix!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Radio Silence and Kitchen Paint

The blog has been so quiet this summer. Is it the chaos of moving? The busy-ness of having just-turned-five and now-she's-three -year-olds? The fact that there are other, easier ways to connect to people on my phone (Instagram, I'm looking at you...)? I started this blog a year before becoming pregnant with Eliza, but I needed it after I lost her, and now am I less inspired to write?

I want to document my kids' childhoods, and I worry about their internet privacy. I want to talk about house projects and get ideas and feedback, but I barely have time to do the projects themselves (this week's goal is to unpack books and then I will feel better about the house).

Anyway, I'm not hanging up the ol' blogger password, but I'm just trying to figure out how to use the space (and maybe whether anyone's reading). I know commenting just isn't done anymore (I barely do it), but I always hear from a loyal few, which is rewarding. And I'm NOT asking for a cheering section to tell me to keep writing--I'll do it regardless of whether people are reading (just look back at posts from 2009 for evidence of my willingness to blather on into the void). I dunno what I'm doing. Just sorting through brain cobwebs, I guess. I haven't been doing enough writing this summer in general, despite my good intentions. I haven't done zero, either, just not where I'd wanted to be now that mid-August is breathing down my neck.

Speaking of August (or "Hog-uhst" as Coco says it: "My birfday is Hog-uhst"), poor Coco's birthday got kind of lost in the shuffle. I put up a birthday banner that has fallen on one side and now I can't find the role of tape to fix it. We celebrated early with my parents--singing and cupcakes--then on her actual birthday had a friend over to play (who brought more cupcakes), and then we went out to dinner and she got to open presents from us.

Zuzu is the WORST secret keeper and will no longer be allowed to assist with wrapping. "Open the Barbie one first," she instructed Coco, handing her the presents. Coco did get a Barbie for her birthday, but it is a baby doctor Barbie. She also got more Magnatiles and a really cute book (from the We Stories curriculum--Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie). Oh, and a weird plastic lizard she was obsessed with at World Market and I made her put it back, then surreptitiously purchased it without her noticing, but now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure she left it at the Botanical Gardens today. Dangit.

We had painters paint almost every room in the house, and by and large it's a huge improvement. The previous owners seemed to favor dark, warm colors, and I just can't with rust, mustard, and tan (blood, barf, and bandaid). Zuzu's formerly yellow and lime-green room is now a lovely shade of sky blue, which coordinates with the rainbow theme she completely came up with on her own and is insisting on (I'm actually not opposed to it, but I'd negotiated to bring the darling curtains I'd made for her out of a shower curtain from the old house and she's not interested in the super cute pink, coral, mint green, touch of ochre color scheme we had going). So I ordered her a rainbow duvet cover and I think it will be pretty cute. I need to figure out if they girls are really sharing a room or not. Right now they're sleeping together at night, but bedtime is not going super smoothly, and Coco is still napping in her crib-turned-toddler bed in her own room because she just settles down in there more easily. She wants her room to be purple, so I will likely oblige her (with purple accessories, not purple walls).

Unfortunately, in my intense desire to lighten up the formerly rust-and-golden-mustard kitchen, I overshot and the green I selected is too pale and not what I want. I want something more sagey--not apple, but closer to herbs-de-Provence rather than seafoam. And I feel like I ended up in seafoam. David says I should live with it for a while, my mom says I should go ahead and repaint before we get stuff on the walls. I WANT to repaint it, like, yesterday, but I think David will win out not because his advice is better but because start of the semester will take priority to repainting the kitchen. Maybe I'll get a free weekend in late September? It's more annoying since we had painters do it and they did a great job and it cost us money rather than time, and I obviously mentally flagellate myself more for wasting money than I do when I waste time (see: the internet). I definitely can't freehand edge as quickly and crisply as they can. BUT I also know the power of paint and how happy it will make me to change the color, so it's going to happen. The question is just when...

In other news, I cannot find the box in which I have the back-to-school chalkboard, which is annoying because I SPECIFICALLY labeled it "back-to-school chalkboard" among other things. I have eight days in which to locate this.

Other significant things we cannot find at the moment: our vast collection of Penzey spices (David packed these near the end of the week before we moved and we both distinctly remember him emptying that cabinet and have no idea what became of the spices); my smaller but not insignificant collection of essential oils (I am NEEDING this); our full collection of bath towels (we have two... where are the others?). For awhile, ALL of my pants were missing, but they have since been located.

Things I'm missing about the old house: Knowing where everything is. The stained glass windows and arched doorways. The new carpets that weren't stained by someone else's kid's chocolate milk vomit. The faster drive to the botanical gardens. Francis Park within walking distance.

Things I'm enjoying about the new house: Main floor laundry (just off the kitchen). A huge basement playland in which my children are willing to go and spend about 30 minutes alone until one of them is injured or pissed off at the other. A master bathroom (I've never had one before in my life). An attached garage (ditto). The amazing yard. The fact that David texts "on my way" and shows up 14 minutes later. (That is the BEST, seriously.)

Today the girls and I spent the morning at the botanical gardens (20 minute drive--doable). Tomorrow my plan is to find the nearest library branch and make ourselves at home there. The girls have transitioned here really seamlessly, and I'm grateful for that (with the exception of bedtime shenanigans).

Ok. Tackling a book for book club on Friday in between staring forlornly at my seafoam walls and wishing they were sage. Would you paint now? Or see if pale green grows on you?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Three; Two Living

We moved into the new house. The girls and I ended up going out of town for the past two weeks, which was great but a little nuts as well. We stayed at my parents' for a week, then came home briefly, then went to visit my Uncle Tim in Indiana, then went to a family reunion float trip in Eminence (the girls didn't float, my aunts were sweet enough to babysit them). Then they went home with my parents and David and I came back to St. Louis to move. It wasn't ideal timing, but we made it work.


The big things went smoothly (no surprises at closing) but of course we've had a few hiccups. I'm still missing a shopping bag of little things I threw in at the last minute, like thank you notes and my favorite hoodie (WHERE is it????). Oh--and we still don't have running water.


NBD. It's not like we need to clean things. Or bathe.


I guess there was some kind of snafu/mixup/whoops moment when a call didn't get made (...???...) but whatever happened, the water got shut off instead of transferred to our name. We called about this on Monday and were assured it would be turned back on Tuesday. Welp. I'm typing this on Wednesday afternoon and I still can't use the sink or flush the toilet. AMAZING! I showered today at my friend Christine's house, which was a fabulous decision because I got to see her, her adorable son Joel, AND it just so happens that her master bathroom is like a fabulous spa with an amazing rain shower. I kind of wish I were still there. So, could be worse. I don't stink at the moment, anyway. But I'll tell you, we're going to need some flushing toilets up in the place pretty darn soon. (poop emoji; barf face emoji).


One lovely neighbor came up and dropped off some homemade cookies (because apparently we not only moved to the suburbs, we also moved back in time?? But seriously, I loved it.). She, of course, asked how many kids we have and I said we have two girls who are currently at my parents'. But then the AT&T guy came and he asked how many kids we have and I said, "Three. Two living." And he was SUPER nice and just said, "Oh, I'm so sorry about that" and I told him my kids names and ages and that we'd lost Eliza and he said he has three girls and his youngest is twelve and I felt like he really was genuinely sympathetic and understanding about what we lost. And also I was super jealous of him and his three-living-daughters family. BUT at least he's a nice guy.


I've gotten a little emotional because really this house is kind of stupid big and there's plenty of room for three kids in it but my interest in another pregnancy is virtually nil, so it's just sitting in the stasis of life after loss, which will always really suck even when other things are super happy/great and we have two amazing girls and we live in a house in the forest! But overall I'm patting myself on the back for having no hysterical tears or freak outs (decidedly an improvement over our last move!). The closest I got was when I was supposed to be packing up the fridge but I couldn't because we had NO BAGS OR CONTAINERS left. Mostly because my husband refuses to save Target bags because he is a monster can't handle the clutter in the hall closet. But we borrowed coolers from our neighbor slash real estate agent (truly full service in this case!) and it all worked out.


The girls are heading back today with my parents and they should all be here before too long. I've gotten Zuzu's bed made, but I can't find Coco's sheets, so I need to go look for those. I also got them a new shower curtain since they have their own bathroom now. It has mermaids on it and I think they are going to love it. I also lined the bathroom drawers with little duck wrapping paper covered with clear contact paper and it's so adorable I can hardly stand it. Kid bathrooms are really fun.


We are having painters come on Saturday, so I've been choosing paint colors. I'm having them do almost everyone room except the dining room because we don't have furniture for it and a couple bedrooms and the girls' bath upstairs. The bedrooms are already a neutral gray that's fine, and the bathroom isn't bothering me at the moment and I can always do it myself later on. I've been thinking about paint colors since we put an offer on this house because the current rust and mustard and tan is not doing anything for me. I can be pretty indecisive and insane about these things, but I'm sticking with what I like, which is lighter tones and lots of blues and greens. I thought I'd go navy above the white chair rail in the laundry room, but I've decided on a deep teal. The kitchen will be a pale sage green (Sherwin Williams Liveable Green, which is such a lame paint name). And I'm painting the master bedroom Sea Salt again because if it ain't broke don't fix it, you know? Doing a soft white in the hallway and family room, little fingerprints and hand smudges notwithstanding, and the ever-perfect Comfort Gray in the front living room and the halfbath downstairs. Oh--and the entryway no one will ever use because of the way our house sits on the lot is a nice blue color I just sort of landed on by happenstance called Breezy (sometimes the names really do influence me).


Anyway, lots of people are bugging me for photos so I'll be sure to put some before and afters on Instagram and post some here as well.

UPDATE: photos of the outside! The first is the front of the house, but because of the way it sits on a hill, we will rarely (never?) use that entrance.


This next one is our regular entrance--it's The side door that opens into the laundry room / mud room. There's also an attached garage that enters into the house there too. And that goes into the kitchen, which has a small dining area.



Now I have four more boxes of kitchen stuff to unpack (WHERE to put it all?) and I really need to dig up those sheets. More updates (and interior photos) soon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's Not a Road Trip Until Someone Pees by the Highway

We decided to escape the madness and the boxes and the elevated stress levels at home, so I loaded up the girls and we drove down to my parents yesterday. Possibly this had something to do with the fact that I nearly started crying because all of the wine glasses were packed. (Items I use on a daily basis: wine glasses and fuzzy blankets.)

The girls are really pretty good travelers--I didn't even bring the ipad and they just paged through books and napped a little bit. At one point they were making up and singing songs together, which was the cutest thing ever. I listened to a couple of podcasts but realized that most of the podcasts I like are not appropriate for kids (too much cursing!) and then my phone lost internet connection out in the boonies, so we listened to really random CDs that were in my car--Leonard Cohen and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

There were a few frustrating moments--we were about two hours into the four hour trip when Zuzu started getting very curious about whether we were there yet: "Is this Grammy's city?" she asked at every little farm town we drove through. Coco will do this thing where she whines, "mooooooommmmmy" and then when I say, "What, honey?" she mumbles softly in the backseat, which is infuriating because she can be as LOUD as she wants to be, but she decides to operate on this level of a just-barely-audible whine, apparently just to make me crazy. We were five miles outside my hometown when she started making that noise and I had to say, "What? What? WHAT?" and then, in a fake cheerful tone, "Okay, when you're ready to talk so that I can hear you, I will be listening."

And then finally she yelled that she had to go potty "SO BAD."

I asked her if she could wait a few more minutes and she repeated that she had to go SO BAD and sounded kind of panicky, so I asked if she needed to go in the grass and she said yes. And so I pulled over and put my flashers on and she peed on the side of the highway.

Then we loaded back up and got to my parents' house ten minutes later.

The plan is to chillax here for a few days, then head back to St. Louis for a birthday party, a hair appointment, a visit to the primary classroom at Coco's school, and all the rest of the packing and organizing. There are some details about our closing/moving that are making me really nervous--mostly that our buyers want to close as early as possible so they can move in, but our sellers aren't going to be out until 3. I think this means that our buyers need to understand that we won't be out until 3, but I'm not sure that has been clearly communicated, because our realtor said something about us being out by 1:30. (Um... then what do we do?). Also our realtor seems to think that the sellers will be out earlier than 3, which I think is absolutely crazy (if they have until 3, they are going to take until 3, is what I think). So that is stressing me out. Surely this will work out, right? I don't know how people do this. Move houses, I mean, and close on the same day. Ugh. 

Meanwhile, I'm spending a lot of time on Pinterest daydreaming about furniture and paint colors and I keep realizing I can't remember what the house really looks like. Weird!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Right Now

READING.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I have no desire to watch the show, and it's actually taken me weeks to work up the emotional fortitude to tackle the novel. It's fantastic and terrifying. Between that and Season 4 of West Wing, I'm just beside myself when it comes to politics and possibilities. What seemed like complete fiction to West Wing writers in 2001 (President Bartlet is running for reelection against an anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant opponent) is REAL LIFE NOW... how far are we from Atwood's dystopia? (I mean, have you read this? Terrifying.) (Note to self: work on plans for living off grid.)

I've done quite a bit of reading this summer. I'm just over halfway to my goal of 52 novels this year, which is great since we're about halfway through the year! I need to step it up, though, because my reading game slows when school starts. I just finished reading The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green. It's one of the earliest American detective novels, and I'm teaching it in a Victorian Crime & Detective Fiction class this fall. At least, I think I am. I'm still building the syllabus and working out the reading schedule for that class (my others are all set!) so I need to finish this book and then claim a few hours to myself to sit and figure out the course schedule.

I also recently finished reading Secrets of Happy Families which was a little bit hokey (hold Weekly Family Meetings, craft a Family Mission Statement... good ideas in theory, I suppose) but what I got from it is that you mostly should make explicit the kinds of things that you want your kids to implicitly absorb about your family values. Kind of like the yard sign we put up, I guess--that's a way of making our family values explicit, not just to our neighbors, but also to our kids. The family coach we worked with last year talked about using the phrase "In our family, we don't ____" when we explained why Zuzu wasn't allowed to bite/hit/choose your inappropriate and antisocial behavior, I'm sure my sweet snowflake of a rainbow baby has exhibited it. And I think it's the same kind of philosophy. You make your kids feel like they are an inherent and necessary part of a core group that holds a certain set of values, and then you make it fun, safe, and comfortable to belong to that group.

One other thing that this book didn't cover but that I was thinking about recently are the cliches "Happy wife, happy life" and "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." There's truly something to be said about the way one parent (not just mom) can set the tone for the entire family, and how much power we have to shape kids' perceptions of experiences, just by saying things like, "This is the BEST VACATION EVER!" or "I have a feeling today will be a really great day!" Kids aren't just sponges--they are also mirrors.

WATCHING.
West Wing season 4. I love it so much.

David and I tried to watch the very controversial Thirteen Reasons Why and we gave up. I found it absolutely too disturbing and frustrating. It also made me think of some of the dark thoughts I was having on the 4th of July. It's no secret that I've been pretty disturbed and frustrated by the politics of this country, and I wondered if the Great Democratic Experiment of our constitution is playing itself out and demonstrating that people really are just self-interested and selfish A-holes so democracy is kind of crumbling and our best bet is a benevolent monarch who keeps us in line in an ethical way because when you leave people feeling like we live in a competitive environment where it's every man for himself (like, say, high school), we will inevitably end up using and abusing people we perceive as weaker than ourselves.

WOW this little blog meme sure has been a cheerful way to start the day! You're welcome!

Anyway, we are NOW watching The Keepers, which is a fascinating documentary about who killed Sister Cathy, a nun living in Baltimore in the 1960s. What looks like an unsolved mystery may actually be part of a huge cover up. We're not very far into it yet, but Gemma and Abby are already my heroes. They are like real life Miss Marples or Jessica Thatchers, just a couple of retired ladies doing their sleuthing at the library and on facebook and in coffee shops. I want to be just like them when I retire!

FOLLOWING
Just started following Celeste Barber on Instagram. Definitely search for her... her posts are completely amazing. Even inspiring. Lol.

LISTENING
To the Moana soundtrack mostly. Also always and forever Hamilton.

WEARING
Sweaty, stinky clothes from walk/jogging to the park today. I need a shower, but we're going to the pool later, so I think I'm just going to stink for a few hours.

BUYING
I'm shopping for a new couch, but I'm not committed to anything just yet. Leather couches are expensive, man. I'm selling off furniture on Craigslist--my couch and another chair I hadn't even planned to sell went on Saturday. I have another chair/ottoman set that I'm selling although I'm having second thoughts because it's the comfiest chair in the entire world. It's just that the upholstery doesn't really go with anything else, and then I wonder if I should have it reupholstered, but that seems a little daunting and pricy, so I'm not sure...

PLANNING
What projects we want to do at the Forest House, and where we want to start with painting.

MONITORING
How much more my kids are playing with their toys now that 80% are packed up in boxes. It's true what they say--they play more with less. Also moving toys around the house totally influences how they play. The art table that was ignored in the basement is getting a lot of attention now that it's in the living room. I need to keep this in mind as we're setting things up at the Forest House... Less is more!

WONDERING
Why we're bothering to move from our awesome neighborhood with such a fantastic park within walking distance. I'm trying to keep in mind that summer feels all blissful, but once school starts, I know I'll be more grateful for the shorter and simpler commute and drop off situation. Still, the nostalgia is hitting me hardcore already. And I don't know where the new grocery store or library is, either. Do they even HAVE those things where we're moving? (Kidding... kind of.) It's sort of like when you have a great hair day the day that you've decided to go in and get it all chopped off. You're going to go ahead with it, but you're having serious second thoughts and you'll probably cry about it for three days until you get used to the new hair. (Tell me that's not just me.)

FEELING
Conflicted. Sad about leaving the old house. Ready to get settled in the new house. Sentimental about leaving the neighborhood. Excited to move to our secluded location. Aggravated by not being able to find things that David has packed. Looking forward to unpacking and organizing the new house. Wanting summer to last forever. Ready for school to start. Mostly packed except for clothes. Completely overwhelmed by everything we have left to do.

David and I generally don't have many major conflicts, but we always have one big fight in August when the transition to the new semester and all the stress that comes with it hits us hard and we inevitably work out the stress by yelling at each other. Over the weekend, that fight visited us early because I was SO PISSED that he went ahead and packed all the couch pillows and throw blankets. I use those every night when I curl up to watch TV or read. The girls use them almost everyday to build blanket forts. In my mind, they are the kind of thing you pack up the LAST DAY and you toss them in a garbage bag. But David had neatly stacked them in actual moving boxes and he was pretty mad when I unpacked them. We exchanged some choice words and then I stomped upstairs and watched The Keepers by myself. I mean, we have to live here two more weeks! I'm not doing it without my favorite fuzzy blanket and also some pillows. Fortunately, we were both feeling more reasonable the next day (and also my pillows and blankets are still out of the boxes, so...).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cousins and Our Future "Dentister"

Remember when I thought this would be a relaxing summer and I would just read and write and take my kids to the pool?

Haha. I had no idea.

It feels like we have been going 100 miles an hour the past couple of weeks. After a low-key Fourth of July (about which I actually had all kinds of complicated feelings because I'm not totally convinced the democratic experiment of 1776 is actually working out all that well, given the enormous numbers of people who feel and are disenfranchised in this country), we had cousins come visit from California and set about showing a 9-year-old and 12-year-old just how much fun stuff there is to do in St. Louis in five days.

playing in the backyard clubhouse

If you're considering a visit to St. Louis, I'll tell you we managed to go to the zoo, a Cardinals game, the City Museum, the Botanical Gardens, Ices Plain & Fancy, Ted Drewes, Schlafly, and paddle boat riding at Forest Park Boathouse, and all were great fun. The kids said the City Museum was their favorite. Plus I had to attend a funeral for a colleague (sad and unexpected) and David had to work one day, so I would say that we did a pretty good job of squeezing in a lot of fun stuff, but we are all kind of wiped out from it. Paddle boating when it was 104 degrees out wasn't exactly the most ideal plan, either. (Poor Kailer, David's 12-year-old nephew, was mortified when I started complaining about boob sweat).

Zuzu and Coco absolutely LOVED having their cousins here. I can't even describe how smitten they are with those two. And it was awesome because they were totally entertained but the cousins are old enough that there was none of the typical playdate bickering. Basically, I want to have a nanny who is 9 years old and just helps me out from 9am-4pm every day. We loved having them here.

at the Botanical Gardens

It was also excellent to have three adults and two big kids to help us tackle the City Museum with Zuzu and Coco. The last time I'd been to the City Museum was more than ten years ago. We'd been waiting to take the kids because I didn't think Coco was big enough for some of the stuff (also I didn't realize they had a toddler area) and Zuzu's fearlessness makes me nervous. Both girls had a great time, and Coco was determined to keep up with the big kids! The outdoor climbing structures still gave me the willies occasionally, and even Zuzu was a little more cautious than I've seen her before when we were up really high.

At one point, we were climbing around in the indoor treehouse and I saw Zuzu go down a slide and come out a level below me. I had my eye on her, and I saw her foot slip through the metal bars she was walking on. I knew she'd banged her knee hard and I saw her start to cry, but I couldn't figure out how to get down to her--where do I enter the climber? What slide did she go down? So I was kind of freaking out. I was trying to yell down to her that I was coming, but she couldn't hear me. Then I saw a gray-haired lady come over and start talking to her (I'm sure asking her where her negligent parents were). I sent David up a level to find the slide and I started climbing down to her, but then when I got down to where she was, she was gone! Just as I started to freak out, my phone rang. I had written my cell phone number on Zuzu's wrist band, just in case. It was an unknown local number, so I answered it and, sure enough, it was the nice older lady. "Do you have a little girl with pigtails in a blue shirt?" I said yes and that I was trying to get to her and she said, "We're in the tree house" and I said, "I'm in the tree house! Where are you?" and then I realized she was right behind me. Anyway, Zuzu was fine and it was actually a nice transition to heading home.

The same day the cousins left, we had friends come to town to join us at a Jason Isbell concert, which was kind of our anniversary date and was fantastic.

13 years of weddedness.

We left our kids and our friends' daughter with a babysitter and it made me feel like a Real Adult somehow, except Coco cried when we left because she's mama's girl and then I was really sad but then I had a gin & tonic with dinner and I remembered that sometimes I like to do adult things without my children. Also the show was so, so great. I loved The Mountain Goats too, who opened for him, although at first I was like "I should have brought ear plugs because I am so old." And we talked about how we love going to concerts where we get to sit down. Basically we are the uncoolest ever. No shame.

Yesterday we went out to the House in the Forest to scope out a few things and measure a few things, and remind myself that this is real and we're really moving. I also boxed up a bunch of books and all the pictures I had hanging up the stairs and now our house looks empty and ugly and also dirty with the shadow of the frames left on the walls and it's kind of depressing. Also all our house guests were gone yesterday afternoon and Zuzu and I were both feeling the post-fun glum. I coped by treating myself to a La Croix and a magazine. Zuzu coped by being a complete and total brat. It wasn't our worst day of the summer, but it certainly wasn't our best afternoon. I truly sympathized with her--she's overtired, out of routine, used to have constant entertainment, missing her cousins and friend--but mercy she can be a handful.

Speaking of depressing things, the air conditioner went out on my car and the car place was like "NBD, prolly needs freon, run you about $50" and then the car place was like "Just kidding, you actually need a whole new system thingy and it will cost $1350. Or we can do just one part of it and that will cost you $850."

Given that my car is 10 years old, we were actually like, "Should we just go ahead and get a new car?" but then we were like, "Oh, wait, we're buying a new house, so NO." And my car (knock on wood) has been pretty trouble-free for most of its life, plus it has nearly 150,000 miles on it. Anyway, that was still not a fun phone call to get.

Also Zuzu had to have a cavity filled today. I never had a cavity as a kid (in spite of very lazy dental hygiene in elementary school) so I was shocked by this. Also it is not cheap. I was a little worried she would be dentist-traumatized, but she loved it. We go to a pediatric dentist practice and they used laughing gas and let her choose a Barbie movie and gave her a balloon and then another one for Coco, and fussed over what a great patient she was, and she told me she wants to be a "dentister" when she grows up. So I guess that was successful. But I sure can think of more fun ways to spend a thousand dollars than on dental work and car repair (plane tickets and gin and tonics come to mind... also a new couch).

Anyway, that's the latest around here. More packing to do today. Zuzu just informed me they are playing, "Dinosaur Times" and Coco is a baby dinosaur. I'm going to try to take advantage of the relative dinosaur harmony and see if if can get the rest of the stuff on my living room shelves boxed up. (You guys. I have so many books.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Moving

So it looks like we're doing this.

We moved into our current house a little over four years ago. I said at the time that I didn't know if we'd be here forever, but I knew we could be. The neighborhood is lovely. The house is charming. The yard is small, but we're two blocks from a beautiful park. We moved just about five minutes from our first house, and only because we outgrew the two-bed, one-bath bungalow. We live in the city and we feel close to everything (even if there are a zillion slow stop lights between us and Forest Park). There was no reason to go anywhere.

But now we're moving.

I mentioned a while back that David got a new job at a school district nearer to us, which cut his commute in half. But you know the "give a mouse a cookie" thing? He started looking at neighborhoods that would cut his commute down to the 10-15 minute range. And after the hours and miles that he's logged in the past seven years, I couldn't really blame him.

(You might remember that my commute is also substantial--I drove over to Illinois, so it takes me 35-40 minutes to get to work. Even though I would say I don't particularly like to drive, for some reason I can't explain, this commute has never bothered me! I think it's because I rarely sit in traffic--I drive several miles, but I'm always driving rather than sitting. In fact, I've missed my commute this summer because it's the only time of the day that I can listen to podcasts or music or audio books without interruption. I do a lot of thinking and planning in the car, and I have genuinely missed having that half hour to myself in the morning and evening! But I'm not complaining about summer break--I also think the fact that I drive to work nine months rather than twelve makes the commute feel less burdensome.)

Anyway, we started talking about it with some seriousness when talking about where Zuzu will go to elementary school, and David made the case for the convenience of them all being in the same school district. As much I resisted the idea of moving, I couldn't deny that the simplification of everyone having similar schedules and David being super close to his work sounded pretty good for all of us. Plus, we'd be closer to the preschool where the girls go now, which means that my commute time would also be reduced since I have to drive slightly out of my way right now to drop them off.

Long story short, after much discussion and thought and some arguing and what I am pretty sure was a middle of the night panic attack, we decided to list our house.

(A big part of my reluctance had to do with the terrible time we had last time we decided to move--the sale of our house last time seemed to be great as we got an offer the day of our open house, but it fell through three days before closing and we'd already committed to buying our new house, which meant things were financially tight. But now our old house was back on the market, empty and unstaged, we had to keep up the yard work and utilities all summer, not to mention paying a second mortgage, and after six months of that madness, we ended up breaking up with our realtor and working with someone else who agreed with me we should stage the house, then got it sold within two weeks, which was just before Christmas, and a week AFTER I found out I was surprise pregnant with Coco, the same week as Eliza's birthday... It was a stressful time. I'm not kidding when I say that just seeing real estate signs on the lawn of any house as I drove or walked by would make my stomach churn.)

This time, our house sold in a week, which was great. The area we want to move to had houses selling really fast, so we put in a contingency offer because there was ZERO chance that I was going to pay two mortgages again. It was accepted, so now we close on both properties at the end of this month. I hesitated to write about it for a long time because I felt like I would jinx it, but everything seems to be in place this time.

The thing is, I don't actually handle transition or uncertainty very well at all. I mean, I felt ridiculous having a panic attack about moving neighborhoods in the same metro area, but I was still awake at two in the morning feeling like I couldn't breathe. I knew I was overreacting--this was not a crisis! We're not in a refugee situation! We're doing this on purpose and for good reasons!--but I couldn't control my anxiety about it. Now that things are set and the dates are finalized and the papers are signed, I'm feeling better about looking forward and thinking about paint colors and a new couch. I do love the idea of decorating a new place, especially a house that's so different from this one in terms of layout and design.

I'm still really conflicted about leaving our current house and our lovely neighborhood, especially the neighbors we've gotten to know, who really love our girls. I also just thought that we'd be in the city forever, and as a non-native St. Louisan, I kind of came to identify myself as a City Resident (rather than County), so that is another shift that I'm getting used to. I am looking forward to a house that has a more user-friendly kitchen and more outdoor space, and I do love the way the new house is surrounded by trees. It feels very peaceful and secluded even though it's just a long curving driveway (and a big hill!) that separates us from a cul-de-sac neighborhood.

I hope it will be a good change for our family, and the "right" choice for us, but it has felt very fraught. Sometimes it feels like every decision we make has so much at stake, especially when it comes to where our kids will go to school. I do like the idea of paying taxes in and being part of the school district where David works, and I do like the idea of my kids going to public schools, so I'm glad that we are able to move in that direction. I will absolutely miss being in the city, but I've been google mapping all of our favorite hangouts and discovering that while we have to drive a few more miles to get there, it won't take much longer in terms of minutes--it's just highway miles instead of city streets. My friends promise to come visit me, and this house does have space for a fire pit and a living room for game nights, so I hope that people will be willing to drive out to see us.

I'm not saying that this new house is our "forever home" because I'm starting to roll my eyes at that idea as much as the idea of a soul mate. Life is big, and there are lots of houses and neighborhoods to love. I do hope that we are happily settled for the next several years. Well wishes and pep talks appreciated!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Facebook

I'm back on Facebook.

It took me more than six years after losing Eliza to feel like I could re-enter that space.

I think because I saw it as a place to put forward the best version of yourself, and that version of myself no longer existed.

I think I also was afraid that it would hold nothing but disappointment and resentment for me.

I knew people who got upset because they posted updates or photos of the children they lost and got no responses, but then other, light-hearted posts would get all kinds of likes and comments. I also know how hard it was for a lot of my friends to see facebook pregnancy announcements or new baby posts. I just didn't want to put myself out there for any of that.

But then I joined We Stories, which primarily communicates through Facebook, and I knew that some of my babyloss mom friends were in a private facebook group that I would like to join, and while I created a profile never intending to post anything, I got a lot of friend requests for extended family (like old people--no one young and cool uses facebook because they are all Snapchatting, which I do not do because I am over 30). And I realized that a lot of these people aren't on instagram and would probably like to see photos of my kiddos, and there are all kinds of privacy settings so you can control who views photos and just show them to certain groups, so I could post pictures of the girls for my family without inundating my work colleagues with my children's adorableness.

And although I know the politics are something people complain about in regard to Facebook, that's actually part of what I like about it. I am pretty insulated on there, and it's very tempting to hide people who disagree with my political views, but I have found it to be a good source of information and articles on all kinds of issues (including non-political ones). Sometimes it does raise my heart rate, but mostly because I'm reading news stories through it, and news stories about our country's current president tend to infuriate me. I love using facebook to stay informed about local politics, about social justice efforts, and to get reminders of what I can do to try and make a difference about things that are important to me.

I've been careful about it--I check in almost every day, but not more than once or twice. I don't engage in political arguments. I don't post things that are deeply personal. I guess I'm back at the point where I can skate on the surface--I don't feel like my guts are a raw, gaping wound. I'm not "fixed" or "better" or no longer grieving, but I am in a place where I can love and miss Eliza as much as ever, but I also have the energy and headspace to care about other things--big things like social justice (and how white people--even those of us who are well-meaning--keep effing things up), and little things like, "oh, yeah, how is my officemate from graduate school doing?".

Honestly, the hardest thing for me is when people share their timeline posts from five years ago, and I'm so glad I didn't try to get back on Facebook earlier, or in 2016 when "five years ago" would have been right after Eliza died.

I also care a lot less now about how other people perceive me than I did back then, which is pretty vital. I am not free from the comparison game, but I spend much less time comparing other people's lives to mine than I used to (actually, it's kind of embarrassing and sad to think about how worked up I was about this and how I measured up to others or how I thought others would see me... ugh. Giving zero effs about that nonsense is one of the few gifts that emerged from grief--that and my tribe of babyloss friends).

Anyway, if you quit facebook for whatever reason and you're unsure about going back--I say wait. You're not missing much. There's no rush. You'll know when you feel ready, or when you want to be involved in something more than you want to stay off of facebook. I can't say that it has improved my life significantly, but at the same time, I do appreciate that it's reconnected me with friends and extended family members with whom I'd fallen out of touch, and that it's an easy way for me to get involved and stay informed about specific issues and organizations I care about.

So, yes, I'd love to be your facebook friend.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Zuzu is Five

You guys. My rainbow baby turned five. 

(Which I'm a little sad about ONLY because she's been telling everyone for months that she's "four and three quarters" and I'm kind of bummed that now it's just "five," although give her a week and she'll declare herself "five and a half.")

Five years ago, we were still calling Baby Duck #2 "The Deuce." And I detailed every moment of her birth here (you're welcome). And yes, I was still missing her sister.

And somehow, that beautiful baby is all grown up into this beautiful little stinker--our master negotiator who is teaching her little sister every trick she knows. She makes me crazy almost as often as she melts my heart. She never stops asking questions. She is willing to strike up a conversation with any adult we meet, but when she's around kids she doesn't know, she'll hide behind me and whisper that she's "a little shy."

She still says "lellow" for yellow and "aminal" for animal and "firty" for thirty. She has quite an imagination and no sense of appropriate voice volume. She was down in the basement, absorbed in playing with little characters when I carried her birthday decorations (a couple banners and a wreath on the door) and some Fourth of July decorations upstairs and put them up, and she was so delighted when she saw them. She clapped her hands and said, "Mommy! How did you DO this? You buh-prised me!"

She's a big fan of buh-prises.


Little Sister is always a half step behind her, mimicking everything she does. Coco is no pushover, so they go head to head pretty often. Overall, though, they truly love each other and their sister relationship is one of the best gifts I can imagine (for them, and for me). My greatest fear is losing one of them--not just because it would shatter me, but because I know what an enormous and devastating loss that would be for the other one (a loss that I recognize, even if they don't experience it as such, when I imagine every day what it would be like to have three little girls lined up for photos). What I want more than anything in this world is for them to grow up and stay best friends.


These girls have brought so much light to our lives, and they are so, so loved. I try to talk to them a lot about being grateful and being aware of how lucky we are, so I was slightly bummed when she opened all her birthday gifts, was very excited about them, and then turned to David and me and said, "Why didn't you get me more presents?"

(I realize she was referring to her enjoyment of the whole process--ripping open packages, being the center of attention, discovering something hidden--but still, it was not exactly what I hoped would come out of her mouth after being showered with gifts.) 

Funny kid that she is, she didn't want a birthday cake. She wanted blueberry muffins. She kind of changed her mind at the last minute and said she wanted a cupcake with pink frosting (she's a sucker for pretty decorations even if she doesn't like sweets) so David bought a cupcake for her and one for Coco and then Coco ate both of them. Zuzu ate more blueberry muffins.

We celebrated her birthday early while we were at the beach (made blueberry muffins there) and then we celebrated again with a "family party" on the 29th with just the four of us at home having pasta (her request) after going to the pool (We also had blueberry muffins) and opening gifts. 

Zuzu really wanted a party with her friends at our house, and she kept requesting that, but I knew that I wouldn't have the time or energy to pull that off right after getting home from out of town. I also think an elaborate birthday party with friends is something we'll move to doing every other year (evens), and then we'll have a "family party" or event (like going to a show or an amusement park) on the odd years.

This year she got an event, and she chose the Magic House, which is also known as My Waking Nightmare--too many people in close proximity, other people's children crying and screaming, "Mommy!", not being able to keep track of my own kids, and never being able to get them to cooperate for a picture (I mean, WHAT IS THE POINT of my sacrifice in dragging myself to the Magic House if you won't even let me DOCUMENT IT???). But that's what she wanted, and the bright spot in the day (for me) was that we were able to meet up with one of her friends from school.

This little friend is a boy who just turned 3 in March, so he's quite a bit younger than Zuzu (closer to Coco's age, really), and Zuzu has just taken him under her wing in the sweetest way. She loves to look out for him and take care of him, and she knows the things that he's interested in (trains and trucks) and told me that she was going to show him the trains and trucks at the Magic House and do what he wanted to do while they were there. 

I'll be honest, I have moments when I wonder if I'm raising a sociopath, but her friendship with and concern for this little guy really makes visible the kindness in her little heart. I love it so much (and his mom was so sweet about expressing her appreciation for Caroline, it truly made my day). 

But of course that didn't stop her from whining about having a birthday party at her house. (Eyeroll.)

We compromised with a "birthday play date." This came to me in a flash of inspiration. I e-mailed a bunch of parents whose kids go to Zuzu's school (and a few of my friends whose kids she likes to play with) and invited them to meet up with us at Tower Grove Park on a Saturday morning to play in the fountain and on the playground. I emphasized in the e-mail that while we are celebrating Zuzu turning 5, this is a play date and NOT a party--no gifts! No organized games! No pressure! No stress! No prep!

She got to see her friends and play, and the only thing I had to do was throw a bunch of juice boxes in a little cooler and pick up 48 donut holes on our way there. Best parenting decision ever, and the kids had a blast! It was just about getting them all in the same place at the same time and giving them space to run around and scream.

And now that birthday is in the books--literally, the fifth birthday is the final entry in her baby book! My rainbow baby is growing up. And, as Zuzu would say, she makes me so happy that I have water in my eyes.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Buddha Board

Technically, the Buddha Board was an early birthday gift for Zuzu. It was small and easy to wrap and take to the beach, where we celebrated her turning 5 a few days early since our family was together and it was easy to have a party at the beach--all she required was blueberry muffins and five candles.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this item because although it couldn't really compete with the Shimmer and Shine doll set that she also received (insert eye roll), it is something that I'm confident will continue to hold interest. 

It comes with a small paint brush, and you "paint" the canvas with water. The picture darkens on the canvas, and then dries and disappears. Very zen, no? You can paint with water and contemplate the fleeting and impermanent nature of life, as Coco is undoubtedly doing here:


Serious concentration. Just ignore the laundry basket in the background. Taking it upstairs is a process that sometimes requires a pit stop on the couch.


I had never heard of a Buddha Board until I spotted one of these at a book shop in downtown St. Louis when I was attending a conference a few weeks ago and I picked it up. I think it was $13, which is also what the price is on Amazon. It is a simple and easy activity to have tucked away in a kitchen drawer for those times when you just need to occupy your kid for a few more minutes while you get dinner ready or finish drinking your chardonnay and watching the last five minutes of Veep (hey, no judgment here).

In all serious, it's also one of those Montessori-style activities, where there are few supplies, simple and tactile elements, and the child can set it up and clean it up all by herself. (Patting myself on the back here, thankyouverymuch.)

Anyone else used these? Coco's favorite thing to do is saturate the whole canvas and turn it dark pink (ah! A nihilist.) , but I can envision us using it for a long time, so we'll see what direction she goes in her artistic vision.

Also, I swear Zuzu likes it, too. She was just less cooperative about posing for me.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ending on a Low Note

I want to write a nice long brag post about our lovely beach vacation and how relaxing it was (actually, I give it a 5 out of 10 for relaxation, but only because we had to share beds with children) and how beautiful it was (10 out of 10) and how nice it was to meet my little niece (she's also a 10). But right now I'm mostly thinking about how the trip ended. Which was NOT with a bang, but instead with a terrible sound that I will never be able to get out of my head--the sickening sound of an unconscious man falling flat on his face on the hotel floor.


On Saturday morning, we got up and left Holden Beach, NC for Atlanta. It was not exactly on the way home, but David had put in a lot of hours in a mini-van with my parents and seeing a game at the new Braves stadium was his only request, so I was willing to oblige. We checked into a hotel near the stadium, and David and I walked over to watch the game.


It was warm, but our seats were in the shade. After a few innings we decided to get up and walk around, and then we were ready to head out a bit early and meet my parents and the girls for dinner at a restaurant just outside the ballpark.


David and my dad had beer samplers with dinner. I had a sangria that I sort of shared with my mom and fish tacos. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and got ready for bed early. I hadn't slept well the night before and was exhausted. As we got ready for bed, I realized I also wasn't feeling well. My stomach was killing me. And it straight up revolted right around 9pm, when I barfed up fish tacos, felt incredibly sorry for myself, then brushed my teeth and collapsed into bed.


Not the most fun way to end vacation, but I did feel better after puking and was just hoping that when I woke up I'd be back to normal. I figured that this would be the worst of it.


I had no idea.


I woke up at midnight, when I felt David getting up out of bed. Both girls had fallen asleep in the king sized bed in our room, so he lifted up Coco and put her down in the crib next to the bed. I heard him open the door to the bathroom, and I heard the bathroom door handle again. Then, I heard a sound I couldn't quite place. That sickening sound that made me wonder for a moment if David had walked smack into a wall or door. The room was really dark, so I called David's name, but I couldn't see him.


No response.


I flipped on the lamp and blinked in the light, trying to figure out what David was up to.


It took me a second to locate him, because he was LYING ON THE FLOOR in the hallway by the bedroom.


Just lying there. Motionless.


I leaped out of bed and knelt down to see that he was super pale but breathing. He was lying on his stomach, and I started rubbing his back and patting his cheek and saying his name over and over again in a voice of strangled hysteria. It was only a few seconds, but I was thisclose to dialing 911 when he started blinking and saying, "I'm ok, I'm ok."


On the outside, I was basically holding it together. I felt like I needed to take care of him, and that I didn't want to get completely hysterical in case the kids woke up.


On the inside, I was in a complete and raging panic. I'd already pictured the entire rest of my life as a widow. I had been sure that David was dead. It was all I could do to keep breathing and not pass out myself.


He sat up on the floor and I asked him questions (What were you doing? Did you pee? What happened? Where are we? Who is the president? What's today's date? When is my birthday? What are our children's names?). He was able to answer all my questions, and said he felt dizzy while peeing, headed back to bed to lie down, and just blacked out on the way back to bed from the bathroom.


I helped him get up and get over to the bed, where I took his temperature, felt for his pulse (I mean, he was talking to me, but STILL), and then once I was sure he was actually still alive, I started sobbing.


I thought we should probably wake up my parents and go to the ER, but he kept insisting he was ok. I texted my friend who is a nurse (a NICU nurse, but still...) and finally I agreed to let David go to sleep, but I woke him up an hour later to check on him. I didn't really think he had a concussion, though if he'd fallen just a few inches further to the left, he would have conked his head on the hotel safe. But I wasn't taking any chances.


David dozed off pretty quickly, but it took me hours to settle down enough so that I could go to sleep. My adrenaline rush was through the roof. I watched episodes of Rosemary and Thyme on PBS while clutching his wrist so I could feel his pulse under my thumb until 3:30am when I was finally exhausted enough to doze off for a couple of hours.


We drove all the way home from Atlanta on Sunday--my poor dad drove the whole way because David had a headache and my mom and I weren't technically supposed to drive the rental car. David still wasn't feeling great Sunday night (although, really, who does feel good after a 9-hour car ride and a terrible night of sleep?--not this girl!), but when he mentioned that his chest hurt, I told him we needed to go to Urgent Care. He didn't want to go and said he'd call his doctor the next morning.


I said, "So, if I passed out in the middle of the night, still had a headache all day the next day, and then had CHEST PAINS, you'd tell me it was fine for me to wait until the next day to go see my doctor?"


He said, "... Y-yes?..." and then protested that he was tired and he just wanted to lie on the couch and watch the cardinals game.


I stomped upstairs.


Fortunately, he came to his senses, came upstairs, and said we could go to Urgent Care if I really thought it was important to go tonight.


Ten minutes later, we were at Urgent Care (showing up 30 minutes before closing time--nice!), they called us back right away, and the doctor came in to examine him, then ordered a CT scan and an EKG as well as blood work and IV fluids. David's eyebrows went up when the doctor said that she wanted all those tests and he said, "Really?" and she said, "Yes. I want to be able to sleep tonight."


It was SUCH a huge relief for me to know they were running all of the tests. I just wanted answers beyond what I could google. And David was agreeable since they turned on the ballgame. (Don't tell him I posted this photo.)


Of course, it was even more of a relief when everything came back clear. They told us to follow up with primary care doctor, so we did that today. She ordered a couple more tests--a stress test and an ultrasound of his carotid arteries.

Both doctors seem to think that it was probably a vasovagal nerve thing. Evidently fainting after you pee in the middle of the night is a thing? David felt light headed after he lowered Coco into the crib and leaned his chest/stomach down on the side of the crib, which could have put pressure on this nerve as well. It could also have been some dehydration (definitely less water consumption when we're trying to drive long distances).


Basically, we're hoping it was just a one-off thing that will never happen again (I mean, really, I better not have to peel his unconscious ass off a hotel room floor again EVER), but we are doing all the tests to confirm that it wasn't caused by something else.


In the meantime, he's taking a few days off work to recover from the muscle soreness you get when you face plant unconscious onto a hotel room floor, and I'm trying to reel in all the worst case scenario flipping the eff out to remind myself that bloodwork and scans came back clear.


More on the beach--and a million other updates--to come!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Priorities

Zuzu is a sweet and empathetic girl. She is quick to comfort her sister when Coco gets hurt. She is willing to apologize when she accidentally hurts someone. She is usually willing to help out if I ask her to do me a favor or assist me with a chore.

On the first day of summer vacation, I painted her toenails. I know there are people who take their five-year-old the salon to get pedicures with them, but I am not that person. Zuzu asks me occasionally to paint her toenails, but I usually put it off. I did it once a few years ago, and she smeared the nail polish on the couch because she couldn't wait for it to dry. Anyway, I need to touch up my own toenails, and it was the first day of summer break so I was trying to be Fun Mom, so I offered to do hers as well while her sister was sleeping. She was very excited and she wanted pink and glitter topcoat.

Of course, Coco woke up before we finished, so I painted her toenails as well. Pink glitter for everyone! We did it out on the front porch and it was really sweet to see how excited they were about they matching sparkly toenails.

Zuzu asked me to paint her fingernails, but I said no and explained that she always puts her hands in her mouth and nail polish contains yucky chemicals that don't belong in our mouths. Zuzu has never sucked her thumb, but she chews her fingernails, puts her hand in her mouth when nervous, and often chews on her fingers (and sometimes toes!) when watching TV or being read to. So a manicure is just not something I was going to mess with.

Anyway, I didnt think much more of it. I put the nail polish up on the little windowsill at the bottom of the stairs where I put things out of little hands' reach that I will take upstairs later.

Fast forward to me going downstairs to switch laundry, to smelling the faint smell of fresh nail polish but assuming it's my own toes, and then seeing Coco shove her hands down between the couch cushions when I walk by. Something clicked (probably the wide-eyed guilty look on Coco's face) and I realized they had been into the nail polish.

Turns out that "out of reach" no longer applies to this windowsill. Zuzu had painted her fingernails and her sister's. And by "fingernails," I also mean most of their fingers from the second knuckle to the tip and also SOME OF MY BEDROOM CARPET.

This sneaky naughtiness is really hard for me not to completely lose my mind over. It's so deliberate. I tell myself frequently, "They are little and still learning" but I get so angry when she is (frequently) deliberately, intentionally defiant.

As a consequence, I removed all the fingernail polish and told Zuzu she has lost the privilege of painted nails, indefinitely.

I salvaged the carpet by actually snipping the drops of polish out of it. You can't tell at all, but I know it was there...

When I was removing the nail polish, crouched in our upstairs bathroom, scrubbing her little fingers with a cotton ball soaked in more nasty chemicals, I said to Zuzu, "You knew you were doing something that you were not supposed to do and something that would upset Mommy. Why would you choose to do that?"

She said, "Well, I just wanted to make myself happy."

As sweet, kind, and compassionate as she can be, girlfriend is also lookin' out for number one. Her priorities are very clear and consistent, actually. And making me kind of insane.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Childcare. It's Like a Full-Time Job.

Our "relaxing" stay at home summer officially started yesterday. My unofficial plan for the day (and most days) is to get out of the house for some activity in the morning, come home for lunch and Coco's nap, read with Zuzu and encourage her to do some quiet activity, then when Coco gets up, we go to the pool or play outside here.


In theory, this is great.


In practice, it's freaking exhausting and I got screamed at so many times yesterday that I was ready to go back to work.


I know it's just an adjustment period and we get used to the new routine, but holy moly. (It doesn't help that Coco asks me hopefully each night, "I go school tomorrlow?"


So anyway. I decided to start the day with a trip to the botanical gardens because the weather was gorgeous and it had been too long since we were there.


In the time it took us to get dressed and out of the house, Zuzu banged her forehead on the hardwood floors of her bedroom trying to hang upside down and flip over her bedframe. Coco fell down the stairs and got rug burn on her face from the stair runner. The sound of heads hitting hardwood is not my favorite.


The gardens were lovely, and the girls were able to run off in front of me and explore a little bit on the secret paths of stepping stones. They helped each other and stuck together and it was very sweet. There was some whining about when we'd go to the playground, but I wanted to walk through other parts of the garden first.


We got the playground and I gave Zuzu explicit instructions to stay where she can see me and I can see her. She promptly disobeyed, so we had the same conversation again, this time with the threat of leaving immediately. After that she was pretty good, except as we were getting ready to go, which was awesome because I could happily follow through with my threat of leaving immediately since that was already my plan.


We got home for lunch. The thing about kids is you have to feed them three meals a day PLUS SNACKS. It's actually really annoying because they are totally ungrateful. I'm emphasizing "courtesy and grace" and having them help with clean up, but of course that sometimes backfires as well when it's just easier to do it myself, particularly when cleaning up the kitchen is the only alone time I have all day.


Anyway, they ate lunch. Coco had a meltdown because they each asked for a blueberry muffin and she was absolutely FURIOUS when I gave her the muffin she'd already nibbled the top off but hadn't finished at breakfast. I mean, HOW DARE I serve her her own leftovers when there were perfectly whole muffins in the tupperware?


I knew she was tired, and she also knew, because after lunch she came back in the kitchen and straight up told me she was ready for a nap (bless her). So she went to bed and then Zuzu had a total meltdown because I wouldn't let her eat another blueberry muffin (she'd already had THREE at breakfast--her two, and Coco's--and one more at lunch, so FIVE muffins seemed excessive).


(Sidenote: Blueberry muffins are now a source of strife. They seem to be the only food that Zuzu gets obsessive about. She begs to make them and when we have them, she asks for one constantly and whines. As far as unhealthy snacks go, they could definitely be worse. But she'd eat the entire dozen at once if we'd let her. They finished off the last three at breakfast when Zuzu ate two and then convinced Coco to give her half of the one she was eating. I'm relieved they are gone. I don't want food to be a "thing" at our house so I pretty much let them eat whatever whenever, but the muffin thing was out of control.)


Anyway, after Coco got up from her nap the girls played happily for a while and then asked to go to the park. It was a gorgeous day, so we decided to go, but then Coco insisted on wearing Zuzu's skirt which was too big for her and after we got to the park I realized she also had on a pair of Zuzu's shorts underneath which meant that all of her clothes were literally falling off of her and she couldn't run around or climb and so I said we had to go home.


Cue another huge meltdown from Coco.


Zuzu must have been tired, because she didn't really complain about leaving the park. Also, I bribed them with a popsicle party so when we got home, we had popsicles in their playhouse in the backyard, which was fun.


It was time to make dinner and I was completely exhausted. I felt like a mom cliche, tired and cranky and having to make dinner and busting out a bottle of chilled white wine at 5:00pm.


But we survived the first day of stay-at-home summer!


We have big plans for summer adventures--parks and concerts and libraries and swimming, but some of my favorites is when the girls play together. Zuzu's imagination is so adorable right now, and Coco is right there with her, imitating everything. My favorite is when they pretend to be me. Zuzu will say, "Okay, I'll be Coco and you be Bwooke" and then they act out me helping Coco after she's hurt or leaving for a meeting.


True Confession: I'd still really like to have two uninterrupted hours to myself per day, without having to get up at 5:00am for them. Any thoughts on how to make this happen besides zombie screen time?


While we're strategizing, I'd love to know how to get them to stop whining, "Mommy..." at the start of every flipping sentence.


And if anybody knows how to keep them at almost-five and going-on-three for several more years, I'd greatly appreciate it. As crazy and tired as I was after that first day, they are pretty magical right now, and I'm already trying to savor this summer (and also this glass of chilled white).