Thursday, May 25, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco



So, Yeah. We Still Use a Binky in the Car.

Coco is screaming and crying in the backseat.
Coco: BINKY!!!
Me: Coco, I can't find your binky. I'm sorry.
Coco: WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!
Me: Here, you want some chapstick?
Coco: (sniffles, takes chapstick)
Peaceful silence in the car.
A minute goes by.
Zuzu: I'm sorry to say that Coco is eating the chat-stick.


Daddy and Coco Share a Sweet Tooth.
David gives Coco a piece of chocolate.
Coco: Mommy?
Me: Yes?
Coco: I LOVE all of our chot-locks.



I Wonder Where She's Heard That Before.
Coco is playing with babies, carrying Baby Dawn (a 12-inch doll) around.
Coco: I got to put you down, baby. I can't hold you like this any longer.


I Really Don't Think She Meant to Be a Total Jerk About It
Day of Zuzu's preschool fieldtrip. Coco's sock is bunched around her toes, causing fussing as I help her put her shoes on.


Zuzu: (with genuine sympathy)Oh, Coco, why are you sad? Are you just thinking about how much fun I'll have with Mommy picking strawberries while you're at school?


My Right Hand (Wo)Man
Hamilton soundtrack playing: "Here comes the general, George Washington! And his right-hand man."
Zuzu: What's a right-hand man?
Me: It's like your very best helper.
Zuzu: Oh. So, like yesterday when we were strawberry picking, I was your right-hand man?
Me: Yes. You totally were.
Zuzu: But why does it say "man"?
Me: Instead of woman?
Zuzu: Yeah.
Me: Because people are sexist and sometimes they only talk about men when they want to mean everybody.
Zuzu: It should be right-hand man for boys and right-hand woman for girls.
Me: Yes. And you are my...?
Zuzu: Right-hand woman!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Musicals and Big Moves

We saw Rent last night and it was just as amazing as it was the first two times.

The first time I saw Rent was on a trip to New York City with my friend Monica the summer after our freshman year of college. One of Monica's new friends from CU was from New York, so we stayed with her friend Beth's parents at their house on Long Island. Beth drove us into the city in her dad's little car (getting side-swiped by a cement truck in the Bronx was particularly memorable--it was entirely Beth's fault, but we all explained to her dad the the truck had COME OUT OF NOWHERE and DIDN'T EVEN STOP, and I'm sure her dad was just relieved that we were all okay and the only damage was a missing side mirror, but after that we took the train into the city). We did mostly the basic touristy stuff--visited The Strand and ate at the diner from Seinfeld or When Harry Met Sally, I forget which, and we drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of bagels and pizza. The one thing I had specifically requested was to see Rent. We also went to some bar where they didn't check IDs and drank amaretto sours because we were 19 and awesome. Anyway, we did see Rent on Broadway and I loved every second of it. It was amazing and I cried and I longed to be part of an artistic community of friends living in an abandoned building in alphabet city, except for the fact that I don't actually like being uncomfortable, so the whole cold/hungry part of it was not very appealing. But still! How amazing to live in New York and be an artist!

I fell into a time warp on the way to the theatre because I bought a t-shirt celebrating their 20th anniversary tour, which seems to be mathematically impossible. I saw that show for the first time in 1999. It blows my mind that I am now old enough to have done something 18 YEARS ago besides go to kindergarten. At the time I saw it on Broadway, I thought the actors were so glamorous and grown up. When I went to the show last night, the actors all looked like children to me. This is evidently what happens over the course of nearly two decades when you age and characters do not.

Still, it was awesome. I was giddy and singing along the whole time. I've lost a bit of my edge with the "La Boheme" song and couldn't quite nail all the lyrics, but David suggested that I go back stage and offer to be an understudy for any part because I really do have the whole thing memorized. (My freshman year roomie, Kaley, no doubt does too, because we listened to that soundtrack all. the. time. Hashtag coolest room in Banks Hall.)

"La Boheme" is still my favorite song, and now the song "Without You" has me in tears every time:

Without you, 
The ground thaws,
The rain falls,
The grass grows.

Without you, 
The seeds root,
The flowers bloom,
The children play.

The stars gleam,
The poets dream,
The eagles fly,
Without you.

The earth turns,
The sun burns,
But I die
Without you.

It has a completely different meaning for me now than it does in 1999. That first change of season after a loss, when everything is going on as though the world hasn't just imploded... Brutal.

As excited and happy as I was to see the show and buy the shirt, when David commented on my level of enthusiasm going into Rent, and I had to sing, "Oh, JUST YOU WAIT." (For Hamilton. April 2018. I'm already fangirling out of my mind over it.)

In other musical news, my Zuzu is a lyrical genius who made up an original song on the way to school the other morning and then when I picked her up, her teacher (Kim, who is mentioned at the end of the video) informed me that she performed it for her entire class, and the class agreed they would all sing it the next time it rains. I should probably get her an agent and book her some studio time, because this girl is ready to write an album:


She has since added an extra verse "The dolphins are ducking, oh yeah..." Awesome.

In non-musical news, my semester has officially ended and while I'm supposed to show up on campus tomorrow and Tuesday to wrap up loose ends (shredding papers and one brief meeting), I'm basically feeling like summer has already started. I just want to write and read and take my kids to the pool and drink summery beers.

It's looking more and more likely that we will move closer to David's new job, so I'm trying to wrap my head around that idea, too. I have many mixed feelings, but what it comes down to is that so much quality of life in general is connected to commutes and schools. It just makes the most sense for our family to move to a neighborhood that will make my commute simpler (and not longer), make David's commute drastically shorter, and solve the issue of schools for the girls. There are actually a lot of great options in the city, but we haven't found the perfect solution for us in our current zip code, and the options we do like are dependent upon a lottery (you all know how lucky we are given slim odds, so...) and this would eliminate the stress of that decision.

Of course, this doesn't solve the angst of my social conscience or my emotional attachment to our current location... I have serious reservations about participating in white flight to the suburbs and we truly never imagined that we would move out of the city. I love being a city resident. I love our neighbors and I love being so close to so many amazing restaurants, parks, and activities. But as life doesn't show any signs of getting less busy, I think simplifying our everyday routines to maximize the time we all spend together has to be the priority, and will in fact probably allow us to have more time for visiting parks and gardens and the zoo, even if we have to drive a bit further to do it.

And when I think about David being home in time to deal with that 5:00 witching hour, I'm basically willing to move to a trailer in his school's parking lot.

Anyway, we're taking our time thinking through neighborhoods and houses, and figuring out what is our best case, what we can afford, and where we can see ourselves living for the next several years. Ugh. Big adult decisions are not really my strong suit.

Time to listen to some musical soundtracks and pop open one of those summery beers, I think.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Mom

Quick Note: Mother's Day is a hard day for a lot of people. I've done plenty of ruminating on my own experiences with motherhood--the happy and the heartbreaking--so this post is just about my mom. Of course, Mother's Day is also hard for a lot of people who are missing their moms, so feel free to skip this post if that's you. (And also, I'm sorry. That really sucks.)

I've been trying to think about the greatest gifts my mom has given me, the traits that I share with her, the things that I hope my daughters always carry with them, too. My mom has many great qualities, but there are two things that I really hope to emulate in my own parenting:

(1) Her face lights up every time she sees me (or my kids).

I seriously cannot think of a time at any point in my life, where my mom hasn't smiled when she's seen me. That's not to say that we've never had a disagreement or whatever, but she has always made me feel seen and loved.

(2) She's never tried to be perfect.

Don't get me wrong--my mom is lovely and talented and good at lots of things. She is pretty and well put together. But she is not a perfectionist. She never worries about the house being perfectly clean or clothes being perfectly ironed. She goes to yoga twice a week and eats well because she wants to take care of her health and feel good--not because she wants to have a perfect body. She laughs about bad hair days and she shrugs off the occasional dinner disaster. She's not trying to impress anybody. She's easy going in a way that I am not, but that I try to be. She's just pretty chill and she hardly ever snaps at anyone or speaks in an unkind tone, which is certainly more than I can say for myself (Seriously, if my tone were a weapon, I would have slaughtered my husband and several students by now. This is something I'm working on.).

One of my favorite things about my mom is that she gets down on the floor to play with my kids without thinking twice about whether there is laundry to be folded or dishes to be put away. She's focused on what matters and is relaxed about the things that don't matter. She's involved in her church and her community, she's not driven by material possessions or status symbols, she's sympathetic in times of trouble and quick to laugh at funny stories or the hilarious things her granddaughters say.

My mom has shown me by example that there is no need to do it all, that picking and choosing what is important is the best way to live your life. She's gives her time to lots of charitable organizations, she's good at her job, and she spends as much time as possible with her grandkids.

It took me a long time to realize that my mom did stuff besides be my mom, but it wasn't because she wasn't doing it. It was because I was completely self-centered and perhaps a little dense, but my mom has always been involved in things or had hobbies or projects that weren't necessarily focused on us (although she did sew many of my Christmas and Easter dresses when I was little). I never felt pressured by her to be a certain way or accomplish certain things.

It's only in recent years that I've become aware of how lucky I am that I wasn't raised by a perfectionist. I didn't want to disappoint my parents, but I never thought they were expecting perfection from me. I knew that they wanted me to do my best and to be kind and to have fun, and I hope that I teach my daughters the same thing.  I don't want them to think they have to look a certain way or act a certain way or achieve a certain thing in order to make me happy.

And I feel lucky that I've learned by example that perfectionism isn't something that kids want or need from a mom. I am not the mom who has a perfect homecooked meal on the table every night. I am not the mom who has laundry put away the moment it comes out of the dryer. And honestly? I think those are great things, and they are some people's love language, but just not mine.

I will do my best, though, to make sure that my face lights up when my kids walk in the room, and that I don't stress out about the stuff that doesn't get done because we've prioritized a board game or a stack of books or playing dress up.

There will always be stuff that doesn't get done or isn't perfectly clean or put away, and it will be fine. I know because I've seen it. People come over to my mom's for dinner and she'll grumble a little because mail will be piled on the china hutch and Dad's crap will be on one side of the table, but it doesn't matter. No one cares.

Happiness doesn't come from perfection or some kind of image of perfection. Really, it just comes from hanging out with my mom, and the way she smiles when we enter the room. That is such a gift that she's given me. And I hope thirty years from now, that my kids can say the same thing.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Listen to This.

Coco was in the car the other day demanding, "Mean King!" I had no idea what I was talking about, until I realized that she was referring to the song King George sings in Hamilton. We listen to the Hamilton soundtrack pretty often, and Zuzu will occasionally ask questions about the lyrics (which are, admittedly, not necessarily age-appropriate...). King George sings a song called "You'll Be Back," which is the song of the British monarch to the American colonists and sparked an inquiry from my backseat of what a "fully armed battalion" is, exactly. It also includes the lyric, "I'll kill your friends and family to remind you of my love!" Anyway, the girls love it and would totally have joined the revolution and dumped some tea in the harbor. The king! He's so mean! 

I love the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett (she should read audiobooks, too, I think) and I really liked this one where she interviews Alain de Botton on "The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships" (you can click the link and listen on your computer/phone online, or you can use the podcast app on your iphone (it's purple and looks like an antenna) and search for On Being, then scroll through the episodes to find this one). 

I thought of it today when I picked up Zuzu and she was exhausted from a school day without a nap and with a lot of playing outside. She and her bestie, Gemma, were in the middle of an elaborate game that involved foraging for stems of grass and inedible berries and I interrupted them when I arrived. She was a complete pill about leaving, and it turned into a huge debacle, where one teacher held her while I pried open her fist to drop the berries and grass (it's a school rule that nature stays outside in nature) and then she did the whole boneless thing, so I literally had to pick her up and carry her out to the car because I was not in the mood to mess around and threaten bribe reason with her, and so another teacher held Coco's hand, but Coco was unreasonably panicked about not holding my hand, so she was crying and Zuzu was threatening to bite/hit/pinch me and I was so irritated and then she proceeded to scream "I HATE YOU" at me from the backseat, particularly vicious because the h-word is not a word we use in our family (as I calmly reminded her, before I gave up, rolled down the windows, and turned the Hamilton soundtrack on at full volume as we got on the highway).

Anyway, de Botton mentions in his interview how we are quick to understand and excuse that kind of shit behavior in our kids--she was overtired, she was hungry, she obviously doesn't actually hate me--even though I did put away a new toy she'd gotten from Pepaw when we got home because in this family, there are consequences for being a total B to your mama. Sure enough, she gobbled down a string cheese while I was making dinner (by which I mean warming up leftovers) and by the time dinner was over, she wanted to snuggle and told me unprompted that she loves me. In contrast, we are quick to take personally perceived slights or insults from our partners or spouses, rather than giving them a similar benefit of the doubt (although David will occasionally ask tentatively if I'm hungry when I'm being particularly crabby... and he's usually right). Obviously, I think we should expect more general politeness and considerate behavior from a partner or spouse than we can always expect from a preschooler, but it is useful as a reminder that someone else's behavior is more often motivated by something going on with them (tired, hungry, bad day at work) and not about me.

Other things I'm listening to... Pod Save America, Call Your Girlfriend, and Terrible, Thanks for Asking. (My friend Laura just became a monthly contributor to TTFA so she gets a t-shirt and I'm thinking about copy-catting her.) Also I listen to Young House Love Has a Podcast, and now I want a beach house. I mentioned John and Sherry last weekend when my cousins were here because Crafty Cousin Amanda also listens and my cousin Brandi asked who we were talking about and Amanda was like, "This blog we read" while I was like, "Our friends" and it was clear who has a hold on reality and who is living in a hybrid reality where people I've never met are my internet besties (LIKE MANY OF YOU--SO GLAD WE ARE FRIENDS).

Should I be listening to other podcasts? Do tell. But they have to be well edited and they can't creep me out too bad (David recommended some podcast about a true crime story where a kid disappears and I was like WTF are you trying to do to me?). 

This month is so insanely busy. We have three days on our calendar that don't have some event scheduled, and David and I are basically alternating who is at home parenting our kids on any given night. I submitted final grades yesterday, but I still have a couple weeks of going to work for meetings and assessment stuff and prepping for my fall classes. Then a summer of reading, writing, and going to the swimming pool. There are worse ways to spend a summer, I think.

Mother's Day is coming up and I just want to say that I hope it's gentle on everyone. I feel meh about it this year, which makes the first year in seven years that it has not produced some pretty huge emotions. I don't know if the day will hit me harder once it gets here or not (but I'm aware that grief likes to be a sneaky bastard, so it very well might!).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Winner and Stuff

Caroline is the big winner of the give away book. She was comment 4 and that was the random number generated by the random number generator.

It occurs to me that I probably should have opened it up to comments on IG because one reads or comments on blogs anymore and I am basically obsolete, but I'm just going with the original plan and will be shipping this book to Caroline or her friend, whichever she prefers.

In other news, we've been in St. Louis's Monsoon Season so my basement feels like swampy air and my cousins came up for the weekend from Nevada, MO and Millington, TN and drove in rain all the way here and most of the way home, plus the interstate was shut down so a four and a half hour trip to Nevada stretched out to be something close to seven, which is AMAZING, but I'm grateful they came even though we just mostly sat around and talked for 36 hours. We did go see the new Beauty and the Beast movie, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I know a lot of people took pre-K age kids, but I was glad that I didn't bring mine. I mean, it wasn't Deadpool, but it was intense in places and after watching Zuzu get pretty freaked out at the animated Lion King, I just don't think she is ready for this movie. I'm sure some (most?) kids could handle it just fine, but I guess my Zuzu is a delicate flower about suspense on television.

She also gets that cartoons are pretend, but the reality/fantasy line on real-people-actors is much thinner. She was very worried that Mufasa actually died in the play of the Lion King we saw because those people were "real" even though they were pretending to be animals... So anyway. I tell myself there is plenty of time for her to see all the shows. There's a tiny part of me that worries she'll be the left out kid who doesn't know what's going on when all the other kids are talking about Star Wars or Avengers or Beauty and the Beast, but whatever. I was also that kid and I survived by faking it, so...

Speaking of watching, David and I just started watching Thirteen Reasons Why. All my students are talking about it and I actually started reading the book back in December and then it got overdue on me and I had to return it. Anyway, it's pretty intriguing but it also makes me want to homeschool my kids on a ranch in 1904 so as to avoid the issues of modern high school.

I just finished reading a Tana French novel, Into the Woods, which is the first in the "Dublin Murder Squad" series. I liked it (no surprise) and I'm requested the next in the series from the library.

I'm in another book group through our church and I'm reading Strangers in Their Own Land. It takes the perspective of those on the far right politically, who would identify as Tea Partiers, mostly. It has been frustrating in some ways because the truth is that my impulse is to want to yell, "NO YOU'RE WRONG" even though the point of the book is to find some perspective to help avoid that unproductive kind of conflict. And it has helped me get a better understanding of how and why some people hold the beliefs that they do. Some of them really feel like impossible things to bridge--how can you ever prove who is correct in a moral disagreement when both sides really believe they are on the side of truth/righteousness? But at the same time, I do have a better sense of the feelings of injustice and shame and anger that accompany those people who live in places where jobs and industries haven't kept up in the local economy. I do understand that desire to belong to a close community. Other perspectives are harder for me to wrap my head around.

I haven't written about this yet (first, for fear of jinxing it, then so David could make sure all the important people knew before I made it public), but David got a new job. He'll still be an elementary school principal, but he'll be switching schools and districts, so his commute will be about 1/2 of the time it is now (can I get a woot woot!?). We were hoping we could have the option to send the girls there without having to move, but that is not going to be a possibility, so we are still considering public and charter schools in the city as well as the possibility of a relocation.

I don't like the idea of leaving our house and neighborhood in the city, but the location of David's new school doesn't add too much to my commute to work (a few more miles, but all highway and an easier drive). Plus, the shorter his commute, the easier/happier my life, too, you know? We're waiting to see how things unfold next year and to think about what will really be the best choice for our family. Honestly, my impulse is to freak out and say I'm NEVER MOVING, but I am always resistant to change, even good ones.

I subscribe to Kate Inglis's mailing list (and you should, too, because she is all amazing things) and last month's note was about Home and included this gem: "Nothing exciting can ever happen without an uncertain kickoff that makes you cry in a big-box store." NO TRUER WORDS, as far as I'm concerned.

Speaking of Kate Inglis, she's got a new book in the works about grief. I've mentioned this before, but she was the first bereaved mama stranger on the internet that I e-mailed in my desperate haze after Eliza died, and her response was so kind and it offered me hope without being patronizing. Honestly, my first reaction to learning of her her book was "YES! That's wonderful." And my second was, "Well, I should just stop writing. There's nothing I can say that will be better or wiser than what Kate will say and I'll just look shabby and stupid by comparison." (There's kind of a pattern of skewing negative here...) I'm trying to remember that there is room for lots of voices and no one's story takes over or away from someone else's. So my Summer Writing Project is still on and I'm trying to silence the shit-talking voices in my head.