Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some Lists

Things I'm Avoiding Reading Too Much About
- How to be cozy at home (I feel like this is already an area of expertise for me)
- What to have in your emergency kit (This headline boosts my heart rate just reading it. I literally saw one today that said "The 70+ Items to Have in Your Emergency Kit.")
- Coronavirus death rates and predictions
- Numbers of ventilators and ICU beds
- Lack of protective masks for healthcare workers

Things I'm Wondering
- Where the hell is the remote control to the TV in our main TV room?
- Where the hell is the remote control to the TV in our bedroom?
- How the hell do we keep the baby out of the dog water dish while still allowing the dogs access to their water?

Things I Need
- A firm schedule. (We're working on it. It's not easy.)
- To get up with my alarm instead of rolling over and dozing back off because I don't have to leave the house at 7:30am.
- The baby to sleep through the night.
- To not stay up until midnight reading books about how to get the baby to go back to sleep on her own without crying.
- The weather to get nice and warm.

Things I Miss
- Meeting up with friends.
- Chatting with G's babysitter.
- Sunshine.
- Housekeeping.
- Not having a vaguely panicky feeling every time I think about whether we need to go to the grocery store.
- Being able to work/read/think without interruption or distraction.
- Listening to podcasts in my car.

Things I Love
- The new bookcases that are all painted and waiting to cure.
- Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu.
- Two digital timers I ordered from Amazon before the virus crisis that I use to give the girl's a visual countdown and time how long they get to play on the computer.
- Not having to pump.
- Snuggles with Cooper.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Homebound, Continued.

We are now officially off of spring break and into whatever this new normal is for the foreseeable future. Right now, our schools are saying they will be back in session after April 3. Two nearby districts have already called off through the end of the year. It's hard to imagine that we'll go back.

We haven't really talked about that possibility with the girls. They were bummed about not being able to go visit my parents this past weekend. Zuzu actually said to me, "I would rather get sick than not see my friends or grandparents!" which I can understand and is also clearly the kind of short-sighted philosophy a lot of people are practicing.

I just read about a twelve-year-old who has Covid 19 and is not doing well. She has no significant underlying health issues and they're not sure how she contracted it. At first, my worries were mostly for other people, but keeping myself and my family healthy is also a major concern at this point.

It's my friends in the medical field that have me freaked out. I'm limiting news exposure but the dystopian novel vibes are unavoidable.

I guess we are homeschooling, although I'm calling it homeschooling lite. We start the day with math and then read a book and after that we are very flexible. Right now the girls are rollerskating on the deck. It's cold outside--high in the upper 40s today. We had real actual snow yesterday which was kind of pretty but all I want is sunshine and 70 degree weather. The end of this week looks promising.

I am missing uninterrupted time more than anything else. The ability to concentrate on anything without being asked for a drink of water or having to run to see why Coco is crying (the answer is almost always Zuzu, but occasionally she bonked or scraped something, usually because of Zuzu). The ability to think about something with my whole brain instead of a part of me always watching the baby or thinking about what we're going to eat next. Ugh. Cooking and cleaning up is the worst and it's basically the rhythm of our whole life now.

I'm also a slave to the baby's schedule and she's trying to drop her morning nap which means her schedule is unpredictable and she's fussy but then will spend 20 minutes fighting a nap until I give up. Hoping this means she'll sleep longer in the afternoon, but who knows? Plus I think her teeth are bothering her, so we're not sleeping well at night either.

I put on a sweater with leggings instead of a hoodie today so that feels like work clothes. David had Zoom meetings scheduled from 8-10 so at 10 we switch so that he's parenting and I'm headed down to the basement to work for a couple of hours without being interrupted (hopefully... somehow interruptions seem to work differently for Mama than they do for Dad at our house).

I'm stressing out quite a bit about Cooper. I think I wrote about taking him to the vet a couple weeks ago and they thought it was an infected tooth. They gave him antibiotics and that did the trick, so he went for another visit on Friday. David drove him but had to wait in the car--it was paws-only allowed in the office. They came out to the car and got Cooper, then called David on the phone to talk through the exam. His tooth is better. He's not a good candidate for surgery so we watch and if there's a problem, we can do another round of antibiotics. Unfortunately, he's injured his other leg. Tore his doggy ACL in his good leg. So he's really having trouble walking. He's on meds for that, which should help his joints, and he'll take these meds indefinitely. The new deck should help since he has fewer steps and can walk out even with the yard, but he's so set in his ways that he wants to follow his old path and he seems confused by the change. And he's having a lot of accidents.

We have him wearing a diaper basically all the time, but then we have to take it off of him when he goes outside. Then we have scenarios like the one that just played out, where he wants to go outside so I remove his diaper and let him out. Then I go back to checking e-mail, feeding the baby cheerios, whatever, and a few minutes later he wants in. He can't really get himself up the little step to get inside, so I lift him up and haul him in the house. He then walks down the hallway and as soon as he steps on the carpet in the living room, he pees.

Clearly I need to put a diaper on him the minute he gets in the house, but I really thought he would go while he was out. It's so frustrating and I feel so bad for him and I worry that things are going to get worse instead of better.

While I'm complaining, I'd like to also say that all I did this weekend was clean up messes that were not mine. Spilled drinks, chewed up stuffies (Clementine IS STILL CHEWING and is officially THE WORST DOG EVER except she's mostly not peeing in the house except I did discover a random spot in the guest room so she must have gotten locked in there), baby food puree, dirty diapers, dog pee, and in spite of this constant wack-a-mole of wiping up grossness and daily vacuuming, the whole house still feels dirty. Five people and two dogs being together at home 24 hours a day just dirty up a house, you know? It's not like you can straighten it up before leaving for work and then come home to a tidy living room.

Relevant side note: Do you know what I hate? Blanket forts. Like just leave my pillows and couch cushions where they belong. How dare you want to have imaginative childhood play? I just washed all the throw blankets and I actually don't want them on the floor or draped over dog crates. Just sit quietly on the couch without moving the perfectly fluffed pillows, okay?

(I actually clench my jaw and take deep breaths and let them build their blanket forts but oh my word I just need the weather to warm up so I can send them outside with beach towels to build forts on the swing set and hammock.)

Last night after all the kids were in bed, David patted the couch next to him and said, "Come sit by me." I replied, "I'm just going to sit over here with no one touching me for a little while."

Of course the baby is all over me all day, but when she's not, Coco wants to be on my lap and also has started wanting to kiss me (perfect new thing start doing during a pandemic). It is SO MUCH closeness and I love snuggling them so much but also I get to the point where I want to claw my neck skin off.

David had to go into work yesterday and open the building so teachers could gather belongings and students could come pick up medicines. I kept asking him to tell me more about his day because my day was NOTHING. NOTHING HAPPENED.

Enough complaining. Let's talk about the good things.

On Saturday morning, I had a Zoom meeting with friends from college and we drank coffee and checked in, which was delightful.

The girls want to have a morning meeting, so each day we talk about the weather, the date, the plans for the day, and do an emotional check-in. My favorite thing Zuzu taught me is if someone is describing how they are feeling and you can connect with it, you close your pointer finger and thumbs together in a circle and link them together so they're connected. It's like a silent way to say, "Me too!"

The sweetest thing is that the girls have both been emotionally at a 5 (the happiest) because we're all here together. I am so grateful that they get along so well and keep each other entertained. I expect they'll get a little tired of each other, and it's not like there's never any bickering, but they really are such good friends. It has definitely made the social distancing easier, although they miss their friends from school, too.

Since their schools are just back from spring break today, we will hear more later this week about "distance learning." Coco's school plans to have lots of Zoom meetings, at least with the kindergarteners, so that should be interesting. The girls facetimed with friends yesterday (another pair of sisters the same age) and they were sooooo wild and silly.

So I guess this is our new normal for however long this lasts. My thoughts are with the healthcare workers who are putting themselves out there every day and with the service industry workers who are coping with sudden unemployment. We are doing our part to stay home and flatten the curve. And sending lots of love out into the universe.

And I am really so grateful that we are all here. That we are all home and safe and healthy. That we have a house with a basement that is providing a quiet workspace. That I have a pandemic partner and co-parent I actually like. That we have technology and wifi and streaming entertainment. But it's still hard to sit in uncertainty, and that's where we all are. It could be much worse, but normal life is much better!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Leprechauns are A-Holes

Let me begin by saying we do not make much of St. Patrick's Day. I decorate for lots of minor holidays--Valentines day gets pink and red hearts, Easter is pastel bunnies and birds, I put up Fourth of July banners and we've got pumpkins that turn to jack-o-lanterns and then I pull out the turkeys to get us through fall before busting out Christmas decor. We are plenty festive, is what I'm saying.

But we aren't Irish. We aren't Catholic. And (here's where I admit what a grinch I am) parades are not my favorite thing. I don't love crowds and I loathe port-a-potties, so dragging my family downtown to a St. Patrick's Day parade is unlikely to ever happen unless my kids really beg for it. St. Patrick's Day was virtually ignored by my parents (I don't even know if we wore green) and wasn't a thing when I was at school, so it's just not really on my radar.

(I am all about celebrating pi day with pie, though.)

Anyway, like most of us world wide, I've been feeling a little stressed of late and St. Paddy's day was not really even on my mind as I headed into the office yesterday.

HOWEVER. I try to be a fun mom. So I wore a green cardigan and even put G in her little green "Stay Lucky" shirt (the girls all have matching ones). I let the girls eat Lucky Charms for breakfast. I really thought that this was a perfectly sufficient acknowledgement of a holiday that means nothing to me. I certainly was not in a place where I felt I had the bandwidth to imagine, let alone enact, some leprechaun antics. And really, green beer doesn't do it for me.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
But apparently a leprechaun got into Zuzu's first grade classroom last year. He turned chairs upside down! He covered up all the vowels in the alphabet posted on the wall! HOW HILARIOUS. I guess this made an enormous impression on Zuzu. I had no idea.

I did not realize that the girls were eagerly anticipating a leprechaun visit. This is not something that has happened before and not something that David and I have EVER talked about. I've joked about leprechauns pinching people who don't wear green (Coco apparently thinks leprechauns look like crabs with pincer claws, lol) but I have never even hinted that a leprechaun might come to our house.

I did not know that the girls constructed an elaborate leprechaun trap that involved Cadbury eggs carefully placed in a small tupperware container, rocks, and string. When their trap did not produce a leprechaun (and they had a full day at home essentially just free ranging while David and his dad worked outside), they apparently decided to create their own leprechaun antics as a surprise for David and me.

Guess how two stressed out parents are going to react to surprise leprechaun antics?

If you're not sure how we might respond, let's try to imagine the following scenario:

Imagine you arrive home from work after a stressful day of trying to figure out what work even looks like when you're doing it all remotely and students are stressed out about credits and projects and research and abandoned study abroad experiences. Imagine you have schlepped home your laptop, books, papers, and your breast pump because you don't know when you'll make it back to the office and you are not sure how you'll do your job remotely while also homeschooling two children and caring for a baby.

Imagine that your partner has been doing manual labor building a deck all day and is exhausted physically as well as being stressed out about what social distancing and school cancellations means for his school community.

And then imagine that when you walk in the house, you see that this "leprechaun" got into your pantry and opened the flour and spilled flour all over the floor of the kitchen and then tracked it to make leprechaun footprints all the way down the hallway to the living room.

Imagine there are three dogs at your house who are now licking up the flour and also running around tracking it everywhere and jumping on the furniture.

Also imagine that this leprechaun likes coins (we know all leprechauns love gold coins, right, but apparently in a pinch any old coin will do). Imagine this leprechaun climbed up on a chair to get the huge beer stein that holds your spare change. Imagine this spare change--ALL OF IT--was then scattered all over the floor of your kitchen, through the flour, down the hallway then on through the living room, the book room, the foyer, and dining room.

Imagine you have a 10-month-old baby who now cannot be put down on the floor.

Imagine how you might react.

There was a lot of yelling, you guys.

And I feel bad because I think the girls really thought that we would think it was a hilarious joke.

Readers, we did not find it hilarious.

So there was yelling and the asking of fruitless questions: "What were you thinking?" (David to the girls) and also "Why weren't you watching them?" (me to David) and then lots of blaming: "They're old enough to know better." (David to me) but also "No, actually, they are FIVE and SEVEN and this is why children need ADULT SUPERVISION!" (me to David).

Then Zuzu ran away (literally).

The thing you have to know about Zuzu is that she fights fire with fire. You literally cannot yell at her and get her to do anything. She will scream right back and slam a door in your face. She ain't skeered of her parents and she gives zero shits if we are furious or disappointed. I also think she was shocked by our reaction (she really thought it was going to be funny) and then embarrassed that she had been so wrong about it. But because we (and by we I really do mean David) got so mad so fast, she just got mad right back. She screamed that she was going to live in the woods and then ran out the door and into the woods.

No one went after her because we were busy cleaning the house so it was literally inhabitable for our youngest child.

Coco (bless her heart) got teary-eyed because she was in trouble and then helped me pick up the coins so her baby sister wouldn't choke on them. David swept up the flour and then Coco watched the baby while I swept and then mopped all the hardwood floors.

And eventually Zuzu she limped back home crying because she was sad and because she hadn't put on shoes and was cold and had cut her foot on a stick.

So then I put her in the bath tub and we talked about making mistakes and how the best response to making a mistake is to say you're sorry and help to fix things and make them right, not to run away in order to avoid dealing with the mistake. I know that's a hard lesson for any of us, especially seven year olds.

I still felt a lot of frustration with David rather than the girls because they had obviously been completely unsupervised or they wouldn't have been able to make this mess. I actually said to him, "I'm feeling really frustrated!" and he said, "I know, me too." And I had to clarify, "No... my frustration is WITH YOU."

You know how it is when everyone is tired, stressed out, and essentially under house arrest for the foreseeable future. I mean, really. I don't need to explain. You all know how it is.

I took a hot bath last night. It did not really make me feel better.

Then I went downstairs and decided to finish off the brownies we'd made.

That F@#$ing leprechaun had frosted the last brownie with toothpaste.

(At least that was honestly a pretty good joke.)

Takeaways: St. Patrick's Day is officially my least favorite holiday.

I need to take control of the leprechaun mischief so the girls do not do it themselves.

Next year I'll just put green food coloring in the toilets and call it a day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Atomic Bombs and Microbe Viruses

I've been listening to the podcast The Daily, which focuses on one news story (usually about 20 minutes) per day. I think it's created by NYT writers. Anyway, the content is always great and, as you might guess, lately it's been All Virus, All the Time.

Today, though, I listened to an episode from last week that was a short (8 minute) reprieve from virus talk and included writers reading aloud some of their favorite writers. One guy read this excerpt from C.S. Lewis's essay "On Living in an Atomic Age," which he wrote in 1940. I found it really moving--I got misty eyed in my car--and I'm still thinking about it.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

- C. S. Lewis "On Living in an Atomic Age" from Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

I'll be working from home starting tomorrow. It would have been today, but my memory is the first thing compromised when I'm feeling stressed out and I went off and left 12 ounces of breast milk in the fridge here at work, so I came back in for the day. Also, my office is quiet and my house is... not. David and his dad are working on another big project putting in some decking to cover our back patio area, which means that he just lets Zuzu and Coco free range all day long. That's FINE for a few days of spring break, but it's not ideal for a month (more than a month???) that includes both of us trying to work remotely.

At any rate, the first thing we need to do is to pull ourselves together. For me, this means making a meal and snack plan like I do during the summer and creating a fairly regular routine for the kids in terms of "school." There are so many online resources. I think our plan is to try to do some math and reading in the morning and then let them pick something to "investigate" in the afternoon (science or social studies) and then maybe alternate doing art or music, by which I mean using art supplies we already have or singing along with Raffi. I am planning to keep it suuuuper simple. We don't usually do screen time on week days, but we'll obviously break that rule for online school stuff on the computer or educational games on the tablets. I'd still like to enforce the no TV-shows rule on weekdays but if I'm being realistic, that 4-5pm hour is likely to be show time.

(Except not LEGO Girls because their snotty attitudes can suck it. I wish there were a way to REMOVE shows from watching availability in streaming services. If anyone knows this secret, please tell me. Zuzu is highly influenced by what she watches and she imitates the characters in her play and in her real life, so if she's watching bratty characters she's acting like a brat. Shimmer and Shine might be annoying AF but at least they are kind and supportive of one another.)

I'm still torn about what to do about G going to her babysitter's house. On the one hand, my productivity will sink if she's home all day. She's not being exposed to anyone new, and the circle of people is pretty small. On the other hand, when you think about three kids, each with two parents, parents may still be going to work, it's easy to see how numbers grow exponentially. I have no idea who those other people might have been exposed to, and obviously babies aren't keeping their mucus to themselves. It's likely we'll keep her home, too.

And so we keep on--praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, facetiming friends and family, painting bookcases and playing board games. We have a box of wine and a pantry of canned goods and stacks of books (literally, since they are not currently on the bookcases). A microbe may break our bodies, but it need not dominate our minds.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

I went to work this morning. My university has moved to remote learning for the remainder of the semester and my supervisor said it's fine for us to work remotely, but my work laptop was at work and my office is quiet and there are only four of us in my department. I felt okay about going in. My commute was a breeze. So few cars on the road. Tons of available parking when I rolled in--early.

At the beginning of The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox wakes up at her home in India and she's really mad that no one has come to take care of her. The reader discovers in this chapter that she's spoiled and selfish, but also that her parents didn't seem to really care about her. The reader also discovers that no one has come to take care of her because everyone is dead of cholera. She snacks from the remains of a dinner party that ended abruptly because of the cholera outbreak.

I had no sense of what cholera was when I first read the book. I know I'd never heard the word before because in my head I pronounced it "chaw-lera." But I understood it was an eerie scene, and that the soldiers who discovered one living little girl among all the dead were stunned.

The first thing I did when I got to work today was wipe down my office with Clorox wipes.

David is home on spring break this week. The girls seem to have little sense/concern for what is going on except for a disappointment that a friend's birthday party has been canceled and I think we'll probably have to cancel our plans to visit my parents this coming weekend. We also canceled a non-essential dental appointment for Zuzu to have a sealer put on her teeth. I think we'll also cancel G's InfantSee appointment for this week. I love the program, but I don't have specific concerns about her eyes and I feel like potential exposure to the virus has to be our priority at this time.

I had thought that we could still arrange little playdates with friends they'd already been exposed to at school, but now I'm reading that we shouldn't do that either. I'd actually suggested to one friend we meet up at a park but (1) it's raining and 40 degrees right now and (2) the virus can live on plastic and metal surfaces for three days, so... Unless I want to clorox wipe an entire playground, that doesn't seem like something we're going to be doing.

We are currently looking at three weeks of "social distancing." David and I are going to start painting our wood trim white (my parents are the only people I know who seem to think this is a bad idea, but it's not like the wood trim in our old, lovely, built in the 1930s with stained glass windows house--it's 1980s trim and I don't hate it, but I think when it's white I'll love it). That should keep us busy and be a satisfying project (assuming we avoid spilling primer on carpet).

David and his dad put together built-in bookcases for me in our front room yesterday. It literally took them all day long, but it looks fantastic. Today they're going to trim it out and caulk it and then we'll prime and paint and start priming and painting the trim in that room as well. I cannot wait to get them all finished!

This feels like an excellent way to exert control over the thing we can control in these uncertain times. Similarly, I did a zillion loads of laundry yesterday and cleaned out and organized the hall closet and the master bathroom closet and drawers.

Related: I have tried a lot of natural deodorants. Native works best for me, but only the coconut scent. Jasmine and Papaya are a no-go. I've passed the Jasmine along to Zuzu, who really only needs it if we've somehow missed baths for three days (hey, it happens occasionally) and who thinks it "smells good but feels kinda weird." Meanwhile, Coco--never one to be left out--takes a bath and then marches into Zuzu's room in her undies to announce she seeds some "dolorant" and applies it with a very self-satisfied expression.

I have had trouble falling asleep at night, which is unusual for me as my life is kind of exhausting. But I know I'm carrying tension and I need to be doing more yoga but since David's dad was at our house this morning, my regular routine was disrupted.

One of my favorite consignment shops emailed that they are closing at this time and admitted in the e-mail that they don't know how their business will recover--they can't afford to pay workers who aren't working and they aren't yet set up to sell clothes online. I can only imagine that there are countless more small businesses like them, and I think about the cute little coffee shop in my home town, our favorite independent bookstore (which is offering curbside pick up and I am going to swing by after work today), and the restaurant industry, which employees so many people who don't have a cushion of paid leave or remote work to fall back on. I understand and sympathize with all the folks like us who are trying to work from home while also caring full time for kids whose schools have been canceled--especially single parents who don't have a partner to trade off parenting shifts--, but there are so many far worse off who can't work from home and don't know how they will provide for their kids whose schools have been cancelled. (Although I know there are programs now that are preventing utilities from being shut off and landlords who will not evict folks during this time.)

I'm also reading a lot of stuff about community and how community comes together when we literally cannot come together physically. I guess I'm trying to document this time because it does feel historical.

We are currently out of school until April 3, but rumors are already swirling that we need 8 weeks of social distancing rather than 3, that no one should expect to return to school this year. Because this week is technically spring break for our school district, it feels like an odd kind of normal, since we were already prepared for the kids to be home this week. G's babysitter is still open and since she just takes three little ones, we felt okay about sending G this week. She texted us last night that she's healthy and will maintain a normal routine for our babies. But even now I wonder whether the other families are social distancing and what that might look like in terms of exposure, and we're likely to be keeping G home with us soon. I'm still not panicky about our health necessarily, but the community effect of this illness is alarming to say the least. My supervisor has given us all permission to work remotely so now it becomes a matter of deciding when that should happen (tomorrow? Thursday? next week?).

Also we are going to have to limit screen time for my kids because it still makes Zuzu so monstrous. She imitates what she watches and LEGO Friends is no longer an option because those girls are shit heads and their sassy, snotty tone of voice is not one I enjoy hearing from my seven-year-old. You want to watch TV? Well you can watch Mr. Rogers AND THAT'S IT.

Anyway, I need to make sure I know how to Zoom for students who are also sad and freaking out about the truncated semester and work left undone and I feel sad for high school seniors and college seniors and students who planned to be abroad this semester. No prom for the class of 2020, and likely no commencement ceremony, either.

I hope everyone is staying healthy, staying sane, and staying home. The truth is I love staying home, but even introverts get antsy about this situation.

Friday, March 13, 2020

What a Week.

It's no exaggeration to say that we've never experienced a week like this. My honest reaction to the coronavirus response is a vacillation between a kind of quiet thrill that my busy calendar just cleared itself (so much space for reading novels at home!) and an existential dread about the impending collapse of our capitalist economy and perhaps the unraveling of the very social fabric of our existence. You know, the usual.

I am concerned about all the folks who are most vulnerable to this crisis--the elderly, the immuno-compromised, those with respiratory issues. I would also be lying if I didn't say that the fact that it doesn't seem to be particularly devastating for children has kept my anxiety at a very low hum rather than full throttle panic. My aunt and I were talking about polio in the 1950s and how terrifying that must have been for parents of small kids. But I imagine the experience was also quite different without the onslaught of up-to-date information from a zillion different sources of varying levels of repute.

From a privileged point of view, I'm relieved we didn't have travel plans and didn't have to make any difficult decisions about that. From a human point of view, I recognize those kinds of decisions aren't anywhere near the level of difficulty that some people are going to have to manage when it comes to lack of health insurance, lack of sick leave, lack of adequate childcare, and the need to pay bills. I've seen others comment on this more eloquently, but it is a shocking and undeniable exposure of the enormous rift in our society between haves and have-nots--and I'm not talking about those who have yachts and summer homes in the Hamptons. I'm talking about those who can afford to see a doctor and those who cannot. It's impossibly unfair.

And of course I have no confidence in our political leadership, which is an underlying anxiety as well.

As for the minutiae of my daily life, my campus is empty of students and as I'm now in a staff position rather than faculty, I'm still showing up to campus. The good news is that I don't have to try to figure out how to move discussion-based classes online (Also I'm thinking of friends who teach chemistry labs and the like! How do you even?). Also, parking on campus is a breeze. The bad news is that campus is eerily empty and I'm now having advising appointments over the phone or via Zoom. Interacting with students and talking about their plans and advising them on projects and scholarship opportunities is my favorite part of my job. So it feels really odd and unsettling.

Zuzu has heard about the coronavirus. She reported that a friend from school has it (FALSE) and she has wanted to learn more about it. Monday or Tuesday evening I went upstairs to find her in her room, listening to NPR on her little radio/cd player. She does not seem particularly concerned, but definitely curious.

Coco came to work with me yesterday. Her school was not closed for the virus, but because of parent/teacher conferences. She was actually so good at work with me. She did worksheets from a kindergarten work book all day long (literally a huge stack of them--probably 50 pages). My coworkers were also very sweet about entertaining her. We visited a friend in another department on campus and mid-afternoon took a break for her to literally run to various statues and landmarks on campus and then run back to me while I timed her. Poor kid is definitely used to being much more active than we were for most of the day! Of the three, though, Coco is undoubtedly the easiest one to bring to work.

Meanwhile, I'm also wrapping my mind around the fact that I actually have an almost-one-year-old. G is standing and balancing and screeching (we call her the baby pterodactyl because of the screeching sounds she makes) and saying "mamamama" and "da-da!" and when I ask her if she wants mama-milk and do the sign language for milk, she laughs in delight and wriggles her whole body in excitement.

(She's still not sleeping through the night and I feel like I got approximately four hours of sleep last night between staying up too late reading and then baby waking and nursing and my own brain not turning off.)

So that's what's going on here. I'm trying to decide if I should go to the store or try to do Instacart this weekend (I know they're swamped, so I'm leaning toward shopping, but my friend just posted a pic online of a LINE out the door at Aldi. On a weekday morning. What is happening?). I have plans to get a happy hour drink with a friend tonight, and we were both like, "Is this still okay to do?" I'm still not sure. These are strange times.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

When Monday Punches You in the Face

One thing about this new job and the fact that I don't have stacks of grading to do is that my weekends are pretty blissful. However, I actually had to work an event this past weekend and give a couple of presentations on the honors program to prospective students interviewing for a full-tuition scholarship. I'd never even seen this presentation before, so I watched someone else do it twice and then I had to do it. Somehow this seemed like no big deal, but as the presentation is AN HOUR LONG and I don't have the historical experience with the program to draw from, it ended up being a little stressful. My first presentation was definitely a dress rehearsal--I talked too fast, my jokes landed flat, we wrapped up ten minutes before we were supposed to. The second presentation went much better.

Exhausted from that performance (and wearing heels!) I actually took a nap that afternoon, which was bliss. David and I put the kids to bed and watched a TV show that night and I had two glasses of wine! Solid way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening. (I'm so old and boring and I don't care at all.)

Sunday was a busy but fun day. The weather was gorgeous--sunny and nearly 70 degress! We went to church, which was a music performance. Coco had her OWL class and Zuzu had the choice of staying with us and listening to music or going out with the second to fifth grade kids to do an activity and then play outside. She chose to go out with the kids, which was a big deal because it's taken her a long time to feel comfortable/confident going to Sunday school, especially without Coco. I was delighted. 

After church, we headed home to eat lunch and then went out to a nearby park with lots of hiking trails. Approximately everyone else and their dog was there, so parking was kind of bonkers, but then we did some good hiking. The trails were steep and rocky--both girls stumbled or slipped and fell at least once, and they wanted to stop and eat snacks every twelve feet, but they were still good sports. I kind of love this sweet spot where they are independent and capable, but they still like to hold my hand. Being out in the sunshine felt so amazing. I wanted to soak it up. It has been a long, hard winter and I am ready for the seasonal shift.

David carried G on his back and she snoozed the entire time. Such a good baby. 

Some breaking news unrelated to this weekend: Coco's hair has been a source of mild angst for me. She has desperately wanted it to be long since she cut it herself two years ago. It has grown pretty fast from a pixie to down past  her shoulders, but it's just... not that cute. It's thin and and fine and it just looks stringy all the time. We saw a little girl with a super cute bob and Coco commented that she used to have that haircut when she was four. I commented on how much I liked it and how it looks like the tres chic haircut that Kiki gets in the book Kiki and Coco in Paris. Suddenly, Coco said she wanted to get her hair cut in a bob! I called right away but they were booked this past weekend, so we have an appointment for next weekend and I am thrilled. 

After our afternoon hike, we went home for a change of clothes and diaper and then turned around and headed out to a friend's first birthday part at the Little Gym! It was actually super fun for the big girls, as most of the guests were crawling babies, so they had a lot of the equipment to themselves. Coco showed off her gymnastics moves on the parallel bars and Zuzu attacked all the equipment with her ninja warrior skills. They enjoyed cupcakes and potato chips and were worn out enough from the fresh air and hiking and the little gym activity that there was no protesting about leaving a bit early. Genevieve was delighted to crawl around unrestrained and play with balloons and grin at all of the other parents. She was the most social baby! I guess I haven't really seen her interact much with strangers, but she was happy to be there and not at all clingy--very adventurous baby! 

I dropped Coco and G at home and Zuzu and I drove up to Nordstrom Rack to get her a new pair of shoes for PE. We had a disagreement about what kind of sneakers--I wanted her to get running shoes, she wanted white shoes with laces. I let  her win because I just want her to get shoes that she will actually wear to school, but I still have some regrets because tying laces still involves time and occasionally drama and I am NOT here for that. But the shoes are cute and she was very pleased.

Everyone got a good bath after a busy day and they all went to sleep pretty quickly. I thought I had myself ready for Monday morning (coffee and lunch prepped the night before--making lunch is THE WORST, Genevieve's outfit and mine laid out and ready to go) but I just kept hitting a snafu (couldn't find my phone, never removed it from the charger it was on all night, my sock kept getting bunched up in my shoe, etc.). Then when I was loading up G in the car, I looked at my phone for the first time all morning and saw that our back up babysitter was having some kind of outbreak of hives and wasn't sure she could keep the baby. 

We adjusted pretty quickly--David ended up staying home with G, we did a last minute switching of cars, but I still left for work with the baby's bottles in my car with me instead of at home with the baby.

I was hoping that would be the biggest snafu of the day, but then I got to work and was marching my way across the street and up the sidewalk, carrying my big shoulder bag with wallet, water bottle, planner, pump parts, and my lunch bag and G's milk bottles bag so I could put them in the fridge, plus holding my coffee, and somehow I tripped over the curb and ATE IT. I fell smack on the sidewalk hard. I caught myself with my left hand because my right hand was gripping my coffee container and I'll be damned if I let that coffee spill! My knee also hit the ground pretty good and my new pants didn't rip, but the fabric at the knees grated against the concrete and you can see where it damaged the material. 

The lunch bag I was carrying cushioned my right arm, which was extremely fortuitous for me, but not so much for the avocado inside the lunch bag, which I crushed.

Two people were walking several yards ahead of me and they didn't turn around when I hit the ground, even though I yelled out and my aluminum coffee cup banged the sidewalk. I'm not sure that anyone else saw me--nobody came running over to see if I was okay and I didn't hear anyone laughing at me, either. So I dragged myself up fairly quickly--much quicker than I would have if no one could see me, in which case I probably would have sat there and sniffled for a few minutes. 

I can't even tell you the last time that I literally fell down. I stumbled on my stairs at home once when I was pregnant and hurrying and my socks slipped on the carpet, but I don't know when the last time was that I fell like this. The palm of my hand was all bloody and my knee hurt really bad. I limped to my office (a long walk) and rolled up my pants to discover my knee was also bleeding. Fortunately a coworker had bandaids so I was able to clean myself up, but it's really hard to keep a bandaid on the palm of your  hand--especially when everywhere you turn the media is screaming at you to WASH YOUR HANDS.

It was a helluva Monday. I figure as long as I don't literally fall on my face again, the week can only improve from here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Babies and Bonks

My house has been more chaotic than usual the past few days with my parents in town and my brother and his family visiting. His two kids are almost-three years old and 15-months old, so things have been busy and loud and fun! The girls have had a blast playing with Curie, who is game for pretty much anything they want to do, especially because they dote on her and are willing to indulge her. She and Coco were especially good buddies, but then when Coco was at gymnastics last night, she and Zuzu played together that Zuzu was her mother and she needed to go to the doctor and it was pretty cute.

Curie is only a couple inches shorter than Coco even though she's two and a half years younger, and she has a ton of hair and is very smart and talks really well, so I think sometimes the girls forgot how little she is--she fell off the swing in the basement because she's not quite three, but she looks like she could be a four-year-old. (She was fine.)

Bucky is so cute with his big brown eyes and mischievous little grin. He also has an excellent set of lungs and tends to express himself at top volume when he feels he has been wronged, which is not infrequently. Last night the girls were running away from him and he was sort of enjoying chasing them but maybe feeling a little left out, too? Lots of complicated emotions to work though at any given moment. Sometimes he was sweet and snuggly with me, but in times of distress he only wants his parents and often just his dad. It is fun and kind of hilarious to see my brother as a parent. I think he's a great dad, even when he's visibly frustrated because a whining toddler is clinging to him and screaming for a bottle only to reject said bottle when it is offered. For someone who had maybe never held a baby before he met Zuzu, he's totally hands on with the diaper changing and milk warming and kiddo snuggling.

I have loved having them visit, and it's wild to think that the next time we see them (this summer) the babies will already have changed so much. I wish they were closer!

Vieves and Bucky are six months apart and not super interactive with each other, but Vieve definitely had her eye on him and was doing so much more standing and trying to take steps while holding on to furniture or the fireplace hearth. I felt like she turned into a wannabe toddler over the weekend! Oh the baby time goes so crazy fast. Six months ago, I could put her down and she couldn't move. Last night, she managed to crawl up on the bottom stair and I barely got there in time to catch her when she sat down and fell backwards off of said stair.

This morning I wasn't quick enough. She was fussing in my bedroom when I removed Clementine's raw hide bone from her fat little fist (oh! so sad!) so Zuzu picked her up and put her on our bed, where she and Coco were still lounging. The girls are usually very sweet about entertaining G in the mornings while I get ready. I had already done my morning yoga routine (only ten minutes today because it was hard to get out of bed) and I was in the process of getting dressed. I turned around to grab my shirt and next thing I know, there's a terrible bonk as Vieve tumbled off the bed and hit the hardwood floor.

I was NOT calm, cool, or collected and instead did all of the things you shouldn't do in the moment--panicked, yelled at Zuzu, swooped up the baby while shouting, started shaking uncontrollably, and yelled at David when he asked if she was okay. ("I DON'T KNOW IF SHE'S OKAY HOW WOULD I KNOW IF SHE'S OKAY IT'S NOT LIKE SHE CAN TELL ME SHE'S OKAY LOOK AT HER PUPILS ARE THEY OKAY???)

I really don't like starting my mornings with that kind of panicky adrenaline rush.

Anyway, she does have a bruise on her head but her pupils were equal and reactive and she quit crying fairly quickly. Her babysitter promised to keep a close eye on her, and G was all smiles when I handed her to the sitter, but then G cried when I left, which is only because she's been home for the past five days and out of our normal routine. Still, it's hard on the heart.

I drove my parents' car to work because my brother needs our bigger car to get his family and all their luggage to the airport today. We moved G's car seat base to their car and it seemed like it wouldn't be a big deal, except that my car has a mirror so I can see her and I couldn't see her in my parents car and she was so quiet (this is normal, but normally I can LOOK at her) so I was worried that she had lost consciousness in some kind of delayed concussed reaction to her fall. (She had not, but was happily sucking on a binky when we got to the sitter's house.)

ALSO my office key is on my car keys so I drove all the way to work and then couldn't unlock my office. Fortunately the director has a master key, but it was just one more way that Tuesday felt like Monday and I felt like a frazzled human who can't get her life together.

Things are settling with my new job. My hours are a bit longer, even though the commute is shorter, but the crazy thing is that I don't really think about work when I'm not there. I have always, ALWAYS been thinking about work. Teaching is exhausting and once the day is over there is prep for the next day and grading and specific concerns about students and other stuff on the departmental or university level. Now... I just show up. I do my job. I go home. I like it just fine in the moment--my coworkers are great, the students I work with are quite nice. It's just so different.

I do feel like I have more energy left at the end of the day, aside from this cold which has been lingering in my sinuses for over a week and is kind of sucking the life out of me (everyone at my house had the sniffles this weekend and we went through like seven boxes of kleenex). In general, though, I've realized how exhausting teaching is, when I'm basically putting on a one-woman improv show for two hours a day. Having one on one meetings and researching best practices for advising honors students is, like, way easier. But also I really miss teaching and reading (and rereading) great literature. I haven't read Hamlet in over a year. I miss it.

I'm honestly loving the bigger margin/divide between work and home in a lot of ways. It just takes some getting used to. I still really miss the flexibility and total autonomy of my old position. That's the hardest thing. Even though my supervisor has been great about any time I've needed to leave early or the day I came in late so I could be at Coco's half birthday celebration at school or the afternoon I ran G to the doctor over lunch because I was sure she had an ear infection (she didn't--but her eyes were goopy! That was always a tell-tale sign for Zuzu!). It's actually easier to be gone because I'm not canceling class or anything--I had to reschedule one appointment with one person. But it's awkward and annoying to have to check in with someone else and feel kind of guilty about leaving instead of just being entirely in charge of my own day. I don't love that part. (I also realize how privileged I am that I've never really had to do that before.)

I'm also sort of in denial about the summer all together, so we'll just see how that plays out. I'm not really letting myself look that far ahead at this point.

Here are a few things I've been reading:

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. Super weird, but I ended up really liking it.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. I'm listening to this one and it makes me look forward to my drive to/from work. Fascinating. Google the blue people of Kentucky!

That's all I've got. Babies bonking heads and a couple of book recommendations. Sums up life around here.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Loaded Girl Scout Cookies

On a sunny day in January, Zuzu sold Girl Scout cookies the old fashioned way: by pounding the pavement in our neighborhood. Coco was her very enthusiastic assistant, and my job was to push G in the stroller, remind Zuzu to say thank you LOUDLY, and break up squabbles about who got to ring the next doorbell.

Our neighbors were very gracious about ordering cookies and it was a pretty nice day, so things were moving along nicely. We knocked on the door of a house where a family had moved in fairly recently--I was pregnant with G when they moved, and although I had good intentions, we never stopped by with baked goods and greetings.

At any rate, Zuzu gave them her sales pitch and the lady very nicely explained that her daughter was also selling Girl Scout cookies.

(I had no idea there was another Girl Scout on the block, so I felt kind of bad for not sharing our territory, but also early bird, worms, dog eat dog world, capitalism is inherently evil, etc.)

Anyway, we quick did introductions and this family also had a toddler and the mom is pregnant--this time with a boy. I smiled and said something like, "Well that will be a new experience! We just have girls at our house." And then did the usual, "Hope to see you around, enjoy the sunshine, good luck selling cookies, okay bye" thing as I started to maneuver the stroller down the sidewalk. We were at least twelve paces away when Coco turned back and yelled, "WE HAD ANOTHER BABY. BUT SHE DIED!"

* * *

In the circles of baby loss moms, we talk about "dropping the dead baby bomb." It's a bomb because it instantly changes the mood of the room and the dynamic of the conversation. Often, it's a conversation killer. It's useful, though, in that it allows for a very quick assessment of whether a conversation might lead to a friendship.

We talk about whether to drop the bomb on sales clerks who ask "Is this your first?" or "How many kids do you have?" as conversation filler for the 30-second check-out transaction.

We talk about when to drop the bomb on new acquaintances--early? So you know whether to bother? Later? Once you've determined whether they deserve to know your personal history?

I'm selective about when I drop the bomb these days. I told my coworkers during my job interview for this new position, which was not what I'd planned to do, but it came up naturally in conversation and it seemed easier to go into the job with them knowing.

I skip the bomb in sales transactions. I always tell teachers via e-mail at the beginning of the year. I tell parents of friends, usually via text, before play-dates. ("We have two dogs, there is a hunting rifle unloaded and stored up high in the basement, and my first daughter died, so it's possible that will come up in conversation. Any food allergies?")

Generally speaking, I do not drop the bomb on visibly pregnant women.

* * *

Maybe I should have turned back and explained to this neighbor. Instead, I nodded my head and kind of "mm-hmmed" in Coco's direction, but I let momentum carry me down the driveway and back to the sidewalk.

Zuzu turned to Coco before I could say anything at all: "Coco! Why did you say that?"

Coco was confused, "What?"

Zuzu said, "Why did you tell her about Eliza?"

I intervened, "It's not a secret. It's fine to talk about Eliza. But usually we want to tell people at Eliza at the beginning of a conversation, when we have time to talk. Not as we are walking away from people, saying good-bye."

Zuzu added, "Yeah, Coco!" for good measure, and I looked at her, wondering when my seven-year-old had gained the EQ to judge when one should or shouldn't mention Eliza.

* * *

There's no right answer to when to tell and when not to. If not mentioning it would feel like a lie, or make me feel uncomfortable, I will probably say something. But as I meet other new people on campus, unsure how often our paths will cross, or as I introduce myself to students, if they ask about kids I usually say, "I have three girls at home."

When I'm showing my kids pictures on instagram and they ask questions about my friends' kids, I always mention their siblings who died. "Remember Finn and Mary who visited us? And their mom's name is also Caroline? And they have a brother Cale who died when he was a baby."

Despite my own reservations, I'd rather Coco feel comfortable talking about Eliza than feel like she's pressured to keep a secret, or like it's a puzzle to figure out when it's okay and when it's not okay.

It can still feel like a bomb, but when the dust settles and you see who's left standing, that can be how you find your people.

(I personally don't recommend it as a sales technique when you're peddling Girl Scout cookies door to door.)

Monday, February 3, 2020

Happy for a Friend

Zuzu came home from school the other day talking about a magic show that the second grade got to attend. She described a couple of tricks, and then said that her friend Maddie got chosen to be the magician's assistant.

Then, she was mad.

Because Maddie got to keep the balloon! That the magician made appear! And no one else got a balloon! And it wasn't fair that he only picked Maddie!

She was really getting worked up--like tears in her eyes, indignant about the injustice of the whole thing and really coveting that balloon.

I tried to do the wise mom thing, where I said, "Mmm-hmm. I can see that was disappointing. But maybe we can be happy for Maddie? We want to be glad for our friends when good things happen to them."

She looked at me like I was completely missing the point. "I AM happy for her. But I'm sad for me!"

And then I just hugged her because... yes. I'm very familiar with that situation.

I can say all the right words about not being resentful and being gracious and glad for other people. It's important, I think, to learn how to smile and nod when you are first runner up, or maybe didn't even make the first cut.

But those feelings of anger and jealousy are really valid. Even when they feel ugly and shameful, they're just an expression of longing.

I think that people voicing what they really want and can't have makes us very uncomfortable. Particularly when they are problems that we can't fix. Or whining that gets irritating fast because who cares about a stupid balloon anyway? (Zuzu cares.)

* * *

Here's the reframe:

What if everything is a gift?

What if I remember that I'm entitled to nothing?

What if I accept it as a shocking and delightful surprise that three of my children are alive, instead of expecting it as the standard outcome?

This is different from pessimism--expecting the worst--this is just living in a neutral where anything better than nothing is a gift. It's different from schadenfreude, where you're happy for someone else's misfortune. It's just marveling in the good fortune of ordinary life.

Real talk: I'm not sure this frame of mind is totally sustainable.

It's hard to sustain because it's like being healthy. You don't appreciate not having a sore throat until the day that you wake up and you can't swallow because your throat hurts so badly. But what if we could wake up and delight in being pain free, instead of accepting the lack of physical pain as our baseline?

What if I soaked up my whole life as a gift--unearned, undeserved, given to me when it easily could have gone to someone else (like a balloon, gifted by a magician at random).

Would losses be less painful if we didn't feel that we were owed the very thing that had been taken away?

It's not about equity or balance to fill what has been lost, but more like appreciating everything as abundance.

I guess that's the point of a gratitude practice. To acknowledge that the things we tend to take for granted are actually remarkable gifts from the universe.

* * *

The problem is, that it is so easy to see someone else to appears to have exactly what you want.

And we can go on and on about the way social media hides flaws and the perfect looking family/life/marriage is likely to be far from that.

But I'm not talking about perfect.

I'm talking about a slew of pregnancy announcements when you desperately want to be pregnant. I'm talking about a parade of healthy babies when you left your dead baby at the hospital. I'm talking about well-earned promotion announced when your company just laid you off. An anniversary party when you've just filed for divorce. Any milestone marked and celebrated (often deservedly so!) by someone else that highlights a place where your life veered unexpectedly off course.

Sure, we're happy for our friends. But that doesn't cancel the sadness we feel for ourselves.

(And why did he pick Maddie anyway, when Zuzu was RIGHT THERE with her hand in the air?)

* * *

I understood exactly how Zuzu felt.

So I bit back my lecture about being happy for friends. I also stifled my next impulse, which was to promise to get her a balloon the next time we were at the store.

(This is a part of parenting they don't talk about when they criticize helicopter and "snow plow" parents. Of course I don't want to be one of those. But also when you know firsthand how painful life can and will be, despite your best efforts, you really want to protect them when you can.)

I gave her another hug. I offered a snack.

As she was eating, I asked her about her "rose" and her "bud." (Obviously Maddie getting the balloon was the thorn in her day.) But there was a bright spot (weaving in art class) and much to look forward to (a birthday party on Saturday! cousins coming to town in a few weeks! Friday night movie night!).

We started these rose, bud, thorn conversations at dinner to try to control a conversation that otherwise tends to quickly devolve to complaining about the meal, but I'm seeing the way in which it actually is a gratitude practice.

This was an ordinary moment for which I'm grateful.

This is something we have planned that I'm excited about.

Zuzu said that she was looking forward to having me drop her off at school instead of Daddy. My heart swelled a little bit, since this is a change from our usual routine now that I have a morning commute again.

I asked her if she had been missing that old routine before I was back at work full-time. As hectic as it is getting out the door and getting to drop off, I feel so close to them when I'm the one to hug them good-bye and hello at the door of the school.

"Can I tell you something?" she said.

"Of course!"

"Well, this is personal. But I think your car smells better than Daddy's."

What a gift, right? The gift of a car that smells good.

*For the record, I don't think David's car smells bad at all, and I have a very sensitive nose. I'm not sure if it's because his car has plush interior rather than leather? Or maybe my car retains the scent of the lemon and lavender hand sanitizer I spray on them when I pick them up? I guess I like having the better smelling car, though.

Friday, January 24, 2020

New Year, Who Dis

Oh, this neglected blog. I hate writing about writing. I don't even really love reading about writing, although maybe it is very good advice Anne Lamott gives about writing a shitty first draft, and sort of fascinating to know what pieces Stephen King considers vital to his writing toolkit.

The meta aspect to writing about writing just bugs me. It tends too navel-gazy for me, I guess. Don't write about whether you're writing. Just write. Or don't.

And lately I've been falling in the don't.

January started with my job transition (let's call it... tricky). It's had some lows (week one was rough) and some highs (oh yeah... these are the things I thought I'd like and I do like them). I got an important reminder yesterday that emotions often feel like they are going to last forever even when we know logically that they won't... that times of transition feel never ending but they aren't... that life is full of options even when I can't see them clearly from this vantage point.

That sounds like I'm all optimistic and great-attitudey about things, which... do you even KNOW me? I am not exactly those things, though it is my nature to problem solve rather than problem dwell.

I was recently listening to this podcast about whether to put kids on social media and why we post on social media at all. It's a conversation that doesn't really interest me, as my social media settings are private and I share often for the Chatbooks record which is at present (and possibly forever) my only form of printed record keeping (sidenote: will someone for the love of God let me know when Shutterfly does their free extra pages photo book offer?)), but it came on automatically when another podcast ended and I was driving in the snow and needed my hands at 10 and 2 so I just listened. Anyway, the discussion included the way moms quit writing/blogging about their kids at a certain age (7-10ish) because the kids need more privacy and "it's not my story to tell." The caveat to that is that, of course, it IS the mom's story, too. All these shared stories, all these experiences that we want to put out in the world but we feel vulnerable and fearful of judgment.

As much as I thought I wasn't interested in the conversation, I found myself nodding along. I could put really personal feelings out on the internet when it's about grieving Eliza because those are my feelings and I don't require approval of someone else when it comes to grief. I am not nearly as confident when it comes to parenting living kids. Honestly, I WANT people to tell me I'm doing a good job. And when I fear that I'm not doing a good job, or my child's behavior is baffling (read: bratty), it's harder to brush off commentary. Even when it's a choice I feel confident in (like talking frankly and honestly to my kids about the biology of baby making), criticism feels exponentially painful when it's about my parenting. My tiny corner of the internet doesn't attract a lot of randos and I've mostly been spared rude commentary (Although a few have wormed their way in... Howdy, there, Anonymous!). But I still fear judgment, even though I'm sure the worst things people would say are the very things I've already thought myself.

And of course it's hilarious to think writing about writing is navel-gazy when writing a blog is... exactly that? Let's just word vomit into the internet and see if someone shows up to read it. But then again I won't really know! Because commenting is so hard on a phone! And I turn on approval-only comments to avoid the spam but then I forget to check for comments! So the reassurance or conversation or--occasionally--thoughtful disagreement that invites careful reconsideration of a previously held assumption is kind of lost.

But I'm reluctant to shutter this blog. Even though it's no longer serving its original purpose, and I'm not sure what I want its new purpose to be. It's not the scrapbook of our lives the way I envisioned it when I first began writing over ten years ago. It's no longer the grief journal and point of connection that I so desperately needed after Eliza died. And it's not the baby book document of sorts that it sometimes functioned as after Zuzu and Coco were born.

I know there are some folks still reading (more than I expected, honestly!) and I love that so much. I just wonder what it is that I want to say, although I find myself wanting to write and itching to say things and wondering what's the best medium or forum or is there even an audience for that? Do I need to save my energy and submit things for publication? Should I be writing private emails to my daughters instead of public blog posts? What am I trying to say or do here? Should I write a monthly newsletter? (I mean, a lot of cool kids are doing it.)

Ugh. Shut up. Nobody wants to read about your blog's existential crisis.

Which is how I end up not posting at all.

Well, that and the fact that I have a needy baby and a full time job and three kids going three different places on any given day and also I want to do some other things like finish my book for book club and go to dinner with friends and plot to dismantle the patriarchy.

How do we find the time?

Posting this before I decide not to, and promising to return with more musings... whatever 2020 brings, this little blog has been such a bright spot in my life and I'm so grateful for it being what I needed when I needed it.

Now, here are some things I want to evangelize:

I'm reading Amor Towles A Gentleman in Moscow and loving it. I'm listening to Dolly Parton's America, which is the best podcast. I'm watching The Morning Show on Apple TV. And I'm 24 days into Yoga With Adriene's January 2020 series "Home" and it's probably the best thing I'm doing for myself this year so far.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

2019 Year in Review

Hey! I didn't get it done in 2019, but I managed to finish this up today. No time to link previous years, but feel free to check out archives if you have nothing better to do with your time. Also checking out archives is not easy on your phone, so don't even worry about. Here's my year in review:

1. What did you do in 2019 that you'd never done before?
* had my fourth kid
* lost my job
* cooked chana masala
* sanded and refinished a kitchen table

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did something different last year, which was follow a wheel of resolutions and make goals for different categories of my life. Here's what I shared on the blog:

- Yoga 5x a week.
Nope. This was a fail. I have started doing yoga again (probably more like 2-3 times a week) and I want to get in a routine. Ideally, I'll be able to go back to doing it first thing in the morning, but this will require some cooperation from G. So for now I'll keep piecing together what I can do when I can do it.

Money & Career
- Use a budget app.
Nope. Fail. We did budget pretty well, but we still haven't found an app that we love.

- Plan a 2020 vacation.
I have not made this plan yet. I'm still trying to decide what I want to do for my birthday. See Alanis in concert with friends? (yes) Take a weekend trip just with David? (yes) Go somewhere fun with my whole family? (yes) How to choose?

- Encourage girls to craft.
Yeah, I feel like we did some crafting. Our cutest project was making nativity scenes out of air dry clay.
- Revisit (and revise) novel.
I really didn't get back to my novel, but I did do some big reworking on the Eliza memoir project, so I think that counts.

Family & Friends
- Host a game night.
Oh gosh, I didn't really do this. I do have plans to host a murder mystery party and I did host the English department end of semester party, which included game play. Plus we have made a BBQ with friends an annual thing and Zuzu told me it was the best thing we did all year--she had so much fun running around like wild things with a pack of kids.

- Plan a surprise date for David.
I did this, but it was a stay at home date because that's seriously our favorite thing right now as we are old and tired. So basically I just made dinner and let him choose what to watch on TV. LOL. I should do better!

Community & Activism
- Sign up for a new group/experience outside my comfort zone.
Yes! I completed the 12-week anti-racism workshop and it was truly eye-opening and game-changing for me. I'm so glad I did it. Now, I'm working with another friend to host anti-racism parent meetings at Coco's school.

- Read three books in the genre of religion/spirituality.
I read Barbara Brown Taylor but it didn't wow me, honestly, and then I wanted to do other kinds of reading. I did attend church on the regular and sign up for another reading group, so I feel that I still tended to my spirituality.

Yes, of course I will make resolutions for 2020, even though I feel like I kind of fell flat on most of these. I love the fresh start of new goals!

I've never done a word of the year, but this year I'm going to try the word "embrace." It's kinda hokey (I think all words of the year are) but it does encompass what I want to do. I'll be starting a new job and I'm nervous about it and our family is in a weird season of little kid getting to be big kid and baby and three different schools/daycares and also I want to stay connected with friends and continue to be involved in stuff that is meaningful to me outside of my family--like antiracism work and book club. So rather than being stressed about what's not getting done or what I should be doing more or less of, I just want to embrace where we are right now. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking about next year when the baby is older and only napping once a day, or next summer when we're not paying two school/daycare tuitions and we can take a fun vacation. Instead, I want to embrace where we are RIGHT NOW. Also I want to embrace as in give more hugs (with consent, obvs).

Other resolutions...
- More yoga
- Mantra for 2020: Remember you already have everything you need. I'm going to try to be very conscious about consumption and see if I can purchase most of our non-consumables (clothes, home items) gently used.
- Organize for the morning the night before! (This is so obvious. Why is it so hard for me?)
- Try to chill out about my new job. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Me! Genevieve was born on May 5. Also my bestie Monica had her baby Johnny Boone on her 10-year wedding anniversary, June 20.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?
Stayed homebound, mostly, as very pregnant and then with a newborn.

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?
Nothing comes to mind, and I'm glad, because we are basically trying to do a no-spend year!

7. What events from 2019 will remained etched upon your memory?
Genevieve's birth, the closure of my university campus, Johnny Boone's birthday

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
had a baby and submitted a short story for publication (both terrifying in totally different ways!). And no, I don't think the story was selected but publication, but the hardest part was submitting it and I'm unexpectedly zen about what happens next!

9. What was your biggest failure?
yelled at my kids, let housekeeping slide more than I'd prefer

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
no, thankfully

11. What was the best thing you bought?
a coffee table for the front room ($20 on Craigslist)

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
* Something really surprising and touching for me was when my sister-in-law specifically requested one of Eliza's pencil portraits to put up at her house.
* I also have such great appreciation for my SIL's SIL, who babysat G for me for a few weeks as I finished things up at my old job.
* I admire Greta Thunberg.
* I also really adore Megan Rapinoe.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
The President of the United States and also Mitch McConnell

14. Where did most of your money go?
groceries, NICU bills, Coco's school tuition

15. What did you get really excited about?

16. What song will always remind you of 2019?
"Old Town Road" by Lil Naz (my kids were obsessed)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? happier
- thinner or fatter?  thinner
- richer or poorer?  poorer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
arguing with my spouse

20. How did you spend Christmas?
David's mom was here for the week prior, my parents came up the day before Christmas Eve. We had a pretty traditional Christmas at home, attending the Christmas Eve service at church, putting out cookies and milk for Santa, and finishing last minute touches on the dollhouse I decorated for Coco (Zuzu's dollhouse was purchased from a craft bazaar and was already finished). David's dad came up on Christmas day and David made a big meal. The next day we headed to my parents' house, expecting my brother and his family to come into town, but they had to cancel their trip due to illness. We celebrated with my dad's side of the family on Sunday, then visited friends in Kansas City on Monday and on NYE.

To be honest, it was a long break and I would have liked more time to chill at home, but I'm grateful for the time with family and friends.

21. Did you fall in love in 2019?
with this baby currently sleeping on my chest!

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Fleabag! So good. Huge favorite. I loved Friends from College. Also Younger on Hulu is a delight. Oh--and I can't forget season 4 of Veronica Mars! It was a good TV year.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
This is so petty, but I'm in this FB group about parenting and I left a comment about not battling my kids over meals and telling another mom who posed a question that I thought it was fine to let your kid make a PBJ if they don't like what you're eating for the meal and some other lady SAD FACED my comment after writing that at her house you eat what's for dinner or you don't eat and I know every parent should do what works for them, but I kind of hate that lady now.

24. What was the best book you read?
I read so many good ones. My top five:
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

(honorable mentions: Circe by Madeleine Miller and Becoming by Michelle Obama)

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?
I'm counting the podcast Dolly Parton's America as a musical discovery--it is an absolute delight and I'm an even bigger fan of Dolly Parton than I already was. Also David recently turned me on to the singer Emily Scott Robinson and I love both her albums.

26. What did you want and get?
a healthy baby and a coffee table

27. What did you want and not get?
to keep my job. Also a new pair of insoles for my Ugg slippers.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Little Women

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 39. We were driving home from a family reunion in Indiana with my dad’s side of the family. This year I'd like to do something more memorable!

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If my new job had a higher salary than my old job.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?
Maternity, then nursing friendly. I hope to step it up in 2020!

32. What kept you sane?
good friends, good books, David, and perspective on what matters most

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Megan Rapinoe

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
the impeachment and the polarization in politics

35. Who did you miss?

36. Who was the best new person you met?
another mom at Coco's school who helped me form a diversity and anti-racism reading and discussion group for parents

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.
(last year I said "Plan for surprises" which is hilarious and stupid because I did not learn to do that and obviously you can't really plan for surprises.)

This year: The right decision isn't always a decision that you like. And it can still be right.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Resdesigning women
Running the world while we're cleaning up the kitchen
Making bank, shaking hands, driving eighty
Tryna get home just to feed the baby
Skipping the bread for the butter
Changing our minds like we change our hair color
Yeah ever since the beginning
We've been redesigning women.
How do we do it? How do we do it?
Making it up as we go along.

How do we do it? How do we do it?
Halfway right and halfway wrong.