Monday, December 26, 2016

2016: Year in Review

Every year I think maybe I'm done with this, and yet, here we go again...

If you're feeling like a real stalker, or just trying to kill time with your in-laws by reading blog archives on your phone, feel free to take a look back at 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

1. What did you do in 2016 that you'd never done before?
* Successfully potty-trained a two-year-old (I can’t believe that Zuzu had only been consistently potty trained for about five months at this time last year...). And let’s be real: it was NOTHING I did. The secret of potty training is that the kid decides. And some kids are more cooperative than others in this area…
* Flew in an airplane with both kids on a family vacation.
* Joined a book club!

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

Short answer? Not so much and yes, of course.
Goals for 2016:
Read 50 books for fun.
Got to 44. Not terrible, but I think I could have done better.

Write (besides blog posts). More specifically, draft an academic article and write at least three other things non-related to academia--fiction or creative nonfiction.
Ok, this goal setting is making me feel shitty. I did draft an academic article, and then I gave up on it because my argument seemed simple and obvious. It would have earned an A in an undergraduate (or maybe even graduate) class, but it’s not exactly publication material. Sigh. I did do a lot of writing of other stuff, but I want to be more focused.

Do something active 2 times a week (minimum).
I kicked ass at this at the start of the year when I was attending barre classes on the regular. I slacked over the summer, then picked it back up in fall when I started working out with a student trainer again. Now that’s over and I’m really going to make an effort to do more yoga, but it’s hard to fight the desire to do nothing.

Get your shit together when it comes to photos--order books, order prints, get organized.
Did some of this, but not enough! Dang. I need a personal assistant to take care of that stuff for me. There's probably a service of someone who will put your photos and videos in some kind of organized product for you... Anyone? Anyone?

Goals for 2017:
Reach Out. I have spent a lot of time turning inward for the past six years, and I think it’s time to be more social and do more stuff, particularly becoming involved in causes and issues that I care about.

I’ve blogged before about the possibility of writing a book about Eliza. I think I’m scared of writing something that will never measure up to how much I love her and will face rejection and criticism. AND YET it feels important and like I'll always be sorry if I don't do it. So I’m going to take the pages of writing (I have more than 30,000 words now!) and I’m going to write a little more and I’m going to turn it into the shape/form of a book. And then I’m going to figure out what happens after that.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Natalie had a baby boy this summer (love ya, Petey!). A couple of BLMs I follow on IG had rainbow babies (yay!). (And I look forward to meeting my new little niece in 2017!)

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Also no. That’s a relief. 

5. What countries did you visit?
Stayed in the U.S., but visited California (heart eyes for Lake Tahoe), Colorado, and Minnesota.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
More time to read for fun. A new floor lamp for my living room. New light fixtures and curtains in my kitchen. Nothing really important.

7. What dates from 2016 will remained etched upon your memory?
July 2016 was when my 23-month-old baby decided to stop nursing. Bittersweet!
Halloween 2016 was the first day that my 26-month-old baby wore big girl panties all day long (and she didn’t have an accident!). I still can't believe how easy she was when I think about what we went through with Zuzu at this same age...

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I became chair of my department at work and while I swear I haven’t let the power go to my head, I discovered that there are some things I like about being in charge. (Also some things I don’t like, but that’s an answer to a different question.)

9. What was your biggest failure?
Well, I failed to meet most of my new year's resolutions, so there’s that. Also, pushing Zuzu into organized sports before she was ready. We changed course early on so it wasn’t that big of a deal, and I guess you never know until you try, but we’re going to wait another year--or two--before we mess with that stuff again.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I think I canceled class one time for illness, but otherwise I had a really healthy year (knock on wood…). Zuzu's bout of HSP was enough illness/injury for all of us. Fortunately, her bloodwork and urinalysis at the last of our three follow-up appointments were all clear, so her doctor has declared her condition Resolved. He doesn't think we'll have any further complications, so that's an enormous relief.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Plane tickets to Colorado and California and Minneapolis. Private swimming lessons for Zuzu. Also, Ugg boots. I waffled over them for years because I still they’re kind of ridiculous looking and would I really wear them enough to justify the price? But then I pulled the trigger way back in July during Nordstrom’s semi-annual sale, and holy crap. My weekend uniform includes ridiculous looking boots and my feet have never been warmer or cozier. Who cares if they look like astronaut boots wearing sweaters?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Hillary Clinton. Michelle Obama. The few friends and family who continue to reach out to us on Eliza’s birthday, knowing that the day is still really hard for us and always will be. A text seems like a small thing, but to a bereaved parent, even six or ten or twenty years later, it's such a big thing that you remembered. (If you're reading this and that was you, THANK YOU again. It means so much to me.)

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Much to my dismay, my answer here is the same as last year. I can’t believe this is real life.
First name rhymes with Ronald, last name rhymes with Hump. He's on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women, you guys. He made fun of a disabled person on live television. He settled a lawsuit for screwing over people who attended his pseudo-university and he won't release his tax records... I still can't even.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Montessori Preschool and Toddler House for the Special Snowflakes in our lives

15. What did you get really excited about?
Getting season tickets to the Fox for our anniversary gift to each other in anticipation of seeing Hamilton next year.

16. What song will always remind you of 2016?
The whole soundtrack to Hamilton and also “Five Little Pumpkins” as performed by Zuzu.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
- happier or sadder? My holidays were happier, but overall I'm sadder. I’m so sad about the outcome of the election--not just because our country has elected a leader who has been openly hateful, rude, and misogynistic, but because I’m really worried about what his policies and supreme court appointments will look like, and how they will have an impact on my children’s future. I’m scared about the environmental impact from people who deny the reality of human influence on climate change, about limitations of women's rights to reproductive choices from people who don't trust a woman and her health-care provider to make the best and most responsible choice, and about continued access to affordable healthcare for people who don't prioritize moral good above making money. And I’m really concerned about basic rights and personal safety for immigrants, minorities, and my LGBTQ friends and family members.
- thinner or fatter?  thinner (I’ve finally lost a few pregnancy pounds that my body holds onto while breastfeeding, and working out with my student Personal Trainer didn’t hurt either. Also I lost my appetite after the election and barely ate anything for a couple of weeks…)
- richer or poorer?  Poorer. Special Snowflake tuition times two is a huge percentage of my take-home salary. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Wow, sadder and poorer. Thanks, 2016.

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

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Yelling/raising my voice at my kids

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With my parents at our house, then with my brother and his wife and my parents at my parents' house, also with my Papa and my dad's siblings and my cousins at my aunt Tammi's.

21. Did you fall in love in 2016?
With Ugg boots, Lake Tahoe, and Minneapolis in September (also with my friend Natalie's baby Pete).

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Stranger Things. I’m looking forward to watching The Crown in 2017!

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Nope. I hate all the same people! Haha.

24. What was the best book you read?
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Between the World and Me by Te-Nehisi Coates. Both are fantastic. Powerful and devastating but also hopeful. Also Waking Up White surprised me by articulating things I hadn't fully recognized before, and deepening my understanding of the pervasive and restrictive force of white culture and privilege. 

25. What was your favorite musical discovery?

26. What did you want and get?
New light fixtures and a biweekly cleaning service

27. What did you want and not get?
Hillary Clinton for president.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
This is hard to say because I saw so few of them... Manchester by the Sea was really moving, but it's hard to name it as a favorite since it was such a gut-punch of grief. I want to see La La Land. I love going to the movies, but we're just not in a film-going phase of life right now.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Went to dinner at Onesto and refused to share sangria with Coco, who was furious. I was 36. It feels pretty young and super old at the same time.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying [besides your first baby being alive]?
A raise that matches my increased responsibilities at work.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Flat Shoes + Skinny Bottoms + Flowy Tops + Scarves + Maybe Some Lip Color Because Now You Are 36

32. What kept you sane?
Friends who send funny texts and link to meaningful articles and who will continue to work for political good.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Michelle Obama (did you see her in the Obama’s Christmas card photo? She’s dazzling.) I loved her Farewell to the White House interview with Oprah, too. She's fantastic.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
Election 2016 and Syria. Oh, mercy. We donated here.

35. Who did you miss?
Eliza, of course, and David’s grandma Peggy as well as my grandparents who have passed.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Another new colleague in the English department—Rob is funny and weird, which is the best kind of colleague to have.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Keep the kitchen scissors completely out of reach of four-year-olds.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
This is from "Bluebonnets," a song by Aaron Watson. I didn't listen to much country music this year (unless David has it on) but Monica told me about this song after she saw him in concert. He wrote it for his daughter, Julia, who was born prematurely and died shortly after she was born. As frustrating and sad as the end of the year felt for me, I definitely try to practice the art of gratitude each night when I tuck the girls into bed. They are growing so fast, and while I can't complain about them growing older, when too many babies are denied that privilege, I still recognize how fast it goes and how sweet these days are.

There's so much I can't explain
Such as gravity and pain
Still I remain, blindfolded and full of faith
I kissed my angel girl goodbye
Still can't help but wonder why
But I believe I'll see her again someday
So, hold 'em tender, hold 'em tight
Pray every mornin', day, and night
That God will help you raise them right
And don't you blink, don't blink
'Cause like bluebonnets in the spring
We're only here for a little while
It's beautiful and bittersweet
So make the most of every mile
So pack light and love heavy
Give it all your heart and soul
So in the end you won't regret one thing
Life is like bluebonnets in the spring

2017, may you be less politically sucky than I fear and even sweeter on the home front than 2016. Love trumps hate, no matter what.

Binky Yucky

OK, so Coco still takes a binky in the car. 

She's two and a half. I'm pretty sure she should get rid of the binky. But she's the baby. And she loves it. We (mostly) limit it to bedtime, car time, and as a remedy for serious insult or injury. It's so sooooothing. For all of us, because baby girl cries LOUD.

Anyway, on the four and a half hour drive to my parents' house, she definitely gets the binky. But she's still not the pleasant little traveler her sister is (no sarcasm there--Zuzu has been a brilliant traveler since she was born. Coco is much less happy in the car). 

So we attempt to meet her needs with snacks, new toys, crayons, and, when things get really grumpy, the binky. But on very long car rides, even the binky doesn't necessarily keep her happy and when she's raging, she'll throw her binky and then SCREAM for it. It makes for a super enjoyable drive. 

I planned for this by putting an extra binky in my purse, but she’s as capable of tossing away two binkies as she is one. We were on the backroads of Missouri, heading to my parents’ house, when this exact scenario played out. She was screaming for her binky, and I was asking her to use her words and tell me where she put it. She said it was “Behind Cooper.”

The girls are pretty cozy in the backseat, with their two big carseats on each side and just enough space for Cooper to sit in the middle. We put a beach towel down to try to keep the shedding to a minimum (never really works). Anyway, as David navigated the curves in road, I unbuckled my seatbelt to twist around, hang my torso into the backseat, and dig around behind Cooper to find the binkies. 

Sure enough, they were both back there, under his haunches. Just as I found them and gave them to Coco, Cooper let out a super stinky fart that was so bad I actually rolled down the windows. He occasionally has what I call “dead ass smell” because it smells like a combination of ass and dead animal. It is TERRIBLE, and only my love for him makes it at all bearable. Anyway, Coco popped the binky in her mouth just as he let loose with dead ass smell and I had to roll down the window because it was so gross.

At the same time, Coco starts crying (again) but this time she's saying, “Binky yucky!”

I figured it had dog hair on it (let’s take a minute to remember the days when I would have sanitized a binky before I let it near my baby’s mouth… those days are obviously gone.) so once I got the window rolled up and the dead ass smell had mostly dissipated, I told Coco to hand me the binky so I could wipe it off with a handiwipe.

She handed it to me and I looked at it closely to see if there were hairs on it. Then I immediately started gagging. Then choking. Then hardcore retching and dry heaving.

Cooper’s butt had leaked some brown liquid. It was on the front side of the binky (not the nipple), but when Coco had sucked on it, she’d actually sucked some of the liquid poop INSIDE the nipple. And there was still brown poo juice on the handle of binky (and also on my hands).

I was horrified that I had handed dog-poo butt-juice binky to my baby, and also horrified that said dog-poo butt-juice was now on my hands. Plus the smell itself was horrific (dead ass).

I seriously thought I was going to vomit. I had to roll down the window and hang my head out, heaving and gagging as David passed a semi. 

Zuzu was yelling over the wind roaring in my window, “Mommy, are you going to frow up?’” and I was frantically trying to get the handiwipe package open so I could wrap up the binky (to dispose of—thank the baby Jesus I brought an extra) and use another wipe to give all of my exposed skin a sponge bath in a desperate attempt to rid myself of the dead ass poo juice smell that now seemed to be clinging to the inside of my nostrils.

Coco's favorite butterfly binky is now ruined. The beach towel on which Cooper was sitting needs a bleach bath. And we still have about twelve more hours in the car before this holiday season is over.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Holiday Break

If we can step away from the loaded expectations and emotional baggage of the holiday season, we can take a moment to appreciate the glory that is Christmas Break.

I hate to brag about this, but basically I went to graduate school for seven years so that I can live my life on an academic schedule. Which means I have a glorious month between the end of classes in December and the start of classes in January. And it. is. nice.

I went into the office for a few days after classes ended, to finish grading (it was a slog) and to get myself organized for the spring semester. But now I've set my e-mail away message and I am On Break.

...Of course, I'm spending part of that break prepping for two classes I haven't taught before that I'm tackling this spring, but that's part of the fun. One is Shakespeare (!?!) which is not my field, but something I volunteered to teach because I enjoy it. The other is a course on Gothic fiction, which is totally in my wheelhouse, but I'm still reading up on stuff because it's fun. My job can be really exhausting and frustrating and even demoralizing when students disappoint me, but it can also be super great.

* * *

David scheduled a massage for me on Thursday of last week, which was wonderful. I feel like it kicked my Christmas break into gear, setting just the right chill-the-eff-out tone. I got a little crazy and bought a package of incense in the gift shop, so now our living room smells like a hippie lounge every evening and I find it very soothing.

* * *

The girls are fun in lots of ways. For one thing, dark and cold nights make early bedtimes easy, and we are loving that (we've actually had time to watch hour-long TV programs after they are asleep! This adult-time thing is marvelous!).

For another thing, they are so excited about Christmas. They've left the presents under the tree alone this year, which is an improvement over last year, when I had to keep all the presents put away until Christmas Eve (four-year-old Zuzu is a walk in the park compared to three-year-old Zuzu, and I thought that life was three-year-old Zuzu was easier than two-year-old Zuzu, so basically I hope things keep moving in this direction).

They are excited to find Elsa each morning, but completely undaunted by the idea of her spying on them and reporting her behavior to Santa. Since the spy-elf IS admittedly creepy, I don't really mind too much. Next year I think we're going to revise Elsa's visit a little bit. For one thing, we're going to have her show up later (maybe like 10 days before Christmas, as my friend Kaley suggested), and I think she'll bring a note with suggested acts of Christmas kindness that the girls can do.

Simple things that are not a pain in my ass. Like deliver Christmas cards to the neighbors. Help mom put away laundry. Donate some piggy bank money to the Salvation Army bell ringer.

* * *

The unwrapping a book-a-day advent project is going well after getting off to a rough start (when Zuzu opened books 2-5 all on December 1 while David and I were still at the dinner table). I've hidden the books away, and I just pull out the one that the girls get to open. The idea was to alternate nights, but instead they sort of descend on the book together in a vulture-like frenzy of unwrapping. It's not ideal, but it gets the job done and no one has cried over it (yet).

They are super into the story of Baby Jesus, and over the weekend we started the Donkey in the Living Room book.

If you're not familiar with this book, it's a 9 day countdown to Christmas. The book comes with a little nativity set and the idea is to wrap or hide each of the figurines and then open one per day leading up to Christmas.

Our variation on this is that we're using the Little People Nativity set that Coco got from my friend Erin as a Christmas gift on Friday. I don't wrap the figurines, but I hide them (in plain sight, but tucked away on a windowsill or peeking out from the side of a pillow). The girls get to find them and then I hold the figurine while it tells its story (the stories are written in first person from the point of view of each person/animal). Then they get to place it in the stable. So far, the donkey, cow, and sheep are crowded into the stable with Mary forlornly looking in from outside, but I'm expecting the holy family will eventually oust the animals from their beds, just like in the real story!

* * *

A couple of weeks ago, we recently checked out a book from the library: Fancy Nancy Stellar Stargazer. Zuzu selected Fancy Nancy (whom she calls Fancy Wancy, which makes me laugh) and I agreed because it's a library book, why not.

(Side note: I have a complicated relationship with Fancy Nancy because one time one of my Wash U students did an interesting analysis of her that started with the assumption that Nancy teaches girls to be independent and dress the way they want to, but ended up arguing that Fancy Nancy may actually demonstrate harmful expectations of beauty and femininity. As a result, I'm wary of Fancy Wancy Nancy.vBut I'm trying to limit the enforcement of my feminist agenda, Cinderella Ate My Daughter style).

I was pleased to discover that this book was less about being fancy and more about learning about the stars. It was actually educational, so we read it a couple of times. Zuzu was particularly taken with the glow-in-the-dark cover.

ANYWAY, the real story here is that last night I had gathered all the library books by the back door to return them today, which of course sparked renewed interest in reading the books they hadn't looked at in a week. David remarked on how cute the girls looked, flipping through the pages of the books on their own while we ate dinner. A few minutes later, he looked up to see Zuzu sitting at the desk in the living room and said, "Zuzu, are you being naughty?"

(If you have to ask, the answer is always yes.)

She had taken her "Fancy Wancy" book and written her name across one of the pages in black crayon.


Because she didn't want to take it back to the library. She wanted to keep it.

Now, you may be thinking, Where would she get the idea that writing her name in a library book would mean that she gets to keep it?

Well, believe me, I asked her this question. And she started talking about a book that her teacher read, and the little girl writes in the library book. And she gets in trouble.

Bells started ringing in my head... Had I read this story? I had.

She learned this lesson from a little girl named Ramona Quimby.

Ramona writes in one of Beezus's library books. Yes, she gets into trouble and they have to pay for the book, but in the end, because she buys the book from the library, she gets to keep it.

Today after school, we're going to the library so Zuzu can talk to the librarian about what she did and pay for the damage with her piggy bank money, but we are NOT keeping this book!

* * *

Well, time to get back to my Christmas break regime of daytime yoga (courtesy of YouTube), and then Hallmark Christmas movie watching, reading about Gothic novels, and maybe working up the energy to venture out to the grocery store before I pick up the girls and go to the library to make Zuzu apologize to a librarian. Defacement of library property aside, break is the BEST, you guys.

Monday, December 12, 2016

In the Sunset

On Eliza's birthday, my friend Kristin dropped off a gift for Zuzu and Coco while we were at the candlelight vigil. It was this book:

It features a child wondering about where people go when they die. This has been a hot topic of conversation around our house. We talk about how Eliza is in heaven with our grandparents, but also in our hearts. Zuzu has asked me questions recently about how Eliza got to heaven--did she fly there? The whole thing is confusing (for me, so probably for her, too).

I also like the way the book imagines people who have died visiting those they love in different natural phenomena. In our family, we see red cardinal birds as a special symbol of our loved ones who have passed, and I always talk about how sunsets and lights breaking through clouds help us remember that the ones we love are with us always. I like the way the book offers those ideas as questions from a child rather than prescriptions, which invites us to have conversations about it.

Inside, Kristin wrote a short note to the girls and said the sunset page was their favorite. The page that precedes it is imagining the beautiful parts of nature in which we can see our loved ones, and this page continues that thought:

We'd just gotten to this sunset page when my phone binged that I had a text.

My friend Anna, who lives on the beach in Virginia, had sent a thinking-of-Eliza text and included this photo:

Even as I look at those images side-by-side on my computer screen, it makes my eyes a little teary. Is Eliza in that sunset? I wish I knew.

What I do know is that she is in the hearts of two dear friends of mine, who were each thinking of her on her birthday and reaching out to our family in a gesture of kindness that overlapped in such a beautiful way I could hardly believe it. A sign? A wink? I don't know.

But I felt the love. And of course that's Eliza.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Let's Talk About Yesterday

Last year, I had strep throat on Eliza's birthday and I actually think that was easier. Feeling physically shitty was a distraction. I've come to realize that what I really need is at least two days of bed rest and not having to be a functioning person on the 5th and 6th of December. Unfortunately, that's just not entirely possible.

I thought I was doing ok after spending a good weekend with friends in Kansas City, but the sadness started settling in on the drive home. Monday at work... And suddenly I was ugly crying in my office. 

So on Tuesday, I gave up on life, asked a colleague to collect my students' final essays and went home to put on pajamas and weep intermittently while watching Gilmore Girls and finalizing my last exam. I also managed to take Cooper for a walk and take a pair of shoes to get repaired, but otherwise I just made a butt imprint on the couch. I thought I might be able to work on Christmas gifts/wrapping, but I had zero motivation.

It just hit me hard that she would be such a little PERSON at age 6 with her own ideas and thoughts and comments about the world and I'm missing that and missing conversations with her and oh. my. god. My baby died. My baby died. How is that even possible?


One of my dark secrets for a long time was that if I could go back and never get pregnant with Eliza at all, I thought I would have made that choice. It was so hard for me to separate the pain from the happiness that I would gladly have given up all of that anticipatory joy of pregnancy, knowing it would only lead to disappointment. 

One gift of distance is that it allows me to remember some moments of happiness without seeing them as completely tainted by the grief that would follow. I'm trying to separate my love from her loss. It often feels impossible to pull them apart, but I'm trying to reframe things a little bit. 

It's hard.


Last night when I was talking to Zu about Eliza's birthday, she said, "Can we have a celebration?" and then she said, "What kind of treats and cupcakes did Eliza like when she was a baby?"

Yesterday morning our stupid elf was hanging out on Eliza's picture and we talked about her birthday again and Zuzu said, "I wish she could be alive." and I could tell that it was kind of a dramatic performance rather than a real wish, but it still got the tears rolling. 

Also she suggested we ask Santa to use his magic to give Eliza a candy cane that would bring her back to life. #greatideas


Late yesterday afternoon, I shook myself out of my stupor. David was going to be picking up the girls from class, so I planned to run out to get birthday treats to have after dinner before we went out to the vigil. But then David called because he had a flat tire and it had a hole in it, so I ended up having to pick up the girls and meet him there. 

Which would have been fine, except I wanted to run to Target to pick up a few things for the family that was adopted by my university for Christmas (as I told Zuzu, trying not to cry, "I can't buy shoes for Eliza, so I'm buying shoes for these kids instead.") and then I'd forgotten our candles, so I wanted to run home to get them (I should have just bought more at Target, but I was not thinking clearly), and that put us behind schedule. Instead of a nice dinner with special treats, the girls ate Target snack bar popcorn and breakfast bars for dinner, then had scrambled eggs and cereal as a bedtime snack. #qualityparenting

Also Coco had to pee at Target because Coco ALWAYS pees at Target and then since we were all going, I decided to go, too. I'm sure the other women in the bathroom especially enjoyed the LOUD conversation from our stall:

Zuzu: You going pee pee or poo poo, Mommy?

Me in a whisper: Shh, honey. I just have to pee.

Coco at top volume: Poo-poo?

Me: Shh! No!

Zuzu: I hear your tinkles!

Coco: Twinkle twinkle! Good job!


Meanwhile, at Jiffy Lube, the guy working there overheard part of David's conversation with me, when David was explaining that it would take an hour so he'd just have to meet me there. The Jiffy Lube guy asked David where he was headed, and David told him. 

An hour later, after the tire was repaired, they didn't charge him anything for it. Isn't that a sweet act of kindness?

I'm glad David got to talk about Eliza, even just with the guy at Jiffy Lube, because I think part of the reason that six years feels so hard is that with fewer people directly acknowledging her birthday each year, talking about it (and her) starts to feel less and less acceptable, especially since there's nothing new to say and everybody has heard it already. How long can I keep asking people to be sad with me? It must be exhausting for them.

At the same time, people are always willing to celebrate good things. A new job! A regular living birthday! A great haircut! The end of the semester! 

Why can't we recognize and acknowledge heartache as well as happiness?


The vigil was nice, even with me feeling a bit frantic and rushed, and I'm glad we went. David got there early enough to place a flower on the angel for our girl, and I was happy that he did that. At least Eliza has one parent who can get places on time. 

As always, I'm so grateful for the texts and the e-mails and the blog comments and the love and the prayers and the good thoughts (even if you didn't tell me about them) and the candle lightings and the acts of kindness and the donations in her name. 

I don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for you all who read the blog and comment or email me. Probably institutionalized. So, thank you. xoxoxo

Monday, December 5, 2016


It's tomorrow. On the sixth. She would be six.

Her golden birthday! A party full of gold and glitter and giggles.

She would be a kindergartner. She would know how to read, you guys.

I can see glimpses of her. I think she would have light brown hair and blue eyes like Coco's and a giggle like Zuzu's and a silly nickname like Za-za. She would be stubborn and funny and our house would be even more full of little girl shoes and mismatched socks and Disney figurines and rogue crayons and dried out markers and well-loved children's books.


How can it be six?

Six years is no time. Six years is a heartbeat--or a lack of one. 

That's a lie.

Six years is an eternity.

It's long enough to go from newborn to new reader. Long enough that the baby pudge melts away so she becomes all knobby knees and bony elbows with softness still in her cheeks. It's long enough to build a family of three daughters. To become associate professor instead of assistant. To look at your husband and wonder how it is you've now been married for 1/3 of your life.

What does it mean to miss someone for six years? I'm not sure I realized how sustainable grief actually is, or how drastically it would change.


I'm doing better this year than any year previously. And sometimes that feels like progress, but often it feels more like a betrayal.

Six years is forever.

It's long enough to discover that you won't die of heartbreak, no matter how inviting death seems at first. It's long enough to recover some version of your old self, broken and twisty and unable to tolerate long conversations about pregnancy, but eventually finding the old enthusiasm for tacos and make up samples and just the right light fixtures. It's long enough for color to seep its way back into your life.

The distance gives you breathing room, but it never gives her breath, so the breathing room feels a little unfair. Unwanted, even.

If the sadness is a bruise, this time of year I push on it. I can still go back there. The day of. The day before. The day after. I can relive it like an out of body experience or simply like the sensation of suffocating. That room in the hospital. The smell of the soap and the sheets. That cold dread becoming colder realization. The shock. The numbness. The incessant ache that replaced the numbness. The ache that, over years, faded to longing that will never, ever entirely go away.

When I let myself think about her, the ache comes back. It starts in my chest and it radiates down my arms. It is so fierce I hold my breath and I don't let it out until the tears well up in my eyes and then they spill over with a long, shuddering sigh.

I count up all my regrets, I whisper aloud my apologies. I don't talk to her very often, but when I do I always say I'm sorry.

It's been six years, and some of them have been the best years of my life and all of them have been the most heartbreaking, and there's a small part of me that still wants to grab the wheel and turn back time, if given a chance to save her and walk a different path.


I can't bring her back. I can only do what I can to make this shitstorm of a life beautiful, while always wishing that she were part of it.

And when I wake up on her birthday, as sad and empty and angry as I will feel, I will also feel how much she is a part of this life. Being pregnant with her brought me an unbelievable amount of joy, and there is so much good in my life today that is a direct result of being her mom. Her life--and also her death--set me spinning on this path, and she is the reason behind almost every important thing.

No matter how many years out, the earth keeps turning and it will always come back to her.

She's the baby who changed everything for me, in all the best and the worst ways.


And tomorrow, she would be six.

Monday, November 28, 2016

10 Things On a Monday

1. I had to wake Coco this morning.
   1a. She spent the first ten minutes of her day crying and trying to climb back in her crib.
   1b. I could relate to the feeling.

2. Elsa the Elk/Elf is back in action. Zuzu was excited to see her and is still a little afraid of her, though she won't admit it. What she's not afraid of, however, are consequences of her behavior. Elsa creeps her out because Elsa is a creepy elf who sneaks around our house in the night. As far as Elsa the Santa Snitch goes, though, Zuzu is in Camp Couldn't Care Less.
   2a. In other words, Behavior Modification via the threat of an elf who tattles to Santa so we get a Christmas without presents is not working here.
   2b. But we're still moving the damn thing around every night.
   2c. Next year she's not showing up until December 1.

3. My children view our fireplace as an invitation to get naked in the living room.

4. I started feeding Cooper a grain-free dog food a few months ago. He loves it, but he is looking super fat now. I need to discuss this with our vet.

5. I get a sort of perverse pleasure out of cleaning gross things. Like today I cleaned the inside of our dishwasher. It was looking kinda grungy around the edges. And I scrubbed the gross screen that collects food particles in the bottom. And now I'm running a vinegar cycle. It makes me feel so virtuous.
   5a. I may need more hobbies.
   5b. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to have a sub-point a without a sub-point b, but I've got nothin'.

6. I'm making my students memorize and recite poems. Today I had a big athletic guy up in front of the class, ready to recite "A Red, Red Rose" by Robert Burns. Before he started, he took a deep breath and then said, "Man, this is hard! I feel like my heart is beating out of my chest!" But he recited the poem perfectly (although not with a Scottish accent). His classmates gave him a big round of applause and it was a nice reminder that admitting vulnerability can build community.

7. We put up Christmas decorations over Thanksgiving weekend. We have a rather large amount of decorations, especially as we inherited several things from David's grandma. The house does feel cozy with the tree lights glowing.

8. I'm halfway through the new episodes of The Gilmore Girls and my heart is set on Rory ending up with Logan. Don't plot spoil it for me! He's so adorable.

9. We put up Eliza's stocking this year. Zuzu wanted to. I was kind of on the fence. My friend Sonja has Santa put a rose in her daughter Elizabeth's stocking while he's filling Elizabeth's little sister's stocking, and I really like that idea, so maybe we'll make a similar request of Santa this year.

10. Coco really wants to look at gross things.
   10a. Every time I wipe her nose, she says, "I see it??!!" and demands to look at the boogery tissue.
   10b. Today after she got off the potty, I closed the lid before she flushed and she lifted the lid back up. "No," I said, "We don't want to look at that!" She turned to me in disbelief. "I yook at it!" she said.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Conversations with Zuzu

Let's Get That In Writing

Scene: Arguing about who knows what.

Me: That's not a decision that kids get to make. That's a decision that grown ups make.

Zuzu: When I grow up, my kids can make ALL the decisions.

I've Played that Big Sister Game Myself

Scene: In the car.

Zuzu: Poopoo peepee. (laughs)

Me: That's enough potty talk.

(repeat that exchange twice more)

Zuzu: Poopoo butt!

Me: Okay, consequences the next time I hear potty talk.

Coco: Poopoo butt!

Me: Coco, do you want consequences when we get home?

Coco: Yas.

(a few minutes later)

Zuzu: (in a very quiet whisper) Coco, say poopoo butt.

Like a Boss

Scene: Before school, in the kitchen.

Zuzu: What's a boss?

Me: Someone who tells other people what to do.

Zuzu: So you're a boss.

Me: Yes. Who am I the boss of?

Zuzu: Daddy.

Hey, It's a Valid Concern

Scene: On our way to get photos taken at JCP.

Zuzu: Who will take our pictures?

Me: I don't know if the photographer will be a man or a woman, but they will be very nice and you will need to follow their directions.

Zuzu: But what if it's that mean man?

Me: It won't be a mean man.

Zuzu: But what if it's Donald Trump?!

Still Working on the Punchline; Or, Existential Humor

Scene: Teaching Zuzu a joke.

Me: Why was 6 afraid of 7?

Zuzu: Why?

Me: Because 7 EIGHT 9!

(later that day)

Zuzu: Why does 8 like to play with 7?

Me: Why?

Zuzu: Because he EIGHT a hotdog for breakfast!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Weekend Update (not the SNL skit)

My weekend got off to a rough start with a trip to urgent care Friday night. My throat was sore and it came on fiercely and suddenly and if I was dealing with strep, I wanted to know right away. So I dragged myself to urgent care and paid the steep copay and got swabbed. Negative for strep, I went home and slept 10 hours and felt much better the next morning!

Saturday morning I took the girls to JCP for their annual Christmas dress photos. Zuzu was reasonably cooperative this year (a big improvement from Easter two years ago, which ended with an enormous temper tantrum when we had to leave the photographer's eggs behind and then Zuzu bit David on the arm hard enough to leave a mark). She was a little too eager, so we had a lot of super fake smiles with squinty eyes and her head tilted over to her shoulder. Next to Coco standing stone-faced or (my favorite) looking completely vacant.

I took them by myself, which made me nervous, but sometimes I think they are actually better behaved for just one parent instead of two. Anyone else have that experience? Why do you think that is?

Once that ordeal was over, I allowed them to play on the germ factory of an indoor playground at the mall. Then we walked down to the pretzel place, visiting not one but TWO public restrooms on the way there. (Because Zuzu didn't have to pee, so she just washed her hands, but then she DID have to pee. Because of course.)

We wandered back out through the car via the toy department of JCP, where I took various photos upon request of Zuzu with toys that she really, really wants for Christmas, including some Nickolodeon flying carpet princess dolls related to a show she has never seen (eye roll). It took a long time to get them out of there, but the thrill of the escalator helped. Coco had hit her limit at the end, and went boneless on me near our exit, but we finally made it out to the car. Unfortunately, at some point during the mall visit, we lost one of Coco's dress shoes (they changed clothes and shoes after the photo). Insert gritted teeth emoji. It may have fallen out of the bag in the parking lot. So she wore those shoes exactly one time. Sigh.

David spent the day working on a lit review for class and then he fixed a Blue Apron meal for us while Zuzu (who was exhausted but refused to nap earlier in the day) snuggled on my lap in front of the fireplace while I read a book and pretended to face paint on her face with a dry paint brush. Of course it feels AMAZING and relaxing to have someone softly trace your face with a dry paint brush, so she ended up falling asleep at 6:00pm and she slept until 10:30pm when she woke up and wandered downstairs, then went back to sleep until the next morning. I guess maybe we all were a little overtired this week.

I finished The Girls which was well done and creepy but gave me nightmares that made me kind of wish I hadn't read it. Also when the doctor at urgent care asked what I was reading (and marveled at the fact that it was a library book) he glanced at the title and, chuckling, said, "The Girls. Probably wouldn't be my first choice!" I replied flatly, "It's about a cult in the 1960s." I don't know what he assumed I was reading about, but he seemed a bit taken aback by that announcement. Eyeroll at the patriarchy.

We went to church on Sunday and Zuzu was super well behaved and Coco was... not. Then I went with my friend Erin to see Hamlet--the filmed stage production with Benedict Cumberbatch put on by the National Theatre Company that was shown at the Tivoli. It was fantastic. It was also like four hours long, including a 20 minute intermission, but still great. We felt very cultured and self-righteous afterward. Also full of popcorn and M&Ms.

Sunday evening we had dinner fairly early (the Blue Apron selections this week have been dynamite!) and then settled down with the girls to watch Fantastic Mr. Fox. We listened to the amazing audio book in the car a while back (the narrator is so great), but Zuzu still had LOTS OF QUESTIONS about everything happening in the movie, particularly what all of the animals were and what the names of the farmers were and what they were doing now and was going to happen to everyone. Over and over again. It started out cute and then verged on annoying so I finally had to say, "WATCH THE MOVIE TO FIND OUT!"

David said it was like watching a movie with his Grandma Peggy. (Our favorite movie memory with Gma Peggy: Watching Lost in Translation and getting about 2/3 of the way through it when his grandma had this epiphany and exclaimed, "Why, they're in Japan!" Oh, man. We miss her--especially this time of year.) The movie held Coco's attention, too, which kind of surprised me, and it made me get a little misty realizing that this was our first Family Movie Night and the girls are getting big enough for us to do this. The future is now.

I am trying to get on top of Thanksgiving prep and Christmas shopping. We are expecting 11 or 12 people at our house for Thanksgiving, so I need to figure out seating, since our dining room table comfortably seats 6 and can do 8 if we squeeze... I know we'll have plenty of food, but I want a cute table because for me table setting is more fun than food prep. (Also, I lost the party potatoes argument so we're having mashed potatoes instead which is okay but maybe we need both???).

I've decided to do a book a day advent thing for the girls. I realized we had 21 different kids' Christmas books (crazy! but awesome!), so I ordered two more from and picked up this one new to get to 24. I wrapped them all up in shiny paper and numbered each one (this exact version of this one from when I was a kid is (obviously) number 24) so Zuzu can work on number recognition and we can read a new story each night.

And that's the update. Now I have a stack of papers to grade and I have to run a mile this afternoon and try to beat my previous time of 10 minutes and 10 seconds. Wish me luck!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Unsettled. (Also, Some Thoughts on Hair Cuts and Underwear.)

We are moving forward in the World Without Bangs. I still look at Before photos and sigh...

But she's got no regrets, folks. This girl is confident that her hair looks good. And I just can't help but love that about her.

When she got home from school on Tuesday, I asked her if her teachers said anything about her hair.

"They asked me if I got a hair cut."

"And what did you say?"

"I said I cut it myself."

"And what did your teachers say about that?"

"Nothing. They didn't cry."

David assumed we would cancel Christmas photos, but no such luck. However, they are just my portrait studio pictures of the girls in their dresses. I'll be using photos from our summer photo session on our Christmas cards. The girls haven't changed that much. (Except for Zuzu's hair... sigh.)

* * *

I still feel worried about the aftermath of the election. I'm in disbelief that the Alt Right or people who support the Alt Right by providing a platform or by NOT denouncing what they do/say have an actual seat at the table. I'm terrified about what it means that someone who denies that humans are causing climate change will be in charge of protecting our environment. I may save money on my taxes, but it will be at someone else's expense, and I'm sad about that. I'm worried for friends who have pre-existing health conditions and fear losing insurance coverage.

And here's the thing about hate speech and hate crimes--these things would have happened no matter who won the election. But they are happening now with what feels like an endorsement from the president-elect. It's not retaliation--it's celebratory. And it's so ugly. And it's happening here.

I hope so hard that people who supported Trump for non-racist, non-sexist, non-asshole reasons will demand that he act like a non-racist, non-sexist, non-asshole. I really, really hope so.

I heard yesterday that Hillary got over 1,000,000 more votes. I know a lot of people don't like her, for various valid and invalid reasons, but damn. I hope that the popular vote at least indicates that love trumps hate even if it doesn't mean that Hillary trumps Trump.

I remember when the whole voting kurfluffle happened when Bush ran against Gore and I was pissed off about how the whole thing shook out (although I voted for Ralph Nadar in that election, so whatevs...). This feels different.

* * *

In the wake of all this fear/anxiety, I'm making my therapist proud by remembering all the times she talked to me about self-care. I'm still exercising with my student personal trainer. I'm trying to make time to do yoga before bed.

(Last night, I replaced "yoga before bed" with "evening walk to Ted Drewes for custard" and that also seemed to relieve some stress.)

I made a donation to Planned Parenthood and to Stray Rescue.

I'm also doing a letter writing project. It started with a thank you note to Hillary Clinton, but now I'm making a list of people whom I see fighting the good fight and trying to make a difference so I can send them a note. Most of them aren't public figures, but are people who make a difference in my life. I want to acknowledge their efforts. And, because I'm a huge nerd, I'm trying to enclose a poem that seems to fit with the situation. So I'm reading more poetry, which also seems to help relieve stress.

My impulse when I'm sad/stressed is to turn inward. I want to stay home. I want to avoid phone calls. I want to shut out the world. I'm working hard to resist that impulse. To send messages, to attend events, to be part of the conversation.

We had signed up to be involved in We Stories long before the election, but I'm finding new urgency and a helpful sense of common goals in that group. Plus, we got some fantastic books after attending their launch on Sunday. Coco is really into Please, Baby, Please, which is so much fun to read out loud. While she's obviously too little to have an in-depth discussion about racial injustice, I just make it a point to emphasize how much the characters in these books who don't necessarily look like her are actually just like her--the act the same way, like the same things, are loved by their mamas. It's a small thing, but it feels like something.

We got a copy of Shades of People, which we already owned, so we donated our extra to Zuzu's school. She was very proud to share her book, and it's evidently prompting some discussion there. She came home and announced, "I have one friend at school who has dark skin."

(Ummm.... okay... this is why talking about race with kids feels awkward...)

So I said something about how all of us have skin in different shades (basically quoting the book) and then asked her if she has some friends at school whose skin has freckles.

"I have a freckle!" she said proudly, "It's next to my ba-gina."

(Ummm... okay... she does have a freckle kind of on her underwear line, so... great?)

* * *

Speaking of underwear, the potty-training situation with Coco has been... hit and miss (ha ha see what I did there?). She'll have a day of no accidents, then she'll pee her pants four times in one day. She does much better at home than she does at school. She hits the potty for about every other poop, but I think we can all agree that batting .500 when it comes to poop in your pants is NOT ideal.

Still, she's just the sweetest little peanut. Her goodbye routine at school has finally, finally shifted from sad face and teary eyes to hugs and hugs and kisses and kisses and she walks in the door confidently and is greeted enthusiastically by her friends... it just melts my heart every morning. She is still a mama's girl, and takes a while to adjust to new situations, but once she is in, she is ALL in. And I love that about her. Every day when I ask her what her favorite part of the day was, she just recites the names of her teachers and her friends. It's ridiculously cute.

* * *

My grief season is creeping up. Weirdly, I think the post-election-sadness has kind of distracted me, but I never forget that Eliza's birthday is coming up. And what do I do with six years of missing?

As Zuzu and Coco get older and demonstrate more and more of their personalities, I can't help but wonder how much like or unlike Eliza they are, and how her presence might have shaped them in different ways. Zuzu asks a lot more questions about Eliza ("Did she come out of your belly and float right up to heaven?"), which never fail to leave me fumbling for answers. ("Ummm... yes? No. Sort of? I don't know, honey.") We'll plan to attend the vigil on December 6, but I'm not sure if we'll bring the girls or get a babysitter. (Probably a babysitter...)

We've also been thinking back to a year ago at this time, when David was spending so much time with his grandma and we were coping with the news of her cancer coming back. A season of grief that overlaps with a holiday all about gratitude and the start of a nation that now feels angry and divided... It's an unsettling place to be.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Zuzu got out of bed this morning a little reluctantly. She'd taken a (short) nap at school yesterday, which pushes back bedtime from 7:30-8pm to 8:30-9pm. But she was up! I heard her in her bedroom, choosing her clothes for the day (not my favorite ensemble, but it wasn't aggressively attacking the color wheel, so that's refreshing). 

At one point as I walked from the bathroom back to my bedroom, I noticed that Zuzu was no longer in her bedroom. It's a bit unusual for her to go downstairs without me, but she loves to exercise her independence by getting out the breakfast supplies, so I assumed that was what she was doing. By the time I finished getting dressed, she was back upstairs and I saw her in my peripheral vision as I was putting on mascara. 

"Hi, sweetie," I said, leaning toward the mirror the way you do when you put on mascara. "Can you check and see if your sister's awake?"

A moment later I heard the two of them giggling in Coco's crib, and I went into the Coco's room and lifted her out of bed, ready to carry her to the bathroom. Zuzu climbed out of the crib and we were chattering about breakfast and pancakes.

And then I gasped, staggered, set Coco down, and nearly collapsed. 

I covered my mouth with my hands and started crying.

When questioned as to her motive, she replied:  "I didn't want my bangs on my face."

I think we've pretty well established that this child is shameless, but when she realized that I was crying, she said, "I'm sorry, Mommy. I won't do this EVER again."

We have Christmas photos scheduled for Saturday. The girls in their Christmas dresses. And now, with big-ass bows on their heads.

This enormous pile of hair, along with our kitchen scissors (taken from the drawer where they belong, which she knows are only for grown-ups to use), was in the corner of the TV room, half hidden behind a curio cabinet.

(The scissors are now relocated to a top shelf in the pantry.)

She obviously knew she wasn't supposed to be doing this, because she snuck downstairs and cut her hair while hiding in the corner and facing the wall.

I know it will be funny in a few years. But mercy. It's so terrible. I think I'm still in shock.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

In the Upside Down

Zuzu asked David last night if the boy won or the girl. We didn't know before she went to bed.

On the way to school this morning, I told her that I was feeling sad because the boy won. I was sad because he said mean things but he was now going to be the leader of our country. Zuzu asked if he was going to be mean to us (I said no, not sure if I was lying), then, as though she'd just remembered, she added "Oh, mom," she said, "The girl won at my school!"

Her preschool class (which does have a female majority), elected Hillary Clinton. The popular vote itself elected Hillary Clinton. The electoral college did not.

So, in her mind, Hillary is still President of Preschool, which is good news as far as I'm concerned.

I am a white, educated, privileged citizen of the United States. I woke up this morning afraid of what the future will hold. It is a testament to my position of privilege (and my relative youth) that this is the first time in my life I have felt this way. I'm scared of what the future holds in terms of rights for minorities, LGTBQ, immigrants, Muslims, and women.

At my core is a tiny, desperate little optimist, who is trying not to hyperventilate. I'm hoping that something good will come from this. I'm hoping that the narrative continues and this is just an unexpected twist. I'm hoping that he is full of BS in the sense that he doesn't mean half the shit he said.

But I looked at my sleeping daughters last night and I felt like our country had failed them. Voting for someone who objectifies women is tacit approval of that objectification.

I don't expect that we will all ever come together completely to agree on policy or, hell, even scientific fact (global warming, anyone?). I know there are good people who voted for Trump, people who do not support everything he said. But to vote for him--for whatever reason--is to give silent approval of his messages. And his messages are hateful, fearful, and disrespectful of women (among others). I wanted to believe that we were better than voting that into office--all of us.

As my brother posted on FB (I'm still not on there--my mom just mentioned it so I texted him to see what he'd said): "I was wrong about the election, so hopefully I will be wrong about the consequences."

So while I feel like I've entered an alternative universe (OMG THIS IS THE UPSIDE DOWN), I have a job to do. Kids to raise. A life to live. I'm trying to remain hopeful and functioning, so I'm keeping newsfeed stuff to a minimum and listening to podcasts instead of NPR. Also I'm ordering pizza tonight because I can't even.

Here are some things to read that are sort of helpful:

What Do We Tell the Children?

What We Do Now

Still We Rise - This one is particularly helpful if you want to try to do something good today.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Nature Walk and Screen Time

The director of the girls' preschool sent us a link to this article on children and screen time. We all know that too much screen time isn't good for kids, but one thing that resonated with me is the claim that even having the TV on in the background can have an effect on kids.

I hadn't exactly made the connection, but now that I think about it, I realize that on the recent evenings when David has been watching baseball (which doesn't interest the girls (yet?)), they are harder to transition and settle down into bed. On Monday nights, when David has class, I never have time to sit down and watch TV while I'm by myself with the girls, and I'm just not in the habit of turning the TV on in background (mostly because the shows I'm interested in watching are usually not kid-appropriate and it's a treat so I want to sit down and actually watch). And Monday night bedtime is almost always easier than any other night of the week.

David and I still watch Survivor and occasionally we've watched it with the girls in the evening before bed. They usually don't pay attention to the show for long, but they do get pretty wound up while they play and mess around (enough that we will close-caption the dialogue because someone here is almost always shrieking). And those are the evenings when they argue and resist going upstairs, instead of being excited to cuddle and read books (which they are most of the time).

I'm not suggesting that we can't turn on the TV after work or watch TV as a family ever, but we are really doing to start paying attention to the differences in behavior, and definitely keep it at a minimum on weeknights. I'm not preaching here--I'm just strategizing how to make my life easier!

I also think some of this also depends on the temperaments of kids. I have a friend whose kids are in the habit of watching a show each night just before they go to bed. They expect it and look forward it to as part of their routine, and it seems to help settle them down. Evidently, they don't have trouble falling asleep afterward. So this works well for them, but in my experience, Zuzu settles in for bed SO much easier if the screen stays off.

When the preschool director sent out the link to the article, she also suggested that we make it a point to read to our kids this weekend or take them out to enjoy nature. Because I am forever a student who wants the teacher's approval, obviously I made it a point to take the girls on a little walk Saturday morning! We went to Forest Park and paid a drive-by visit to Eliza's tree, then went on our favorite little walk across the pedestrian bridges near the ice skating rink. It's so beautiful back in there, and we even spotted some wildlife (mostly ducks and minnows).

This was the first time we've done this walk without a stroller, and it's hard to believe that they're both so big! I walked this same path a lot when I was pregnant with Zuzu. So amazing to see her here now, looking tall with such long hair. And wearing a self-selected ensemble, of course.

Fearless little mountain goat. Still loving her cowboy boots today.

It was kind of hard being Coco today. Especially when Cooper was not interested in going where she wanted him to go. Imagine her screaming at the top of her lungs in this photo.

Zuzu walked up on the wall just like Madeline ("No one knew quite so well / how to frighten Miss Clavel") and then Coco had to do the same. You can see by her double-grip on David's hand that she's a little more cautious than her sister, though.

We spotted this bird and Zuzu said that it was a swan that used to be an ugly duckling. I had them point at it for the picture, but Coco may be pointing at an actual duck somewhere else.

Gathering dead leaves and stuffing them into her pockets.

"Mommy, is this the jungle?"

"Oh, I heard a sound from nature!"
We meandered through the paths and let the girls pick up leaves and rocks and run on and off the path and greet people walking their dogs. We stayed over an hour, and the girls were tired and getting hangry by the time we loaded up in the car. It was a good morning.

I've been having a lot of mixed feelings about leaving the baby stage behind... I'm actually really happy to pass along our baby things to friends and family, but I think there is a part of me that will always, always ache for one more baby. I am absolutely certain that if Eliza were here, I would feel differently, and that's part of what makes everything complicated. Still, days like today make me excited about entering a new stage of parenting and having the opportunity to do things like this with the girls, without strollers and diapers.

Of course, I'm also excited to watch big-kid movies with them, so we're going to have to schedule in some screen time, too...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

About the FB...

So... some of you may have already noticed that I created a FB profile last week. I put in my e-mail address as required, but I skipped the step where you look for friends. I created it only because it's a component of the We Stories group that we've joined and it was recommended in the welcome letter they sent out. They mentioned particularly that they know some people don't do FB, but we might want to consider creating a profile just for this parents' discussion group. I'm excited about this group, so I decided to overcome my aversion to FB and sign up.

(Related: I assumed that I would reactivate my old account, but evidently it's really deleted, so I'm starting fresh, which is nice.)

HOWEVER, I'm not really doing Facebook, which means I've been ignoring the friend requests I've been getting. It's NOT because I don't want to be friends with you, but just because I'm not really doing the FB thing. Certainly not right before this election!

We'll see how things unfold in the new year... It may be something I can dip a toe into. The grief triggers that were so heavily associated with it for a long time have certainly lessened, and there are definitely people I'd like to connect with whom I don't email or talk to on a regular basis... But I also spend a lot of my life in front of a screen as it is, so I don't really want one more app inviting/demanding my time and attention. So I'm just leaving it open to see what happens.

In the meantime, thanks for the friend requests, lovelies, and know that I'm not avoiding you... I'm just avoiding FB entirely!

Seriously, it's not you, it's me. But really.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Insert: Witty Title

I think I mentioned before that I've been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack pretty often. The last time I was this obsessed with a musical was Rent when I was in college. Anyway, on the way to school today, I said to the girls, "Should we listen to Hamilton or should we listen to some other music?" And Zuzu chose Hamilton!

Nevermind that it contains some explicit lyrics... I haven't heard her repeating any of it, so it's fine. Of course, if she starts singing, "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore, and a Scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean..." then we may have to have a conversation about appropriate language. Or just film it and put it on YouTube.

Related: I have such a huge crush on Lin-Manuel Miranda I can hardly even handle it. He's overtaken Chris Pratt at this point.

Also related: If you're not aware, Hamilton's wife's name was Eliza and hearing her name spoken/sung on the soundtrack is so bittersweet for me and makes me love the name even more.

In another life lesson about not being a jackass by shamelessly bragging about your kids on the internet, Coco, my "easy" baby, has rebelled against potty-training and after two days of perfect records, peed her pants three times yesterday. She didn't poop her pants only because one of her teachers noticed a "poop face" and got her to the bathroom in time. (God bless toddler teachers who recognize poop faces.) She also requested a diaper at daycare: "I'd prefer to just do this in my pants and sit in it, thanks" (That's a loose paraphrase, not a direct quote.)

She got to wear kitty-cat-meow-meow undies today and we had a peptalk about keeping her pants dry on the way to school, so I hope that it's just a small setback. Her teachers said it's normal. I wouldn't know, because by the time Zuzu decided to quit peeing/pooping her pants, she was 3 and 1/4 years old and it was like flipping a switch.

Related: Coco's bottom looks so TINY without a diaper on! It makes me laugh.

Zuzu has a follow-up appointment today for her HSP situation. So far her urinalyses and blood pressure have been fine, so I'm not too worked up about it. She's thrilled to get picked up from school early.

I'm trying to embrace Zuzu's self expression through dressing of herself. Today she wanted to be a cowgirl, so she wore cowgirl boots (hand me downs from our friend Ellie Kate) and her new favorite leggings (navy blue with hearts) and a cowgirl shirt we bought two summers ago in West Virginia when she rode a horse for the first time that is a little bit tight but still fits. She asked me to cut OFF her bangs to make her look like a cowgirl (!?) so we compromised by clipping them back. Then she said, "I look like a man!" (I'm not sure what kind of men she knows who wear green barrettes to hold back their bangs. David's not in the habit.) I also put her hair in pig tails, which was really cute, and seemed to make her look less like a man (!?) except I know they'll be out by the end of the day.

I am trying to do NaNoWriMo because I am an insane person. Except instead of writing a novel, I'm working on my Eliza book project. I listened to this podcast that said you don't have to be good at something to be good at something. Meaning you just have to WANT to do it. So I'm doing it. I'm also still working out with my trainer three times a week AND trying to do bedtime yoga for 20 minutes each night. This is probably why I am sitting on essays I collected from students two and a half weeks ago. As for why I'm writing this in my office right now instead of grading, I have no explanation except it's Friday.

Here's a weird thing: Zuzu has decided that she is "shy of boys." This sometimes extends to boys her age, but is particularly directed at boys who are 7-12 years old. (She's not shy of grown men.) There's a little boy who helps out with her tumbling class, and he is evidently the reason she refused to participate the last couple of weeks (she did FINE and had a blast yesterday, when he happened to not be there). On Halloween, she refused to take candy from two little boys at one house, who were so sweet and tried to just drop it in her bag while she turned away and hid her face. I don't know WHAT is going on with her and I find it really frustrating as a parent and a feminist. We don't know that many boys in that age range, but her good buddy Harrison across the street has a big brother who is nine and she seems fine around him. She says she's shy because she doesn't know their names. ?????? I hope it's just a short-lived phase.

Here's a gross thing: My dog has peed on our sofa and Coco has peed on our kitchen chair and I think the whole house smells like urine. It doesn't help that the weather has been damp and warm, either. (Don't you want to come over and hang out at my house now?) I'm buying new kitchen chairs this weekend (Haven't told David yet.). I did tell David last night that when Cooper dies (hopefully not for a long time, although he is going to be 11 in February), I am going to cry my eyes out and feel absolutely devastated because I love him so much and he was my first baybee and he's still my sweet mama's boy, but then I'm going to buy a new sofa.

I'm starting to do some holiday prep, by which I mean I'm Christmas shopping and thinking about holiday cards. I front load all of this in November because I still feel pretty slumpy/shitty at the beginning of December. This year feels easier than last year, although I actually have mixed feelings about that, which I will detail at another time.

For now, I post these rambling paragraphs that I realize now are mostly about Hamilton and urine; I apologize for the latter. Also, I revealed my celebrity crush(es). Who is yours?