Friday, December 8, 2017

An Imperfect Birthday

All things said and done, Eliza's birthday was fine.

Nothing gets better after missing your baby for seven years, but what I have learned to do is predict how I'll feel and make plans (or cancel them) accordingly.

I basically knew that I would want to have a couple of crying spells and also be lazy and also get a few things done. So that's what I did. I took the day off work, though I checked e-mail from home. I watched some TV while I wrote thank you notes and Christmas cards and made lists of things we need to do this weekend. I also went to Trader Joe's and got flowers to take to the candlelight vigil.

I wanted white, as that's the color of flowers traditionally left at the angel of hope, and I chose a bouquet of white roses with beautiful, pale pink centers. They were so pretty that the cashier commented on them, "These may be the prettiest ones I've seen," she said, "That pink is so nice!"

I got teary-eyed when she complimented Eliza's flowers.

I didn't ugly cry until I got home.

***

I discovered on Tuesday evening that Coco was completely confused about the candlelight vigil. I'd been talking about it for a couple days, letting the girls know that Eliza's birthday was coming up and on her birthday I'd pick them up from school and we'd go pick up Daddy at his work and then go eat at a restaurant and then go to the vigil.

So Tuesday I said, "Do you remember what tomorrow is?"

Coco said, "Pajama day at school!"

I said, "No. That's not tomorrow."

Then Zuzu said it was Eliza's birthday and I said, "Do you remember what we are going to do?"

Zuzu said, "Go to a restaurant!" and then Coco added, "Go to the jail!"

I was like, "What?"

Coco repeated that we were going to go to jail.

Then I realized that when I was saying "vigil," she was hearing "jail." So I guess she thought that we were going to hold candles and listen to people talk after we got arrested? Obviously I had a little explaining to do.

***

Timing was off on Wednesday. I picked up the girls early, and according to my GPS on my phone, if we'd headed straight to David's school we would have been there 45 minutes ahead of schedule. So we made an impromptu trip to a craft store that I don't really care for but is close to the school.

I got the few things I actually needed, and then I let the girls look at Christmas ornaments. They were so enthusiastic. Zuzu loved a mermaid and Coco wanted a ballerina. I picked up a gingerbread house as a gift for the little girl whose crazy parents invited a bunch of 5-year-olds over to decorated gingerbread houses on Saturday morning (I'm tying it to the bottle of wine that I'm giving to the parents).

The girls were on eerily good behavior in the store and multiple people stopped me to tell me how cute they are.

I ended up buying the ornaments they wanted so much. It felt like something to do on a day when I wasn't buying presents for Eliza.

***

We got to David's school at the scheduled time, but he wasn't outside waiting for us because I hadn't texted him to tell him we were on our way. Unloading, going inside, leaving, loading up again ate up time and I was realizing that we hadn't allowed nearly enough time for the restaurant dinner we had talked about.

It was frustrating. Not because we needed to go have a nice sit down meal (it's not like my children make that experience all that pleasant at this point), but because plans were changing and I didn't WANT plans to change. I don't know why we didn't leave earlier. It felt like we were shortchanging Eliza and it made me want to cry.

At that moment, I got a text from my aunt Terri. A photo of an angel she'd hung on her Christmas tree. "Always loved, always remembered" was inscribed on the angel, and just underneath, in her pretty handwriting, Aunt Terri had written, "Eliza."

I did cry, then. But for a totally different reason.

***

We took our roses to the Angel of Hope early, because the vigil started at 7:00 and the line afterward is quite long. This would allow us to duck out early and get the girls home and in bed.

Coco threw a fit when we got out of the car because she couldn't get her zipper up but she didn't want anyone to help her. We were rushing her because we still needed to go eat dinner and she went into meltdown mode.

Zuzu put her flower on the angel and then ran off and I didn't know where she was. The photo I had planned to take of them with the angel didn't happen.

We loaded up in the car again. We had just under an hour before the vigil started and everyone was hungry.

***

We had dinner at Dairy Queen.

The girls were delighted.

I took them to use the bathroom before dinner and they each went into a different stall, leaving the doors wide open. I followed Coco in to help her up onto the potty and then a restaurant employee came in to use the bathroom and walked in on Zuzu (because the stall door was wide open).

"Oh!" I heard the employee say, "I'm so sorry."

"That's okay!" said Zuzu cheerfully.

"Sorry about that," I said as I led Coco out of the other stall.

"Oh, I just didn't want to bother anyone," she said. She stood back by the main entrance to the bathroom, politely waiting for us to finish up.

"That's okay!" Zuzu said again. At this point, she had exited her stall but had yet to pull up her pants. She'd evidently followed the employee to continue their conversation, even though the employee was clearly trying to avoid embarrassing Zuzu by witnessing her pee. Zuzu then mooned all of us as she pulled her pants up.

***

Zuzu ordered a hot dog.

Coco always orders a hot dog because it's what Zuzu orders, but she never finishes it because she doesn't really like hot dogs. This time I ordered her chicken strips. She loved them.

They split a blue Mister Misty.

I had pretzel sticks and a mini Blizzard. #selfcare #healthychoices

But the restaurant was clean and quiet and the girls were reasonably well-behaved. Before dinner, Zuzu asked where the food was, and I said, "The food is here. It's just invisible." Then David and I both began to eat our "invisible" food and the girls cracked up laughing.

***

We weren't late to the vigil. I pulled the stroller out of the car and didn't notice that one of the wheels had fallen off of it in the car. It tipped over during the ceremony, nearly spilling Coco.

I'd brought a cozy blanket, expecting the girls to sit quietly in the stroller, hold their LED candles, listen to a short poem, a brief speech, and two songs. I thought they could handle it.

They could not handle it.

Zuzu wanted to run around, crunching gravel and tipping over mason jars with LED candles in them that lined the path.

Coco wanted to follow her.

The singer they had lined up for the program was unexpectedly hospitalized that day, so they played a song and the sound system didn't work well, and during all of this, Zuzu attempted to climb a tree and David had to pull her down.

I was aggravated because I wanted them there with me, and I wanted them to experience the vigil, but I also did not want them to upset or trigger anyone else who was there. I know how hard it is to see babies when your baby has died, and I just didn't want them to be distracting or upsetting.

***

After the vigil, we ditched the lame stroller up by the parking lot and walked to find Eliza's brick. It was dark and it had been a while since we were there, so we had to search a bit. Other families were doing the same, with our cell-phone flashlights, and a man overheard me tell Zuzu to look for Eliza's name. When his flashlight illuminated her brick, I heard his voice say, "Eliza? Eliza Taylor Duckworth? Were you looking for Eliza?"

I love when I hear her name, but it was especially sweet in this casual context, to hear a stranger say it in this ordinary way, and to know by virtue of his presence that he understood something of our loss.

I tried to take photos of the girls and their hands next to the brick, but it was dark and my flash didn't work and there were lots of other people looking for bricks, and Coco somehow understood my request to put her mittened hand next to Eliza's brick to mean that I wanted her in the downward dog position completely blocking the entire sidewalk and then Zuzu lost interest and wandered off to climb another tree.

***

It was a bit of a trainwreck, I suppose, but the kind of trainwreck I can welcome at this point. One imperfection after another, adding up to a night that wasn't so terrible, all things considered.

We showed up. We did our best. It wasn't perfect, but it never will be.

Perfection is an impossibility.

What I want is an impossibility.

Not for Eliza to live, but for Eliza to live and for everything else to be the same.

After seven years, the grief is more balanced. The missing is just as big. I'm missing a seven year old girl, and I also missed every sweet moment of those seven years. Moments that I thought were mine after I heard her heartbeat for the first time. I thought I'd get her newborn breath on my neck. I thought I'd get her small hand folded in mine. I thought I'd get a lifetime of laughter and tears and big ideas and small frustrations. And I got those things, but not with her.

That loss cannot diminish over time, even though the ache of it does subside a bit.

For me, for this life, what I have now is as close to perfect as it can get.

Sometimes that really hurts. That I miss out on so much, especially when other seem to take for granted what I will never get: all my kids here.

But sometimes it feels like what it also means. This life of mine, with all its messy imperfections, is as close to perfect as it can get.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco

Let the Adventure Begin!
Scene: Overheard while the girls were playing together.
Zuzu: Our magic treasure box was stolen out of our garden!
Coco: Mine or yours?
Zuzu: BOTH of ours. Yours and mine.
Coco: We HAVE to get it back!
Zuzu: And the way we get it back is... we become unicorns.



We Crack More Eggs Than Nuts Around Here
Scene: After school, Zuzu telling me about her day
Zuzu: Our teacher at school gave us all Christmas names. I'm Rudolph and Coco is Ginge--
Coco: NO DON'T SAY IT I WANT TO SAY IT. (bursts into tears, sobs)
Me: Coco, I didn't hear what Zuzu said. Could you tell me your Christmas name?
Coco: (snuffles, stops crying) Gingerbread. Gingerbread MAN.
Zuzu: And Gemma was Snowflake, and Sadie was Misty-Toe, and Harper was Egg-Cracker.
Me: You mean Nutcracker?
Zuzu: Oh, yes. Nutcracker.



Eat Your Vegetables
Scene: Sitting at kitchen table discussing future dinner menus.
Me: Okay, what about vegetables?
Zuzu: Broccoli!
Me: Good. What else? What about carrots?
Both: (Coco, always a half beat behind as she waits to see which way Zuzu is leaning.) Yes.
Me: Okay, do you like your carrots warm or cold?
Zuzu: Warm!
Coco: Cold!
Zuzu: Well, wait. I mean, medium.
Me: What?
Coco: Medium.
Zuzu: (nicely, but as though she's talking to a very dense person) Medium means just right.
Me: Um, okay. So room temperature. But do you like them soft or crunchy?
Zuzu: Crunchy!
Coco: Soft! I mean crunchy!
Me: Do you guys even like carrots?
Zuzu: Not really.



Happy Holidays
(scene: putting up Christmas decorations)
Zuzu: Mommy, are we going to celebrate Christmas this year, or Hanukkah?
Me: Uh, Christmas.
Zuzu: Why not Hanukkah?
Me: Because we're not Jewish? And also we don't have a menorah?
Zuzu: I think we can do both.



I Swear I'm Not Making This Up
Scene: In the kitchen before school, girls have gone outside to see the snowflakes
Coco: I found a battery outside!
Me: Okay, well bring it here. (She hands it to me). Oh, this isn't a battery. This is a screw.
Coco: Oh. It's a screw.
Zuzu: Daddy was probably screwing outside. He loves to screw! I want to be just like Daddy when I grow up.



My favorite one-liners from Zuzu:

Zuzu: (to Coco) Working together turns our problems to good.

Zuzu: Coco, want to kiss under the misty-toe?






Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Girl, 7.

Our church put up a tree with ornaments representing kids who need gifts this year. We were invited to select an ornament and bring back a gift with the same ornament attached.

I looked carefully before I selected a little pink gingerbread man. “Girl” was circled (in case the gendered color was insufficient indication), with "7" hastily scribbled next to it.

As it turns out, it's not easy to buy for a seven year old girl you’ve never met. They have pretty unique personalities, you know. What would she like? What would she be into? Does she like art or music or math? Would she prefer a puzzle or a doll? Is she quiet or noisy? Sporty or bookish? Some lovely combination of all these things?

(Of course, this kind of wondering is familiar to me. Same questions, different context.)

I didn’t want to overspend, but somehow it became very important that the gifts be perfect. The stakes felt high. I was reading gift guides and Amazon reviews and trying to decide what would best suit her, this seven-year-old girl I don't get to meet.

I finally chose a sparkly snowflake gemstone necklace and a small jewelry box to tuck it in. I added a paintable butterfly house because everyone like butterflies and paint, right? And then I included a book because books are my favorite and hopefully she likes to read.

At least with a bit of variety, I hope something in the gift bag strikes a chord with my little gift recipient. The truth is that I’m sure it means far more to me than it will to this kiddo. It's probably obvious that I bought for her like I was buying for a Duckworth girl. I don't know what all little girls like, but I know my own.

It was remarkable how much the process meant to me. How fun it was, how much I fussed over it. It was the same old shopping, but how different it felt to choose a book for 7- to 9-year-olds, a painting kit for ages 6+, a delicate necklace.

It was Big Kid Territory. I felt both out of place and like I should belong there--you know, just doing some shopping for a seven-year-old girl. It offered me a teensy glimpse of what might have been in my online shopping carts and paper shopping bags. There was nothing so different from what is already on my Christmas shopping list this year, and yet it was completely different. Because this girl is seven.

It was really just a tangible way to acknowledge the “what ifs” I can’t escape. It was fun. And it's a tiny piece of good I can put out in the world in memory of Eliza.

I miss her.

I miss what December would look like for us if she were here.

Whoever this little girl is, who gets this gift bag loaded with love and broken dreams, I hope she feels a bit of the love. And I hope somehow that Eliza feels it, too.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ordinary Weekend

After purging all my sad feelings on the blog on Friday, I managed to have a pretty ordinary weekend. I left work early on Friday. I returned a lip gloss to Sephora that was far too expensive and far too bright to be reasonable in my life and then I picked up the girls from school and we spent an hour at the library. The kids play area is fantastic, so I grabbed a stack of home decor magazines and found a comfy chair and we all enjoyed ourselves.

I worked on Christmas cards Friday night and watched an episode of Alias Grace on Netflix (OMG so good Margaret Atwood is my hero). Then we caught up on Survivor. It was so nice to have a night to do nothing.

Saturday morning David took over parenting duties, which really meant shuttling the girls around town from the track where Zuzu's kindergarten class met to run a mile (they're participating in Read, Right, Run), to Kumon, to gymnastics. David was grumbling that we shouldn't have tried to do this session of gymnastics because we're just too busy, but we also didn't know it was going to be 70 degrees in December and we thought the girls would need gymnastics to burn off some energy inside, and also Zuzu turned a real cartwheel and we were like, "Well, maybe they are getting something out of it."

I stayed at home grading papers, doing laundry, and finally putting stuff on the wall in Coco's room. I can't remember if I mentioned this, but I ordered her a duvet cover on sale for Black Friday, so once it arrives I'll post some pictures of her room. It is really looking cute.

I gave the girls an early bath on Saturday because they played out in the leaves and the forest all afternoon. The bathwater was murky by the time they got done, which was both disgusting and satisfying. We had a babysitter come on Saturday night so David and I could go to a concert (Colter Walls, which was actually really super good). We were supposed to stop by a friend's house for a drink ahead of time and I felt really conflicted because I wanted to celebrate her but I was just not in a place for being social. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of it, so I canceled at the last minute. It felt shitty, but I would have felt shitty if I'd gone too, and sometimes I have to choose the path of least resistance.

I wasn't hungry for dinner because I was sad and also I'd had a late lunch, but I really hadn't eaten that much all day and what happened was I drank two vodka cranberries at the concert, scarfed a grilled cheese and fries from Steak & Shake, fell asleep on the couch after insisting I wanted to watch an episode of Mindhunters, and then woke up with a raging headache. I wonder why?

Coco and I went to church on Sunday while David took Zuzu to a birthday party at the butterfly house and I felt that wave of angry sadness that I feel anytime a child celebrates a birthday in December because I want to be planning a December birthday party.

That afternoon, Coco and I started reading a stack of library books together but then she wanted to build with "magic tiles" so we built some towers and then she got bored with me and wandered off to play with some characters on her own. I read some of Roxane Gay's Hunger (which is way more intense than I expected) and then David and Zuzu got home and it was time for me to go to a meeting at church about a kids' program about their bodies and sexuality to see if we want Zuzu to participate. I was kind of surprised that the program starts for 5 and 6 year olds, but the info session was really good, so I think we're going to do it. It was a great surprise to discover that a social worker who is one of the facilitators is actually an acquaintance of mine whom I really like, so it was nice to see her and know she'll be working with the kids.

After that meeting I went home and tried to grade a few papers but I was also tired and had a headache (grief? vodka? who knows?) but then I had a massage scheduled, so yay for self-care.

I may have undone the massage by trying to do a "quick trip to Target" after, but I got what I needed and got home in time to have a slightly late dinner, snuggle the girls, and read for bedtime.

We read the book Owl Moon which is not new, but was new to me and absolutely lovely. It didn't hurt that there was a gorgeous full moon last night and we have a beautiful owl who lives in our neighborhood whom we often hear and occasionally see, so it was a sweet story to read out loud and talk about with the girls, and the writing is really lovely and lyrical and not annoying to read. (Whoever wrote the Princess Sofia Christmas story that we've also been reading a lot of could learn a thing or two from Owl Moon, I'm just saying.)

I didn't quite make it through all the loads of laundry, but I made it through the weekend and it definitely could have been worse. I got some lovely e-mails and a couple texts that made all the difference in the world over the weekend and even though I had bad dreams last night (car accidents and snakes falling from rafters!!!), I'm feeling the love and I really, really appreciate that. xoxo

Friday, December 1, 2017

This is What Grief Feels Like Now

It feels like forgetfulness. Every day I make a big cup of water that I take with me to work. It's a seamless part of my morning routine. Today I forgot. I didn't remember until I got to work and went to take it out of my cup holder. How odd. How predictable.

It feels like achy muscles. There's tension in my jaw and neck that I'm not fully conscious of.

It feels like tired. I resist going to bed at night. I don't want to lie awake and give grief an opportunity. I'm not willing to open myself up to it. I have too much to do. I crave distraction. I find it in the form of addressing Christmas cards with elaborate designs that occupy my hands and keep my brain focused on something else. I find it in reading--books about obesity, immigration, Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Anything but something that might bring me back to myself. I find it in a cross stitch project. One x after another in neat little lines. I find it in television. Netflix into the wee hours. The dark shadows under my eyes are alarming evidence of this. Being tired makes everything so much worse. Of course, you understand, that's the point. It's supposed to hurt. This is grief.

It feels like wistfulness. Like counting years and months and I'm too old to have another baby. But am I too old to have another baby? I'm not sure I want one, but I definitely want one.

It feels like guilt. Zuzu asked me last night where Eliza was buried and I couldn't answer her. At the time, I couldn't bury her. Letting her ashes go, imagining here in the Everywhere felt like a reasonable alternative to the unthinkable sadness of a tiny, baby-sized grave. How could I put my baby in the ground? How could I choose a stone to commemorate my child? We didn't want to be those poor, pitiful people who visit a child's grave. And now, seven years later, I hate myself. I think, how could I not have done that? How could I have let her go out into the everywhere when she was the thing I wanted to keep more than anything else in this world? We didn't want to be those poor, pitiful people who have a dead baby, but not burying her didn't fix that. How can I have no answer when her sister asks me that simple question? What kind of mother can't keep track of where her baby girl is? This is the question I come back to when my grief doesn't hurt bad enough. It is my greatest regret as her mother.

It feels like stress. My strategies for coping with the ordinary stresses of life falter and fail me. Ordinary work place issues--stacks of ungraded papers, questions about spring schedules, committee concerns--suddenly become heavy weights in the pit of my stomach. A phone call that is friendly and cordial but delivers news that I wasn't hoping to get about university policies leaves me blinking back tears. Someone has a question for me that I'm perfectly capable of answering and instead I feel frantic and short of breath.

It feels like dread. This is a month with much to look forward to and I'm not feeling any of the anticipation.

It feels like faking it. I hope I'm doing this. I hope I look like a reasonable professional. I hope I look like a happy mom. I hope that Zuzu can't quite tell how hard I'm faking it when I gush about her art work while wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and pull the covers up over my head and then read something on my phone until my eyes close.

I want to be distant and quiet and still. I want to snuggle my kids and breathe in the smell of their heads. I want to be alone so I can scream and rage.

I need a nap. A massage. A cup of tea. A flickering fireplace and a warm puppy. I want to go to bed and wake up on December 7th.

I lay in bed this morning instead of getting up to do yoga stretches. As I lay there, I tried to decide whether I was staying in bed because I'm so damn tired, or whether this is part of the way I punish myself for failing Eliza. I want my body to hurt. I need to feel achy and hungry and tired.

Because this is what grief feels like, and sometimes I don't know if it has hold of me, or if I'm the one who won't let go. It's both, I think.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Here We Are

Earlier this week, I took Zuzu to a reading by the children's author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers. He's doing a tour for his new book, Here We Are, which he wrote for his baby son and really makes the perfect baby gift. 


I fell in love with his work when my friend K gave Zuzu a copy of The Heart and the Bottle in memory of Eliza a few years ago in December. I wrote about it here.

Since then, we've collected and gifted several Oliver Jeffers books, so I was excited to take Zuzu to see him, although I for some reason I only brought along The Heart and the Bottle for him to sign instead of bringing our full collection (I'm still kicking myself about that--I love The Incredible Book Eating Boy and A Child of Books may be my second favorite and I'd love to have our copies signed!). I tried to make up for it by purchasing a few more books--Zuzu got to choose one for herself (she chose The Day the Crayons Quit) and we picked up a copy of Here We Are for my niece and one for Coco (it's seriously so cute) and Zuzu chose Lost and Found to donate to her school.

I didn't think Coco was old enough to appreciate the event (good call on my part) so she stayed home with D. Zuzu and I ate a quick dinner and drove out to the library.

My friend K had saved us seats, but the children were invited to go down to the front and sit on the floor so they could see. Jeffers used an ipad to draw and illustrate as he talked, and it was funny. (A highlight for Zuzu was when he had a little girl stand up very still so he could draw her portrait and then he drew a reindeer.)

We'd never been to this place before and K's kids weren't there, so Zuzu didn't know any of the other children. She became shy and said she didn't want to leave my lap to go sit on the floor with the other kids. Another woman I've become friends with more recently was there and she asked Zuzu if she wanted to sit with her daughter.

Zuzu agreed, and I watched from my seat as a little girl (whose name happens to begin with E) took Zuzu under her wing.

My big brave kindergarten girl, who will speak confidently and assertively with virtually any adult, who will fearlessly dive backwards off a diving board, who leads, coaches, and bosses her little sister, just needed a buddy to sit next to in a crowd of unfamiliar faces. She settled right in next to this little friend and giggled her way through the reading.

It made me realize that I see Zuzu so often in her comfort zones of home and school, that I forget that she has moments of feeling bashful and uncertain, and I really appreciated this other little girl being so kind and making Zuzu feel comfortable.

After the reading, we were in line for the book signing and we talked with this little girl and her mom. The girl asked Zuzu how old she is. "Five!" Zuzu answered, "I'm in kindergarten."

The girl told us that her brother is also five, and then I asked how old she is.

Looking at her, with her sweet round face and those big-kid teeth she hasn't grown into yet, I think I was anticipating her answer, but somehow it still made me catch my breath.

"Seven."

Seven years old.

Seven years.

We're doing okay these days, but you know what I think my five-year-old needs sometimes?

A seven-year-old sister.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas Shopping

I've been doing some Christmas shopping and I have quite a bit crossed off my list already. I do a lot of it online, but I also had a nice surprise when I'd left work for a dentist appointment and planned to return for a meeting but the meeting was canceled at the last minute so I had some free time and I popped into a local bookstore and picked up a couple more things.

I'm wanting to strike a balance for the girls. I don't want to get them a bunch of crap. They need nothing and they have so many toys. But at the same time, I want the thrill of Christmas morning and that sense of abundance that I remember from when I was a kid. I don't want to buy a bunch of cheap crap and I need to stay within a reasonable budget. 

I've tried to stick with the "something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read" plan. I always want to give multiple books, but you can't have too many books, right?

What Zuzu says she wants this year is everything Shimmer and Shine. I will save my thoughts on Shimmer and Shine for another time, but suffice it to say that their appeal is somewhat lost on me. I actually prefer Anna and Elsa. But seriously Zuzu's Christmas list goes something like:

Shimmer and Shine dolls on magic carpet (already has this, so she amended to say "with Leah and the pets")
Shimmer and Shine makeover (wtf, no)
Shimmer and Shine pajamas
Shimmer and Shine umbrella
Shimmer and Shine socks
Shimmer and Shine tent

FFS.

So the big give this year to meet the WANT is a Shimmer and Shine dress up costume for each of the girls. I haven't decided if it will be from us or Santa. Stocking stuffers also include Shimmer and Shine bandaids and Shimmer and Shine toothbrushes.

Each one is getting a mermaid sequin pillow and a puzzle from Santa, as well as a big set of lego blocks. 

They really "need" nothing--or what they need, they need before Christmas (like dress shoes for Zuzu) so I'm giving Zuzu art supplies (pastel crayons and art paper) and giving Coco a baby doll diaper bag with supplies tucked inside it.

Coco's Christmas list was made while looking at the American Girl catalog (dangerous!) and consisted of baby doll accessories:

baby doll high chair (she has this)
baby doll car seat (she got this for her birthday)
baby doll cradle (has two of these)
baby doll food and diaper bag (okay, fine.)

Also they don't really need anything to wear... They are still flush with lovely hand me downs and I can't stop won't stop with adorable secondhand clothes that are so affordable. But they are getting a set of Shimmer and Shine pajamas

The pajamas are size 6, so they will be laughable on Coco, but whatevs. 

Another stocking stuffer I'm excited about are these rainbow dance ribbons. I think they will be a big hit.

Oh, and I picked up the sweetest fairy dolls at Plowsharing Crafts (I don't think they are available online). I'm going to have them popping out the top of each stocking. They have a pocket for the toothfairy, but are really just the cutest.

So... is that it? I mean, I feel like that's enough. But then my friend Molly sent me the link to this darling fairy play set and now I want to get it for Coco. Also I was going to get Zuzu a potholder loom like this one but now I'm thinking she has enough stuff, so I don't know. Coco was so sweet the way she fell in love with an Elsa baby doll at Target, that I almost caved and bought it for her, but I'm not sure about that, either. 

So, for sure dress-up costumes, pajamas, art supplies, a pretend diaper bag, sequined pillows, and some stocking stuffers, plus at couple of books. As far as books go, each girl is getting one from Santa and one from us. I just have to narrow down the finalists. I'm taking Zuzu to see Oliver Jeffers at the library tonight, so I expect we'll be going home with a copy of Here We Are (so maybe I won't count that since it's early...) and I also want to get She Persisted and This Is How We Do It  and I think this I Spy book looks like a great way to talk about art.

I wish there were a holiday where you had to give everybody just books. Library Day! Celebration of Books! Literacy Party Day! My kids like books a lot, but I think they probably expect to get something besides just books for Christmas...

So that's what is on our shopping list this year. The girls also each get to buy for each other, so that should be interesting. I think I'm going to steer Coco toward a Lego set for Zuzu and maybe I'll try to steer Zuzu toward that baby Elsa for Coco...

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Fancy Fine Dining

Well, after pulling the trigger on the dining room light, the day of reckoning came over the weekend when the new light showed up and David and my dad installed it.

I was nervous it was too big, then that it was too fancy. Then I remembered that it's a chandelier. It CAN'T be too big or too fancy.

I think it was the right choice.

Honestly, I think any of my three favorites would have looked good in here, and many others I'm sure. (I went to Lowes today and deliberately avoided the lighting aisle because it's a little bit like wedding dress shopping... once you've made a decision, you need to STOP LOOKING.)

And I really love it.



(I'm assuming my readers come here for the information rather than the flawless photography...)



Of course David didn't take a before pic before taking down the old light, so here's an awkwardly cropped picture of it:


You can see it's way smaller and very iron-scrolly. Zuzu still thought it was "more castle-like" than the new one. Well, you can't please everyone.

New light, alternative view:


Now I need curtains... Possibly (probably) a new wall color.... But we're moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Conversation in the Library

Zuzu and I went to the library after school today. Coco was home sick with David, so Zuzu and I made a quick stop to do her Kumon homework and play on a library computer (don't think about the germs).

Zuzu is generally very willing to chat with random adults. This is both endearing and slightly concerning. I'm pretty sure she's an oversharer at school and there is probably nothing her teachers don't know about our home life! But it is sweet to hear her confidently assert herself in these conversations with adults.

Anyway, today she was wearing her favorite winter holiday dress, plus a "Native American headband" made out of construction paper with a construction paper feather on it. A woman came up to her at the library to compliment her on her [somewhat problematic simplification of Native American traditions now codified by white culture and worn by a little white girl] headband and Zuzu immediately struck up a conversation with her. I said almost nothing in the exchange and then tried to type it into the notes on my phone as quickly as possible so I wouldn't forget it. Here is the close-to-verbatim script:

Lady at the Library: Did you make that headband?
Zuzu: We made it to be like the Native Americans at our feast.
Lady: Oh, that's nice. You had a feast?
Zuzu: (cheerfully) The Native Americans brought food to the pilgrims.
Lady: Yes they did!
Zuzu: (ominously) But then some of the pilgrims killed some of the Native Americans.
Lady: Mm-hmm. Did you eat turkey?
Zuzu: (enthusiastically) Well, I mostly ate cornbread. And there was soup and a different kind of turkey. Pink turkey. But I don't like soup.
Lady: Well, maybe when you're bigger you'll like soup.
Zuzu: (defensively) Well, I'm in kindergarten.
Lady: Oh, you're in kindergarten?
Zuzu: (still defensive) So I'm already big.
Me: She means when you're a grown-up.
Zuzu: (understanding) Oh, sometimes grown-ups like food they didn't like when they were kids.
Lady: That's right. What's your name?
Zuzu: Caroline. And my sister who's sick today is Coco.
Lady: Those are nice names! I have three daughters and two granddaughters and a grandson. My grandson is in first grade.
Zuzu: (not to be outdone) Well, there used to be three of us. But my first sister Eliza died.
Lady: Oh, that's sad.
Zuzu: She died when she was a baby. I wasn't born yet.
Lady: Oh, that is sad. But she's with Jesus. And when your mama gets to heaven, Jesus is going to hand her her baby.
Zuzu: (looks at me doubtfully, back at the lady). Well, Eliza is six. She isn't a baby.
Me: (awkwardly) Yes, she would be six. It's hard to know what it will be like in heaven.
(Lady's phone ring and I attribute it to Divine Intervention)
Me: (relieved) Nice talking to you!
Zuzu: (waves) Nice talking to you!
Lady: Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

The moral of this story is don't strike up a conversation with a five year old unless you want them to tell it like it is.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Ermehgerd, You Guys

So after my pouty fit about anonymous comments criticizing my personal decisions, I disallowed anonymous comments and I changed my settings so I had to approve all comments before they were published.

Because I am a special snowflake with very thin skin, evidently.

So I changed my comment settings because I'LL SHOW YOU, ANONYMOUS MEANIE, and I thought google would e-mail me when I had a comment to approve, because I'd done that system once before.

But I never got any e-mails from google.

So I had NO IDEA that there were any comments. Seriously. I just thought people were busy and no one comments on blogs anymore. I seriously thought there was actually NO WAY to improve my dya and NO ONE wanted to give blog topic suggestions and NO ONE wanted to weigh in on my dining room light. I finally figured it out today when one of my friends was like, "Hey, it's hard for me to comment on your blog now, what gives?" so I went back in to mess with settings and then HOLY CRAP I had all these comments!

tl;dr I'm an idiot and thank you so much for your encouraging and super nice comments. You guys rock and I remember why I like blogging. (And not JUST because I want people to say nice things to me. Because it's such a nice way to connect with people and sometimes even get constructive and thoughtful feedback!)

Also: A Major Update on Situation Dining Room Light, Part Deux

After looking at everyone's comments on the blog and looking again at the lights, I decided that my favorite light IS the weird foresty fancy one. I am not saying it's everyone's taste or style (I'm quite sure Anonymous hates it) but dude, I like it. It's a little unexpected in my big, square house but at the same time I feel like it's right. I feel like either of the other lights would have looked cute, but there's something whimsical about the first one, and, dammit, I guess I'm wanting a little whimsy in the dining room!

So after thinking all this over, I clicked back over to Wayfair to order it.

It was actually sitting in my cart, waiting for me.

But something was off.

The price in the cart was the same. The subtotal was different... Dramatically different. Like doubled.

I checked the quantity to make sure I wasn't accidentally ordering two fancy whimsical lights, but no...

I clicked the link.

And I'll be damned if the price hadn't gone up. Like, way up.

Full disclosure: It was $263 when I put it in my cart. In my world, that is expensive but not completely unreasonable for a light. I know there are lights that cost way more (one time when I was looking for a dining room chandelier at the old house, I found the perfect one on Pinterest and then clicked the link and it was $30,000. Yes. For zeroes. Are you effing kidding me.) but $250 is basically my limit. Which is probably part of the reason I hadn't made a decision... $263 was just a little more than I really wanted to spend.

But now my light that had been a little pricy at $263 was $618.

IKR?

Wayfair has this disclaimer on their website that says something like prices change and putting something in your cart doesn't save your price.

But I called them anyway.

As uncertain as I had been about the dining room light, the moment it was completely out of my price range was the moment I decided I had to have it.

Anyway, I talked to a strange but nice man who checked the three sites that are all run by Wayfair--Birch Lane and Joss & Main (I guess it's sort of a Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy situation, except as far as I can tell they all carry the exact same merchandise, so I'm not sure how/why they have three stores #marketingmajor #skippedallmybusinessclasses #terriblelifechoices #literature4eva).

Anyway, the guy was super Eeyore about it and didn't want to get my hopes up. Birch Lane had listed it for $265 but now it was $618 there as well ("original retail price" was supposedly $900 and something). Womp-womp.

But then he said, "So, do you want this light?"

And I said, breathlessly, "I want it if it's $263."

And he said, "Hmmm. Hang on."

I literally held my breath.

It turns out that for some reason (possibly an error?) it was still listed at Joss and Main for that price. He wasn't sure why that happened because he said they usually adjust all the prices at the same time. He was half convinced that by the time he clicked through to the final screen to check me out that the price would change and he told me not to get my hopes up.

So the fancy, whimsical, dust-collecting chandelier is heading my way. It will be here on Friday.

(Seriously, though, Hidalgo, I'm pretty sure I can just feather dust it when I notice cobwebs.)

Would I have ordered it today if I weren't afraid that it was out of reach forever? I really don't know. But I'm glad to have the decision made. And I hope I don't hate it in person.

And of course it's scheduled to show up the day after I host Thanksgiving.

P.S. A friendly commenter asked me for a link to the second chandelier, and as far as I can tell the internet has eaten it. I can't find a link. I can't find it at all! I took a screen shot of it on my phone, but it doesn't give me the website! I'm sorry and this is the eleventy billionth reason why I'm not a home and lifestyle blogger. I can't keep myself organized. I was going to go back and look at it today, and I can't remember what website it was even from. There aren't that many. It's not PB. It's not Shades of LIght. I thought it was Wayfair, but I couldn't find it, so now I don't know! This one is similar, but I don't think it's the exact same. In my search, though, I came across this one and now I'm having some second thoughts about the one I ordered... (just kidding).

Holiday Hosting

It's so secret that we have had some not-so-merry holidays over the past several years. I've learned to make time and space for the grief and sadness that come with the season of sparkling lights. I try to plan ahead and get as much done in advance of the holiday season as I can. 

It has been a relief to find that the holidays feel lighter and happier in recent years, and this year I shocked myself by agreeing to host the holiday staff party for David's new school. 

The tradition is that everyone bring an appetizer, so we're sticking with finger foods, wine and beer, maybe a festive mixed drink we can do ahead of time. It's adults-only, so we'll hire a babysitter to do her best to keep our kids upstairs and get them to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. 

I wanted to do something special for invitations, but paper seemed impractical since it's a long guest list, plus we're already sending out traditional Christmas cards. So for the party, I'm using Paperless Post invitations. I'm probably overthinking it, but I felt like it was important to set the right tone... 

I want it to be festive, cheery, and casual. I don't want to imply this is some kind of glamourous gala and then be like, "Oh, hi, welcome to our house, hang on let me dim the lights so you don't notice that carpet stain." I'm hoping that it's an opportunity for me to get to know some of the teachers that David works with on a daily basis, and to show our appreciation for all they do for the students.

Anyway, Paperless Post has lots of super cute designs, and I think I chose one that sets the right tone. I was worried it was a little boozy for a work party, but David assured me it was fine (ha!).  I don't want to link the exact design here because I want it to be a surprise, but here are a few of the top contenders:

Reindeer Cocktails

Jingle & Mingle

Holiday Party

Honestly, there were so many cute ones I had to ask David for his input because I felt like I couldn't decide! I'll be sending them out this week.

We'll be keeping the foods simple (mini-sandwiches, veggie trays, a couple of dips, some chex mix, and cookies and bars, plus whatever else people bring to share), and we're sticking with paper plates and napkins, so clean up should be pretty easy. I'm planning to set up lots of luminaries outside, plenty of twinkle lights inside, and hopefully find a not-too-cheesy holiday playlist to stream. I've always been a fan of Christmas decorations, and I just might use this as an excuse to get a few more things. After all, we're in a new house this year!

I keep thinking that we have it under control, but then I start freaking out about details or things I might be overlooking. I've never hosted an event with this many people, and I don't want to screw something up. Any bits of practical advice?


Saturday, November 18, 2017

By the Brooke's Very Specific Gift Guide

For the most adorable baby feminist in your life:



Crawl, Walk, Smash the Patriarchy onesie


For that friend of yours who belongs to two or more book clubs:


Ladies of Literature Calendar


For your guy friend whose favorite book is unapologetically The Catcher in the Rye:
Holden Caulfield Thinks You're a Phony Hat


For your unicorn-loving kindergartener to add a little sparkle to her wool winter coat:



Unicorn Brooch

For your preschooler whose belief in magic makes your heart happy:


A fairy door in her favorite color.


For your baseball loving cheeseball of a husband:


Santa's Hitting Sweater


For your cousin who ain't skeered of a statement earring:


Tassel Earrings that say, "I'm the fun one in the family!"


For your neighborhood gift exchange:


A candle with a little bling.


For your friend who likes a little bubbly in her oj and a little sparkle on her couch:


A sequin pillow!

For the friend who had to be brave this year, for whatever reason:


A keychain that reminds her of the choice we try to make every day.

For your friend who is rising to the top of her profession:
A zipper pouch that tells the world not to eff with her.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Dining Room Light, Part Deux

The other day, Zuzu remarked that the light in the dining room looks like it belongs in a castle.

She's kind of right... the light that is up there now is a five-light chandelier in oil-rubbed bronze. It isn't fancy, but at the same time it's weirdly heavy and twisty.

You already know I'm not a fan of it, right?

At our old house, it took me forever to replace light fixtures. I had trouble making a decision that felt so permanent, and I was nervous about locking in to a particular style or look. And it is a bit of an investment, so I didn't want to get it wrong. I ended up loving the light fixture we got for the dining room, but it took me forever to replace it (and we moved just one year later... sad!).

Anyway, new house, same story.

I want to replace the dining room light, but I'm just not quite sure what I want. This is the "formal" dining room, which just means we eat in there if more than four of us are at our house for dinner, or if we're sitting down for a "special" meal, maybe on Sunday evenings.

I guess the overall look in this house is (the heavily done) modern farmhouse. Most fixtures and door knobs are oil-rubbed bronze, but I'm not opposed to mixing metals. I'm trying to figure out what kind of light will work best in the dining room.

Here are three options I like. I'm not (yet?) sold on any of them, so I'm Asking The Internetz. What do you like? I know it's hard to say since I'm not including a picture of the room, but I want to repaint anyway, so the paint color doesn't matter. It currently has natural wood trim, wood floors, and gray/green walls with a chair rail. The table and buffet are dark and kinda rustic (the furniture store called them "French provincial," for whatever that's worth). There's a big window that overlooks the "forest" of trees outside, and no window treatments yet. So it's basically a blank slate. It has a door that leads to the sage green kitchen with cream colored cabinets, and it is open to the foyer, which has blue walls and the stair way that has beige walls and light colored beige carpet, with natural wood trim and creamy white spindles in the stair railing.

So where do I take the light...???

This is perhaps the most controversial of the three. It's kind of ornate, but you know I like shiny things. I also like the connection to leaves/twigs since the big window opens to the trees outside. It doesn't look like something that you see in everyone's house, but maybe that's because it's totally weird? Still, I'm a little weird and there's something about it that really appeals to me. I think there's part of me that just likes how fancy it is, and how it's both traditional and unexpected.


Okay, I'm into the wood-bead chandeliers, and I like that this one doesn't look too heavy but still is good sized and has a bunch of lights. I don't know if it's too many wood tones in the room? The beads look lighter than our floor or trim, and much lighter than the table and chairs. Is that too much?


I really like this one, too. It also seems kind of unexpected to me, and it has that rustic feel without being all the way into mason-jar territory (which I'm not slamming--I think that can be cute, it's just not quite what I want in the dining room). I don't know about the rectangular base/top/whatever of this. It is definitely less formal than the other two options, which is fine, but means not using a ceiling medallion, and I'm weirdly fond of a ceiling medallion.

You can see why I'm struggling with this decision. These are all totally different concepts for the dining room, and I just don't know which direction I want to go, although I like all of them! I'd hoped to figure this out before Thanksgiving, but that's not happening.

So what would you do? Which light would you like for my house? Please read my mind and predict which one I'll be most satisfied with for years to come, okay?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Oh, hai.

Remember me? I just flunked out of NaNoBloMo. Holy moly the past few days have been so busy and I just can't bring myself to blog on my stupid phone much. Maybe if I had a better app that didn't keep crashing and shutting down on me. Which might happen if I were willing to pay for an app. What is it about spending $1.99 that feels offensive to me?

Anyway, here's what happened when I dropped off the face of the blog:

I drove my kids to my parents' house by myself in a sort of caravan with my brother and SIL and their baby.

The girls were pretty good travelers, but not as good as they were when they were still nonverbal.

My brother's baby never warmed up to me, and basically cried if I tried to hold or feed her. SAD! One of these days I will buy my way into being her favorite. #goals

Zuzu and Coco were able to attend Prince Charming's Ball at the high school, where they did crafts and a cake dance and watched a performance and went on a carriage ride (read: a wagon being pulled by a four-wheeler). My mom said that Zuzu probably enjoyed herself the most out of all attendees. She's still talking about it.

I'm trying to be an adult and do yoga in the morning before work and it is a great thing when I can do it. Yesterday I overslept; today I got up and did it. Guess which day I was in a better mood?

I hosted a girls night on Tuesday which just meant I had friends from college over and we ate Chinese food and talked nonstop for three hours. I wore pajamas. It was fantastic.

I went to a reading group on Wednesday where we talked politics and finished reading a book that nobody really liked.

I was supposed to go to a meeting tonight, but David has parent teacher conferences and somehow we did not communicate clearly about this. I'm sad to miss the meeting, but I'm also kind of looking forward to an evening at home with the girls, since I haven't really seen them the past two nights. My big plan is to do laundry, since I didn't do it over the weekend. Sometimes I think I should be one of those people who does a load of laundry every day, but so far it works better for me just to binge it on Saturdays. I don't mind doing laundry, but I can't keep up with the putting it away if I try to do it daily. Am I the only person who has one laundry day?

Tomorrow night I have my other book club, which I'm looking forward to. I'm hosting, which means I need to get some wine and tortilla chips.

Work has been nuts (grading... all the grading...) and I've been stressing out big time about some spring schedule snafus. A couple of professors in other departments have helped me out, so things are looking somewhat better now, but I was really sweating it there for a bit.

I wish I were popping back in with something revolutionary here, but the fact is that life is busy and not super interesting. Should you have specific blog topics that you'd like me to cover, I'm totally willing to entertain them slash desperate for writing prompts to get me through the rest of the month!




Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grammar Peeve

Even though I’m technically an English professor, I don’t get too worked up about grammar. I swear I don’t proofread emails people send me, and I’m prone to make my own typos and errors on the regular. I know grammar rules are arbitrary and indicative of power structures in our society that can be oppressive. I really don’t get hung up on them.

The little one that irks me is one I see ALL THE TIME from bloggers who are otherwise perfect in their proofreading. It seems to slip by everyone... but it drives me a little crazy when people who are professional bloggers screw it up. (We nonprofessional bloggers can do whatever the hell we want and get away with it.) These folks would never let a there/their/they’re error get past them, and yet this one slips right by.

It’s the its/it’s screw up. And autocorrect is no help here.

Quick recap: its without an apostrophe is a possessive. It is like his or hers. It is often used when describing a garment, so perhaps that’s why I notice this with fashion blogs a lot. “This sweater is great! It’s sleeves have an adorable bow at the cuff.” Or whatever. “I love this bag. It’s handles are the perfect length.” Noooooo! The sweater? Its sleeves have the bow. This bag? Its handles are perfect.

It’s (with the apostrophe) is a contraction for it is. The apostrophe does NOT make its possessive, just as you wouldn’t use an apostrophe in his, hers, or your. It’s a great day to blog about grammar! It’s a sure way to alienate and annoy your readers!

Your welcome.

I mean, you’re welcome.

Blogging is hard!

When you work all day, then load up your kids and drive across the state. We are having a fun visit with my brother and SIL and my baby niece, but D isn’t with us and there isn’t a lot of time for blogging.

Here is this, which made me weepy:

https://www.pgeveryday.com/tag/loveoverbias?utm_source=PG-GF-ALL-ALL-OtherReg-Olympics2018--&utm_medium=offline&utm_campaign=Olympics1718&utm_content=vanityurl


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thanksgiving Make Up / Wake Up

A friend of mine posted this video on her Facebook today. It’s funny and interesting, but I wondered if it was being serious about white women posting “native inspired” make up tutorials.


It’s totally a thing!

Of course, white people have been appropriating other cultures for ages, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. 

Anyway, I shared this on FB, but I found it to be a helpful resource. If you’re looking for ideas about talking about Thanksgiving with kids—especially if you want to offer a narrative more accurate than most of us learned in school—these books could be a great place to start.



We have the book Thunder Boy, Jr. and my kids love it. Now I need to go put in some library requests...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Some Things I Want to tell My Friends

I've been talking about Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips on FB and in real life since I read it a few weeks ago. I read it in one sitting, staying up half the night to finish it. I know I skimmed parts of it--I was gulping down paragraphs without chewing them because I had to find out what happened. My heart was racing even after I finished it, and then I went and snuggled my sleeping children because OMG it is terrifying to contemplate the scenario she lays out in the book, and it does not feel all that improbable, either. Also, after you finish the book, google the author's blog and read what she says about the conclusion. It made me like the book more.

***

My mom gave me a silk pillowcase for my birthday and it is ah-mazing. It makes unwashed hair look at least 50% better the next day. I am not overstating this. I have dramatically decreased the frequency of shampoos around here. There is nothing I can't accomplish with dry shampoo (it's true that this is the best, but the price is steep, so I also use this kind) and a silk pillowcase. It's also supposed to be good about preventing wrinkles, but I'm not sure about that. I can vouch for dirty hair looking better, though!

***

I mentioned Kumon in my last post. Zuzu has been doing Kumon for a while now. We started in the summer. I wrote a long post about it a while back, but then I hesitated to post it because I didn't have the emotional fortitude to withstand criticism about parenting, and it's one of those parenting decisions that I question. (Also, if you didn't know, people on the internets will sometimes be unkind, believe it or not). The short of it is that she doesn't have any homework at her Montessori school, and we make her sit down and do 5 pages of Kumon a day. She does not like it. IShe can easily complete five pages in about 15-20 minutes, and that's with PLENTY of fiddle-farting around. I second guess myself constantly, but I want her to have a solid background in mathematics and I want her to be really confident about it; however, I don't want to fight with my kid every day. I want her to enjoy school/learning. So I question whether it conflicts with my larger philosophy of education, but I also see how much she is improving even though she complains about it. Now that we're doing a lot of it in the car, it's actually going much better.

***

After five people in my life recommended the podcast Dirty John to me, I started listening this morning. So far I find it riveting! I'm still only about 30 minutes into the first 47 minute episode, so I don't really know what's going on, but I'm looking forward to listening on my drive home.

On the other hand, I randomly listened to a few episodes of "Murder on Orchard Street" and I don't like it nearly as much. Maybe it's because the episodes are shorter--like 12-15 minutes? I find the unsolved murder frustrating (as I do any and all unsolved murders, I suppose), but I don't find the story line all that compelling.

***

We had family photos taken a couple of weeks ago and I just saw them today. There are some super cute ones of the girls. David and Zuzu both have a blinking problem that makes family photos difficult, but there are at least a couple that might work for Christmas cards. Unfortunately, in the one good group shot that includes my parents, I look about 24 weeks pregnant, which I MOST ASSUREDLY AM NOT, so that photo will never, ever get printed. But there are ones of the girls throwing leaves that are absolutely charming and adorable.

Other bummers: I wanted fall pictures so I scheduled them for what is traditionally the prettiest weekend in the fall--the third weekend in October. But fall colors didn't happen this year until the first weekend in November. So the leaves are either green or brown in the photos, and it was hot so the girls are bare-legged, which is not that cute, and you can't even see Zuzu's little ankle booties in the pics and they were really cute. So those are my general complaints, but nothing the photographer could really control. I probably should have had the girls put on tights, but Coco had just hacked off her hair and I was sweaty in a dress and a scarf, and they definitely capture a particular moment in time! (The moment when I realized I either need to stand differently, never wear that dress again, or enroll in Pilates classes, stat. Possibly all three.)

Upside: Most of them are cute, and I'm still glad to have these, especially the ones of the kids and the ones of the kids with their grandparents. Too bad my dress is supremely unflattering in the group shot, and no I will not be posting it, no matter how much you beg or what you promise me because my vanity cannot take it.

***

I got a flu shot on Monday and I treated myself to a Pure Life black iced tea afterward. I felt very adult even though I went with a coworker and made him hold my hand when I was getting my shot and I'm sure he felt totally awkward, but needles, man. I have a hard time.

***

Ok, I've gots to hit publish on this and go. Zuzu will want to make some crafts, and I'm going to a book club tonight.

And I still have 36 exams and 14 papers to grade. But those will wait another day!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tuesday with Coco

I stayed home today with Coco Puff. She's feeling better, but still in recovery mode. She slept for a huge chunk of the day. An hour of it was on top of me; then I moved her over on the couch and she slept for three more hours. I couldn't believe it, but on the other hand she hasn't had a good night's sleep since Thursday, so I guess it's catching up with her.

I love how she still looks like a baby here.


I painted her fingernails and toenails. The girls always ask me to do this, but I rarely do because they never stay still long so it gets smeared on stuff and then they get crabby about their messed up nails and I get crabby about nail polish on various textiles. Also, Zuzu chews her fingernails, so I don't want to put polish on them.

But Coco was a sick baby and she was barely moving anyway, so when she asked me if I would paint her nails, I obliged.


This morning, David had to be at work early, so Coco and I drove Zuzu to school to drop her off. Her director kind of met us at the door so I didn't have to get Coco out of the car, but as we drove away, Coco started crying that she wanted to go to school. (She really knows how to make me feel good.) As we talked about why she wanted to be at school, she finally explained through tears that she wanted to show her painted fingernails to her friend Evelyn.

By the time we picked up Zuzu, Coco had really perked up (a four hour nap will do that for you), and she went in with me. Evelyn was still there, and she greeted Coco excitedly. Coco walked up to her, stone cold, and just held up her hands silently so Evelyn could see her fingernails.

After some serious resistance to Kumon math worksheets, Zuzu and I have hit a groove where I give her more choice about when she does Kumon and she does a lot of it in the car. Yesterday, she did a couple of worksheets in the car and three more at the library. We're exploring new libraries now that we don't have our precious neighborhood branch just blocks away. So when we walked in, she said, "Mom, before I do Kumon, can we just explore a little bit so I feel comfortable?"

We explored, she chose to do Kumon on a train. Where she also, inexplicably, morphed into a big kid. Seriously, this picture kind of takes my breath away.


Zuzu is on a major crafting kick, which is adorable except that she gets really pissed when things don't turn out just the way she wanted. For example, she wanted to make paper wrist bands but she wanted them to be tight on her wrists and yet removable over her hands. (Uhhhh...) We did manage to make a rainbow cloud and a Rudolph the red nose reindeer hat, but she was ready to keep going. "Can we paint now, Mom?"

Um, no. Not at 6:30pm on a weeknight the week of daylight savings when your sister has been sick. We cannot.

They were both blessedly asleep by 7:30pm so now it is time for Stranger Things.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Canceling the Negativity

Ugh. I had a bad e-mail morning.

I got an ugly blog comment. Not personally nasty, just rude. Anonymous, of course, because people are like that and as awesome as the internet it is, it will also be more than happy to kick you while you're down. My policy for blog comments is that anything that pisses me off must be FAKE NEWS, which works just fine since I'm not the leader of the free world.

Honestly, I don't care if people out in the world who obviously aren't my friends and who clearly don't care about my feelings agree or disagree with my parenting or decorating decisions. No one else gets to live in my house or raise my kids. I definitely wouldn't make the same choices as a lot of people whom I follow on social media or blogs. I just expect that we aren't dicks about it.

Trust me, it's possible to very politely disagree with someone or make a polite suggestion in the form of constructive criticism. It's also possible to just not make a comment at all. And I know that negativity is a reflection of that person's life, but it's awfully easy to spread ugliness, I guess.

Anyway, I deleted the comment, but it nags, you know? And maybe I'm not supposed to say that or address it on the blog? Because then I'm admitting that it worked and the commenter got what they wanted?

But I'm just being honest. It hurt my feelings and it made me not want to blog.

Also I had a frustrating e-mail from a student in my inbox.

And a zillion other e-mails to sort through (60 to be exact).

And I think the reason e-mail is bothering me is because I'm tired. Coco isn't sleeping well, which means no one is sleeping well. Just looking at her, the way she's holding her little mouth, the slightly weird set of her jaw, like she's trying to hold so still and swallow just right to make it hurt as little as possible--you can just see that her mouth still hurts so bad.

So today I'm feeling tired, but I woke up at 6:15am because my body thought it was 7:15am and for the first time in my life, instead of relishing in the extra hour and snuggling back down in the sheets to doze off for another hour, I actually got up and did yoga before work.

So I guess the score is 2 | 1 for bad vs. good things so far this morning. Sick Coco, bad e-mail, good yoga.

My goal for today is to cancel out the negativity! I obviously can't heal Coco instantly, but Zuzu and I are going to pick up a treat for her on our way home today.

I'm going to try to have a very productive afternoon in my office. I'm going to eat lunch with friends rather than by myself at my desk. I do need to do some grading, but I also get to start a new novel for my Victorian Crime and Detective Fiction class (The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green). I'll tackle the e-mail so I can cross that off my list. And I'm going to put some positive blog and IG comments out in the world to balance the negative.

And I'm asking for positive suggestions--any no-fail solutions for shaking off a rough start to a day? Anything you do to turn it around when you're feeling bad? Maybe I need to make plans for a bubble bath tonight...

Update: I'm at 2 | 2 now. I got a lovely e-mail from a blog reader I've never met, who shared with me that she recently got a book of matches from a local flower shop in Berlin (!) and the name made her think of my Eliza. All the heart emojis, right?


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Poor, Poor Coco

I may have already mentioned that Friday morning, Coco wasn't feeling so good. She had a low temp (99 degrees fahrenheit) and was whiny/crying in the morning before school. I gave her some ibuprofen because her temp wasn't very high and otherwise she looked/seemed fine.

I was  a little worried, though, so just before 10am I called the school to see how she was doing. They said she was totally fine.

But when I picked her up, she told me she didn't feel good and she didn't want to do gymnastics. Definitely weird. We were going to gymnastics for a make up date anyway from the time that the class conflicted with grandparents' day at school. So Zuzu went ahead and went to her class and I schedule another make up day for Coco and she sat on my lap like a pitiful little lump the entire time Zuzu was bouncing and cartwheeling. I knew she was feverish because she kept telling me she was cold, so I had her bundled up in my scarf. About five minutes before class got out, Coco actually dozed off.


Saturday morning, she wasn't feeling any better. She didn't have a fever, but she was crabby as hell. Amanda and I were painting the fireplace and Moana was babysitting Coco while David and Zuzu were at regular gymnastics class. Coco kept telling me her mouth hurt. I was trying to look at the back of her throat without sticking my paint-covered hands in her mouth, but of course she wasn't cooperating. I told her to stick out her tongue and say "ahhhhhh" and she was trying to do that, but I couldn't see her throat, and then I noticed a disgusting sore on the side of her tongue. There were a bunch of little white sores on the inside of both of her cheeks too.

Amanda finished up the fireplace whitewash while I called the doctor's office and spoke to the nurse. She said that it sounds like Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. It's totally different from the last time Coco had it (poor little punkin) because this time she has no other symptoms besides these mouth sores, but she is sooooo uncomfortable. She bursts into tears every few minutes saying her mouth hurts. She'll wail for what feels like ages, just saying, "Oooowwwwiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" over and over and over again.

It's so sad, and so exhausting. For all of us.

I'm really hoping that Zuzu avoids it again. She got lucky last time, so it just seems that Coco is extra-susceptible.

Last night she was miserable and our watching of Stranger Things with Crafty Cousin Amanda and her husband Dan got cut short by Coco waking up and wailing. David and I both went up so one of us could comfort her while the other one got the thermometer and medicine together. I tried to put Mylanta on some of the sores in her mouth, but this INFURIATED her, and she turned against me. From that moment on, she only wanted Daddy. She wanted nothing to do with me. Honestly, it made me cry because it hurt my feelings that I couldn't comfort her!

On the flip side, I definitely got more sleep than David did.

We're now alternating ibuprofen and tylenol and trying to keep her comfortable. She has hardly any appetite. Or, rather, I think she's hungry, but everything hurts. She ate some oatmeal yesterday and today, and we're trying to tempt her with yogurt and popsicles and juice, but she's barely interested and just cries when we ask if she wants something.


David and I are trying to work out who's staying home with her tomorrow (both of us have relatively light days on Monday and kind of need to be there on Tuesday--so guess who will probably end up missing work on Tuesday? #theparentwithauterus #thepatriarchywinsagain). Anyway, I think we need to plan to keep her home the next couple of days even if she doesn't have a fever because right now she could not even come close to functioning at school.

Last night I lay awake feeling so sad for her and sorry for myself because MAH BAYBEE was rejecting me in favor of her dad so I couldn't even comfort her, and I was feeling so helpless and frustrated.

Then I starting thinking about all the really sick kids in the world and how helpless and frustrated their parents must feel when they can't make their babies better or bring them comfort, or when they have to give them medicine with painful side effects, and then Coco and I were both sobbing.

I know how fortunate I am that my kids rarely get sick, because the anxiety that comes along with it is no joke.

I think my anxiety in these situations is definitely more amplified because I am not living under the illusion that otherwise healthy babies/kids don't die. I am certainly able to redirect and hush those fears most of the time so that they don't infiltrate my everyday life in a way that restricts my happiness on a daily basis, but when Coco is crying so hard and there is NOTHING we can do to help her--it's really, really hard. On her and on us.