Friday, March 31, 2017

Spring Break: Arizona

We had such a great time visiting my aunt and uncle and enjoying the Arizona sunshine. My one regret is that we didn't have enough time to meet up with a couple of other friends and fellow BLMs I know who are in the area, or my cousin Casey and his family. We'll just have to go back for another trip! 

Here's a quick recap, with a few pics.

I ordered these dresses before we left, knowing that my rainbow-loving rainbow babies would be into them. I did not realize quite how NEON colored they were, but it made them easy to spot on the playground. The girls really love wearing matching clothes right now, so even though Coco has plenty of hand-me-downs, I can't resist getting them a few matching things each season.

Trivia of no interest to anyone but me: Coco's feet are ahead of Zuzu's feet schedule. So while she's wearing the same clothes that Zuzu wore at the same age, she's outgrown the shoes. Zuzu's feet were too small for these cute white sandals (Striderite, size 6.5) until after she turned three, and even then they were very roomy. I was pleasantly surprised that we had these little-worn sandals that were a perfect fit for Coco-puff.

My aunt had this poster made for Zuzu's first visit to Arizona (oh, my heart!).

She looks a little different standing under it now.

And she surprised us with a matching one for Coco!

The first full day that we were there, we went to the park and let the girls splash in the pool and generally just took it easy. That night, we went to dinner at Ajo Al's. When I was a kid and we'd stay with my grandparents in Mesa for a week each spring break, my aunt Peggy would pick me up and we'd go out to dinner, just the two of us, at Ajo Al's (she did the same with my brother). One of my favorite memories probably from the time I was in fifth grade or so is driving in her Camaro to the restaurant, eating a cheese crisp for dinner, getting fried ice cream for dessert, and then going back to her house and watching Romancing the Stone. If we didn't get fried ice cream, she'd make chocolate waffles back at her house (a secret family recipe that is so delicious). Anyway, the girls wore adorable coordinating dresses to dinner, and agreed to pose for a picture in Peggy's front yard.

 Coco ended up getting a grease stain on her dress that I'm still working on, but that's because she ate three slices of cheese crisp. Zuzu decided she doesn't like cheese (WHOSE CHILD ARE YOU?) so she ate plain tortilla. Eye roll. Here's a picture of Coco enjoying her cheese crisp and Aunt Peggy enjoying a chip:

We met up with friends from Kansas City and went to a spring training game. The weather was lovely but the sun was so hot. I was glad I packed the girls swim suits because the rash guards meant less surface area to get sunburned. We brought a couple of golf umbrellas, but when the afternoon sun is high, shade is scarce.

Mia's due date was two weeks before Eliza's, and I did a lot of wandering around the ballpark with the girls, so people assumed all three of them were mine. This picture makes my heart itch for so many reasons.

The girls were good sports about spending time in sports bars on the trip. Between the World Baseball Classic and March Madness basketball, there were a lot of sports to watch on TV.

We did a little shopping one day in Old Town Scottsdale. Zuzu choseher souvenir bag of "gemstones," which kept her remarkably entertained. She ate a hotdog bun for lunch, and then an old man who was having lunch at the next table asked David if he could treat our girls to ice cream. Zuzu isn't much for sweet treats, but she licked the strawberry ice cream and when it fell off the cone onto the floor, she happily ate the plain cone.

Meanwhile, Coco was not messing around and did a very good job of eating her cookies & cream ice cream cone before it melted. We're so proud. (In the background behind her in the black hat you can see the guy who bought their treats.)

I wanted a family picture, but we are all squinting into the sun and Coco was beyond ready for nap.

I'd promised a splash pad, so we sought one out and went to Scottsdale Quarters (I think that's what it's called). It's a pretty upscale shopping area (Lululemon and Free People overlook the splash pad) and that part would have been way more fun if I'd been there without kids. I managed to browse in Gap for a few minutes, and if I'd wanted a wool sweater, they were having some great sales!

This picture of the girls cracks me up because it's such a representation of their demeanor at the splash pad and really in general. Zuzu is ALL IN, completely soaked in the first moments of arrival, jumping up and down in the fountain. Coco is much more cautious, taking it all in, observing her sister, and refraining from getting her hair wet. I just love them both.

Peggy's pool isn't heated, so she really uses it just in the summer months. But a little thing like 70 degree water is not going to prevent Zuzu from swimming. She jumped in every morning and every afternoon, splashing around, jumping, and swimming, until she was so cold that her body was shivering violently. Then we'd wrap her up in a big towel and carry her inside for a warm shower. Coco put her feet in, but on one of our last days, she decided she was brave enough to jump in, if Aunt Peggy would get in the pool and catch her (Mama refused because I'm the meanest--that water was FREEZING!). They had a great time, though it wasn't long before all three of them were ready for warm showers.

Every spring break should involve plenty of popsicle eating on the patio. These matching dresses were $5 each at Wal-Mart. The girls love that they have pockets, and I love that I'm not worried about a drippy popsicle.

One of the highlights of the trip was having my friend Brandy and her husband and kids come by Peggy's house for chocolate waffles. The kids played wildly and it was so much fun to see them together. It had been a long time since Zuzu and Ben had been in the same place, and the last time I saw Brandy in person, Claire and Coco weren't here yet!

It was five days of fun and sun and no real schedule (we didn't even try to keep the kids on central time, and Coco skipped a nap for the first time in her entire life), we were both sad and ready to get home and back to the familiar routine. 

Truth be told, I was actually ready for ANOTHER vacation, this one without my children, because of that old truth that vacationing with kids is actually just parenting them somewhere else, only with less sleep and more junk food. NOT EASY. 

As I mentioned before, poor Zuzu got sick on the way to the airport (and barfed again mid-flight), so the trip ended a bit dramatically, but even thought I had to go back to work feeling a bit more crazed than relaxed after a week in the sunshine, I'm glad we went. Traveling with kids always means a few more battles and the internal debate about whether to just chill (so what if she only eats grapes and plai tortillas, it's vacation!) or be consistent about enforcing naps and schedules. David and I pretty much opt for Vacation Mode when possible, but toddlers need consistency and naps. So it's still true that a vacation with kids is just parenting in anew place with less sleep. But still worth it!  

As we move from the "baby stage" of life, I do have a lot of mixed, bittersweet feelings. I've said this before, but I think part of me will always want another baby, or another chance to have what I'll actually never get--grief-free baby time. As sad as I am about leaving behind that stage of curled up nuggets of baby with their perfect smelling breath o my neck, I'm also finding that hanging out with these two as they get older is pretty fun. Especially on vacation.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


She's been "challenging" at school this week.

Last night she was still awake when I got home from book group at 9:20pm. When I got out of the shower at 9:45, David was asleep and Zuzu was no where to be found. She was downstairs eating slices of wheat bread.

This morning when I asked her (again) to get dressed, she said, "Ugh. Are you kidding me?"

When she told Coco goodbye today, she said very seriously, "You're sick, so you cannot kiss anyone. Only hug them."

In short, she's pushing boundaries, being sassy, and generally asserting herself in the best and worst ways. I worry about her, about the spirited defiance and delighted enthusiasm with which she greets the world.

I don't always know what to do with her, but I sure do love her.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Show Switch - Ask the Audience

I think I've mentioned before that we bought season tickets to the Fox last summer as an anniversary present for each other, mostly because we wanted first dibs at the Hamilton tickets when the show comes to St. Louis in the 2017-18 season (April of 2018!!!). I'm a Hamilton nut, as evidenced by the fact that my two year old can sing along to the soundtrack (questionably appropriate language at times, but worth it for the history lesson, I say). We've enjoyed all the shows this year--David's favorite was Once and my favorite was Cabaret. It's been a great way to get in a monthly date night and have an excuse to dress up.

David's school is taking a group of students to see The Lion King this April, so we bought discounted group tickets so that Zuzu and I can go along, and I'm really looking forward to taking her for the first time. She's a little young for an evening show, but I think a matinee with a group of elementary school students will be her jam. I've seen Lion King before and I think she will love it--I need to remember to show her the movie before we go.

Anyway, I haven't seen any of the shows that are in the upcoming regular season. We also have the opportunity to switch out one show from our regular package to something that's not in our series. Sound of Music is coming one weekend in February, and I know I want to take Zuzu to that show. My question is, since I'm not familiar with any of these, which show do I trade in for it?

The King and I

The Bodyguard

Get On Your Feet (I danced to this Gloria Esteban song in sixth grade, so it's possible they may want me to join the show.)

School of Rock

The Color Purple

So... which one of those should we NOT see? Which one would you switch out for Sound of Music?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Break Stupor

We returned Monday from our spring break trip to Arizona. We had a great time, and I will recap the trip (this week! seriously, it's on my list!) but for now: bullet points. Mostly about barf.

* Zuzu barfed on our way to airport. Said her stomach hurt and we blew her off, then she blew chunks all over herself and the backseat of the rental car. Then I had to hang my head out the window and dry heave after I smelled it. (Note to next drivers of the black jeep grand cherokee from Alamo: Sorry. We used all our baby wipes and did the best we could to clean it up.)

* Zuzu barfed again about an hour into the flight. She was in the window seat, I was on the aisle, David was across the aisle, and Coco had (luckily) just moved over to sit on David's lap. Zuzu told me her stomach hurt and then I watched the color drain from her face. I leaped up and ran to the back of a plane to ask for a barf bag (there weren't any in our seat pockets). The flight attendant gave me a garbage bag and I raced back to the seat and caught some/most? of it. Somehow it seemed to ricochet off the bag, splattering poor Zuzu's face and hair. A bunch of barf ended up on the sleeve of my sweater, and a nice splattering all over the middle seat and the back of the seats in front of us.

* With the help of the very nice flight attendants who provided lots of paper towels, I was cleaning up the mess when Coco decided suddenly that it was completely unfair that her sister get all of Mama's attention and she would throw a massive tired-two-year-old-temper-tantrum until I finally stopped cleaning up barf, stuffed my sweater into a garbage bag, and picked her up and held her while David finished cleaning up the seats and Zuzu.

* Two-year-olds have no compassion for illness. There will be no sharing of strollers, mamas, blankets, or other comfort objects just because someone barfed. Two-year-olds are kind of selfish A-holes sometimes, but very cute when they dance.

* Zuzu didn't cry at all when she threw up on the plane, even when puke was dripping down her cheek. She just sat there, all pale and pitiful, while we cleaned her up, then she fell asleep for the remainder of the flight.

* Love is kissing the forehead of a sleeping person even when they have barf breath and barf hair.

* I swear next time, wherever we go, we're scheduling a two-day cushion at the end of the trip before we have to be back at work/school. Laundry is pretty much done, but after staying home with barfy Zuzu yesterday, work feels hectic and scrambling.

* Zuzu also barfed when we got home from the airport. David was fumbling with the key to the backdoor and I was doing that thing where you're yelling at your spouse in your head, "Oh my GOD just find the right key already!" but thank the baby Jesus it took him thirty seconds to put the stupid key in the lock because Zuzu unexpectedly barfed (mostly just water, which she'd been guzzling moments before) all over our back steps. I leapt backwards out of the way to save my shoes, but still held her hand and tried to make comforting noises while also fighting the urge to dry heave. At least we could just hose off the steps.

* I'm reading an amazing biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow--the one that inspired the musical Hamilton. It's fascinating, and it's making me appreciate Lin Manuel Miranda and his lyrical genius even more--he's pulled so many key phrases out of Hamilton's actual letters and writings. I'm really enjoying the book, although I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked over spring break due to the fact that hanging out with a preschooler and toddler basically consists of being interrupted every thirty seconds, even on vacation.

* We have a high of 50 degrees today. That's FREEZING, you guys.

* I had to drop out of a book group that I joined.The purpose of the book group was to discuss issues of race and social justice and the first book we read was Waking Up White, which was fantastic and illuminating. This time, new session, new group, and we were going to talk about a Jodi Picoult novel. I haven't read much Jodi Picoult but I know she's pretty popular and I figured a novel would be a pretty quick read for me. I knew that the plot started out with an African-American nurse treating a baby whose parents were white supremacists. I did not know that she was a labor and delivery nurse (I'd just assumed ER or pediatric nurse), and I did know what happened to the baby. I won't plot spoil it all for you, but at a certain point in the first 100 pages, I knew I would not be finishing this book or participating in a discussion group about it. Ugh. Unexpected grief-smack.

* I think I'm still on Arizona time. Took me forever to fall asleep last night and I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I may need a caffeinated pickmeup.

* Flying into the airport in Arizona reminds me of going there as a kid to visit my grandparents who lived in Mesa. This was way back in the day when they could greet us at the gate, and it was so much fun to run off the plane and see them and get scooped up into hugs. My grandma always smelled like delicious perfume and always wore her jingly charm bracelet. I'd hold her hand and when we got in the car, I'd turn the bracelet around and look at all of the charms. I was feeling so nostalgic about this that I wore her charm bracelet to work today. It makes the same jingling sound that I remember, but I wish I could ask her about a few of the charms whose stories I can't recall.

* Zuzu created several pictures of desert plants and animals and we taped them together to be a poster that she took to school today. Her teacher said that she could share it during circle time. She was so proud of it that it made me misty-eyed and I showed off this photo of it to my childless colleagues because I am insufferable (they were kind enough to admire it).

Lizard * Jack Rabbit * Road Runner
Rattlesnake * Prickly Pear Cactus * Saguaro Cactus

* I ordered a swimsuit. A one-piece mom-suit. I read something recently that really resonated with me--the idea of body neutrality. I don't want to hate my body, but it seems to be asking a lot to love it--especially when I'm feeling pale and cellulitey. As this article suggested, I'm actually happiest when I'm not thinking about my body--when I'm not self-conscious and I'm not worried about what I look like. It makes a lot of sense--neutral is also pretty ideal when it comes to your body feeling physically healthy. So I'm not looking for a swimsuit that makes me feel like a supermodel, just one that lets me not have to tug and tuck and think about it when I'd rather be playing in the sand with my kids (or, let's be real, when I'd rather be reading a book in a lounge chair while David supervises our children).

* I let my students out 5 minutes early today. They commented that Spring Break had changed me. LOL. I'm so chill now.

* Papers to grade, Shakespeare to read, congressional phone calls to make. No rest for the weary and all of that. It's Wednesday but it feels like Monday, which makes for a short but very packed week.


Friday, March 10, 2017


My brother and his wife had a baby girl Tuesday. They named her Curie Talcott Taylor (after Marie Curie, and my mom's mom, whose maiden name was Talcott). I personally thought Ada Lovelace Taylor would have been a nice choice and also a shout-out to a female mathematicians, but they didn't give me the option to name her. Go figure.

Anyway, since this is a blog about ME and MY FEELINGS, I just want to say this:

I'm thrilled for them. I'm so happy that she's here and healthy and that her mama is also doing fine. I'm relieved the way I still am about every baby who is born healthy and alive.

And yes, I would be lying if I said there was not a pang of jealousy. I'm jealous of everybody in the world who has a healthy living baby. But I am not feeling pangs of resentment. I obviously wish I had had that living-baby birth experience three out of three times, but I don't begrudge them theirs, and I'm also relieved to be able to say that honestly.

Would I have felt the same way five years ago?

Probably? I mean, this is my baby brother. But the pangs of jealousy would have been way, way more intense and painful if this had followed more on the heels of Eliza's death. I'm grateful for the time and space that allows me to celebrate this baby with only the faintest twinges of sadness for myself.

I'm grateful for the passage of time that has made it easier for me to love generously and not react to other people's families as a personal attack against me (because it was IMPOSSIBLE for me not to take other people's babies personally for a good long while--and it's still not always easy!).

We won't get to meet Curie until June, when we meet up with them for a beach vacation (yay on so many levels), so we're face-timing tonight so the girls can say hello to their new little cousin.

And yes, it's still true that when I imagine photos of three little girls on the beach, my heart itches.

But whether there are three girls where there should be four, or two girls where they should be three, or (perhaps in a few years) five girls where there should be six, my heart will always itch. I will also miss her. I will always, always wish that Eliza were there.

And even though I know that having Eliza here might have put everything on a different course, I can't help but imagine that, had she lived, our plans for having two-maybe-three kids would have given us our same three little girls--Eliza, the baby we planned and hoped for, Zuzu, the younger sibling we knew we wanted her to have, and Coco, the unexpected baby who was the best surprise ever.

The truth is that as thrilled as I am to welcome Curie to the family, it's also impossible for me to see pictures of any baby swaddled in that striped hospital blanket and not to think back on my own experiences... the soul-crushing, sickening disappointment of loss, and the rainbow babies who brought us that sweetbitter mixture of grief and euphoric joy. Curie as a newborn can't help but remind me of what we've lost, but she's also one more sweet baby to be thankful for, and I'm thankful to be in a place in my grief and my life where I miss Eliza, and I also can't wait to snuggle this new little babe.

Welcome to the family, Curie. You adorable, tiny feminist. I love you already.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Country Bunny

I took the girls to visit my parents last weekend.

David stayed home, purportedly to "catch up" or "get ahead" on dissertation work, so as to justify taking a week off to vacation in Arizona. Actually, he seemed to catch up on sleep (alone, naked, in the middle of the bed, MUST BE NICE) and maybe he also did some work, too.

Meanwhile, I single-handedly navigated my way across the state with two small children in the car. If you'd like a sense of how the drive went, let me give you this example:

As we were leaving my parents' house on Sunday, I got about two houses down the street and realized I may have left my sunglasses. I pulled into a driveway and turned around to head back and see if I'd left them on the kitchen counter (I hadn't--they were in my bathroom bag, but that's not important to the story). Zuzu asked what I was doing and when I explained that I needed to go back and get my sunglasses, she asked, "Do you know the way back?"

(We were TWO DRIVEWAYS away.)

I said yes.

She said, "Are we still in Nevada?"

I said, "No wonder this drive seems interminable to you."

But four and a half hours later, we made it home.

While we were hanging out with Grammy and Bops and the girls were soaking up the grandparental attention (from which Zuzu would brutally detox on Monday morning with a colossal meltdown when she had to get up and go to school), I put the girls to bed Saturday night and as we searched the hodge-podge of books at my mom's (minus my favorites, which I already confiscated and took home), I came across a treasure of a book called The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes.

picture from here

You guys. This is the BEST Easter book ever.

I vaguely remembered it from when I was little--that is, I remembered some of the illustrations once I started reading it to the girls.

But we must not have read it too often (and it may actually have been my mom's when she was little? Our copy is a slightly moldy paperback, published in 1967). But it's still in print! And it's a perfect Easter or pre-Easter treat.

What I somehow didn't recall from the book is the kick-ass message (also, I'm not the first person to notice this--turns out The New Yorker and the Washington Post were already on it).

Anyway, so perfect for this time of year, here we have the story of the Easter bunnies. According to the book, there are five Easter bunnies, and they are selected by a Grandfather Bunny who chooses not only the best and brightest and fastest of the bunnies, but also those who are kind-hearted. It's a huge honor to be chosen, so every bunny wants to be the Easter bunny, and you only get the chance to try out when one of the bunnies retires.

Anyway, there's a little brown country bunny who wants to be an Easter bunny, but she's a small, brown country bunny (and also a girl bunny), so it seems that there's no chance for her (Easter bunnies are white and have long legs, if you were wondering). Dreams deferred,* she grows up and meets mainstream social expectations by having a bunch of bunny babies (twenty-one to be precise).

So now the little country bunny is saddled with twenty-one bunny babies, and what does a single mom with twenty-one children do?

She teaches them to take care of themselves--they cook and clean and decorate (natch). Some of them also go into singing and dancing to keep up morale.

picture from here

So she's got all her bunny kids keeping house and entertaining her (one of them pulls out her chair when she sits down to dinner), and they get word that there's an opening on the Easter Bunny team, so they all go to watch the competition.

At this point, if I'd been ask to predict the plot, I would have said that one of her bunny babies (perhaps the chair puller-outer) would get selected as the new Easter bunny, and she would have the satisfaction of being the mother of an Easter bunny.


The little country bunny HER DAMN SELF gets selected as Easter bunny because she's fast and clever and organized. And even though she's saddled with a litter of bunny babes, she's taught them all to be self-sufficient, so it's no trouble for her to travel for work.

And then she goes on an Easter bunny adventure that involves some struggle and setback and some magic shoes.

picture from here
I love this story! The story of a mama bunny whose career dreams are still alive even though she's got a few gray hairs and (undoubtedly) some loose skin and a bunch of whiny kiddos. She totally leans in, and she nails it.

Also it's less than ten bucks on Amazon right now. Stick in all the Easter baskets you've got.

*If you caught this reference, name it in the comments and you win an A in my literature class.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu AND Coco

Making Valentines

Zuzu: This is so beautiful. This one is for me!
Me: Well, we're making all of these for your friends.
Zuzu: But, I also love myself.

Happy Hour

Zuzu: What would happen if kids drank wine?
Me: You would get sick.
Zuzu: And die?
Me: Probably not. But you'd get sick and not feel good.
Zuzu: And stay home from school?
Me: And Mommy and Daddy would go to jail because we aren't allowed to give kids wine.
Zuzu: Jail?
Me: And then where would you live? With Miss Hannigan in an orphanage?
Zuzu: No. I'd live with Grammy and Bops.

We Seriously Don't Go There That Often

Coco: Target!
Me: Yep. There's Target.
Coco: Where Coco, Zuzu, Mommy live!

Zuzu: I love you, Coco.
Coco: I love you!
Zuzu: It's good to have someone in your family who loves you so much.

Pizza Party

Zuzu: I ate my pizza all gone.
Coco: I ate my pizza all gone in my tummy! I ate my pizza all gone in my foot!
Me: It went all the way down to your foot?
Coco: Uh-huh!
Zuzu: My pizza went all the way down to my vagina.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Winner, Winner, Early Bird Dinner

Let me share a life hack with you that I'm maybe totally late to the game in discovering... or maybe I'm actually a couple of decades early, come to think of it.

We had awesome plans for Saturday night--we were meeting up with a group of friends (four other couples) to do an escape room! (so fun, right?). We'd actually scheduled this originally in December, then it got canceled due to ice/snow, so we rescheduled and because we're all busy people and some of us work on weekends, the first time we could all get together again was February 26. So the anticipation was huge! And the plan for us to be there at 6:30pm on Saturday night.

Most of the gang lives out in west county, so they were going to do the escape room and then head back toward home for dinner/drinks after. Because we live in the city and we both have 30 minute (or more) daily commutes, that plan wasn't ideal for us. We talked about going out to dinner downtown afterward, just the two of us. Then one of the couples asked if we wanted to go with them to an early dinner before the escape room to a restaurant near our house that they (and David) had been wanting to try.

I checked with our babysitter that she could adjust her timeframe, crossed by fingers that the Copper Pig would have something vegetarian for me to eat, and we agreed to meet for dinner shortly before 5pm.

After all this planning, the escape room ended up getting canceled. Womp womp. I'd even bragged about it to one of my classes. But they had evidently double booked us or lost our reservation or something. Thankfully, the organizer of our group called about it before we all showed up there, but it was really disappointing to get that text about 3pm on Saturday.

Since we already had a babysitter coming, though, we decided to stick to our dinner plans and YOU GUYS. It was the BEST idea ever.

We snacked instead of eating lunch so we were hungry when we got to the restaurant just before 5pm. Carol and Aaron had already grabbed a table (not difficult to do, as there were only a few other people in the restaurant). We had great service, delicious food (they substituted jackfruit for meat on my veggie-cheesesteak and it was great!), a couple of cocktails, fun conversation. And we were finished at the restaurant by 6:30pm! We went out for ice cream and STILL got home by 7:30pm.

An added bonus: Our babysitter got to sit through the ridiculousness of the dinner hour with my children and we didn't have to deal with their demands or complaints. She played with them and wore them out and when we got home, they assumed it was really late and that we'd let them stay up! So bedtime was a piece of cake. After we put the kids to bed, date night got to continue in sweatpants on the couch and Victoria on PBS. It was awesome.

I realize that everything about this revelation is the definition of incredibly lame, but I am embracing the lameness of this stage of my life. 5-8pm date night is the answer.