Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's Not a Road Trip Until Someone Pees by the Highway

We decided to escape the madness and the boxes and the elevated stress levels at home, so I loaded up the girls and we drove down to my parents yesterday. Possibly this had something to do with the fact that I nearly started crying because all of the wine glasses were packed. (Items I use on a daily basis: wine glasses and fuzzy blankets.)

The girls are really pretty good travelers--I didn't even bring the ipad and they just paged through books and napped a little bit. At one point they were making up and singing songs together, which was the cutest thing ever. I listened to a couple of podcasts but realized that most of the podcasts I like are not appropriate for kids (too much cursing!) and then my phone lost internet connection out in the boonies, so we listened to really random CDs that were in my car--Leonard Cohen and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

There were a few frustrating moments--we were about two hours into the four hour trip when Zuzu started getting very curious about whether we were there yet: "Is this Grammy's city?" she asked at every little farm town we drove through. Coco will do this thing where she whines, "mooooooommmmmy" and then when I say, "What, honey?" she mumbles softly in the backseat, which is infuriating because she can be as LOUD as she wants to be, but she decides to operate on this level of a just-barely-audible whine, apparently just to make me crazy. We were five miles outside my hometown when she started making that noise and I had to say, "What? What? WHAT?" and then, in a fake cheerful tone, "Okay, when you're ready to talk so that I can hear you, I will be listening."

And then finally she yelled that she had to go potty "SO BAD."

I asked her if she could wait a few more minutes and she repeated that she had to go SO BAD and sounded kind of panicky, so I asked if she needed to go in the grass and she said yes. And so I pulled over and put my flashers on and she peed on the side of the highway.

Then we loaded back up and got to my parents' house ten minutes later.

The plan is to chillax here for a few days, then head back to St. Louis for a birthday party, a hair appointment, a visit to the primary classroom at Coco's school, and all the rest of the packing and organizing. There are some details about our closing/moving that are making me really nervous--mostly that our buyers want to close as early as possible so they can move in, but our sellers aren't going to be out until 3. I think this means that our buyers need to understand that we won't be out until 3, but I'm not sure that has been clearly communicated, because our realtor said something about us being out by 1:30. (Um... then what do we do?). Also our realtor seems to think that the sellers will be out earlier than 3, which I think is absolutely crazy (if they have until 3, they are going to take until 3, is what I think). So that is stressing me out. Surely this will work out, right? I don't know how people do this. Move houses, I mean, and close on the same day. Ugh. 

Meanwhile, I'm spending a lot of time on Pinterest daydreaming about furniture and paint colors and I keep realizing I can't remember what the house really looks like. Weird!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Right Now


The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I have no desire to watch the show, and it's actually taken me weeks to work up the emotional fortitude to tackle the novel. It's fantastic and terrifying. Between that and Season 4 of West Wing, I'm just beside myself when it comes to politics and possibilities. What seemed like complete fiction to West Wing writers in 2001 (President Bartlet is running for reelection against an anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant opponent) is REAL LIFE NOW... how far are we from Atwood's dystopia? (I mean, have you read this? Terrifying.) (Note to self: work on plans for living off grid.)

I've done quite a bit of reading this summer. I'm just over halfway to my goal of 52 novels this year, which is great since we're about halfway through the year! I need to step it up, though, because my reading game slows when school starts. I just finished reading The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green. It's one of the earliest American detective novels, and I'm teaching it in a Victorian Crime & Detective Fiction class this fall. At least, I think I am. I'm still building the syllabus and working out the reading schedule for that class (my others are all set!) so I need to finish this book and then claim a few hours to myself to sit and figure out the course schedule.

I also recently finished reading Secrets of Happy Families which was a little bit hokey (hold Weekly Family Meetings, craft a Family Mission Statement... good ideas in theory, I suppose) but what I got from it is that you mostly should make explicit the kinds of things that you want your kids to implicitly absorb about your family values. Kind of like the yard sign we put up, I guess--that's a way of making our family values explicit, not just to our neighbors, but also to our kids. The family coach we worked with last year talked about using the phrase "In our family, we don't ____" when we explained why Zuzu wasn't allowed to bite/hit/choose your inappropriate and antisocial behavior, I'm sure my sweet snowflake of a rainbow baby has exhibited it. And I think it's the same kind of philosophy. You make your kids feel like they are an inherent and necessary part of a core group that holds a certain set of values, and then you make it fun, safe, and comfortable to belong to that group.

One other thing that this book didn't cover but that I was thinking about recently are the cliches "Happy wife, happy life" and "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." There's truly something to be said about the way one parent (not just mom) can set the tone for the entire family, and how much power we have to shape kids' perceptions of experiences, just by saying things like, "This is the BEST VACATION EVER!" or "I have a feeling today will be a really great day!" Kids aren't just sponges--they are also mirrors.

West Wing season 4. I love it so much.

David and I tried to watch the very controversial Thirteen Reasons Why and we gave up. I found it absolutely too disturbing and frustrating. It also made me think of some of the dark thoughts I was having on the 4th of July. It's no secret that I've been pretty disturbed and frustrated by the politics of this country, and I wondered if the Great Democratic Experiment of our constitution is playing itself out and demonstrating that people really are just self-interested and selfish A-holes so democracy is kind of crumbling and our best bet is a benevolent monarch who keeps us in line in an ethical way because when you leave people feeling like we live in a competitive environment where it's every man for himself (like, say, high school), we will inevitably end up using and abusing people we perceive as weaker than ourselves.

WOW this little blog meme sure has been a cheerful way to start the day! You're welcome!

Anyway, we are NOW watching The Keepers, which is a fascinating documentary about who killed Sister Cathy, a nun living in Baltimore in the 1960s. What looks like an unsolved mystery may actually be part of a huge cover up. We're not very far into it yet, but Gemma and Abby are already my heroes. They are like real life Miss Marples or Jessica Thatchers, just a couple of retired ladies doing their sleuthing at the library and on facebook and in coffee shops. I want to be just like them when I retire!

Just started following Celeste Barber on Instagram. Definitely search for her... her posts are completely amazing. Even inspiring. Lol.

To the Moana soundtrack mostly. Also always and forever Hamilton.

Sweaty, stinky clothes from walk/jogging to the park today. I need a shower, but we're going to the pool later, so I think I'm just going to stink for a few hours.

I'm shopping for a new couch, but I'm not committed to anything just yet. Leather couches are expensive, man. I'm selling off furniture on Craigslist--my couch and another chair I hadn't even planned to sell went on Saturday. I have another chair/ottoman set that I'm selling although I'm having second thoughts because it's the comfiest chair in the entire world. It's just that the upholstery doesn't really go with anything else, and then I wonder if I should have it reupholstered, but that seems a little daunting and pricy, so I'm not sure...

What projects we want to do at the Forest House, and where we want to start with painting.

How much more my kids are playing with their toys now that 80% are packed up in boxes. It's true what they say--they play more with less. Also moving toys around the house totally influences how they play. The art table that was ignored in the basement is getting a lot of attention now that it's in the living room. I need to keep this in mind as we're setting things up at the Forest House... Less is more!

Why we're bothering to move from our awesome neighborhood with such a fantastic park within walking distance. I'm trying to keep in mind that summer feels all blissful, but once school starts, I know I'll be more grateful for the shorter and simpler commute and drop off situation. Still, the nostalgia is hitting me hardcore already. And I don't know where the new grocery store or library is, either. Do they even HAVE those things where we're moving? (Kidding... kind of.) It's sort of like when you have a great hair day the day that you've decided to go in and get it all chopped off. You're going to go ahead with it, but you're having serious second thoughts and you'll probably cry about it for three days until you get used to the new hair. (Tell me that's not just me.)

Conflicted. Sad about leaving the old house. Ready to get settled in the new house. Sentimental about leaving the neighborhood. Excited to move to our secluded location. Aggravated by not being able to find things that David has packed. Looking forward to unpacking and organizing the new house. Wanting summer to last forever. Ready for school to start. Mostly packed except for clothes. Completely overwhelmed by everything we have left to do.

David and I generally don't have many major conflicts, but we always have one big fight in August when the transition to the new semester and all the stress that comes with it hits us hard and we inevitably work out the stress by yelling at each other. Over the weekend, that fight visited us early because I was SO PISSED that he went ahead and packed all the couch pillows and throw blankets. I use those every night when I curl up to watch TV or read. The girls use them almost everyday to build blanket forts. In my mind, they are the kind of thing you pack up the LAST DAY and you toss them in a garbage bag. But David had neatly stacked them in actual moving boxes and he was pretty mad when I unpacked them. We exchanged some choice words and then I stomped upstairs and watched The Keepers by myself. I mean, we have to live here two more weeks! I'm not doing it without my favorite fuzzy blanket and also some pillows. Fortunately, we were both feeling more reasonable the next day (and also my pillows and blankets are still out of the boxes, so...).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cousins and Our Future "Dentister"

Remember when I thought this would be a relaxing summer and I would just read and write and take my kids to the pool?

Haha. I had no idea.

It feels like we have been going 100 miles an hour the past couple of weeks. After a low-key Fourth of July (about which I actually had all kinds of complicated feelings because I'm not totally convinced the democratic experiment of 1776 is actually working out all that well, given the enormous numbers of people who feel and are disenfranchised in this country), we had cousins come visit from California and set about showing a 9-year-old and 12-year-old just how much fun stuff there is to do in St. Louis in five days.

playing in the backyard clubhouse

If you're considering a visit to St. Louis, I'll tell you we managed to go to the zoo, a Cardinals game, the City Museum, the Botanical Gardens, Ices Plain & Fancy, Ted Drewes, Schlafly, and paddle boat riding at Forest Park Boathouse, and all were great fun. The kids said the City Museum was their favorite. Plus I had to attend a funeral for a colleague (sad and unexpected) and David had to work one day, so I would say that we did a pretty good job of squeezing in a lot of fun stuff, but we are all kind of wiped out from it. Paddle boating when it was 104 degrees out wasn't exactly the most ideal plan, either. (Poor Kailer, David's 12-year-old nephew, was mortified when I started complaining about boob sweat).

Zuzu and Coco absolutely LOVED having their cousins here. I can't even describe how smitten they are with those two. And it was awesome because they were totally entertained but the cousins are old enough that there was none of the typical playdate bickering. Basically, I want to have a nanny who is 9 years old and just helps me out from 9am-4pm every day. We loved having them here.

at the Botanical Gardens

It was also excellent to have three adults and two big kids to help us tackle the City Museum with Zuzu and Coco. The last time I'd been to the City Museum was more than ten years ago. We'd been waiting to take the kids because I didn't think Coco was big enough for some of the stuff (also I didn't realize they had a toddler area) and Zuzu's fearlessness makes me nervous. Both girls had a great time, and Coco was determined to keep up with the big kids! The outdoor climbing structures still gave me the willies occasionally, and even Zuzu was a little more cautious than I've seen her before when we were up really high.

At one point, we were climbing around in the indoor treehouse and I saw Zuzu go down a slide and come out a level below me. I had my eye on her, and I saw her foot slip through the metal bars she was walking on. I knew she'd banged her knee hard and I saw her start to cry, but I couldn't figure out how to get down to her--where do I enter the climber? What slide did she go down? So I was kind of freaking out. I was trying to yell down to her that I was coming, but she couldn't hear me. Then I saw a gray-haired lady come over and start talking to her (I'm sure asking her where her negligent parents were). I sent David up a level to find the slide and I started climbing down to her, but then when I got down to where she was, she was gone! Just as I started to freak out, my phone rang. I had written my cell phone number on Zuzu's wrist band, just in case. It was an unknown local number, so I answered it and, sure enough, it was the nice older lady. "Do you have a little girl with pigtails in a blue shirt?" I said yes and that I was trying to get to her and she said, "We're in the tree house" and I said, "I'm in the tree house! Where are you?" and then I realized she was right behind me. Anyway, Zuzu was fine and it was actually a nice transition to heading home.

The same day the cousins left, we had friends come to town to join us at a Jason Isbell concert, which was kind of our anniversary date and was fantastic.

13 years of weddedness.

We left our kids and our friends' daughter with a babysitter and it made me feel like a Real Adult somehow, except Coco cried when we left because she's mama's girl and then I was really sad but then I had a gin & tonic with dinner and I remembered that sometimes I like to do adult things without my children. Also the show was so, so great. I loved The Mountain Goats too, who opened for him, although at first I was like "I should have brought ear plugs because I am so old." And we talked about how we love going to concerts where we get to sit down. Basically we are the uncoolest ever. No shame.

Yesterday we went out to the House in the Forest to scope out a few things and measure a few things, and remind myself that this is real and we're really moving. I also boxed up a bunch of books and all the pictures I had hanging up the stairs and now our house looks empty and ugly and also dirty with the shadow of the frames left on the walls and it's kind of depressing. Also all our house guests were gone yesterday afternoon and Zuzu and I were both feeling the post-fun glum. I coped by treating myself to a La Croix and a magazine. Zuzu coped by being a complete and total brat. It wasn't our worst day of the summer, but it certainly wasn't our best afternoon. I truly sympathized with her--she's overtired, out of routine, used to have constant entertainment, missing her cousins and friend--but mercy she can be a handful.

Speaking of depressing things, the air conditioner went out on my car and the car place was like "NBD, prolly needs freon, run you about $50" and then the car place was like "Just kidding, you actually need a whole new system thingy and it will cost $1350. Or we can do just one part of it and that will cost you $850."

Given that my car is 10 years old, we were actually like, "Should we just go ahead and get a new car?" but then we were like, "Oh, wait, we're buying a new house, so NO." And my car (knock on wood) has been pretty trouble-free for most of its life, plus it has nearly 150,000 miles on it. Anyway, that was still not a fun phone call to get.

Also Zuzu had to have a cavity filled today. I never had a cavity as a kid (in spite of very lazy dental hygiene in elementary school) so I was shocked by this. Also it is not cheap. I was a little worried she would be dentist-traumatized, but she loved it. We go to a pediatric dentist practice and they used laughing gas and let her choose a Barbie movie and gave her a balloon and then another one for Coco, and fussed over what a great patient she was, and she told me she wants to be a "dentister" when she grows up. So I guess that was successful. But I sure can think of more fun ways to spend a thousand dollars than on dental work and car repair (plane tickets and gin and tonics come to mind... also a new couch).

Anyway, that's the latest around here. More packing to do today. Zuzu just informed me they are playing, "Dinosaur Times" and Coco is a baby dinosaur. I'm going to try to take advantage of the relative dinosaur harmony and see if if can get the rest of the stuff on my living room shelves boxed up. (You guys. I have so many books.)

Thursday, July 6, 2017


So it looks like we're doing this.

We moved into our current house a little over four years ago. I said at the time that I didn't know if we'd be here forever, but I knew we could be. The neighborhood is lovely. The house is charming. The yard is small, but we're two blocks from a beautiful park. We moved just about five minutes from our first house, and only because we outgrew the two-bed, one-bath bungalow. We live in the city and we feel close to everything (even if there are a zillion slow stop lights between us and Forest Park). There was no reason to go anywhere.

But now we're moving.

I mentioned a while back that David got a new job at a school district nearer to us, which cut his commute in half. But you know the "give a mouse a cookie" thing? He started looking at neighborhoods that would cut his commute down to the 10-15 minute range. And after the hours and miles that he's logged in the past seven years, I couldn't really blame him.

(You might remember that my commute is also substantial--I drove over to Illinois, so it takes me 35-40 minutes to get to work. Even though I would say I don't particularly like to drive, for some reason I can't explain, this commute has never bothered me! I think it's because I rarely sit in traffic--I drive several miles, but I'm always driving rather than sitting. In fact, I've missed my commute this summer because it's the only time of the day that I can listen to podcasts or music or audio books without interruption. I do a lot of thinking and planning in the car, and I have genuinely missed having that half hour to myself in the morning and evening! But I'm not complaining about summer break--I also think the fact that I drive to work nine months rather than twelve makes the commute feel less burdensome.)

Anyway, we started talking about it with some seriousness when talking about where Zuzu will go to elementary school, and David made the case for the convenience of them all being in the same school district. As much I resisted the idea of moving, I couldn't deny that the simplification of everyone having similar schedules and David being super close to his work sounded pretty good for all of us. Plus, we'd be closer to the preschool where the girls go now, which means that my commute time would also be reduced since I have to drive slightly out of my way right now to drop them off.

Long story short, after much discussion and thought and some arguing and what I am pretty sure was a middle of the night panic attack, we decided to list our house.

(A big part of my reluctance had to do with the terrible time we had last time we decided to move--the sale of our house last time seemed to be great as we got an offer the day of our open house, but it fell through three days before closing and we'd already committed to buying our new house, which meant things were financially tight. But now our old house was back on the market, empty and unstaged, we had to keep up the yard work and utilities all summer, not to mention paying a second mortgage, and after six months of that madness, we ended up breaking up with our realtor and working with someone else who agreed with me we should stage the house, then got it sold within two weeks, which was just before Christmas, and a week AFTER I found out I was surprise pregnant with Coco, the same week as Eliza's birthday... It was a stressful time. I'm not kidding when I say that just seeing real estate signs on the lawn of any house as I drove or walked by would make my stomach churn.)

This time, our house sold in a week, which was great. The area we want to move to had houses selling really fast, so we put in a contingency offer because there was ZERO chance that I was going to pay two mortgages again. It was accepted, so now we close on both properties at the end of this month. I hesitated to write about it for a long time because I felt like I would jinx it, but everything seems to be in place this time.

The thing is, I don't actually handle transition or uncertainty very well at all. I mean, I felt ridiculous having a panic attack about moving neighborhoods in the same metro area, but I was still awake at two in the morning feeling like I couldn't breathe. I knew I was overreacting--this was not a crisis! We're not in a refugee situation! We're doing this on purpose and for good reasons!--but I couldn't control my anxiety about it. Now that things are set and the dates are finalized and the papers are signed, I'm feeling better about looking forward and thinking about paint colors and a new couch. I do love the idea of decorating a new place, especially a house that's so different from this one in terms of layout and design.

I'm still really conflicted about leaving our current house and our lovely neighborhood, especially the neighbors we've gotten to know, who really love our girls. I also just thought that we'd be in the city forever, and as a non-native St. Louisan, I kind of came to identify myself as a City Resident (rather than County), so that is another shift that I'm getting used to. I am looking forward to a house that has a more user-friendly kitchen and more outdoor space, and I do love the way the new house is surrounded by trees. It feels very peaceful and secluded even though it's just a long curving driveway (and a big hill!) that separates us from a cul-de-sac neighborhood.

I hope it will be a good change for our family, and the "right" choice for us, but it has felt very fraught. Sometimes it feels like every decision we make has so much at stake, especially when it comes to where our kids will go to school. I do like the idea of paying taxes in and being part of the school district where David works, and I do like the idea of my kids going to public schools, so I'm glad that we are able to move in that direction. I will absolutely miss being in the city, but I've been google mapping all of our favorite hangouts and discovering that while we have to drive a few more miles to get there, it won't take much longer in terms of minutes--it's just highway miles instead of city streets. My friends promise to come visit me, and this house does have space for a fire pit and a living room for game nights, so I hope that people will be willing to drive out to see us.

I'm not saying that this new house is our "forever home" because I'm starting to roll my eyes at that idea as much as the idea of a soul mate. Life is big, and there are lots of houses and neighborhoods to love. I do hope that we are happily settled for the next several years. Well wishes and pep talks appreciated!

Monday, July 3, 2017


I'm back on Facebook.

It took me more than six years after losing Eliza to feel like I could re-enter that space.

I think because I saw it as a place to put forward the best version of yourself, and that version of myself no longer existed.

I think I also was afraid that it would hold nothing but disappointment and resentment for me.

I knew people who got upset because they posted updates or photos of the children they lost and got no responses, but then other, light-hearted posts would get all kinds of likes and comments. I also know how hard it was for a lot of my friends to see facebook pregnancy announcements or new baby posts. I just didn't want to put myself out there for any of that.

But then I joined We Stories, which primarily communicates through Facebook, and I knew that some of my babyloss mom friends were in a private facebook group that I would like to join, and while I created a profile never intending to post anything, I got a lot of friend requests for extended family (like old people--no one young and cool uses facebook because they are all Snapchatting, which I do not do because I am over 30). And I realized that a lot of these people aren't on instagram and would probably like to see photos of my kiddos, and there are all kinds of privacy settings so you can control who views photos and just show them to certain groups, so I could post pictures of the girls for my family without inundating my work colleagues with my children's adorableness.

And although I know the politics are something people complain about in regard to Facebook, that's actually part of what I like about it. I am pretty insulated on there, and it's very tempting to hide people who disagree with my political views, but I have found it to be a good source of information and articles on all kinds of issues (including non-political ones). Sometimes it does raise my heart rate, but mostly because I'm reading news stories through it, and news stories about our country's current president tend to infuriate me. I love using facebook to stay informed about local politics, about social justice efforts, and to get reminders of what I can do to try and make a difference about things that are important to me.

I've been careful about it--I check in almost every day, but not more than once or twice. I don't engage in political arguments. I don't post things that are deeply personal. I guess I'm back at the point where I can skate on the surface--I don't feel like my guts are a raw, gaping wound. I'm not "fixed" or "better" or no longer grieving, but I am in a place where I can love and miss Eliza as much as ever, but I also have the energy and headspace to care about other things--big things like social justice (and how white people--even those of us who are well-meaning--keep effing things up), and little things like, "oh, yeah, how is my officemate from graduate school doing?".

Honestly, the hardest thing for me is when people share their timeline posts from five years ago, and I'm so glad I didn't try to get back on Facebook earlier, or in 2016 when "five years ago" would have been right after Eliza died.

I also care a lot less now about how other people perceive me than I did back then, which is pretty vital. I am not free from the comparison game, but I spend much less time comparing other people's lives to mine than I used to (actually, it's kind of embarrassing and sad to think about how worked up I was about this and how I measured up to others or how I thought others would see me... ugh. Giving zero effs about that nonsense is one of the few gifts that emerged from grief--that and my tribe of babyloss friends).

Anyway, if you quit facebook for whatever reason and you're unsure about going back--I say wait. You're not missing much. There's no rush. You'll know when you feel ready, or when you want to be involved in something more than you want to stay off of facebook. I can't say that it has improved my life significantly, but at the same time, I do appreciate that it's reconnected me with friends and extended family members with whom I'd fallen out of touch, and that it's an easy way for me to get involved and stay informed about specific issues and organizations I care about.

So, yes, I'd love to be your facebook friend.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Zuzu is Five

You guys. My rainbow baby turned five. 

(Which I'm a little sad about ONLY because she's been telling everyone for months that she's "four and three quarters" and I'm kind of bummed that now it's just "five," although give her a week and she'll declare herself "five and a half.")

Five years ago, we were still calling Baby Duck #2 "The Deuce." And I detailed every moment of her birth here (you're welcome). And yes, I was still missing her sister.

And somehow, that beautiful baby is all grown up into this beautiful little stinker--our master negotiator who is teaching her little sister every trick she knows. She makes me crazy almost as often as she melts my heart. She never stops asking questions. She is willing to strike up a conversation with any adult we meet, but when she's around kids she doesn't know, she'll hide behind me and whisper that she's "a little shy."

She still says "lellow" for yellow and "aminal" for animal and "firty" for thirty. She has quite an imagination and no sense of appropriate voice volume. She was down in the basement, absorbed in playing with little characters when I carried her birthday decorations (a couple banners and a wreath on the door) and some Fourth of July decorations upstairs and put them up, and she was so delighted when she saw them. She clapped her hands and said, "Mommy! How did you DO this? You buh-prised me!"

She's a big fan of buh-prises.

Little Sister is always a half step behind her, mimicking everything she does. Coco is no pushover, so they go head to head pretty often. Overall, though, they truly love each other and their sister relationship is one of the best gifts I can imagine (for them, and for me). My greatest fear is losing one of them--not just because it would shatter me, but because I know what an enormous and devastating loss that would be for the other one (a loss that I recognize, even if they don't experience it as such, when I imagine every day what it would be like to have three little girls lined up for photos). What I want more than anything in this world is for them to grow up and stay best friends.

These girls have brought so much light to our lives, and they are so, so loved. I try to talk to them a lot about being grateful and being aware of how lucky we are, so I was slightly bummed when she opened all her birthday gifts, was very excited about them, and then turned to David and me and said, "Why didn't you get me more presents?"

(I realize she was referring to her enjoyment of the whole process--ripping open packages, being the center of attention, discovering something hidden--but still, it was not exactly what I hoped would come out of her mouth after being showered with gifts.) 

Funny kid that she is, she didn't want a birthday cake. She wanted blueberry muffins. She kind of changed her mind at the last minute and said she wanted a cupcake with pink frosting (she's a sucker for pretty decorations even if she doesn't like sweets) so David bought a cupcake for her and one for Coco and then Coco ate both of them. Zuzu ate more blueberry muffins.

We celebrated her birthday early while we were at the beach (made blueberry muffins there) and then we celebrated again with a "family party" on the 29th with just the four of us at home having pasta (her request) after going to the pool (We also had blueberry muffins) and opening gifts. 

Zuzu really wanted a party with her friends at our house, and she kept requesting that, but I knew that I wouldn't have the time or energy to pull that off right after getting home from out of town. I also think an elaborate birthday party with friends is something we'll move to doing every other year (evens), and then we'll have a "family party" or event (like going to a show or an amusement park) on the odd years.

This year she got an event, and she chose the Magic House, which is also known as My Waking Nightmare--too many people in close proximity, other people's children crying and screaming, "Mommy!", not being able to keep track of my own kids, and never being able to get them to cooperate for a picture (I mean, WHAT IS THE POINT of my sacrifice in dragging myself to the Magic House if you won't even let me DOCUMENT IT???). But that's what she wanted, and the bright spot in the day (for me) was that we were able to meet up with one of her friends from school.

This little friend is a boy who just turned 3 in March, so he's quite a bit younger than Zuzu (closer to Coco's age, really), and Zuzu has just taken him under her wing in the sweetest way. She loves to look out for him and take care of him, and she knows the things that he's interested in (trains and trucks) and told me that she was going to show him the trains and trucks at the Magic House and do what he wanted to do while they were there. 

I'll be honest, I have moments when I wonder if I'm raising a sociopath, but her friendship with and concern for this little guy really makes visible the kindness in her little heart. I love it so much (and his mom was so sweet about expressing her appreciation for Caroline, it truly made my day). 

But of course that didn't stop her from whining about having a birthday party at her house. (Eyeroll.)

We compromised with a "birthday play date." This came to me in a flash of inspiration. I e-mailed a bunch of parents whose kids go to Zuzu's school (and a few of my friends whose kids she likes to play with) and invited them to meet up with us at Tower Grove Park on a Saturday morning to play in the fountain and on the playground. I emphasized in the e-mail that while we are celebrating Zuzu turning 5, this is a play date and NOT a party--no gifts! No organized games! No pressure! No stress! No prep!

She got to see her friends and play, and the only thing I had to do was throw a bunch of juice boxes in a little cooler and pick up 48 donut holes on our way there. Best parenting decision ever, and the kids had a blast! It was just about getting them all in the same place at the same time and giving them space to run around and scream.

And now that birthday is in the books--literally, the fifth birthday is the final entry in her baby book! My rainbow baby is growing up. And, as Zuzu would say, she makes me so happy that I have water in my eyes.