Monday, September 25, 2017

Pumpkin Patch 2017

We made our annual journey to the pumpkin patch with my bestie from high school, Monica, her husband, Johnny, and her daughter, Ellie Kate. Ellie Kate is exactly six months older than Zuzu (to the day) and her mom is six months older than me (minus one day).

This weekend was the hottest pumpkin patch day we've ever had. The high was in the 90s, but the heat index was even hotter. We were basically melting.

The heat did not stop the girls from running, sliding, climbing, and jumping at all of the activities for kids at Johnson Farms. (We did manage to distract them from the bus filled with sand, but otherwise we let them roam). The only benefit was that the heat seemed to keep the crowds away, so that part of the visit was very pleasant. We were just incredibly sweaty.

In fact, the girls got hotter and more red-faced than I had ever seen them, so we enforced a water break at the pavilion and I took their shirts off and misted them with a water bottle to try to cool them down. This was before we'd even headed out into the patch to pick pumpkins!

Zuzu and Ellie Kate are quite different little personalities. Ellie Kate is more of an old soul, and her complex emotions are very mature for her age. Zuzu is much less sensitive on an emotional level, and her id is still way bigger than her ego.

(For example, Ellie Kate was telling me about a "friend" at school who had said something that hurt her feelings, and I tried to draw Zuzu into the conversation by saying, "Did you hear that Zuzu? Ellie Kate got her feelings hurt at school. Have you ever had a friend say something unkind to you?" Zuzu shrugged and said, "Nope. My friends don't say that to me." When I pushed her, she said, "Well, Sloane and Maggie made me upset when they BOTH wanted to play with me." #nope #empathystilldeveloping)

But the girls got along beautifully this weekend, playing so nicely together, taking short breaks from each other of their own volition when they needed a little space, and really having their own conversations. They are getting to the stage of putting on shows for the adults, which is basically my favorite thing ever. I hope I always remember lying on Ellie Kate's bed with Monica and watching the girls do "ballet" in EK's tutus. It was so sweet.

They are also good about including Coco. Ellie Kate really likes to take care of her, and Coco is a good sport about it and works hard to keep up with the big girls. It was surprisingly peaceful.

Friday night I met Monica and a few of her friends at Funkytown. How do I describe Funkytown? I think Monica's friend put it best when she said, "It's like if your drama teacher opened a dance club." It's a bar and there is dancing but it is like no where I'd been before. The music was exactly what I wanted to dance to, which is to say nothing hip or cool and everything that a not-great DJ would play at a wedding reception where everyone was pretty wasted. The crowd was older (we moms in our mid-thirties felt young and cool) and there was a lot of gender fluidity. There were also a lot of costumes. I got a talking to about the holes in the knees of my jeans when I arrived ("I know that's the fashion, but next time, no holes in your pants.") because evidently the man working the door was channeling my Nana? But there were lots of men in wigs and women in gogo boots and day-glo dresses and then a girl came in wearing onesie pajamas that zipped up the front and I was like, "Seriously? Did the guy at the door seriously tell me not to wear these jeans next time and let her in wearing that?". At one point Monica tried to point out "the guy in the sparkly headband" and that didn't narrow it down enough, so she had to clarify by adding that he was wearing bell bottoms and sunglasses.

It really was like my high school drama coach made a club and only people who did drama or speech and debate got invited.

We danced to Whitney Houston and "Footloose" and "YMCA" (I sat that one out because I just can't) and then that Justin Timberlake song from the movie Trolls. There was a light up cage on one corner of the dance floor and a big screen where they projected videos and light shows. Around midnight they played the song "Carwash" and then the actual brushes from an actual car wash that are on and above the dance floor started spinning and spitting out soap bubbles. It was magical and amazing and I haven't danced that long or that hard or that unselfconsciously in basically ever. I danced so much that I think I strained my hip flexor, which is both painful and hugely embarrassing. It had me moving like an old person who needs a hip replacement all weekend, and anytime I would groan and complain about it, David and Johnny would call me "Funkytown."

Saturday night was basically a complete reversal of Friday. We did not go out. After spending the day in the blazing heat of the pumpkin patch, we were so exhausted that we were all in bed and asleep by 8:30pm.

The dads actually lay down with the girls around 7:30 and Monica and I sat and talked for a bit until we realized that we were both totally exhausted and couldn't stop yawning. Since David was in the guest room with both girls, I went to sleep by myself in Ellie Kate's room (she was sleeping in her mom and dad's room), and I had two luxurious hours of sleeping alone in a queen bed until David came in to wake me up and tell me Coco had vomited everywhere. I thought it was like 2am, but it was only 10:30pm.

So then we had to change the sheets and change her clothes and get her settled back down and then we moved Zuzu into Ellie Kate's room with me and everybody went back to bed.

What felt like five minutes later but was probably more like an hour, David was back to tell me she'd barfed again, and we had to change the sheets AGAIN. Since Monica doesn't have an infinite supply of extra sheets for the guest room, I was rigging up a flat sheet as the bottom sheet while David took a shower with Coco because they were both covered in vomit. I finally got smart enough to lay down a bunch of towels underneath poor Coco, who was also running a fever by this point. She did throw up once more, but the towels caught it so I was able to sleep through it.

I believe this is the first time that Coco has for real puked. My kids are just not barfy kids. Zuzu has thrown up three times in her entire life--once the day of Coco's six month photos, once in the parking lot of her daycare before school, and then the day we flew home from Arizona, when she puked in the rental car and then airplane and then on our back steps. (I guess that's more than three times, but three separate illnesses). I'm not good with barf because I start sympathy dry heaves and I also don't think about things any logical person would think about (like putting down towels).

Fortunately Coco has been barf-free all day today, but she's still running a low grade fever so I'm going to keep her home tomorrow and make sure she gets this bug out of her system.

We were supposed to get up early Sunday morning and head down to see David's dad, but since Coco was feverish and we didn't know if she'd keep barfing, we hopped in the car and headed straight home. Now I'm almost caught up on laundry (which I'm sure is more than I can say for poor Monica, who was left with four sets of dirty sheets from having us as overnight guests, two of which smell like vomit).

If nothing else, 2017 pumpkin patch was definitely memorable.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thoughts on Living in the Suburbs

We've been in the new house for over a month now. Long enough to murder four fish (in answer to several blog comments, texts, and e-mail, no we didn't condition the water. We set up the tank 24 hours in advance and had a sample tested by PetSmart that they thought was ok. David discussed things further after the second generation went to the big ocean in the sky and then got a different type of fish. Zuzu still seems happy with them.).

There are many, many things I love about the new house. Mostly I love how it is surrounded by trees and feels very much like a peaceful retreat at the top of the hill. The Japanese have this practice called "forest bathing" and I believe in it. Even when I drive up the driveway bracing myself for the witching/dinner hour and the kitchen mess and the to-do list I'm trying to cram in before bedtime so that after bedtime I can read for class the next day, I still get a peaceful sense of exhaling when I get to the top of the hill and all I see is just our house surrounded by trees.

The basic layout is also very convenient--particularly the mudroom/laundry room that we can enter off the garage, which then leads into the eat-in kitchen. Our old kitchen had a small bistro table that sat two, but the new kitchen has space for a big table (our former dining room table) so we can all sit and eat, or the girls can color one one side of the table and then walk around to the other side to eat without having put everything away so they can return to it.

David loves the way the basement smells because it smells just like his grandparents' basement when he was a kid.

I love having a bathroom separate from my kids.

Downsides include that we aren't walking distance from anything, except our local elementary school (which is a nice bonus). We are biking distance from a park, but I don't find the county to be any more biking friendly than the city. We are close driving distance to a really huge and awesome park with lots of hiking paths. But our old house was walking distance from a gorgeous park, several churches (though not the one we attend), a Mexican restaurant, a pizza place, Ted Drewes and Dairy Queen, and if you were up for a bit of a hike you could totally walk to Target, Schnucks, Bank of America, and the library. DID I walk to these things? Not the last four, but we picked up Mexican food and went to the park all the time and I do miss that.

HOWEVER, we do have an amazing park-like yard, and it's more acceptable for my kids to be nude, semi-nude, or peeing out of doors when we are on private property, so there's that. Last night the girls ate their frozen yogurt out on the driveway. Coco was naked but for underwear and both were barefoot and I didn't have to worry about traffic or overexposure.

I do miss having neighbors who love and care about the girls, although we have gotten to know some of our neighbors and they are really nice (in fact, the neighbor at the bottom of the hill helped them out when they got in their stick-tight mess, and Cooper has wandered just far enough to get returned home by a couple of other nice neighbors, so basically if you let everyone roam wild, other people will help you parent your children and your pets), and we have a street party scheduled in October, which will be a nice way to meet some more folks. Not better or worse, it's just not the same as all the over-the-fence conversations we used to have.

The best and most noticeable improvement is the commute situation. It makes SUCH a difference to have David home in the mornings. He can make breakfast for the girls while I'm getting them out of bed and encouraging them to get dressed. (They do dress themselves, although Coco will accept guidance and assistance from me. Today they wore their matching 5 and 3 tank tops, but Coco wore hers with a coordinating red and navy skort, and Zuzu wore hers with a non-coordinating lavender flowered skirt that's still slightly big on her, plus knee-high socks printed with sparkly Easter eggs.)

The fact that David can be home from work in 15 minutes has made such a difference in his mood, in the tempo of our evenings, in the ease of him picking up the girls from school... it seems so obvious, but I just hadn't realized what a huge improvement it would be. So we do have to drive to get ice cream, but honestly the quick daily commute has been worth the trade off.

We need to figure out the chaos of the basement and to bring up some select toys and balance them out. Right now the girls are mostly interested in playing dress up together. Zuzu loves coloring and "making books" more than any other activity, and Coco loves playing with baby dolls. But I know if/when we start rotating out the vast selection of toys that are currently downstairs, they'll get more airtime. The girls will go downstairs and play on their own (they love the swing!) but they always, ALWAYS leave a complete disaster. And it's so easy to just shut the door and not enter the basement on busy weekdays that, well, the basement has been a complete disaster for a while now.

Overall, I know this move was the right choice for us, and I feel very content and happy in our new home. I definitely miss our old neighborhood, our neighbors, and the character of our old house, but I also appreciate the "blank slate" of a house built in 1982--I'm not worried about making changes! I have lots of big plans, so I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Who Run the World?

Have you seen this poster? I think the first time I saw it was when it popped up in my FB feed, but it's available from several different places, including this etsy seller.

As you can see, it's a collection of images of a bunch of different women--most real, some fictional, and they are pretty recognizable even though their faces are blanked/blurred out. It's a wide variety, from Oprah Winfrey to Marie Curie to Mother Theresa to Amelia Earheart to Madonna to Joan of Arc to J.K. Rowling. I knew almost all of them, but this video will clarify if there are a few you can't quite place:

I ordered the poster for Zuzu's room because I was certain she would like it, and because obviously I like the idea of her seeing a wide variety of female role models. She already knew several of them from this book:

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

The book features short, one-page biographies of 100 extraordinary women. It's weirdly alphabetized by first name, but if you can get past that organizational hurdle, it's pretty great. What surprised me is how much my kids are into it. Their favorite story is Misty Copeland, which Coco calls "broken leg!" (if you weren't aware, Misty Copeland fractured her left leg in multiple places the first night she danced as a prima ballerina, and she went through extensive rehab to come back and continue her dance career). They want to hear that story over and over again.

I'm working on getting things up on the wall in Zuzu's room, and I let her select the placement of the poster. She chose a spot where she can see it from her bed. We talked about several of the women on the poster. I talked a lot about Rosa Parks in the context of peaceful protests, and she asked me about Lady Diana (she likes the tiara).

Then I mentioned that it might be fun to dress up as one of these women for Halloween, and I asked her which one she might like to be. I was expecting her to point to Marie Antoinette, because the princess dress is still pretty appealing to Zuzu, or maybe Wonder Woman because the superhero theme is popular at school.

But my little Zuzu pointed at Amy Winehouse and said, "That one!" (For reference on the poster, she's the second row, far left. Short blue dress, red high heels.)

I was pretty surprised, but I just said, "Oh, really? Well, she's a musician. Very cool. I like her music. Why do you like her best?"

Zuzu said, "I like her tattoos. When can I get some of those?"

Thirteen years, my friends, and I will be fascinated to see how Zuzu expresses herself through body art.

Also, there's a part of me that thinks it would be kind of awesome to get some temporary tattos and have my five-year-old dress up as Amy Winehouse for Halloween, but I think we're going to stick with one of the many other alternatives she's already mentioned... fairy, mermaid, rainbow unicorn... We'll save talented singer/songwriter who met a tragic and untimely end due to alcohol poisoning for another Halloween, perhaps.

P.S. Coco's favorite woman on the poster is Daenerys Targaryen (second row, second from left--next to Coco Chanel), which would also make for an amazing Halloween costume for a three-year-old with a pixie cut... She said, "Who is dat?" and I said, "That is the Mother of Dragons." Coco said, "I yike her." I think she just thinks Daenerys looks like Elsa.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Tale of Two Fishes

My kids are crazy about these stuffies (stuffed animals) that have huge eyeballs. Do you know what I mean? They seem to be for sale by every cash register in the grocery store or craft store. They are kind of cute, but I try REALLY hard to limit the number of stuffies that enter our house because I swear they procreate and multiply.

Anyway, the girls have been sleeping peacefully (mostly) in their separate rooms all last week and Zuzu has been doing her chores (making her bed and clearing and wiping the table after dinner) and her math enrichment work for Kumon without fuss (mostly), so I'd told them that they could get a new stuffie.

I had a bit of a rough day on Saturday--nothing went quite as I planned and I developed a headache in the afternoon, so David offered to take the girls to get stuffies while I ran some other errands and I TOTALLY took him up on it because that was basically the nicest thing he could have done for me at that moment in time.

I was looking at framing options for a couple of prints at the store when I got a text from David saying he didn't want to spend $12 on stuffed animals and could he get the girls a fish tank instead--it was on sale.

I said sure as long as I didn't have to clean it.

So to avoid spending $12 on stuffies, David spent far more on a fish tank, a castle to go inside the tank, seaweed, and neon rocks.

Plus the neon colored fish Zuzu and Coco really wanted were $9 each.

BUT the tank was on sale!

Anyway, they got the tank all set up on Saturday and on Sunday we went back to get the fish. Zuzu picked out a purple one (Flipper) and a yellow one (Shakey) and she and Coco fought loudly over who got to carry them to the car. I arbitrated a truce in which they shared carrying the bag, then I held it in the car on the way home.

We got home, put the fish in the tank, and waited to feed them until they had gotten adjusted.

But a few hours later, Zuzu came downstairs and said, "Mommy, I think Flipper is sleeping or maybe dead."


Flipper was in fact, floating listlessly in the fake seaweed of the tank. Shakey, however, looked fine. So I texted David, "One of the effing fish is already dead." And I told Zuzu when Daddy got home he would take a look at Flipper and see if she needed to go to the vet.

Well, by the time David got home, both Flipper and Shakey needed resuscitation.

David told Zuzu he was taking them to the PetSmart Hospital and AMAZINGLY when he got home, Flipper and Shakey were both good as new.

(Emphasis on NEW.)

We were told that the adjustment to water temperature might have been too much for poor Flipper and Shakey, so the second time around we lowered the bag from the store (still closed) into the water so the temperature would adjust slowly, then after a couple of hours, opened the bag so they could swim out into the tank. I wish we had gotten this advice the FIRST time around. RIP, Original Flipper and Shakey.

As of this morning, the new-and-alive Flipper and Shakey are both flippin' and shakin' (or swimming idly and staring listlessly, as fish are wont to do), so I'm relieved. The girls are still very enchanted by them, so i hope they live long and happy lives.

UPDATE: Today after school, both fish are dead. WTF. I feel terribly sad and guilty, and also annoyed. What are we doing WRONG? David had a cichlid fish that lived for TEN YEARS and survived FOUR MOVES. Now we are accidental fish murderers instead of fish nurturers.

Also Coco had a huge and unsourceable meltdown after school, and I sliced my big toe open on a walk with the dog and girls just before dinner. After a lovely weekend, Monday strikes with a vengeance.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Room Sharing and the Binky Free Life

At the new house we have four bedrooms upstairs--a guest room, the master bedroom, and two other bedrooms.

The girls did not share a room at the old house because Coco was a baby in her crib and Zuzu slept with us. From the time she could climb out of a crib, she climbed in bed with us and Coco was a newborn and we found that we all got the most sleep when Zuzu snuggled in between David and me, so that was fine. (She said maybe she'd sleep in her big girl room when she was fifteen or sixteen.)

At the new house, we wanted things to work a little differently. I loved the idea of the girls sharing a room and thought we could use the extra room as a playroom or later a little homework study and project room. I liked the idea of sisters whispering to each other before bedtime and feeling safe knowing that the other sister was just an arm's reach away. And David and I were kind of ready to reclaim our room. Even though we both slept okay with Zuzu in bed with us (it's a king size), I knew that I'd sleep even better without the occasional head bonk or elbow flung in my face.

So we started putting the girls to bed together in Zuzu's room, sharing her full-size bed. They loved it!

And they stopped sleeping.

I kept thinking it was just that school was starting and they were excited, but it would take forever to get them to settle down, one would keep the other awake (or WAKE UP the other one after she had dozed off), and they were not getting enough sleep. Zuzu would be so exhausted in the car after school, but then would wind herself up before bed to be wild, no matter how calm or soothing bedtime routine was.

We were starting bedtime around 7pm with a warm bath with a drop of lavender essential oils, low lighting, a diffuser with a sleepy time oil blend, reading stories, and then listening to a story app or nature sounds on my phone with the lights off. And they were STILL keeping themselves awake until 9:30pm.

I'm kind of crazy about bedtime stuff--I'm way more rigid than David is, but I want bedtime to be a well-oiled machine. I want an automatic routine that gives them a Pavlovian response of going to sleep at 8pm.

I mentioned before that I started googling melatonin for kids, and I actually asked our pediatrician about it yesterday at their check up appointment. (Zuzu is in the 50th percentile for height AND weight, Coco is in the 20th for height and 30th for weight. Head size was not measured, but I assume Coco is still leading the pack there.)

Anyway, I may not need to resort to melatonin because bedtime is going much better. I told the girls on Sunday that I'd talked to the doctor and kids need a lot of sleep to be healthy, so she said they need to sleep in separate rooms. (Let the doctor be the bad guy!). We'd already had Coco's toddler bed set up in her room; she just hadn't been using it.

So now bedtime goes pretty much the same way, but after reading stories together in Zuzu's room, Coco gets escorted to her room and tucked into bed. She protests a little bit, "I want to sleep in Zuzu's bed!" but I just say, "I know, but the doctor said you need to sleep in here, and I want you to be rested and healthy."

A little bonus is that she's asking me to rock her again now, so I get to keep that sweet routine going for a bit longer.

Also, I make it a point to try REALLY hard to whisper when I want to yell at them because I've asked them three times to put on pajamas or get in the bathroom to brush their teeth.

I've started using a kids' bedtime guided meditation using the Amazon prime Music app on my phone. A woman's soothing voice guides them under the sea, and I try not to fall asleep myself. Usually by the time I get Coco settled and go back to check on Zuzu, she has dozed off.

Granted, this has only worked for the past three nights, but that is something.

Last night, David was home, so the routine changed slightly (he let Zuzu listen to something else). She still fell asleep, but I was (secretly) annoyed because I want her to have that association that this guided meditation puts her to sleep every time. So we'll go back to that tonight.

The other thing that has complicated bedtime routines is that Coco finally gave up the bink. This is my last photo of my baby with a binky (and that gross Elsa braid, with which she is obsessed):

It happened by accident, not by choice. We were leaving for the weekend to go see my parents and her binky was in my car but we took David's car. She asked for it immediately and I said, "Do you want to go get your binky or do you want to go see Grammy and Bops?"

She said "Grammy and Bops!", so David and I looked at each other and said "Let's just do this."
The car ride was a little rough. Coco didn't sleep at all, even though we were in the car from 5 until 10. She cried for a long time starting around 9pm, asking for the binky and then just asking us to stop the car so she could get out. I finally gave her my phone to let her look at photos (which I rarely do), so that quieted her for the rest of the drive.

Saturday morning was also rough. She went to sleep without a problem, considering it was close to 11 before we made it upstairs to bed, but she woke up about 5:30am and cried and cried for her binky.

One thing you might not realize about Coco is that she has a very high-volume cry. My little niece Curie has such a delicate cry that I'm like, "Is she actually fussing?" With Coco, there's no doubt. She's a screamer. So she screamed for her binky, and I will tell you that had there been an accessible binky, I totally would have given it to her. My mom came upstairs and tried to comfort here and distract here, but she was inconsolable. Poor little bug. But, alas, we truly had no binky to give her, and she finally quit crying and sniffled and then went back to sleep lying on my chest until 9:30am.

We skipped a nap that day because she slept so late (and also, no binky) and she was tired enough that bedtime wasn't a problem, but the next day she asked for the binky at naptime and instead substituted a gross stuffed ice cream cone with a cherry on top as a binky, sucking on the cherry.

At one point on Sunday she asked to go home, and I knew she meant that she wanted to go home and get a binky. I told her we don't have anymore binkies at home, either. They are all gone.

She has mentioned her binky a couple of times since we got back on Monday (and she didn't nap in the car for long), but she has been pretty much okay without it.

I'm not missing it, honestly, because she's three and she always wanted it in the car and then she wanted to talk to me and I couldn't understand her with the binky in her mouth, and I was so irritated when she'd take the bink out of the car and then scream for it the next time we were in the car but I didn't know where it was. Also, I love seeing her sweet sleeping face without the binky blocking it.

(Zuzu was two when our pediatrician recommended we nix the binky and I did what he said, but regretted it because she instantly stopped sleeping, started climbing out of her crib, and that all coincided with me being very pregnant and then having Coco, so that's why Zuzu ended up sleeping in our bed for the next three years.)

We had two binkies at home (one in her bed and one in my car) so when we got back from my parents', I snipped both of the binks and hid them in a dresser drawer just in case we got so desperate that we wanted to give her one even though it was "broken." But we haven't had to, and she hasn't asked. I think we are over the hump (tomorrow will be a week without the bink) and so now we live the binky-free life. Liberating!

That's the update here. Any advice on bedtime routines? Now that they are in separate rooms again, Coco is pretty easy to settle, but Zuzu has a hard time getting herself settled down to go to sleep. She just fights it! Also, my kids frequently ask for a snack RIGHT at bedtime (like after they've brushed their teeth), which makes me CRAZY (David always gives them one because he is a sucker and thinks I'm excessively rigid about bedtime). Am I excessively rigid about bedtime? I'm trying to remember to tell them after dinner that this is their last chance before the kitchen closes and they can have a piece of bread with butter if they're still hungry because there will be no snacks before bed. But it's hard! And I don't want to be mean.

I just want bedtime to feel cozy and warm and fuzzy for them AND for me--I don't want to be stressed that they aren't getting enough sleep or irritated with them that they can't seem to settle down.