Monday, October 30, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco

Well, That Joke That Make Us Laugh

Scene: Kitchen Table. Telling jokes.

Zuzu: Knock, knock.
Coco: Who there?
Zuzu: Ummmm.... Mr. Cow!
Coco: (at top volume, giggling) WANT SOME MILK, MR. COW?

The Apple Falls Near the Mama-Tree

Scene: In the car. Zuzu is whining about something, I'm trying to distract here.

Me: Look, there's tennis courts. Zuzu, are you about ready to learn how to play tennis?
Zuzu: I'm never going to play tennis.
Me: Why not?
Zuzu: I'm never going to play any sports.
Me: Why not?
Zuzu: Because you have to be outside and get all sweaty.

Confessing a Fear of Goofy

Scene: In the car. Talking about Disney World.

Zuzu: When will I get to go to Disney World?
Me: Maybe when you're seven.
Coco: (in a quiet voice) I scared of Disney World.
Zuzu: But the whole Clubhouse is there, Coco! And they are nice.
Coco: (doubtful) Goofy?
Zuzu: Yes! Goofy is nice. And... Scrooge is nice, I guess.

Coco Copes With Facts Like She Works in the White House

Scene: Breakfast table. Coco is self-serving yogurt.

Me: Coco! You cannot lick the spoon and put it back in the yogurt container.
Zuzu: That's how people get sick.
Zuzu: Uh-huh. It's called Spreading Germs.

I Kind of Agree With Coco Here

Scene: Car. Zuzu has had a very challenging morning getting ready for school even though Grammy and Bops are at our house. She's mad at me.

Zuzu: And I'm going to move far away where you can't visit me! And I'm going to lock all the doors and only come outside to hunt a deer and kill it to eat it.
Coco: You can't eat a deer or it will bite you!
Me: You're going to hunt a deer?
Zuzu: I'm going to make a telescope and when it sees a deer, it will shoot it and then send a net to bring it back to my house to eat it.
Coco: You can't eat a deer or you will throw up. And you will get stick-tights, too!

(PostScript: Those who follow me on Instagram (bythebrooke88) will know the girls got into a bunch of stick tights trying to follow deer near our house. Clearly the experience has stuck with Coco (pardon the pun). You can see why:

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Rainbow Room

I mentioned before that when we moved this summer, I'd expected to use Zuzu's cute curtains (from the Target pillowfort collection) as the basis of her new room, too. But when I asked her input on wall color, she totally shut me down and said she wanted a rainbow room. So we ran with it!

We repainted the room (which previously had lime green walls and a bright yellow ceiling) a lovely shade of light blue (Soar by Sherwin Williams). I went ahead and did the ceiling blue, too. It's nice and saturated so it doesn't read gray, but it's not overwhelming.

The rainbow duvet cover and pillow shams are from Pottery Barn Kids (bonus: a coupon we got since we just moved.) The rainbow "love" pillow was from Target a couple years ago around Valentine's Day, but if we hadn't had it, I would have ordered this one from Land of Nod.

I bought plain white curtains from Target and ordered rainbow colored pom pom trim, which I sewed on (it looks very cute as long as you don't look closely at the not-quite-straight-stitched seams!).

I put up the "Who Run the World?" poster and then sorted through art and photos we already had to create her gallery wall--a newborn photo of Zuzu with David and me, a photo of Coco as newborn with Zuzu kissing her, a photo of Zuzu as a sweet sleeping baby, a plaque that has Zuzu's motto: "Though she be little, she is fierce," a sweet print of a painting of the St. Louis arch with a rainbow banner, a print that says "Will there be rainbows?" and a photo of David's mom as a toddler. I plan to add a baby picture of my mom to finish off the display. I topped it all off with the rainbow mobile that hung in my nursery when I was a baby (the hook was already in the ceiling there--a most serendipitous placement). Oh, and over to the right are two heart-shaped hooks from World Market, two light switches, one with a Harry Potter switch plate ("Happiness can be found even if the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light"), the ceiling fan controller, and a sign that was in my room when I was a kid: "Thou shalt not whine."

But of course the star of the show is the mural painted by our friend E! I asked her mom if E might be interested, as I knew she was super talented and also Zuzu thinks E is awesome, so I wanted her to see the cool stuff big kids can do. E agreed, so I texted a few inspiration photos from Pinterest. She and her mom (known here in the comments as thirdstoryies) came over to scope out the scene and talk about supplies, and then while we were out of town at the end of September, they came over and got to work.

It turned out even cuter and better than I expected. I love everything about it, and I love that my rainbow baby sleeps in the clouds under a rainbow every night. (A couple nights ago, she moved her pillows down to the foot of the bed so she could stare at the rainbow as she dozed off.) Zuzu's room is really the only room in the house that I would venture to call "finished" (although there are a couple of finishing touches I want to add... including a photo of my mom as a toddler so grandmas on both sides of the family are represented) and it is so relaxing and satisfying to relax in there and read stories at the end of the day.

I can't thank K and E enough for their work on Zuzu's beautiful mural, and if you're local and want some original art on your walls, I know an artist I can recommend!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Up from the Dumps

I’ve been feeling just a little down in the dumps lately. I’m not totally sure why, as our October calendar is packed full of mostly fun stuff, but something was weighing on me. The political climate? Probably. The fear of nuclear winter after the US gets into it with North Korea? Possibly. Getting dark earlier while the unpredictable and often humid weather reminds me that we are killing our planet and leaving my children to inherit an inhospitable world full of natural disasters? That'll do it. Students who perpetually disappoint me and can’t be bothered to buy the mother effing textbook? Could be.

But I had two days off for fall break this week, and they were exactly what I needed. I had originally planned to spend part of fall break in Chicago with my bff seeing Glennon Doyle, but life conspired to make that plan unworkable. And while that was a huge bummer, it was soooooo lovely to have two whole days at home by myself. I ran errands and went to the grocery store alone! I listened to inappropriate podcasts, watched Luther on Netflix, and did laundry. I made chili and baked cookies and worked on a photo book from our summer vacation. It was so nice, you guys! And now I’m going back to work feeling refreshed and ready to finish off the rest of the semester. Even after a not-great night of sleep last night, I'm in a better mood than I was all of last week.

We had parent teacher conferences for the girls and they actually went really well. Not gonna lie, I was so pleasantly surprised by all the praise Zuzu got (without any counterbalancing concerns) that I bought her the “how to draw mermaids and fairies” book she asked for at the school book sale without even thinking about it. She is loving kindergarten and I think part of why she is doing well is because she doesn’t have to rest in the afternoon. She was soooo resistant to nap time that it became a big power struggle in the spring. I’m relieved that’s over and I'm so proud of all the reading and math progress she's making and her curiosity and enthusiasm about everything she's learning. It's adorable.

And Coco’s teacher had all good things to say about her. It was so nice that I nearly cried. Coco loves school so much and it was reassuring to hear that she’s busy and happy and social and uses her words to stand up for herself but is kind to others and eager for more advanced work (she basically wants to be a kindergartener). Her teacher had no concerns and it feels good to know that no matter how many parenting decisions I question and second guess, I think my kids are where they belong during the day. I love the way they seem to be valued and appreciated and enjoyed by their teachers.

After the conference today, Coco fell asleep on the way home and couldn’t rally for dinner.

Zuzu and I left her at home with D and we went to a vigil for hope and healing at our church. I brought both girls with me a few weeks ago (when it was much warmer!) and they had a great time playing and sitting on the front steps coloring in coloring books. It was colder and darker tonight, but Zuzu was excited about going and she wanted to hold a sign. I thought she would choose “Standing on the Side of Love” because she’s a sucker for hearts, but she wanted Black Lives Matter (I think because we talked a lot about that last time).

My little activist! May the arc of history bend toward justice.

Truth be told, she only stood with us for a few minutes, and then entertained herself coloring and playing in the warm church. But she was super excited about the whole event. It’s such a small thing, to stand around and hold a sign. But it felt meaningful and uplifting nonetheless. I’m glad I did it (though I wish I’d worn a hat!) and I’m glad Zuzu sees me participate in this.

I got home to a warm and cozy house (yay for gas fireplaces!) and put away clean laundry while Zuzu finished her coloring project (she takes her art very seriously). David took charge of a remarkably smooth bedtime for Zuzu (Coco was already in bed after waking briefly while we were gone to eat her peanut butter and Nutella on graham cracker), and then I soaked in an epsom salt bath with a mystery novel and a glass of wine. It was the perfect end to a pretty good day.

The news is so bad, you guys. The political climate is insanity and one of my friends from high school who I always thought was a cool, liberal guy has a different opinion than mine about a hot button issue and it’s weirdly bumming me out. But other high school friends of mine are awesome people. And we met neighbors in our new neighborhood who are very nice. And I’m becoming more connected with and energized by people here in St. Louis who are passionate and smart and committed to making the world better. So today is a pretty good day.

I definitely needed that fall break.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Where There's a Will, There's a Tiny Pair of Scissors Waiting to be Found

We often get comments from extended family about how self-sufficient Coco is. We always give her Montessori school credit for that, but over the weekend, I was kind of regretting her self-reliance...

Coco didn’t want to nap on Saturday because my parents were here. After giving it a good try for an hour, we let her get up. My mom and Zuzu were coloring in the kitchen, David and I were in the living room (watching the new season of Survivor), and my dad was working in the basement. And each of us assumed another adult had eyes on Coco. Seriously, I thought she was coloring with my mom.

But then my mom came in the living room and asked me where Coco was. It didn't take long for us to realize that NO ONE KNEW. So we started the search. We assumed she’d fallen asleep somewhere, but after a quick search of the house, she hadn’t turned up under any covers or in any quiet corners. 

I started to feel panicky as we extended the search outside. Thankfully it was only a few minutes before my dad found her in the garage.

He carried her out and I was so relieved to see her. She was snuggled up against him with her head on his shoulder, and I walked over and I patted her on the head. When I pulled back my hand, though, I brought away a handful of hair.

Yes. She’d cut her hair AGAIN. But HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE? We had been so vigilant about keeping scissors out of the way! When I trimmed Zuzu's bangs that morning, I’d been sure to put the scissors up and away in the high bathroom cabinet. How had Coco gotten her hands on scissors???

I returned to the garage and began to piece together the series of events, crime-scene-investigator style. 

Coco can open the back door of my car by standing on the hub cap and throwing her whole body weight backwards. She then clings to the door handle and hangs from it while the door swings open. It is quite a trick.  She had apparently done this and climbed in the backseat of the car, and over to the front seat. I guess she dug around on the floor a bit and located a first aid kit under the passenger seat. And then it only took moments for her to unzip the first aid kit and dig around inside, whereupon she located a little pair of scissors, which I can only guess were intended to cut bandages. 

After locating the scissors, she proceeded to take off her dress (not sure why? Maybe because I usually have them strip down when I'm trimming their hair?). Then she hacked at her bangs (what little of them existed since her last hack job) and the sides of her hair (which had juuuuust started to grow out). So now we have a new set of bald patches and a completely jagged hairline in front, cut down to the scalp in places.

Would you believe we had a photographer coming over for family photos two hours later? Not even kidding. I texted our photographer and she said that she'd try to do some creative angles. Anything that doesn't highlight the patches of scalp peeking through on the sides would be ideal...

I haven't even tried to even it out because it's kind of a lost cause at this point. The front actually doesn't look too much worse than it did (considering we were already working with uneven bangs from the last cut), but the back now puffs out in the middle like a kind of bizarre mohawk/rat tail/mullet wannabe. I'm leaving it for now and might try to see if my cousin who cuts hair can salvage something from it when we're home at Christmas time. It's funny how quickly you get used to something, because on Sunday when one of our neighbors was like, "So... did Coco... get a haircut?" it was like I was suddenly seeing her with fresh eyes and realizing all over again how terrible her hair looks! 

What are you lookin' at?

Good thing I'm still cute.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Busy Days + Early Nights

My blog app on my phone isn't working, so these posts I want to put up with photos (Zuzu's bedroom! a new light in the dining room! something else I can't remember right now!) are all in limbo until I either figure out the phone situation or find the time to sit down at my computer and blog the old fashioned way. For now, I'm taking 15 minutes and typing everything that comes into my head.

* It's still hot here. It has been a hot and humid fall and even though I'm not one of those people who gets all worked up about pumpkin spice and scarves, I do like those things (#sobasic), and most importantly, I wouldn't mind walking outside in crisp fall air as opposed to this warm, dampness that has defined October so far. Seriously, it's so humid my hair thinks it's wavy and frizzy when it's actually straight and fine/limp.

* The girls seem so grown up to me. Coco keeps telling me, "I'm almost a kindergartner" and my heart does this funny double beat because I love her so much and I want her to be a squishy squishy baby but also? There's something amazing about their increasing independence. I mean, we still wipe an occasional butt around here, but they can play and entertain themselves for extended periods of time and it is AH-mazing. For so long, time at home felt like it was devoted to childcare, with post-bedtime carved out for everything else--blogging, writing, projects, TV, adult conversations, personal care, general maintenance, etc. Now it's almost like we can mix things up, and it's great! But also I feel a little weepy about it. Zuzu told me she's not a squishy baby any more because she grew bones in her cheeks. And SHE DID.

* Zuzu has been learning about the human body in kindergarten and asking a lot of questions so we ordered this book and this book in order to address them. We usually refer generally to "private parts" but we also use anatomically specific language, so when we were reading the book, we were talking about what things were called. I said, "And what is the place where your poop comes out?" while pointing at the book's helpful label "anus." She said in all seriousness, "BUTTHOLE!" And then David and I couldn't stop giggling, so clearly we are not really mature enough for this conversation.

* Coco has been a more challenging three-year-old than she was two-year-old. The difference is that at two, there was virtually no problem that Mama couldn't solve. At three, Mama is sometimes the problem. Coco has recently gotten pissed off at me and had a couple of full-fledge screaming fits in the car that have made me miss the binky days. That kid is LOUD and can easily scream for twenty minutes straight. Ask me how I know.

* I'm teaching a novels class in the spring, and I'm super excited about it. I'm subtitling it "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists" (that's a quote from George Eliot, who was a woman, who wanted women to write serious literature). We're starting with Frankenstein and reading Jane Eyre, The Return of the Soldier, The Wide Sargasso Sea (a sort of follow-up to Jane Eyre, told from Bertha Rochester's perspective), The Handmaid's Tale, and ending with the new Kamila Shamsie novel, Home Fire, which is  retelling of Sophocles's Antigone. It's a LOT of reading, but it's all so good.

* We are thinking about getting a cat. I'm wondering if my allergies would flare up. I'm worried it would destroy our furniture. But we are thinking about it. It would have to be the right kind of cat.

* I'm drowning in grading, which also helps explain the silence of the blog. So. Many. Papers. And exams. Blergh.

* Yesterday was the only day on my calendar for the month of October that doesn't have something scheduled or something I need to remember to do. I think October and May are our busiest months. A lot of fun stuff, but still just a lot of stuff.

* The girls have been doing gymnastics, which is really cute. They both seem to enjoy it immensely. Zuzu happens to be in the same class as a little girl who's also in her kindergarten class, and they are good buddies, so that's sweet. I'm not sure they are a great influence on each other, but they sure have fun! Coco takes gymnastics very seriously and tries to race through each of the activities like it's a speed game. She makes me laugh, but she really listens to her coaches and tries to do exactly as they say (needless to say, this is a quality not shared by all of my kids...). We go on Saturdays because weeknights feel too short as it is, and I guess we'll sign up for the next session.

* We have family photos scheduled for a couple of weeks from now. WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR? I've been contemplating this for ages and all I feel is panic and woe. I have nothing to wear! I have a closet full of clothes! Everything is stupid! I should go shopping but I don't want to buy clothes, I want to buy house stuff! We need to save money! But also I want to not hate what I'm wearing in these photos! Panic and woe.

* My book club is reading this book for October. I haven't started it yet, but I plan to dive in this weekend. I'm already terrified!

* I ordered these products for my face a few weeks ago. Some beauty blogger I read recommended them, and I like that they are simple ingredients, cruelty-free, and also not very expensive. So far my skin seems to be liking them. Has anyone else tried these? It felt weird at first, like I was doing science with my eye dropper bottles, but I've gotten used to it and the oils absorb really quickly. I follow this regimen, and I slap my moisturizer with SPF on top of it in the morning:

(1) Buffet, (2) Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
(1) Buffet, (2) Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, (3) 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
Always avoid unprotected solar exposure.

* Last week, I took the girls to a Black Lives Matter vigil at our church. We've been talking a lot about race, equality, racism, and protests in St. Louis, but I think that seeing other people holding up Black Lives Matter signs made something click for Zuzu. She seemed to get suddenly that it's not just a thing that I say, but something that many people believe. We had a complicated conversation about why we don't say "All lives matter" (one person drove by and yelled that at us). It's a pretty hard concept for a lot of adults to understand, so I imagine it is confusing for a five-year-old. I told her that everyone's life matters, but that we have some unfair systems in place that hurt mostly black people. So the reason we're saying Black Lives Matter is because we want people to remember that black people are just as important as white people and we want to change things to make everybody feel safe and equal.

I feel like I'm fumbling through most of these conversations, but I know it's important to make the effort. This podcast about how not to accidentally raise a racist is a good place to start:

And if you want to go a bit further:

* Back to work here. These world literature exams aren't going to grade themselves... (If only.)