Friday, August 24, 2018


I was supposed to go to an event last night that I had been looking forward to, but I couldn't make it happen. This week has kicked my ass. The transition to back-to-school is not joke... and it's not just waking up with an alarm (which didn't happen today, due to a late night visitor who wet the bed, prompting all of us needing to relocate, but I went without my phone/alarm, so David woke me up 30 minutes after my alarm went off in bedroom, which meant this morning was off to a great start!).

Zuzu's school is late start, which means her day doesn't begin until 9:05am and she doesn't get out of school until 4pm. Coco's day runs from 8:30 to 3:30. Both of them have before and after care extended hours, so we have some flexibility, and I'm still trying to figure out the best way for me to drop them and then drive to my campus, which is 40 minutes away. The drive doesn't really bother me, as it is quiet podcast or audio book time and an easy/mindless drive without much traffic, but damn it does eat into my day. And the girls need to go to bed early, because it's not like they are sleeping in late. Anyway, we'll figure out a routine, but August is always hard. I think the thing I miss most (besides lots of time with the girls) is all of the reading I was able to do this summer. Sad trombone.

* * *

Zuzu's school had an intruder drill on Wednesday... and she said nothing about it. I haven't brought it up, but it's been on my mind (I got teary about it Tuesday night). I cannot believe that the administration is considering using federal funding to buy guns FOR schools. It is terrifying. Regardless of how you feel about guns, easy access is what allows mass shootings to occur. The accidents that could unfold... I just can't believe it's under consideration.

Another elementary school not far from us had a threat called in this past week. I have friends whose kiddos go there, and tensions are high. How do we not value our children more than this? How can we possibly be willing to put them at risk for our own convenience, entertainment, or false sense of security?

Honestly, I have friends and family members who are avid hunters and those who shoot recreationally and those who carry a gun in their purse to feel safe and I'm over it. I would rather melt all the guns and outlaw every single firearm than worry about children being shot. And I don't just mean white kids in elementary schools--I also mean accidental shootings in people's homes, teenage suicide, and children in neighborhoods where gun fire happens on the regular. It's not okay. Maybe criminals would still have guns, but then it would be easy to identify and arrest them. And meanwhile, I might be marginally less afraid that my six-year-old will learn that she is not really safe at school.

Realistically, I know people can be responsible gun owners. But also, I care SO MUCH LESS about anyone's right to own a gun or hunt an animal than I care about children staying alive.

End rant.

* * *

I haven't blogged in a million years because my laptop is in the shop. I guess it's good that this happened when I'm back at the office on the regular because it feels weird to not have a computer and I get tired of typing on my phone!

I have revisited my new year's resolutions and I'm doing pretty well, which is like the first time ever. Maybe it's because I don't have a toddler? Sniffle, sniffle. But it's also awesome. Coco is so big! I picked her up at school the other day and watching her run toward me kind of made me breath catch because she just looks so grown up. I'm kind of wishing she'd cut her hair super sort again so she'd look more like a baby...

Anyway, we've done pretty well with meal planning even though it's not a chore that I enjoy at all. I am on daily yoga without having to make myself do it. I'm the annoying person who rolls out of bed looking forward to it every single day. I would rather be late than skip yoga. And I'm taking a class on Sunday evenings, which is a difficult time, but when is NOT a difficult time? It's Kaiut yoga, which is weird. It's focused on movement from joints and basically you hold positions for super long amounts of time so in an hour class you do like half a dozen poses. At first I didn't like it, but after the second class I liked it more. And now I'm looking forward to it. It's kind of restorative except less relaxing. But I feel so good when class is over!

I've also been trying to drink 64 ounces of water a day, but with less success.

And I'm trying not to raise my voice. This is difficult, because I struggle to say, "Put your shoes on please" seventeen times without starting to increase in volume.

Work in progress!

Book work is also going well. I'm feeling motivated but crunched for time. I will figure it out, though. I'm nervous talking about it. I'm going to have to do the scary thing of asking some people I know who have published if they would considering connecting me with their agent. This feels like such an imposition and the biggest, scariest ask in the world. So wish me luck working up the nerve for that.

* * *

Zuzu's transition to first grade has gone so well. Smoother than I thought. She loves her teacher. I love that her teacher communicates a LOT with parents. She is starting to make friends. She loves her special classes, especially music. I'm trying to figure out extra curriculars and being mindful about overscheduling... she is doing ballet and tap again, and we're considering an outside music class because she's so excited about music right now. Also this is an area in which David and I are both pretty inept, so I'd love to encourage her. I mean, I can technically read music (thank you, United Methodist handbell choir), and I took a year of piano lessons and half-heartedly played the trombone for a couple years and then just went through the motions of playing the trombone for a couple more years (with braces--it was amazing). BUT I can't carry a tune and I feel like I don't know anything about music.

But she also might want to do Girl Scouts? And then I just feel like we're getting maybe too busy, you know? I mean, we like our down time. And David thinks the girls should stop Kumon because of the expense (and it is expensive). But they are both making such good progress! Newsflash to no one: parenting decisions are hard.

* * *

Back to work here. Classes start Monday and I'm mostly ready but still need to get organized. I'm helping with my friend's Pedal the Cause fundraiser this weekend, and I need to finish the banner that I'm making tonight, too! Plus we're going to David's school for a family picnic (that may have to move indoors because of rain). And my parents are coming in town! See, the end of August is a hard time for me.

Oh, but speaking of Pedal the Cause, both my girls are riding in the Kids Challenge this year. Zuzu has raised over $100. She is riding in honor of her school principal, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Her teacher posted her link on the class facebook page and we got several donations, which is awesome! But poor Coco has raised 0 dollars, so if anyone would like to donate to Coco-Puff on her little balance bike, we're just asking friends and family for $5 or $10 donations and 100% of funds raise for Pedal go straight to cancer research happening at Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Children's Hospital. You can make a donation here:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

All the Feelings

This summer is barreling toward an end. Last week was one fun thing after another--dinner at a friends house! Friends visiting us! Family visiting us! Family reunion in Indiana! And this week is supposed to be a shift back into real life, but the transition away from All Fun All The Time has all of us feeling a little out of sorts.

(Also, Coco slept until 9am today which... does not bode super well for school starting in something like 10 DAYS).

So I'm having all the feelings. Nostalgia about summer and lazy mornings and making coffee and listening to the girls' chatter and having finally trained them to clear their dishes after they eat. I'll miss sitting outside while Clementine romps through the yard and watching the girls draw with sidewalk chalk or ride in circles on their scooters or play in the sandbox until Clem joins them and digs so much that sand is flying.

I'll miss days like today, when nothing is on schedule except an errand to the post office and a trip to the library and time feels long and lazy and I just have to decide what's for lunch.

But yesterday was a wicked behavior day--the most attitude and ugliness I've gotten from Zuzu all summer, over things like not buying a 60 pack of popsicles at the grocery store and then not letting her have a popsicle shortly before friends were coming to our house for the VERY PURPOSE of eating popsicles with us.

Yesterday was the day that I was like, "Well, I think I am ready for some adult time. And for some other adult to get paid not enough money to deal with your behavior."

We had friends over last night whose kids go to the same school as Zuzu, although both their kids will be second graders. (You know, the grade Eliza would be in...) I asked them to come over so the kids could play and I could find out a little more about the school and the after school program and the teachers. It was helpful to talk to them, and I'm grateful to know that our neighbors use the after school program also. Even though these kiddos aren't in the same grade, I hope Zuzu gets some comfort from knowing a couple of kiddos at the school. She's pretty excited about it. She says, "I'm nervous, but I'll make friends."

First grade is giving me ALL THE FEELINGS. I worry about whether her summer birthday will put her behind others in class--emotionally, academically, physically. I worry about whether she'll make friends or feel left out because other children will know each other from kindergarten. I worry that the transition from the project-oriented and child-directed approach at Montessori to a traditional academic environment will be difficult or straining or stifling. I worry that she'll talk baby talk the way she does when she's shy. I worry that she'll tell the teacher she can't read even though she can (like how she told her doctor at our check up appointment that she likes to swim and also to sleep--the biggest lie she's ever told, I'd say. And said she likes to eat cake and cupcakes and she doesn't really eat fruit. SHE EATS FRUIT WITH LITERALLY EVERY MEAL.) I worry that she'll have trouble making friends or someone will make fun of her. I worry that she'll feel shy and won't talk to anyone. Oh. And I worry that a man with a gun will come into the school and shoot everybody.

Last night I had an anxiety dream that included the girls getting into a car accident on their way home from college, so that tells you something about the speed with which time seems to be passing.

My tiny baby Coco, my peanut, my little nugget, is suddenly getting long legs and arms and losing her pudginess and I don't even know what to do with that! (She's still kinda teensy, measuring in the twenty-fifth percentile for both height and weight, but she's growing!). She'll be at her preschool for two more years, and she's just getting braver and bolder and smarter every time I turn around. My mom got her a birthday shirt that says "Four and Fearless" and she asks every day if she can wear it, but we have five more days until she's really four. FOUR!

Yesterday when things were really bad with Zuzu and I was having to remind myself to be the adult, I salvaged the day by busting out Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. She knows HP by reputation only and she's been asking me to read HP books to her since before she started kindergarten. I kept saying she wasn't ready--too scary, and I wasn't sure it would hold her interest.

But yesterday afternoon, we started reading.

(Coco asked us skeptically this morning why we were reading a book that didn't have any pictures. She hangs out in the room with us but plays with toys while we read.)

The Harry Potter books were the first things I read after Eliza died. Re-read, actually--I'd already read them all. Reading is my thing--entertainment, information, refuge, escape, delight. My friend Michelle and I plotted out our book club's reading list and we were both positively giddy over it. But after Eliza died, my capacity for concentration was basically nonexistent. I didn't know how I'd ever go back to vapid novels that were about nothing remotely important or related to my life. So I read Harry Potter--starting with book 4, when it gets dark. I needed life and death. I needed good and evil. I needed magical thinking and a world completely separated from the Muggle hell in which I was living.

In Book I, the first chapter is called "The Boy Who Lived." If you're not familiar with Harry Potter's story, you find out in the first chapter that his parents died and he lived and no one knows why the curse that killed his parents didn't work on him.

You find out later that his mother died trying to save him, and that the pure love of her sacrifice was essentially a magical charm of protection. It was a tragedy, to be certain, but it was one that made narrative sense. This was the way things worked. No one was writing a story about a wizard baby who died and how his parents had to limp along and figure out how and why to go on living without him.

As I grieved for baby Eliza and two year old Eliza and kindergarten Eliza, I also grieved my dream of sharing Harry Potter with Eliza. I wanted to live that magic with her. I wanted to share the books with her and tell her about the time the last book was released and how I read it in literally 24 hours because I cleared my entire schedule and stayed up late and then went to a release party with friends at a swanky house in the Central West End where one of my friends was house sitting and we ate and sat around and talked about whether we found the final book satisfying and whether things had happened the way we expected and what characters we liked or didn't and just basically nerded out over the whole thing. After years of analyzing and criticizing literature as work in graduate school, to just be a fan of Harry Potter was so relaxing and so much fun. And it didn't matter that we were too old and super dorky because we weren't trying to impress anyone. We were all wishing that we'd gotten a Hogwarts letter at age 11.

So I mourned Harry Potter and the lost opportunity to share those books--and every book I'd loved--with my daughter.

In March of that year, David and I went to Florida to see spring training games and the newly opened Harry Potter World.

It was brilliant. We drank butter beer and did the rides that made it feel like we were truly in the castle. I stopped short of buying a wand at Ollivander's, but I wanted one. I enjoyed it so much, but I was also four months into the deepest grief and missing my girl so much that I could have burned Harry Potter World to the ground if it meant I could just be at home hanging out with my baby.

It was just before that trip when we went to the theater to see the final film and somehow during the movie all the power went out and we were plunged into the super dark darkness of an interior room that's already designed to be dark. People in the theater giggled nervously and someone made a joke about death eaters and then the power came back on. I sat there thinking that the blackness had felt like a kind of relief--the outside world suddenly matched my insides, where there didn't feel like there was any light at all.

And now I'm coming back to Harry Potter with Zuzu. I'm realizing that my hesitation was partly to do with her being ready for the books--she's still that kid who gets super nervous about "scary" movies--but it was also about everything the books meant for me. Stories of heartache and loss and death and carrying on and finding happiness and finding meaning.

For a long time I told Zuzu the books were too scary for her, and now she keeps asking after each chapter when we're going to get to the scary parts. I look at how tall she is, how she's grown out her bangs, how she sometimes surprises me with her capabilities, how she acted like such a big girl playing with her little cousins, how she's going to be a first grader this year with real school supplies and a backpack she picked out on her own that is nothing like what I would have chosen for her. She'll make new friends and she'll have new struggles and she'll have this whole life apart from me--a life that includes problems I can't fix and situations in which I won't always be able to keep her safe. And I know that's the whole point of it and I'm thrilled that we're here and I know she's going to be amazing! As I tell her frequently, I'm so glad she was born to me and I get to be her mom.

So when she asks me when we'll get to the scary parts, I just want to pull her onto my lap and squeeze her tight and kiss her soft cheeks and say, "Never."

But I think the truth is that we're already there.

P.S. A post written about HP in December of 2010. Oof.

Pictures of me at HP world!