Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Quick Post About Coco Puff

This morning we were doing the usual chaotic shuffle out the door, with the girls and me in our relatively small laundry room, putting on coats and shoes and backpacks, both dogs underfoot.

Suddenly, Coco said, "What is that bad smell?"

She was right. It smelled terrible--poopy and sulfury at the same time. "I don't know," I said, looking at both of the dogs, "But that is foul."

Coco said, "Maybe it was my toot."

* * *

After I pick Coco up from school, we have about a ten minute drive to Zuzu's school. Sometimes this drive is exhausting, as she peppers me with one question after another, demanding exact answers or thoughtful responses. Here is Monday's list, as close to verbatim as I can get, which I immediately entered into my phone upon arriving at Zuzu's school so I wouldn't forget them:

Are you driving fast?
Is it almost Christmas?
Are we almost to Zuzu's school?
What is before Christmas?
How will Eliza do her birthday if she died?
How did Eliza die?
Why did her heart stop beeping?
Was Little Mac a baby when she died?
When are we going to outer space?
When are we going to a hotel?

That's an average of one question per minute, with me stumbling over responses ranging from "We really don't know why things like this happen, and they don't happen very often, but sometimes they do and it's really sad..." to "Never. We are never going to outer space."

I love this kid, but sometimes it would be more relaxing to just listen to the radio rather than try to have a conversation/interrogation.

* * *

Zuzu was really ill-behaved the other morning before school, and Coco did that thing you sometimes do as a sibling when your brother or sister is making bad choices and you act extra good. It was very cute, and as frustrated as I was with Zuzu, I appreciate Coco's efforts.

I had a moment of parenting genius that day and wrote a note from Elsa the Elf to each of the girls. Elsa told Zuzu that she doesn't want to have to report poor choices to Santa, so she is going to delay her visit (YES!) until she is sure that Zuzu can have good behavior. Elsa wrote to Coco that she was proud of her for making good choices. Coco's little face just lit up. Even funnier was that the girls had already hung their stockings, so the notes were folded over the tops of them. They have been playing Christmas and putting toys they already own in the stockings, so they dug around in them to see if Elsa brought them anything.

(NO! Of course she didn't bring you anything. She brought you a note saying your behavior made her SAD!)

But apparently there was a hair clip shoved all the way down in the toe of Coco's stocking that had been overlooked last Christmas, so the girls naturally assumed Elsa had brought it for Coco because she made good choices that morning and I totally let that ride.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

So... We're Doing This

We are going to Disney World in December.

Cue the head explosion.

Don't get me wrong--I'm excited about it and how it will be an amazing and magical experience for the girls.

David has done all the planning, and he has made lots of choices I would not have made. (Length of trip being a big one.) But on the other hand, he is doing all the planning so I don't have to think about it, I just have to show up. (And order a few Disney-themed shirts for the girls, naturally.)

Part of me wants to ask the internet for Disney advice and part of me knows it will be overwhelming and confusing and I just want to put my head in the sand until we actually get there. So... I dunno. Any non-overhwelming advice? Like what pants do I wear to Disney in December? Seriously. I have no idea.

The trickiest part of all--aside from the pants situation--is that taking a vacation in December shortens the month for us. We are going before Christmas, which means that everything that needs to be done before Christmas really has to be done before Disney. And that feels like it is coming up SO FAST!

Which means we put a Christmas tree up yesterday. I know people get really Scroogey about decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but I want the weeks to enjoy the tree, and by the time Christmas is over I want to simplify and declutter and get the decorations put away. So we figured we'd decorate now while it didn't feel stressful and crazy. The girls were thrilled and helped out a lot, which means the tree is not exactly decorated in the way I would have chosen. We didn't get ribbon on it because they'd already hung so many ornaments, and the ornaments are clustered as you'd expect, about halfway up the tree and in the center. I also like to "feature" certain ornaments by giving them the prime real estate on the tree, but the girls tended to make other choices and I decided not to bark orders at them. So the tree is strongly centering Elsa and Olaf, and there are a couple of ornaments sharing a branch, although I have spread out some of them because that kind of drives me bonkers. It still looks beautiful and makes me happy to see it. Plus, it's nice to put up Christmas stuff well in advance of Eliza's birthday since I know I'll spend November 30 - December 6 feeling pretty low.

I'm keeping the dining room pumpkin-fied for Thanksgiving, but letting the rest of the house go ahead and make the shift, while also trying to convince David we can cut back on some of the decorations this year. We inherited many things from his grandma and he is sentimental about them (but I am not so much) so it's hard to convince him that some of the things could just stay in storage this year...

On the other hand, we are super simplifying Christmas shopping for the girls. I think the plan is that they will get a small gift each day while we are there to help stave off the requests for souvenirs. And we'll explain to them that those are their Christmas presents from David and me. When we get home, Christmas morning will be gifts from Santa and Grammy and Bops and other relatives who send gifts. They will not feel deprived, and Santa is keeping it small this year, too... I've heard that the big gift he's bringing is a karaoke machine. I'm sure he will stuff their stockings, and then he usually does books, a puzzle for Coco, art supplies for Zuzu, and some jammies or clothes. He won't do clothes this year since they are getting some new stuff for the trip (Harry Potter t-shirts and soft princess-inspired dresses that aren't the polyester costumes). Actually, he might do Elsa nightgowns because I think he already stocked up on those...

I guess that's it! I've already decided on it. I just need to get make a trip to the bookstore, and I'm already planning to go tomorrow night anyway to see a friend of mine talk about his new book, so I should be able to cross a few things off my list.

I do a gift exchange with a few friends, plus we buy gifts for nieces and nephews and a few little cousins. So still lots to plan! Plus holiday cards and post-Disney travel plans (we want to visit my brother and his family in Pittsburgh... we also need to have a little R&R time at home before we start a new semester).

So before we leave for Disney, I have to get through the semester, host Thanksgiving, get this novel written, get through Eliza's birthday (eight. That feels impossible but also exactly right because of course I should have an eight-year-old.), send out holiday cards, finish holiday shopping, grade all final exams and papers, get grades posted before we leave town, attend David's doctoral hooding ceremony, and hopefully make some Christmas cookies?

I kind of need a nap.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Night Worries

I was going to call this post "Night Terrors" but then that sounded like I was writing about the real thing that some children experience where they wake up screaming and I'm just writing about my own self and my own anxieties.

In the early days after Eliza died, I hated mornings the most. I was pretty tired by the end of the day--holding yourself together when you want to cry at every moment is exhausting--and I could basically just watch TV until I dozed off. But in the morning, when you first shift into consciousness... before you even wake up, you become aware of a pit of dread in your stomach and it takes just a few fleeting moments before your brain catches up and reminds you why your stomach hurts and your heart aches. And you have a whole day stretching in front of you that you have to get up and get through. That kind of grief is a hard slog.

These days, I don't have so much trouble getting out of bed in the morning. Back in late September/early October, I took a couple weeks off from yoga with Adriene. I was staying up too late and having a hard time getting up in the morning, not because I was sad but just because I was tired. It became obvious that I actually feel much better and am more productive when I squeeze that extra 30 minutes into my morning, so I have returned to the daily morning practice and it definitely gets my morning off to the right kind of start.

But now it's the evenings that get me. If I'm worried about something--say, an election, a book project, a stack of grading, plans for the holidays, etc.--I can push things from the forefront my mind while I drive the kids around and teach classes and answer e-mails and do all the work stuff I do to keep busy so I don't have to grade papers. Then I get home from work and it's the bustle of dinner and read alouds and bath and bed and the dreaded teeth brushing (seriously it's my least favorite moment of the day). And then the girls go to sleep and then I take a shower and then...

I worry. I lay in bed planning to read but then I just scroll my phone and fret.

Last night, I was really worked up. I sent out a few queries and instead of feeling bold and in charge of my destiny, I felt fearful and silly. I'm recognizing how small the niche for this book project seems in relation to the vast publishing market and realizing that even if the book doesn't totally suck (I have lost all objectivity and can't even tell if it's rubbish), it still may never find an agent who wants to publish something that will only appeal to a portion of 1% of women who get pregnant each year. 1/160 is way too many babies who die before they are born, but it's a really small number when you're thinking about book sales. This does explain why there's not a lot of great stuff out there, and it does make me further appreciate books like Notes for the Everlost: A Field Guide to Grief by Kate Inglis and Ghost Belly by Elizabeth Heineman and, of course, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken.

Anyway, last night I was just feeling really sad about the slim chances of traditional publishing. This morning? I feel much better. (It's amazing what eight hours of sleep can do.) The chances are still slim, but given my particular audience, it's just reality that my book might be a better fit for a small boutique press or possibly even a hybrid publishing house. I just feel better about exploring options this morning, where last night I felt like a failure. Mornings are better, these days.

Last night I was also pretty worried about election results. This morning... still worried. But motivated. Zuzu went with me to vote because she's out of school today and we had good conversations about voting and our family's values. We talked about how your vote is secret and no one has to know who you voted for, but you can tell your family if you want to. We dropped Coco at school first (Coco had a rough morning--her first question when she woke up was if I would paint her fingernails before school, and getting a negative answer to that inquiry was pretty devastating) so it was about 8am before we made it to our polling place. But the line was short and the folks were friendly!

I still don't have holiday cards ordered or holiday shopping organized, although we do have some big holiday plans that I'll announce soon. And I feel okay about that today. In an annoying revelation, writing this novel is forcing me to be really efficient with my time, so I'm actually getting stuff done. (Which is why I keep finding time to blog even though I thought it would be radio silence for the month of November!). It turns out that the more I write, the more stuff I want to write about.

Anyway, I still have a stack of grading to tackle (and more exams coming in on Friday) so I'd better get to it. I just needed to write out this reminder that no matter how terrible I feel at bedtime, life is generally more endurable in the morning.  And hanging out with this kiddo at work today doesn't hurt either.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Quick Halloween Recap

Just a few things I want to remember about Halloween this year...

I was so unmotivated on the actual day of Halloween. It was chilly and rainy and even when the rain stopped it just felt damp. It is getting dark so early (I'm already over it) and by the time David got home and we all had dinner, it was after 6pm. We had talked about driving back in to our old neighborhood because it is the BEST when it comes to trick or treating (everyone goes all out and all the houses are so close together, it's maximum candy per square foot), but suddenly that felt like too big of an undertaking. Our street is really quiet, so I suggested we drive over to the next street, which is a much larger subdivision and trick or treat there.

We started at my friend Lisa's house, which was fun, and we also immediately ran into a little girl from Zuzu's class at school, her dad, and her four-year-old sister. The girls immediately paired up and decided to trick or treat together. The dad also ended up being super nice, and I was like a third wheel as he and David were both in costume (David was Thing One from school that day--his assistant principal had been Thing Two) and the other dad was a Jedi knight because his daughter was Rey from Star Wars. (He had told his daughters that if one of them dressed up as something other than a Disney princess that he would dress up too. LOL.)

I already posted this on Instagram, burt Coco was not too sure about David's costume. She asked if he was really going to wear it and when he said yes, she said, "NO. People will think you're different." I think she meant that people wouldn't recognize him? But I just told her, "Honey, your daddy is a little different."

Anyway, Hermione Granger and the little black kitty cat had a blast running around with Rey and a  fairy with light up wings. The houses being spread out enough (with not every porch light on) meant that the girls actually did a fair amount of running and we hustled to keep up with them. The rain held off (it started misting/spitting at the end) and the girls fully participated in the St. Louis tradition of telling a joke to get a piece of candy.

Zuzu's joke was: How do you get a tissue to dance?

Answer: You put a little boogie in it.

Her friend's joke was: Why did the music teacher need a ladder?

Answer: To reach the high notes.

The little sisters mostly got out of joke-telling but were happy to shout trick or treat and mostly remembered to say thank you.

Coco got pretty worn out at the end and started lagging behind. The other girls' dad asked them to wait on Coco and Zuzu's friend said, "Oh, Coco, I'm sorry we left you in the dust!" which made me laugh. I'd told David I wanted to leave at 7, but it was closer to 7:30 by the time we got back to the car. Coco told me she had enough candy and asked if she could take a little nap in the car! That is a sentence you would never, ever hear her sister speak.

It ended up being a pretty fun little evening, and I was glad that I went even though I was kind of a grumpy pants about the whole thing. (After two Halloween events over the weekend, I was just kind of over it.)

Since Halloween, Clementine has demonstrated she will eat ANYTHING that comes out of a trick or treat bag: candy, spider rings, erasers, and also little ink stampers, which will then get black ink all over the carpet. That dog is a running, leaping, chewing disaster.

Other November news:
I'm feeling pretty anxious about the upcoming election. The usual vacillation between hope and despair. I'm really concerned about the marginalized communities who it feels are being increasingly targeted. My sister-in-law recently posted a cartoon on Facebook that featured Mary and Joseph fleeing their home country with the baby Jesus and seeking refuge. I'm baffled by the way many Christian groups do not find it part of their calling to open our country to refugees. I know there are lots of excuses and justifications, but the New Testament seems pretty clear on this stuff. UGH RELIGION POLITICS CLIMATE CHANGE FREAKOUT HIDE UNDER BLANKETS I JUST WANT TO GO WATCH FATHER BROWN.

My novel is coming right along (which is why I'm blogging now instead of writing). I'm not sure I'll have a ton of time to work on it this weekend, so I've gotten a bit ahead of the game. Not getting too cocky here! (I still have 45,000 words to write). What I've written is terrible so far--I'm telling rather than showing everything, but I'm getting it all down on paper, and I do think the story I'm telling is kind of interesting (the basic premise is that a girl tells a lie in high school to protect her cousin when he is wrongly accused of murder, and then fifteen years later finds out that her lie protected someone else. She then has to decide whether to lie again, when protecting her cousin will also let the real murderer go free. WHAT WOULD YOU DO??? It's set in a small town and the girl is working at her family's furniture store, so I've been texting my friend Monica (whose family owns a furniture store in my hometown) to ask her questions about what she did at work all day besides just help customers.

Kids are in bed, so I'm off to raid the Halloween candy for the good stuff.