Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Future is Female

In case there was any question about it... the future is most definitely female. We are expecting Baby Girl #4!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tired, Stinky

Do you know what is not interesting? Hearing about how tired someone is.

Do you know why this blog has been silent when I feel like I have so much to say?

I'm really tired.

I'm trying to remember if I'm always this tired at the start of the semester (to some extent, I think, yes) or if being pregnant makes me more tired (to some extent, I think, yes). Or maybe it's because I am teaching three different classes that have combined to give me a reading load of Shakespeare, Euripides, and Jane Austen all at once? (Hmmm... could be part of it.)

At any rate, here we are, only halfway through week 1 of the semester and it feels to be like it should absolutely be Friday. Also: When the highlight of your week is a visit to the chiropractor (this afternoon at 3!) you know that you are old and lame.

So I've mostly been doing work stuff, except last week I stayed home Thursday and Friday with a sick kiddo. I felt fine all day and then Thursday night I got sick. I felt okay Friday, but Zuzu's fever lingered on and off all day long, and then we got the big snows. She was fever-free on Saturday so she got to go play out in the snow Saturday and Sunday, but she wasn't quite her energetic self. Now she has a cold, so I think those germs got her while her immune system was down. Poor little punkin.

Our big excitement this week was dog poop drama because that's just the life we live right now. I walked in the door yesterday with an hour to feed the girls and get them to Spanish class and the moment I opened the door I was hit with a wall of stink. Poor Clementine had diarrhea yesterday in her crate yesterday, which also got out of her crate onto the floor and all over her blankets and all over her. Meanwhile, and only slightly less disgusting, Cooper had been urged out of his usual Old Dog Stupor by the smell of peanutbutter in the kitchen trash can and all of the trash was all over the floor, including a peanutbutter container licked clean. I didn't have time to do the full clean up required (all the trash, plus bathing Clementine, washing the blanket, hosing out and scrubbing the dog crate, and cleaning the carpets) AND make dinner AND get the girls to Spanish. And there was no making dinner and going to Spanish without doing the clean up first (seriously--the smell hit me the moment I opened the door--we couldn't stay in the house without tackling clean up) and it was all SO DISGUSTING.

Not to mention, my sense of smell is pretty sharp at all times and is currently at supersonic levels. I felt bad for Clementine (who knows what the heck she ate that's making her sick), but I couldn't stay in the house so I went outside in the snow and called David and told him we were in crisis mode at home and I was thinking about just taking the girls and fleeing. He (bless his heart) told me to do just that, so we loaded back up and went to eat dinner at Dairy Queen (healthy choices) and then went to Spanish. I spent their hour of Spanish class at the library, mostly talking to my mom on the phone in my car, and by the time we all got home, David had the house and the dog cleaned up and smelling fresh.

Other than that sort of domestic excitement, we've just been doing the new semester routine stuff. Coco's new thing has been putting on a show for us each night. Mostly this means dancing to "Shake It Off" or "It's a Small World" (pick your ear worm!) and her dances include a lot of cartwheels and she's always wearing a princess nightgown for the show. Zuzu sometimes joins her and sings into the microphone and shows off some dance moves as well. It is highly entertaining.

My next post will be a pregnancy update. This babe is already winning the Least Documented Pregnancy Ever, so I would like to do a post or two for posterity's sake. Meanwhile, I need to get back to Pride and Prejudice. May your day/week be healthy and stink-free.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2019 Resolutions

I have a list of things I want to blog about, and each subject seems long enough for its own post, but I feel like I should start with resolutions before we get any deeper into 2019.

I should say quickly, thank you SO MUCH for the sweet messages I got about The Closer. I'll have more to say about that soon, but your support and enthusiasm and messages of hope and acknowledgement of fears... it means so much to me and it makes me feel like I can get through the next four months without losing my mind.

Now, about resolutions. This year I'm doing something a little bit different, thanks to a new friendly acquaintance I know in real life and am following on Instagram. She introduced me to Kimberly Joy's Wheel of Intention, which she used last year for resolutions.

credit to Kimberly Joy

I love this idea because it covers broad areas of life while also encouraging you to set specific goals. So rather than saying, "Practice self care," I can specifically tend to my mind by tackling Modern Mrs. Darcy's 2019 Ready Challenge.

I also love it because it makes "Money and Career" one piece of a much, much bigger life pie, and it was really revitalizing for me to look at the division of my life and priorities like this wheel. I think that I tend to visualize my day with 2/3 of it taken up by work, and sometimes it starts to feel like work is 2/3 of my life--especially when I'm bringing home essays or exams to grade, or I am in bed reading for class rather than for fun. The fact is that some of that is unavoidable with my job--I'll always be cramming in grading time and there will always be evenings when I need to read for class. The trade off (and major perk) of my job is that it gives me a month off to do none of those things at Christmas, and a couple months off in the summer. And when I'm in bed reading for class, I'm still reading Jane Austen.

Anyway, I knew I wanted to blog about this, but then as I was brainstorming my goals, I found myself getting kind of hung up on making them public... So anyway, I told myself I wouldn't make all of them public, but I would like to share a few things that I want to do in 2019. I gave myself two or three bullet points in each category. So here are some examples:

- Yoga 5x a week. I was SO GOOD with daily yoga last year. And then the first trimester of pregnancy hit me and although I wasn't barfing in the morning, exhaustion and nausea were the main experiences post-alarm clock. So yoga went out the window for about six weeks. I did pick it up again, but I started worrying about doing something wrong/harmful (this is mostly just paranoia--I've never heard of yoga causing miscarriage). And exhaustion was still real. So I tried to do prenatal routines, but those were often too boring/easy. So I was a little stumped. I have a few videos now that I like and I've been having sciatic nerve pain, so I know I need to keep moving and keep my back strong. I should be able to get back into this.

Money & Career
- Use a budget app. Pretty self-explanatory, this one. We need to watch our budget carefully since my maternity leave will be unpaid. (Insert rant about feminism, politics, America, etc.)

- Plan a 2020 vacation. I'm not sure what this will look like... we'll (hopefully) have a second-grader, a kindergartener, and a baby, but I'd like to find a location that will suit all of us.

- Encourage girls to craft.
- Revisit (and revise) novel.

Family & Friends
- Host a game night.

- Plan a surprise date for David.

Community & Activism
- Sign up for a new group/experience outside my comfort zone. I did buy tickets to see Rachel Cargle when she's in Kansas City, but I'm going with a friend and it doesn't feel scary. I recently applied to be part of a 12-week study of anti-racism work that's specifically geared to help white people take action. I want to be sure that I am prepared to do anti-racism work without burdening people of color or centering myself, so I think this study will be helpful. But 12 weeks? With a new group of people, none of whom I know? I hate new things. This is definitely outside my comfort zone.

- Read three books in the genre of religion/spirituality. I'm still open to possibilities here, but I want to read An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor and Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle.

So that's it... I have a few more bullet points under some of them, but you get the idea. I'm trying to be specific but still push myself to do things I might not normally do. If you want to download your own wheel and bullet your own goals, you can find it here.

I have to say, I was feeling sooooo good about the new year a week ago. Last Saturday was 60 degrees and sunny. Zuzu and Coco and I walked the neighborhood so Zuzu could sell Girl Scout cookies and she made her (very modest) goal. The house was clean and I felt energetic and excited about preparing for the semester. I think maybe my absolute favorite part of the job is preparing reading lists and syllabi. I know that sounds lame, but it's just the time when the semester is full of joy and possibility, before the reality of unenthusiastic students and piles of gradings start weighing on me. Anyway, Saturday I was in a really good mood. Living on top of the world!

Then Sunday morning was a drag to get everyone to church and by the time we got home from church, my back was killing me. I had sciatica like never before. I've experienced sciatic nerve pain in all of pregnancies (and there are so many of them because I apparently have the reproductive capacity of a hearty pioneer woman) but nothing has ever been this painful. I was reduced to tears a couple of times--going from bending to straightening, including sitting to standing, was excruciating. And there was a moment when I seriously thought I might pee my pants because I couldn't see how I would get up off the floor in time to make it to the bathroom (David ended up lifting me up). It was brutal. So Sunday was a sharp decline from Saturday's blissful, optimistic mood, and it's been a week of trying to get back to where I was.

I used ice packs and heating pad and gentle stretches and saw my chiropractor Monday morning, but this has been a week of recovery. I've come to appreciate the struggles of those living with chronic pain. It makes me so short tempered! Plus my jaw hurt from gritting my teeth.

After a week, things have definitely improved, but my back is still not what I would call normal, even for pregnancy. So that's a work in progress.

But then today was a lovely snow day--we got around a foot of it! I've never seen this much snow in St. Louis! I enjoyed the morning especially--snow falling, clean house, fire blazing, children playing outside, then playing together quietly with legos. I did yoga, got semester prep work completed, read Michelle Obama's book...

But the day stretched on and on and morning was long gone and bedtime was a long time away and the house was a mess, the kids were having meltdowns, my back was killing me... Let's just say the charm had worn off by 5pm. I'm ready for a restart tomorrow.

I think that's what I like so much about resolutions. They are a chance to restart. They create a picture of the person I want to be, and I may not hit every mark in 2019 (although I really try to make them achievable!) but I can always strive to learn more, to do more, to be better. And I guess that's also the point of every morning--not just January 1.

Here's to tomorrow--may it be filled with more patience, less pain, more laughter, less whining, more music, less bickering, more hugs, and fewer meltdowns. Happy 2019 everybody!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

A Change from Our Previously Scheduled Programming

This post needs a trigger warning: if you are sensitive to reading about pregnancy (including pregnancy after loss), you'll want to skip it.

And the trigger warning kind of made the announcement for me, but here it is:

If all goes well (important caveat), we are expecting another baby in May.

You may be shocked reading this, which is understandable as we didn't exactly think this was on our agenda. Full confession is that last spring I did start to think that I would be open to having another baby. I told a couple of friends that if I could be guaranteed healthy baby at the end of it, I could maybe do another pregnancy. But, Real Talk, the anxiety and uncertainty of another pregnancy (plus a pregnancy at 37-going-on-38) felt like too much to handle. So David and I decided that we were finished having babies and we were putting that stage completely behind us. And honestly, I'd already given ALL of my baby stuff away to my brother and sister-in-law.

And then I noticed that I couldn't get through a cup of coffee in the morning because it tasted disgusting and eventually I peed on a stick. And this time I ponied up for the digital kit because I was NOT going to be squinting in my bathroom at a hazy pink line. Just give me the digital word(s) already. And then there was just one word: Pregnant.

Now? I'm still pretty scared. I'm almost 20 weeks along and I think if I were a reader maybe I will feel annoyed or kept out of the loop, but I'm not trying to be tricky here. I haven't mentioned it because I truly kept waiting for things to go sideways. I am still quite worried about the 20-week scan next week, even though our genetic testing came back clear and we don't have any specific reason to worry (except, you know, for all those 1% risks that something will go wrong and our baby will die).

I kept thinking I'd announce it after the first trimester, but then we were right at Eliza's birthday, and I just needed to get through that anniversary and then it was the holidays. But I don't want to feel like I'm keeping it a secret. It feels both like an embarrassment of riches and also like the bottom will drop out from under me at any moment.

I think my mental health is pretty good this time around. I'm mostly operating in a mode of cautious optimism. But also I was shocked when I saw Instagram pictures of a pregnant friend of mine taking her seven-year-old daughter to an ultrasound visit. I couldn't believe she'd done that. You see, it would NEVER occur to me to do this with Zuzu and Coco because I fear that every ultrasound will show a dead baby. And when I say that, I don't mean "Oh, every pregnant woman worries." I mean, "I could never bring my daughters to a doctor appointment with me because I am absolutely convinced before each appointment that my baby will not have a heartbeat." So probably that's not exactly normal.

I do have the same wonderful OBGYN and I'm hopeful (see that cautious optimism?) that this pregnancy will be just like Zuzu and Coco and end in a gorgeous little human. But it does feel like we have a long way to go.

For example, here are a few things I've done that made me certain I was going to lose this pregnancy:
- talked about baby names
- talked to HR at work about maternity leave
- told the girls they're going to have a baby sister
- borrowed maternity clothes from my sister-in-law

As my friend Sarah kindly reminded me, planning for and talking about a baby is not a cause of pregnancy loss.

But when your baby dies before she is born, causation and correlation get really murky.

I have braced myself to see blood every single time I have peed since I peed on a stick and saw two pink lines back in October. That is a lot of trips to the bathroom. I actually had a moment when I saw a tiny spot of red blood after I wiped and I immediately went into cold panic before realizing that I had a paper cut on my finger and it was bleeding on the toilet paper.

The girls are excited, and I'm trying to let that buoy me rather than terrify me (it's far too easy to imagine their grief and disappointment should we lose this baby). Based on all the evidence we have, this baby should be fine! Based on personal experience, I'm looking at a 33% chance of disaster. Feels more like 50/50. Also, statistics are meaningless when it's your life, your pregnancy, your baby.

I spent the first trimester trying to convince myself that the status quo was awesome and if I miscarried, we'd be fine. But really you guys I'm all in. I'm ridiculously, breathlessly excited about one more squishy baby duck. I look at baby pictures of Coco and Zuzu and I can't believe I could be lucky enough to get one more of those gorgeous babes. AND I'm also really scared that there's just not enough luck in the universe to get me there.

So that's where we sit as 2019 unfolds.

I have a lot more thoughts on this pregnancy (of course), but I just wanted to fill you all in (I think there are still a few people reading this!) and maybe I'll post an announcement on IG and FB soon. It's just hard to get the tone of those right... cautiously optimistic and super freaking excited and also totally effing terrified. How exactly do you communicate that in a bump photo and a caption? I'll let you know if I figure it out. In the meantime, thanks for reading and following along with us. Every comment (except the few dickish ones and all those anonymous spam bots, obviously) has meant so much me. Some of you have been reading since we had Baby Duck, The Deuce, and Rerun. And now, here we go again on our final round with The Closer.

(For crime drama fans, that's a reference to the final pitcher they bring in in a baseball game to finish the last innings, not the Kyra Sedgwick show, although that was a really good show.)

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, prayers, good wishes, good vibes, good juju, voodoo magic, and any other bits of stardust you can send my way. XOXOXO

Friday, January 4, 2019

Disney Recap

Where to even begin with the Disney post? It was a delightful trip in many ways, there were definitely a few things we'd do different next time, and lots of highlights. We went to Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Universal Studios, and Animal Kingdom. We visited Epcot, Universal Studios, and the Magic Kingdom twice. Here are my thoughts and reflections, in no particular order except what pops into my head as I'm writing this.

- Epcot was one of my favorite parks, and we only got to see it after dark (our first day) and in the rain. This was a bummer, as far as I'm concerned. Next time, I would skip going to a park the evening that we arrive. We were up at 6am to leave for the airport by 7, which is not ungodly early by any means, but a day of travel with two little ones is exhausting and stressful, even though we ended up gate checking our carry on suitcases so we only had backpacks to worry about. We were all just a little too tired to really enjoy our experience at Epcot, which was overwhelming and disorientating in the dark with all the crowds after a long day of travel.

- Six is a pretty perfect age for visiting Disney. Four is good, but doesn't quite have the stamina or height or six (and is still prone to the occasional meltdown). Zuzu was charming and delightful the entire trip, and Coco definitely had moments of expressing that she was tired and out of sorts. She still naps at school (and occasionally at home) and we were pushing through naptime everyday. She's not a kid who sleeps in the stroller (except one night on the way home). So maybe waiting another year would have been good for her, but I have no regrets about taking Zuzu at age 6 1/2. Also, we used our double stroller, which was definitely the right call (we have this one and have been very happy with it for the past four years).

Coco gives Dole Whip a thumbs up.

- Rain is the worst. There's just no way around it. It kept the crowds down for sure, but it made for a chilly day with soggy feet, which was pretty miserable. We kept our game faces on, but I do not like being wet and chilled. We tried to time our visit around showers, but there was rain on and off all day long, so we got to the park later than we would have and left earlier. We showered and ate at the hotel and then the rain had let up, so we went back to Epcot for the fireworks show and a couple of fast pass rides, which was nice.

- Fireworks with our kids is overrated. David wanted to push several park visits to 9:30 or 10:00pm when the fireworks shows starts. I know Disney fireworks are awesome. But Coco still doesn't like the noise (I spent the show covering her ears with my hands) and it's just not worth it for us. I'm glad we saw the fireworks at Epcot one night, but that is all we needed.

- The magic of princesses is real. The cute conversations that each one of the princesses had with our girls, their star-struck smiles and shyness, the big hugs they gave after having their photos taken--it was all so adorable.

- The Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique is a racket and is TOTALLY worth it if your kids are into that kind of thing. Coco in particular was so delighted with the long blond hair piece that she selected--that alone was worth the cost. We were running late for our appointment because we didn't realize the shuttle bus from our hotel didn't start running to Disney Springs until close to 9am and our appointment was for 9am, but they were totally sweet and accommodating (as I suppose you would expect from a fairy godmother). It was a real highlight of our trip.

- We stayed at the Dolphin hotel of the Swan and Dolphin hotel complex. This is apparently a Disney-owned resort, but is not considered to be "on property" as their other hotels are, although it is walking distance from Epcot (if you don't mind a bit of a walk) or you can take a quick boat taxi ride (for free) that drops you right at Epcot. They also have frequent bus shuttles to all the parks and to Disney Springs (though Disney Springs does not run as early as the parks do, as we learned). I have no complaints about our hotel--our room was spacious (two double beds) and very clean, the pool at the hotel was lovely, and there were several restaurants and a little cafe/grocery/candy store on property where we picked up cereal and yogurts for breakfast. I don't know anything about booking Disney trips, but David said the cost per night was considerably less an "on-property" hotels and we had zero complaints. They also provided complimentary heavy-duty umbrellas for guests on the rainy day we had, which was a real lifesaver.

- We had pizza delivered to our room one night, which was such a good choice. Our kids did pretty well in restaurants each evening, but a pizza picnic mid-week was exactly what we needed.

- We (and by "we" you all know I mean David) really tried to do a bit too much. We were there for six days and the plan was to go go go. I told David that I wished we had splurged for Mickey's Very Merry Christmas party, but he wasn't willing to shell out the extra cash. I think it would be worth it in December, though, to experience the park with fewer people. My understanding is that the week between Christmas and New Years is the busiest of the year, but the week before Christmas was definitely hopping. So I would have chosen to do that, but David disagrees, so there you have it. (You all know I'm right.) We definitely played it right taking an afternoon midweek to leave the park early and let the girls swim at the hotel.

- We could have done some optional early hours apparently, but we didn't. Forcing yourself out of bed at the crack of dawn when you and your children are not naturally early risers just didn't feel worth it, although I suppose that's another (less expensive) way to be at at the park with fewer people.

- Fastpasses are great. We only went on a few rides without fast passes, and those waits got to be pretty brutal (mostly because we had to keep Coco somewhat entertained while she whined about how it was taking forEVER).

- The Haunted Mansion is scary and traumatizing if your kids are sensitive about that kind of stuff, so just skip it rather than wait in line and then feel terrible that your four-year-old is crying the whole time.

- Honestly, Coco got to where she didn't want to go on any ride that got dark (which is a LOT of them) and anytime we were in a tunnel (scary or not) she would say loudly, "When do we get out of here? When is this over?". She loved the princesses and Mickey and Minnie and the kiddie roller coasters, but honestly, she probably would have been a lot more fun a year or two from now--in part because she would be tall enough for some of the rides that she couldn't do this year (and in part because of her more cautious personality). It's hard being 38 inches tall at Disney!

- Next time I would do a grocery delivery or bring more snacks with me. You can bring food into the parks and Coco is such a grazer. She wants small snacks frequently through the day and she is crabby AF when she is hungry (I wonder where she gets that...???). We bought a refillable popcorn bucket for $10 the first day and refilled it at least once every day for $2. It was definitely a good investment for our popcorn-loving family.

- David's mom gifted us with a photo package so anytime we saw a Disney photographer at the park, we could have them scan our card and take a family photo. This was fun, even though I did not feel cute at all the entire time we were there, and we have over 300 photos to sort through and download. I wasn't sure we wanted to shell out for the photo package, but it's the best way to get all four of us in the photo, and it was a perfect Christmas gift.

- Similarly, we got Disney cash cards from my aunt and from some of David's coworkers, which was so thoughtful and appreciated. We put those toward food at the parks and a souvenir Christmas ornament.

- I bought Minnie ears on clearance from months before our trip, which was great because the girls were excited about them, but when the novelty wore off, I wasn't mad that I'd spent $8 instead of $30 on the ones at the park.

- We spent two days at Universal Studios which was one day too many for our family. I know some kids are totally into Dr. Seuss and Marvel superheroes, but we were really just there for Harry Potter. We started our days in those areas and then ventured out to the rest of the park when the crowds became impossible. We should have done a one-day ticket for both parks and would do that next time. The coolest rides are too scary or intense for our kids, and Zuzu wasn't interested in trying Spiderman, even though David tried to convince her. They had a lot of fun on the playground areas where they could climb and slide, but next time we'd spend less time there just because of our kids' particular quirks.

I'm sure there's more, but honestly we had the best time. Don't believe Coco's face in the photo above! I hope that the girls will remember the trip being magical and exciting. Their joy made the trip joyful for us, and that was the real magic.

It was a lovely way to wrap up 2018, and such a perfect trip for this moment in our lives. David gets huge credit for doing all the planning and the coordinating. I seriously had no idea what was going on until he told me, and I'm kind of proud of myself for being chill enough to just go with it! (I did have to talk him in to taking a half day one day at Universal so we could go back to the hotel and let the girls swim--he's a go-getter, that one!). Just looking back at these pictures and the expressions on the girls' faces when talking to the princesses or going on the rides (or getting the same pink pygmy puff as Ginny Weasley) makes me so happy.

Other fun things... I went back and forth about this, but finally ordered matching family shirts (I got them from a seller through I also got the girls everyday dress up dresses--they are dresses that mimic the Disney princesses, but are made of soft, knit material so are more comfortable for wearing than the sometimes stiff and kind of itchy, shiny dress up dresses (which my kids also have and love). I bought their Ariel and Jasmine costumes from the Disney Store online before the trip, rather than buying them at the Bibbiddi Bobbiddi Boutique, which was definitely a cost saver.

I found a great falafel and hummus place between Africa and Asia in the Animal Kingdom, which we had for lunch one day, and we also loved our pasta meal at the Lady & the Tramp restaurant (names are escaping me) on Main Street at Disney World.

Oh--and I ignored David and wore my winter coat most days with no regrets. 60 degrees is not cold, but mornings don't start out that warm, and when it got dark, I was glad I had it. It was nice to be able to stuff it under the bottom of the stroller when I didn't need it.

One other thing I'll add--and really, the only piece of advice I have--is that David paid for some kind of app that helps you set up an itinerary and tells you how many people are at the park and how long lines are for specific rides. It was definitely worth it--he consulted it a lot and since we weren't familiar with any of the parks, it made planning much easier. If I'd been in charge, we would have just had someone else plan the trip for us (haha but seriously), but if you want to micromanage the details, find an app that helps you!

Whew. As much fun as the trip was, it was also an exhausting vacation as everyone says. I definitely wouldn't make it an annual vacation, but I'm also not entirely opposed to revisiting someday...