Monday, November 20, 2017

Holiday Hosting

It's so secret that we have had some not-so-merry holidays over the past several years. I've learned to make time and space for the grief and sadness that come with the season of sparkling lights. I try to plan ahead and get as much done in advance of the holiday season as I can. 

It has been a relief to find that the holidays feel lighter and happier in recent years, and this year I shocked myself by agreeing to host the holiday staff party for David's new school. 

The tradition is that everyone bring an appetizer, so we're sticking with finger foods, wine and beer, maybe a festive mixed drink we can do ahead of time. It's adults-only, so we'll hire a babysitter to do her best to keep our kids upstairs and get them to go to sleep at a reasonable hour. 

I wanted to do something special for invitations, but paper seemed impractical since it's a long guest list, plus we're already sending out traditional Christmas cards. So for the party, I'm using Paperless Post invitations. I'm probably overthinking it, but I felt like it was important to set the right tone... 

I want it to be festive, cheery, and casual. I don't want to imply this is some kind of glamourous gala and then be like, "Oh, hi, welcome to our house, hang on let me dim the lights so you don't notice that carpet stain." I'm hoping that it's an opportunity for me to get to know some of the teachers that David works with on a daily basis, and to show our appreciation for all they do for the students.

Anyway, Paperless Post has lots of super cute designs, and I think I chose one that sets the right tone. I was worried it was a little boozy for a work party, but David assured me it was fine (ha!).  I don't want to link the exact design here because I want it to be a surprise, but here are a few of the top contenders:

Reindeer Cocktails

Jingle & Mingle

Holiday Party

Honestly, there were so many cute ones I had to ask David for his input because I felt like I couldn't decide! I'll be sending them out this week.

We'll be keeping the foods simple (mini-sandwiches, veggie trays, a couple of dips, some chex mix, and cookies and bars, plus whatever else people bring to share), and we're sticking with paper plates and napkins, so clean up should be pretty easy. I'm planning to set up lots of luminaries outside, plenty of twinkle lights inside, and hopefully find a not-too-cheesy holiday playlist to stream. I've always been a fan of Christmas decorations, and I just might use this as an excuse to get a few more things. After all, we're in a new house this year!

I keep thinking that we have it under control, but then I start freaking out about details or things I might be overlooking. I've never hosted an event with this many people, and I don't want to screw something up. Any bits of practical advice?


Saturday, November 18, 2017

By the Brooke's Very Specific Gift Guide

For the most adorable baby feminist in your life:



Crawl, Walk, Smash the Patriarchy onesie


For that friend of yours who belongs to two or more book clubs:


Ladies of Literature Calendar


For your guy friend whose favorite book is unapologetically The Catcher in the Rye:
Holden Caulfield Thinks You're a Phony Hat


For your unicorn-loving kindergartener to add a little sparkle to her wool winter coat:



Unicorn Brooch

For your preschooler whose belief in magic makes your heart happy:


A fairy door in her favorite color.


For your baseball loving cheeseball of a husband:


Santa's Hitting Sweater


For your cousin who ain't skeered of a statement earring:


Tassel Earrings that say, "I'm the fun one in the family!"


For your neighborhood gift exchange:


A candle with a little bling.


For your friend who likes a little bubbly in her oj and a little sparkle on her couch:


A sequin pillow!

For the friend who had to be brave this year, for whatever reason:


A keychain that reminds her of the choice we try to make every day.

For your friend who is rising to the top of her profession:
A zipper pouch that tells the world not to eff with her.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Dining Room Light, Part Deux

The other day, Zuzu remarked that the light in the dining room looks like it belongs in a castle.

She's kind of right... the light that is up there now is a five-light chandelier in oil-rubbed bronze. It isn't fancy, but at the same time it's weirdly heavy and twisty.

You already know I'm not a fan of it, right?

At our old house, it took me forever to replace light fixtures. I had trouble making a decision that felt so permanent, and I was nervous about locking in to a particular style or look. And it is a bit of an investment, so I didn't want to get it wrong. I ended up loving the light fixture we got for the dining room, but it took me forever to replace it (and we moved just one year later... sad!).

Anyway, new house, same story.

I want to replace the dining room light, but I'm just not quite sure what I want. This is the "formal" dining room, which just means we eat in there if more than four of us are at our house for dinner, or if we're sitting down for a "special" meal, maybe on Sunday evenings.

I guess the overall look in this house is (the heavily done) modern farmhouse. Most fixtures and door knobs are oil-rubbed bronze, but I'm not opposed to mixing metals. I'm trying to figure out what kind of light will work best in the dining room.

Here are three options I like. I'm not (yet?) sold on any of them, so I'm Asking The Internetz. What do you like? I know it's hard to say since I'm not including a picture of the room, but I want to repaint anyway, so the paint color doesn't matter. It currently has natural wood trim, wood floors, and gray/green walls with a chair rail. The table and buffet are dark and kinda rustic (the furniture store called them "French provincial," for whatever that's worth). There's a big window that overlooks the "forest" of trees outside, and no window treatments yet. So it's basically a blank slate. It has a door that leads to the sage green kitchen with cream colored cabinets, and it is open to the foyer, which has blue walls and the stair way that has beige walls and light colored beige carpet, with natural wood trim and creamy white spindles in the stair railing.

So where do I take the light...???

This is perhaps the most controversial of the three. It's kind of ornate, but you know I like shiny things. I also like the connection to leaves/twigs since the big window opens to the trees outside. It doesn't look like something that you see in everyone's house, but maybe that's because it's totally weird? Still, I'm a little weird and there's something about it that really appeals to me. I think there's part of me that just likes how fancy it is, and how it's both traditional and unexpected.


Okay, I'm into the wood-bead chandeliers, and I like that this one doesn't look too heavy but still is good sized and has a bunch of lights. I don't know if it's too many wood tones in the room? The beads look lighter than our floor or trim, and much lighter than the table and chairs. Is that too much?


I really like this one, too. It also seems kind of unexpected to me, and it has that rustic feel without being all the way into mason-jar territory (which I'm not slamming--I think that can be cute, it's just not quite what I want in the dining room). I don't know about the rectangular base/top/whatever of this. It is definitely less formal than the other two options, which is fine, but means not using a ceiling medallion, and I'm weirdly fond of a ceiling medallion.

You can see why I'm struggling with this decision. These are all totally different concepts for the dining room, and I just don't know which direction I want to go, although I like all of them! I'd hoped to figure this out before Thanksgiving, but that's not happening.

So what would you do? Which light would you like for my house? Please read my mind and predict which one I'll be most satisfied with for years to come, okay?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Oh, hai.

Remember me? I just flunked out of NaNoBloMo. Holy moly the past few days have been so busy and I just can't bring myself to blog on my stupid phone much. Maybe if I had a better app that didn't keep crashing and shutting down on me. Which might happen if I were willing to pay for an app. What is it about spending $1.99 that feels offensive to me?

Anyway, here's what happened when I dropped off the face of the blog:

I drove my kids to my parents' house by myself in a sort of caravan with my brother and SIL and their baby.

The girls were pretty good travelers, but not as good as they were when they were still nonverbal.

My brother's baby never warmed up to me, and basically cried if I tried to hold or feed her. SAD! One of these days I will buy my way into being her favorite. #goals

Zuzu and Coco were able to attend Prince Charming's Ball at the high school, where they did crafts and a cake dance and watched a performance and went on a carriage ride (read: a wagon being pulled by a four-wheeler). My mom said that Zuzu probably enjoyed herself the most out of all attendees. She's still talking about it.

I'm trying to be an adult and do yoga in the morning before work and it is a great thing when I can do it. Yesterday I overslept; today I got up and did it. Guess which day I was in a better mood?

I hosted a girls night on Tuesday which just meant I had friends from college over and we ate Chinese food and talked nonstop for three hours. I wore pajamas. It was fantastic.

I went to a reading group on Wednesday where we talked politics and finished reading a book that nobody really liked.

I was supposed to go to a meeting tonight, but David has parent teacher conferences and somehow we did not communicate clearly about this. I'm sad to miss the meeting, but I'm also kind of looking forward to an evening at home with the girls, since I haven't really seen them the past two nights. My big plan is to do laundry, since I didn't do it over the weekend. Sometimes I think I should be one of those people who does a load of laundry every day, but so far it works better for me just to binge it on Saturdays. I don't mind doing laundry, but I can't keep up with the putting it away if I try to do it daily. Am I the only person who has one laundry day?

Tomorrow night I have my other book club, which I'm looking forward to. I'm hosting, which means I need to get some wine and tortilla chips.

Work has been nuts (grading... all the grading...) and I've been stressing out big time about some spring schedule snafus. A couple of professors in other departments have helped me out, so things are looking somewhat better now, but I was really sweating it there for a bit.

I wish I were popping back in with something revolutionary here, but the fact is that life is busy and not super interesting. Should you have specific blog topics that you'd like me to cover, I'm totally willing to entertain them slash desperate for writing prompts to get me through the rest of the month!




Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grammar Peeve

Even though I’m technically an English professor, I don’t get too worked up about grammar. I swear I don’t proofread emails people send me, and I’m prone to make my own typos and errors on the regular. I know grammar rules are arbitrary and indicative of power structures in our society that can be oppressive. I really don’t get hung up on them.

The little one that irks me is one I see ALL THE TIME from bloggers who are otherwise perfect in their proofreading. It seems to slip by everyone... but it drives me a little crazy when people who are professional bloggers screw it up. (We nonprofessional bloggers can do whatever the hell we want and get away with it.) These folks would never let a there/their/they’re error get past them, and yet this one slips right by.

It’s the its/it’s screw up. And autocorrect is no help here.

Quick recap: its without an apostrophe is a possessive. It is like his or hers. It is often used when describing a garment, so perhaps that’s why I notice this with fashion blogs a lot. “This sweater is great! It’s sleeves have an adorable bow at the cuff.” Or whatever. “I love this bag. It’s handles are the perfect length.” Noooooo! The sweater? Its sleeves have the bow. This bag? Its handles are perfect.

It’s (with the apostrophe) is a contraction for it is. The apostrophe does NOT make its possessive, just as you wouldn’t use an apostrophe in his, hers, or your. It’s a great day to blog about grammar! It’s a sure way to alienate and annoy your readers!

Your welcome.

I mean, you’re welcome.

Blogging is hard!

When you work all day, then load up your kids and drive across the state. We are having a fun visit with my brother and SIL and my baby niece, but D isn’t with us and there isn’t a lot of time for blogging.

Here is this, which made me weepy:

https://www.pgeveryday.com/tag/loveoverbias?utm_source=PG-GF-ALL-ALL-OtherReg-Olympics2018--&utm_medium=offline&utm_campaign=Olympics1718&utm_content=vanityurl


Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thanksgiving Make Up / Wake Up

A friend of mine posted this video on her Facebook today. It’s funny and interesting, but I wondered if it was being serious about white women posting “native inspired” make up tutorials.


It’s totally a thing!

Of course, white people have been appropriating other cultures for ages, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. 

Anyway, I shared this on FB, but I found it to be a helpful resource. If you’re looking for ideas about talking about Thanksgiving with kids—especially if you want to offer a narrative more accurate than most of us learned in school—these books could be a great place to start.



We have the book Thunder Boy, Jr. and my kids love it. Now I need to go put in some library requests...

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Some Things I Want to tell My Friends

I've been talking about Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips on FB and in real life since I read it a few weeks ago. I read it in one sitting, staying up half the night to finish it. I know I skimmed parts of it--I was gulping down paragraphs without chewing them because I had to find out what happened. My heart was racing even after I finished it, and then I went and snuggled my sleeping children because OMG it is terrifying to contemplate the scenario she lays out in the book, and it does not feel all that improbable, either. Also, after you finish the book, google the author's blog and read what she says about the conclusion. It made me like the book more.

***

My mom gave me a silk pillowcase for my birthday and it is ah-mazing. It makes unwashed hair look at least 50% better the next day. I am not overstating this. I have dramatically decreased the frequency of shampoos around here. There is nothing I can't accomplish with dry shampoo (it's true that this is the best, but the price is steep, so I also use this kind) and a silk pillowcase. It's also supposed to be good about preventing wrinkles, but I'm not sure about that. I can vouch for dirty hair looking better, though!

***

I mentioned Kumon in my last post. Zuzu has been doing Kumon for a while now. We started in the summer. I wrote a long post about it a while back, but then I hesitated to post it because I didn't have the emotional fortitude to withstand criticism about parenting, and it's one of those parenting decisions that I question. (Also, if you didn't know, people on the internets will sometimes be unkind, believe it or not). The short of it is that she doesn't have any homework at her Montessori school, and we make her sit down and do 5 pages of Kumon a day. She does not like it. IShe can easily complete five pages in about 15-20 minutes, and that's with PLENTY of fiddle-farting around. I second guess myself constantly, but I want her to have a solid background in mathematics and I want her to be really confident about it; however, I don't want to fight with my kid every day. I want her to enjoy school/learning. So I question whether it conflicts with my larger philosophy of education, but I also see how much she is improving even though she complains about it. Now that we're doing a lot of it in the car, it's actually going much better.

***

After five people in my life recommended the podcast Dirty John to me, I started listening this morning. So far I find it riveting! I'm still only about 30 minutes into the first 47 minute episode, so I don't really know what's going on, but I'm looking forward to listening on my drive home.

On the other hand, I randomly listened to a few episodes of "Murder on Orchard Street" and I don't like it nearly as much. Maybe it's because the episodes are shorter--like 12-15 minutes? I find the unsolved murder frustrating (as I do any and all unsolved murders, I suppose), but I don't find the story line all that compelling.

***

We had family photos taken a couple of weeks ago and I just saw them today. There are some super cute ones of the girls. David and Zuzu both have a blinking problem that makes family photos difficult, but there are at least a couple that might work for Christmas cards. Unfortunately, in the one good group shot that includes my parents, I look about 24 weeks pregnant, which I MOST ASSUREDLY AM NOT, so that photo will never, ever get printed. But there are ones of the girls throwing leaves that are absolutely charming and adorable.

Other bummers: I wanted fall pictures so I scheduled them for what is traditionally the prettiest weekend in the fall--the third weekend in October. But fall colors didn't happen this year until the first weekend in November. So the leaves are either green or brown in the photos, and it was hot so the girls are bare-legged, which is not that cute, and you can't even see Zuzu's little ankle booties in the pics and they were really cute. So those are my general complaints, but nothing the photographer could really control. I probably should have had the girls put on tights, but Coco had just hacked off her hair and I was sweaty in a dress and a scarf, and they definitely capture a particular moment in time! (The moment when I realized I either need to stand differently, never wear that dress again, or enroll in Pilates classes, stat. Possibly all three.)

Upside: Most of them are cute, and I'm still glad to have these, especially the ones of the kids and the ones of the kids with their grandparents. Too bad my dress is supremely unflattering in the group shot, and no I will not be posting it, no matter how much you beg or what you promise me because my vanity cannot take it.

***

I got a flu shot on Monday and I treated myself to a Pure Life black iced tea afterward. I felt very adult even though I went with a coworker and made him hold my hand when I was getting my shot and I'm sure he felt totally awkward, but needles, man. I have a hard time.

***

Ok, I've gots to hit publish on this and go. Zuzu will want to make some crafts, and I'm going to a book club tonight.

And I still have 36 exams and 14 papers to grade. But those will wait another day!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Tuesday with Coco

I stayed home today with Coco Puff. She's feeling better, but still in recovery mode. She slept for a huge chunk of the day. An hour of it was on top of me; then I moved her over on the couch and she slept for three more hours. I couldn't believe it, but on the other hand she hasn't had a good night's sleep since Thursday, so I guess it's catching up with her.

I love how she still looks like a baby here.


I painted her fingernails and toenails. The girls always ask me to do this, but I rarely do because they never stay still long so it gets smeared on stuff and then they get crabby about their messed up nails and I get crabby about nail polish on various textiles. Also, Zuzu chews her fingernails, so I don't want to put polish on them.

But Coco was a sick baby and she was barely moving anyway, so when she asked me if I would paint her nails, I obliged.


This morning, David had to be at work early, so Coco and I drove Zuzu to school to drop her off. Her director kind of met us at the door so I didn't have to get Coco out of the car, but as we drove away, Coco started crying that she wanted to go to school. (She really knows how to make me feel good.) As we talked about why she wanted to be at school, she finally explained through tears that she wanted to show her painted fingernails to her friend Evelyn.

By the time we picked up Zuzu, Coco had really perked up (a four hour nap will do that for you), and she went in with me. Evelyn was still there, and she greeted Coco excitedly. Coco walked up to her, stone cold, and just held up her hands silently so Evelyn could see her fingernails.

After some serious resistance to Kumon math worksheets, Zuzu and I have hit a groove where I give her more choice about when she does Kumon and she does a lot of it in the car. Yesterday, she did a couple of worksheets in the car and three more at the library. We're exploring new libraries now that we don't have our precious neighborhood branch just blocks away. So when we walked in, she said, "Mom, before I do Kumon, can we just explore a little bit so I feel comfortable?"

We explored, she chose to do Kumon on a train. Where she also, inexplicably, morphed into a big kid. Seriously, this picture kind of takes my breath away.


Zuzu is on a major crafting kick, which is adorable except that she gets really pissed when things don't turn out just the way she wanted. For example, she wanted to make paper wrist bands but she wanted them to be tight on her wrists and yet removable over her hands. (Uhhhh...) We did manage to make a rainbow cloud and a Rudolph the red nose reindeer hat, but she was ready to keep going. "Can we paint now, Mom?"

Um, no. Not at 6:30pm on a weeknight the week of daylight savings when your sister has been sick. We cannot.

They were both blessedly asleep by 7:30pm so now it is time for Stranger Things.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Canceling the Negativity

Ugh. I had a bad e-mail morning.

I got an ugly blog comment. Not personally nasty, just rude. Anonymous, of course, because people are like that and as awesome as the internet it is, it will also be more than happy to kick you while you're down. My policy for blog comments is that anything that pisses me off must be FAKE NEWS, which works just fine since I'm not the leader of the free world.

Honestly, I don't care if people out in the world who obviously aren't my friends and who clearly don't care about my feelings agree or disagree with my parenting or decorating decisions. No one else gets to live in my house or raise my kids. I definitely wouldn't make the same choices as a lot of people whom I follow on social media or blogs. I just expect that we aren't dicks about it.

Trust me, it's possible to very politely disagree with someone or make a polite suggestion in the form of constructive criticism. It's also possible to just not make a comment at all. And I know that negativity is a reflection of that person's life, but it's awfully easy to spread ugliness, I guess.

Anyway, I deleted the comment, but it nags, you know? And maybe I'm not supposed to say that or address it on the blog? Because then I'm admitting that it worked and the commenter got what they wanted?

But I'm just being honest. It hurt my feelings and it made me not want to blog.

Also I had a frustrating e-mail from a student in my inbox.

And a zillion other e-mails to sort through (60 to be exact).

And I think the reason e-mail is bothering me is because I'm tired. Coco isn't sleeping well, which means no one is sleeping well. Just looking at her, the way she's holding her little mouth, the slightly weird set of her jaw, like she's trying to hold so still and swallow just right to make it hurt as little as possible--you can just see that her mouth still hurts so bad.

So today I'm feeling tired, but I woke up at 6:15am because my body thought it was 7:15am and for the first time in my life, instead of relishing in the extra hour and snuggling back down in the sheets to doze off for another hour, I actually got up and did yoga before work.

So I guess the score is 2 | 1 for bad vs. good things so far this morning. Sick Coco, bad e-mail, good yoga.

My goal for today is to cancel out the negativity! I obviously can't heal Coco instantly, but Zuzu and I are going to pick up a treat for her on our way home today.

I'm going to try to have a very productive afternoon in my office. I'm going to eat lunch with friends rather than by myself at my desk. I do need to do some grading, but I also get to start a new novel for my Victorian Crime and Detective Fiction class (The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green). I'll tackle the e-mail so I can cross that off my list. And I'm going to put some positive blog and IG comments out in the world to balance the negative.

And I'm asking for positive suggestions--any no-fail solutions for shaking off a rough start to a day? Anything you do to turn it around when you're feeling bad? Maybe I need to make plans for a bubble bath tonight...

Update: I'm at 2 | 2 now. I got a lovely e-mail from a blog reader I've never met, who shared with me that she recently got a book of matches from a local flower shop in Berlin (!) and the name made her think of my Eliza. All the heart emojis, right?


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Poor, Poor Coco

I may have already mentioned that Friday morning, Coco wasn't feeling so good. She had a low temp (99 degrees fahrenheit) and was whiny/crying in the morning before school. I gave her some ibuprofen because her temp wasn't very high and otherwise she looked/seemed fine.

I was  a little worried, though, so just before 10am I called the school to see how she was doing. They said she was totally fine.

But when I picked her up, she told me she didn't feel good and she didn't want to do gymnastics. Definitely weird. We were going to gymnastics for a make up date anyway from the time that the class conflicted with grandparents' day at school. So Zuzu went ahead and went to her class and I schedule another make up day for Coco and she sat on my lap like a pitiful little lump the entire time Zuzu was bouncing and cartwheeling. I knew she was feverish because she kept telling me she was cold, so I had her bundled up in my scarf. About five minutes before class got out, Coco actually dozed off.


Saturday morning, she wasn't feeling any better. She didn't have a fever, but she was crabby as hell. Amanda and I were painting the fireplace and Moana was babysitting Coco while David and Zuzu were at regular gymnastics class. Coco kept telling me her mouth hurt. I was trying to look at the back of her throat without sticking my paint-covered hands in her mouth, but of course she wasn't cooperating. I told her to stick out her tongue and say "ahhhhhh" and she was trying to do that, but I couldn't see her throat, and then I noticed a disgusting sore on the side of her tongue. There were a bunch of little white sores on the inside of both of her cheeks too.

Amanda finished up the fireplace whitewash while I called the doctor's office and spoke to the nurse. She said that it sounds like Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. It's totally different from the last time Coco had it (poor little punkin) because this time she has no other symptoms besides these mouth sores, but she is sooooo uncomfortable. She bursts into tears every few minutes saying her mouth hurts. She'll wail for what feels like ages, just saying, "Oooowwwwiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" over and over and over again.

It's so sad, and so exhausting. For all of us.

I'm really hoping that Zuzu avoids it again. She got lucky last time, so it just seems that Coco is extra-susceptible.

Last night she was miserable and our watching of Stranger Things with Crafty Cousin Amanda and her husband Dan got cut short by Coco waking up and wailing. David and I both went up so one of us could comfort her while the other one got the thermometer and medicine together. I tried to put Mylanta on some of the sores in her mouth, but this INFURIATED her, and she turned against me. From that moment on, she only wanted Daddy. She wanted nothing to do with me. Honestly, it made me cry because it hurt my feelings that I couldn't comfort her!

On the flip side, I definitely got more sleep than David did.

We're now alternating ibuprofen and tylenol and trying to keep her comfortable. She has hardly any appetite. Or, rather, I think she's hungry, but everything hurts. She ate some oatmeal yesterday and today, and we're trying to tempt her with yogurt and popsicles and juice, but she's barely interested and just cries when we ask if she wants something.


David and I are trying to work out who's staying home with her tomorrow (both of us have relatively light days on Monday and kind of need to be there on Tuesday--so guess who will probably end up missing work on Tuesday? #theparentwithauterus #thepatriarchywinsagain). Anyway, I think we need to plan to keep her home the next couple of days even if she doesn't have a fever because right now she could not even come close to functioning at school.

Last night I lay awake feeling so sad for her and sorry for myself because MAH BAYBEE was rejecting me in favor of her dad so I couldn't even comfort her, and I was feeling so helpless and frustrated.

Then I starting thinking about all the really sick kids in the world and how helpless and frustrated their parents must feel when they can't make their babies better or bring them comfort, or when they have to give them medicine with painful side effects, and then Coco and I were both sobbing.

I know how fortunate I am that my kids rarely get sick, because the anxiety that comes along with it is no joke.

I think my anxiety in these situations is definitely more amplified because I am not living under the illusion that otherwise healthy babies/kids don't die. I am certainly able to redirect and hush those fears most of the time so that they don't infiltrate my everyday life in a way that restricts my happiness on a daily basis, but when Coco is crying so hard and there is NOTHING we can do to help her--it's really, really hard. On her and on us.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Fireplace Makeover

Crafty Cousin Amanda and I tackled the fireplace first thing morning. After coffee, obviously.

We did a super simple white washing. Flat white latex paint mixed with water. Paint on with a brush, wipe off with a rag. Repeat.




Also, I'm now a completely insufferable brat who needs a fireplace in her bedroom. The warmth! The coziness! How could I go back to life without a fireplace in my bedroom?

In all seriousness, the mouse has been given a cookie and now wants to redecorate the mantle and figure out whether some drapes could help make it look like the fireplace is actually centered between the windows (evidently symmetry doesn't matter to everyone building houses in the '80s).



For now, though, it's nice to have the orangey color toned down, and it was a fun project that barely even took us an hour--counting all the time we spent taping off the edges and laying paper down on the floor. Definitely worth it!

Now I just have to figure out how to style the mantle...

Friday, November 3, 2017

Thought Bubble: Empty

You know NaNoWriMo is off to a rough start when it's day two and you're having trouble coming up with material...


When I got the girls up this morning, I told them we needed to move a little quicker than usual because we were going to drop Cooper off at the groomer on our way to school (which was actually farther out of our way than I thought because I don't really know how to gauge distance on maps, I guess). Coco promptly burst into tears because she wanted Cooper to stay at home.


Whaaa???


(#reasonsmytoddleriscrying: She does not want dog to get a bath because she doesn't think he likes baths.)


Anyway, she was acting off and had a low-grade temp and I figure it was from her flu shot and then I do all of the second guessing of the flu vaccines and I give her some ibuprofen, which she loves because it's grape flavored, and then I took her to school anyway and felt sad and conflicted about that as well.


I called school a couple hours later and they said she was doing fine, but she was NOT normal by the time I picked her up. We were on our way to make up gymnastics class and Coco said she didn’t want to do gymnastics, she just wanted to sit on Mama’s lap (not normal!). So she sat sadly on my lap while we watched Zuzu not listen very well to her coach and then I ended up calling the pediatrician after hours line because I worry.

Of course it’s probably “just a virus” so we gave her ibuprofen and once it kicked in, she acted like herself again.

We had a pizza party and cake for Crafty Cousin Amanda’s husband Dan’s birthday and then Zuzu put on another of her famous magic shows.

Now it’s a Survivor + Stranger Things kind of Friday night, which is a pretty great Friday night as far as I’m concerned. Doesn’t make for great blog material, though.

Don’t worry—tomorrow Amanda and I tackle our amazing makeover project! Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NaNoBloMo... here we go!

I didn’t declare NaNoBloMo because I felt sure I was setting myself up to fail. I’ve felt so busy lately—rushed and full of lists and activities and mostly shuttling my car around the greater metropolitan area. No time for blogging! I can’t help but notice this year is my quietest by far. Is it contagious, as many blogs I know have gone silent? Is it just the pull of lots of other directions? Is it the sharing of quicker, easier social media?

Yes to all of these things, probably. But it’s 11:14pm and I crossed off almost everything on my to-do list today. (Grading essays was a pipe dream from the moment I wrote it down, let’s be honest.)

I taught this morning—wrapping up our discussion of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale in my Victorian Crime and Detective Fiction class. The students also discussed the murders they found while researching in The NY Times historical database. Let me tell you, a lot of people in the 19th century chose an axe for a murder weapon. Ick.

After that discussion, I prepped my lecture introducing modernism for my British lit survey, I dealt with the email onslaught, made Cooper an appointment at the groomer, ate lunch, did some spring schedule advising for a student, attended a meeting, and then taught Brit Lit. When class was over, I wrapped up loose ends in my office/email/calendar and realized I hadn’t checked out the DVD I want to show in class tomorrow. The gods smiled upon me, though, because it was available in the library.

I left campus a bit earlier than usual to take the girls to get a flu shot. I told them they were going to the doctor to get “flu medicine.” Last time I’ll be able to use that line, I’m sure! But our doctors office uses this little u-shaped rubber or silicone pad covered in pointy nubs that they press into the kid’s arm and then poke the needle in the opening in the middle and somehow the pressure and various pokey nubs cancel out the pin prick of the needle and it doesn’t hurt. It’s amazing! Even Coco didn’t cry, though her eyes got wide and a little misty when it was over (I made her go first so she didn’t know what was coming, poor little punkin.) Zuzu took it like a champ.

I rewarded them with a trip to the library where they chose the WORST books possible—always the story of a cartoon they’ve seen on TV. I let them each get two. Zuzu got My Little Pony and a mermaid chapter book that looks stupid. Coco chose a Frozen sing along and a Frozen something else. (I predict that just when she finally starts to get over Frozen, the sequel will come out!). I got them an Oliver Jeffers book and one from the diversity section about a little boy going to the market with his mom.

Then we headed for the grocery store, which was not our best trip. I had promised treats because of the bravery regarding flu shots, but they were crabby and it was close to dinner. At one point, Zuzu pinched Coco, who cried LOUDLY, then Zuzu asked if she still hit a treat and I hissed “No!” and SHE cried. Loudly.

In the end, I relented (slash bribed them tk hush—don’t judge me) and bought them a crafty bracelet kit thing which was $5 not worth it, but I am so over candy. (I hid the Halloween bucket this morning and they haven’t asked about it.) It’s not that I mind them having a sugary treat once in a while, it’s the wrappers and the fighting and dog trying to get it and I do think it affects their behavior. So we’ll see if they ask about it tomorrow.

After getting home and throwing together a “snack supper” for the girls (bread, cheese, crackers, pears) and a Blue Apron meal for D and me (D was late due to three separate student issues, all of which occurred at dismissal time), I was back out the door to attend a Moms Demand Action meeting about gun safety. It was sad to hear about all the accidental deaths from firearms.

Zuzu had her first play date at a friend’s house without me, and I did text the mom ahead of time to ask if they had guns. (I would let her go to a house where they owned firearms, as long as the parent assured me they were unloaded and out of reach of children.) I did feel awkward about asking, but I got a totally nice reply from her friend’s mom.

Anyway, after that meeting I made a quick stop at Home Depot because Crafty Cousin Amanda is coming to town and we have a project!!!

I made up the guest room bed, showered, tiptoed into the girls’ rooms to kiss them and lay out clothing choices for Coco, and now it’s 11:36 and I need to post this and sleep.

NaNoBloMo... here we go! See you tomorrow... and every day for the next 30 days!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween 2017 Redux

Halloween 2017 was pretty sweet and simple. No crazy parties, and we got our money's worth out of our costumes since girls wore them once to church, once to trunk-or-treat, and finally to actually trick-or-treat on Halloween.



Zuzu wanted to be a specific mermaid: Oona from the cartoon Bubble Guppies. Oona has purple hair and a purple and pink tail. And a starfish bow in her hair.

I used Etsy for inspiration, and made my own mermaid tail with two purple tube tops I ordered from here (super cheap at just over a dollar each). I ordered a third to be the top (which she wore over a shirt). I bought two rolls of tulle--one purple and one pink--from Joann fabric store and cut strips which were then tied in simple knots at the bottom of one tube top. I also used a length of purple tulle to weave between two tube tops in order to sew them together to make the length of the tail so that it would start at her waist and go down just past her knees. The tulle had just enough stretch in it and although the seam was visible, it wasn't noticeable once she had the full costume on.


I knew that Oona the mermaid wasn't the most recognizable character for most people, so I ordered a little iron-on patch of the character from Etsy. I wasn't sure how best to adhere it to the stretchy tube top, so I ended up cutting a length of felt and loosely stitching the patch to the felt with a tulle bow underneath it for "flair." Then I had Zuzu put on the tube top and I pinned the felt to the tube top when it was stretched out to fit her body. We carefully removed it and then I stitched the felt down on just the two sides.

We had a long sleeve pink shirt on hand, but we bought light purple stretchy pants at a consignment shop for a couple of bucks. She wore regular shoes and I put her hair in two pig tails.

The starfish hair clip was a wooden star I happened upon in the back aisle of Joann's for .49 (kind of like these but sold individually) and I traced it with marker on a piece of felt, then cut out the star from felt and hot-glued it to the wooden star. I also colored the edges of the star with a purple marker. Then I hot-glued the wooden star to a hair clip. It was super easy, but Zuzu made the biggest deal out of it. Don't you love that?


She really wanted purple hair (can you tell it's purple in the picture above?), so I picked up a $2 bottle of purple spray at Target in the Halloween section. It gave her just enough color that she was satisfied, but I thought it smelled terrible. She didn't seem to mind, or was willing to tolerate it for the sake of cosplay. Still, when she fell asleep on the way home from trick-or-treating, David wanted to deposit her directly in bed and I wanted to wake her up for a quick bath. He won the debate, but when she woke up twenty minutes later to go to the bathroom, I got her in the tub for a rinse. The spray easily washes out, so I wasn't too worried about it staining the pillowcase, but I didn't like the idea of her breathing in the fumes all night. Does that sound crazy? I dunno. I get worked up about that kind of stuff.

Anyway, she was satisfied with her costume, and she got plenty of compliments on it. Most people recognized that she was a mermaid, even with a hoodie on underneath her tube top!

Coco was a fairy, and her costume was an easy order from Amazon (I paid less than the current price). I asked her what color wings she wanted and then ordered the "pink, purple, and blue" set as directed. We had a pair of purple tights with sparkly stars on them, a blue sparkly leotard, and a long sleeved pink shirt for her to wear underneath. And pink shoes with a bow that she was pretty crazy about.

She also loved the headband that came with the fairy set. I curled the curling ribbon with scissors and the floral headband did a nice job of disguising the hack job of a hair cut she's still sporting.

Even with a pink fleece jacket on, her wings and tutu and floral crown were all visible and cute, and she was pretty brave for trick or treating, although some of the gorier decorations scared her (a bloody skeleton rising up out of a coffin was particularly startling and she asked David to carry her for a while after that).



We had planned to just trick or treat the new neighborhood, which is basically one street, even though neighbors had told us at a recent block party that the place is pretty quiet on Halloween. I just thought since it was a week night we wouldn't want to make a big production out of things and we'd already been to a trunk or treat event at David's school.

But then I got home from work and the girls were starving and by 5:15 they'd already eaten scrambled eggs and were wanting to put on their costumes so when David walked in the door at 5:30, we decided to drive into the city for the Best Halloween Experience Ever, which is in our old neighborhood. Honestly, I was feeling pretty homesick for it as well.

And I was definitely glad we went. It was so nice to see our old neighbors, even briefly, and say hello. There were so many great decorations, and lots of trick-or-treaters, but we started early before it got really crowded. Our first stop was an older gentleman who was handing out bags of pretzels. He asked the girls if they liked pretzels and Coco gave him an enthusiastic "Yes!" but Zuzu said, "No... But that's okay!"

We then had  quick sidewalk conversation about saying thank you NO MATTER WHAT the treat was.

She was a little reluctant to follow the St. Louis tradition of telling a joke to get a treat, which I thought was interesting since she was all about it last year. But she warmed up as we went along and alternated between "What's a ghost's favorite muffin?" (booberry) and "What did the skeleton order at the restaurant?" (spare ribs).

At one house she told her joke and they put forward a basket of full-sized candy bars. "Would you like to choose one?" a woman asked her.

Zuzu scoped them out--all chocolate--and said, "No, thank you" very politely before turning around and walking back down to the sidewalk.

We laughed and as we walked away we heard the woman saying, "Well, I don't think I've ever heard that one before."

We only went down two blocks and then back up them on the other side, which probably took a little over an hour. By that time, we were cold and Coco was done--she wanted to be carried the last half block and didn't even trick or treat at the last few houses. As we headed to the car, Zuzu said so sweetly and sincerely, "Thank you, Mommy and Daddy, for taking us trick-or-treating."

We made a quick stop at Ted Drewes for David and me to get a Halloween treat--the Great Pumpkin concrete!--and then headed home.

Zuzu was asleep when we pulled in the garage, but Coco was wired and sugared. Eventually we got them cleaned up, teeth brushed, and settled in bed, and David and I ate a plate of nachos followed by Great Pumpkins (just a few thousand calories) while watching the world series, and then headed up to bed ourselves.

Related: I've been listening to this Spooked! podcast created by Snap Judgment and it is testing the boundaries of my skepticism! Halloween may be over, but this one is worth a listen--especially the one called "The Summoning" about the ouija board. Freaky!

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.
Coco: NO THEY DON'T.
Zuzu: Uh-huh. It's called Spreading Germs.
Coco: YOU DON'T TELL ME THAT.




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.