Thursday, September 21, 2017

Thoughts on Living in the Suburbs

We've been in the new house for over a month now. Long enough to murder four fish (in answer to several blog comments, texts, and e-mail, no we didn't condition the water. We set up the tank 24 hours in advance and had a sample tested by PetSmart that they thought was ok. David discussed things further after the second generation went to the big ocean in the sky and then got a different type of fish. Zuzu still seems happy with them.).

There are many, many things I love about the new house. Mostly I love how it is surrounded by trees and feels very much like a peaceful retreat at the top of the hill. The Japanese have this practice called "forest bathing" and I believe in it. Even when I drive up the driveway bracing myself for the witching/dinner hour and the kitchen mess and the to-do list I'm trying to cram in before bedtime so that after bedtime I can read for class the next day, I still get a peaceful sense of exhaling when I get to the top of the hill and all I see is just our house surrounded by trees.

The basic layout is also very convenient--particularly the mudroom/laundry room that we can enter off the garage, which then leads into the eat-in kitchen. Our old kitchen had a small bistro table that sat two, but the new kitchen has space for a big table (our former dining room table) so we can all sit and eat, or the girls can color one one side of the table and then walk around to the other side to eat without having put everything away so they can return to it.

David loves the way the basement smells because it smells just like his grandparents' basement when he was a kid.

I love having a bathroom separate from my kids.

Downsides include that we aren't walking distance from anything, except our local elementary school (which is a nice bonus). We are biking distance from a park, but I don't find the county to be any more biking friendly than the city. We are close driving distance to a really huge and awesome park with lots of hiking paths. But our old house was walking distance from a gorgeous park, several churches (though not the one we attend), a Mexican restaurant, a pizza place, Ted Drewes and Dairy Queen, and if you were up for a bit of a hike you could totally walk to Target, Schnucks, Bank of America, and the library. DID I walk to these things? Not the last four, but we picked up Mexican food and went to the park all the time and I do miss that.

HOWEVER, we do have an amazing park-like yard, and it's more acceptable for my kids to be nude, semi-nude, or peeing out of doors when we are on private property, so there's that. Last night the girls ate their frozen yogurt out on the driveway. Coco was naked but for underwear and both were barefoot and I didn't have to worry about traffic or overexposure.

I do miss having neighbors who love and care about the girls, although we have gotten to know some of our neighbors and they are really nice (in fact, the neighbor at the bottom of the hill helped them out when they got in their stick-tight mess, and Cooper has wandered just far enough to get returned home by a couple of other nice neighbors, so basically if you let everyone roam wild, other people will help you parent your children and your pets), and we have a street party scheduled in October, which will be a nice way to meet some more folks. Not better or worse, it's just not the same as all the over-the-fence conversations we used to have.

The best and most noticeable improvement is the commute situation. It makes SUCH a difference to have David home in the mornings. He can make breakfast for the girls while I'm getting them out of bed and encouraging them to get dressed. (They do dress themselves, although Coco will accept guidance and assistance from me. Today they wore their matching 5 and 3 tank tops, but Coco wore hers with a coordinating red and navy skort, and Zuzu wore hers with a non-coordinating lavender flowered skirt that's still slightly big on her, plus knee-high socks printed with sparkly Easter eggs.)

The fact that David can be home from work in 15 minutes has made such a difference in his mood, in the tempo of our evenings, in the ease of him picking up the girls from school... it seems so obvious, but I just hadn't realized what a huge improvement it would be. So we do have to drive to get ice cream, but honestly the quick daily commute has been worth the trade off.

We need to figure out the chaos of the basement and to bring up some select toys and balance them out. Right now the girls are mostly interested in playing dress up together. Zuzu loves coloring and "making books" more than any other activity, and Coco loves playing with baby dolls. But I know if/when we start rotating out the vast selection of toys that are currently downstairs, they'll get more airtime. The girls will go downstairs and play on their own (they love the swing!) but they always, ALWAYS leave a complete disaster. And it's so easy to just shut the door and not enter the basement on busy weekdays that, well, the basement has been a complete disaster for a while now.

Overall, I know this move was the right choice for us, and I feel very content and happy in our new home. I definitely miss our old neighborhood, our neighbors, and the character of our old house, but I also appreciate the "blank slate" of a house built in 1982--I'm not worried about making changes! I have lots of big plans, so I'll keep you posted.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Who Run the World?

Have you seen this poster? I think the first time I saw it was when it popped up in my FB feed, but it's available from several different places, including this etsy seller.


As you can see, it's a collection of images of a bunch of different women--most real, some fictional, and they are pretty recognizable even though their faces are blanked/blurred out. It's a wide variety, from Oprah Winfrey to Marie Curie to Mother Theresa to Amelia Earheart to Madonna to Joan of Arc to J.K. Rowling. I knew almost all of them, but this video will clarify if there are a few you can't quite place:


I ordered the poster for Zuzu's room because I was certain she would like it, and because obviously I like the idea of her seeing a wide variety of female role models. She already knew several of them from this book:

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

The book features short, one-page biographies of 100 extraordinary women. It's weirdly alphabetized by first name, but if you can get past that organizational hurdle, it's pretty great. What surprised me is how much my kids are into it. Their favorite story is Misty Copeland, which Coco calls "broken leg!" (if you weren't aware, Misty Copeland fractured her left leg in multiple places the first night she danced as a prima ballerina, and she went through extensive rehab to come back and continue her dance career). They want to hear that story over and over again.

I'm working on getting things up on the wall in Zuzu's room, and I let her select the placement of the poster. She chose a spot where she can see it from her bed. We talked about several of the women on the poster. I talked a lot about Rosa Parks in the context of peaceful protests, and she asked me about Lady Diana (she likes the tiara).

Then I mentioned that it might be fun to dress up as one of these women for Halloween, and I asked her which one she might like to be. I was expecting her to point to Marie Antoinette, because the princess dress is still pretty appealing to Zuzu, or maybe Wonder Woman because the superhero theme is popular at school.

But my little Zuzu pointed at Amy Winehouse and said, "That one!" (For reference on the poster, she's the second row, far left. Short blue dress, red high heels.)



I was pretty surprised, but I just said, "Oh, really? Well, she's a musician. Very cool. I like her music. Why do you like her best?"

Zuzu said, "I like her tattoos. When can I get some of those?"

Thirteen years, my friends, and I will be fascinated to see how Zuzu expresses herself through body art.

Also, there's a part of me that thinks it would be kind of awesome to get some temporary tattos and have my five-year-old dress up as Amy Winehouse for Halloween, but I think we're going to stick with one of the many other alternatives she's already mentioned... fairy, mermaid, rainbow unicorn... We'll save talented singer/songwriter who met a tragic and untimely end due to alcohol poisoning for another Halloween, perhaps.

P.S. Coco's favorite woman on the poster is Daenerys Targaryen (second row, second from left--next to Coco Chanel), which would also make for an amazing Halloween costume for a three-year-old with a pixie cut... She said, "Who is dat?" and I said, "That is the Mother of Dragons." Coco said, "I yike her." I think she just thinks Daenerys looks like Elsa.


Monday, September 11, 2017

A Tale of Two Fishes

My kids are crazy about these stuffies (stuffed animals) that have huge eyeballs. Do you know what I mean? They seem to be for sale by every cash register in the grocery store or craft store. They are kind of cute, but I try REALLY hard to limit the number of stuffies that enter our house because I swear they procreate and multiply.


Anyway, the girls have been sleeping peacefully (mostly) in their separate rooms all last week and Zuzu has been doing her chores (making her bed and clearing and wiping the table after dinner) and her math enrichment work for Kumon without fuss (mostly), so I'd told them that they could get a new stuffie.


I had a bit of a rough day on Saturday--nothing went quite as I planned and I developed a headache in the afternoon, so David offered to take the girls to get stuffies while I ran some other errands and I TOTALLY took him up on it because that was basically the nicest thing he could have done for me at that moment in time.


I was looking at framing options for a couple of prints at the store when I got a text from David saying he didn't want to spend $12 on stuffed animals and could he get the girls a fish tank instead--it was on sale.


I said sure as long as I didn't have to clean it.


So to avoid spending $12 on stuffies, David spent far more on a fish tank, a castle to go inside the tank, seaweed, and neon rocks.


Plus the neon colored fish Zuzu and Coco really wanted were $9 each.


BUT the tank was on sale!


Anyway, they got the tank all set up on Saturday and on Sunday we went back to get the fish. Zuzu picked out a purple one (Flipper) and a yellow one (Shakey) and she and Coco fought loudly over who got to carry them to the car. I arbitrated a truce in which they shared carrying the bag, then I held it in the car on the way home.


We got home, put the fish in the tank, and waited to feed them until they had gotten adjusted.


But a few hours later, Zuzu came downstairs and said, "Mommy, I think Flipper is sleeping or maybe dead."

Uhhh...


Flipper was in fact, floating listlessly in the fake seaweed of the tank. Shakey, however, looked fine. So I texted David, "One of the effing fish is already dead." And I told Zuzu when Daddy got home he would take a look at Flipper and see if she needed to go to the vet.


Well, by the time David got home, both Flipper and Shakey needed resuscitation.


David told Zuzu he was taking them to the PetSmart Hospital and AMAZINGLY when he got home, Flipper and Shakey were both good as new.


(Emphasis on NEW.)


We were told that the adjustment to water temperature might have been too much for poor Flipper and Shakey, so the second time around we lowered the bag from the store (still closed) into the water so the temperature would adjust slowly, then after a couple of hours, opened the bag so they could swim out into the tank. I wish we had gotten this advice the FIRST time around. RIP, Original Flipper and Shakey.


As of this morning, the new-and-alive Flipper and Shakey are both flippin' and shakin' (or swimming idly and staring listlessly, as fish are wont to do), so I'm relieved. The girls are still very enchanted by them, so i hope they live long and happy lives.



UPDATE: Today after school, both fish are dead. WTF. I feel terribly sad and guilty, and also annoyed. What are we doing WRONG? David had a cichlid fish that lived for TEN YEARS and survived FOUR MOVES. Now we are accidental fish murderers instead of fish nurturers.


Also Coco had a huge and unsourceable meltdown after school, and I sliced my big toe open on a walk with the dog and girls just before dinner. After a lovely weekend, Monday strikes with a vengeance.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Room Sharing and the Binky Free Life

At the new house we have four bedrooms upstairs--a guest room, the master bedroom, and two other bedrooms.

The girls did not share a room at the old house because Coco was a baby in her crib and Zuzu slept with us. From the time she could climb out of a crib, she climbed in bed with us and Coco was a newborn and we found that we all got the most sleep when Zuzu snuggled in between David and me, so that was fine. (She said maybe she'd sleep in her big girl room when she was fifteen or sixteen.)

At the new house, we wanted things to work a little differently. I loved the idea of the girls sharing a room and thought we could use the extra room as a playroom or later a little homework study and project room. I liked the idea of sisters whispering to each other before bedtime and feeling safe knowing that the other sister was just an arm's reach away. And David and I were kind of ready to reclaim our room. Even though we both slept okay with Zuzu in bed with us (it's a king size), I knew that I'd sleep even better without the occasional head bonk or elbow flung in my face.

So we started putting the girls to bed together in Zuzu's room, sharing her full-size bed. They loved it!


And they stopped sleeping.

I kept thinking it was just that school was starting and they were excited, but it would take forever to get them to settle down, one would keep the other awake (or WAKE UP the other one after she had dozed off), and they were not getting enough sleep. Zuzu would be so exhausted in the car after school, but then would wind herself up before bed to be wild, no matter how calm or soothing bedtime routine was.

We were starting bedtime around 7pm with a warm bath with a drop of lavender essential oils, low lighting, a diffuser with a sleepy time oil blend, reading stories, and then listening to a story app or nature sounds on my phone with the lights off. And they were STILL keeping themselves awake until 9:30pm.

I'm kind of crazy about bedtime stuff--I'm way more rigid than David is, but I want bedtime to be a well-oiled machine. I want an automatic routine that gives them a Pavlovian response of going to sleep at 8pm.

I mentioned before that I started googling melatonin for kids, and I actually asked our pediatrician about it yesterday at their check up appointment. (Zuzu is in the 50th percentile for height AND weight, Coco is in the 20th for height and 30th for weight. Head size was not measured, but I assume Coco is still leading the pack there.)

Anyway, I may not need to resort to melatonin because bedtime is going much better. I told the girls on Sunday that I'd talked to the doctor and kids need a lot of sleep to be healthy, so she said they need to sleep in separate rooms. (Let the doctor be the bad guy!). We'd already had Coco's toddler bed set up in her room; she just hadn't been using it.

So now bedtime goes pretty much the same way, but after reading stories together in Zuzu's room, Coco gets escorted to her room and tucked into bed. She protests a little bit, "I want to sleep in Zuzu's bed!" but I just say, "I know, but the doctor said you need to sleep in here, and I want you to be rested and healthy."

A little bonus is that she's asking me to rock her again now, so I get to keep that sweet routine going for a bit longer.

Also, I make it a point to try REALLY hard to whisper when I want to yell at them because I've asked them three times to put on pajamas or get in the bathroom to brush their teeth.

I've started using a kids' bedtime guided meditation using the Amazon prime Music app on my phone. A woman's soothing voice guides them under the sea, and I try not to fall asleep myself. Usually by the time I get Coco settled and go back to check on Zuzu, she has dozed off.

Granted, this has only worked for the past three nights, but that is something.

Last night, David was home, so the routine changed slightly (he let Zuzu listen to something else). She still fell asleep, but I was (secretly) annoyed because I want her to have that association that this guided meditation puts her to sleep every time. So we'll go back to that tonight.

The other thing that has complicated bedtime routines is that Coco finally gave up the bink. This is my last photo of my baby with a binky (and that gross Elsa braid, with which she is obsessed):


It happened by accident, not by choice. We were leaving for the weekend to go see my parents and her binky was in my car but we took David's car. She asked for it immediately and I said, "Do you want to go get your binky or do you want to go see Grammy and Bops?"

She said "Grammy and Bops!", so David and I looked at each other and said "Let's just do this."
The car ride was a little rough. Coco didn't sleep at all, even though we were in the car from 5 until 10. She cried for a long time starting around 9pm, asking for the binky and then just asking us to stop the car so she could get out. I finally gave her my phone to let her look at photos (which I rarely do), so that quieted her for the rest of the drive.

Saturday morning was also rough. She went to sleep without a problem, considering it was close to 11 before we made it upstairs to bed, but she woke up about 5:30am and cried and cried for her binky.

One thing you might not realize about Coco is that she has a very high-volume cry. My little niece Curie has such a delicate cry that I'm like, "Is she actually fussing?" With Coco, there's no doubt. She's a screamer. So she screamed for her binky, and I will tell you that had there been an accessible binky, I totally would have given it to her. My mom came upstairs and tried to comfort here and distract here, but she was inconsolable. Poor little bug. But, alas, we truly had no binky to give her, and she finally quit crying and sniffled and then went back to sleep lying on my chest until 9:30am.

We skipped a nap that day because she slept so late (and also, no binky) and she was tired enough that bedtime wasn't a problem, but the next day she asked for the binky at naptime and instead substituted a gross stuffed ice cream cone with a cherry on top as a binky, sucking on the cherry.

At one point on Sunday she asked to go home, and I knew she meant that she wanted to go home and get a binky. I told her we don't have anymore binkies at home, either. They are all gone.

She has mentioned her binky a couple of times since we got back on Monday (and she didn't nap in the car for long), but she has been pretty much okay without it.

I'm not missing it, honestly, because she's three and she always wanted it in the car and then she wanted to talk to me and I couldn't understand her with the binky in her mouth, and I was so irritated when she'd take the bink out of the car and then scream for it the next time we were in the car but I didn't know where it was. Also, I love seeing her sweet sleeping face without the binky blocking it.

(Zuzu was two when our pediatrician recommended we nix the binky and I did what he said, but regretted it because she instantly stopped sleeping, started climbing out of her crib, and that all coincided with me being very pregnant and then having Coco, so that's why Zuzu ended up sleeping in our bed for the next three years.)

We had two binkies at home (one in her bed and one in my car) so when we got back from my parents', I snipped both of the binks and hid them in a dresser drawer just in case we got so desperate that we wanted to give her one even though it was "broken." But we haven't had to, and she hasn't asked. I think we are over the hump (tomorrow will be a week without the bink) and so now we live the binky-free life. Liberating!

That's the update here. Any advice on bedtime routines? Now that they are in separate rooms again, Coco is pretty easy to settle, but Zuzu has a hard time getting herself settled down to go to sleep. She just fights it! Also, my kids frequently ask for a snack RIGHT at bedtime (like after they've brushed their teeth), which makes me CRAZY (David always gives them one because he is a sucker and thinks I'm excessively rigid about bedtime). Am I excessively rigid about bedtime? I'm trying to remember to tell them after dinner that this is their last chance before the kitchen closes and they can have a piece of bread with butter if they're still hungry because there will be no snacks before bed. But it's hard! And I don't want to be mean.

I just want bedtime to feel cozy and warm and fuzzy for them AND for me--I don't want to be stressed that they aren't getting enough sleep or irritated with them that they can't seem to settle down.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu and Coco

Sounds Delicious.
Me: Coco, you want a cucumber?
Coco: Yes, I love koom-bugger!


Reckless and kinda stinky.
Me: Time to go. Put your shoes on.
Zuzu: I don't like tennis shoes without socks. It's a little reckless.


Grammy's not a 2T.
Me: You got a new skirt!
Coco: Zuzu got one, too.
Me: Those are from Grammy.
Coco: Grammy can't fit in this.


More Kids, More Household Help
Me: Zuzu, you want to help me with laundry?
Zuzu: No. I'm not a laundry girl.
Me: What kind of girl are you?
Zuzu: I'm a play-with-toys kind of girl.
Me: Well, how do I get a laundry girl?
Zuzu: (shrug) I guess you have to have another baby.


She's Heard This a Few Times
Beth's mom, to Coco: Oh, you sure have your mom's eyes, don't you?
Coco: (nodding emphatically) YES.


Hypothetically.
Zuzu:  Can animals eat humans?
Me: Some animals. Like... a lion.
Zuzu: Or a cheetah?
Me: Yeah, sure.
Coco: Or a dinosaur!


Early Morning Talk.
Me: Okay, girls, time to get out of bed.
Zuzu: Why is your voice soggy?


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

David's Birfday

Well, it wasn't the exciting weekend getaway sans kids that we'd talked about when we imagined David's 40th Birthday a year ago. We didn't go to Nashville with friends or even spend a weekend on the plaza in Kansas City. 

But it was still a good weekend.

We spent the days mostly doing projects around the house--new closet systems for the girls' room, landscaping outside, running a few errands. On Sunday the closet project took so long that we scrapped our plans to go out to dinner, fed the kids breakfast-for-dinner and put them to bed, then David made pizza while I showered and then we ate and watched GoT. Dinner and GoT at 9:30pm on a Sunday night is definitely not how we usually roll, but you only turn 40 once! 

Today I got this sweet message and photo from a teacher at David's school: 

Hi! I'm a teacher at Craig and our classroom routine is to celebrate birthdays in a special way. Today we did our celebration for David. Afterward, I always send an email to the parents with the picture! Instead of parents I'm sending his picture to you.  Here is the email I usually send to parents:

Hello! Today we celebrated David's birthday! We had a special community circle just for him. Each kid said the nicest thing they could think of about David and chose one word to write on the board. David loved the celebration. Happy birthday, David!



Is that not the cutest thing ever? David said they all say something nice and then give an example of the person exhibiting that characteristic. Adorable.

On his actual birthday (Monday), we decided to go out to dinner in the old neighborhood. But when David got home, I was fighting back tears. 

I ordered turmeric supplements for Cooper. It's supposed to help with joint pain and inflammation, and I felt that it couldn't hurt since he moves pretty slow in the mornings especially. His dosage is one tablet a day, so I opened the bottle and gave him one. I left the bottle sitting on the kitchen counter and went to help Zuzu get started on her Kumon. When I walked back into the kitchen, Coco was holding the bottle and looking incredibly guilty.

It had a child-proof lid, so I wasn't too worried... until I saw that she was holding the lid in one hand and the bottle in the other.

I immediately started interrogating her, trying not to yell at her but also trying to communicate the urgency in her telling me how many "treats" she gave to Cooper. "Lots!" she said.

So I dumped all the tablets out and counted them. There were 100 left in the bottle. The bottle originally contained 120. 

I called our vet, but the office closes at 5 and it was a few minutes after. I started googling turmeric overdose. I couldn't find much (although it can evidently interfere with stroke medication). I found that excessive use can cause gastrointestinal ulcers, so that was alarming. I found one case where a woman died, but she was taking it intravenously. 

I started texting a couple of dog-loving friends, whom I thought might have some advice. I fed Cooper a piece of bread to help fill up his belly and give him something bland. I called my mom. Then I called the emergency vet, who transferred me to pet poison control. They wanted to charge me $59 to talk to someone about what my dog had ingested, so I hung up and went back to google.

At that point, David walked in the door ready to go out to dinner, and I was glued to my phone, trying not to cry, while the girls were running amok. I explained the situation, and he reminded me that Cooper has never had an upset stomach, no matter what he has eaten... chocolates, an entire tub of beef jerky, an entire package of birthday cake oreos, muffins with the wrapper on, more than a few dirty diapers, and also some feminine hygiene products. (He is so disgusting.)

Anyway, I was still worrying and fretting, but Cooper was acting totally normal. Coco also was annoyingly unrepentant, and I know she didn't mean to hurt Cooper, but she also knew she was doing something she shouldn't be doing--she knows Cooper can't have unlimited treats and the rule is you have to ask Mommy or Daddy before you give him a treat. So I was feeling resentful of my three-year-old and worried about Bubba.

THEN David walked in the laundry room and noticed the new dog water dispenser I'd gotten for Coop (which showed up in the same package as the turmeric supplements). He asked me what was in it. 

I had no idea what he was talking about, as I'd just washed it and filled it up with fresh water a bit earlier. But the water basin was full of with what looked like an orange powder.

And that's when I realized that Coco hadn't fed Cooper all the turmeric tablets. She'd dropped them in the new water bowl. 

(Three-year-olds are very unreliable witnesses, especially when they are the ones on trial.)

I felt a huge wave of relief rush over me, although I'm still going to wait a few days to give Cooper another turmeric tablet, just in case he got more than his daily dose.


And David was able to have a happy birthday, even though Zuzu fell asleep on the way to dinner and Coco was a bit of a stinker and I got eaten alive by mosquitoes sitting outside at one of our favorite restaurants. Coco also wore full Anna garb but removed her Elsa hat (baseball cap with very attractive braid attached) to eat dinner. Zuzu wore her Rapunzel braid through dinner. 


Speaking of birthdays and being a stinker, this morning Coco's teacher told me when she did Coco's preschool intake assessment, she asked Coco how old she is and Coco said, "FIVE!" And when the teacher said, "Well, aren't you three and your sister is five?" Coco said, "No, I five and Zuzu is three." 

Kindergarten just wears this girl out.


But after a power nap in the car on the way to dinner, she was up until after 10pm last night. I seriously googled "melatonin for kids" because we can a pretty consistent and peaceful bedtime routine, complete with soft lighting, sleep music, and a sleepy time essential oil blend in the diffuser, but if there is one thing Zuzu has taught me about parenting, it's that you can put a kid to bed but you can't make them sleep.

She was very tired this morning and she told me that she wouldn't stay up late tonight. We shall see...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Paint, Repaint, Turn 40

We had the kitchen repainted.

It was worth it.

I ended up going with the Sherwin William color "Sage" because I wanted the kitchen to be sage green. Also I have a fondness for the name Sage due to a certain counselor at Camp Galilee circa 1993 who was the coolest hipster guy and all the girls had crushes on him and his name was Sage. Good vibes with that name, man.

Anyway, it's good. I still want to get a new light for over the dining room table, and we still need to do some ceiling paint touch ups where David replaced a canned light over the desk in there, but I'm feeling better about it.

We've hung two or three frames (out of the  hundreds of frames we somehow seem to have accumulated) so one thing I'd like to get done this weekend is to get things up on the walls. We'll see how that goes.

A quick school update: It's going so well for both girls. Zuzu LOVES kindergarten, mostly because they don't take naps. This was a huge revelation for her when she realized that she'd never have to take a nap at school again. She was so excited! If only my students felt the same way...

Coco has surprised me by having zero tears at drop off.

It makes all the difference in the world that she and Zuzu walk in together to the same building. It's outside time when I drop them off, so they race off into the playground together to greet their friends and run around, and it's all I can do to get them to give me a quick hug and a kiss before they run off without a backwards glance. *sniffle* But even though I was a little sad that they were so quick to leave me, it's SO MUCH BETTER than the tears at drop off every morning. I'm thrilled about it.

Coco told me that she did cry "Mommy Daddy" at rest time, so I think she's still adjusting, but overall she seems to love school. Her Special Job on Wednesday was to clean the floors and she could not have been happier because cleaning is her favorite thing, especially sweeping.

I'm currently questioning all our parenting decisions (sharing a room, binky usage, and all variety of other matters which I will discuss at a later time), but I feel really, really good about sending them to this school together.

Something else major happening this weekend: Celebrating David's big 4-0!

I really can't believe that the cute 24-year-old who spilled his ice cream cone down the front of himself on our second date is now my 40-year-old husband, but life is weird that way.

We'd talked earlier this year about doing something big for the big birthday--a weekend trip to Nashville without kids, perhaps? But now it's the beginning of the school year, we've not even been in the new house for a month, and when I asked David what he wanted to do this weekend, he shrugged and said, "Catch up on Game of Thrones?" #thisisforty #youngerwife #trophywife #stilloldandtired

Anyway, the new plan is to celebrate belatedly (good news is that he'll be 40 for a whole year, so we've got some time) and we'll find a weekend that doesn't have us both feeling stressed out and exhausted and we'll head out of town.

Also, Zuzu was working on Kumon last night (that's another story for another post!) and pointed out the number 40 as how old Daddy is going to be and then said cheerfully, "That's when he'll start being kind of like a grandpa!"

Now it's Friday and my classes start Monday. I've got to finish a syllabus, update the online Canvas shell for the same class, request all my photocopies for next week, send out some administrative e-mails, go back to the brewery where we had a happy hour last night and pick up my credit card because I never closed out my tab (which had ONE BEER on it), make a quick Target run for some basic necessities, make a run into World Market for my I'm Very High Maintenance Kona Coffee (hey, still cheaper than a daily Starbucks run, and tastes way better, IMO), and I need to fit in a trip to the grocery store at some point because we're out of honey flavored Greek yogurt AND tiny frozen pancakes, which means that breakfast at our house cannot happen. I wanted to check with a couple places about getting something else framed (ha! Because we need MORE framed things!), but that's probably going to have to wait until tomorrow. Also I'm meeting a friend for coffee at 3pm and going to a school picnic at David's school at 6pm.

I need to get started.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

School Days

Coco had a hard time settling down at bedtime last night. We've been doing a lot of talk about school starting for the past few days, but at dinner last night when I said, "We're going to take baths and settle into bed so you can get up early. Because where are we going tomorrow morning?"

She replied eagerly, "The Magic House!!!"

Erm. Nope.

She seemed to accept school as a replacement for her magic house fantasy, and she told me that tomorrow she would eat lunch at school. But I know she's been a little nervous about the first day.

She was up at 5am crying for me. David staggered in there to see what she needed, but she needed Mama to snuggle and while Daddy is usually an acceptable substitute, this morning that was not the case. So I went in and lay down with her (and Zuzu, they were sleeping together in Zuzu's room) and hugged her and snuggled and tried to get her to settle down and sleep for a couple more hours.

At 7am, I had to wake her up and she was cranky. Basically, she was pissed off and crying from the moment she woke up. She wanted to snuggle. No, she didn't want to snuggle like that. She didn't want to pee on the potty (she kept screaming this as her pee was coming out while she sat on the potty--she was so furious). She would not wear the dress I'd selected for her first day. I kept asking her what was wrong, but she couldn't articulate what she was really feeling (nervous? anxious? tired? worried?), so she just opposed every suggestion I made and when I finally walked away from her to go into my bathroom and get ready, she ran after me and pinched me while screaming and crying.

Fortunately, Zuzu stepped up and once she got out of bed, she got herself dressed without any problem and tried to help me with Coco. She kept saying, "Coco, are you nervous? This is going to be a BIG DAY." I'm not sure if that helped or not, but her heart was in the right place.

After breakfast (their usual breakfast of champions--mini pancakes (the frozen ones) with Greek yogurt (honey flavored) on top and a side of berries, plus a glass of milk), Coco had settled down. We talked about what they want to be when they grow up. Zuzu said she wants to be a doctor, and then changed it to animal doctor veterinarian (which surprised me, but whatever) but Coco just insisted she wants to be a kindergartener. Zuzu laughed and said, "No, Coco, like when you're Mom's age," which made me laugh and sounded like such an adult thing to say, but Coco wouldn't change her answer, so that's what I wrote on the board for her. Then we went outside to take first day photos. 




Zuzu was so wound up she could barely hold still for photos, and especially wanted to show off her new rainbow shoes, 




but I could hardly get Coco to smile


until Zuzu did something silly behind me and made her laugh.



Coco kept saying she was cold (it was 80 degrees outside this morning and she did not have a fever, I checked) and she wanted a blanket, but I think she just wanted a comfort object to hold. So I gave her a blanket for the car and then we loaded up.

And then the garage door would only open halfway, so I called David in a panic because my car was trapped in the garage. I was able to detach it from the opener and manually lift it, so we still got to school!

There were a couple of kids (and one mom) crying when we got there, which made me tear up, but Zuzu was so excited to be there that she nearly fell leaping out of the car, and she ran and hugged her teacher right away. Coco was only slightly more hesitant, and she was happy to hold Zuzu's hand instead of mine. Zuzu went right into this little mother-hen mode, which was so adorable that I thought my heart would burst. She held Coco's hand or put her arm around her the whole time, walked with us to find her cubby and I put her blanket and stuffie and extra clothes in it, then we hung her bag on her hook, and Zuzu kept promising her that she was going to have "a great day!"

And then I hugged and kissed them and Zuzu led Coco out to the playground, where they were promptly surrounded by little girls in sundresses yelling, "Caroline! I missed you!" and giving her hugs and saying hello to Coco. It was so adorable that I lingered, watching through the window (with the crying mom, whose kid seemed to be doing just fine out on the playground as well).


I told David last night that I feel like we kind of "cheated" kindergarten because we didn't have to take her to a new school full of new kids and new teachers--she's back in her Montessori school, and big man on campus as the kindergarteners are the oldest and the leaders of the school. So in some ways, the first day of first grade for Zuzu will pull at my heartstrings even more. But as worried as I'd been about Coco, she ended up being brave (while holding Zuzu's hand tightly) and it made me so grateful for their sister relationship.




The house feels empty without them here and as ready as we ALL were for school to start, I miss them. I can't wait to hear how it all went when I pick them up this afternoon!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Hey Kids, Is It Time for School Yet?

Coco has created a small domestic crisis every morning since she turned three. There was the eyeshadow pencil incident.


The "let's have breakfast outside" idea that turned into two bloody knees and a screaming three-year-old. The less explicable "woke up on the wrong side of the bed" grumpiness, the "Zuzu gave me a pedicure" morning


and on Saturday, the haircut she administered on herself.

This picture is the best "before" I have, in terms of showing length and bangs:



And "after" she chopped it herself.







You'll remember I was on campus at meetings Saturday, so I consider myself blameless for this one, but as a PSA, I will say that kids can reach drawers you think they can't reach, particularly when they carry stools in from down the hall. Coco is really interested in "zizzers" these days and she located the actual scissors I use for cutting their hair (I still cut their hair myself, based on years of intently watching my hairdresser to see what she does when she's cutting my hair, because I think it's fun and also I'd rather spend money on something besides kid hair cuts). Anyway, she used my super sharp purple hair scissors (in retrospect, I probably should have selected a less interesting color than purple) and she basically just trimmed around her ears and a little off the top in the front.

You know what style that is, right?


Yeah... So then I tried to trim it up. I took over an inch off the back, but it's not like I can cut a bob that hits ABOVE her ears. So she basically has a kind of pixie cut that's uneven around her ears and has a small chunk of bangs missing in front. Zuzu kept saying Coco has "boy hair" and I kept launching into gender fluidity lectures about how boys can have long hair and girls can have short hair and people can have any kind of hair they want, stop being so binary, obviously you've been watching too much Disney.

Coco as Prince Charming
Zuzu would appear to listen to these lectures and then turn around and say to Coco, "Let's play that we're married and you're the boy."


After bath... you can see the strategic comb-over that's mostly hiding a chunk of bangs she cut super short. We've been working on her bangs for THREE YEARS!

Anyway, haircuts aside, they played outside so much yesterday afternoon. It was a dream come true. David set up their little tiny playhouse in the woods and they gathered rocks and climbed on the swingset and just played while I sat and read a book (and also read stuff about Charlottesville on my phone and finally had to go put my phone away because the comment sections on FB were a reminder of why we're in this mess). It was really the sweetest thing to sit out in the perfect weather in August and watch the girls play and enjoy themselves just the way we imagined they would when we first talked about buying this house.

But after an idyllic afternoon, yesterday evening did not go well on the home front. We had been to a swimming party in the morning and Coco fell asleep in the car on the way home and Zuzu almost did, so they were both tired but of course no one wanted to nap after we were home, and I didn't insist on rests later in the afternoon because they were playing so peacefully in the backyard and I didn't want to throw off bedtime. But meal time was off because of all the donuts and fruit they'd eaten late morning, which made them not want any lunch and just ask for popsicles around 2pm. At 4:00pm, Zuzu came in and got mad at me over something (I truly have no idea what upset her) and she threw a lunch box full of markers all over the kitchen and as I stared at her, flabbergasted and completely pissed off, I realized she was probably hungry. Sure enough, they both ate fruit, cheese, bread, and two generous helpings of pesto pasta before 5pm, and then Zuzu was her sweet self again (she's basically one of those Snickers commercials).

As I was cleaning up the kitchen, they went on upstairs and I told them to get ready for baths. When I walked upstairs, I smelled something delicious, unusual yet familiar, but I couldn't quite place it.

I found the girls in my bathroom and the scent turned out to be the bottle of really nice bubble bath that had been a birthday present in honor of me having a master bathroom and a deep bathtub for the first time in my life.

You know who hasn't yet taken a bubble bath in the new house? Me.

You know whose entire bottle of bubble bath was poured down the drain yesterday? Mine.

I wanted to scream, but instead I just sighed in defeat, dragged the two of them down the hall to their own bathroom to get in the tub, and then declared my bathroom off-limits. No kids in there at all ever. I explained that they don't make good decisions in that room, so they can't go in there at all anymore.

In spite of exhaustion, soothing baths, and a million stories last night, bedtime did not go smoothly. Actually, Coco fell asleep while we wer ereading, which was the sweetest thing ever. But then Zuzu ended up waking her up, which made me feel so angry that I had to opt out of going upstairs because I was BEYOND my parenting patience threshold, so David went up there, but he couldn't get them to settle because he really wanted to be downstairs where had paused GoT to deal with their shenanigans and finally I went upstairs and said Coco would sleep in her own room because obviously they couldn't handle sharing a room, so then Coco was devastated and sobbing, and then I got her to bed and went to take a shower because Zuzu STILL wasn't settled/asleep, but then Coco was crying again, so David ended up bringing her into Zuzu's room and lying down with both of them until they were both asleep.

By that time, we were too tired to watch GoT.

So basically, it's been a fantastic summer. And now I'm totally ready for school to start.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sage

So we're having the kitchen repainted. The advice was basically unanimous, and since the color just looked seafoamy in my kitchen (and I think would look better with bright white trim as opposed to the creamy off white of these cabinets), it was needed for my peace of mind.

There are SO MANY greens and it was a tough decision. My friend Lindsey recommended a Glidden color called Fennel she says is the perfect green, but when push came to shove, I couldn't handle adding another card into the mix. In the end, I was torn between Benjamin Moore's Thicket and Sherwin Williams's Sage. David ended up casting a deciding vote for the lighter color (Sage) which is a little more gray and less brown than Thicket (or Dried Basil / Herbes de Provence, which also read more brown in our kitchen). I hope that it is authentic to its name and that we're happy with it in the end (because I doubt David will be eager for me to paint the kitchen three times in as many weeks...).

School is starting SOON. The girls go back on Wednesday, which is also David's first day with students. My faculty meetings start next Monday with classes beginning on the 28th, but I'll be working on syllabi stuff and class prep at Bread Co. after I drop off the girls on Wednesday. (I'm actually really, really looking forward to it!)

I'm in my office today even though it's Saturday because I have a meeting with adjunct faculty today and because I was ready to escape my house and feel like an adult who has time to think about things besides what the hell to feed my kids who want to eat all the time (Three meals a day! Plus snacks!). In all seriousness, I'm so excited to not be making lunch or cleaning it up for my kids in just a few short days. And in a burst of start-of-school-year organizing fervor and optimism, I'm even making a dinner plan to get us through the end of August (with the help of Blue Apron). (Not a sponsored post.) David and I are both going to be working longer than usual hours and the kids are going to be adjusting to a new routine (Zuzu can't wait for kindergarten, but Coco has been getting a little teary-eyed when we talk about school and asking, "But is Mommy going to stay wif me?" which then makes me teary-eyed, so I'm already dreading that drop off situation.). So the last thing we need is that hangry desperate feeling at 5:30pm when we don't know what's for dinner and we're too tired and hungry to do anything but pour bowls of cereal and pick fights with each other. I mean, I'm all for a cereal dinner now and again, but we probably need to be a little better fueled for the start of the school year.

Some things on my menu: tomato mozzarella sandwiches, pasta with spinach and roasted veggies, broccoli melts, quiche, and also take-out Chinese food (keeping it real, folks).

We STILL haven't found my essential oils OR our collection of Penzey spices. That's David's assignment for today while I'm on campus. Also I said, "Maybe you could like organize some of the toys in the basement?" hahahahahah #goodluck. Honestly, I thought that we were doing okay at keeping toys under control, but we have got to do some purging.

It seems like I should have another point to make here, but I'm tired from leading our department meeting (being NICE to everyone exhausts me) and I have to go to the grocery store on my way home and we were supposed to go to Grub & Groove in the park tonight, but I think we're going to just end up crashing at home. We've been getting the girls up early in the back-to-school prep mode and we definitely need early bedtimes to match. Plus, I'm really into Ozark on Netflix!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Radio Silence and Kitchen Paint

The blog has been so quiet this summer. Is it the chaos of moving? The busy-ness of having just-turned-five and now-she's-three -year-olds? The fact that there are other, easier ways to connect to people on my phone (Instagram, I'm looking at you...)? I started this blog a year before becoming pregnant with Eliza, but I needed it after I lost her, and now am I less inspired to write?

I want to document my kids' childhoods, and I worry about their internet privacy. I want to talk about house projects and get ideas and feedback, but I barely have time to do the projects themselves (this week's goal is to unpack books and then I will feel better about the house).

Anyway, I'm not hanging up the ol' blogger password, but I'm just trying to figure out how to use the space (and maybe whether anyone's reading). I know commenting just isn't done anymore (I barely do it), but I always hear from a loyal few, which is rewarding. And I'm NOT asking for a cheering section to tell me to keep writing--I'll do it regardless of whether people are reading (just look back at posts from 2009 for evidence of my willingness to blather on into the void). I dunno what I'm doing. Just sorting through brain cobwebs, I guess. I haven't been doing enough writing this summer in general, despite my good intentions. I haven't done zero, either, just not where I'd wanted to be now that mid-August is breathing down my neck.

Speaking of August (or "Hog-uhst" as Coco says it: "My birfday is Hog-uhst"), poor Coco's birthday got kind of lost in the shuffle. I put up a birthday banner that has fallen on one side and now I can't find the role of tape to fix it. We celebrated early with my parents--singing and cupcakes--then on her actual birthday had a friend over to play (who brought more cupcakes), and then we went out to dinner and she got to open presents from us.

Zuzu is the WORST secret keeper and will no longer be allowed to assist with wrapping. "Open the Barbie one first," she instructed Coco, handing her the presents. Coco did get a Barbie for her birthday, but it is a baby doctor Barbie. She also got more Magnatiles and a really cute book (from the We Stories curriculum--Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie). Oh, and a weird plastic lizard she was obsessed with at World Market and I made her put it back, then surreptitiously purchased it without her noticing, but now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure she left it at the Botanical Gardens today. Dangit.

We had painters paint almost every room in the house, and by and large it's a huge improvement. The previous owners seemed to favor dark, warm colors, and I just can't with rust, mustard, and tan (blood, barf, and bandaid). Zuzu's formerly yellow and lime-green room is now a lovely shade of sky blue, which coordinates with the rainbow theme she completely came up with on her own and is insisting on (I'm actually not opposed to it, but I'd negotiated to bring the darling curtains I'd made for her out of a shower curtain from the old house and she's not interested in the super cute pink, coral, mint green, touch of ochre color scheme we had going). So I ordered her a rainbow duvet cover and I think it will be pretty cute. I need to figure out if they girls are really sharing a room or not. Right now they're sleeping together at night, but bedtime is not going super smoothly, and Coco is still napping in her crib-turned-toddler bed in her own room because she just settles down in there more easily. She wants her room to be purple, so I will likely oblige her (with purple accessories, not purple walls).

Unfortunately, in my intense desire to lighten up the formerly rust-and-golden-mustard kitchen, I overshot and the green I selected is too pale and not what I want. I want something more sagey--not apple, but closer to herbs-de-Provence rather than seafoam. And I feel like I ended up in seafoam. David says I should live with it for a while, my mom says I should go ahead and repaint before we get stuff on the walls. I WANT to repaint it, like, yesterday, but I think David will win out not because his advice is better but because start of the semester will take priority to repainting the kitchen. Maybe I'll get a free weekend in late September? It's more annoying since we had painters do it and they did a great job and it cost us money rather than time, and I obviously mentally flagellate myself more for wasting money than I do when I waste time (see: the internet). I definitely can't freehand edge as quickly and crisply as they can. BUT I also know the power of paint and how happy it will make me to change the color, so it's going to happen. The question is just when...

In other news, I cannot find the box in which I have the back-to-school chalkboard, which is annoying because I SPECIFICALLY labeled it "back-to-school chalkboard" among other things. I have eight days in which to locate this.

Other significant things we cannot find at the moment: our vast collection of Penzey spices (David packed these near the end of the week before we moved and we both distinctly remember him emptying that cabinet and have no idea what became of the spices); my smaller but not insignificant collection of essential oils (I am NEEDING this); our full collection of bath towels (we have two... where are the others?). For awhile, ALL of my pants were missing, but they have since been located.

Things I'm missing about the old house: Knowing where everything is. The stained glass windows and arched doorways. The new carpets that weren't stained by someone else's kid's chocolate milk vomit. The faster drive to the botanical gardens. Francis Park within walking distance.

Things I'm enjoying about the new house: Main floor laundry (just off the kitchen). A huge basement playland in which my children are willing to go and spend about 30 minutes alone until one of them is injured or pissed off at the other. A master bathroom (I've never had one before in my life). An attached garage (ditto). The amazing yard. The fact that David texts "on my way" and shows up 14 minutes later. (That is the BEST, seriously.)

Today the girls and I spent the morning at the botanical gardens (20 minute drive--doable). Tomorrow my plan is to find the nearest library branch and make ourselves at home there. The girls have transitioned here really seamlessly, and I'm grateful for that (with the exception of bedtime shenanigans).

Ok. Tackling a book for book club on Friday in between staring forlornly at my seafoam walls and wishing they were sage. Would you paint now? Or see if pale green grows on you?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Three; Two Living

We moved into the new house. The girls and I ended up going out of town for the past two weeks, which was great but a little nuts as well. We stayed at my parents' for a week, then came home briefly, then went to visit my Uncle Tim in Indiana, then went to a family reunion float trip in Eminence (the girls didn't float, my aunts were sweet enough to babysit them). Then they went home with my parents and David and I came back to St. Louis to move. It wasn't ideal timing, but we made it work.


The big things went smoothly (no surprises at closing) but of course we've had a few hiccups. I'm still missing a shopping bag of little things I threw in at the last minute, like thank you notes and my favorite hoodie (WHERE is it????). Oh--and we still don't have running water.


NBD. It's not like we need to clean things. Or bathe.


I guess there was some kind of snafu/mixup/whoops moment when a call didn't get made (...???...) but whatever happened, the water got shut off instead of transferred to our name. We called about this on Monday and were assured it would be turned back on Tuesday. Welp. I'm typing this on Wednesday afternoon and I still can't use the sink or flush the toilet. AMAZING! I showered today at my friend Christine's house, which was a fabulous decision because I got to see her, her adorable son Joel, AND it just so happens that her master bathroom is like a fabulous spa with an amazing rain shower. I kind of wish I were still there. So, could be worse. I don't stink at the moment, anyway. But I'll tell you, we're going to need some flushing toilets up in the place pretty darn soon. (poop emoji; barf face emoji).


One lovely neighbor came up and dropped off some homemade cookies (because apparently we not only moved to the suburbs, we also moved back in time?? But seriously, I loved it.). She, of course, asked how many kids we have and I said we have two girls who are currently at my parents'. But then the AT&T guy came and he asked how many kids we have and I said, "Three. Two living." And he was SUPER nice and just said, "Oh, I'm so sorry about that" and I told him my kids names and ages and that we'd lost Eliza and he said he has three girls and his youngest is twelve and I felt like he really was genuinely sympathetic and understanding about what we lost. And also I was super jealous of him and his three-living-daughters family. BUT at least he's a nice guy.


I've gotten a little emotional because really this house is kind of stupid big and there's plenty of room for three kids in it but my interest in another pregnancy is virtually nil, so it's just sitting in the stasis of life after loss, which will always really suck even when other things are super happy/great and we have two amazing girls and we live in a house in the forest! But overall I'm patting myself on the back for having no hysterical tears or freak outs (decidedly an improvement over our last move!). The closest I got was when I was supposed to be packing up the fridge but I couldn't because we had NO BAGS OR CONTAINERS left. Mostly because my husband refuses to save Target bags because he is a monster can't handle the clutter in the hall closet. But we borrowed coolers from our neighbor slash real estate agent (truly full service in this case!) and it all worked out.


The girls are heading back today with my parents and they should all be here before too long. I've gotten Zuzu's bed made, but I can't find Coco's sheets, so I need to go look for those. I also got them a new shower curtain since they have their own bathroom now. It has mermaids on it and I think they are going to love it. I also lined the bathroom drawers with little duck wrapping paper covered with clear contact paper and it's so adorable I can hardly stand it. Kid bathrooms are really fun.


We are having painters come on Saturday, so I've been choosing paint colors. I'm having them do almost everyone room except the dining room because we don't have furniture for it and a couple bedrooms and the girls' bath upstairs. The bedrooms are already a neutral gray that's fine, and the bathroom isn't bothering me at the moment and I can always do it myself later on. I've been thinking about paint colors since we put an offer on this house because the current rust and mustard and tan is not doing anything for me. I can be pretty indecisive and insane about these things, but I'm sticking with what I like, which is lighter tones and lots of blues and greens. I thought I'd go navy above the white chair rail in the laundry room, but I've decided on a deep teal. The kitchen will be a pale sage green (Sherwin Williams Liveable Green, which is such a lame paint name). And I'm painting the master bedroom Sea Salt again because if it ain't broke don't fix it, you know? Doing a soft white in the hallway and family room, little fingerprints and hand smudges notwithstanding, and the ever-perfect Comfort Gray in the front living room and the halfbath downstairs. Oh--and the entryway no one will ever use because of the way our house sits on the lot is a nice blue color I just sort of landed on by happenstance called Breezy (sometimes the names really do influence me).


Anyway, lots of people are bugging me for photos so I'll be sure to put some before and afters on Instagram and post some here as well.

UPDATE: photos of the outside! The first is the front of the house, but because of the way it sits on a hill, we will rarely (never?) use that entrance.


This next one is our regular entrance--it's The side door that opens into the laundry room / mud room. There's also an attached garage that enters into the house there too. And that goes into the kitchen, which has a small dining area.



Now I have four more boxes of kitchen stuff to unpack (WHERE to put it all?) and I really need to dig up those sheets. More updates (and interior photos) soon!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It's Not a Road Trip Until Someone Pees by the Highway

We decided to escape the madness and the boxes and the elevated stress levels at home, so I loaded up the girls and we drove down to my parents yesterday. Possibly this had something to do with the fact that I nearly started crying because all of the wine glasses were packed. (Items I use on a daily basis: wine glasses and fuzzy blankets.)

The girls are really pretty good travelers--I didn't even bring the ipad and they just paged through books and napped a little bit. At one point they were making up and singing songs together, which was the cutest thing ever. I listened to a couple of podcasts but realized that most of the podcasts I like are not appropriate for kids (too much cursing!) and then my phone lost internet connection out in the boonies, so we listened to really random CDs that were in my car--Leonard Cohen and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

There were a few frustrating moments--we were about two hours into the four hour trip when Zuzu started getting very curious about whether we were there yet: "Is this Grammy's city?" she asked at every little farm town we drove through. Coco will do this thing where she whines, "mooooooommmmmy" and then when I say, "What, honey?" she mumbles softly in the backseat, which is infuriating because she can be as LOUD as she wants to be, but she decides to operate on this level of a just-barely-audible whine, apparently just to make me crazy. We were five miles outside my hometown when she started making that noise and I had to say, "What? What? WHAT?" and then, in a fake cheerful tone, "Okay, when you're ready to talk so that I can hear you, I will be listening."

And then finally she yelled that she had to go potty "SO BAD."

I asked her if she could wait a few more minutes and she repeated that she had to go SO BAD and sounded kind of panicky, so I asked if she needed to go in the grass and she said yes. And so I pulled over and put my flashers on and she peed on the side of the highway.

Then we loaded back up and got to my parents' house ten minutes later.

The plan is to chillax here for a few days, then head back to St. Louis for a birthday party, a hair appointment, a visit to the primary classroom at Coco's school, and all the rest of the packing and organizing. There are some details about our closing/moving that are making me really nervous--mostly that our buyers want to close as early as possible so they can move in, but our sellers aren't going to be out until 3. I think this means that our buyers need to understand that we won't be out until 3, but I'm not sure that has been clearly communicated, because our realtor said something about us being out by 1:30. (Um... then what do we do?). Also our realtor seems to think that the sellers will be out earlier than 3, which I think is absolutely crazy (if they have until 3, they are going to take until 3, is what I think). So that is stressing me out. Surely this will work out, right? I don't know how people do this. Move houses, I mean, and close on the same day. Ugh. 

Meanwhile, I'm spending a lot of time on Pinterest daydreaming about furniture and paint colors and I keep realizing I can't remember what the house really looks like. Weird!


Monday, July 17, 2017

Right Now

READING.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I have no desire to watch the show, and it's actually taken me weeks to work up the emotional fortitude to tackle the novel. It's fantastic and terrifying. Between that and Season 4 of West Wing, I'm just beside myself when it comes to politics and possibilities. What seemed like complete fiction to West Wing writers in 2001 (President Bartlet is running for reelection against an anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant opponent) is REAL LIFE NOW... how far are we from Atwood's dystopia? (I mean, have you read this? Terrifying.) (Note to self: work on plans for living off grid.)

I've done quite a bit of reading this summer. I'm just over halfway to my goal of 52 novels this year, which is great since we're about halfway through the year! I need to step it up, though, because my reading game slows when school starts. I just finished reading The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katharine Green. It's one of the earliest American detective novels, and I'm teaching it in a Victorian Crime & Detective Fiction class this fall. At least, I think I am. I'm still building the syllabus and working out the reading schedule for that class (my others are all set!) so I need to finish this book and then claim a few hours to myself to sit and figure out the course schedule.

I also recently finished reading Secrets of Happy Families which was a little bit hokey (hold Weekly Family Meetings, craft a Family Mission Statement... good ideas in theory, I suppose) but what I got from it is that you mostly should make explicit the kinds of things that you want your kids to implicitly absorb about your family values. Kind of like the yard sign we put up, I guess--that's a way of making our family values explicit, not just to our neighbors, but also to our kids. The family coach we worked with last year talked about using the phrase "In our family, we don't ____" when we explained why Zuzu wasn't allowed to bite/hit/choose your inappropriate and antisocial behavior, I'm sure my sweet snowflake of a rainbow baby has exhibited it. And I think it's the same kind of philosophy. You make your kids feel like they are an inherent and necessary part of a core group that holds a certain set of values, and then you make it fun, safe, and comfortable to belong to that group.

One other thing that this book didn't cover but that I was thinking about recently are the cliches "Happy wife, happy life" and "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." There's truly something to be said about the way one parent (not just mom) can set the tone for the entire family, and how much power we have to shape kids' perceptions of experiences, just by saying things like, "This is the BEST VACATION EVER!" or "I have a feeling today will be a really great day!" Kids aren't just sponges--they are also mirrors.

WATCHING.
West Wing season 4. I love it so much.

David and I tried to watch the very controversial Thirteen Reasons Why and we gave up. I found it absolutely too disturbing and frustrating. It also made me think of some of the dark thoughts I was having on the 4th of July. It's no secret that I've been pretty disturbed and frustrated by the politics of this country, and I wondered if the Great Democratic Experiment of our constitution is playing itself out and demonstrating that people really are just self-interested and selfish A-holes so democracy is kind of crumbling and our best bet is a benevolent monarch who keeps us in line in an ethical way because when you leave people feeling like we live in a competitive environment where it's every man for himself (like, say, high school), we will inevitably end up using and abusing people we perceive as weaker than ourselves.

WOW this little blog meme sure has been a cheerful way to start the day! You're welcome!

Anyway, we are NOW watching The Keepers, which is a fascinating documentary about who killed Sister Cathy, a nun living in Baltimore in the 1960s. What looks like an unsolved mystery may actually be part of a huge cover up. We're not very far into it yet, but Gemma and Abby are already my heroes. They are like real life Miss Marples or Jessica Thatchers, just a couple of retired ladies doing their sleuthing at the library and on facebook and in coffee shops. I want to be just like them when I retire!

FOLLOWING
Just started following Celeste Barber on Instagram. Definitely search for her... her posts are completely amazing. Even inspiring. Lol.

LISTENING
To the Moana soundtrack mostly. Also always and forever Hamilton.

WEARING
Sweaty, stinky clothes from walk/jogging to the park today. I need a shower, but we're going to the pool later, so I think I'm just going to stink for a few hours.

BUYING
I'm shopping for a new couch, but I'm not committed to anything just yet. Leather couches are expensive, man. I'm selling off furniture on Craigslist--my couch and another chair I hadn't even planned to sell went on Saturday. I have another chair/ottoman set that I'm selling although I'm having second thoughts because it's the comfiest chair in the entire world. It's just that the upholstery doesn't really go with anything else, and then I wonder if I should have it reupholstered, but that seems a little daunting and pricy, so I'm not sure...

PLANNING
What projects we want to do at the Forest House, and where we want to start with painting.

MONITORING
How much more my kids are playing with their toys now that 80% are packed up in boxes. It's true what they say--they play more with less. Also moving toys around the house totally influences how they play. The art table that was ignored in the basement is getting a lot of attention now that it's in the living room. I need to keep this in mind as we're setting things up at the Forest House... Less is more!

WONDERING
Why we're bothering to move from our awesome neighborhood with such a fantastic park within walking distance. I'm trying to keep in mind that summer feels all blissful, but once school starts, I know I'll be more grateful for the shorter and simpler commute and drop off situation. Still, the nostalgia is hitting me hardcore already. And I don't know where the new grocery store or library is, either. Do they even HAVE those things where we're moving? (Kidding... kind of.) It's sort of like when you have a great hair day the day that you've decided to go in and get it all chopped off. You're going to go ahead with it, but you're having serious second thoughts and you'll probably cry about it for three days until you get used to the new hair. (Tell me that's not just me.)

FEELING
Conflicted. Sad about leaving the old house. Ready to get settled in the new house. Sentimental about leaving the neighborhood. Excited to move to our secluded location. Aggravated by not being able to find things that David has packed. Looking forward to unpacking and organizing the new house. Wanting summer to last forever. Ready for school to start. Mostly packed except for clothes. Completely overwhelmed by everything we have left to do.

David and I generally don't have many major conflicts, but we always have one big fight in August when the transition to the new semester and all the stress that comes with it hits us hard and we inevitably work out the stress by yelling at each other. Over the weekend, that fight visited us early because I was SO PISSED that he went ahead and packed all the couch pillows and throw blankets. I use those every night when I curl up to watch TV or read. The girls use them almost everyday to build blanket forts. In my mind, they are the kind of thing you pack up the LAST DAY and you toss them in a garbage bag. But David had neatly stacked them in actual moving boxes and he was pretty mad when I unpacked them. We exchanged some choice words and then I stomped upstairs and watched The Keepers by myself. I mean, we have to live here two more weeks! I'm not doing it without my favorite fuzzy blanket and also some pillows. Fortunately, we were both feeling more reasonable the next day (and also my pillows and blankets are still out of the boxes, so...).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cousins and Our Future "Dentister"

Remember when I thought this would be a relaxing summer and I would just read and write and take my kids to the pool?

Haha. I had no idea.

It feels like we have been going 100 miles an hour the past couple of weeks. After a low-key Fourth of July (about which I actually had all kinds of complicated feelings because I'm not totally convinced the democratic experiment of 1776 is actually working out all that well, given the enormous numbers of people who feel and are disenfranchised in this country), we had cousins come visit from California and set about showing a 9-year-old and 12-year-old just how much fun stuff there is to do in St. Louis in five days.

playing in the backyard clubhouse

If you're considering a visit to St. Louis, I'll tell you we managed to go to the zoo, a Cardinals game, the City Museum, the Botanical Gardens, Ices Plain & Fancy, Ted Drewes, Schlafly, and paddle boat riding at Forest Park Boathouse, and all were great fun. The kids said the City Museum was their favorite. Plus I had to attend a funeral for a colleague (sad and unexpected) and David had to work one day, so I would say that we did a pretty good job of squeezing in a lot of fun stuff, but we are all kind of wiped out from it. Paddle boating when it was 104 degrees out wasn't exactly the most ideal plan, either. (Poor Kailer, David's 12-year-old nephew, was mortified when I started complaining about boob sweat).

Zuzu and Coco absolutely LOVED having their cousins here. I can't even describe how smitten they are with those two. And it was awesome because they were totally entertained but the cousins are old enough that there was none of the typical playdate bickering. Basically, I want to have a nanny who is 9 years old and just helps me out from 9am-4pm every day. We loved having them here.

at the Botanical Gardens

It was also excellent to have three adults and two big kids to help us tackle the City Museum with Zuzu and Coco. The last time I'd been to the City Museum was more than ten years ago. We'd been waiting to take the kids because I didn't think Coco was big enough for some of the stuff (also I didn't realize they had a toddler area) and Zuzu's fearlessness makes me nervous. Both girls had a great time, and Coco was determined to keep up with the big kids! The outdoor climbing structures still gave me the willies occasionally, and even Zuzu was a little more cautious than I've seen her before when we were up really high.

At one point, we were climbing around in the indoor treehouse and I saw Zuzu go down a slide and come out a level below me. I had my eye on her, and I saw her foot slip through the metal bars she was walking on. I knew she'd banged her knee hard and I saw her start to cry, but I couldn't figure out how to get down to her--where do I enter the climber? What slide did she go down? So I was kind of freaking out. I was trying to yell down to her that I was coming, but she couldn't hear me. Then I saw a gray-haired lady come over and start talking to her (I'm sure asking her where her negligent parents were). I sent David up a level to find the slide and I started climbing down to her, but then when I got down to where she was, she was gone! Just as I started to freak out, my phone rang. I had written my cell phone number on Zuzu's wrist band, just in case. It was an unknown local number, so I answered it and, sure enough, it was the nice older lady. "Do you have a little girl with pigtails in a blue shirt?" I said yes and that I was trying to get to her and she said, "We're in the tree house" and I said, "I'm in the tree house! Where are you?" and then I realized she was right behind me. Anyway, Zuzu was fine and it was actually a nice transition to heading home.

The same day the cousins left, we had friends come to town to join us at a Jason Isbell concert, which was kind of our anniversary date and was fantastic.

13 years of weddedness.

We left our kids and our friends' daughter with a babysitter and it made me feel like a Real Adult somehow, except Coco cried when we left because she's mama's girl and then I was really sad but then I had a gin & tonic with dinner and I remembered that sometimes I like to do adult things without my children. Also the show was so, so great. I loved The Mountain Goats too, who opened for him, although at first I was like "I should have brought ear plugs because I am so old." And we talked about how we love going to concerts where we get to sit down. Basically we are the uncoolest ever. No shame.

Yesterday we went out to the House in the Forest to scope out a few things and measure a few things, and remind myself that this is real and we're really moving. I also boxed up a bunch of books and all the pictures I had hanging up the stairs and now our house looks empty and ugly and also dirty with the shadow of the frames left on the walls and it's kind of depressing. Also all our house guests were gone yesterday afternoon and Zuzu and I were both feeling the post-fun glum. I coped by treating myself to a La Croix and a magazine. Zuzu coped by being a complete and total brat. It wasn't our worst day of the summer, but it certainly wasn't our best afternoon. I truly sympathized with her--she's overtired, out of routine, used to have constant entertainment, missing her cousins and friend--but mercy she can be a handful.

Speaking of depressing things, the air conditioner went out on my car and the car place was like "NBD, prolly needs freon, run you about $50" and then the car place was like "Just kidding, you actually need a whole new system thingy and it will cost $1350. Or we can do just one part of it and that will cost you $850."

Given that my car is 10 years old, we were actually like, "Should we just go ahead and get a new car?" but then we were like, "Oh, wait, we're buying a new house, so NO." And my car (knock on wood) has been pretty trouble-free for most of its life, plus it has nearly 150,000 miles on it. Anyway, that was still not a fun phone call to get.

Also Zuzu had to have a cavity filled today. I never had a cavity as a kid (in spite of very lazy dental hygiene in elementary school) so I was shocked by this. Also it is not cheap. I was a little worried she would be dentist-traumatized, but she loved it. We go to a pediatric dentist practice and they used laughing gas and let her choose a Barbie movie and gave her a balloon and then another one for Coco, and fussed over what a great patient she was, and she told me she wants to be a "dentister" when she grows up. So I guess that was successful. But I sure can think of more fun ways to spend a thousand dollars than on dental work and car repair (plane tickets and gin and tonics come to mind... also a new couch).

Anyway, that's the latest around here. More packing to do today. Zuzu just informed me they are playing, "Dinosaur Times" and Coco is a baby dinosaur. I'm going to try to take advantage of the relative dinosaur harmony and see if if can get the rest of the stuff on my living room shelves boxed up. (You guys. I have so many books.)