Friday, October 30, 2015

Zuzu on Motherhood

Zuzu likes to play Family. She's The Mommy and I'm the Sister.

What does a Mommy do? You might be wondering.

According to Zuzu, a Mommy calls everyone "Sweetie."

She spends a lot of time buckling and unbuckling people in the car.

She holds her kids' hands when walking around.

She takes them places like "Count Mickula's Castle." (She also announces that we'll be picking up Grammy and Bops on the way there.)

She negotiates by saying things like, "If you want to go to the lie-barry, you have to be a good listener."

She tells her children that they should not run away from her at the park or she will be very upset.

She also grabs sippy cups away from babies and says, "Don't drink that! That's my beer."

I don't know about you, but it's obvious to me that she's pretty much got all the mothering basics down.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Family Photos

David's school has parent/teacher conferences this week, so between his late nights and my stacks of papers to grade, all's quiet on the blog front.

If you're desperately missing us (and I know you all are), perhaps you'd like to look at our faces. Our favorite local photographer, Katie, met up with us last weekend. She took some snapshots of us in Tower Grove Park and then drove to Forest Park so that we could take some pictures of the girls in front of Eliza's tree (which are precious even though you can tell Coco fell asleep on the way there and cried when we woke her up, and Zuzu had to be bribed to fake smile).

I tried to be really chill, but Coco was kind of crabby and Zuzu wasn't the most cooperative (as evidence, please see my hand white-knuckled on her arm as she tries to fetch an acorn or something out of a creek), but Katie managed to get some great shots. I especially like the one where Zuzu and Coco are colliding and David and I are wincing in the background.

You can look at them here, while I slog away grading papers.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Consider It a Standing Invitation, Santa.

Last night, I took Zuzu with me to the fabric store to pick up some red ribbon so that I could transform her Little Bo Peep pinafore into a Little Red Riding Hood apron.

On the way there, Zuzu was chattering about this and that: "Some days I am the Mommy King and Gemma is the Sister Rapunzel"; "Beatrice is coming to my house to trick-or-treat." Then she said, "Mommy, Santa is coming to our house."

I said, "Um, yeah. Santa comes to our house at Christmas."

There was the briefest of pauses, and then: "Well, I'm going to invite him to come for Halloween."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Gym Rat

Just a quick update--this week is nuts because I have SO MUCH grading to do. I know I waste time when I have papers to grade, but I don't spend my time doing things I actually want to do--like blogging or reading novels--because then I would feel like I'm doing something instead of grading. I just waste time by telling myself I'm grading and then actually checking Instagram or searching for that podcast I just remembered someone recommended to me or whatever. You know how it is.

BUT I just wanted to say quickly that so far I've had a few workout sessions with my personal trainer. He's warming up to me a little bit, by which I mean he has started laughing at my jokes and actually talking to me.

It is intimidating to go into the weight room! And it's a little weird to be hanging out there with students I have or have had in class. What's funny is that they don't say hi to me! For the most part, they totally ignore me. I don't know if they are embarrassed or if they think I'm embarrassed or what. (Mutual embarrassment! Yes, probably.)

Possibly, they are intimidated by my wicked reps of bicep curls with three pound weights.

At any rate, my hamstrings are sore from my workout on Tuesday!

My trainer actually had to cancel today's session--he said he woke up with his eye swollen shut. (Note to self: Bring package of antibacterial wipes to gym next week.) So I promised to do some cardio this afternoon. My plan right now is to finish grading (HAHAHA but seriously) and then pick up Coco for a stroller walk/jog.

I'm learning how to use all the gym machines and I'm even going to (eventually) do squats with a weight bar which is hilarious to me.

While the students ignore me, I totally gawk at the guys lifting enormous amounts of weight or doing ab workouts that make me want to pass out just observing them. If only some of them would transfer the motivation they have for working out and put it toward studying...

In all seriousness, though, my discomfort there and my feeling of being somewhere where everyone around me is good at something that I don't really have figured out is actually making me feel more empathetic toward students who feel that their strength is athletic rather than academic. I imagine that my uneasiness in the gym is probably not too different from their uncertainty in the classroom, so I hope I can emphasize that we're all here to learn and improve our scores rather than prove that we're the best.

I have to say that I do feel really good in the evenings of the days I work out. I've just been holding office hours in my gym clothes and so far no one seems to mind. The students who have stopped in to talk about their schedules haven't blinked an eye.

It's definitely reminding me that making exercising a priority makes me feel better in general--and it's only been a week and a half of this business.

And the timing is great, because we have a big bowl of Halloween candy at home and the Reeses peanutbutter cups are irresistible!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Parent/Teacher Conference

We went to our first parent/teacher conference last night.

Honestly, we were both a little nervous. As parents, we obviously want our kid to be doing well in school, but I think as educators, we were really hoping that she wasn't the kind of student who is driving the teachers crazy.

We noted on a recent visit that Zuzu's special place in the peace circle is right next to one of the teachers.

(While that could mean nothing, I think we all know that it probably means something.)

Anyway, we had a nice conversation and got a good report overall. Words used to describe Zuzu's behavior at school included: "Spirited," "Determined," and "Strong-willed."

(It is quite possible that those are all euphemisms.)

But the teachers also used the word "Delightful."

Because, obviously.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Spooky Reads for October

Looking for a good book to curl up with on a cool fall night? Flip on your gas fireplace, grab a cuppa tea (or a glass of red wine, I'm not judging), and curl up with one of these:

Dracula by Bram Stoker
I'm teaching this to my English Novel class right now and it's so much fun. If you haven't ever read it, I can tell you that it's probably not what you expect (and is actually so much better!). It's a sort of epistolary novel, a collection of different documents telling the story of vampires that's really all about the anxiety of foreigners buying London real estate and women expressing sexual desire and independence. You know, the things that REALLY scare people. #kiddingnotkidding

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Such a perfect gothic novel, heavy with all of the gothic tropes, but still manages to be creepy and surprising in a very original way. I first read this book while we were vacationing in London and it was so good it enhanced my vacation experience.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
I just read this a couple weekends ago. And when a book is good enough that I manage to get it read in one weekend, that is really saying something, my friends. I basically neglected my children to read this book. That's how engrossing it is. If I were in a book club, I would want the club to read this book because I want to talk about the characters (and the structure and the pacing and the plot) with other people. It was really a fun read.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton
I really got into this story, although I'll warn you that it has a babyloss element in it. I read it a few years ago and it didn't feel like a grief trigger to me--it wasn't central to the story, but it wasn't lightly tossed in as an aside, either. The mystery is engaging and obviously the book is memorable enough that I'm recommending it years after reading, so it has that going for it.

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith
This is so creepy! These are the kind of Swedish novels that people must read to scare themselves when it's dark and cold all winter long. It's also great because the unreliable narration keeps you guessing and second-guessing who should be believed throughout the narrative. It's not as grisly as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books, but it's pretty freaky.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Thoughts on (My) Weddings

We attended a wedding this past weekend. It's our third wedding this year, the second that the girls attended with us, and all three weddings we've gone to in 2015 have been outdoors--but I hadn't ever been to an outdoor wedding before this year. The weather was very, very hot for the weddings we went to in July and September, so we were glad that October gave us a reprieve and the weather was gorgeous on Saturday.

Generally speaking, I love weddings--all the weird antiquated traditions and problematic gender roles aside, it's just such an awesome, brave, optimistic thing to celebrate. And, honestly, I kind of like the weird, antiquated traditions. But I also love when people put their own spin on things.

I got married before Pinterest (Gasp! Can you even believe that a wedding could be done without Pinterest? I mean seriously.) and I was two weeks shy of turning 24 years old (which is ridiculously young) but I loved everything about my wedding at the time. As I look back now, though, with the benefit of hindsight, maturity, and Pinterest, I can think of a few things I'd change. (For starters, the groom! Haha, kidding, obvs.)

What I would do differently...

I'd have both my parents walk me down the aisle.

I'd let my bridesmaids choose their own dresses (with my consultation because that's the fun part!) and be way more chill about the "colors" -- my favorite color is blue, so I'd go with various shades of blue and keep them short.

I'd use less traditional songs.

I'd have us write our own vows.

I'd bring a change of clothes for leaving the reception (my poufy dress barely fit in David's little sports car and it knocked things off the wall at our B&B as we climbed the narrow stairs to our suite).

I'd get someone on Etsy to make my invitations so I didn't end up crying at Kinko's when they messed up my beautiful paper.

Of course, I got married eleven years ago (before Etsy!). My tastes have changed since then (in some things, not in husbands, fortunately)! The things I'd want now were things I really thought I didn't want then, and vice versa.

Like, I loved my tiara that I wore (borrowed it from Crafty Cousin Amanda--and when else do you get to wear a tiara as an adult?) but I'm not sure I'd wear one if I were getting married now. (Maybe that's the difference between getting married in your twenties and your thirties--whether you feel comfortable in a tiara?).

feeling very comfortable in a tiara
At the time, I wanted a very traditional wedding, and now I'd want it to be more eclectic and personalized. But there are some things that I wouldn't want to give up, or, maybe like the tiara, some things that I might do differently now, but that I'm really glad happened the way they did then.

Things I loved about my wedding...

It was in my hometown, in the church I grew up in.

I love that our reception was a huge ridiculous party. It only happened that way because we were in our mid-twenties and between David's friend and my friends we had the perfect storm of party-people, to the extent that most of them were painfully hung over the next day (we just don't drink like that anymore). The reception hall was not especially nice (very bare bones), but we dimmed the lights, drank the booze, and had a great time.

I love that our DJ (a friend of my parents) was so into the party he kept playing way past the time-frame we'd arranged, and brought out a box of costume props and a microphone for an impromptu karaoke singalong.

I love that we had heavy appetizers on various tables around the reception hall, instead of a formal dinner so there wasn't the wait of a buffet line or sitting to be served and lots more moving around.

I love that I had an all-white bouquet so it was gorgeous but it didn't take the focus off my dress.

I love that I wore a pearl necklace that had been my Grandma Vance's. She passed away when I was in college, and I wish she could have been at my wedding. It was a sweet way to feel like she was there with me.

I love that we left the church in one of David's grandpa's vintage Mustangs and cruised through town like we were in a parade, waving while people honked and cheered (small towns are the best!)

I love that our first dance was Ann Murray's "Can I Have This Dance?" It's so incredibly cheesy, but also the sweetest and the best.

I love how much I loved my dress. Again, I don't know that I'd pick the exact same dress now (I probably wouldn't... I'd go with something that had more lace and less bling, I think) but I adored that dress at the time, and it still makes me very happy. I'm glad it wasn't strapless (because it seemed like every wedding dress was strapless that decade) and I felt beautiful in it.

Oh--I would definitely change my shoes. I didn't really even like them, but they were white and inexpensive and the heels weren't too high or wobbly, and I figured nobody would see them anyway. But I knew they were there. And I didn't love them. I think now it would have been worth it to me to have shoes I loved underneath that dress.

How about you? What did you love about your wedding? What would you go back and do differently? I would love to know.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Conversations with Zuzu

Scene: Talking to Zuzu about the night she was going to stay with Grammy and Bops. I'd explained that she was going to sleep on her cot in Grammy and Bops's bedroom.

Zuzu: What color is Grammy's bed?
Me: It's blue.
Zuzu: What color is Bops's bed?
Me: Blue. He shares with Grammy.
Zuzu: (laughing) No, he sleeps in his chair!


Scene: Pulling into the carport after work/school.

Me: All right, kids, we're home!
Zuzu: Mommy, we're not kids!
Me: You're not kids? Then what are you?
Zuzu: Girls!


Scene: Driving on highway where lanes are shut down and it's under construction. There are several temporary concrete barriers lined up along the side.

Zuzu: Oh, Mommy! Look out your window. That wall is broken. We need someone to fix it. Like a hero!


Scene: In the car, discussing age and growing older.

Zuzu: Now I am three.
Me: And next you will be four. And do you know what you'll be after that?
Zuzu: Yes.
Me: What will you be after you're four?
Zuzu: Seven.


Scene: At dinner. Zuzu is drinking water from a big-girl cup without a lid.

Zuzu: This is my water wine. It's for big kids and babies.


Scene: Telling Zuzu that David will be home later because he's getting a hair cut.

Zuzu: Who is cutting his hair?
Me: I don't know. Probably a nice lady. Or a nice man.
Zuzu: Or a mean lady!


Scene: Zuzu is playing with Coco, I go to kitchen to get a drink, Coco starts seriously crying.

Me: Oh no, Coco! What happened?
Zuzu: (fake sad voice) Poor Coco. I just blasted her with my true love powers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Project Madonna Arms

I recently read that really busy people make time to work out by getting up super early every day--like 5:00am.


My answer to the time crunch that doesn't allow for exercising has been not exercising. (Now you know my time management secrets.)

But a few weeks ago, a friend of mine who is a professor in the sciences sent out an e-mail asking for volunteers to help her exercise science class by signing up for personal training sessions with one of her students.

And for some inexplicable reason, I replied and said I'd do it.

So now I have an undergraduate personal trainer, and I have to commit to exercising on campus with my trainer 150 minutes a week.

This is a recipe for total embarrassment.

But I'm totally cheating and doing it during some of my office hours because I'm on campus anyway and that is when my trainer is available.

Today was our fitness assessment. My trainer (a dude I'll call Chad) has to type up my results and send them to me, but he totally knows how old I am, how much I weigh, and how many push ups I can do, which is generally information I deliberately do not share with my students. So that's weird. Thankfully, I've never had Chad in class so I only know him in the context of being my personal trainer, but it's still kind of weird.

Some things I learned:

* I can walk a mile in 13 minutes (Takes me 14 when I'm pushing a double stroller, takes me 18 when I'm dragging Cooper's lazy butt).

* I don't use proper form for push-ups (even modified push-ups) because using proper form makes them really effing hard. (Your chin is supposed to touch a book on the ground!)

* My lower ab muscles are virtually nonexistent; hence, my goal: improved core strength. (My other goal: make my arms look like Madonna's.)

* I feel naked when I'm wearing workout clothes on campus where I'm likely to see students I have in class.

Training starts for real next week, and I know I'm going to whine about it.

Chad has his work cut out for him.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Weekend of Wild Things

After my sad despair on Friday afternoon, the weekend was a pretty good one. I didn't watch the news. I did a lot of socializing. In fact, I saw a couple of friends Friday night that I don't see very often and we had one of those evenings of conversation and wine where you lose track of time--I thought I'd be home by 10:30 and when I first thought to glance at the time, it was almost midnight. I can't even tell you the last time I was out so late! I'm so wild and crazy.

On Saturday, we took the girls to the Where the Wild Things Are exhibit at Central Library, which was really cute. Zuzu was acting so bratty as we were getting ready to go, didn't want to put her shoes on, and was being generally obnoxious. We practically had to drag her out to the car, which is weird because she's usually up for any kind of going out. In fact, I asked David if we should just skip it, but both of us wanted to go, so we decided to power through.

She continued to be difficult as we walked the block from our car to the library--it seemed like pure naughtiness and I was SO aggravated. As we climbed the steps to the library, we looked at the big banners with illustrations from the book, and I asked her to pose for a photo. She didn't want to cooperate, which I should have expected from Captain Contrarian. Then, as we started to open the door to go inside, she asked me to carry her.

And that's when I finally realized that she was SCARED of the seeing the Wild Things, but didn't want to admit it.

So I quickly explained that we weren't going to see real wild things, that it was all just pretend and for fun, and I showed her the cut-out wild thing monster in the lobby of the library.

Then she was all smiles, skipping and following the wild thing footprints up the stairs and to the display. If only we could have cleared up that misunderstanding MUCH EARLIER.

(Side note: I love when Zuzu substitutes the word "footprints" for "footsteps"--as in "Do you hear the Big Bad Wolf's footprints, Mommy?")

The display was cute and small and I took a zillion photos and blew up Instagram with them, even though my subjects were not always cooperative (ahem, Coco). 

Coco was actually hilarious--she loved having a taste of freedom at the exhibit (thankfully, it wasn't crowded). She didn't want to be carried and really didn't want to be held for the photos in front of the green screen that I coerced them into taking. 

She basically ran laps around the display, grinning and waving at other visitors.

Both girls fell asleep on the way home, so I went and visited my friends who recently had a baby while the girls were napping. I had a nice conversation with them and reminisced fondly of the days of sitting around holding a sleeping newborn and binge watching Netflix. Ah, good times.

When I got home, it was past time for us to leave for dinner, but of course since I hadn't been there all afternoon, no one was ready to go. Insert that emoticon that is gritting its teeth.

Thirty minutes later, we were more than thirty minutes behind schedule, but on our way. My friend Erin had invited us and another couple over for dinner at her new house. The girls were pretty well-behaved, although I did haphazardly childproof her living room as Zuzu and Coco came upon, among other things, cat toys, wire cutters, a box cutter (!), a box of kleenex just asking to be destroyed, and several pens and pencils.

We all went outside after dinner and sat around a fire pit. It would have been the perfect night for it, but it ended up being totally nerve-wracking for David and me. Coco stumbled around like a tiny drunk person, but didn't want to be held. She only wanted to (1) eat gravel or (2) run staggering as close to the fire pit as possible. Every effort to deter her from these two activities was met with very strong, very LOUD resistance.

Zuzu, meanwhile, entertained all present by pretending to make cupcakes out of gravel (gravel! the BEST TOY EVER!), singing "Let It Go," and occasionally asking me nervously if I thought there was a scarecrow behind the tree in Erin's yard.

She's also discovered poop humor and tries to tell poop jokes, which is a delight.

When we went inside for cake, Zuzu insisted she wanted a piece because it had strawberries on top, then didn't care for the sweet whipped cream frosting and asked if she could get strawberries without "that yogurt" on them. So she passed on the (delicious) cake and ate an orange.

Coco shared my cake.

On Sunday I went to brunch with friends from work to celebrate a birthday. I ate a gluttonous and disgusting amount of food and had a nice time, even though I wasn't feeling great.

In fact, I ended up feeling worse as the day went on. I thought I was just tired because Coco did another wee-hours wake up and then I couldn't go back to sleep (I ended up watching TV at 3am and finally dozing off some time around 4, only to have Coco wake up again at 6). But I never rallied (in spite of the coffee I had at brunch).

Zuzu refused to nap, and Coco slept in the morning and wouldn't go down in the afternoon. This was ominous since we'd invited friends over for dinner Sunday evening (this was basically the most social weekend ever). So I was forcing myself to clean house for company and do laundry and other stuff to get ready for the week even though I was just dragging. I'd invited our friends (and their daughter who is Zuzu's age) to come over around 4pm and I ended up calling them to delay start time by an hour because the meat David was making was taking forever to smoke and I still needed to run up to the grocery store to get bread.

I sent the girls outside with David to play while he finished up yard work slash meat smoking and drove up to the grocery store. As I headed to the bakery section, I realized I was being ridiculous. I was so tired and crappy feeling that if I were getting sick, I didn't want to pass that along to our friends, and regardless of their immune systems, I felt bad enough that I wasn't going to be any fun. I felt like curling up and going to bed, not chatting at dinner. If the roles had been reversed, I would have told my friend that we'd take a raincheck, but I still felt bad about it.

Zuzu was so excited about seeing her little buddy (which was probably part of the reason she hadn't napped, but as a result she was acting like a hell-beast all afternoon--and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible). But in addition to Zuzu's excitement, David and I had been looking forward to seeing these friends too! Still, there was no point in having them over so that I could stare blankly and mouth breathe at them. So I ended up calling from the grocery store to explain I wasn't feeling well and asked if we could reschedule. Which of course they were super nice about because, obviously, they are friends who understand such things. It was just a bummer that I didn't feel up to it.

When I got home, David had the girls already eating dinner and I didn't really feel hungry. By 6pm, I'd given them baths and put them in their pajamas. 

We loaded up in the car and drove back to the store to get ice cream, and then cruised around until they were both asleep. It didn't take long.

We got home, transferred the girls to bed (Coco required rocking, Zuzu was totally out), I ironed clothes and got stuff organized for the week, David made himself some dinner, and then we watched TV and went to bed early.

Whew. This week--this month!--is a busy one for us. I'm still feeling tired today, so I'm busting out the zinc and vitamin C and special tea and essential oils to homeopath myself to health! In the meantime, you'll find me drowning in stacks of papers to grade.

Friday, October 2, 2015

When All the News is Bad

This morning I listened to news reports about the shooting at the community college in Oregon and then I looked online at photos of Syrian refugee children sleeping out of doors.

And I'm basically ready to give up on humanity.

I think about the students in Oregon and I see my students. I look at those terrified kids sleeping out of doors and I see my kids.

And what really sucks is that the problems seem so huge and overwhelming and impossible that instead of feeling spurred to action, I feel tired and scared and sick to my stomach and I just want to go home and hold my babies and never leave my house.

Not exactly the way I planned to start my weekend.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Look Alikes?

David's grandma has been visiting us for a few days, and she keeps remarking on how much Zuzu reminds her of David's mom when she was little. Do you agree?

I see definite similarities!