Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Oh, Heeyyyyyy There.

Here are a few things I'd like to talk about:

What is UP with March and February having matched up dates and days of the week? It is making life confusing yet also making it easier to remember what day of the week certain dates fall on. But I keep flipping back and forth in my planner and forgetting which month I'm on.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it on here or not, but I found a crazy deal on flights to Phoenix and we booked a spring break trip to Arizona (in March). We'll stay with my aunt and uncle in Scottsdale, meet up with friends from Kansas City who will also be in Phoenix to watch some spring training games, and meet up with friends who are moving to Scottsdale and will be there to scope it out. I'm really looking forward to it--I think the girls are at a pretty easy travel stage and we should have a good time.

I swear I don't compare my kids except to marvel at how special and unique each of them is, but you guys, Coco in general is SO MUCH more chill than Zuzu. That's not to say that she doesn't have her moments, but Coco at age 2 is at least as easy as Zuzu at age 4, so that pretty much sums it up. Traveling with 2 year old Zuzu was dicey. Traveling with 2 year old Coco is going to be a cake walk.

(I hope those aren't famous last words... knocking on wood now).

I forgot to mention these when I was talking about favorite things around the house:

These light switch extenders do exactly what their name suggests--they extend down from the switch so your kid can turn on and off the light herself. At first I thought $20 for a 3-pack of glow-in-the-dark plastic moons on sticks was a bit steep. But I got so tired of "Moooooooooom, can you turn on the light?" and lights being left on all the time. So I ordered these and installed one in each of the girl's rooms and one in the bathroom. Game changer! It took a few days for David and I to get used to them, but now I don't even notice them.

I'm working on having my kids be more independent (Montessori school sent home an article about it). I know they are very capable, I just either get impatient or want to avoid a mess and so I intervene. But I'm really trying to step back from that. I bought a small glass pitcher (with a lid) for milk that I put in the fridge so they can pour their own without trying to lift the heavy gallon, and moved their cups to a kid-accessible cabinet. (This summer, they'll be cooking their own breakfast--I just have to figure out the best way for them to access the microwave for oatmeal and frozen pancakes since it's mounted above the stove...).

I finally saw Hidden Figures--I ended up going with friends to a Saturday morning show at 10:25am! It was great because I had a leisurely morning but after the movie I still had my whole day to be productive.

(Although, on this particular day, "productive" meant taking a tired and cranky four-year-old shopping for new athletic shoes. Is anyone surprised that this did not end well and we came home with zero new shoes? The little turkey flat out refused to try on any shoes that weren't pink and insisted on wearing pink tennis shoes to school today that are a size too small. After a tearful meltdown when I refused to spend $30 on a hideous silver pair that featured two characters from a cartoon that she has never actually seen, I was so fed up that I came home and ordered a few different pairs of shoes for her to try on and keep/reject at home.)

Saturday night, David and I saw Something Rotten at the Fox which was especially fun for me since I'm teaching Shakespeare this semester ("He's the Will of the people!"). We also ate at a nearby restaurant where we'd eaten a couple months ago before another show and split a pizza and a bottle of wine. It was really great, and it made me think about where I am on the spectrum of wanting novelty or wanting familiarity. I choose familiarity/predictability over novelty a LOT, you guys.

I don't know if it's because life in general feels busy, or if it's especially because the political climate makes me anxious, or if it's still a holdover from grief/trauma. Even when it comes to fun stuff, I'm just more apt to choose a place I've already been, a restaurant I know I like, and even order the same thing off the menu. Even the clothes I buy are starting to look the same--shirts in the same style or color or pattern (how much navy blue does the average person have in their closet?). I order the same flavor concrete every time I got to Ted Drewes (the All Shook Up--Reese's peanutbutter cups and banana). Am I just boring?

I'm not sure if it's a habit I need to resist, or something I can just rest in for the time being. I think especially because I'm making an effort to do more and do new things when it comes to political activism and social justice, I am not going to worry too much about the fact that I'm basically a boring person who enjoys routine.

In that regard: Despite the fact that I don't like talking on the phone to people I don't know, I've been calling my senators almost every day. I've found the website 5 Calls to be really helpful if you're not sure what issues are currently being discussed in Congress, or what exactly you want to say about them. You enter your zip code and then choose from the sidebar what you want to express your opinion about.

I called Roy Blunt on Friday to see if he would be holding a Town Hall meeting in St. Louis over the President's Day recess. He is only holding one online--on Twitter or Facebook. I think that stinks because it means he is unavailable to constituents like me who don't participate in those social media, and it stinks because he seems unwilling to meet his constituents face to face to answer questions and concerns about really BIG and important things that his party is pushing for--like repealing Affordable Care. But I now have his office (and Claire McCaskill's) on speed dial, and I leave a voicemail to talk or someone in their offices almost every day. It's going from an uncomfortable novelty to a familiar habit!

Politics aside, where you stand on the novelty/familiarity spectrum? Are you a creature of habit, or do you seek new adventures?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Few of My Favorite Things

My aunt Beth (the great) wrote me a note a few weeks ago about embracing hygge in this time of political anxiety, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot. There is a danger to turning off and tuning out the news just because it makes my chest feel tight and strained. Only people in positions of privilege can afford to ignore what's happening, and it doesn't mean that we should. So I'm trying to strike the balance between staying informed and freaking the eff out. I'm working on showing up and donating money to causes that are fighting for the things I believe in (this week, this, and this) (and not even big sums of money--I'm convinced that a little bit helps and that if we all gave $5 to the causes we believe in, we could do amazing things).

And I'm also doing some hygge work at home. Lighting scented candles, putting a tablecloth on the table, buying a new floor lamp for the living room to replace the one I've never liked very much, just creating a warmer, cozier home that can at least provide some creature comforts in the face of news that leaves me feeling powerless and confused (I mean, seriously. What is happening?)

So here are some things that are making me smile at home when I turn off the news feed and settle in for watching West Wing. #martinsheenismypresident

This felt food from Farm Fresh Felt Toys:

The whole shop is adorable--I'm also obsessed with the ravioli and farfalle pasta--I think my kids would love "cooking" with the pasta (though I can also imagine tiny pieces of pasta showing up in random places all over my house). I first happened up on the shop when searching for a donut ornament for Coco for Christmas, to commemorate her donut-themed party when she turned one (I am following my mom's tradition of getting my kids an ornament every year that reflects their interests or hobbies, but I realized that I didn't get anything in 2015, probably because that December was another difficult one for us). Anyway, the donuts are super cute and I've just ordered the eggs to put in their Easter baskets.

DoTerra OnGuard foaming hand wash

Image result for doterra on guard foaming hand wash

I love this. the smell, I love the foaming action. The dispenser is certainly not the cutest one in existence, but it gets the job done and it's not breakable. The previous dispenser we were using had a lid that pushed down and fit really snugly, so I never imagined it being a problem, but when it got dropped off the edge of the sink (not once, but twice), the top popped off and handsoap exploded all over the wall/vanity/floor/toilet in our bathroom. There are worse things to clean up than soap, but it still took a lot of towels to get the residue all cleaned up. This is lightweight, not breakable, and something I feel good about my kids using, so I'll happily tolerate the dispenser, even if it's not designer chic.

Also, I'm on a little bathroom refreshing kick upstairs, so stay tuned for my reveal of a couple of simple changes that are making me happy.

Happy in Our Skin book

Image result for happy in our skin book

This book was included in one of our We Stories sets. The words are just okay--sometimes the rhyme feels a little forced--but the pictures are adorbs. I love the mixed families, that it shows kids in wheelchairs playing at the park, and lots of adorable babies. (Coco loves looking at the babies.) My favorite thing, though, might be that it features a couple of moms who have visible tattoos. Think about it--have you ever seen a children's book that showed a mom with a tattoo snuggling a sweet baby? I love it.

Mermaid swimsuit

I did not love Gap's swimsuit offerings last year--it seemed like a lot of animal heads growing out of crotches (wow, that visual sounds much more disturbing that it actually was, and I REALLY hope that's not a search term that gets someone here). Anyway, this year I couldn't say no to a mermaid swimsuit, and I'm *really* hoping that the introduction of this suit will allow me to phase out the well-worn and much-loved Ariel swimsuit that my friend Molly handed down to us.


I'm such an essential oils dork, but this thing has been a neat bedtime trick. The girls watch the light show and using lavender oil or a blend for "sleepy time" makes the room smell yummy and soothing. It's become a great little nighttime ritual. (And you can't beat the price of that one for less than $20, but I like the look of this one also).

Okay, so those are a few of my favorite things. Now I need a recommendation. Anybody have any really good kid mittens? Waterproof is not essential, but I'd like them to be warmer/more substantial than the tiny stretchy ones you can buy at Wal-Mart for $1 a pair. They can't be too bulky (like ski mittens) or my kids refuse to wear them. I'm SO READY for mitten season to be over, even though it hasn't been a very cold winter at all. It's just such a hassle and my kids completely strip down to get in their car seats (well, not to nakedness, but no jackets, hats, or mittens) so things get lost in the car between home and school even if we have everything when we walk out the door--it's maddening! So, bright-colored, warm, not-too-bulky mittens that aren't crazy expensive but are worth keeping track of. Anybody?

Friday, February 10, 2017

Little Girls: The Musical Numbers

I like to listen to music in the car with the girls and after tiring of the soundtrack to Mary Poppins, lately we've been listening to an Amazon playlist of showtunes (sidenote: If you have Amazon prime and you aren't using their music app, which is basically like spotify but without commercials because you pay for prime, then you are missing out!). I was listening to a 90s mix playlist, but one day I was belting out "You Oughtta Know" right along with Alanis and when it was over Coco said, "Mommy? I no like dat song." And I was like JUST YOU WAIT, HONEY. But then I decided maybe we could some Broadway hits instead of angsty tunes from my high school years (also, I don't think it's really appropriate to sing, "I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me" in front of my kids.. Sidenote: Is there a Kids Bop version of Beck? Asking for a friend.)

After "Seasons of Love" from Rent and "Luck be a Lady Tonight" from Guys and Dolls came and went without comment from the backseat, "Hard Knock Life" from Annie came on this playlist and the girls were immediately interested in the little girl voices. They wanted to know who was singing it and why those little girls didn't know Santa Claus.

Molly: Santa Claus we never see.
Annie: Santa Claus, what's that? Who's he?
All the Orphans: No one cares for you a smidge / When you're in an orphanage / it's a hard knock life.
Zuzu: Why doesn't Santa go to the orphanage?
Me: Uhhhh...

So we started talking about orphanages and orphans and how Miss Hannigan probably took the presents or told Santa not to come. They had so many questions, so I told Zuzu we could watch the movie together.

Of course, they watch something and then they immediately want to act it out. In fact, when it comes to Annie, I was really, really hoping for this. Sure enough, Zuzu said, "Mommy, will you be Miss Hannigan?"
Let me see. Will I drink heavily and mostly be in the other room while yelling at you girls to CLEAN UP THIS DUMP and to keep scrubbing until it SHINES LIKE THE TOP OF THE CHRYSLER BUILDING?
Yes, let's pretend this is a new game and not everyday life.

But seriously, it's been pretty hilarious. Coco doesn't really like me yelling like Miss Hannigan (or my enthusiastic rendition of "Little Girls"), so then she insists on being Miss Hannigan and Zuzu just runs around doing somersaults and yelling, "I love you, Miss Hannigan!" and it's pretty funny.

Coco also calls her "Hannie" instead of "Annie," which I think is because their babysitter's name is Hannah, but in any case is adorable. Coco's song request remains "Let's Go Fly a Kite" from Mary Poppins while Zuzu always asks for "Hard Knock Life" in the car now.

But Hamilton is still getting some air time--and just last night, I overheard Zuzu singing, "Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now."

I have to say, in spite of everything--executive orders, political appointments, my anxiety about the future of our country, and the pile of grading I'm supposed to get through this weekend--when I heard her singing that, I could not have agreed more.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Marshmallow Test

Zuzu participated in another study for a local university's graduate students' psychology lab. They are doing a version of the marshmallow test, which is where a child is given a marshmallow and told that if they wait and don't eat it until the test administrator returns that they will get two marshmallows. The child is then observed to see whether they eat the marshmallow or trust the administrator and wait for his/her return.

Variations on this study have been done to see whether the willingness and/or length of time a child waits depends on whether the test administrator is someone the child has spent a bit of time with before the test or not, or whether they observe the test administrator doing something dishonest before leaving the room (like tearing up a paper and then lying about it).

The study we are participating in is considering race and racial difference as a potential factor in how long a child would wait, so Zuzu was given the marshmallow and promised a second one by an African American woman.

Zuzu performed exactly as I would have predicted.

Two minutes and fifty-three seconds into the experiment she had not eaten the first marshmallow, but she had followed the test administrator out of the testing room, opened the sliding door, and peered into the waiting room to ask when she was going to come back with another marshmallow.

(I should also add that the child isn't really left alone in the room--there is a grad student in there observing, but she is hidden from the child's view.)

The graduate students seemed a bit surprised by her appearance in the doorway--perhaps most kids just sit and wait (or sit and snack) instead of wandering by themselves through two sets of doors and one dark room back out to the waiting room?

I was trying to imagine what I would have done as a four-year-old. I was pretty impressed by authority and wanted to please my teachers, so I probably would have tried really hard to sit and wait for her to return (they try to get the child to wait 15 minutes, which is an eternity when you're four).

But I had to laugh because OF COURSE Zuzu wanted to get both marshmallows, so she certainly wasn't going to eat the first one before the teacher came back, but OF COURSE she wasn't just going to sit there by herself and wait it out when she could be proactive about the situation and demand the marshmallow NOW.

When her preschool teacher asked me how it went, I told her what happened and she was delighted. "That's leadership!" she said. Which is a lovely way to look at an impatient and demanding four-year-old, and is precisely why she teaches preschoolers and I do not.

But seriously, as frustrating as it can be to raise a four-year-old proactive leader who isn't afraid to ask for what she wants exactly when she wants it, I hope that is exactly who Zuzu continues to be in another decade and for the rest of her life. Give 'em hell, honey. You totally deserve more than one marshmallow on a reasonable timeline.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Resolution Check-In

In the interest of accountability and the recent statistic I heard that 95% of people have broken their new year's resolutions by the end of January, I thought I'd do a quick little check-in:

1. Read 50 books. 

I've gotten a good start here, thanks to a week of break at the start of January. I read:

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

I'm almost through my umpteenth re-read of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, but it doesn't really feel like it counts since I'm reading it for class. However, it does take up a lot of my free-reading time, so I think I probably will count it since it's a novel. I'm also reading The Merchant of Venice and I've already read/taught Othello and Hamlet this semester, but I'm not counting plays.

I'm currently reading Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (for book club next Friday) and You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Williams and once I finish those I'm itching to start Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye and It's Okay to Laugh (Crying is Cool, Too) by Nora McInerny (of the Terrible, Thanks for Asking podcast).

Three books a month is not going to get me to my goal of 50, but I'll make up for it over the summer.

2. Drink 4 big cups of water a day.

I'm making some progress here. I took Amelia's advice and I'm starting the day with a big cup of water before I even get out of bed. I'm also trying to drink more water at room temperature (so European!). Goes down easier when you're chugging it, anyway. I try to guzzle a glass in the morning and a glass before bed and figure I drink two other big cups when I'm eating/drinking throughout the day.

3. Yoga.

Oh, man. I was doing SO WELL. I did 25 days straight of yoga with only one Saturday off when we went to a brewery in the middle of the day for David's friend's birthday and I defy anyone to drink two pints of Zwickel in the late afternoon and then find the motivation and wherewithal to do anything besides watch television for the remainder of the evening. But still! I was so proud of myself and then I managed to really actually seriously hurt my back and I was STILL doing yoga everyday thinking it would help and then my chiropractor advised me to rest one night, and it really did make my back feel better. So I took a couple days off to let my muscles recover and now of course I need to get back into it and it feels SO MUCH HARDER. Last night, I opted to wash my hair and read Northanger Abbey instead. Ugh.

4. Spending freeze.

This went pretty well. Slowed unnecessary purchases for sure. I'm modifying it by tracking my own non-essential spending the old-fashioned way: I write down purchases in a notebook! Crazy, right? We've decided to enroll the girls in the expensive swimming lessons starting in March because every year we go to the YMCA and then we remember why swimming lessons at the Y drive us crazy (mostly because the class size is such that each kid spends most of the 45 minutes sitting and watching everyone else rather than getting individualized attention. So, we'll be budgeting accordingly for March and April, but I think it will be worth it, especially as Coco will have her first independent lessons! Such a big girl.

5. Back up photos and blog writing.

Yeah... I'll get right on this.

6. Write.

I've been better at blogging than I have at book-working. I have come no where near 300 words a day. I need another strategy... Will contemplate and revisit.

7. Reach out.

Attending the women's march was one step in this direction. Joining a book reading group through the (liberal, progressive) church we've started attending was another. Continuing to look for ways to contribute, learn, and volunteer through We Stories is another effort I'm making. Such efforts are always very rewarding, but oooooh they are not easy. I saw a sign from the March on Washington that said something like, "So Bad, Even Introverts Are Here" and I was like, "Mmm-hmm yes." So I'm working on it.

8. Take more videos.

I have been doing this! I have a youtube channel I've been uploading to from my phone (still don't know how to do it from the video camera, but we'll get there. Maybe I can make that David's job? He does nothing in terms of memory-keeping for our family, so it would be nice to not feel like it is solely my responsibility to capture the adorableness of our children's childhood). I've enjoyed keeping this resolution, and it's a reminder of what a good idea it is to resolve to do things you really WANT to do (like read and take videos of my kids).

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Conversations with Zuzu

What Happened When Her Friend Broke His Leg

Zuzu: One time he fell and there were a lot of bruises so he had to have a cast put on and then there was a buzz machine and then the cast came off and the bruises really hurt him. And when people have a cast you have to wear your shoe under it.

Immaculate Conception, According to Zuzu

Zuzu: When I'm a grown up, my bones can make a baby.
Me: How does that work?
Zuzu: God is in everyone's bones and he helps them make a baby.
Me: Um, who told you that?
Zuzu: I just figured it out.
Zuzu: Or maybe God is in your tummy?

The Peanuts Thanksgiving Special Has a Lot of Questionable Content, Actually

Zuzu: Where did we come from?
Me: Our ancestors? Like our family?
Zuzu: Yes.
Me: England, mostly. Our family sailed over here on the Mayflower.
Zuzu: Really?! Why did we not die like the rest of them?

Some of Us Are Good Listeners; Some of Us Have Other Strengths

Me: (telling my mom about taking the girls swimming) Coco doesn't really venture where she can't touch and you can tell her not to go past here and she won't!
Zuzu: Coco listens?
Me: Yes, she listens to me. It's amazing.
Grammy: you should listen to your mommy, right? Do you listen to your mommy?
Zuzu: Hmm. Not a lot.

That Time I thought I Actually Had the Right Answer, but It's Possible I Misheard the Question...

Zuzu: Mommy, why are some grown ups short?
Me: Well, bodies come in all different shapes and sizes. Remember, you can't tell what someone is like by just looking at their outsides.
Zuzu: When I grow up, I'm going to be short like you and Daddy.
Me: (laughing) You think we're short?
Me: Uh...
Zuzu: Straight up! (runs out of room)