Road Tripping with Preschoolers

We just got back yesterday from two weeks on the road visiting family and friends in Iowa, South Dakota, and Mississippi. We road trip to the midwest every summer, and I think this was the first time that I wasn’t dreading being on the road or in strange bedrooms with the twins. They did SO well on this trip.

Of course, there were some tough, cranky moments in the car when we were all feeling cooped up, bored, or frustrated. That’s a given. Bur for the most part, we were a really good traveling team. I’m so pleased.

A few Iowa highlights:

  • The kids got to run around and play outside on the farm as much as they wanted. With grandparents, two uncles, and an older cousin around, there was always someone to play games with or to help them “drive” the tractor or the combine.
  • We went to see Toy Story 4 in the theatre downtown, which was a charmingly small-town experience. They only have one theatre, so it’s one movie at a time. It cost like $20 for tickets for six people and less than that for everyone’s snacks. If we lived here, we’d be at this theatre every week.
  • Thomas, the world’s friendliest and most tolerant cat, enjoyed being petted and loved on by everyone.
This panorama involved a very careful camera handoff in the middle so that everyone could get in the shot. I still can’t believe it worked!

Highlights from South Dakota:

  • We were visiting some of my husband’s best college friends. It had been long enough since the last time this group all got together that a total of FIVE new children had been born among the three families and a sixth one is on the way. We had a total of fifteen people staying in one house.
  • The weather was mostly just bakingly hot and perfect for the backyard pool, but one day we got a cool, windy day and we took the opportunity to head out for a (short, kid-friendly) hike through Good Earth State Park, which was just beautiful.
  • The older kids were so kind and patient and good with the younger kids that we grownups got to sit on the deck and drink wine and enjoy the view of the pond and wetlands while they played downstairs. Actual relaxation!

Our return to the south required three more days on the road, involving one hotel night and then a night with my BFF, Brilliantone and her family in Mississippi. Such a relief to get in from the road into a friendly oasis. They grilled veggie burgers and played Clue with us after the little kids went to bed and it was just what we needed to re-charge and get ready for our last day in the car.

It feels amazing to be home, but this time I’m also feeling a bit sad that our summer road trip adventure is over. I loved seeing how the kids took in new things and got so excited about, for example, wind turbines and corn fields and wildflowers that were taller than they are. They slept in new beds in strange rooms and tried new foods and made new friends. Thinking back to the first time we traveled with the twins when they were about 7 months old, we are worlds apart. It really does get better.

Year in Review: 2018

Look, we’re two full weeks into the new year and I’m sure no one cares. However, I have not missed a year of this annual survey since I started it in 2007 so buckle up!

Previous years’ answers are available here: (200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016, 2017). Over time I have modified and  deleted some of the original questions, but here’s what I’m working with this year:

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

I wore a bikini in public, made a child’s Halloween costume, joined a running team, and started an SSRI.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I wrote that I’d like to: “Get a general practitioner so I can stop going to urgent care, spend less on frivolous purchases. Keep up my yoga practice. Race in another 5K and a 10K, as I’m now in a new age group!” And although I didn’t think of it as an official resolution, I decided that my leisure reading would only include books by women authors. I did really well on these!

For this year, I don’t have a real resolution. I am going to sprinkle a few monthly challenges into my year, including Dry January (currently going on right now, yay?), a month of daily blog posting, a no-spend month, a run streak month, a decluttering month, and more to be determined later. My leisure reading will focus on the voices of women, people of color, and LGBTQ writers.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yes! Lots of internet ladies and a few work friends. So many little babies I need to hug.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not this year.

5. What places did you visit?

Atlanta (shopping), New Orleans (for a ladies’ weekend WHICH WAS AMAZING), Iowa (family visit), St. Louis (quick friend visit on the way home from Iowa), and Florida (family Christmas visit). I think that was it?

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

I’ll repeat last year’s answer, which is still true: “A sane president, mainly. I would also appreciate more time alone and a more organized house.”

7. What days from 2018 will you always remember?

Nothing comes to mind as I sit here. I may think of a day later, but if I do, it wouldn’t really qualify as a day I’ll “always remember,” so.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Figuring out that my overwhelming anger might be a symptom of anxiety. This was news to me! I hadn’t been feeling “anxious,” but whaddayaknow? Anti-anxiety meds made me significantly less angry. I mean, I still have swarms of bees coming out of my mouth on a daily fucking basis, but life is better.

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9. What was your biggest failure?

Healthy eating continues to be a struggle, as I mentioned last year, but I feel like I have improved my thinking on this front. I don’t feel like I had any “failures” this year.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had some back problems off and on this year, which are awful when they surface, but I am doing better with strength exercises that really help. My biggest health issue was in October — STOP READING IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH — a spider bite (?) I acquired on a trip to the pumpkin patch that became infected and developed a huge, painful, horrifying abscess on the back of my leg. The doctor, ahem, took care of it for me and did a bacterial culture and it turned out to be MRSA and long story short, I still do not feel clean.  Thanks for nothing, festive fall family activities.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My trip to NOLA was pretty amazing. And daycare.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mine, frankly.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Daycare. I’ll just keep repeating this answer every year until they start kindergarten.

14. What did you get really excited about?

Traveling with my BFFs, having our new friends move onto our cul-de-sac two doors down, and running a fast (for me) 10K in November.

15. What song will always remind you of 2018?

Not a new song, but Lil Mama’s “Lip Gloss” got a lot of play on my running mix.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Happier.
b) thinner or fatter? Same.
c) richer or poorer? Same.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Socializing with local friends.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Eating my feelings.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

We spent the week-ish before Christmas visiting with family in Florida. My in-laws have a place there and the rest of the family came down and stayed in a nearby hotel. It was stormy the entire time, so we spent a lot of the trip indoors (or driving through insane rain and winds to visit an aquarium). For the actual holiday, we were back home with just the four of us. The kids can talk and ask more questions about Santa this year, and they were absolutely ALL IN on the Christmas magic, which was pretty great.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

I continued to love The Great British Baking Show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and The Good Place. I also enjoyed Marcella, Jack Ryan, Atlanta, and Mindhunter, which were new ones for me this year. Very excited for Game of Thrones to make its return soon!

21. What was the best book you read?

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Just perfection.

Here are some other highlights from this year, which was entirely devoted to reading women’s words:

  • Hunger – Roxane Gay
  • The Turner House – Angela Flournoy
  • The Wangs vs the World – Jade Chang
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara
  • The After Party – Anton DiSclafani
  • The Witch Elm – Tana French
  • Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith
  • Why I Wake Early – Mary Oliver

22. What music did you get excited about?

Far too little. I kind of shifted from music to podcasts for most of my listening time this year. So…my favorite podcasts from the year were My Favorite Murder, The Ali on the Run Show, and The Popcast with Knox and Jamie.

23. What did you want and get?

Democrats in the House!

24. What did you want and not get?

Impeachment.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

I saw and enjoyed: Black Panther, A Quiet Place, and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I also saw a lot of movies I didn’t enjoy all that much and, I’m sure, many I’ve completely forgotten! No standout favorites this year.

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Went with the family to Krispy Kreme on the way to work/school, ran 12K (an almost-yearly tradition on my birthday) and got a manicure. My in-laws arrived that afternoon to spend a couple of days with us on their way down to Florida, so we had pizza and cupcakes that night. I turned 41.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?

Lots of skinny jeans with blazers, for some reason.

28. What kept you sane?

Last year I wrote, “Coffee, running, and Twitter,” which is still true. This year I’ll add C3l3xa to that list.

29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I very much enjoy Celeste Ng not only for her novels but also on Twitter. Anna Friel. Still Lin Manuel Miranda.

30. What political issue stirred you the most?

What didn’t?! Jesus, what an absolute trashfire. But probably children in cages at the border. That, probably. I mean, unless it was Brett Motherfucking Kavanaugh. #angrybees

31. Who was the best new person you met?

I feel like I’m forgetting someone, but nobody stands out? Eeep.

32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Take that spider bite to the doctor POSTHASTE.

And, as I say every year, qui patitur vincit.

33. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Not sure I have a song lyric this year. How about a lyric poem? This may be more “aspirational” than summative, but here you go:

 

“I Worried”

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

— Mary Oliver

Floor Renovation and a Big Kid Room

We are in the midst of a small home renovation project right now, replacing the carpeting in our two small bedrooms with hardwoods. These are 1) the kids’ room and 2) the office/guest room. It’s been easy enough to empty out the guest room and strip the carpet, so that room has been ready for a while now.

Well, “easy” enough. We did have to deal with our Monica Geller closet of shame and my husband’s 800-pound desk.

monicascloset

The more challenging part, though, has been figuring out the logistics of getting the kids’ room empty because — you know — they sleep in there. We’ve already removed a lot of furniture from the room, including the giant IKEA cube shelf that was doing business as a makeshift dresser and bookshelf. It’s now going to reside in the garage as an organizer and the kids will get my old dressers whenever CW and I get around to buying new ones for ourselves. We took out the futon as well, and got everything off the closet floor (e.g. bins of old clothing, a diaper storage cart). The only things remaining? The cribs.

The floor guys are going to be here early Friday morning*, so we are going to probably remove the cribs tonight and have the kids sleep in the playroom, then put them back in their room Friday night when the floors are done. Of course, moving the cribs out the doorway will entail disassembling them, then re-assembling them in the playroom, then disassembling them, then re-assembling them as toddler beds in the bedroom.

As toddler beds. Yup. That’s happening. It’s time. L has been able to climb out for several months now, and I know one is advised to switch to a bed once the kid can climb out of the crib, for safety reasons, we haven’t done it yet. Honestly, I had a little talk with L and he basically stopped doing it. But it’s still time. Here’s how their room looked before they were born, and it hasn’t changed much since. But things are happening!

After this project is complete, they’ll have toddler beds and real dressers, maybe a bean bag chair. The big IKEA shelf and the diaper changing table will be gone. The bird mobiles I made when I was pregnant are going to be transformed somehow, though details remain to be seen on that one. I suppose we’re moving toward their “big kid room.” But how could they possibly already be big kids?

Updates to come.

*As of this current posting, my husband has texted me to let me know that the floor guys tried to push the install date back to Monday and he got them to re-agree to Friday. So. Let’s hope they do show up as planned, then.

Nobody Told Me

Back in the heyday of blogging, when I read all the popular mom blogs (despite being myself single and without child, in those days), everyone used to write about Things Nobody Told Them. Bloggers pulled back the curtains on some shit back then, man. You know, literal shit like pooping on the delivery table. Figurative shit like the fact that breastfeeding was often difficult and painful. The sleep deprivation, constant worry, and PPD. All of a sudden, women were talking about things that had previously been, at best, only whispered about.

So since I read all of this stuff years ago (I liked reading about other women’s lives, even if not immediately relevant to my own), I figured I had a pretty good handle on the Things Nobody Tells Us category of pregnancy and parenthood. I was prepared.

But as you might guess, there was something about which Nobody Told Me: the sheer strenuous physicality of absolutely everything. The way you and your parenthood are inseparable from your body. The way your body never, ever gets a break.

I’m not referring really to breastfeeding, sleep, or even carrying a pregnancy. I mean the little daily bullshit. For example:

  • Wrestling a child into/out of a diaper
  • Wrestling a child into/out of clothing or pajamas or a coat or shoes
  • Wrestling a child into/out of a car seat or a stroller or a high chair or a booster seat or a shopping cart
  • Wrestling a child into/out of a crib or a bathtub
  • Picking up a limp-noodling child who is now a textbook example of passive resistance
  • Applying sunscreen to a squirming child
  • Brushing or styling the hair of a squirming child
  • Brushing the teeth of a child whose jaws are clamped down tighter than the jaws of an alligator
  • Lifting a child onto/off of a public toilet
  • Wiping the butt of a child who, instead of staying in the approved downward-dog-style wiping posture, is insisting on doing a series of unpredictable vinyasas
  • Holding a child up high enough to reach the counter and sink in a public restroom while they dawdle over hand washing and drying
  • Dodging the jammy hands of a child who is trying to use your white blouse as a napkin five minutes before you need to leave for work
  • Being bitten
  • Being slapped
  • Having the eyeglasses slapped right off of your face
  • Having handfuls of hair ripped out of your head
  • Being head-butted in the mouth

In the past month, I’ve been head-butted in the mouth twice, most recently last night. That seems like a lot of head-butting and fat lips, doesn’t it? And nothing will flip my rage switch faster than being suddenly physically hurt like that. Inside my head, it’s like a bomb goes off. Outside my head, I just yelp in pain and then speak very calmly and carefully to everyone around me while also glaring at them pretty hard as I dramatically count my remaining teeth and apply ice to the affected area. Which is an unsatisfying vent for my frustrations, so here we are.

Why is my body so tired? When will my body feel less tired? When will I stop worrying about my offspring (accidentally, but still) physically assaulting me? Will I make it through the next couple of decades with all my original teeth? More importantly, why did nobody tell me?

Don’t worry, though: I did hear about the importance of cherishing every moment.

 

What’s Going On

Fall semester starts today, technically, but for me it starts tomorrow. I’m in back-to-school mode, which is one of the best modes of all. I love the start of a new school year, don’t you?

Here’s what’s been happening this spring and summer:

I went to New Orleans with my BFFs! we all turned 40 this year, so we decided to ring in the new decade with a ladies’ trip. We rented a lovely and perfect house on the bayou where we could hang out at night listening to the noises of the wildlife or relaxing in the hot tub. In town, we ate all the delicious food and drank all the beautiful drinks and had generally an amazing time. We need to do this every year now.

My kiddos started a new daycare/preschool. They started attending at the beginning of the summer, during the “summer camp” mode, which meant they got to have splash days and popsicles on Fridays and they loved it. Now the daycare’s new preschool year has started and E&L moved up to a new class and started taking Gymnastics (they offer classes as part of the preschool extracurriculars) and it feels like basically the next time I turn around they’ll be off to college. They’re doing wonderfully. They’re mostly daytime potty trained at this point now, too — one twin completely; the other uses a pull-up at naptime — and that’s probably not something I’ll write much more about here on the wide-open internet, but suffice it to say: YAY.

We took our summer road trip to Iowa to visit my in-laws and survived the long days in the car thanks to my iPad and Netflix’s selection of animated movies available for offline viewing. The kids had a blast playing on the farm and riding all the various farm vehicles with Papa.

I’ve been reading exclusively women writers this year, and although there are a couple of books on my shelf waiting for when the man-ban is lifted, it’s been completely refreshing. These are a few of my favorites so far.

So what’s new with you?

Year in Review: 2017

I have a couple of posts backlogged, but I just realized I hadn’t done my year in review questionnaire yet! Most of you reading know what this is and have done it yourself (or at least read others’ posts), as it’s gone around this corner of the internet for over a decade. You know the drill.

Previous years’ answers are available here: (200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016). Over time I have modified and  deleted some of the original questions, but here’s what I’m working with this year:

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

Placed (second) in the overall women’s rankings of a 5K, won a named award at work, watched my children see the ocean for the first time.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year, I wrote:

“For the coming year, I would like to focus on making more gains in terms of health and fitness. I made some progress toward that in the last few months of 2016, and, after taking a bit of a break for the holidays, I’m getting moving again now. Healthier, smarter eating and lots of activity, mainly running, yoga, and barre3 for right now.”

Hey, I did pretty well on those!

This year, I’d like to: Get a general practitioner so I can stop going to urgent care, spend less on frivolous purchases. Keep up my yoga practice. Race in another 5K and a 10K, as I’m now in a new age group!

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

A lot of ladies on the internet and a couple of work friends, too.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Not this year.

5. What places did you visit?

Atlanta and Birmingham (mainly for shopping), the Gulf Coast (friend visit), Iowa (family visit), and St. Louis (quick friend visit on the way home from Iowa). Was that really it? I’ll have to do better next year. Good thing I already have plans for a ladies’ weekend with my BFFs in May.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

A sane president, mainly. I would also appreciate more time alone and a more organized house.

7. What days from 2017 will you always remember?

January 20. December 12.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I credit the voters and hard-working Democrats in Alabama for this: electing a Democratic senator for the first time in 25 years.

I also got officially promoted and won a named, college-level teaching award, which is pretty sweet.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I have really struggled with healthy eating this year, although I don’t consider it a failure. Just a struggle.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

My entire family was sick for the first half of the year after the kids started daycare, thanks to them spending each day in a petrie dish of viruses (and “building their immune systems”). I personally had at least 3-4 stomach bugs, two sinus infections, two ear infections, and pneumonia. Plus my usual persistent hacking cough that lasts 3-6 weeks every time I get a respiratory virus. It was the sickest year of my life.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Does daycare count?

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The kids’ did, often. My husband’s. The aforementioned Alabama voters.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Daycare. It’s more than our mortgage.

14. What did you get really excited about?

The Senate election and turning 40, both of which happened on the same day.

15. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Anything from Moana, and yes I blame the children.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? Angrier.
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, technically. More income but less of it leftover.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading fiction. Spending time outside.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Reading the comments. Retail therapy.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

My dad and brother visited a few days prior to Christmas, but for the actual holiday, it was just the four of us (which I like). We went to a Christmas Eve service at a new-to-us church and then CW and I made ourselves a fancy dinner after the kids went to bed. On Christmas morning, we had cinnamon rolls and mimosas and opened gifts. It was really great. Two year olds are fantastic at Christmas. Not so much in church, though.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

I rewatched Gilmore Girls so I could enjoy it alongside the Gilmore Guys podcast, which was great. As for newer stuff, I fell in love with The Good Place and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

21. What was the best book you read?

I barely read anything this year, y’all. I started a comfort re-read of Harry Potter, which went by very slowly and took up my reading time for months, but I petered out somewhere in book 5, and then I haven’t read anything too special other than that. Just at the end of December, though, I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was nice, and Dark Matter, which was fine I suppose. Meh.

22. What music did you get excited about?

I really liked new things by Sylvan Esso and St. Vincent this year.

23. What did you want and get?

A new MacBook Pro for Christmas, an unlimited yoga studio membership, and a Democratic senator.

24. What did you want and not get?

Impeachment.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

I barely saw any movies that stick out in my memory, so I’m going to go with The Last Jedi and Wonder Woman as my top two I saw in the theater.

26. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I voted, ate donuts for breakfast, and then went to yoga. In the afternoon, my husband took me out for a nice lunch date and then I took a nap. He made me fish tacos for dinner (one of my favorites) and we had a lemon merengue pie. That night, we celebrated the election results. That weekend, we had people over for a small party with lots of prosecco and baked goods. I turned 40.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

A mix of some pre-pregnancy clothing and some bigger pants from Old Navy / leggings on days I don’t go to campus. Still not quite ready for most of my old pants.

28. What kept you sane?

Coffee, running, and Twitter.

29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I can’t think of anyone. I do miss Barack Obama, though.

30. What political issue stirred you the most?

What didn’t?! I have outrage exhaustion. I suppose the Alabama Senate race.

31. Who was the best new person you met?

I met a couple of new people through CW’s work connection who seem like they could become good new friends.

32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

I need to get my own doctor and stop going to urgent care every time I catch something from the kids.

And, as I say every year, qui patitur vincit.

33. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“I said, early to bed, bitches, early to rise
They make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

— Lin Manuel Miranda / The Decemberists

The End of November

It’s the last day of November, which means I’ve successfully made it through NaBloPoMo, publishing a post every day this month. I was hoping to get back in the habit of blogging (and personal writing in general), and I suppose I did that.

Most posts I cranked out were not that great though, for me. A lot of the time I just sat down with my phone app and typed some stuff into the WordPress text box without much thought. Some posts were dumps of photos I’d already posted on Instagram; others could just as easily been a series of tweets. (Although, to look at it another way: long Twitter threads really ought to be blog posts, so I think I’m in the right on this one.)

I’m not sure whether this exercise will get me back to regular blogging again, though: most of those posts typed right before bed only exist because I am a completer and couldn’t let myself get away with skipping out on my 30-day commitment. Now that the month is over, what’s to stop me from just whiling away that time on other social media? Nothing! Nothing’s to stop me!

But maybe this list of things I intended to blog about this month, but never got around to, will encourage me to come back and say some more things:

  • Yoga and the om
  • Favorite milestones and memories of the last 10 years (because I’m about to turn 40)
  • Morning people
  • Weight and body stuff
  • Dr. Seuss Thing 1 and Thing 2 hats tutorial

We’ll see.