I’m here.

Good evening. It is Tuesday; my children are asleep in bed; I am done working for the day. By my count, it’s day eleven of social distancing for my household.

My husband and I came home from a spring break trip basically the very day this was widely advised. Things happened fast that week— when we left on the trip, we’d been advised simply not to travel internationally or to go on a cruise. By the time we were returning, things looked pretty different.

Classes at our university went online after spring break and at this point it’s been declared we will be “delivering instruction” remotely for at least the rest of the semester. I will let you guess what i think of that phrase. I assume this will continue through the summer, too, though no one’s said so on the record. The kids’ daycare was open last week, but a state mandate required them to close Friday. We were choosing not to send them in, anyway. We are still paying tuition, which means their teachers are still getting paid, thank goodness.

So. We’ve been redesigning our courses for online instruction, teaching and meeting online, and caring for two loud and demanding four-year-olds at home. What a time to be alive.

The kids are getting a lot of time to do artwork and “workbooks” (e.g. alphabet and counting practice), have been enjoying various story times via instagram live (@oliverjeffers is the best!) and have been spending a lot of time riding scooters in the cul-de-sac while we adults talk to our neighbors from a safe distance of at least six feet.

I’ve discovered the joys and pains of Walmart grocery curbside pickup: I can get a whole week’s worth of groceries without having to enter the store? But alas, the avocados and bananas were overripe and they will not sell you wine or beer unless you come inside.

I have no idea how I’m getting any work done. There are not enough hours in the day for grading papers or creating digital content. There are far too many hours in the day to keep two small people entertained and happy. Today I hired Elsa and Anna to babysit for one hour and forty-four minutes so I could grade midterm exams.

I’ve been enjoying seeing a lot of your faces more online recently— Instagram stories and Marco Polo, mainly (message me your number if you want to chat on there). And reading your words, too. Thanks for being here, friends.

Year In Review: 2019

I’ve been doing this annual questionnaire for so long now that I don’t think I’m allowed to quit it.

Previous years’ answers are available here: (200720082009201020112012201320142015, 2016, 2017, 2018). 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 2020 that you’d never done before?

Started powerlifting. Stopped at a portapotty in the middle of a 10K race. Almost served on a jury for a murder trial (got eliminated from the pool at the final stage, after 3 days of voir dire).

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

Last year, I wrote, “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.”

I did pretty well on these. The only monthly challenge mentioned above that I didn’t complete was the run streak. This year, I have a few similar goals: Dry January is happening again (we have been doing it yearly for a while now); I’d like to run a half marathon without getting injured in the middle of the training cycle (eyes on Magic City in November); and I plan to work with CW to organize our garage, donate some old furniture, and make better use of our third bedroom.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Internet friends and work friends. And another local friend is due any week now!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No.

5. What places did you visit?

Atlanta (for shopping and the aquarium), Iowa (family visit), Sioux Falls (friend visit) and Mississippi (friend visit). We have some bigger travel plans happening this spring — more on that later!

6. What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?

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 2019 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?

Lots of little daily achievements involving mundane exercises in patience.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I kind of mentally checked out on myself in a couple of areas of life and wound up feeling like I was constantly playing catch-up or trying to figure out what I needed to do that I’d forgotten. I’m trying to stay more present and intentional now.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Plantar fasciitis crept up on me in the midst of a half marathon training plan and kept me from running the race. I was so sad about it.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

We finally upgraded to a king-size bed with a new Casper mattress and it is just divine.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My husband has been a pretty awesome member of the team this year.

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?

Designing the new course I’m currently teaching. Running in general.

15. What song will always remind you of 2019?

“Water Me” by Lizzo. My very favorite running tune this year.

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

a) happier or sadder? same
b) thinner or fatter? fatter
c) richer or poorer? same

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

Racing.

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

Getting injured. Emotional eating. Spending money.

19. How did you spend Christmas?

Sandwiched in between two different family visits, we had Christmas at home just the four of us. It was great.

20. What was your favorite TV program?

The ones that stand out to me are The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Schitt’s Creek. Other shows I enjoyed: Atlanta, Shrill, Big Little Lies, Sharp Objects, the final season of Game of Thrones, and the return of Veronica Mars.

21. What was the best book you read?

The Lager Queen of Minnesota — J. Ryan Stradal

Here are some other highlights from this year:

  • Evvie Drake Starts Over — Linda Holmes
  • My Sister the Serial Killer — Oyinkan Braithwaite
  • The Carrying — Ada Limón
  • Good Bones — Maggie Smith
  • There There — Tommy Orange
  • The River — Peter Heller
  • Becoming — Michelle Obama

22. What music did you get excited about?

Lizzo and The Highwomen

23. What did you want and get?

A new bed, a Garmin, and an Impeachment trial.

24. What did you want and not get?

A new car. I don’t need a new car. I’m just jealous of my husband’s new car. His pretty, pretty new car.

25. What was your favorite film of this year?

Nothing stands out as a clear favorite, but some highlights were: BlackkKlansman, A Star is Born, Always Be my Maybe, Booksmart, and Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.

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. [ed note: I did these exact things last year, too!] I also had brunch with my husband and cake with my family. I turned 42.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

Stretchy.

28. What kept you sane?

Last year I wrote, “Coffee, running, and Twitter,” which is still true.

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

Maggie Smith. The poet, not the actor.

30. What political issue stirred you the most?

The Democratic primaries, I suppose. (Team Warren.) I mean, and the whole impeachment thing.

31. Who was the best new person you met?

My powerlifting coach?

32. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.

You cannot take your body back in time to make it something it was in the past. It will never be its past self again. And, as I say every year, qui patitur vincit.

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

“Rain, New Year’s Eve” by Maggie Smith

The rain is a broken piano,
playing the same note over and over.

My five-year-old said that.
Already she knows loving the world

means loving the wobbles
you can’t shim, the creaks you can’t

oil silent—the jerry-rigged parts,
MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum.

Let me love the cold rain’s plinking.
Let me love the world the way I love

my young son, not only when
he cups my face in his sticky hands,

but when, roughhousing,
he accidentally splits my lip.

Let me love the world like a mother.
Let me be tender when it lets me down.

Let me listen to the rain’s one note
and hear a beginner’s song.

Today

The twins have been doing really well on their “sleep goals,” so this week they earned a trip to the movie theater (“moobie feedoh”) to see Frozen II. I don’t particularly care for animated movies in general, but we enjoyed this one.

Afterward, we came home and watched the Iron Bowl, which was honestly completely bonkers! We won, but even better than that was this moment when the fans started to rush the field:

And last but not least, I have completed NaBloPoMo, a month of daily blog posts. Come over here for the rushed, nearly content-free writing, stay around for the daily repetition thereof. Maybe something interesting will happen eventually.

 

Dahoo Dores

We slept in Christmas jammies last night and woke up today ready to decorate. Holiday stuff has always been fun for me, but now it’s even more so. The kids, for example, have been wearing last year’s Santa socks for a full 24 hours.

But as every year, we get out the holiday bins only to find key light bulbs have burnt out and all the ornament hooks have tangled up and we are out of the tiny, battery-powered LED tea lights. Just for example. So apparently we’re going to have to go pick up some replacement items this weekend. Hold me.

As a counterpoint: the Hanna gnome PJs are a bit faded but they’re still rocking and rolling on their third year of wear:

2017
2018
2019. The only picture so far this year, to keep it real, entails cranky, reluctant morning snugs and reaching for my phone.

Like the pajamas, I also have this amazing candle that I only burn when we have the tree up (it’s there to create the illusion of having a real tree in the house, just because I want to) and it cost what felt like an absurd amount at the time but I’ve had it for three or four years at this point and it’s still going strong and smells incredible. Recommended.

Pictures tomorrow, maybe?

Thankful

A cozy home

A safe and happy family

Neighbors who welcome us to their houses and celebrate with us

A little red wagon for transporting hot food when you only have to carry it next door

An abundance of pie, symbolic of other abundances

Children who had a busy day and fall asleep right after bedtime

A snuggly old hound dog, a fuzzy blanket, a programmable coffee maker, and so many small comforts

Again?

Hi, I’m up late (“late”) making pie again. Tonight I’m doing a pear, red wine, and rosemary pie from Bon Appetit. Somehow it is after 10:00 pm and this pie is still not done.

Can we talk about recipes and their alleged prep times? Reducing 12oz of red wine to 6-8oz? Well, let’s say it takes a little bit longer than five minutes. Twenty-five minutes would be a safer estimate. Between this and the fact that I basically used up all of my Big Crust Energy on the apple pie from last week, I decided to do a simple crust for this one.

Before I got it in to bake, though, my nose alerted me to an errant piece of broccoli that had fallen to the bottom of the oven. Honestly, if my nose notices something? It’s not good. I’m generally hard of smelling.

ANYWAY. I hope it tastes more like pears than burnt broccoli after all this — sorry, friends and family.

Gift Giving

I feel like we are woefully unprepared for the kids’ birthday, which is coming up a week from tomorrow. It’s just that it’s Thanksgiving this week and Christmas is coming up and it’s the end of the semester and I’m full of excuses! I’m terrible!

We do have a slew of gift ideas in mind that we’ve been talking about forever, but which ones are for their birthday and which are for Christmas and which are from us and which are from Santa and which ideas can be grudgingly shared with family members for them to execute? Huh? WHICH ONES?

Phew, I think my blood pressure is a little high thinking about it all. I’m just not a natural gift giver. I love to receive gifts, being a selfish human as i obviously am, but I never feel confident in giving them, even to four-year-olds.

Anyway, here are some ideas that may or may not happen, at some point next month, from us, Santa, or relatives:

  • An art-cart filled with new supplies. I have an IKEA cart that I’m currently using for books in my bedroom, but wouldn’t they love it if it were filled with all new crayons, markers, pencils, paper, stickers, activity books, and so on?
  • An Our Generation doll for E (it’s a Target knock off of American Girl dolls). She has been asking for a new one and spent some time really enjoying playing with a friend’s dolls recently.
  • A kid-friendly digital camera for L, who is obsessed with taking pictures.
  • New hats, gloves, pajamas, and socks, which they need anyway.
  • They both mentioned wanting new shoes, so maybe that as well? They don’t especially need them but that’s okay.
  • Some new books — I was thinking of the illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, but I think they may not quite be ready. So, something else.
  • CW feels like they are ready for new bikes (they can both glide on their balance bikes without putting their feet down; E is especially proficient at this point) but I’m not sure.
  • New bike helmets are definitely in order.
  • We’ve also been talking about re-doing their room as a “big kid” room with twin beds that can be stacked into bunk beds in the future. They are 100% Danger Babies and not to be trusted with bunks yet, but the toddler beds are getting small at this point so an upgrade is needed. In addition, they could use a book shelf and some stuffie storage and maybe some updated wall art.

Tomorrow is the last day of preschool this week, so CW and I have a date planned to go out to lunch and then plan and shop for some of this stuff. We shall see. We also need to figure out a time for a low-key party with a few of their friends if there is ever a window of time available without any other social events any time in the next couple of weeks, which is a lot to ask, frankly.

At any rate, if you have any thoughts or suggestions on any of the above, leave a comment or @ me!