Friday, March 23, 2018

Slowly waking up from my mom coma

I love the picture of Dorothy above-- it looks like she is ready to take on the world and embrace the universe of possibilities that are waiting for her.

I am envious of this stance because, as I get older, my possible is slowly shrinking to my actual.  Something about the big 4-0 looming just around the corner is making me super reflective and introspective and, I have to tell you, a little discontented.

Does anybody have any suggestions for NOT short changing my own priorities?  I feel like when things get busy, I am super good at making sure everyone else's needs are met, but then I have to triage my own issues.  This usually take the form of me walking around with Michelle Duggar hair because I never ever have time to wash, dry, and style it.  So usually, I decide to just wash it and leave it hanging there with these sad little weird waves.  Ugh.

But, more importantly, it looks like being 9 years out of my PhD and not ever promotable because I have abandoned my research.  Or 200 pages into a novel that sits abandoned for weeks at a time in my docs even though I talk a good game.

Maybe I am finally emerging from the haze of the little kid years with the tiny centimeters of critical distance I need to examine my own life and think about my future as a person, not just as a butt-wiper and snack-maker.  Maybe this is my midlife crisis.  Maybe it's this genius piece I read the other day.  I just sort of feel like everything has been on hold while the kids have needed so much of me all day everyday.  Next year, though, they'll all be in school all day, and I will have whole chunks of time to do what I want/need to do.  I feel like the opportunity for self-actualization is right there for the taking, but I am not sure how to maximize it.

Any advice for being the person your 5-year-old self was counting on you to be?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Cooper, author and animal.

Cooper is literate.


I can't believe it either.

I remember learning to read in kindergarten.  We had books about a mouse name sam (THESE BOOKS OH MY GOD I REMEMBER THE COLOR), and one day I couldn't read them and one day, I knew what the jumble of letters on the page meant and that was it.  There was no looking back.  In less that a year, I was reading Beverly Cleary books out loud to fourth graders while their teacher marked up spelling tests (because everybody loves THAT first grader-- thanks, Mrs. Meyers).

As a parent, though, I have not been privy to that gestalt moment for any of the kids.  Their ability to read has emerged more slowly-- although maybe it feels like a lightening bolt to them.

Anyway, the point is, COOPER CAN READ ACTUAL THINGS.  And he writes, too.  In him, I see me as a little kid, ad I am glad that one of the kids loved reading and writing as much as I do (and Dorothy is right behind him-- there's still hope for her).

 Seriously, all the kid does is staple printer paper together and make comic books.  His hands are covered in marker by the end of the day, his arms, too.  And then he reads his books aloud-- he has a real ear for dialog, which is uncanny since I don't think he's ever heard real ninjas talk.

Basically, what I am saying is this is a wonderful phase and I hope it never ends.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

How to Read All the Best Books and Not Go Broke: A Cheapskate Bookworm's Guide to the Library

You guys know I love to read, right?  And I think you also know that I spend exactly zero dollars on books, yes? (Although I am over claiming this because I am starting a book club-- we have had 2 excellent meetings-- and I always buy that book).  Well, you can, too.  It just takes a little bit of planning and a little curation of your library holds list.

The first thing you need to do is figure out which branch of your local library is best for you.  I spent a good 10 months going to a library that is both further away from my house and has way fewer copies of new release books simply because I am an idiot. Once I realized there's a place like 5 miles away that has an enormous section of free, brand-new, walk-in fiction and non fiction titles (the other library charged $2 a week for the walk-in new books), my reading life got SO MUCH BETTER.

Next, figure out how your library works.  Mine has an excellent website, powered by LinkCat, which also has an excellent app. I can do all of my curating online, either on my computer or on my phone.  But!  First I needed to talk to an actual librarian and set up a PIN to use with the barcode on my card. This took just a few seconds, but it's something to consider.

Know that books are released on Tuesday, so if something is coming out that you really want to read but forgot to put on hold, you should go to the library on Tuesday morning and fight off the blue hairs to get it.

I find new books 3 ways:

1. Read "best of" lists and put stuff on hold that way.  I steer clear of Goodreads for this purpose because that site is awesome for helping me manage my own titles, but I don't really care what every other idiot using it thinks I should read, you know?  I find the best books in Entertainment Weekly (these also look good), Harpers Bazaar, Publisher's Weekly,  Pop Sugar, Elle,  The New York Times, The New Yorker, Redbook, and Cosmo. You have to read these lists critically, though, and realize that all of these editors are getting the same info from publishers and are shilling the same books by the same set of authors, generally.  These lists-- especially the EW, NY, PW, and NYT ones are super white man heavy.  So, I make it a point to also read Ms,, Bustle, and Bitch as well since I am committed to reading (mostly) books by women.  I google best books at all of these places every couple of months and keep my holds list fresh.  My library has all of these fancy ways to manage your holds, like putting a stop on new books when you have too many, etc. But I just get them whenever they come in and if there are too many to deal with I just READ FASTER or re-request them if I absolutely must.  You can generally request a book about a month to 6 weeks before it comes out (at least you can at my library-- this will vary depending how new books come into our system), so if you are super slick with your requests, you can actually get a book the day it releases.  My library is populated by huge dorks like me, though, so brand new books are hard to come by-- by the time I have heard of a title, I am generally like 50th on the list.

2.  Go to the library and be a total mouth-breather in front of the new release section.  At my library, it's right inside the front door, and my favorite thing to do is stand there with my mouth open, reading each shelf with that special library head tilt.  Dorothy likes this part, too, and she hands me the books with all the best covers.

3.  Go to Barnes and Noble and take pics of all the books that looks awesome so you can request them at your library (or use your library app which has made this method a million times easier).  I say B&N because it's a soulless big box chain and you won't feel guilty walking around and NOT BUYING anything like you would at your favorite local bookstore.  Also it is a million times easer to browse than the library and has ALL OF THE NEW BOOKS.  Pro tip:  DO NOT take your kids with you, especially if they are used to the library because they will try to buy 600 books and freak out when you say no and what kind of monster says no to books??

Once you have figured out how you're going to find books to read, you need to make the library part of your life.  When Dorothy only went to school 3 mornings a week, this was really easy because she and I always went for story time.  Now that she's in school every morning, though, I had to get more creative, which ultimately benefitted everyone because now all 5 of us go together.  The kids LOVE to hit up the library, and we try to go Friday afternoons or over the weekend.  Sometimes, though, a book is only going to be waiting for me for like another day and I have to make an emergency run-- and the kids are ALWAYS up for it.  Total win.

If you want to take it up a notch, you can start using your library for its special programming, too.  Our has tons of cool stuff-- movie nights, movie afternoons, stuffed animal slumber parties, themed story times for all ages with character visits, parties, parades, 5ks, reindeer, mammoth bones, fossils-- I even saw the UW marching band entering from behind the reference desk, section by section like the wedding in Love Actually.

Harry and Jack, enjoying some library programming


Story time craft-- aways glue! She loves glue!

Not just books!


Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Getting ready for a ROAD TRIP

Oh man do I love road trips.  I love them so much that I have been joyfully prepping for WEEKS.  Spring break is my absolute favorite.  Remember when we went to Mount Rushmore?  And Gulf Shores?  And DC?  All of my favorite trips!  And this year!  We are going to Naples to see Ben's parents.  I can''t WAIT!!

But, I must.

Don't worry about the rash on his face-- already been to the ped-- it's dry skin.  What's notable about this pic is that his feet!  Have insteps!  And arches!  They are fat little foot blocks no more.

 You guys!  Did you even know you could still buy these in the 21st century?  Viva la Dells.
 OMG.  I love couch dates.
 My brother asked us to fish sit and I really hope he gets home before it dies.
 SPRRRRRING BRREAK! (I no longer give a shit about toxic sunscreen, BTW)
 Someone told me Culvers had $1 green shakes on St. Patty's so I stopped there on my way to pick Jack up from baseball try outs, but I was misinformed AND there was a line around the building, and I had already mentioned the shakes, so I had to buy them and something about the mint not being available in a mix and each one being handmade and ARGH.
 Me:  Dorothy, where do you want me to put your new dollhouse?
Dorothy: The middle of my room is just fine.
 Red Clocks:  SO GOOD.
 I FINALLY got last vacation in the frame moments before this one commences!!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Dorothy's 5th birthday: the Recap

I was SO PROUD of myself you guys for setting a sweet little birthday table that I took at least a thousand pictures.  Want to see just the best ones?  Well, okay, you twisted my arm.

 And then? I woke up this morning and added the cake and took EVEN MOAR PICTURES

 Dorothy was sleepy but thrilled to see it all. (So was Beatrix).
 The boys are always up for any excuse to wear a party hat.

 Look at all those candles!!
 I feel like she really grasped the gravity of turning FIVE WHOLE YEARS OLD.
 I made a 3-layer cake!  And I am just SO PROUD of myself.
 Jack was right there with her opening all of the gifts. It was seriously adorable.
 Cooper was absolutely everywhere always with a pink donut.  I think he ate 4?
 Oh, the anticipation.
 Seriously, everywhere.  Always with a donut.
 See how blurry Beatrix is?  That's fast than she usually moves ever.  She was hoping Cooper would set down his donut.
 I LOVE Jack's face here because he picked this pony out, and he was so excited to watch her open it
All of the boys chose this dress and shoes and bow-- how adorable are they?!
 When you're five you get cake AND ice cream AND donuts for breakfast, FYI.
 Cooper's little face here!  Also all 4 kids loved the paints and markers on the table.  It made me think about family dinners a bit-- I have a good idea and I'll keep you posted.
 She's so serious about her art.
 And then they vanished, leaving me to feel like the grandma in Brain Candy.
Ben picked her up from school and took her to McDonald's because she has been totally jonesing for a Happy Meal.  He offered Chuck E. Cheese, but all she wanted to do was go home and play with her new toys.
 And boy did she.  Also!  If you have a little kid into Calico Critters, I LOVE the Target brand Woodzeez EVEN MORE because the tiny little clever accessories are not quite as tiny as the CC brand.
 When the boys got home we surprised everyone with a trip to Chula Vista in the Dells.  Clearly they were thrilled.
We drove all the way there, changed into our swimsuits, and checked out our room (adequate, but not as nice as the Kalahari).
Then we braved the weird underground walkway from our room to the water park

It was about 5:30 when we finally got inside.  And Jack said, "Oh wow! Did you guy know this place closes at 7?"
Duuuuuuuuuude.  No.  We so didn't know that because we assumed it closed at like 10 because WHY WOULDN'T IT?!

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  We water parked the shit out of that place for 90 minutes.

And then we left our swim suits and cover ups in the hotel room and drove home to sleep in our own damn beds (because it didn't open again until 10:00 am and the kids wake up around, oh, SIX).
We were the first happy assholes at the arcade when it opened at 9:30.  Also, Dorothy calls it an arcave.

Turns out there are few things I find more adorable than how seriously children plan out their arcade ticket purchases.  Whoopee cushions, fans, and crappy candy for all!

Dorothy conquered her fear of large slides on this trip, and she tried and tried and tried until she could do the obstacle course pool on her own.  Hashtag growth mindset.
(I only have a picture of Cooper doing it because it was really hard to get pictures of anything at this water park, especially because I kept surreptitiously retrieving my phone because this place lacks indoor cabanas, which, major bummer)
Also, it was SO COLD in this place! I need my indoor water park to be AT LEAST 84 degrees and humid.
Cooper discovered that he LOVES water slides
 And so do Harry and Jack, of course (although they all stopped going down when the lifeguards thought a kid was stuck in the orange and black slide, because they never thought about the possibility of getting stuck before and I was like WELCOME TO MY WORLD).
You guys, they even got to eat Dippin' Dots, the ice cream of the past.
Jack insisted we stop into one of the many, many candy store lining the main street of the adorable Dells, and he was right.

We avoided these, though, because seriously.