Sunday, September 23, 2018

What We're Eating This Week 39/52

The baking continues!

I made these cookies (kids loved them; my grad students loved them.  I did not love them-- maybe the first cookie ever that is too sweet?)

I made 60 of these muffins (Cooper wanted to take them to school because he was VIP last week, and the kids also wanted some for home, but I did not think they would eat 38 muffins so quickly.  Also, I used brown sugar).

For Monday's meeting, I am choosing between these cookies and these.  BOTH WINNERS.

Chicken and noodles, brussels sprouts, jarred peached because they just GO
Crock pot Italian beef sandwiches, coleslaw, pasta salad
Salsa chicken in the crock pot for tacos, chips, salsa, guac

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Video of the Week

Behold, my Wisconsin accent dontchaknow:

Friday, September 21, 2018

Tiny Dancer Redux

The other day after school, I took advantage of a rare stint as the responding parent (my schedule has me working several evenings, meaning I am rarely home when the kids get home, and I thought I would like it, but, um, turns out I miss the chaos of backpacks and lunch boxes and clamoring little voices telling me about their days) and helped Dorothy practice getting ready for dance.

Her class is RIGHT after school.  Like, 18 minutes after the last bell rings.  It's about an 11-minute drive to dance, so she has SEVEN MINUTES to get home, put her stuff on, and jump in the car. YIKES.

Cooper bought a magic 8 ball with some of his birthday money, and Dorothy quizzes it incessantly about whether she'll be good at dance this year.  At first I thought she meant well-behaved, but then I realized she meant, like, good.  How cute/terrifying s that?

I cleared my schedule to be able to take her because she needs help, I would imagine, changing from ballet shoes to tap shoes, and it's her first year in a big kid class; her adorable little preschool classes were mid-afternoon and easy to attend on time).  But then, of course, a meeting popped up on my calendar that I couldn't refuse.  Ben will take her, in between running other kids other places (it's a day when they all have an activity).  Part of me feels guilty because there are 12 dance classes this semester, and I can got to 7 of them.  Part of me just doesn't want to miss it because our dance class ritual was something I came to love the past 2 years.

If I am being honest, the practice was for her to see if she can get her ballet slippers on (NOPE) and off (yes, but she just sort of flings them behind her, and I cannot imagine this will be any different in the studio, so I wrote her name inside them) and her tap shoes on (YES).  I also wanted to see if she could handle the sensory prison of her tights (yes, if they're footless) and put on her own leotard (sort of-- yes if it is already right-side out, but I suck at laundry, so).  But mostly, I just wanted to see this:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Ah, first week of school mom. She leaves some big, fussy shoes to fill.

Read me on Madison Moms Blog talking overachieving the first week of school and UNDER-achieving the rest of the year.

Here's the link.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

I am missing 3 years of photos!


Not in my Photos library.

No in the iPhoto library that's taking up like 900 gigs of my computer and is called "other," maddeningly, on my storage toolbar.

Not in the Cloud.


Ben has been making fun of me for printing pictures every month at Walgreens, but those pictures?  ARE THE ONLY ONES WE HAVE!

I am going through my online Walgreens photo stash and re-adding them to my library, which is harder than it sounds because I never paid attention to naming conventions, and that's biting me in the ass right now.  Also me with a baby Cooper?  FRESH FACED AND I HAD A THIGH GAP WHAT THE HELL?  These last seven years have been cruel (and also wonderful and amazing and I would not change the for the world). (But that thigh gap tho).

I discovered this loss when Cooper had to do a VIP project for first grade this weekend, and he needed a photo of himself just born, and the best I could do was a 1-month pic that I grabbed off of Facebook.  (Although I a pretty sure we posted a pic of Cooper do freshly born he was still all covered in vernix.)

Anyway I am busy, is what I am saying.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Cooper's! Seventh! Birthday! Party!

We survived it, and I feel like I need a button proclaiming that very sentiment.

I remember Cooper's 5th birthday party when I invited all of his tiny little 4K classmates to a giant trampoline park filled with big kids.  I thought THAT was stressful.  It turns out, compared to Dave and Busters, that was A WALK IN THE PARK.  A quiet walk, save the chirping birds.  On a sunny day.  With my best friend.

HOLY CATS was Dave and Busters scary from a parent perspective.  When Dorothy said she wanted to have her next party there, I almost burst into hysterical tears.  I am going to spend between now and March convincing her that she wants a HOME PARTY.  Gah.

Not that anyone asked, but here is my official party review:


1.  The kids had a wonderful time.  That's what 2 hours of unlimited video games will do for you.
2.  The food was amazingly kid-friendly.  We had giant platters of french fries, cheeseburgers, cheese pizzas, and chicken tenders.  Plus unlimited lemonade, Sprite, and water.  Plus a Pokemon cake.  I MEAN COME ON.  It's practically paradise.
3.  The staff was lovely and helpful and so, so, so accommodating.
4.  The place was super clean.
5.  No decorating required!  We just had to bring the cake and a camera!
6.  I did not have to get party favors because all of the kids bought garbage from the prize shop with their tickets.
7.  I only let Cooper invite 6 kids.  (Because a party for 10 kids at D&B is pretty damn expensive) And then one of the kids cancelled and I let Jack bring a friend instead and THANK GOODNESS because 5 kids was PLENTY of little kids to watch.  Which brings me to


1.  The tables for lunch were really far away from the games, which was awkward.
2.  The place started out empty, but by the end of the 2-hour party, it was crowded
3.  Seven is old enough for a drop-off party, but 7 ear-olds are pretty squirrelly.  And most of Cooper's friends are 6.
4.  It was really hard to keep tabs on all of the kids all of the time.  Ben took Cooper and 2 friends.  Jack and his friend watched a kid.  Harry watched a kid.  I kept an eye on Dorothy and a second-grade girl and also did laps, counting all of the kids every 10 minutes or so.  CONSTANT VIGILANCE.


I mean, besides the fact that we will probably all get the stomach flu any second from touching all the machines and also eating, the worst part about the whole party was that the whole place is a kidnapper's dream.  It would be SO EASY for a kid to go missing from the sprawling, dim arcade.  My heart was in my throat basically the whole party.  It took HOURS for me to unclench.


The kids LOVED this party.  But!  There is a reason that most parents avoid this place like the plague.  I think Harry's friends would love it.  I think if Jack wanted to take a couple of friends there for games and dinner before a sleepover, it would be awesome.  I think 7 is TOO LITTLE for a Dave and Buster's party-- because it nearly killed the 7 year-old's parents.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Tuesdays with Harry

Harry and I have resumed our Tuesday after school adventures.  Sadly, we are going to have to make them every-other week as the semester ramps up because I have a committee meeting on Tuesdays twice a month that is going to slice right into my work time.  Also my office hours.  My life is one big ball of scheduling snafus.

But!  This first Tuesday was tricky because I challenged myself to spend zero dollars last week.  It is, sadly, a challenge I lost because I spent $1.29 on an iTunes song for my Bucky movie (an iTunes song, by the damn way, that I ALREADY OWNED), $30 to fill up the van (a deal indeed since I used my grocery store gas station points for $.80 off per gallon), $21 on dinner for Dorothy, and Cooper, and me (at a local pancake place one night when I just could not even), and $5 to have coffee with a friend on Friday. Still!  $58 for the whole week is a YUGE improvement over the last few weeks, when I have spent at least $50 EVERY DAMN DAY.  (And, might I add, had absolutely NOTHING to show for it-- it's not like I am buying things--mostly just bullshit for the house that gets used up in seconds).

So, anyway, I had a shoestring budget for our adventure.  We ended up getting a milkshake at the union (him-- I ate about half of the fresh-baked oatmeal cookies I brought along for snacking purposes) and going to the free art museum on campus (So, I guess I spent $62 if you add in the milkshake, but half of that was GAS, which I feel like should not even count.  The rest was food or food related things NO WONDER I AM NOT LOSING WEIGHT).

I just want to ask myself HOW I have been at this university for 15 years and have never before checked out this art museum.  It's gorgeous and has a regular collection that really impressed us (we barely skimmed the surface and need to go back) and gets awesome traveling exhibits.  Right now, there's a beautiful Renaissance Italy exhibition that we both loved, and we saw a smaller exhibition of resistance prints that is soon-to-be replaced.   We can't wait to go back, is what I am saying.

I said these looked like something from Homegoods, and Harry was all, "Without the genitalia."

 Platform shoes!
 Aristotle and Phyllis:
 There were even Renaissance board games like this Most Royall and Pleasant Game of Y Goose
 And then!  We started wandering through the galleries and we found this!  After driving all the way to the National Gallery so Jack could see his favorite artist in real life!  There has been a big green Marilyn right by our house all along!
Also we saw a for-real Botticelli Madonna (a really big one) and other masters whose names escape me because despite my art history gen ed class in undergrad, I know nothing about art. Or,  I guess I should say, I know enough to know I know nothing.  Which is why I should go to museums with Harry, who just speaks his mind about what he sees and doesn't judge himself.  He saw a panel from a 15th century wedding chest and was all "Oh look a dog fight.  No, wait.  I guess that's actually a pig dog."  BRILLIANT.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

What We're Eating This Week 38/52


Last week, we lived all week on chili and soup.

This week, I think there are going to have to be a couple six nights of eating out.

I will make this recipe from my old lady Family Circle on Saturday.  I think it would be delicious with honey crisp apples and brownies.
Sunday I am going to make my grandpa's spaghetti sauce and meatballs , with extra meatballs for sandwiches (on french bread with provolone), and I will buy Italian sausage and peppers for a mid-week refresh.  Sunday we will have mixed green salads with balsamic and garlic bread.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Crushing the patriarchy, or thinking about it, at least

 I saw an excellent talk about thinking as resistance in Trump's America that made me-- you guessed it-- THINK. 

In Scott Walker's Wisconsin, we have seen the public climate turn away from thinking and toward a for-us or against-us mentality that requires instant identification and not much else.

In some ways, the critics are right.  Thinking is a luxury when you're focusing more immediately on the pressing issues of survival.  And can there be a life of the mind without considering the body?  Only for the very privileged.

I want to keep thinking about how I can interrogate categories that seem unchangeable and break down barriers of access for me and also for those in my community.  But what does this look like in my everyday life as a mom?  What does it mean to practice the kind of thinking-as-resistance that critical theorists talked about all those years ago as a mom in the burbs?  As a teacher?

Also?  How cute is Cooper in this Pokemon onesie?
 He LOVES reading chapter books.
 I am still not quite sick of packing lunches!
 This picture is only notable because of the size of that foot!  And ho it has an arch!  An instep!  There are ankle bones!
 Can you see the cat-sized mosquitoes biting us?  Because I am sure they were.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The mosquitoes are as big as cats.

September is Wisconsin always feels like something I don't deserve.  The weather! Is! Perfect!  Between 65-78 degrees, bright blue skies, a breeze that has a whisper f crispness underneath it.  It's paradise.

Except for the mosquitoes. 


It's not often that you can be outside and actually SEE the mosquitoes flying around your head.  I mean, what the heck?!

For us, September in Wisconsin also means baseball every night.  EVERY.  NIGHT.  And sometimes more than one kid has a game.  We are mosquito feasts.

But!  They can't keep us inside!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Too early to think

I feel like maybe just maybe I don;t have to be getting up so early?

And yet.

Our routine is not routine, so we are still finding our way through our days and, as a consequence, forgetting to take pictures.

Pumpkin Spice!  Finally!  Also, shut up, haters

 Fast food for dinner!
 She loves me SO MUCH
 This leftover pasta was the greatest of all time.
 ...buuuuut I dropped some on my way to the car.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Resolutions for the academic new year

I love a new beginning, and I am real sucker for the strategy of the clean slate.  Academic New Year combines both of these things and plus also has the added allure of new clothes (I mean, I cannot afford new clothes for myself-- just the kids--) and crisp weather and and all of the pumpkin things.

All of the Onward Project podcasts, which I love, focused on Labor Day this month and talked about how to enrich our work lives, which got me thinking about my own work.  I was particularly drawn to Happier in Hollywood's episode about weather or not our work should define us. As a white middle class cis lady, I thinkI have (chosen to be) been defined most prominently by my work as a mom which might be why it is so hard for me to let go of the idea of being a mom of small kids. Part of me is worried that when the kids are grown up, I will be depleted because they are my work.  I have made all sorts of career sacrifices and compromises because I am a mom, and I have also used motherhood as an excuse to not risk myself professionally or creatively.  It would be so much easier to just have another baby than to grapple with the reality of unrealized potential.

Sending Dorothy to kindergarten made me think of that 10-4 baby and all the ways my life would be different if it had stuck around, how these milestones would't seem so daunting/wouldn't be an ending.  I'd still be in the trenches of motherhood, a place where I know what I'm doing, at least sort of.

The first day of school, though, I had a glorious work day and got more done than I have since May.  I checked every item off my to-do list, and I worked on my book, even.  I could thrive under these circumstances, is what I am saying.  It has been 12 years since I had 8 child-free hours to work.  This new beginning might be miraculous.

In that spirit, here are 10 things I want to do to make my work day happier and healthier:

1.  Schedule a lunch or coffee date every week: WHY NOT, right?  Also, I think brown bags on campus can count toward this goal because while they don't check a friendship box per se, they are really fun and interesting
2.  Cultivate harmonious mornings: I don't have any on-campus obligations before 11 and am no longer trying to cram an 8-hour workday into the three hours Dorothy is in preschool. I have time to clean the house after everyone leaves for school-- and it only takes about 20 minutes to put everything back in order when there are no little people around.
3.  Write everyday.  I have a poetry dream that I might have time to make a reality.  I WILL FINISH MY NOVEL this semester. 
4.  Prep the night before-- anything I can, everything I can, etc.
5. Yoga every damn day, even 10 or 15 minutes is enough.
6.  WALK everyday for at least 25 minutes over the course of the work day.  I waste this much time staring at my screen.  I need to get out of the office and off my ass and MOVE.  I have said this before and never followed through, but my work day is WAY TOO SEDENTARY.  I think when I find myself drifting off and scrolling mindlessly through Facebook is when I need to get moving.  The Wisconsin winter is a terrible thing, though.  I might need to be a joiner-- there's a gym across from my office and 3 different yoga places in walking distance.  Maybe a winter membership? It would be pretty easy to keep a gym bag in my office and sneak across the way when I needed a pick-me-up, and this might be a good way to avoid the winter weight...
7. When the kids get home from school, CONNECT WITH THEM.  No phone (camera OK), no email.  No work stress.  I will have a whole day to work.  I can be a mom for 4 hours and work again after bedtime if I must.
8.  Bake for my TAs.  My dissertation advisor absolutely forbade this kind of nonsense, but I am an old lady now, so I can bake away.  Seriously, I am so old that even though I sign emails with my first name and call myself by first name, the TAs call me Dr.  What the what?  COOKIES, STAT.
9.   Invest time in things I will use again in future semesters.  Good slides.  Good rubrics. Good assignments-- you get the idea.  For the class I am adjuncting, I am typing both lesson plans and notes on things that worked and didn't work so if I teach the class again, all of that stress will be out of the picture.
10.  Buy the books I want to read with research funds and stay current in my field.  I did an excellent job of this last year and will keep going!  I read SO MUCH bell hooks last year, and if that's not happiness, I don't know what is.

Cheers to the 2018-2019 school year!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Cooper Dennis is S E V E N

Oh, Cooper.

I have THE BEST memories of him being born, feeling like a total superhero when he finally arrived, hanging with him in the hospital, just the two of us on our own little babymoon. 

He was a breastfed baby who GAINED WEIGHT in the HOSPITAL and slept for 10 hours in a row at 2 weeks old.  A total unicorn.  The sweetest baby in the world, so little trouble and so much joy that his very presence convinced us to have another right away.

Then, when he was 9 month old and I was pregnant again, ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE and has stayed loose for the last 6 wonderful years and three perfect months.

He's a total handful, an impossible little elf-- so mart! so sporty! so wild!

He wanted an ice cream cake, so I did my best.  I have to say, though, that the whole project was doomed practically from its inception because I had 3 cake pans, but they were not all the same size, and by now, you know I am way too impatient to do the one small thing that would make the whole project work better like WAIT and re-use a pan or even go buy another pan or at least take everything out of my one huge nightmare corner cupboard where you know what? I could probably find a matching layer pan.  Anywho.

 Not the worst looking cake ever.  BUT JUST WAIT.
 We decorated the table the night before, which is my favorite birthday thing.
 Ben made a funny sign that Cooper read aloud and chuckled over
 We "hid" his bike but assumed he would see it right away.
 Birthdays are for candy at the breakfast table, right?
 Something happened to this cake in the freezer, and I was sad to see it when I SET A DAMN ALARM on a Sunday so I could have time to let the cake sit out before Cooper woke up.
 Here he is rounding the corner to see his spread.
 I thought he would notice the bike right away.
 But he went straight to the present pile.
 And tore in.
 The other kids amused themselves.
 Still opening.
 A book!  Was his favorite present!  He's the BEST!
 Finally noticed it!
 He immediately tested it out.
 Here comes a notably ugly cake!
 Notice that he already ate a giant brick of dark chocolate
 A pretty good morning.
 (Harry did an English project that was darling-- crafting with the dictionary is my fave way to craft)
 I made cupcakes for Cooper's class for today
 We saw our final 3 Buckeys!
 And checked out a couple of new parks.

 Before hitting up our favorite birthday bar for UNLIMITED ORANGE SODA because we are the parents of the year, after all.
 Jack had a dive lesson
 Then harry and Cooper BOTH had baseball games, and I took the little kids to Chipotle at the birthday kid's request
 Jack and Dorothy ended their evening with cake on the deck, but Cooper said he actually doesn't like cake, which would have been helpful to know before I MADE ONE.
 Book club!
 And cupcake frosting for me to close out a great little birthday!
And this happened because OF COURSE IT DID