Friday, October 19, 2018

Bits and Pieces

The coffee shop next to my office changed hands and now it is a coffee shop straight out of Instagram only I suck at taking pictures.

 I have big plans to spend most of NaNoWriMo there feeling all gram-y.

Dorothy would really, really like to have homework.
 Cooper made a frame-able art project and was so thrilled when we framed it.
 When you find a color you like...
I wish I had more to say, but I feel like my ability to prattle is directly related to my picture stash, and I have done a bad job this week of taking pictures.

Dance class!

Do you ever feel like you are running around like crazy maintaining everyone?  All of the kids needed check ups and flu shots.  I needed a check up.  Harry needs to follow up with his other doctor.  ALL APPOINTMENTS all the time.  And then!  Work meetings.  Kid activities.  I almost never have time to do any actual work.  GAH.  I don't even want to talk about my book.  And right now!  I am eavesdropping on 2 moms talking about Daisy Scouts and thinking about signing up to be a troop leader.  STOP ME BEFORE I START.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Reading Big

Our campus common reading program started 10 years ago, when Harry was 2.  A the first author reception before the first keynote event, a political science professor that I admire brought her daughter, and I thought Oh how awesome!  Maybe someday I will be able to bring a kid with me who has read the book, too.  At the time, on the cusp of my thirties, with a toddler and a baby at home, this seemed really, really far away.

And then.  Last night.

Harry, who attends a junior high magnet school focused on environmental science, was so excited to read this year's common read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Milwaukee journalist Dan Egan.  He has been super stoked about the chancellor's author reception and the keynote speech, and last night, he was my plus one for both.

We skulked around the corners of the fancy reception eating desserts and drinking (decaf) coffee and just as we were about to follow a few water science grad students over to Egan (who had his teenage daughter in tow) for a signature in Harry's book, the program coordinators hustled him off to prepare for his talk.

So Harry got a milkshake to go with his reception Sprites.
The theater was packed with over a thousand students, faculty, and community members.
We eagerly anticipated Egan, and we were delighted by his engaging, hopeful, deeply personal talk
And then!  YOU GUYS!  During the Q and A, Harry leaped over me and strode to the back of the house to stand in the question line behind a microphone.  AND THEN, in a room full of over 1000 people, HE ASKED A QUESTION-- one that was thoughtful and engaged and to which Egan gave a very serious and substantive answer. (He wanted to know about the blue green algae blooms that threaten Madison's lakes every summer and what we can do about them).

I was so proud!  And I could not even believe that the child who could barely talk when the Go Big Read program began is old enough to participate in the program, read the book, and ask the author a question.
He had a more policy oriented question about Nestle and the 2008 Great Lakes Compact that he texted me for asking at today' smaller author event that he can't attend because school project (those pesky middle schoolers and their dedication to their studies).  I promised to ask it, but Egan was very deft at avoiding policy talk in any kind of specific way.  At first I was disappointed by this, but clean water is one of the few bipartisan issues in our town, and I think it's best for the lakes if it stays that way.

I can't wait for next year-- Jack wants to give the book a try, too, whatever it turns out to be.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


I have seven thousand (conservative estimate) things on my to do for today and very little time (NO TIME, really) to do them.

So, of course, I am writing a blog post for tomorrow, which will be today when you read it because auto-pub.

Tuesday morning at 6:10, there I was exercising away on my elliptical in my basement horror chamber when I glanced at my phone and discovered it was Jack's half birthday.  Facebook reminded me, in fact, because it showed me a picture of Jack blowing out some candles on a halfcake in 2017.  I was like OH MY GOSH!  I HAVE A CAKE MIX IN THE CABINET, and I leapt off my machine to throw together half a cake.  I also made chocolate buttercream frosting, finished my work out, and threw the cake in the freezer after it came out of the oven.  BEFORE JACK WOKE UP.

When he and Cooper went to walk the dog, Dorothy and I frosted and decorated it.

 And also made banana ghosts.
 Happy half birthday, Jack.
And thank you, Facebook, for letting me be a total MOTY this morning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The last few days, a haiku

 Too cold for sports ball
outside. And yet. Soccer and
baseball all weekend.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Weeknight movie date

Sometimes it's fun to surprise the kids with a night that feels completely unexpected.

We did that on Thursday by heading to see Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween, which Cooper has been DYING to see. (And yes, there are actual good movies in the theater that I want to see right now, but I am a giver).

Look how excited he is!
 Ben, too, clearly. (Dorothy came straight from dance class)
 Jack and I probably love movies the most.  We will see ANYTHING
 A big hit!  Yuge!
We even ordered a pizza at the movie theater, so when we got home, it was time to just put everyone to bed.  Between school all day and move all night, it was like we didn't even have any parenting work to do, and the kids were so surprised/delighted by such a small outing.  Win/win for sure!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

What We're Eating This Week 42/52

We know that Harry will have hockey practice this coming week (WINTER IS COMING), but we don't know when yet (no-- that's not even a little bit annoying. why do you ask?).  So, I think the best thing to do is make a bunch of stuff that we can eat and then eat again.

Costco pizza.  Again.  I can't quit it.  (Also we had chicken sweet potato stew on Friday, and it was delicious, but the recipe is a lying liar, and 3 hours on high is NOT ENOUGH.)

BBQ chicken pasta salad
Roasted carrots
Pumpkin bars

Crockpot rotisserie chicken noodle soup
Italian bread

Pulled pork sliders
Chips and dip with veggies


Spaghetti and garlic bread, salad, broccoli (all of this from a jar/box)


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Some favorites

 $5 wine!  Halloween banners!  I'm all the way in.
 YOU GUYS!  THESE TRADER JOE'S FACE MASKS.  You need to buy them.  As many as you can.  I use them once a week, and I see immediate and noticeable improvement in my skin.  It feels tighter.  It's more radiant, and the fine lines on my forehead are not as noticeable.
 My favorite holiday movie of all times.
 Jack and I are up to 2 viewings so far this month.  I KNOW WE CAN DO BETTER.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Self Care When You're Stressed Out

Waiting for my follow-up mammogram was a stressful time for me. 

On the one hand, I knew that I still had statistics on my side and I was probably OK.  On the other hand, I live at the edge of a slippery slope fallacy basically all of the time anyway, so I had definitely teetered down the precipice of that chain of thinking.

I relied on the most wonderful friend in the world, whom I have known since FIRST GRADE.  In first grade (and I am sure I have told this story before-- and she told it in her wedding toast to us as my maid of honors, but I digress) I met this person because our teacher left us lined up in the hall while she dashed inside the office, and I realized that I would never be able to find my way back to the classroom without her and what if she never came back?  So I burst into tears.  My friend introduced herself with all 3 of her names and said I didn't have to worry because she knew everything and she would take care of me.  And that has basically been our friendship dynamic for the last 34 years. 

She listened to me vent my fears, told me about her own experiences with the procedures, and was a source of much needed distraction on the phone and via text all week. 

My advice, if you are stressed, is to rely on your best friend from first grade because someone who has known you that long will also know exactly what to say.  If you lack a Katie, though, then I have a few other tips, too.

Selfie in bed.  

I did this literally, but I think it's also a metaphor.  Basically, just steal a few moments to revel in ordinary luxury.  (Also, I hung some pictures one day while the kids were in school, and I did a terrible job!  Oops!  Sorry, Ben!)  (And!  There are at least 4 holes for every frame).

 Go to the movies! 

 I saw A Star Is Born with friends and LOVED it.  But!  Awkwardly!  Only half of us were eating at the movie theater bar.  I typically order a pizza there because it is the least caloric thing on the menu.  A medium clocks in at 770 calories, and I only eat about 1/3 of a medium pizza.  That, plus a glass of wine is totally reasonable, especially compared to all the other greasy fried options.  Only THEY BROUGHT ME A LARGE accidentally.  One friend had her own food; one is doing a Whole 30, and one doesn't at dairy or gluten.  So it was aaaaaall me.

 Appreciate cute kids things.  

Like this smoothie mustache! Even though it annoys you usually when she smears food all over the place!

 Break out the craft supplies!

I thought only Dorothy and Cooper would want to make Halloween-themed door art, but much to my surprise/delight Harry and Jack joined right in.
 Jack gave his felt pumpkin sequined acne.
 Harry's had a really scary fish gape.
 My kids!  Inherited my art talent.  (Sorry kids)

 Set a fancy table and cook a YUGE dinner.  

This pasta was SO GOOD I think I am going to make it for our new next door neighbors.

 Finally, if you're stressed,  try to live in the moment and deal just with what's immediately in front of you.  

And what's immediately in front of you?  Hygge all the way. (Without the xenophobic nationalism, but add one smelly dog).

Thursday, October 11, 2018

MYO Pizza D(ecorate)YO Cookie Night

The kids loooooooove movie night.  So when they came home from school on Friday to the news that we were going to have movie night and plus also make our own pizzas and decorate sugar cookies, they were so excited to spend a cozy night in.  I mean, it was beyond time for our first 2018 viewing of Hocus Pocus.

I made this dough and about 40 pumpkin-shaped cookies (30 for my TAs on Monday) and a huge batch of buttercream frosting (with a hint of pumpkin pie spice because YES) before they got home.  That meant they got to make around 30 more cookies themselves (they truly love to roll out sugar cookies), and I had some that were edible and able to be shared.

I also prepped the pizza dough while they were at school, doubling this recipe.  IT WAS TOTALLY PERFECT, by the way!  You should make it.

Also!  I went to Wal-Mart to buy kiddie craft supplies and found theis totally perfect sweatshirt.  Thin but fleece-lined, oversized, longer in the back.  TWELVE DOLLARS. Are you kidding me??  I want to go back and buy all of the colors.  But I don't think I can because I hate Wal-Mart.

 This face!  Ha!
 Look at her face here!  (Doubling the recipe was almost too much for the bread machine)
 Beatrix got a little floured.
 They seriously love designing their pizzas.
 Even the big ones.
 Beatrix was a fat little Roomba after dinner, circling the kitchen floor and sucking up all of the sprinkles.  I appreciate her.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

It's breast cancer awareness month! Get a mammogram!

Heck.  Get TWO mammograms and a breast ultrasound.  Really treat yourself.

On October 3, I went to the doctor for my very first baseline mammogram.  I snapped this pic after I awkwardly folded down the top of my dress and tied the arms around the waist and put on my lovely gown.
I thought I would post it on my Insta-stories after I got the all-clear that I was expecting to get.  I mean, I just turned 40.  I don't have any risk factors.  I feel no lumps during my self-checks, and in the last calendar year, my GP has given me a breast exam, and so has the OB nurse practitioner I saw for my peri-menopause.

I walked out of the clinic thinking You know?  That wasn't as bad as the dentist.

But then.  Driving home (I WASN'T EVEN HOME YET), I got a call from my doctor's nurse telling me the mammogram showed asymmetries on both sides and I needed to come back for a diagnostic mammogram and a breast ultrasound.  In 6 days.


Do you know how long six days are when someone says diagnostic mammogram?

Six days was yesterday, and I was terrified.  TERRIFIED.  Especially when the mammographer casually mentioned that she was taking extra pictures of the lump on the right side.  Lump!  That was the first time in this situation that anyone had said the L word.  I had been consoling myself for days with thoughts of "dense tissue."

When she literally twisted my left breast like she was rolling a cinnamon roll and THEN compressed it between the machine's plates, the terror lifted, briefly, due to discomfort, so that was good.

The ultrasound tech was the same one who did Dorothy's 20-week anatomy scan and the same one who told us our 10/4 baby was no longer possible, so I was happy to see her.  She's very calming and reassuring and good at her job.  Within minutes, she told me that she found the lymph node on the right side and that it was, in fact, a lymph node.  "Lymph node" is poetry compared to "lump."  She scanned and scanned and scanned my left side and found nothing but normal tissue, and it was so wonderful that she could say all of this to me during the scan.  Even though it was a hot day yesterday and the air conditioning in the clinic was broken and the room got so warm the machine shut down (after the scan was over), and I couldn't wear any deodorant for the scan, I felt better than I had felt in 6 days.  When the tech left to talk to the radiologist, she told me that she'd be shocked if the doctor would have anything to say to me but "Come back next year."

And that's what she said.

And I will! 

Because even though this experience was scary, it made me appreciate the power of early detection.  My lumpy lymph node is not palpable.  Even though friends-- including one I used to hang out with every week-- have recently had breast cancer, I was smugly sure that my statistical lack of risk factors would keep me safe.  That's silly, though.  Early detection saves lives, and it's easy to be the cocky grad student who is critical of pink washing and the carcinogenic industries that support breast cancer research and even the infantalizing, patriarchy-bolstering ways that women are figured as patients.  But all of these things look different on the wrong side of 40 when you are in your hospital gown open in the front like a shirt they keep saying but I would never wear a shirt that looks like this.  When you are standing in a room with the kind-eyed woman who is smashing your mammaries or lying on a table next to the woman who is pressing them with an ultrasound wand while she murmurs reassuring things to you.  When you are waiting for the phone call or hoping you just get a form letter in the mail.

Become a tiny cog in the women's healthcare machine, and get a mammogram.  Make an appointment today, why don't you?  It's breast cancer awareness month, after all.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

September Gratitude/What I Am Leaving in September

Things I am grateful for:

That last stretch of warm weather after the first chilly days have reduced the mosquito population

Apple picking with friends

Kindergarten playdates

These Trolls headphones

Things I Am Leaving in September:

 I have one big happiness tumbling block I want to tackle.  I have a tendency to complain about the time we spend at sporting events and how that time takes away from the time I cold be spending doing household tasks.  But!  This sucks!  I am so lucky to have happy, healthy kids who love to play sports!  And dance!  And I am lucky to have the time to watch them play.  So, no more complaining!  (I say this as hockey season looms).