Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My daughter, the mobster


That's the name that my oldest daughter has attributed to my youngest daughter.  Guido.

She also throws in a whole plethora of gibberish-y names at any given time.  But Guido is the predominant favorite.  Where did she get that name?  Who.  Knows.  She's three, and unintelligible are her mental meanderings many a moment. 

For example, when I tell her something that she doesn't want to hear (e.g. "Abby, we have to wash your hair tonight because you have silly putty and glitter glue in it"), she sometimes tries to cut me off with an abrupt "That's now how my story goes."  She is the main character in her own story, and it is, apparently, written clearly in front of her.  That's what she tells me, at least. 

And so we are the proud parents of Abby and Audrey, a.k.a. Guido.  We're such the proud mobster parents.  This is also why Abby had very little say-so in the naming of the newborn. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Color me mine

By far, my favorite stress reliever of late (like the past few months) has been to whip out the old coloring books and crayons and fill in some doodles, with or without a 39" assistant.  (By the way, Abby is only around 11" taller than Audrey right now but about twice as heavy at 32 lbs.  Aren't babies deliciously disproportionate?  Some day, I might write an entire blog entry on the super duper uber soft downy baby head that just snuggles into my neck, you know...speaking of delicious.) 

Abby is becoming more interested in coloring on her own, which is great--once in a while she just disappears over into her art corner and sings away while selecting the perfect waxy stick.  Talk about happy mommy time! 

And sometimes, like today, when my mind won't shut off and I find myself snappish and frustrated about silly, inconsequential things, then it's coloring book time.  We grab some containers of Crayolas (though Rose Art aren't bad, I think) and find some blank pages to scribble away on.  It's like vegging with a toddler, and it's good times. 

This morning, Abby was listening to her Amelia Bedelia book-on-tape, and we had some moments of cohesive quiet.  Even better, we work on sharing cause my little girl often thinks that any crayon anyone else is using is the EXACT ONE! that she needs, regardless if she has three other green crayons in her hoarded pile.

This morning--a western dog on a weird looking horse.  And it was pretty good, not my masterpiece, but, you know...pretty good.   

Monday, December 17, 2012

How to be a parent 101

I'm the youngest of 3 kids.  In other words, I didn't grow up around younger siblings.

The first grandchild in my family was born when I was a junior in college, and my sweetie little niece-y lived 4 hours away.  In other words, I didn't get to be around young babies much in my formative adult years.

My college boy was the oldest of 3 kids.  In other words, there weren't any babies that I could hang with while visiting with the future in-laws. 

Prior to daughter #1, I have had minimal exposure to those little alien beings known as babies

True story:  I once asked my older brother what my niece, who was 1-ish at the time, ate.  He laughed at me and said "She eats what we eat."  Duh, little ignorant sister.  Well, whatev big always-knows-more-than-me brother.  It's not like I knew anything about pretty much anything related to babies

And then came my own guinea pig, and my own trial-by-fire initiation began.  I quickly learned that the internet is my friend.  Books are my friend.  And other moms of young children are my best friends. 

I've learned about and received advice for breastfeeding, poop, solid foods, clothes, discipline, pre-school, cloth diapers, developmental milestones, and how ridiculously funny little munchkins can be. 

I once suggested that a friend of mine who just delivered her first join my weekly Mom's Meeting group, and her response completely befuddled me: Oh, I don't like comparing myself to others.  We do it all of the time, intentionally or otherwise.  And if we didn't, how would we know that there is a reason why your kid's poop is green?  (2 kids later...I know why.)  I guess it's not for everyone, but here's to women who stick together and don't judge, even when they are secretly thinking "What in the world is she thinking?!?!" 

This is a shout out to my mommy friends that I met as a new wet-behind-the-ears mom and have continued to get to know and learn along with over the least 3 1/2 years.  You've quickly become my peeps and partners in crime.  And here's to my ongoing continuing education course in Parenting 101 with 2 of the smallest, chubby-cheekiest professors ever. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

It's a wrap

Staying at home with the girls, I'm always looking for something new and interesting to do with them.  Right now, that's pretty easy to do because it seems like we have a lot to do with the holidays.  And wrapping presents has quickly become a very, very fun activity for a certain 3-year old.

Abby LOVES helping.  And Mommy puts up with Abby helping.  (By the way...I'm usually "Mama" as of the last few months, which I attribute to that squishy, blue cap wearing Mama Bear who almost always has a gentle voice and words of wisdom to bestow upon her cubs.) 

I'm not a huge fan of wrapping presents anyway as a hobby, and then when I have little hands wanting to touch, grab, re-arrange, tape, write on, and move everything, it means that I have short wrapping sessions.  I enjoy doing things with her, but sometimes, when I'm struggling to get something wrapped and it's taking longer because of taping miscues and torn paper and misplaced ribbon, I just want to finish!

I had several large sheets of craft paper that I gave Abby to decorate, so we've been working on using that to fancy-fy some gifts for her cousins and Ben.  And she's so excited about that and about getting to write the TO and FROM on each one that it pretty much erases my irritation.  (She really is writing most of her letters pretty legibly and makes a good effort at the others.  More on that at a later post.)   

The best part--she's pretty excellent to have around to tie knots in curling ribbon.  Her little finger works perfectly. 

Friday, December 7, 2012


Before I commence with the real blog post, I want to scold any of you who read my post about the Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving.  I knew that I was spelling that wrong when I wrote it, and I did it anyway.  And no one called me on it.  But then again, I didn't call me on it either, until now.  I'm spelling it correctly now.  Let's get on with it.

I HEART PANDORA, big time!  I heart how I can make multiple stations for whatever I'm feeling like or whoever is with me.  I heart how I can skip things and it clusters like music together.  I really heart my Keane radio station.  Because of Pandora, I'm now even more keen on Keane (haha...get it?), O.A.R., Carolina Liars, One Republic, and Snow Patrol.  I heart how I can stream it so effortlessly while working.

I first heard about Pandora while I was finishing my Masters degree, and that website got some mileage while writing my thesis.  Now, Audrey and I groove to my jams on many a night while the little bean is im-Moby-lized (man, another one...I'm hilarious) in the witching hour before bath & bed.  Abby digs her toddler station, too.  Many a day, if not most days, we are grooving to the tunes at some point. 

And that's all I have right now.  I heart Pandora. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Imperfect Birds

Anne Lamott: I like your non-fiction.  A former pastor of mine used to reference you fairly frequently in his sermons.  I was intrigued by one other piece of fiction that you wrote. But this hit home, hard.

Imperfect Birds essentially revolves around a mother-daughter relationship: the mother is a recovered alcoholic and the daughter spirals more and more out of control with various substance abuses throughout the text.  But it also deals with teenage relationships, friendships, student-teacher relationships, peer pressure, freedom, and ultimately recovery. 

1.  I'm a teacher.  I don't like the mom or the girl from a teacher's stand-point.  I look at the mom and see a myriad of ways that she enables her daughter.  Enabling is a fine line to walk, and teachers struggle with not doing this with students all of the time.  You want teenagers to succeed, grow, learn.  You want to believe them.  You want them to get along with you.  I get it why teachers and parents do it; in fact, it would be awfully hard to fully negate all levels of enabling.  But this parent is decidedly an enabler, knows that she's an enabler, and continues to do so simply because she craves and needs her daughter's approval.  There's enough background information about the mom's upbringing for the reader to pretty easily understand that the mother-daughter relationship distinctly parallels the mother & her parents.  In fact, there is quite a bit of parallel/symbolic STUFF going on throughout.  I give props to Lamott because it's not always inherently obvious.  You know what they say (I say it a lot now at least after stealing it from a former professor), if something quirky happens once, you think "oh, how interesting;" if something quirky happens twice, you think "hmmm;" if the same quirky thing happens three times (or more), you think "yeah, this is purposeful."  The mom was enabled, and she then enables her daughter.  The mom abused as a teenager, and her daughter abuses as a teenager, often with her mom's approval.  This is the part that is most especially irritating as a teacher.  What does she expect her daughter is doing at school and after school with her friends, whom her mother knows are also using.  What does she expect?!?  There is one jittery moment where the mom ups and calls the science teacher (the daughter is somehow brilliant at Physics but only good at Chemistry, all while heavily abusing substances) to check how her daughter is doing.  The mom is nearly unable to communicate with the teacher (admittedly, she thought her daughter had something going on with the teacher).  Yet the implication is that the mom is so far out of touch with her daughter's school life that the very notion or action of calling a teacher to check on her daughter's progress was enough to about fall off of the wagon again. 

2.  I'm a mom.  Need I refer to the enabling again?  But more than that, I kept thinking about how this could be my daughter.  The girl in this story is a strong student.  I hope that my girls will be strong students.  But it was also just the thought of my girls doing anything of this nature that was knotted my stomach multiple times while reading this.  And I felt a lot of empathy for parents who do have to live this torturous nightmare.  Kids from good families do stuff like this.  And on the outside, you would probably think that this was a good family in the book.  But on the inside, you definitely see the profusion of cracks forming and spreading, specifically with the mother.  As another mom, I feel some amount of repugnance for her again for what she is allowing to happen because she so avidly demands her daughter's approval, love, and friendship.  This woman has mentally disabled herself and serves little purpose for anything, contributing little and understanding that she was lacking. 

3.  I'm fresh out of my teenage years (10 years removed).  I feel a definite disgust for the teenage mentality that the daughter continued to proclaim, never letting go of her mantra from beginning to end: "Everyone else does this...I'm not doing nearly as much as everyone else...what I'm doing isn't even is only fun when I do this...I'm nothing without doing this and I refuse to be nothing."  This girl was seriously using any and everything, so the idea that "what I'm doing isn't even bad" is the height of ignorance and stupidity.  And for any teenager who claims that any of these statements are true, I challenge that because you know what, I did just fine without any of that and I enjoyed being a teenager.  Dare I say that I even had plenty of fun times without so much as a cigarette or a discreet sip of anything.  And my daughters better understand someday that any of these lines is nothing short of malarky with me and their dad.  It's pure selfishness, and that's not cool.

Imperfect Birds was one of those books where I thought at least a dozen times about stopping in the first 50 or so pages.  But I didn't.  And it didn't have any warm fuzzies at any point to really make a Hollywood moment.  But it has validity and some amount of merit insofar as I think it's addressing what is a largely ignored/overlooked/blind issue in society, one that has been festering and one that will continue to ferment in its own oozy stench for much, much too long.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Believing in Unreality

When I was a child, I don't remember ever having that watershed moment of realization that SANTA CLAUS ISN'T REAL?!?!?!?  But for that matter, I also don't remember much effort being made to keep me believing either.  I think it was the same for Ben.  We rather like this approach.

Society is so very immersed in certain beliefs that it can be fairly difficult to buck certain trends or traditions.  Abby gets asked quite a bit about what she's asking Santa for Christmas.  What if we never fostered that belief in the jolly old elf with her; how confused would that make her?  We, as a society, have certain vested beliefs that we often unilaterally apply to everyone. 

I'm not against Santa in theory.  It's a fun bit of make-believe that isn't damaging or teaching things that I don't agree with.  But the pressure on children to believe does crumble my Christmas cookies a bit.  (It's the same irritation I feel, though on a much lesser scale, when strangers naturally assume that my daughter is a "princess" or into very diva-esque things.  We go out of our way to not encourage that, and (wait for it....) she's not.)  It seems like the question at stake here is would our daughters be adversely affected if they are not strongly encouraged to believe in Santa? 

We don't think so.  Society doesn't force or expect children to continue to believe in unicorns or leprechauns, so what's the big deal about Santa (and the tooth fairy or Easter Bunny)?  Disappointingly, Santa is pretty lucrative for the economy.  Leprechauns just don't sell a lot of candy or toys for children. 

We're cool with Santa insofar as it doesn't affect our wallet.  Bottom line, my children: believe in Santa if you want and you're certainly welcome to give up that belief any time you choose.  Given the choice between leaving out milk & cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve or making a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas Day, we hope that you choose the latter.  Talk about belief and faith...

Friday, November 30, 2012

Brace yourself!

What's with the flurry of posting from me lately??!??  I actually do have an answer, but I'll leave that one to a later post.  I've had to start a list on those sweet little sticky notes that you can use on your desktop screen.  I'm rolling with ideas lately!  And I'm also enjoying just writing, taking some time to record some of my thoughts as of late.  I know that this isn't read a whole lot, and I'm okay with that.  This is more for me, an outlet to process what's happening with me.  And now on to the real purpose of this post (and enough of the schmaltzy-ness, eh?), so BRACE YOURSELF!

Except for me, it literally is BRACE myself lately.  Let's play 20 questions: what kind of brace am I referring to?  Here's my hint--it's one that I never thought I would need at 29 years of age.  I seem to be falling apart more rapidly than I anticipated.  The brace to which I am referring is ever so stylish, too.  Suffice it to say, you should all (all 2 of you) be jealous of me. 

When I was 19, I broke a tooth and ended up with a root canal.  Health issue #1 that happened far too early in my life.  That whole ordeal was way worse than the sum total of pain that I went through going through labor and delivery twice.  This new issue, thankfully, isn't on par with that level of pain.  If it was, I'd be in a sour mood for sure.  Instead, it's mostly noticed when I wake up: my hands are often numb.  At the beginning, I didn't think much of it; surely it's the type of thing that happens when you sleep in a funky position.  Except, I realized, I wasn't sleeping in any funky positions, nothing unusual at all in fact.  A few months later of me noticing this is happening, I mention it to Ben who flat out said--Get this checked out now.  You're not normal.  (I know, right...I totally set myself up for that on purpose because you all (again, all 2 of you) can't insert any snarky comments because you're reading this instead of listening to me drone on and on.)

So I did.  And 2 seconds into the conversation with the health professional, I was diagnosed: carpal tunnel syndrome.  Not cool, nurse-practitioner Whitney.  Not cool.  I'm (allow me to reiterate) only 29, which is still generally considered pretty young per society's standards.  And mine.  There has to be the proverbial mistake being made here.  Carpal Tunnel?  I don't type on a computer all day (ignore the length of this post). 

But I used to in the not-so-distant past between grad school and work.  And I mess around on an iPad way too much all day (check out the angle that you hold your wrist when you do this or I'll wager it's the same with a smart phone).  And I heft around 2 kids--16 lb. and 32 lb. respectively.  And I sometimes balance Audrey on my wrist/forearm so that she's "standing."  And as I've been paying attention these last few days, there are a whole bevy of things that I do throughout the day that probably aren't that healthy for the old nerves in the wrist. 

So I'm braced now, thankfully only at night because it's hard to even turn the lamp on/off with those on.  They're basically adjustable wrist casts.  It makes for some different sleeping positioning of my hands, but I'll take that over the next option. 

Surgery--psshhh no.  I'm way too young! 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trying New Things

This is Audrey.  She's my little 5 1/2 month old.  She had a milestone of sorts this week--solid foods.  Yum, runny oat cereal.  

 The above smile didn't last long. 

Then, the smile came back because we were done.  I forgot the funny faces that little ones make when they find themselves in the strange position of having their parent shoving plastic spoonfuls of stuff in their mouth.

I've been resisting starting solid foods (which is something of a misnomer--these first foods are pretty runny, maybe we should call them spoon foods instead) for a few reasons: I think we started Abby on them too early and I'm pretty convinced that it changed the way she nursed after that; it's just another thing to do/clean up/think about; I'm not looking forward to the smelly diaper bombs that inevitably come with spoon foods.  

 And look at these cheeks--akin to smooth, raised bread dough.  Totally smoochable!

Someone else in the house is doing something new lately, too--this guy!  Ben is starting to dabble in coffee drinking!!  I know!  Who would ever have thought?!?  He's growing up so fast.  :-)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pinching all of the pennies

My dad was the type of dad who threw a $20 my way just about every time I saw him on a visit throughout my time in college.  He was always good like that, taking care of his only little girl.  And I carried a part-time job all throughout college, so I was doing what I could to be financially solvent and contribute what I could against the crazy expensive cost of a private college.  In hindsight, I've realized the beauty of those $20 bills: there was absolutely no pressure in having such wealth in my wallet.  $20 for me lasted a couple of weeks, largely due to the fact that I was fairly stuck in a small town which at that time had neither a Starbucks nor a coffee shop for the majority of my time spent there.  $20 was a couple of trips to get ice cream, maybe some pizza or a trip to the Sandwich Cellar.  And my boyfriend was definitely not willing to spend money on pretty much anything, so the small influxes of cash were gifts of independence as well.  Now, $20 in my wallet is really more of a pressure to me: how long can I make this last? what do I need to use it for? do I really need to use it?  Cash is much too slippery for me now.

When we got married, I definitely took on a new title: CFO of the Cox household.  Without a doubt, I'm the primary banker/chief financial officer around here--the one who writes the checks and the one who spends the money.  I use my credit card probably 10 times for every 1 time Ben pulls out his plastic.  (Ironically, my credit card was the one that was lost en route the last time we got new cards.)  Suffice it to say, I'm very aware of everything that comes in and goes out monetarily.  And I do love me some on-line banking.

Here's the skinny, though.  And when I say skinny, I mean emaciated skinny.  I haven't had a paycheck come in for a few months now.  We're a one income family, and that's a budget waiting to happen.  That's also sacrifices that must be made by all--happily so.

Right now, we're down my Indy Star subscription, Netflix deliveries, and $100 groceries/month.  Clothes purchases are non-existent.  Date nights out might be a thing of the past (granted, they were few and far between anyway).  There's no such thing as "Let's just go to __________ for supper tonight" anymore.

Life is now a lesson in control and need versus wants and luxuries.  But, thanks be our financial adviser who smilingly (nonetheless) helped us realize that we have far more saved and accessible than we realized.  And it's not like we were blowing money left and right on crazy expenditures before anyway, but I will miss those impromptu runs to Culvers.  That trip to North Carolina next summer probably won't happen, either.  But faced with the choice of a vacation (sigh--haven't had a true vacation for 4 years now) or the choice of caring for my children full-time, it's been a no brainer for either of us.

Sidenote--this holiday season has been a stark reminder to me, yet again, of how truly difficult it is to avoid consumerism.  We don't practice the same fiscal choices as those of many/most of our closest friends and relatives, though it is tempting to simply do what everyone else does.  It's no small choice right now for us to throw down Christmas presents on par with what we are given sometimes.  And the lure of sales sales sales! is decidedly great and much too easily accessible.  A definite change that, I believe, will stick around long past when our bank accounts are on firmer footing is Ben and I have decided to eschew the giving of tangible gifts to each other insofar as we are expected to give each other gifts, so we do it.  Granted, we enjoy it of course, but experiences matter much more to us.  Our stockings will jingle with a little bit of chocolate, and we might slip a little token under the tree, but we're in 100% agreement that we don't need to buy a quota of stuff for each other.  We have a complete family, and that is one THING that will always suffice.  (And whatever we simply want, why ask the other person for it?  It's not like it's not my money either way whether I buy it or he buys it.  It's kind of a weird idea asking Ben to spend my money on something that I simply want, I think.)

Fewer pennies to pinch means better decisions will be made.  We are blessed indeed!

Monday, November 26, 2012

funnies & what-the-what's???


1.  Abby:  This is barbeque sauce and ketchup and Silly Putty mixed up. [deliberately stirring/sloshing a green ball of Silly Putty around in a cup from her kitchen set]
     Me: I have to eat that?
    Abby:  Sorry about that.  It's just the way it is.  You just have to deal.

Proof:  Abby is my daughter. 

2.  We avoided all meltdowns and anxieties at lunch today by employing the age-old parenting advice of operatic duets.  I refused to answer Abby whining about me surprising her with peas in her noodles (surprises are hard) unless she answered me in song.  And.  It.  Worked.  Like really--it worked.  I sang to her.  She (eventually) figured it out and sang her request back.  Giggle.

Proof:  There is more than one way to navigate a delicate situation.  And, humor almost always works.


1.  What is the evolutionary purpose of newborn babies having fingernails, let alone razor sharp fingernails?  Why can't they develop later, like at one year of age?  Teeth do.  Baby hugs are a double-edged sword (so to speak); we love them and Audrey gives them a lot.  But I also endure them because Audrey gives them a lot. 

2.'re on my I'm-irritated-at-you list.  C'mon.  You're not working for me today.  And you should be.  Quit it. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

a very bear-y Bearenstein Bears Thanksgiving

I'm pretty much stoked for tomorrow because IT'S THANKSGIVING! and WE GET TO STAY HOME AND HAVE SOME RARE FAMILY TIME!

We're on the 2 Thanksgiving schedule--one on my side and one on Ben's side.  Yay for that small number with our 2 fairly small families.  Case in point: 12 plates needed on my side, 9 on Ben's.  I know that there are people who love their big, boisterous families, but I'm pretty groovy with our small, semi-boisterous affairs.  Christmas time gets bigger and crazier, so Thanksgiving is perfect for some good chillaxing with our closest family peeps.

So far, my favorite moment so far happened at my parents' house where there is cable tv (we no longer keep up with the Joneses on that front).  I had a sweet little moment where one child was asleep, we were all in that happy, groovy, post-lunch place, the family room was vacant, and I had an opportunity.  Newspaper.  Couch.  HGtv/Food Network.  Allll mine.  Lovely.  And then my mini-me and one-and-only nephew showed up simultaneously, desperately working on me to find some sort of gibberishy Disney/Nick Jr. stuff.  I can still confuzzle my own kid, but my whipper snapper nephew can read the guide on the tv; he had me figured out pretty quickly.  Holidays with family--nary a dull moment.

Tomorrow, I want to have a new favorite Thanksgiving 2012 memory because for the first time since we've been married, we are going to be home with no familial obligations on Thanksgiving.  I, for one, am totally, totally (totally) looking forward to it.  And we're going to eschew the Hallmark Thanksgiving crowd in favor of the Cox Thanksgiving in-group.  (I feel that I would be ridiculed for what I am about to say should someone in my immediate family read this.  I'm not exactly "the same" as the rest of them.  I get made fun of/laughed at/ridiculed a lot.  I'm also the youngest.)  We are going to have salmon (wild caught, of course), not turkey.  We'll also have apple turnovers (with puff pastry, of course), not pie.  And we're going to not watch a) football (though we have no specific aversion to this...quite the contrary!), b) the Macy's day parade, or c) Charlie Brown.  Even better, we're not doing a single speck of shopping tomorrow, Friday, or anytime immediately after that (online or in stores).  We're going to play outside and do something for someone else.  It's going to be SWEET!

And why is it going to be a "very bear-y Bearentstein Bears Thanksgiving"?  Read The Bearenstein Bears Give Thanks.  We have (a lot).

Let the good time Thanksgiving fun roll! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

feeling cloth-y

We are cloth diaper believers!  Finally, after trial and error (and some were really boneheaded in hindsight), we are settled into a cloth diaper groove, and it is nice.  Just for kicks, we're also successfully practicing the cloth wipe revolution as well.  It took 2 kids, and 4 different brands of clothies, but I found some diapers that I adore (we used them for about a year and a half with Abby, went through a couple of brands, liked them and used them faithfully but were also never wholly satisfied with what we had).  Let's have a conversation about Flips.

*rarely leak--maybe once every couple of weeks
*cute as a button!
*the same super easy adjustment system that BumGenius employs
*not super bulky
*easy to wash
*easy to wipe out
*I'm a big fan of the cloth insert kind of diapers.
*not tight around legs or belly--and we have some chunky thighs to contend with

Who doesn't love a naked baby in a diaper doing tummy time?  So soft!  So dimply! 

We decided to go the cloth wipe route as well because my mother-in-law has this weird affinity for sewing.  I don't get it, but to each her own!  She voluntarily cut up soft, worn-out t-shirts, and sewed them into 6"x6" squares for us.  That combined with the pennies that it costs (if even that) per batch of soaking solution, and it's a serious bargain.  And since we're going cloth anyway, it's not extra laundry, and they're super duper easy to contend with.  And, they smell like a bath-fresh baby. 

For us, the answer is a snap--cloth diapers rock, and they are very little extra work.  I am a lucky mama to have a parenting partner all on board with this rationale!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I give thanks for faith

This is SO going to sound like a recording. 

We're in the midst...yet again...of some big 'ol life decisions.  The good ones...the ones that don't have ready answers.  And despite all of this, most of the time, I've maintained my calm about it.  Not always, but a few tears are par for the course with me.  (No kidding...I might have shed a few while making scrambled eggs this morning, and I don't know why.)

But I want this to be about goodness.  Positivity that I recognize and give thanks for.  Clarity in some ways that I have never (admittedly) taken the time to recognize before.  This fall has been something of a true sabbatical for me.  Thanks be to Audrey for many things, not the least of which is this and which she has had no control over.  I tell you what, we know how to have kids just right--the end of the school year absolutely rocks as a time to pop out a kid every now and again, at least when you're a teacher.  You get about 10 weeks of maternity leave gratis.  Thank you God for that huge gift--twice!  I'll reiterate this point again, what a sense of humor my omnipotent being has; I was somewhat stressing about this prior to Audrey (Ooooohhh woe is me!!!  It was so perfectly timed with Abby, this will NEEEEVVVVVEEEERRRRR happen again!!!  Touche.  I wish that I could put the correct accent in on that last word so that it didn't look touch-y, so to speak.)  And now, my rolly polly is 5 months old today, sitting up by herself pretty well, slobbering like a little lava flow of saliva, and throwing out cheeky grins left and right.  But, it's also now less than 2 months until I return to work, which doesn't seem like it's something that I should be worried about, but IT'S LESS THAN TWO MONTHS!?!??!?!?!??!!!!???!?!?! happens in my mind a lot.  You would think that I'd have this figured out by now. 

But we don't have a babysitter.  And not only that, I have one tenuous lead.  We're talking about a solid 1/3 of my take-home paycheck will now be exclusively for someone else to watch my children.  And, I could very feasibly have to only use disposable diapers--$100+ a month.  And, I could feasibly have to only use formula--$100+ a month.

This whole situation bites BIG TIME.  It's not that I'm really all that against child care for my children, but there comes a point when I think you just have to question what the purpose is. 

I ranting is largely negative.  Where's the positive?  Well, right here.

I am participating in a Bible study for the first time in my life this semester while I'm on leave.  Abby is going to pre-school and loving it and socializing and not painfully shy for the first time in her life this semester while I'm on leave.  I'm close to starting a small business for the first time in my life this semester while I'm on leave.  I'm busy busy busy, and loving it.  ME!  The one who swore up and down to Ben prior to children that I would never want to be a stay at home mom. 

God, you just never quit throwing me for a loop.  You got me again!

So here's to clarity of mind and peace with what will be.  You can't avoid God's purpose in your life.  I find comfort in this lately that if we make incorrect choices now, that God will find a way to pull us back to what he wants for us.  I have faith in that.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Firefighter cookies

As the majority leader of our house (much of the time), I made the executive decision this week that we (me and the girls) were going to do some serving today (Saturday).  Ben is gone basically all day today, and these kinds of days bum me out because, much like my daughter, I really miss the boy, too.  I miss the time that I could otherwise have to myself and the jobs to do with only one daughter hanging on me rather than two.  Selfishly, I decided that we were going to do something to prohibit me from being in a funk all day because historically, it happens far too often.  Plus, it's definitely time for all of us to be reminded or learn about serving others before ourselves around here. 

So Abby and I came up with a game plan for today.  On the list of daily activities:
1.  Buy dog & cat treats and take them to our local animal shelter.
2.  Make ___________ and take to some local firefighters.

Right now, it's in the middle of naptime and we're one-for-two.  "We" made chocolate chip cookies this morning.  In actuality, we both needed some time to ourselves to just chill a little, so we both reverted to our zen defaults--I cranked up the mixer and Abby hooked up with PBS Kids.  Normally, I'd be all like "Oh NO you 'aint!!" about having screen time while I was doing the service project.  But today, it was needed.  If the spirit of the project was going to succeed, the most important part--taking the cookies to the station and actually giving them to people, we both needed our quiet time.

And it worked!  The never-fail delicious cookies were produced and Abby came away relatively happier and more willing to socialize in a civilized manner.  We packaged up the cookies together, and Abby pulled out some of her tried-and-true, no-fail ways to keep Audrey happy while I had to re-install 2 carseats at the last minute.  This was a deciding moment in the morning.  It was closing in on lunchtime (i.e. toddler-melt-down-at-any-moment-potentially time) and Audrey was fussy crying for lack of action after getting all packed into her seat.  Abby doesn't always tolerate crying well.  Those are fun times...

But we made it without incident to the fire station, and (tear) my ever-so-painfully-shy daughter walked in not only in front of me but also without burying her eyes to face a pantheon of strangers with 2 Halloween bags of cookies.  Her valor was rewarded with some stickers and a close-up look at a fire truck, and she even managed a quiet but audible thank-you to the very nice firefighters. 

We are going to do this again.  Count on it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3 years later, I'm still not used to ______.

Tonight's post is dedicated to Ben simply because he ever so kindly informed me today that he's about to perform his annual reading of my blog, except that he didn't read it last year (so he says), so it's not even annual.  That's support.  Here's to you, spouse.

Just to make things clear, I'm not complaining in this post, just rather stating how things are for me now.  It's a good thing to chafe at. 


I went to the bread store today.  To get bread.  Just bread.  I usually pick up a handful of packages of bread all at once so that I only have to go every few weeks.  You know.  Nothing special.

And as I was sitting at the stop light waiting to turn into the place, I was thinking about how I scheduled this errand around when I didn't have to take our 2 girls with me.  And I remembered again that this is how my day-to-day life is now, subdivided into the I-don't-mind-taking-the-girls-with-me errands and the I'd-really-rather-not-wrestle-2-kids-around errands.  Going to the bread store is the latter, for sure (quick stop, tight aisles).  I also limit myself to X number of in-and-outs of the car when I have the girls with me, usually no more than 3.  I'm so over car seats that have straps that twist and a toddler who takes her ever-so-sweet time getting into and out of the thing and takes it as a personal attack if I dare encourage her in the slightest to hurry her self along (exaggeration).

So going to the bread store by myself is something of a luxury for me.  Running errands is a LUXURY.  Getting out of the house for a few minutes by myself...I even argued on my behalf to take the car to get the oil change today where there's only a gritty little waiting area full of weird smells and sticky, split vinyl chairs. 

That's just my personality.  3 years later, I'm still not used to lack of freedom.  The only thing that really grates on me at times is having to coordinate every minute of my day (regardless of whether or not I'm working) around who has the kid(s).  And then, when I very very rarely find myself by myself at home, the crushing enormity of freedom is OVERWHELMING like the first afternoon when you get home from the last day of school.  There's so much to do all at once and you don't. do. anything.

Except smile.

I like the idea of anonymity that freedom affords me.  I like being able to go to a store on a whim or jump in the car if I have a pressing need to do something without arranging around napping/feeding/playing/preschooling/whathaveyou times.  And so sometimes, just for kicks, I decide to do crazy things like go the park on nice days without telling anyone that I'm going to take the kids and go.  THAT's freedom for me now.  And I really like those times when the girls and I just decide to do something (hello Dunkin' Donuts on Friday afternoon when it's too cold and rainy to be nature loving).  Sometimes, we leave the cell phone in the car, too, so it's really like no one know where we are.  Whoa.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What do you title something that is barely coherent?

I had an idea about something to blog about when I was in the shower this morning (otherwise known as my 10 minutes of solitude throughout the's kind of like a teacher who has her prep period during 1st period).  But, whaddya know?  I kinda forgot it.  Real life happened and superfluous things don't always stick around indefinitely.  But I sort of have a moment to myself right now, so I'm bound and determined to blog about something.  Because I can.  Bear with me (or don't read on--your choice!).

I'm eating brownies right now (yeah, 9:26 a.m.).  Abby is eating an apple.  I'm rather hiding in the kitchen while eating the brownies so that Abby doesn't realize the disparity taking place.  Sneaky.  I know that I'm not the only parent that does this. 

I could write about all sorts of things, but they're almost all kid-related (yawn?), and none of them particularly pithy or extended.  I just made a blog-executive decision and hereby declare that this will, indeed, be kid-oriented. 

I'm not that literate about kids' tv shows, partly because we no longer have tv (whoa---mind boggling), so anything that Abby gets to watch is either streamed through Netflix or checked out from the library.  To that extent, I sometimes find that Abby has become hooked on something from when she was at the sitter's that I have no concept of.  Even when we did pay for tv, we still didn't watch any kids shows.  Ever.  Like not even once.  We're very much the you-have-a-small-alotment-of-time-for-screen-activities-per-day kind of parents, and I highly recommend it.  TV is a treat, not an expectation, and in general, we don't get sucked into branding.  Have I mentioned that Abby has never seen a Disney movie???  (I think I did, but I don't want to check.)  Is she missing out on some essential part of childhood?  No.  Am I glad that I watched movies and tv when I was little?  I'm ambivalent.  Abby gets enough of her fix of Little Einsteins (love), SuperWhy (love), Diego (ick), and Science Kids (like) to make her happy.  She's all good.

Confession time: Abby has never had a hot dog either.  Again, we're pretty much of the mindset that if she doesn't come to expect this (and consequently acquires a taste for good food) that when she has a choice someday between a hot dog and fill-in-the-blank with something else that isn't garbage, then maybe, just maybe, she won't choose the hot dog.  On the heels of this ideology, I'll also point out that Abby decided that she wanted some broccoli for breakfast yesterday (10 pieces).  Granted, that's not normal, but still.  That's her general mindset.  She knows that she needs to (and gets too) eat veggies & fruit for meals and snacks.  Now, she just finished her apple and is noshing on some whole grain cinnamon crackers.  Rough life, this kid has.  She's never once complained about eating whole grain bread or asked for white bread instead.  It's what she's always known, and it's what she expects.  I find that I'm much more likely to prejudice her based off of what I expect kids to be like, but it doesn't have to be that way.  Abby eats spinach in things like lasagna, and she knows that it's there; she doesn't complain about it.  I know that the first time we gave it to her, I was holding my breath in anticipation, but it's not like she knows that other people don't like it.  Lest you get the misguided impression that Abby is a stellar eater with anything and everything, I'll be the first to point out that she's three and has a three-year old mentality about food.  She used to scarf up roasted zucchini but has lately decided that she doesn't "like" zucchini.  Whatev kid.  And supper is often a touchy situation.  There are oh so many things that she'd rather be doing than sitting still and eating.  Heaven forbid.  And she rarely finishes her milk, even if she promises that she will when she asks for it and I only give her about 3 T worth.  We all have our food issues, and wow, they start early. 

So as to not be all pat-myself-on-the-shoulder or a Debbie Downer, I'll end with some joy from yesterday that had nothing to do with our parenting and is just happy.  Audrey is a watcher, an observer of all situations and people, especially Abby.  Yesterday, we had returned home from some activities, and I was shlepping Audrey around while trying to unpack things.  But Abby was dancing around and playing on her kazoo, which I was neither paying attention to nor ignoring.  She was just being Abby and not bothering us.  I was holding Audrey facing out, and then I realized I kept hearing Audrey giggling.  The goober.  She was giggling at her older sister dancing around playing the kazoo.  And she kept giggling and giggling and giggling.  It was the coolest thing since pretty much everything.  So we stopped and had a little giggle/dance/kazoo fest with lots of smiles and lots of laughter.  And older sister--she was flying high.  Abby desperately wants to play with Audrey.  It was only 5 minutes, but it was such a blessing yesterday. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

a lil issue

I hate "lil."  I abhor "lil." 

How is it that educated, smart, perfectly literate adults in our society mockerize (note the irony) normalcy.  How in the ever-so-wonderful world did "little" become "lil" without even the benefit of an apostrophe to connote a shortened word?  HOW??

Saying anything with "lil" just sounds...foolish.  Absurd.  "We-dic-we-us" even.  (What can you say: three-year olds have some fun pronunciations sometimes.) 

And so help me, I will never, to the ever ever degree, put either of my children in any piece of clothing with "lil" on it.  "Mommy's lil cupcake" will just have to go in the donate pile.  "Daddy's lil princess" makes me gag.

Let's discuss gender issues for a moment.  Allow me to take a grand step up on my soapbox. 

When babies are born, they have no innate sense of gender, nor can they yet differentiate between genders.  They have preferences, sure, that help define their personalities.  But boys are not hardwired to only respond to masculine things; neither are girls naturally drawn to feminine things.  Gender is largely a societal construct whereupon we assign boys and girls certain colors and activities, with very little that is "gender neutral."  For whatever reason, pink emasculates boys and certain shades of blue (this is where it gets even more nutty because it's not true for all shades) in certain situations are deemed only for boys.  About 60-70 years ago, there was a definite shift in society's view of gender largely due to a popular magazine that began to delineate blue as a boy's color and pink as a girls.  Prior to that, pink was actually associated with boys and red with girls (I'm throwing this out there without fact checking, but I'm 90% sure that these are the correct color associations). 

And now, girls are far, far, too often (of course, this part is totally my opinion and fortunately one that is shared by my spouse) taught to be princess-y.  Female babies have absolutely no natural proclivity to be "drama queens" or "princesses."  Sure, females often have certain personality traits that tend be more emotional than males, and society has decided that these are the drama/princess traits.  The same goes for boys and how they handle emotion.  Yet society has so much to do with this; much of what babies learn about themselves and much of how babies learn to deal with emotions is learned.  I'm not a believer that it's all or nothing, it's not either all nature nor all nurture.  But babies are gendered by us as soon as they're born--put them in a pink hat or blue hat; give them a baby doll or a toy truck; and put sassy slogans on their clothing to show the world that she is "my lil princess" or "my lil man." 

Prior to Abby's birth, we seriously discussed how we would address certain gender issues such as these: how would we expose our daughter to gender choices?  We adamantly draw the line at teaching our daughters to be princess-y.  Our daughters have trucks and cars, balls and a train set to play with along with baby dolls and a kitchen set.  We've also, believe it or not, never bought them anything that has to do with princesses.  And (maybe this is even more of a shocker), Abby has never seen a Disney movie...not even one!  And it's not because we're anti-Disney.  It's more like we're anti-"lil."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Out of the fog of insanity comes...a glimmer

Having to be the disciplinarian really, really bites sometimes.  Often.  Usually. 

I'm going to throw this one out there right away: we're not spankers.  We have talked about it and consciously made the decision to not spank our children.  Personally, I think that it would be really difficult to maintain control in an emotionally charged, heated moment to deliver a spanking in such a way that it wasn't taking frustrations out on the child or venting some anger.  And, equally importantly, we believe that spanking delivers a message to a child that I can hit but you cannot, which is confusing to a non-logical mind. 

I'll also admit that I was spanked when I was little, and I don't ever remember feeling resentment for being spanked.  And before we had children, we talked about it, and I was actually leaning towards being a spanker because of the old "Well, it worked when I was a kid..." routine. 

But I've changed my mind unequivocally.  I also keep coming back around to a piece of advice that I read in Parents magazine by another mom who was writing about struggling with the whole discipline issue.  (What parent doesn't??)  In the heat of the moment, it has served me well to think "What is she, a three-year old?!?" in the same vein as one might indignantly and rhetorically demand "What, are you blind?!?"  The answer is...yes.  She is a three-year old.  And when I remind myself of this fact, it always serves to put the issue in perspective. 

Perspective is essential.  My child goes through spurts of engaging, sweet loveability followed by spurts of provoking, infuriating frustratability.  And I hate being in the "Stop doing that...leave that alone...quit it! know that you're not allowed to..." mode.  There are those days where that's all I seem to say.  (If you happen to be reading this and don't currently have children but think that you might want to have a child some day...take note.  Seriously.  Take note.)

But, oh, how a child can push all of the right buttons.  IF ONLY a toddler had the ability to reason, how differently our conversations would go.  Instead of screaming/yelling/wailing for about 45 minutes solid when she was supposed to be resting because HEAVEN FORBID she didn't have every little thing in her room with her and I wasn't about to go searching the nooks and crannies for where she stashes or forgets things, we could have avoided an entire melt-down.  Truly, we could have!  I'm trying, really really trying, to find contentment in these moments, to enjoy the pure joy of childhood while it lasts.  And to that, I cannot do it on my own. 

We are working to embrace the idea that we cannot succeed at disciplining without God's help.  In our household, discipline often entails prayers for patience and calm, both silent and with the banshee, along with the ubiquitous apology and hug.  We utilize cool down time and go-to-a-place-where-you-can-become-happy-again.  We offer choices: you can do this job willingly with a positive attitude or you can do it screaming and we will all be miserable.  We try to impress our disappointment and not just our anger. 

And most of the time it seems as if nothing we say or do matters.  Most of the time!!  But then a breakthrough moment, sometimes just a passing flicker, happens, and I catch myself realizing that, whoa, she's getting it maybe, maybe, just a little.   

How is discipline not the epitome of insanity--doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?  In fact, it is. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

I adore children's books...muchly!

Now that I'm a pseudo-stay at home mommy, for a couple of more months, I find myself taking the sprouts to the library.  About 2.5 times a week on average.  A lot.  I'm trying to take advantage as much as possible of warm weather and we get out of the house every day to do something or go somewhere.  This often means a nice long trip to the library.  Fortunately, we have 2 branches to choose from, and they're quite different from each other, so it's like 2 distinct adventures.  (Just the 3 of us going anywhere is most definitely an adventure.)  I'm all over going to the library a lot for obvious reasons.  What a great place it is: books! puzzles! fun computer games! movies! the excitement never ends!!

Both branches have pretty sweet children's collections.  Now that Abby is more self-sufficient and able to play with some puzzles or the computer by herself, I can wander through the racks seemingly at leisure and revel in the fabulous book selections.  I love children's books!  Inevitably, I have to stop myself thinking "Okay, one more...wait, I want this one, too...this has got to be the last one!"  We probably have close to 20 books checked out at a time on any given day.  Sure, they're for Abby (and now Audrey!), but really, they're for my amusement as well.  Abby likes to help choose them sometimes, but more often than not, I get full reign over the selections.  And oh, what fun it is!  The subtle humor, the slick pictures, the stories with a twist--I love them all! 

Have you thought about the social dynamics of the way that animals are inevitably portrayed?  Think about how wolves are portrayed, for example; there is a fine line between presenting these as scary and too scary.  There's all kinds of stereotypes that books teach, which is something that this momma thinks about, and sometimes tries to downplay, when she's choosing books to read. 

How much do I adore children's books?  Muchly!!  When I use words-according-to-Cox to describe something, you know it's made an impression.

And just for the record, here are some of our favorites:
Abby--Curious George (Mommy & Daddy try to temper how many of these we check out, trying to limit the onslaught to no more than 4 at a time), Berenstein Bears, Clifford, Arthur, Ella the Elephant, Big Chickens, and pretty much anything having to do with Halloween.

Mommy--the pigeon books, rhyming books with a jazzy rhythm (how else do I categorize these?) like Blueberry Mouse and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, animal books, and books teaching peace and environmental consciousness.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

my comfort level has changed

Bearing and caring for a child will change a person.  Obviously.  For example, pre-first born, I remember feeling

1.  dread at having to change diapers and
2.  a severe aversion to puke.


1.  changing diapers is absolutely NO BIG DEAL to the point that we use cloth diapers and I load them into the washing machine with my bare hands often, but not always, and
2.  puke is still disgusting (but my definite fear and concern for my child trumps my disgust).

But my favorite as of late is feeding my child in public.  And I'm going to throw this out there and PROUDLY declare that I breastfed Abby and am currently breastfeeding Audrey.  With Abby, it was usually easy enough to avoid having to be out in public during any feeding time, but now we're more often on a toddler's schedule than a newborn's (they're fantastically resilient beings as long as there is some semblance of a schedule), which inevitably means that I'm feeding my youngest little soul quite often, according to my standards, in public.  FACT: it is Indiana state law that you are allowed to breastfeed anywhere in public that you are legally allowed to be.  I keep reminding myself of this as I find myself in awkward or random places. 

I still don't enjoy it but have rather resigned myself to the obviousness of what I'm doing.  I'm still that much of a prude as to not be able to just blatantly do it anywhere.  But then again, after reading through the list of places that I have already in only 12 weeks breastfed Audrey in public, you might think that I'm lying in the previous sentence.  Apparently, I will do it anywhere.  But I'm not thrilled about it!!  (To clarify--the "it," which is overtly ambiguous refers to breastfeeding in public not  breastfeeding in general, which I greatly enjoy at home, in my recliner, without people nearby.)

This post has been several weeks in the making (it's hard to find some alone time with the laptop in order to type up new posts; it actually takes some concerted scheduling), but it's okay because I just have more to add since I originally thought about it.

My current list of PLACES THAT I HAVE BREASTFED MY CURRENT INFANT IN PUBLIC, as much as I can remember at least.

1.  my favorite and the inspiration for this list: the gas station at Meijer (at the pump), while the husband was getting gas and then taking eldest daughter to get a snack...multi-tasking
2.  the Indiana State Fair (twice), but at the lactation station, which disturbingly to me was nothing more than a see-through (i.e. "ventilated") tent right on a main drag with scads of people walking by and looking in...this discomfort was alleviated partially by the cushy digs inside the tent complete with rocking chairs, a changing pad, and cold water for the moms
3.  a random gas station parking lot in Hartford City (not at the gas pump)
4.  on a park bench at Foster Park in Kokomo, IN beside an outdoor concert shell where a handful of big burly guys were unloading sound equipment for a concert coming up
5.  at the Mom's Meeting that I go to every week...this one actually isn't weird because it's all mom with children 1 year or younger and lots of women are also breastfeeding while there and many don't cover up
6.  at my friend's house during a play date for our older children, but again, not really weird because she has a newborn as well and reciprocated the task
7.  at my parents' house where my oldest opened the door with my dad right behind her
8.  in the nursery at our church with the chair facing the windows which are right beside the main door--I've discovered that no one looks in these windows whereas everyone looks in the windows to the door of the nursery
9.  in the lounge at the church where Abby is attending pre-school (which isn't my church)
10.  in an air-conditioned RV at my husband's aunt's house during a family reunion...this was actually pretty sweet and private digs!
11.  in the parking lot of the rest station between highway 26 and the exit for Muncie on interstate 69, facing the interstate

In case you were wondering, my favorite weird place that I breastfed Abby in public was the dressing room at Kohl's.  But every time I drive by the Chocolate Moose in Farmland (a couple of times a year), I think about feeding Abby parked along the side of the road while the others were eating dinner inside.  And when we drive by the rest station heading north on 69 between Gas City and Ft. Wayne (every time I go to my parents'), I always think about the time that I fed Abby when she was a baby, and for some reason we were driving our 2-door Accord.  That's a tight fit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

This stuff is hard!

I should clarify because, really, "stuff" is one of my ever so famous "Diet Coke" words (full of empty calories...doesn't really mean anything because it's so vague).  This CHILDREN stuff is hard! 

This is merely a sampling of STUFF that has to be dealt with, coddled, figured out, modified, and such.

1.  Sleep schedules.  I DON'T REMEMBER.  That's what keeps flashing through my mind in a perpetual loop of incoherency.  How did we train Abby to sleep by herself during the day?  I DON'T REMEMBER.  I'm stuck on this one.  (And we're not generally fans of the Ferber method.  I'm pseudo-attachment parenting in the non-crazy sense.  I agree with this theory that you should do what feels intuitive and comfortable for you.  Ferberizing is neither for us.  Cuddling with a sweetie is.  We're cuddlers, and for the record...Abby sleeps super great and always has at night since about 3 months and during the day since I DON'T REMEMBER.  Sometime shortly thereafter.)

2.  Attitudes.  A three-year old can seriously mood swing.  On Saturday, we day tripped it down to the State Fair and 3 hours of excitement with !!! extra excite !!! went to OUTRAGE, FURY, and general BANSHEE behavior for the rest of the day.  A three-year old shows glimmers of learning how to lessen their outbursts and recover fairly quickly, but what biological purpose dose the ability to absolutely SHRIEK in the highest, most painful pitch imaginable serve? 

3.  Lunch time.  Inevitably, there are three people who all arrive at hungry mode at the same time.  Planning ahead is my new motto, which admittedly, irritates me that I take valuable time in the morning when small fry is still asleep getting snacks and lunch ready for the rest of the day and don't just sit down and play with big fry for a while.  So far, this is the only way that I've figured out how to smooth out some major sticky parts in the rest of the day; I'm still working through this. 

4.  Behavior modification.  I hate being the Negative Nelly all of the time.  Why can't a kid just figure it out after one or two times?  Why?  Stuffed animals are the currency of choice in our household.  At any given time, "kitty," "Polly Panda," "little black kitty," "pink moo cow," "purple teddy bear," or "Harry the Horse" may find themselves in a time out.  Stuffed animal jail.

5.  Exercise.  I can't figure this one out very well either.  It's hard to push 2 strollers at once (this is how too much of my time went at the State Fair), I don't have a double stroller, and I refuse to buy one that isn't a jogging stroller, which aren't good for newborns. 

6.  Playgrounds.  No wonder parents go a little nutty.  Playing with my kid at the playground is enjoyable, explorative, energetic, and at times mind numbingly boring.   Admittedly, playing is not my forte as a parent, but I'm pretty sweet at reading.  We read a lot.

7.  Vacations.  It seems like everyone and their Aunt Judy is taking small tots on vacations, which I/we were very loathe to do when we had just one.  And now, it's been 4 years since we've been on a vacation (more than one night away in a B & B).  I'm ready.  And now I don't feel portable with the bigger one and the smaller one.  Catch-22!!!

I'm sure there's more.  She cries.  I go.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Is it okay to feel sentimental about a car??

Once upon a time, there was a young, childless married couple.  They were fresh out of college and had to figure everything out.  How to be a brand new adult can be confusing and tough.  They decided that the boy needed a car.  He decided to buy a truck.  So he did.

He bought a Ford Ranger.  And they loved it.  The stick shift was fun to drive.  The girl only stalled it every once in a while.

Then the girl got a job, too.  So the couple decided to sell her car that she had driven since high school and invest in long-term car. 

She found a black, 2-door Honda Accord with a sun roof, leather seats, a V-6 engine, and a 6-CD changer.  It was sporty and fun.  Low mileage.  Only 4 years old. 

They bought it.

She drove it a minimum of 450 miles a week the first year driving back and forth to work.  It was a long commute.  The miles piled up quickly.  She didn't care.  Her car was golden.

Then she got a new job, only 5 minutes from home.  The miles didn't add up so quickly.  She didn't care.  That meant that she could keep her car longer.

Then she started to commute to Ball State twice a week for grad school.  She kind of cared.  Gas was expensive.  But it was still fun driving the car over quiet roads.  It was something of a mental break to set the cruise control, jam to some music and open the sun roof, even at night.  The car was spunky.  She loved it.

And then...

Things changed.  Kid #1 came along.  The young, married couple now with one child had a truck and a 2-door car, neither of which are comfortably conducive to a family, though a car-seat was manageable in the Accord, though annoying.  They still loved their truck.  They still loved their car.  Unfortunately, the truck had to go.  She fought for it valiantly: "We can just have three cars.  We'll use it.  We'll be glad that we kept it."  Alas, he talked her out of it.

Now, she also had to give up primary driving of the sweet little car.  She drove the mommy car by default of being the primary kid schlepper.  She survived but secretly missed the car.  A lot.

And then...

Things changed again.  Kid #2 came along.  The still young, married couple now had 2 kids, a mommy car and a 2-door car, which technically can hold 2 car seats, but the safety of the children wasn't the best.  The seats were nothing if not a tight fit.  Too tight. 

After much deliberation (MUCH), the couple resigned themselves to selling the nifty 2-door.  One of the last vestiges of their first year of marriage.

But it happened, and she took it for one last spin.  One last trip around the block.  All the while, she was thinking, "Is it okay to feel sentimental about a car?"  She decided that it is.  It stands for a lot of important things in her life.  She feels a little melancholy today.   

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My summer reading list

Months prior to this summer, I've been looking forward to it for reasons both obvious and not.  One of those is that I distinctly remember having a summer of wonderful reading time 3 years ago when Abby was a newborn.  I very much wanted to recapture the simplicity and joy of just reading again.  Sadly, reading isn't much of a priority for me as of late (meaning as of years now).  Other than when I was completing my Masters degree and then the aforementioned summer, reading has always felt like a luxury that was too luxurious, something that I had no time for.  Admittedly, I didn't try to make much time for it either, fulfilled enough with my newspaper and magazines. 

A few months ago, I decided to re-read Emma (Jane Austen), remembering it as one of her works that I particularly enjoyed and hadn't tasted for several years.  But why stop there?  My intent to read one of her works turned into the determination to read all of her works in the space of a few weeks.  I've never done that before, but this also reminded me that reading a collection of an author's work does truly provide insight and a connection to that author more so than reading the works singularly.  Austen is a perfect example of the feasibility of this because she only has a handful of published works.  Caveat--I've tried reading Sandition a couple of times, but she died before finishing it, and I've not gotten into it like her others.

Northanger Abbey--Why is this one called Northanger Abbey?  Very little of the plot occurs there.  It pokes gentle fun at class (which, really, is Austen's main M.O.).  

Emma--a delicious treat, gossipy like Parade of the 1700s

Pride and Prejudice--I enjoyed more of the subtle sub-plots happening reading it this time around, elegant, insightful, classic class & gender issues

Sense and Sensibility--more of P & P, excellent

Mansfield Park--It took me a while to get through this one, the most laborious of the three, but still, Austen being Austen.  Enjoyable.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Matter of fact, I am THAT kind of parent

I can't keep up with my reading right now.  Between books for the summer reading program at the library, my 2 monthly magazines, my daily newspaper, and whatnot, I'm getting behind.  I also read lots of articles on-line, especially information that comes to me in daily email blurbs.  One email subscription that I have is for, which I've found to be very useful, and generally, I agree with it.  Earlier this week, however, it disappointed me. dropped the ball on this one, in my ever so humble parenting opinion.

I as reading an article on anonymous advice, secret tips if you will, from various professionals that parents come into direct contact with--dentists, pediatricians, teachers, and so on.  And I have a very specific problem with the "helpful hint" shared by the day care worker.  To be clear, though, we are doing our very best to avoid putting our children in group day care (mostly for the reason that I have an issue with).  Because of this, I feel like my griping is not hypocritical, and reading this professional's words reminded me that yes, I am definitely that parent.

Specifically, the day care provider focused on "specialness."  In other words (and I'm paraphrasing this), don't ask that your child be special; your child should eat what everyone eats, sleep when everyone sleeps, and play when everyone plays.  This is all well and good for an adult, but can we really ask toddlers and babies to be on someone else's schedule?  I have specific issues with that! 

My niece was not allowed to eat eggs from about age 1 or 2 to age 7.  And she's supposed to eat what everyone else is eating?  Toddlers need different amounts of sleep, but they should all be disciplined enough to be expected to sleep from exactly 1-3 every day, even if they're young enough that they still need 2 naps?  We have largely revamped our eating habits, utilizing organic produce as much as possible, limiting fats & sugars, incorporating whole grains, etc., yet my child is expected to eat pretzels and drink some concoction that is 10% juice for snacks because it's cheap and kids like it?  We eat fruit or yogurt for snacks and juice is very limited and never a "juice cocktail" let alone fruit punch. 

I realize while I'm writing this that it comes across very snobbish and wholier-than-thou.  But it's something that is inherently important to us, and it bothers me that people whom I'm entrusting to provide a healthy environment for my child for several hours, M-F are saying "We know better than you what your child needs and what is best for them.  Don't be a parent to your child between the hours of 8-5."  I get it that it can likely be something of a headache if different parents have different expectations for their child, but they also get paid a whole lot.  I feel like a parent should have some latitude with controlling the needs of their child within reason. Parents and day care providers really can work together rather than on separate planes. 

I get it that if my kid doesn't eat the pretzels and fruit punch in favor of strawberries and water that there's some level of "I'm different from you" going on, but honestly, is that such a problem?  Kids are different; why force them into sameness through things like what they eat?  And, I abhor the thought of my kid being fed gross processed foods because they are cheap, easy, and largely lacking nutrients in favor of unnecessary fats.  I provide the food for my kid, so how is that a problem?  I refuse to be ashamed of being that kind of parent.   

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


As I'm sure that we all do, once in a while I find myself in a weird mental place.  It's not deja vu exactly, but more like a feeling that something is just OFF from the norm.  Seven years removed from college, I still feel mightily connected to that place, and a few weeks ago, a quick stop in town (at the Subway nonetheless) brought on that surreal feeling. 

Our wanderings in the summer take us directly through that little town often, and we have always had family and/or a friend who lives there that have drawn us back to our old stomping grounds.  The church where we were married is right on the main highway that we travel, and it's hard not to feel nostalgic driving by on a sunny day.  The campus is small and just a quick detour off of the main road.  My first apartment is just across the street from campus so that if you drive by one, you drive by both.  Also, I continued to play for the college orchestra for 2 years after I graduated.  And, if you skim through my Facebook friends list, the predominant group is made up of college friends and with whom professors I still keep in touch.  In short, I still have a lot of ties to that place, and all of them are centered around me as a not yet married early 20-something English major who spent a lot of time in the music department and Admissions office.  Therefore, escorting a bubbly 3-year old and sleepy infant out of the local Subway (where, again, I formed some GOOD TIMES memories--did you know that sometimes you can buy just the bread if a random Subway bread hankering hits during a game of euchre on a cold and rainy day?) just didn't seem quite right.

Shlepping my kids around any other Subway in the continental United States is perfectly natural in my mind.  It's one of Abby's go-to spots when given the dinner choice (she knows the places that deliver the chocolate milk).  And it's a relatively cheap way to feed everyone when you're on the road during a meal time.  But working the maternal angle at the Subway in North Manchester, now that's not quite the same.  It's not the way that it's always been.  It's weird, unnatural.  Surreal.     

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Color me caramel

I don't have a lot of solitary "me" time nowadays, so showers have become some valuable think time lately.  You want to know what I think about, right??  Caramel. 

I'm not kidding.  Really.  For whatever reason, I dwell a lot on caramel things.  Actually, I think I know why; every day involves me thinking about if I can justify some luxurious little treat.  Starbucks day?  A quick trip to Dunkin' Donuts?  And, there's always the flavor of the day at Culvers to consider.  Here's my secret: THIS is my reason for my love-o-the caramel. 

Salted double caramel pecan.  I do love me some of that creamy, freezy delish-ness. 

I think that there were other things to write about, things that had slightly more validity than writing about caramel ad naseum.  But I'm not in the shower right now (trust you me), so my ME time thought process isn't with me at the moment.  And unfortunately, I've just increased my current caramel craving, which is never at 0.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Why is Austen still around?

A friend of mine challenged me with some questions pertaining to the end of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen a few weeks ago.  In hindsight, I realized that it's been probably 10 years since I've read that one.  This sounded like a well-timed challenge to read it again!  (I'm sure I've written this before, but surely it bears repeating: having a newborn is truly wonderful in that it affords me a crazy amount of pure, unadulterated reading time.  It's fab!!)  So I did, and then (not at all apologetically) responded to her questions with a message about 10 times as long as the one she sent me that went off on a tangent at one point about what literary "ism" Austen is truly a part of.  Trivia question--does anyone know?

And, prior to sending me these questions about a true Austen work, the same friend had also recommended that I read Austenland by Shannon Hale, a current piece of fiction wherein the protagonist ends up going on an expenses-paid 3-week trip to "Austenland" where actors are hired to portray period characters, everyone dresses in Regency clothing, and specific rules of decorum are not only expected but required.  That protagonist is venturing there after a lifetime of romantic flops to figure out her obsession with Mr. Darcy/figure out what the problem is with her love life.  But while reading both this as well as Northanger Abbey for the past couple of days, I started to wonder again about why Jane Austen's works are so enduring that we continue to get all sorts of weird (and sometimes good) adaptations and spin-offs of her original works.  Why do we still read them, too? 

There are numerous books that are written as "sequels" to Pride and Prejudice by various authors.  There are multiple movie adaptations of all of Austen's most well-loved texts.  There's a Jane Austen society (probably a festival, too).  Austen herself (undoubtedly) even makes updates on my Facebook page.  So does Charles Dickens...a post for another day!  What's all this about? 

I don't know other than she's a) a genius of her time and b) just wrote romantic (not Romantic, mind you) commentaries on genteel British life that just hadn't been done before.  Any other ideas? 

Whatever the case may be, it's good stuff.

Monday, June 18, 2012


How to title this post?  "Things are different now"?  "Starting over again"?  or maybe "The hard work is over...yet it's just beginning"? 

How does one introduce the little bean?  It was a long, not at all arduous but rather monotonous day, but Audrey Harper finally joined us on Sunday, June 10th in the late afternoon to general expressions of delight and surprise as she weighed in a little over 9 lbs. (a bit bigger than both doctors predicted).  But in all honesty, and as a nice older lady at church pointed out and affirmed to me of her own volition, she doesn't look like a 9 lb. baby.  I agree. 

After getting to know her for a week now, I'd say that her delivery was much like her personality has been--relatively calm and relaxed with a lot of quiet time.  This bright eyed little girl demands little and is ever so content to just watch and look around her for a great amount of her awake time.  She falls asleep on her own pretty well, especially at night (what what??)  At least once a day, we've talked about what a refreshing change of pace she's been in comparison to what we remember about Abby, who had her fair share of inexplicable crying from the get-go. 

And speaking of #1 daughter, she's been in love with "my baby sister" from the first moment of seeing her--too adorable!  And, it has been a big sigh of relief to see how she's reacting and adjusting to this change of life that she didn't ask for and must choose to endure or embrace.  Thus far, she's totally embraced her new older sister status and dotes on Audrey a lot throughout the day.  And, she's quite the helper now with (so far) no complaints.  We're really trying to praise her compliance and play up her maturity; maybe it's working?  Audrey's birth, like Abby's, was timed fabulously at the beginning of the summer, so we're both home full-time through this big adjustment period, and that also means that right now, Abby has daddy home with her all of the time.  Our daughter is IN LOVE with her daddy, 100%.  He's the one that she usually calls for in the middle of the night if she happens to wake up for anything; he is the one that she demands comfort from at a doctor's office; and he is the one that she wants to do almost everything with.  So as far as the family dynamics go, it hasn't been as much of an upheaval for her having a new baby around because that simply "forces" her to be with daddy.  What a sacrifice! 

It is well with our household.  And that has been a blessing for which we've been thankful all week long.  And today, Ben and I celebrated our 7th anniversary in the quietest, most low-key fashion yet.  But in my head (as seems to happen every year), I've been replaying all sorts of sweet moments from our wedding day on some kind of random montage.  I came across our wedding album a couple of days ago (we have a good portion of our house packed up right now due to the non-moving that is taking place, so when I say "came across," it really is as random as it sounds) and had a moment to myself to look through it.  As inevitably happens now, I look at my favorite pictures of us and think a) how young we looked and b) wow, a lot has happened in the last 2557 days!  A lot has (rightfully so) happened to that innocent, fresh-out-of-college couple who had no clue about anything that was to come.  Somehow in these last 7 years, we've definitely transformed into adults, too.  And that, I think, is about the only thing that I envy that couple in my pictures. 

I remember what a clear state of mind we had on our honeymoon, how that summer was a blur of low stress days.  Since then, car loans, a mortgage, another degree, several jobs, retirement considerations, vacations, and 2 children have all combined to make every decision one that impacts a lot.  That, too often, is enough to get caught up in the "what's the right decision to make?" quagmire as if there is ever only one possibility that must be carefully realized.  Instead, there's a lot good happening for us, which I tend to ignore too often during the school year.  That's another reason why I'm ever so pleased that Audrey joined us in the summer; what better time for us to just chill out and enjoy this new little bundle with all of her little newborn expressions and stretches?  This post should definitely be titled as it is because there's just a lot of sweetness all around right now.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Sorting through boxes

In the past decade (oy vey, that's a loaded term!), I've realized that there are a few select events that happen in your life which inevitably demand organization and a re-evaluation of space, either mental or physical (or both).

1.  graduation
2.  marriage
3.  having a baby
4.  moving

I've participated in these 4 events a total of 9 times now, not including the perpetual flux of moving to and from college every school year.  We're in the midst of the biggest over-haul of our lives, and it's been a process that really began with our first baby and isn't over yet.  But it is noticeably pronounced seeing as how for the first time ever since we've had a 2-car garage, 6 years now, we are using 1/2 of our garage as storage.  That also puts some of the accumulation too much under my nose to ignore any further, and today, I took the time to sift through a very specific piece of the cardboard box jungle and freed up 2 totes that for much too long stored nothing but artifacts of my high school and college lives. 

When you're doing this sort of historical sifting and you're alone with your thoughts, not even any music to distract you, I think that you're forced to really address issues of keep/recycle/donate/throw away that you've kept putting off for ... a decade.  I'm pushing 30, waiting any day now to welcome the last addition to our small family, waiting semi-impatiently to have someone fall in love with our little cottage so that we can move firmly into the middle-class strata, and a lot of these keepsakes and memories are just not necessary to me any longer.  I've come across these often during these past 11 years, but I've always pulled a Scarlett O'Hara move, pushing the collection of stuff aside to "think about tomorrow," which before today has never come.  Today was it.  No more pussy-footing around the issue.  I'm tired of ignoring it, and what I realized is because of the time that has lapsed, I'm ready to get rid of what was inherently important to me before.  With that mindset, I found myself barely glancing at pictures before thinking "Eh, blurry..." or "Why would I even want to keep that shot?  You can't see anyone's faces in it."  I felt cold and a little calculating, impartially tossing aside dozens of point-and-shoot pictures that, honestly, were pretty badly taken. 

I still kept some pictures.  Enough. 

I found myself with the mindset of "Would my daughters care about _________ if they're looking through this in 20 years?" and "I want to keep this just so that I can show my kids."  And if the special memory that I was tangibly holding didn't qualify in either of those categories, if it was something that was important to me at one moment in my life but no longer and, frankly, who would care anyway? then off it went to the allotted pile. 

And it felt good. 

I'm definitely of the mindset now that if I'm going to accumulate more stuff, then I want it to be purposeful.  I'm not into random decorations with no purpose, for example.  I'm fairly annoying for this purpose when shopping because it's a battle in my mind: "Yeah, I like it now, but really, is it just going to take up space?  What's the point of owning this?  Will it really matter to me?"  Any time a gift-giving moment comes around on the calendar, my requests are inevitably the same now: gift cards.  For food, massages, pedicures, something expendable that won't wind up in the drawer of my nightstand. 

With that being said, I also think that the accumulation of stuff kinda has a bad rap.  If someone were to look in my garage right now, they might think, "Wow, that's just a lot of stuff."  But, really, that pile also includes that which I just went through this afternoon.  Some things you just don't throw away; you wait until your kids do it for you when they're sorting out your estate!  I'm never going to throw away my high school diploma, no matter how often I come across it in a box labeled "Amy's high school stuff" and think "Ugh, I still have this hanging around?"  Some things are just here to stay.  As long as we're able and willing to recognize the difference between that which should be stored and that which is immaterial, what does it matter?  I'll take along that cardboard box with me through the aforementioned 4 significant, stuff-shifting events through my forever.  And when that box gets pitched someday, that will be okay because it will have served it's purpose and someone else's little cardboard box will need to take it's place. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Non-fiction (and a stream of music)

I'm going to take a break from the strain of writing that has been coming out lately--i.e. not much about kids or kid-like matters!  Now there's a novel approach...!

Instead, it's the epitome of the type of morning that I thoroughly enjoy.  Beautiful sunny weather.  Cool, not humid with the windows/doors open.  Quiet.  Some music (I do love me some Pandora--Bruce Springsteen to kick off the day anyone?).  A place to spew forth ideas.  Keurig coffee maker.  And 2 books that are competing for my attention.  I haven't read a book simply for pleasure since Spring Break, about 2 months ago.  This has to be one of the heights of irony for the majority of English teachers; aren't we the ones who are supposed to crave reading?  Not many of us actually do much of it, I think.  Pity!

(Now it's Taylor Swift, one of my secret likes in Music!)

But the focus of this morning's posting: non-fiction.  (By the way, has anyone ever noticed that I utilize the spectrum of punctuation marks?  They're an absolute necessity, I've come to realize, to convey my stream of thought.  It's too bad they're so thoroughly abused by general writing because they actually take some thought about how to be used correctly.  Believe me; I have student writing samples to prove it.) 

(Today is heavy on the parenthetical thoughts, apparently.  We're up to Colbie Caillat now.  It took me an entire song to write that previous paragraph, which, look at it--1 sentence and some rambling.  If I were my teacher, wouldn't I object to that as a paragraph?  Absolutely not!  It's all about the tone and focus of the writing.  It works for me here, right?)

Digression aside, non-fiction.  I was talking to the spouse this morning (I'm enjoying this ability to have real adult conversations right now before the next bean comes and puts the kibosh on that for a while again.) about how I've come to realize that I often find myself reaching for non-fiction, editorial writing rather than fiction anymore.  That last book that I read prior to this week, the Spring Break one?  Non-fiction and fantastic--The Soloist by Steve Lopez.  I'm a definite fan of Anne Lamott and her writing about writing.  (Keith Urban now, a good one.  Am I the only one who finds him an odd coupling with Nicole Kidman?)  In fact, one of the first things that attracted me to the church we're members at when we first began attending nearly 7 years ago was that the pastor oft quoted Anne Lamott.  Granted, I was probably the only one in the congregation who understood who she was, and granted that pastor is no longer with our congregation, but still it was like some divine sign: "You belong here!"  My favorite part to read in the Indy Star besides the Food section on Fridays (and it seems like whenever our paper isn't delivered, which happens once in a while, it's Fridays...spite) is the sports columnist, Bob Kravitz.  Seriously, I even read this guy when he talks about open-wheel racing and the Pacers, neither of which I really follow.  But it makes for good Jeopardy information should there ever be a topic solely dedicated to "Sports closely tied to Central Indiana." 

I enjoy the slightly sarcastic, snarky, tongue-in-cheek, subtle intelligence humor that non-fiction editorial writing brings to the table.  You know how when you're a kid, you often go for kid's food choices (probably because adults think that kids only want certain things...seriously, my kid loves her veggie burgers and roasted broccoli and has never had a hot dog in her life) but discover that this kind of food, while sometimes satisfying is actually not that nourishing for you?  (Carly Rae Jepson...I think we're going to skip her.  Stupid advertisement, the only downfall of Pandora.  At least they're short.  Coldplay.  Satisfying!)  I shun Aunt Jemima in favor of real, grade-A maple syrup now.  Yeah, the good stuff is pricey, but it also actually has some good anti-oxidant properties to it.  I'm willing to pay a little more to savor a good hunk of parmigiano-reggiano rather than solely relying on the green plastic cylinder of Kraft parmesan, though that has a place in my fridge as well.  Likewise, if I'm going to be able to enjoy something to read just for fun, I'm going to make those time calories count and spend my precious minute allotment on the good stuff.  It might require a little more thinking (you know, it costs more), but that's just worth it for me right now. 

I sat through 2 graduation ceremonies in the last week, and one of the speakers referenced Anna Quindlen, whose name I'd heard of but whose writing I'd never approached before.  Fast-forward one day to a trip to the library with the intent of actually getting something for me to read rather than just loading up my card with Curious George and Rainbow Fish books.  When you're out of practice looking for books to read just because, I find that it's actually something of a daunting task that takes a bit of time to do, one that I can't do while also watching and controlling a 3-year old.  (Death Cab for Cutie--a group that I only listen to on Pandora but has it's moments of okay-ness.)  Since I had the spouse with me as well, we were able to tag-team and each take some time for our own personal browsing.  I quickly came across a new Anna Quindlen memoir in the new book/2-week check-out section, so hey, why not?  She used to write a column for the New York Times, and this is just a collection of thoughts strung together that seems to basically be about being a woman.  Granted, she's quite a bit older than me, which translates to "roughly my mom's age," but this one seemed to have some promise with things that appealed to me.  If nothing else, it's short and should be a quick read.  I'm only about 37 pages in to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, but so far so good.  The promise of some good editorial writing are being upheld.  I don't find her style as clear as I'd like all of the time, and her vocabulary has twice challenged me (ergo, not a read that the average person is likely to enjoy...heaven forbid someone draws on the vast wealth of the English language and use words that aren't always "easy" and "good").  I like it.  I recommend it.  I don't always agree with it but really only in a mildly challenging kind of way, like "You've lived longer, so I'll take your word for it, but I don't really find myself in the same stereotype that you're proposing I should be in at this point in my life" kind of way.  But most of the time, yep, agreed.  There is something to be said for one day finding waking up (Oasis, but again, one of the only good ones that hasn't been over-played ad nauseum) and finding that you're at the place in your life where you have lots of cake because you have lots of candles.  Good things happen as we age, too!  And I also like the general tone of her memoir that essentially focuses, at least so far, on the positives of this aging process for women rather than regrets and longing for youth.  Frankly, there are lots of things that I'm looking forward to having someday that will only happen with aging--enjoying sleeping in on a weekend morning; leisurely drinking some coffee while reading the paper without having the play short order cook with cereal and fried eggs (guess what the tyke had this morning for breakfast?); spending more mornings like this, looking to downsize to a cute, cottage-y style house rather than upgrading to a house twice the size of what we currently have; going on a date with the boy without working around a babysitting schedule.  (U2--more often enjoyed than not)  But there are also career things that I'm looking to be done with at the point in my life when the previously mentioned list will also likely be in place: not being a slave to homework on weekends; not having to constantly make up new lesson plans because my schedule will be stable; having experience with lots of things. 

And now a quick shout-out to the other book that is drawing me in, one that I'm undoubtedly going to open up as soon as I get off of this technological beastie.  (Daughtry, usually not, but I don't feel like changing it right now since, like Oasis, it's not an over-played one right now.)  Gone with the Wind!  I haven't worked my way through this one for at least 10 years, probably closer to 12 or 13.  If you look back at the decade I've just gone through, that makes sense.  It takes some time dedication to attack a 1,000 page book just because, and strangely enough, I feel like I have some of that right now what with late-night feedings and baby cuddling coming up.  Three summers ago was the absolutely best stretch of pleasure reading that I've had in my 20s.  I'm hoping that I get back to some of that this summer, though it will undoubtedly be different now that we have the toddler, too.  (Wow, Daughtry was short.  Lifehouse now.  Yep, a keeper in my playlist.)  My goal whenever I read GwtW is to average 100 pages a day and work through the book in a respectable amount of time, a week and a half.  This is probably my 4th time reading this one, and this strategy worked for me in the past, but given that I haven't read this since I think I was in my late teens, there's a definite difference between "then" and the reality of "now."  But still, 2 days in and I've kept to my pace.  With little bean due any day, this undoubtedly will not continue, but I'm enjoying what it is right now.  And, it's a LOT of fun for me to read this one right now after going through an undergrad and graduate degree with a focus in literature; I very much enjoy the thought process behind unpacking a worthy text.  Now that I'm done with literature classes (hopefully not forever, but definitely for the foreseeable future), I'm not sure how well my skills will last, like language retention.  (Fuel, nope.  Skip.  Another dumb advertisement, argh.  OneRepublic.  Okay, now that works.)  But I'm reading through Margaret Mitchell's (only) classic, and I'm making all sorts of cool connections, which undoubtedly aren't that original, but are more depth-tual than surface reading, which to me, the literaturist, is all about what "good reading" is.  It does help that I know the story, so I see some of the cool things that Mitchell is doing in her work--Tara really mimics Scarlett in a lot of ways, the irony of how Scarlett thinks and acts at the beginning, her fixation on Ashley as doomed from the beginning, the thematic textuality of Ashley's letters and thoughts about war and the South, and so on.  Good stuff!  Satisfying, beautifully orchestrated and richly described, vivid and inter-connected.  All that a good read should be in "me own mind" (copping a bit of Gerald O'Hara's Irish brogue). 

On on that thought, I'll end this with Etta James and "At Last."  This post is dedicated to my students of years gone by who have asked me about what kind of music I listen to; you tell me.  How would you describe this mix of randomness?  I listen to what I like and I read what I like.  Sometimes, I even listen to what I like while I read what I like to read.  It's a decadent pleasure that I don't allow myself nearly often enough.