Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bits

I am exhausted. I am having a bad hair day. These two things are not related, however, because I was having a bad hair day, I pulled all of it into a ponytail and now I have remembered why long hair feels incompatible with being a grown-ass woman to me. The combination of being exhausted and wearing a ponytail feels to me like I'm walking around just having given up. Like, why even try to do a good job because it is obvious to all who see me that I have given up on life?

Please note: This is not what I think of other women walking around in ponytails. You look cute! And even on myself, I know, logically, that the ponytail doesn't look bad.

I just FEEL disheveled. I feel like I've given up and should just crawl back into bad. Or maybe that's what I want to do. Whatever. I'm exhausted.  

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This morning, Beastie crawled into bed with me to snuggle. (Mike was out running, of course.) After a few minutes, Beastie informed me that "Koala" (he's been pretending to be a koala a lot, "eating" the leaves on our rugs) really likes to have his back rubbed. Really, really. So I rubbed his back.

"Momma, I'm going to marry you," he whispered.

I explained that wasn't possible, though I loved him an awful lot. He thought.

"I guess I'll marry my college friend what is a girl."

That kid. He never forgets a story.

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The boys and I are headed to Ohio tomorrow night for a long weekend to meet my nephew, Dell, who is at maximum newborn squishability. As an added bonus, my niece is hitting the 18-month mark and has enough hair to sport pigtails on a regular basis. I'm so excited to squish them both. The boys are excited to play with their older cousins and be spoiled by their grandparents.

"Spoiled means you love someone so much you give them lots of candy and junk food and other things what are good," Beastie explained the other night.

My sister plans to bring a tent over to my mom and dad's so, I hope, the boys can camp out. We're planning on pie-iron pizzas and s'mores. I want the boys to chase lightning bugs. We don't have them in Florida, and though they've seen them in Ohio before, the boys didn't remember what fireflies were. They both laughed when I explained they were bugs with butts that lit up.

---

The boys also are planning on tricking Papaw into saying "underwear."

(You know that old joke. "What's that under there?" "Under where?" "Ha! I made you say underwear!" They've been doing it to me nonstop and I let them. The Boy I asked me why the other day, and I explained I just love to hear them laugh.)

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We've been watching Turn, an AMC show about spies in the Revolutionary War. It's good, not great, but solid. I'd recommend it.

---

I just read Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi and highly recommend it. It's a retelling -- a very loose one -- of Snow White and has lots to say about race and beauty and gender and family. I'm still thinking about it. And, too, it's definitely a "literary" read, but isn't overblown or overlong and felt really accessible. Best book I've read in months.

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What's up with you?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not cool, indeed

The boys were in rare form this morning -- not bad, just ornery. I couldn't fall back asleep after Mike went to run around 4 a.m., so I was sluggish. After breakfast, Mike and I had to practically herd them into the bedroom to get dressed. Beastie finished first and I had to point him in the direction of his bedroom at least half a dozen times, which is why neither of us immediately responded when he bellowed.

"MOMMA! DADDY! You have GOT to see this."

...

"MOMMA! DADDY!"

"Get dressed, Beastie!"

"Something happened."

"Get dressed."

"MOMMA! You HAVE TO SEE this. It's like my sleeping pants exploded."

I will admit a certain curiosity at this point, however, Beastie has a habit of shooting his pull-ups into the trash like a basketball. "He just tosses them around," I told Mike.

To Beastie: "I'm not looking at anything until you get dressed."

"This is not cool."

This is when I knew something truly not good had happened. Beastie loves mischief. For something to be "not cool" it would have to be really awful. I went to the bedroom.

The sleeping pants had, indeed, exploded. If you've never seen the inside of a used diaper, it's kind of like little crystals of pee. There were clumps on his blanket, scattered across the carpet and stuck to the dresser and walls.

"You were twirling them around your head weren't you?"

Beastie, still naked, nodded and buried his head in my thigh. "I'm sorry, Momma."

And that is how I found myself cleaning up crystalized diaper pee with the help of a naked Beastie at 7 a.m. while my coffee grew cold. It was not cool.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The boys' California

Consider this fair warning: This post contains a crapload of vacation pictures.

But before we get to that, a little story:

When we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge out of the city, all of us were in awe. But then we drove back over it, starting our way south down the Pacific Coast Highway after a morning in Muir Woods.

We saw redwoods.

Heading south, I still was craning my neck to see the top of the bridge. The boys, however, were over it, clamoring for screens, asking obnoxious questions and just generally not appreciating anything, let alone this major landmark it had taken me three decades to see. I snapped, they continued to whine, I really snapped. "Fine, just be ungrateful jerks!"

It was not my finest parenting moment.

Weekend camping trips are some of the most sun-filled, happy memories I have of growing up. And they were amazing times. But if I'm being honest and remembering those weekends as a kid, I realize I was an ungrateful little jerk. I whined because it was a new campground. I whined because it was an old campground. I whined because I had to help pack. I whined because I was a kid.

I realized I should maybe cut my kiddos some slack. After I fixed my attitude, our trip -- minus some really horrific behavior in truly awful traffic through L.A. -- was fantastic.

We packed a lot into this trip, so I've been having a hard time figuring out where to start telling about it -- or maybe even if I should. Are vacation stories boring? But then I overheard the boys telling about their trip and the answer was obvious: I'd give you their highlights.

The Boy's first glimpse of California. He's been waiting to see it for four years. 


SAN FRANCISCO PARKS
We tried to do all the things you're supposed to in San Francisco. We went over the Golden Gate, of course. We saw the seal lions at Pier 39. We rode the cable car.


We saw the crookedest street in the country, Lombard Street. (This is at the top.)


We went up Coit Tower to see the view, which was almost as lovely as the WPA murals at the bottom.


But it was San Francisco's parks that really captured the boys' attention. We all loved the children's playground and carousel at Golden Gate Park. Beastie rode a sea dragon twice. The Boy found kids for a pick-up game of baseball. But the place they still are talking about was a little neighborhood park we happened on after the cable car: Joe DiMaggio Park. We all needed a rest when The Boy spied the sign, and Beastie has been enamored of Joe DiMaggio since he wore his number this last baseball season. It was fantastic little respite in the middle of our explorations.



And then, of course, there was the park we had flown across the country to see: AT&T Park. We saw the Reds beat the Giants during an exceptionally sunny afternoon game. I'm not sure I've ever been to a baseball field in such a spectacularly pretty setting.


MAGNOLIA
This restaurant a block off Haight & Ashbury deserves its own entry. It serves locally sourced food and makes its own craft beer. "It has the best chicken fingers I've had in my life," The Boy raved to his Granny.

The beer was equally good, but the desserts really stole the show. The Boy had an apple turnover with ice cream and caramel sauce. Beastie had homemade Oreos sprinkled with sea salt and accompanied by a warm cup of cream to dip them in.

The Boy keeps trying to plan a trip that includes a return visit to Magnolia. I don't blame him.




CAMBRIA and BIG SUR
We drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to San Diego and it was as breathtaking a drive as everyone promised. Our stopping point bothcoming and going was a little town called Cambria, which we all fell in love with. The boys were less taken with the views along the way than they were with Cambria, the restaurant there where we ate -- Linn's, have the ollalieberry pie! -- the indoor pool at Hearst Castle, just a few minutes down the road from Cambria, and the animals we saw along the Central Coast beaches, harbor seals and elephant seals. Beastie laughed for five minutes when he first saw the elephant seals and still is talking about them.


Before we got to Cambria, we stopped for a hike in Big Sur. It was a hot, dusty hour, and the boys weren't always cheerful during it. But since we've gotten home, they keep telling people about it. "We hiked up a mountain! We saw a waterfall!"


SAN DIEGO
Driving to San Diego was ... not as much fun as the northern part of our trip. LA traffic is just as awful as everyone says, and we made some poor decisions that put us in the worst of it at rush hour. One good decision we made was eating at In-N-Out. The boys liked the stickers better than their food, but still, a good stop.


Once we got there, we all were smitten by San Diego -- such a friendly, sunny city. The boys and Mike toured the USS Midway, which has been making shower time easier since our return. They keep wanting to take Navy showers: 2 minutes or less. We saw the Reds play there, too, and Petco Park was fantastic. The Boy especially loved the little wiffle ball park behind the stadium.


After the game, we ate at a hole in the wall place -- really, a hole in the wall -- called Taco Express where I had the best Mexican food I've eaten since I studied in college on the Yucatan Peninsula. Even the boys loved it, declaring it "the best taco place ever!"

ERICA'S HOUSE
Staying at Erica's over July 4th was one of the best decisions we made on this trip. The boys still are talking about the dunk tank at the block party and want to play with Anna and her extensive collection of art supplies again. It was so good to see these ladies -- Erica, Susie and Miranda -- and watching our kids try to solve a mystery like the Scooby Doo gang, well, that was just fantastic. It was a lovely end to the trip.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Six

We have a habit as a family of piling into our bed before bedtime. We read. We play games. We watch TV. We chill out. The other night, the husband and I laughed hard about something. Loud and long. A good soul cleansing laugh.

Emery looked at us and said plainly, "I like when you laugh like that."

It was a good reminder from my almost 6-year-old that we need to do that more often.

This kid, who officially turns 6 today, surprises me each day with her observations. She argues regularly about what is fair and what is not and catches me off guard with her logic and reason.

An example:
Me to Emery: When did your legs get so long? You need to stop growing.
Emery, without missing a beat: You make me eat vegetables, which make me grow. Stop feeding me vegetables and I won't grow so much.


You have to give her credit for trying.

Also, in that category of nice try: I sent her to her room for not listening over the weekend. When I told her she could come out, she came down with a beaded necklace that she made while in her room. It said "I love you" with the O replaced with a heart. She handed it to me and hugged me. That kid is smooth.

When things are crazy - and they've been crazy a lot lately - she's there to help me out, reminding me to grab her sister's blanket for daycare or making sure I remembered my coffee. She tells me I look pretty when I get ready in the morning.

While she is still so little, she's a worrier. One night she came into my room concerned that she didn't know what 12+12 was. She said she should just stay in kindergarten and not move on to 1st grade. It was heartbreaking to hear her worry so. I had to pull out her grade card to show her that she got top marks in every category and that she is reading above grade level. It calmed her some. It also helped that I told her what 12+12 equals.

She likes to count the freckles on her face (she says there are at least 51 or 52.) She likes soccer. She can't get outside fast enough to play ninjas or house with the neighbor kids in the backyard. While she's been known to complain about her sister "antagonizing" her, she loves Maddie fiercely. And if she challenges you to a game of UNO, you better bring your A-game because that kid doesn't mess around.
 



Happy birthday, my love. And thanks for reminding me that it is good to laugh more.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Home

So we went to California and it was fantastic and exhausting, and now we're home and I have lots of pictures to show and stories to tell.

BUT.

I also have a really shitty head cold. Beastie had a cough at the beginning of the trip that we all managed to ward off despite close quarters and shared water bottles. But my immune system caved after Beastie coughed directly into my mouth, sending germs hurtling all over my tonsils, after the San Diego Padres game. Kids, man. I spent today doing all the laundry and running errands to get our lives back to running order -- and patting myself on the back for taking an extra day off to do so. I've been plotting an early bedtime since I woke up. I have breathe right strips, cold medicine and a full box of tissues. I have to get a good rest so I can tackle 12 days of email tomorrow. (Any bets on how many emails my inbox is up to?)

For now, I want to say thank you to Erica and her husband, Uri, who were nice enough to put us up for two days at the end of our California trip. They let us crash the most fantastic July 4 block party I've ever heard of -- pool games, a waterslide, a dunk tank, face painting, it was amazing -- and hosted a get-together so I also got to see Susie and Miranda and meet their children, which, I mean, meeting internet children always feels a to me like a cross between a celebrity sighting and seeing faraway relatives. Eliza and Damien, Hazel and Hayley are even cuter in person. It was so nice to be in a house, not a hotel, and the boys had a blast playing with Anna and Ethan. (We had treats from Thumbprints, and I highly recommend Maggie's bakery. I'm craving the chocolate crinkles, which are better than my aunt Karen's, a feat I didn't think possible.)

Erica's post about our visit was all about saying yes to the information, about how when people throw things out, you should say YES! because that's when life happens. And you know? It's true. I met Erica three years ago at The Blathering, and we had a great time together. She's a hoot -- I love her sense of humor and calm, get-shit-done attitude. She said then, "If you're ever in California ..." and I said the same, but you know, that's what you say. It's polite. I don't say it unless I mean it, but I also always wonder if other people really mean it. I hate to be a bother to people. I'm not shy, but I hate asking for favors. I am uncomfortable being beholden to someone for anything. So, the idea of staying with Erica was outside my comfort zone -- as was stopping by Jen's and Lisa's last year -- and yet, in both instances, the reality was completely comfortable. Better, it was delightful and filled with cute kids and good food and easy conversation.

In summary: Go visit your friends. (Sara and Pseudostoops, I'm already looking forward to Chicago!)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dinner Inspiration

Upfront disclosure: I received an advance copy of the new cookbook from Jenny Rosenstrach, Dinner, The Playbook, as well as a $50 Target gift card. I was asked to take pictures of meals, but not required to share more than that. This blog and the cookbooks that have come from it are just things I find useful. 

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I don't remember how I found Dinner: A Love Story, but it's been one of my favorite food blogs -- and really, just a major source of encouragement and inspiration -- for quite awhile. The whole point is to make family dinner a possibility DESPITE two working parents, DESPITE picky eaters, DESPITE crazy sports schedules, despite all the things that get in the way and make cooking, even for those of us who like to do it, feel like just too much on a weeknight.

Eating supper together as a family is important to me. It's a tradition I grew up with, and I really believe in the benefits. It's not that deep conversations happen every night. But the act of gathering together, using table manners, making chit-chat -- those are the things that add up to a decent human being, I think. Plus, Mike and I really like to cook. We make family dinners -- home cooked, for the most part -- a priority, and I've written before how we do it.

But it's not always easy, and simple, practical, delicious recipes like the ones I've found on Dinner: A Love Story are welcome. So, I read the blog and bought Jenny Rosenstrach's first cook book, also named Dinner: A Love Story, and for three years have had this bumper sticker on my fridge. 


Jenny chose 50 readers randomly (after we told her why we try to do family dinners and what our challenges are) to take a look at her new cookbook -- Dinner, The Playbook -- in advance of its August release. I was one of them, which is why my Instagram feed has been full of food pictures this week.

Braised pork with polenta



Chorizo and avocado tacos with cilantro-lime yogurt sauce



Quick sandwich slaw with turkey burgers


Much like the first book, this one is full of easy recipes that taste really great. There are weekly meal plans to help get you started. Jenny also offers encouragement and personal stories that show you how to keep dinner manageable, things like letting your kids customize their plates and shortcuts that will help you get supper on the table quickly. 

If you cook a lot, you're not going to learn any earth-shattering techniques or recipes. But you will feel like you have a really great friend in the kitchen with you, reminding you of the things you know but are too frazzled to remember. And if you're not entirely comfortable in the kitchen, this book will help you get there. In short, I'd recommend it. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More lessons I want to teach my children

When someone asks you to do something, try to do it before you tell them why it won't work (unless they are asking you to do something illegal or bad.)

Find a way to work with people. Everyone has their own way of getting something accomplished. Figure out how to get to your goal with different working styles.

If you get something you always wanted and realize it doesn't make you happy, don't be afraid to admit that. Don't be afraid to walk away. Don't be afraid to keep looking.

Relatedly, if you get some place where you thought you'd never, ever be but it makes you happy, embrace it.

A little navel gazing here and there isn't bad but don't take yourself too seriously. It's easy to get wrapped up in your own head analyzing past mistakes and moves. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

Learn to change with grace.

Don't beat yourself up for being unable to reason with unreasonable people. (Practical uses for this: Don't read online comments! Don't engage in Facebook arguments over politics/religion/breastfeeding/co-sleeping/etc.)

Related to that: The Internet is a wonderful and awful place. Try to stick to the wonderful and ignore the awful.

Remember that you aren't meant to be perfect. No one else is either. Be kind to yourself and others.


(Here is what I previously wrote about what I would like to teach my children - and others.)