Thursday, October 29, 2015

GUEST TBT to 1995: "I Want To Cry, But That Would Probably Hurt, Too."

Sure, sure, laughing at my middle school angst is all fine and good. But you know what's even better? Laughing at someone ELSE'S angst!

Hooray for guest posts!!

This yearbook pic is from before the incident discussed in today's throwback,
but it's hard not to hate her for being so pretty during a time in life that's
supposed to be reserved for looking awkward as hell.

I've known Melissa (the writer behind MichiforniaGirl) since our drama-filled tween days. And they were actually literally drama-filled, since we were both in theater. We even ended up in a SUPER EXCLUSIVE high school play together - super exclusive since there were only eight or so students in the cast, so, EXCLUSIVE!!1!!...even though probably only like a dozen kids auditioned. 

Everyone knows that we theater geeks have a knack for turning up the (melo)drama. See for yourself in this painful diary entry, excerpted from Melissa's awesome journal that was adorned with a picture of a (pensive) cat and meticulously labeled "Diary 15: February, '95 - March, '95." 

Our protagonist was thirteen when the following events took place:

March 7, 1995
PART 1 - Spacers
     Yesterday, I got my spacers on. Immediately after I got them on, they did not hurt at ALL. I was FINE. Afterward, Mom took me out for pizza -- no problem.
     Then I woke up this morning and I was like, "Shit!" I couldn't even close my back teeth together. I still can't! I ate virtually NO breakfast, which totally sucked, since I was soooo hungry. I DID take Tylenol, though. After that wore off, I found out just how limited my mouth options were...I couldn't swallow, talk, or God FORBID -- chew -- without a searing pain shooting through my mouth. At lunch, I took half the lunch I usually take, and was able to EAT half of THAT. It took me 15 minutes (NO EXAGGERATION) to eat one fruit-roll-up! I took tiny bites of my sandwich, and was able only to suck them until they were small enough to swallow. Now my tongue is raw, my teeth KILL, and my poor tummy is basically empty.
     P.S. My teeth STILL hurt so much I can scarcely BREATHE. I cannot put my teeth together or even TOUCH certain teeth. And as for brushing, well, you can just about forget about it. And chewing! Oh, how I long to bite down -- hard -- on a pretzel or chip ladened with gooey cheese.
     P.P.S. It's so contradictory -- the orthodontist said to eat soft foods -- but not to eat GOOEY, chewy foods, either. Aaaaaaa! I want to cry, but that would probably hurt, too.

Doesn't this transport you right back to the day after you got your braces on?! And every time you got them tightened? My teeth totally hurt just thinking about it. (Or should I say, they TOTALLY HURT just thinking about it.) Can I just recap my favorite lines from this entry?

:: "...I found out just how limited my mouth options were..." Your mouth options?!
:: "It took me 15 minutes to eat one fruit-roll-up!" The horror.
:: "...my poor tummy is basically empty." Your poor, poor tummy, Melissa.
:: "Oh, how I long to bite down -- hard -- on a pretzel or chip ladened with gooey cheese." Hashtag teenage longing, hashtag teen sorrows, hashtag first-world problems. 
:: "I want to cry, but that would probably hurt, too." This line could've been lifted straight out of my own purple journal. It just...really encapsulates the overall experience of teen angst, doesn't it? Too funny!

...BUT WAIT! That's not all!! Much like the relentless agony of orthodontia, the hilarity doesn't end there:

March 10, 1995
PART II - Braces
     Some Friday. Yuck. Getting my braces on was the worst thing I've ever had to endure in my LIFE. A couple hours? Um, no. More like 4 hours, no joke.
     Getting my brackets on weren't so bad. The worst part about that was the taste of the adhesive. Yuck!
     Then came the metal bands. They're kind of like spacers, but they're metal (duh) not rubber. I got four of them -- but not before an hour and 45 minutes of grueling pain. They'd shove one band onto a tooth; pinch it, hack at it, press it, pick it, PUSH it, scrape it, and basically kill it. The whole procedure of fitting one band took approximately 7 minutes -- only for the orthodontist to check his work with a mirror, say, "Oh, this one doesn't fit," rip it out, and start ALL OVER again.
     At dinnertime, they didn't hurt just yet, but I felt like I was eating with rocks on each of my teeth. The brackets kept banging together when I chewed -- so I just gave up and had soup.
     Now, I look in the mirror and see an ugly, unattractive girl with swollen lips and silver teeth. Yuck. I hope that technology advances quite a bit by the next generation so my children don't have to go through this.
     Love and Hugs,

I'm not gonna lie, that spot-on description of getting braces put on made my mouth ache in remembrance. Solidarity, Teenage Melissa. My favorite line in Part II, though, is when she says, "I hope that technology advances quite a bit by the next generation so my children don't have to go through this."

Amen to that, Brace-Face. Thank you, Melissa, for being brave enough to share your pain with us.


Happy Thursday! For more ridiculous adventures in angst, check out the previous Throwbacks to Hell:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

basically some half-assed pumpkin projects.

I had some pretty sweet project ideas for this month. I mean, come on. I'm home every day with a project-hungry toddler! It's October! Halloween! Pumpkin spice lattes! Pumpkin spice bread! Pumpkin spice leggings!!!

But, you know. Life. (Also I just started watching the Walking Dead series, soooo there goes all my free time.) It's the last week of October, and I've only done about half the projects I thought of, and in an extremely half-assed manner.

Behold, my half-assery:

:: Project reality: The "pumpkin patch" at Kroger, where the pumpkins were already picked over and starting to rot. Buy one, get one free...even if that one to Rowan's left looks straight-up like a pumpkin version of a Walker.

She picked the tiniest one she saw and fell madly in love with it.

:: Project reality: Toddler swipes at a pumpkin with a washcloth, then dumps the water out on the driveway and splashes in it. Whatever; I'm still mostly in shock that it was warm enough in late October for outdoor water play.

A quick scrub of the tiny pumpkin, and then...
..."I goin' to da market, Mama." The market?!
Oh, well.

:: Project reality: Five seconds of scribbling. I used to do this project with my preschoolers, and they would spend huge chunks of time coloring the pumpkins with washable markers, wiping them clean with paper towels, coloring again, washing again, etc. Rowan lasted a few minutes, tops. Maybe we'll try again sometime - and probably inside. Lately, whenever we're outside, all Rowan wants to do is ride her bike.

:: Project reality: Nope. This one just plain didn't happen. She painted a (papier-maché) pumpkin at Grandma's house awhile back and had a blast (as evidenced below). I thought she'd love painting the small, slightly-rotted-but-beloved pumpkin she chose from the Kroger pumpkin patch, and that painting would be a more developmentally appropriate way to decorate her pumpkin than giving her a knife and letting her go nuts. I even planned to tape off patterns on the pumpkin with painter's tape to make it look extra awesome. And it probably would've been awesome...if I'd ever gotten around to getting the paint out. Ah, well. At least she had fun painting with Grandma!

:: Project reality: Accidentally outsourced this project to my mom group. Some mamas set up a pumpkin-decorating station at one of our recent get-togethers, and I was like, sweet! Decorating a pumpkin with craft supplies: check. Rowan worked very seriously for a long time on hers. 

:: Project reality: At least we actually did do this...just half-assedly. I found the idea on Young House Love - use Mod Podge and tissue paper circles to decorate a pumpkin; perfect for toddler-sized hands - but I underestimated the importance of picking a white pumpkin (to help the tissue paper circles stand out). Also, I haven't quite gotten around to covering the finished product with a final layer of Mod Podge. Eh. Process, not product, right? This kept Rowan busy for almost an hour, and she seriously loved it.

:: Project reality: Yeah...I forgot that I purchased fifty-cent Halloween cookie cutters awhile ago, and so I never made any cookies. We did make some pumpkin spice oatmeal cups, though, which were pretty damn good. The recipe is here; I recommend adding white chocolate chips, since a friend also made these and said they were too bland. Ours were tasty with the white chocolate chips.

:: Project reality: Heyyy, success! One whole-assed project per month ain't bad. Granted, this wasn't a project that involved Rowan. Maybe that's why I was able to offer up my entire ass, versus half of it. If you want to try it, it's not hard - on a scale of one to ten (one being the pumpkin washing project featured above, ten being owning and tending to your own pumpkin farm), it's, like, a three. I bought a $5 plank of wood and some string from Michaels, printed out a pumpkin template from Google, hammered in some nails, and wove the string around the nails. I'm pretty pleased with the final product, although it's still missing something...maybe some pumpkin patch vines around the base? Oh, and a place to hang it in my house. Oops.

So, there you have it. The jury's still out on whether we'll actually CARVE any pumpkins this year. Meh. I think I'll be too busy half-assing our Halloween costumes. Yay, October! Ushering in a holiday season of Pinterest fails for all!

(However, I am most certainly whole-assing my Walking Dead marathons. A hearty screw you to everyone who posted spoilers after this week's episode.)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

TBT to 1992: "What Am I Supposed To Use? Underwear On My Head?"

It's Thursday, which means...time for another Throwback to Hell! Let's revisit my middle school journal (previously featured here and here) and see what kind of melodramatic antics I was up to in 1992, shall we?

There was a SUPREME crisis in seventh grade when I couldn't figure out who wrote
"Great picture" in my yearbook. Was it a boy or girl?! Sarcastic or not?! omggggg!!
Also, please note that the half-perm was still in effect.
Just in case you were ever wondering what my birth order position is, I think this post will clear that right the hell up. I grew up with two older siblings (Stacy and Carrie) and two younger siblings (Mari and Steve), which put me right in the middle, with all the angst and melodrama that go along with being the middle child. And possessiveness, apparently, as evidenced by the repeated underlining of the word MY in this (unedited) entry, written when I was twelve years old:

December 5, 1992
     I am fed up with Mom. She's giving Steve my stuff. Like, awhile ago she gave Steve some of my books that I still read. She gave them to him without me even knowing! Just because he can read better than most 2nd-graders, she practically buys him bookstores. Just the other day I went in and asked Steve if I could borrow one of my books. That's crazy!
     Just now, Steve says that Mom gave Steve my earwarmer - the black one. What am I supposed to use? Underwear on my head? Mari says it's probably not even mine. But I know it is because the back is a little wider than the front, and that's like the one Steve's wearing. Mari and Steve practically resent me because I'm older. And Stacy and Carrie I can't really relate to because they always talk about stuff I don't understand. High school junk. And Mari and Steve want to play Legos or play karate or soccer or something. Can I help it if I don't really want to play Legos? I tried to once and they said to go away. I've done that while they play soccer, too. I'll ask them if I can play, and they'll say, "The teams'll be uneven." So I can't play. I have no place in this family. That's the only reason I hate summers. School is great now. The only reason I talk so much in school is because I can't even talk to anyone at home.

Aw. Poor little Cathy. Was anyone else - in my family or any family - this concerned with claiming possession of books and earwarmers?! I feel bad for my little seventh-grade self. It really did suck feeling so out of place among my siblings. And oh my god did I hate playing Legos. I tried to like them, I swear. If Rowan ever gets into them, that's all J.J. Oh, and yes, I used to get in massive trouble for talking so much in school - had my seat moved multiple times, earned the nickname "Chatty Cathy," even had a note sent home once (the pinnacle of punishment, in my sheltered, goody-goody world). But what CHOICE did I have? CLEARLY I couldn't talk to ANYONE at home.

And I know that effing earwarmer was mine.

Good lord.

Happy Throwback Thursday, friends.

Monday, October 19, 2015

here, there, everywhere, and triumphantly so.

:: This post contains affiliate links.

While my mom was sick, and definitely in the weeks immediately after she died, I found myself longing - for the first time in my life - for a system of faith and belief. I wanted desperately to have something bigger to pin my anger on, or something greater to comfort my fears, or something better to find hope in. I wanted to believe there was a reason for the horror I was witnessing, which was the decline and failure of flesh and blood, despite the spirit still burning within, despite our desire for her to stay.

I adhered, and diligently, to self-imposed limits on thinking during that time. (It helped that I was on overnight duty every third night, which meant I didn't sleep every third night, which meant my mental acuity dimmed significantly.) Instead of losing myself in a vortex of the afterlife possibilities - heaven? physics? rebirth? yes, yes, yes? - I lost myself in Netflix, grief, and depletion. And I never really let myself turn the switch back on to wonder: Where is she now? What is she now?

I have, however, groped for the feeling I've heard about, the feeling that your dearly departed loved one is nearby, watching over. I haven't felt it. I don't sense her presence when I'm happy or sad or missing her or grocery shopping. I sometimes wonder if funny ideas or turns of phrase or gorgeous sunsets are channeled through her, but then, there were humor, eloquence, and beauty before she died. I felt...nothing.

So I was taken aback when, this weekend, I stumbled on something that clicked (for now; for here). I followed my own birthday advice and bought Elizabeth Gilbert's newest book, Big Magic, and devoured half of it (along with some lentil-quinoa soup) while sitting in Panera Bread on my birthday afternoon. Gilbert's best known for Eat, Pray, Love, but Big Magic is different - less a memoir, more a treatise on creativity and the creative process. Based on the fact that I've dog-eared pretty much every other page, it's clearly resonating with me, but more along the lines of, "That's how it feels when I write, too!" versus "Maybe that's what my dead mom's soul is up to these days!"

But then, on page 91 of my copy, Gilbert quotes her friend: "...it's just my body that's temporary. So is yours. We're only here on earth for a short while...."

That word - temporary - just shivered through my (temporary) body and transported me, like, instantly to the memory of another quote, this time by the writer Aaron Freeman. He wrote a piece you may have seen a while back, "You Want A Physicist To Speak At Your Funeral." Read that link if you're not familiar with it; I'll wait.

...Are you back? Did you read it? It's so good, right? This is the line that fit so sweetly with Gilbert's friend's "temporary body" notion, the line I was transported to: "According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen."

And for the first time since my mom died, I had that feeling I'd been groping for. Not necessarily that my mom was right there, hand on my shoulder or feet on the floor, but that she was right there - and there - and there. Everywhere. 

You should know that I have this persistent habit of conjuring quotes and lyrics related to whatever's happening at the moment. My siblings and I do it ad nauseam, especially when we're together, to the point where Thanksgiving dinner devolves into a rapid exchange of related quotes from The Simpsons or Friends, and we're all cry-laughing while our significant others shake their heads at each other. (And then we cackle at them and chant, "One of us! One of us!" and high-five each other. We're a little...awesome exhausting.) Naturally, at the moment that I could imagine my mom there - and there - and there, Beatles lyrics popped into my head:

     I want her everywhere, and if she's beside me,
     I know I need never care
     But to love her is to need her everywhere,
     Knowing that love is to share
     Each one believing that love never dies
     Watching her eyes and hoping I'm always there.

And of course they were Beatles lyrics - the Beatles were my mom's favorite. "Here, There, And Everywhere." And that concept is so like my mom, the ultimate Everywhere-Mom, with eyes on the back of her head and ears all over our community and volunteering in all the classrooms at all the schools and knowing all our friends and their parents and keeping tabs on all of us, everywhere, and there, and here.

I'm not saying - it's not like I had some religious breakthrough (or scientific, for that matter) (ha, matter - no physics pun intended). It was just a moment in a day where I was still, and settled, and knowing, and believing. There my mom was, and there she is, and she is here, there, and everywhere, and she is gloriously, triumphantly done with the temporary.

Triumphant, to be done with the temporary.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

a week of vegetarian toddler dinners (from a mama who can't cook).

:: This post contains affiliate links.

I can't cook. Or, maybe I should say, I don't cook. I possibly could if I tried, but ehhh. I do lots of wonderful things, but cooking? Not my jam. J.J. knows how to throw together some decent recipes, and I'm proficient at a variety of pastas, salads, and sandwiches, but that's about it. 

I had no idea how this - my non-cooking - would play out once we had a kid. In the beginning, it was easy. (Actually, in the very beginning, feeding her was terrible...but I digress.) Once Rowan was about six months old and started eating table food, we were good to go. Easy purées, bits of fruits and veggies and whatever we were eating, my beloved pouches...and I didn't have to "cook" any of it! Great.

It's evolved pretty naturally since then, and I've found a good variety of healthy meals for her that require little to no cooking - and that are vegetarian. J.J. and I don't eat meat, and although I wouldn't be opposed to Rowan having some, I (a) never have it in on hand, and (b) don't know how to prepare it. Thankfully, Rowan is a good eater (...for now), and she gets good protein and vitamins from other sources, primarily beans, eggs, quinoa, dairy, greens, and fortified pastas.

Because I'm lazy, I don't know what she's eating for dinner most days until fifteen minutes before she eats, and then I whip something up for her. Oh, and although we usually eat breakfast and lunch together, we don't often eat dinner together as a family. Rowan's ready to eat by about 5:15, which is just too early for me - and J.J.'s not even home from work yet. So even though I sit and chat with her while she eats, she's dining solo, which means sometimes J.J. and I don't even eat the same meal as Rowan does for our dinners. I guess an upside of not cooking is that it's totally not a big deal if different family members want different meals!

Since I know I'm always curious about what other toddlers are eating (and always looking for new, easy, vegetarian, toddler-friendly ideas), I thought I'd record what Rowan eats every night for a week and share it here. These are pretty much our go-to meals, meaning there's not a lot of variety beyond what you see here, other than the occasional take-out. Since it's all healthy and well-received by my girl, it works for us! Enjoy. (And judge away at my utter laziness!)

Saturday: Broccoli Nuggets + Mexican Quinoa

J.J. had to work this past Saturday, and my mother-in-law (slash, frequent baby-sitter) had been out of town for two weeks, so Rowan and I were a little sick of each other - and out of activity ideas - by the time Saturday afternoon rolled around. I decided to have her help me make our new favorite recipe, broccoli nuggets, mostly to take up some time between nap and dinner. 

Busy mixing water and broccoli bits...to later dump on the floor.
You can find the super-easy recipe for broccoli nuggets here, but they're basically a ton of broccoli tossed in the food processor with eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, and seasonings, and then baked in the oven for twenty minutes. J.J. and I dip them in salad dressing; Rowan eats them plain or dipped in ketchup and mustard. Oh, and by the way, this is 100% as fancy as I get when it comes to cooking. As in, when I made these nuggets for the first time a few weeks ago, I had to learn how to use my food processor for them. Yeah.

Mine might qualify more as patties than nuggets.

I also gave her a small side of what I call Mexican Quinoa (more about that later, since it's Thursday's dinner). She loves this dish (so do I!), and we have it a couple times a week as a main course. 

Shoving food in her mouth, not expressing surprise that I "cooked."

Sunday: Gardenburger + Fresh Fruits & Veggies

This is about as easy as it gets: a frozen Gardenburger topped with cheese and dipped in ketchup and mustard. I'm telling you, Rowan was fine with plain burger patties for the longest time, and then a couple months ago, she became obsessed with dips. Now everything has to be dipped in something, preferably ketchup and mustard. Whatever. Pick your battles, right? She'll eat the entire thing if she has condiments on the side. This night, Rowie also had some green pepper from J.J.'s garden and a clementine.

A very delicate eater, as you can see.

Monday: Amy's Organic Soup with Pasta & Peas

This is one of our favorite go-to dinners. I'll boil some protein-fortified pasta along with frozen peas or carrots, and then I mix it with some Amy's Organic Soup straight out of the can. Rowan's favorite soup is the Spanish Rice & Red Bean, but we didn't have any on hand, so she had the Lentil. I love giving her veggies the way I did with the peas from this meal - mixed right in with her food. She won't normally eat carrots or peas (or a host of other veggies) plain, but she either doesn't notice them or their flavor is disguised enough when they're mixed in with other things. Can't blame her; I won't eat plain peas, so I don't really expect that she would, either. Oh, and I also gave her some "cheese stars" (Horizon Organics' cheddar cheese shapes), as she calls them, on the side, and she ended up requesting "Daddy peppers" (the green peppers from J.J.'s garden).

Tuesday: Two-Ingredient Pancakes + Smoothie

These pancakes are one of our all-time favorite choices for breakfast OR dinner. You can find the recipe here, but it's literally two ingredients: two eggs and one banana, mushed and mixed together and cooked like pancakes. On Tuesday we added pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon, since we were in a pumpkin-y mood. I also made a smoothie for Rowan. I add some unique ingredients to our smoothies to boost the nutritional value, especially for my vegetarian girl. This one contained vanilla yogurt, calcium-fortified orange juice, and frozen strawberries - plus chickpeas and spinach. Trust me, you can't taste the beans or greens, but they add some great vitamins.

Apparently Curious George needed to partake in pancake & smoothie night, too.

Wednesday: Pasta with Peas, Beans, & Marinara

I had a bunch of leftover pasta and peas from Monday night's dinner, so on Wednesday, I added some black beans and marinara sauce to them and warmed them back up. Rowan also had a cup of yogurt and some green peppers and cherry tomatoes (can you tell what's going nuts in our garden this week?).

Apparently it was all good enough to warrant double-fisting the spoons.


Thursday: Mexican Quinoa

Quinoa is an awesome "power food" that a lot of people are intimidated by, simply because they've never experienced it. I love it. It's like a super-nutritious version of rice: easy to cook, easy to use as a side or as a base for a main dish, and easy to tweak so that the flavor is exactly what you want.

For Thursday's dinner, I tossed together cooked quinoa, black beans, avocado, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, and lime juice. Bam. Dinner. (With a banana on the side.)

Friday: Meatless "Chik'n" Cutlet + Veggie Pouch

Friday's dinner was a total mistake. I meant to buy the frozen chickpea nuggets that J.J. likes, but I didn't realize until I opened the box to cook the nuggets that they were actually...not chickpea nuggets at all. 

Wonk-wonk. I was a teeny bit sketched out by the main ingredient (some kind of mushroom concoction?), but not enough to find a different dinner for Rowan. I served it to her with a carrot & broccoli pouch (Friday + birthday = lazy), plus some frozen blueberries that were a last-minute request from Rowie (she calls them "Let It Go blueberries," since I said they were "frozen" blueberries. Get it?).

Thankfully, Rowan CHOWED her cutlet (ew, I don't even like that word) and was thrilled about a pouch with dinner...

...AND she got to join us in eating my birthday cake (ice cream cake from Carvel, HELL YEAH).

I swear it looks like she has WAY more cake than she actually does.
(I literally ate half the cake myself that night, though. #NoShame)


So there you go! A week of (relatively healthy) vegetarian toddler dinners from a mama who can't cook. Let me know if you have other quick and easy ideas - I'm always looking for more!

Friday, October 16, 2015

for myself.

Dear Cathy,

Happy birthday! Here's your to-do list for the day:

  • Sleep in. It's the only thing you wanted for your birthday, other than a phone upgrade. J.J. will grab Rowan as soon as she starts calling from her crib and whisk her downstairs. Roll over, turn off your brain, and go back to sleep, okay?
  • Take the morning off. Yes, you'd love to take Rowan to that play at Wild Swan Theatre this morning, but she and J.J. will have a great time. And you could use a morning without a toddler yelling, "I don't NEEEEED help, I don't NEEEEED help...MAMA, HELLLLLP!" Stay in bed, eat your birthday cinnamon rolls there, peruse Facebook, drift off, read a book, drift off again.
  • And take the morning off psychologically, too. I know. I know you're struggling. I know you cried when the birthday card in the mail was just from Dad and not Mom, too. I know you wonder every single day what to do about getting a job. I know you feel guilty that J.J. doesn't get to spend as much time with Rowan as you do. I know you're worried about everything, right down to worrying about how much you worry. Forget about that shit today. It'll still be there tomorrow.
  • Bathe in gratitude for your healthy body. It's been on your mind a lot lately, how amazing it is to have a working body. Feet that walk, legs that stretch, hands that clap, arms that carry, a heart that beats. No full-body rashes or lymphoma scares for you this past year - woohoo! And yes, you ought to take purposeful care of it; after all, you're getting older (OMG 35), and you want this body to work for you, your kids, your grandkids, and their kids. You know the routine...exercise, eat less sugar, meditate, create. Today, though, reference the above: sleeping in, cinnamon rolls.
  • Speaking of bathing...how about a nice warm bubble bath? Sounds good, yeah?
  • Buy yourself a birthday present. You've been wanting that new Elizabeth Gilbert book. Get it! Wouldn't it be great to read it while soaking in that bubble bath?! And I gotta tell you, anything that fuels your creative self (your essential self) is worth the money right now. Truly.
  • Hug that baby. Squeeze her and kiss her and tell her you love her so much, every day, all the time, because she's your baby; and then squeeze her some more while she squeals, "I not a baby! I'm a TODD-LOH!" Hug that baby daddy, too, while you're at it. He's a good one.

That's plenty for one birthday. Happiest of days to you.

Love, sincerely --

P.S. Oh, and get some Thai food tonight...your favorite potato-tofu curry. Hell yeah.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

14 questions I'm dying to ask my two-year-old.

Two-year-olds are mysterious, maddening creatures. Last week, I rocked Rowan to sleep for a nap, gently placed her in her crib, and crept towards the door. Her eyes popped open, her head whipped around to find me, and just like that, nap time was over. Cursing my malfunctioning Invisibility Cloak, I wondered: Does she do that when I’m not in the room? Like, if I’m already downstairs, cuddling with a snack and the Netflix remote, does she wake up and simply drift back off to sleep, or does she just not wake up at all?

My incident with Schrödinger’s Toddler got me thinking about all the other questions I have for my two-year-old. As confused as she may be about this big world that she’s only known for twenty-four short months, I’m confused, too...by her.

Please, child, answer me this:
  1. Why is my food better than your food? You could be eating chocolate-covered angels sent directly from heaven, but the second you see a spoonful of broccoli quinoa headed towards my mouth, it’s the most delicious and coveted food in the universe. This, mind you, is the same broccoli quinoa that you soundly rejected the previous night at dinner.
  2. What’s so offensive about my singing voice? I know I’m not the actual Elsa of Arendelle, but am I really so bad as to warrant your screeching NO MOMMY SING, NO SING, NO NO NO from the backseat of the car?
  3. Do you know that your big feelings (AKA, tantrums) give me big feelings, too? Really big. I’d love to get a little credit for keeping my cool when you lose yours, even though I’m tempted to pound my fists on the floor and wail right alongside you.
  4. What’s the deal with Elmo? Why are you and all your cohorts obsessed with him? Is it his big eyes? His red fur? His saccharine voice? His easy-to-pronounce name? I’ve spent a disconcerting amount of time trying to get to the bottom of this. Why Elmo, versus, say, Big Bird or Cookie Monster?
  5. Do you know that I don’t actually coat your toothbrush with spikes and poison? It’s just a toothbrush. With Elmo on it, even. No spikes, I swear.
  6. What’s with the 5 a.m. wake-ups? I assure you, nothing of consequence happens before 7:30 in the morning. 
  7. And how about those nights when you stay awake in your crib for hours after we put you to bed, just babbling and singing away? Are you afraid you’re missing something? Actually - I gotta give you this one. You ARE missing out. Popcorn and “Scandal” are fabulous.
  8. Why are the noisiest toys your favorite toys? Do you know what MY favorite toy is? A book.
  10. How do you KNOW when we’re running late? And what physical mechanism of yours is launched upon this realization, thereby causing you to function at half-speed?
  11. Tell me the meaning behind this exchange: You ask to sit at the little table. I say, “Sure!” You collapse and scream, “NO NO NO,” so I respond, “Or you can sit in the high chair. Either way is fine.” You fling yourself against a wall and scream, “NO NO NO,” so I respond, “No high chair? Do you want to sit at the little table?” You lift your head pathetically and whisper, “Yeah. Little table.” I SAID YES TO THAT THE FIRST TIME YOU ASKED. WHAT THE HELL?
  12. Why didn’t you warn me when you saw me toss your dirty diaper into the hamper instead of the Diaper Genie?
  13. Do you know that I literally have a Masters degree in toddlerhood, and yet you still confound me?
  14. But that I’m madly in love with you nonetheless?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

sticking with pumpkins & swings, thanks.

The last few days have been shit. Can't stop thinking about my mom, Rowan is back to being a beast at bedtime and waking up throughout the night (is there such thing as a two-year sleep regression?!), someone needs to clean my house, and I have a thousand tasks hanging over my head that I just...can't even.

My epiphany at 5:20 this morning (because I'm also back to my early-morning insomnia, which is fab) was that maybe it's because of my birthday. I turn thirty-five this Friday, but it's not the number that's bumming me out. Now I qualify as Advanced Maternal Age AND to run for president! Watch out, bitches! No, thirty-five isn't the issue. It's my mom. 

My mom wasn't an overly sentimental person. She was absolutely a loving person, and absolutely the kind of mom who hugged you and kissed you and said out loud and often that she loved you, but she was far more practical than sentimental. I can't imagine her crafting sappy blog posts about her bayyybeee turning two, or feeling compelled to take a weekly belly picture throughout pregnancy. So I couldn't tell you for sure what would be on her mind during this, the week leading up to my birthday. Would she be remembering how uncomfortably pregnant she was back in mid-October of 1980? Would she be remembering how worried she was that I'd be a horrible sleeper like my sister? Would she be remembering how she prepared my two sisters for my arrival? I don't know. But I do know she'd be thinking of me. And it just makes me sad, thinking of how she's not thinking of me.

Everyone says the "firsts" are hard - the first experiences after losing someone you love. My birthday is turning out to be an especially tough "first." And then it'll be the holiday season, which...yeah. That's too much to even contemplate. So I'm just trying to be gentle with myself for now and focus on the best distraction I have - Rowie. We've been busy since fall started: classes three mornings a week, and tons of time outside while the weather's been so amazing. Her priorities right now are swings and pumpkins, as you can see:

Tire swingin' with our friendly neighborhood Spiderman.

Painting pumpkins at Gramma's house. Gramma had to give her a sink-bath after. :)

Her new favorite swing.

"Mama, this a pumpkin! Right here!"

My sous-chef mixing pumpkin bread.

So my priorities right now will also be swings and pumpkins, and the girl who can't get enough of them.

Last picnic lunch of the year (probably).

Sunday, October 11, 2015

playroom update!

:: This post contains affiliate links. (But not to Ikea. Unfortunately.)

All my plans for updating our playroom kind of went off the rails this spring when my mom got sick. I was away from home a lot, and when I was at home, I wasn't really in a playroom-design headspace, you know? Still, the room has evolved, with and without my assistance.

Although this room still doesn't quite feel finished or right, it's just a wee bit different from back in the day. Last February, I decided to add some bookcases to flank the piano. Then, in the middle of March, I decided to change up the paint color. In April, I built a little bookshelf dollhouse. In May, though, my mom got sick - aaand that's where I pretty much got stuck. At least, until the last few weeks.

Really, it was Rowan's birthday that got me moving again, for a couple reasons. First, the playroom is mostly designed around what she loves to play with at any given time, and that has definitely changed recently. Between outgrowing old toys and receiving new ones for her birthday, it was high time to swap out the playroom's contents. Second, what's more motivating than having a bunch of guests over, like we did for her birthday party?! I'm telling you, if you're ever in a decorating or cleaning rut, plan a house party.

In anticipation of having people over (even though I'm sure 98% of those people never noticed these changes!), I was finally able to tackle some of the playroom details that had been hanging over my head since May. I organized the shelves, finally found the right bins for the toys (from Target), added pictures to empty frames, and re-hung the wall art - all of which left the room looking as it does today.

Here's a look at the playroom before and after, going clockwise around:

It's so crazy for me to look at these comparison pictures and see how much lighter and brighter everything is! And even though I was a little worried at first that the new bookshelves made the room look too busy, they've grown on me. Plus, you can't beat them in terms of functionality. We could actually fit a lot more toys on here if we needed to; instead, we ran out of toys to store on the new shelves and had to add some fillers.

Here are some close-ups of the new bookcases:

All in all, I'm pretty happy with how it's looking these days! And, more to the point, with how it's functioning. This is Rowan's go-to room. She trashes it multiple times throughout the day, which is good - that means she's using it (or so I tell myself). The bins make it easy (for both her and me) to clean up quickly. I love that there are shelves of toys within her reach, but also shelves that are too high for her, which means I can keep fragile items (decor, CDs, etc.) safe but still in the room. Plus, it's great that there's a wide open space in the center of the room. I usually rotate some bigger toys for that area - a slide, a rocking horse, a play house - and she also just uses it for playing: building train tracks, dumping puzzles out (and occasionally putting them together), or playing doctor with a line-up of baby dolls, multiple Elsas and Annas, and her Spiderman guy.

Here's a source list of the newer items for the nosy folks (like me).

:: RUG: This is the Mohawk Candy Craze rug, which I purchased from Amazon. I'm not sure the large size is available anymore, which is too bad, because it is the perfect playroom rug. Soft, warm, colorful, and cleans up easily (but also hides any stains that might not come out!). I love it.

:: WALLS: This color (Benjamin Moore's Gray Owl) is such an improvement over the gold-toned brown from before. I did love that color, but it was just too dark for the room. Plus, between the rug and the toys on display, it's nice to have a more neutral background. It's not quite the right shade of gray for me (I prefer the gray from her nursery, Benjamin Moore's Abalone), but it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

:: BOOKCASES: All three bookcases in the room are from Ikea. The two tall ones are Billy bookcases, and the lower bookshelf is an Expedit (which is now sold as the Kallax series).

:: WALL ART: The dude on a bike is an Ikea poster in an Ikea frame, and the Emerson quote print is from Etsy, also in an Ikea frame.

As usual, I don't feel like I'm completely finished with this room. There are still some things I'd like to work on. I never added trim or moulding to the bookcases, which would make them look more finished and built in. The lamp on the low bookshelf isn't the right height. I wish the chair covers were gray instead of brown. Honestly, though, those things are way down on my list of priorities these days, so we'll see how the room evolves from here!


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