Monday, February 08, 2016

Things I do not regret buying

We upgraded our phones back on New Year's Day, so I now have an iPhone 6s. While the increased storage size and no-longer-failing battery are great, I think my favorite thing about the phone is actually the case. Having busted two Otter Box defender cases in a row, I decided to give Lifeproof a try. So far I've dropped it a few times with no issues, and it is delivering on the promise of being dust-proof. The best, most awesome thing, though...I realized that since the case is actually submersible for up to an hour, I can listen to audiobooks in the shower. It's possible you're staring at your screen with a what the hell look on your face right now, but I don't even care because I can listen to audiobooks in the shower! Or podcasts! Or music! Or whatever I want because WATERPROOF.

I took advantage of a 40% off plus a sale Lands' End deal not long after we went sledding and bought myself a real winter coat. I got the squall jacket which is rated for -5 degrees, so seems respectably a coat to me. Even with the discounts it was $65, which is a HUGE splurge for me. I never spend that kind of money on clothes for myself and I had some buyers' remorse after finalizing the purchase. But I kept telling myself it was a good deal, and also that it is pretty ridiculous to still be layering hoodies under an Army surplus jacket at my age. I wore the coat for the first time today and I no longer have any remorse. I can't believe I waited so long to get myself a proper coat. I ran errands all morning with Elliott while it was windy and 24 degrees and I was perfectly comfortable. The coat isn't bulky at all, either, which is really nice. It's a little poofed-out in the front when I'm sitting down, but I was only wearing it over a T-shirt and suspect I would've appreciated the extra room if I was wearing a thicker shirt or a jacket underneath, and I don't think a size down would've zipped comfortably over my boobs, so I'm going to suffer the slight poofy front in silence.

I also bought these very fancy pants for ten bucks because I haven't owned leggings since the original dying gasp of stirrup pants back in 8th grade, and have often wished for something other than flannel pj pants to layer under my jeans on cold work or camping days. I figured I couldn't get old-school waffle-weave long johns for less than ten bucks, so it was worth a chance. I haven't had a reason to wear them yet, but I also have zero regrets about this purchase.

Two days before we went sledding, I snapped up a pair of Sorel boots (in this print) on a local buy / sell / trade site for fifty dollars. My previous strategy had been to wear fuzzy socks inside my rain boots, which kept my feet dry but not at all warm since the boots have no insulation. My feet would've been warmer in my regular trainers. The day of sledding proved the boots to be a good investment, particularly because I suspect they'll last forever with the slim number of actual snowy days we get around here.

A local facebook acquaintance who is also an amazing seamstress recently started her own online shop. She was looking for people to buy items at cost and then take photos of kids wearing the clothes for use on her site. I thought her hooded fleece sweatshirt design looked cute enough, and figured I could feel good about doing something nice even if I didn't end up loving the shirt, and bought one for Elliott. WELL. I think this may be my new favorite thing to put on him. It somehow echoes his precise blend of sweetness and mischief. It's awesomely soft and (as far as I can tell) comfortable, and so stinking cute. I took advantage of a nice-weather playdate at the zoo and got some photos for her. I feel like I might order another when he outgrows this one. I should've asked her for some business cards to hand out, because everywhere he wore this, people complimented it. If you need one (I think everyone needs one), her shop is Sew Squirrelly Boutique on facebook. She also makes fantastic dresses.

Have you bought anything lately that you've loved, or at least liked quite a lot?

Reading:  Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Just finished (audiobook):  The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Playing:  still Led Zeppelin

Is disclosing still a thing? If it is, let the record show that I bought everything that I talk about in this post, and haven't promised reviews to anyone. I also don't do affiliate links, so any linkage is just in case someone wants to look at what I bought. I'm nosy about other people's stuff, I figure other people might be nosy about mine.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Six in the snow

Nico turned six on the 15th. Six! In the last few months he has started to look like a big kid, tall and leggy and thinner in the face. He lost his first tooth on Christmas morning. He's a strong reader and has pretty great penmanship for a Kindergartener. He remains sweet and stubborn, smart and curious, funny and a little bit weird. I love him so much my heart could burst with it. He was the luckiest birthday child of all and got a field trip to the children's museum on his actual day, and I went along as a chaperone. We had family over for his party on Saturday the 16th, which was low key and nice. He'll have a shared birthday party with Elliott the first weekend in February with their kid friends at Pump it Up. I'm sure we're spoiling him, but it's quite hard not to.

While the dire predictions of Snowpocalypse 2016 did not come to pass, we did get enough snow to close school on Wednesday and again on Friday. My dad came over to play in the snow with the boys on Friday morning. Yesterday we were invited to go sledding at a former coworker's farm, along with my friend Julia and her kids. The boys had never gone before, but they were excited to try and ended up loving it. I was happily surprised to discover that the hosts provided Gator rides back up the hill after every run. We kept at it until the snow was almost gone, worn to slush under the sleds and burned off by the sun. It was a nearly-perfect day.

Reading (audiobook):  The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Playing:  Led Zeppelin IV

Monday, January 11, 2016

Five things, with photos

1.  I took the whole week after Christmas off work to hang out with the kids (well, the two work days I would've had after being off Monday and having the holidays Thursday and Friday). Even though it was a lot of not getting paid, I'm very glad I did it. We had our annual Thanksmas party with our closest friends, always one of my favorite nights of the year. I took the kids to the children's museum and to Elliott's first official swim lesson (with the most patient teenage swim instructor of all time, bless her heart). We went to Pump it Up and to the history museum to see a real train. MB's brother and his fiancee came to spend an evening visiting. One of our playdate friends invited us over for a Noon Year's Eve party, with a balloon drop and everything. The kids and I went on a First Day hike on New Year's Day, and then my parents took the boys so MB and I could see Star Wars. We had an epic pancake dinner and game night with friends. It was really, really wonderful and I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to a great year and usher in a new one.

2.  Elliott and I were out most of last Monday on errands, at various places including Target, the bank, and the grocery. At all these places he behaved like...well, like a very (very) busy little child. He moved, he sometimes yelled, he walked circles around and around the bank and its long line for ten minutes, he drove his toy airplane and train car on things, he pushed a little cart. And everywhere we went, people were SO NICE to and about him. Someone even thanked me for telling him, "Don't walk under that again. I'm watching you," at the bank, where he discovered last week that his head is at exactly the right height to graze the Tensabarrier thing and make it do a satisfying twang as he walks under it. Some days I feel like civilizing these children is the hardest job I will ever have and I am probably annoying the entire world in the process. Other days I feel like civilizing these children is the hardest job I will ever have and maybe I'm doing okay. Here's my general shout-out of thank you to anyone who is nice to parents who are trying their best, even when their kids aren't perfect.

3.  I'm very glad we took a chance on All the Train Stuff for Christmas, because the boys have played with their new huge setup for accumulated hours, sometimes without even fighting over who gets to use which passenger car.

4.  Much to Nico's delight, it snowed on Saturday night. Both boys went out to play for about 45 minutes on Sunday, then Nico went back out for another hour and a half while Elliott napped hardcore after lunch. He didn't get his white Christmas, but at least he finally got some snow.

5.  I got a pass on playing in the snow, because I was up for three hours in the middle of the night Saturday / Sunday with pretty horrible chest pain that migrated into my neck. If it had been on the left side instead of the right, I probably would've gone to the hospital. Google told me it probably wasn't a blood clot, a heart attack, or pneumonia. It was mostly gone by the end of the day Sunday but then back this morning (though not as bad as initially), so I went to the clinic just in case. Probably just a viral inflammation of my chest wall or lung tissue, which they can't really do anything about, but at least it wasn't a heart attack.

Reading (audiobook):  Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Playing:  Led Zeppelin III

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dead Reckoning

Past year-end posts: 2006 / 2007 / 2008 / 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before? I started a Navigators troop for Nico and 16 other kids in September. It was slightly terrifying, but I'm so glad I did it. We have had such a blast, and I've heard great reports from the parents about how much the kids are loving it. I also went to my first internet meetup, the Halfway Hoopla, and it was so much fun.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
 I didn't make any official resolutions, but intended to do a better job keeping up with the boys' monthly letters and photos. I failed miserably at this, and really would like to get back to it in 2016.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No, but my best friend since we were five is due with her first baby in May and I am so very excited!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015? Me time and the motivation to use it wisely. A well-organized personal life / planner. Bras that fit correctly. A Roomba.

6. Any memorable dates or events from 2015? In April, we took the kids on an impromptu trip to Mammoth Cave National Park. In August, Nico started Kindergarten and went on a grownup waterslide for the first time by himself at a friend's birthday party. In September, Elliott started preschool. We had two nearly stress-free camping trips with the kids.

7. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
 I created a homeschool program at work that grew from one class of 30 kids per month to three classes of 30 kids per month. For 2016 we are adding a fourth class. I also got our garden overhauled after years of intending to do it and not getting around to it. I'm not even going to pretend to be modest about this one - I worked my ass off.

8. What was your biggest failure? I wasted a whack ton of time dicking around on my phone. I have no objection to using a smart phone to relax / entertain oneself / kill time, but this was too often just mindless cycling through facebook, twitter, my email, and my feed reader, even after I'd exhausted all the content that was new / interesting. I should've used that time to blog or write letters or read books or exercise.

9. Did anyone suffer illness or injury? Nico fell on my mother-in-law's headboard over Thanksgiving weekend, and we really thought his nose was broken. We debated taking him to the ER but decided against it, which I'm glad in retrospect since it wasn't broken, just very swollen.

10. What was the best thing you bought? new sleeping bags

11. Where did most of your money go? paying down debt, which still isn't very paid-down

12. What did you get really excited about? Going on adventures with the kids. We had a great year of hiking and playdates and splash park visits and creek stomping and weekend trips.

13. What do you wish you'd done more of this year? I wish we'd gone on more real hikes to more state parks. I wish I'd read more books. I wish I'd blogged more.

14. What do you wish you'd done less of this year? less mindless screen time

15. What was your favorite TV program? still Supernatural

16. What were your favorite books of the year? Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King, The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

17. What was your favorite music from this year? probably these two songs:

18. What were your favorite films of the year? Jurassic World, no contest

19. What did you do on your birthday? I have no recollection of my actual birthday this year, which was on a Friday. Somewhere around then I had friends over to play games, and Danger made me a carrot cake.

20. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? This is shallow, but I wish I'd lost weight.

21. What was the best day-to-day thing you learned? I found out that I can listen to audiobooks in the car without being too distracted, so I have listened to eight of them since October. (I also learned that I spend a lot more time in the car than I previously realized.)

22. Tell us a valuable life lesson from 2015. If my gut is telling me it's a bad idea to friend someone on facebook, my gut is probably right.

23. Share a favorite photo from this year:

24. One word to describe this year: Full

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas roundup

I suppose it's probably a little late in the game for a Christmas gift roundup post, but they're fun so I'm doing one anyway. For the first year ever, I actually managed to reign in my impulse to buy just a few more gifts for us to wrap up for the kids to be from us. Every year I panic at the eleventh hour that we won't be giving them enough, then realize we overdid it. I approached my shopping very haphazardly this year, buying this and that online starting on Black Friday and ending...last week? So I expected to get everything out to wrap and see that I had gone over the top yet again, but no! Success!

We really doubled down on both boys' current inclination to play with trains, so I'm hoping that pays off and the interest lingers for at least a few more months. I ordered these cool adapter thingies to integrate our wooden train tracks with Duplos. When they arrived and we realized they'd be pretty unimpressive as a wrapped gift, MB decided he will wait until the kids go to bed on Christmas Eve and then set up an epic train track for them. To that end, he requested that I order additional track pieces, connectors, and bumpers. I am looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. Knowing him, it will be awesome.

I hit upon some pretty wicked deals on official Chuggington stuff, so each kid is getting a nice set to unwrap from us. Elliott is getting the clock tower and Nico is getting the super cool swing bridge with two train characters added. Even though I know some people say clothes should never be wrapped up as presents, I wrapped shirts for each of the kids. Nico is getting the structure of the Sun, both kids are getting the planets to scale (both from Lands' End) and Elliott is getting Awesome Space Explorer (Old Navy).

I went back and forth for weeks on getting this stupidly expensive but really cool Lego set for Nico, but I finally decided I didn't want to risk missing the window of it being available or him being really interested in both rockets and Lego. It's going to be the big gift he unwraps at my parents' house from my mom, my dad, and my sister. They bought Elliott a massive double decker tower thingie to go with his trains, and also offered to keep it at their house if we decide it's too big for our place. Works for me. Their stocking piles are a little extravagant, but so much fun. Nico's:

>> tiny star projector (I got a pair of these on Groupon and probably should've read the online reviews before I paid for them. We'll see how it goes.)
>> cute little beanie owl I impulse-bought at the craft store after Elliott saw them one day and asked for one
>> Dinosaurs From Head to Tail by Stacey Roderick - this has been a favorite library book off and on for most of the year
>> Our Solar System & Beyond book from B&N. It has board book pages, but the text is definitely for big kids. It's a little less wordy than another Space book we bought, but at a level that I feel is just enough of a challenge for Nico
>> Monster Jam truck & Hot Wheels car
>> Planets, Moon, and Stars Take-Along Guide
>> Lego Space utility vehicle
>> fuzzy socks from Old Navy, requested each year when we see Santa at the library
>> astronaut and rocket underpants from Carters
>> NASA logo shirt from Target, which is showing as out of stock online now
>> roll of roadway tape that I'm hoping won't stick too permanently to our wood floors
>> pack of Space-themed early readers from the school book order

Elliott's stocking loot:

>> grabby hand robot arm toy, as request by Nico, who has one of his own that he'd prefer not to share all the time
>> tiny star projector
>> Solar System puzzle
>> beanie owl
>> Monster Jam truck and Hot Wheels
>> Plan Toys road signs
>> fuzzy socks
>> Little Owl's 1 2 3 by Divya Srinivasan
>> Cleo's Counting Book (another library favorite)
>> train pajamas

Friday, December 11, 2015


When I came home from work today, I parked in front since I was in a hurry to grab a few things and then head out to get the kids for Nico's school holiday program. I noticed that the neighbors had their front yard tree cut down today, but didn't think much of it. They've been complaining for years that it was dying and becoming a risk, so it makes sense to get rid of it before the winter. Once inside, I noticed a suspicious smell and ended up tracing it to a pile of dog poop in the playroom floor. I realized that Indy probably did it in a fit of anxiety over the tree trimming noise. MB got home right after me, cleaned it up, and we took off to get the kids and go to the program. I felt kind of relieved that he did it in the playroom, on the durable and not all that pretty tile, rather than on the wood floor, or the carpet, or the bed. A lucky escape!

Hours later, after the kids were in bed and I was cleaning up for the evening, I discovered he also had absolutely shredded the little red satchel that I've been using to carry my Navigators stuff, which I had left on the couch last night. I paid five bucks for it at a consignment shop and needed to sew a new strap on it so I could wear it cross-body and it wasn't anything super special, but I was fond of it and I'm irritated that he wrecked it. I started bright-siding again in an attempt to get over my irritation. At least it was just my thrift store bag he tore up, and nothing more precious or important. As I was cleaning up all the dismembered pieces, I discovered that he did damage two of our couch pillows, one badly enough that we will probably end up throwing it out. I guess I should keep on with my plan of making some lemonade so I stop feeling like shaking him until his goddamn chompy teeth rattle. After all, he can't help that he's a bit of a nervous wreck. The neighbors couldn't have known that they should've warned us about the tree trimming. To be honest, even if they had I don't know that I would've realized the risk. In the spirit of being forgiving, I'm going to make myself come up with ten things I'm glad he didn't destroy instead, while I rage-eat some Ben & Jerry's.

1. The couch itself.

2. Our mattress or quilt.

3. The kids' wooden train tracks, which are laid out in a complicated route in the living room floor.

4. The stack of just-delivered Amazon boxes full of Christmas gifts in the foyer.

5. A library book or $40 cash that was in the satchel.

6. Either of the kids' loveys. Elliott left his beloved kangaroo on the dining room floor yesterday morning, and I spotted it when I grabbed my purse and put it up on the mantel just in case.

7. My laptop cord.

8. My favorite flip flops, or any other shoes. 9. Any of the kids' toys (though I can think of a few things I'd trade for a cute satchel and a nice pillow, given the choice).

10. The Christmas tree.

Reading:  The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (audiobook)

Playing:  a Los Straitjackets Christmas playlist on youtube that also includes this pretty piece:

Friday, December 04, 2015

tiny gallery

I've been quite charmed by Nico's artwork recently. I'm starting to suspect he's going to turn out to be quite skilled at drawing as he grows, which seems miraculous to me as a person who has practically zero artistic ability. Here are a few of my particular favorites:

Periodically I find one of these Solar System drawings on the back of one of his class worksheets. Each one has been a little more detailed and awesome than the one that came before it. Can you spot the planets out through Saturn, plus the rocket and two green Voyager spacecraft?

Watercolor pumpkin, which I still haven't put away even though we have our Christmas decorations up now. I can't even explain why I love this so much, but I do.

When I found this in Nico's folder, I asked him, "Hey, what's your turkey up to in this drawing?" Nico said, "It's pooping." When I asked him why it was pooping, he replied, matter-of-factly, "It had to poop." I think my favorite part is how the pooping was very clearly premeditated, as proven by him carefully leaving a blank space for the cutaway view on the turkey's body.

He drew this one for their lesson on words that start with sh. Obviously the stick figure yelling AH! is superb, but the shark itself is pretty fantastic as well.

Not the be completely outdone, Elliott has also brought home some great stuff from preschool. Of course he's still at an age where the teachers have to help a lot, but that doesn't reduce my adoration for this little reindeer he made yesterday. I'm pretty sure the face is made from a tracing of his little shoe.

He also brought this home. I'm hoping the drawing represents Chuggington trains and new pajamas.

Reading:  The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (audiobook)

Playing:  Black Eyed Man by the Cowboy Junkies