Monday, March 13, 2017

five by five

1. Nico had his first school science fair, and it was fun doing a project with him. My mom and I never got the hang of science fairs when I was a kid, and I just love teaching kids scientific method, so this was my jam on so many levels.

His school is also doing a two-week read-a-thon fundraiser right now, which gives us an excuse to let him read lots, and it's great.

I have no idea when or how he learned, but Elliott can write all his letters now, and that is also fabulous. Yesterday he decided to write each member of the family's name on a strip of paper and then tape them up on the fireplace. As much as I sometimes pine for my babies, I adore seeing these new skills blossom in my getting-big boys.











2. One of my favorite signs from the Women's March rings very true lately.



Since February, I've been to three rallies in support of Planned Parenthood, a women's march huddle, and two meetings of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. At the second meeting of the latter, I volunteered to be a presenter of the Be SMART program. I barely even know me anymore. I only decided to offer because the instructor said that a local kids' playgroup / services organization that I've been entwined with personally and professionally since Nico's babyhood has asked for the program, but hasn't had any luck finding anyone to give it. I figure I can give it for them and see how it goes, and decide from there if I want to keep going. I've also committed myself to one year of helping the local Sierra Club chapter try to gain some momentum, and to that end I'm doing online training to become approved as an outings leader. In early May when I'm working 50 hours a week and crying in my Cheerios over my poor life choices, please feel free to remind me that I brought this on myself. Everything seems manageable in early March.

I've also volunteered to be PTA secretary at Nico's school next year. The PTA meetings typically consist of the president, the treasurer, and me, and we're at a point where if no one steps up to take over officer positions, we will have to disband at the end of this school year. I really don't want to see that happen, but I also have the sense to recognize that I have no business offering to be president.

Recently someone on Twitter asked everyone to weigh in on the question if you suddenly didn't need to work for financial reasons, would you keep working? My initial instinct was that I would because I'm really good at my job and I enjoy it and I believe it's important work. But then I started thinking about all the things I could do with my time if I didn't work - lead the PTA or volunteer more or start another troop of Navigator scouts...so now I don't know. It's just an academic exercise anyway, but for the first time I don't know if I'd keep working or not if I won the Powerball.

3. I got my hair cut a few weeks ago, and it took about four days to decide, but I like the new look. The upkeep is going to be a pain in the ass, however, because my hair grows so fast.



4. My friend Jennie recently recommended the podcast Presidential and I seriously love it. I only ever had the basic bare-bones American history as required by my high school curriculum, and I have always had a bit of a crap memory for names and dates. I'm up to the Ulysses S Grant episode, and now I kind of want to read his memoir. Other podcasts I really like, after years of thinking I wouldn't like podcasts at all since I don't like listening to talk radio: 99% Invisible and Criminal.

5. I just finished Order of the Phoenix and I have Thoughts. If you haven't read it and you don't want spoilers, best stop here.







It's the first of the series that I've only read once before, and I went into it expecting not to like it very much. I recalled being really offended by the Umbridge plot and all the unfairness and Harry's teen angst, and by all the things that could've been avoided if characters just freaking talked to each other. But whether I've been tempered by age or just was in a different mood, I felt much better about it this time around. JKR's writing is pretty stellar in this one, and the deepening of the characters of Dumbledore and McGonagall is just aces. I really like that she chose to shatter the image of James as perfectly heroic. The villains are so well-written, and the heroes are pretty heartbreakingly human. I'm still a little pissed over Sirius dying, and especially the almost throwaway scene in which it happened. I don't remember much from my one read of the final two books, so I'm looking forward to rediscovering how the series is all tied up.

Reading: tomorrow I start Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Playing: Hamilton, my old friend

Sunday, March 05, 2017

I've been down a time or two.

On my 17th birthday, my dad took me to a Clint Black concert. I grew up listening to country music with my dad, so even though I had mostly moved on to rock and metal by then, I was thrilled to go. This past Friday night, we went to see Clint Black again, and I was deeply stunned to do the math and figure out it had been nearly 19 years since our first concert. This has always been my favorite Clint Black song, and I've always agreed with the basic thesis of the song:



Indeed, listening to his old songs in the week before the concert really did bring up a lot of old memory-feelings. The concert was really fantastic, and even ended with the same song as the last one. It occurs to me this is the one downside of mostly listening to really old rock music with my kids - we'll never be able to go to Zeppelin concerts together. Maybe I can start them on Clint Black...surely he'll still be touring in another ten years or so when Nico is 17.



Playing:  Clint Black mixes on youtube, of course

Reading:  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Monday, February 27, 2017

Four.

My sweet second baby is four, and I can hardly believe it. Three was an education with this child, who is full of big emotions and big energy. At just-four he is sweet, stubborn, sassy, wild, loving, and funny. He has a quick temper, but gets over it fast. He likes to run, kick and throw balls, and jump off of things. He still tries to drink water out of pools and splash pads and the shower. His favorite color is green, just like his older brother. At preschool today he declared he wants to be a ranger when he grows up. He and I are alike in many ways, and he challenges me so much. But he's also fantastic and I'm so very grateful that I get to be his mama.








Tuesday, January 31, 2017

bullet with butterfly wings

2017 is turning out to be an even ranker dumpster fire than 2016, no? Jesus Christ on a bike, everything is horrific. I'm going to try not to talk about it too much because it's exhausting. I've made more calls to elected officials in the past eleven days than in my entire life preceding this disaster. In the interest of giving my brain something else to do, here are some things that have happened that aren't governmental apocalypse-adjacent. I'm re-reading Harry Potter for the first time since the last book came out. I used to re-read all the prior books each time a new one came out, but I didn't have time after Order of the Phoenix, so I haven't read any of the early ones since then. I'm almost through Azkaban, which I suspect will remain my favorite. It's nice because now I hear all the actors' voices in my head doing the characters' lines. After this I might try to re-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy since it also feels like it would be extremely timely. I'm also thinking about a re-read of Watership Down in remembrance of the author, who died at the end of the 2016 celebrity massacre. When I read it back in 2010 I loved it, so it would be nice to revisit it.

Nico has blossomed into a confident reader, and it completes me. He recently got started on the Magic Treehouse books and can read one to himself in about twenty minutes. He likes the companion research guides as much as (if not more than) the stories and has apparently been reading the Tonight on the Titanic research guide over and over in his free time at school. This has led to a barrage of questions, such as why weren't there enough lifeboats? Why did they say women and children first? Why did the Titanic break in half? It's all making me wonder how in the world the author managed to spin this as an amusing adventure for Jack and Annie while avoiding all mentions of horrible death. I guess I should read the book for myself.

I heard about bullet journals when they first became a thing, watched a few videos, and decided I was too much of a perfectionist to attempt one. Then all last year I was dissatisfied with my planner choices and lack of organization. In December as I looked at planner after planner that didn't meet my specifications, I found myself thinking, if only I could find a planner with daily pages plus pages for all my to-do lists, all in one book. Then I realized, hello, this is exactly what bullet journals are for. So I spent an evening looking at pictures and videos online and browsing Pinterest, decided on a few hybridized layouts that I thought would work well for me, and gave it a shot for the month of January. So far it's working out fantastically well for me, so below are some photos. I do wish I'd left myself six pages for Navigators to-do lists, because I filled my one allotted page by the third week of January and it annoys me to have to add another list section on a non-sequential page. Turns out perhaps bullet journaling is also going to be good therapy for my relentless Type-A tendencies. I only use it for personal life stuff, since I have an Outlook calendar and a separate daily planner at work. I also did not include a full monthly calendar page or spread because I use my iPhone calendar for all of that. I only list important or oddball events on my monthly page. I used a journal I've had lying around since before I got pregnant with Nico, because I didn't want to put any money into this project and then end up abandoning it. So far this journal has been perfect for my needs. Also, because this seems to be a thing people want to know, I am using a black Uniball Jetstream pen and a red Pilot gel pen right now. But I found out last night that Jetstreams come in red, and I plan to get one this weekend.



















For fun, an update on Nico's hair situation, for lo, it is fabulous:



Reading:  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Playing:  The Crane Wife by the Decemberists. I forgot how much I love it, and I bonded with some Twitter friends over our shared appreciation of it the other night, which is one of my favorite internet things.




I participated in a local rally and march on Inauguration Day. This was my sign.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

To my sons, on the last night of the republic

Little boys, I have so many things to say, and more things I don't know how to say. I'll start with I'm sorry. I'm so sorry there weren't enough of us adults who cared enough for you and your future to keep this from happening. I'm so sorry that we haven't yet figured out how to stop the hating, stop the fighting, stop the dividing and the judging. I'm sorry for any failing on my part that contributed in any way. I don't even know what I could've done differently, but I'm sorry for not knowing. I am equal parts heartbroken and furious that you may never remember America as it was under President Obama. While I do not think he was without fault or failing, I was proud to vote for him twice, and honored to call him my President. While the promises of his first campaign didn't all come to fruition, the message of hope took root somewhere in my being and carried me through eight years of progress and promise and the feeling that maybe we were going to keep our arc moving toward something better.

I've long been conscious of the weight of the responsibility of raising you to be good men in a world where those sometimes seem in short supply. Of raising you to be kind when assholes and bullies constantly get ahead. Of raising you to respect and protect girls in a culture that strips them of dignity in a thousand small ways every day. Of teaching you how to use your privilege as an umbrella to shield others rather than a weapon to subdue them. Now this weight has increased tenfold. It sits in my chest like a stone, it tightens my throat and makes my actual heart hurt sometimes. How can I carry your sweet spirits unbroken through the minefield of four years of the worst man, the biggest bully, being held up in front of you as an example of leadership and deserved victory?

I have always been an optimist, a pollyanna, a person who believes everything will be okay, but I'm scared. I'm scared and worried and angry and I feel helpless. I can feel my purpose diverging, splitting into two contradictory shapes. First, I can feel myself drawing in, circling up, pulling you close and wrapping anything I can use around you to shield you from all of this. It's my job to keep you sheltered and safe as long as you need me to do so. It's my job to let you be kids who don't have to worry about their country falling apart around them. I'm going to do everything I can to keep showing you the beauty and the good in this broken world, anywhere I can find it. Equally, I need to learn how to stand and fight. I am smart and pretty organized and really good at multi-tasking. I am not brave. I am not good at confrontation or argument. I don't like to rock the boat or tell other people what they should believe. But I owe it to you to figure out how to do and be all these things. I owe it to you to stand up for what I can, when I can, even when - maybe especially when - it seems pointless.

I have had my share of worries since becoming your mother, though admittedly less than most. I have had my share of doubts that I know what I'm doing, though also probably less than most. I have had my moments of fretting over the challenges facing you in the world as you grow up. But I never imagined I'd have to worry about this. I never realized I should fear the landscape of our country shifting beneath our feet, changing into something dark and frankly pretty terrifying. And for that, again, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I didn't see it coming. I'm sorry I didn't know how to fight, or even that I should be fighting.

I still cling to a fierce hope that we will be sheltered and shielded from the worst of what's coming. I have to, to get through the days. I promise to do my best to carry you safely onward, to shield your hearts with mine, to shore up the foundation where it crumbles. No matter what happens, know that I love you both more than anything. You have made me and changed me and carried me, just as I have made and changed and carried you. Tomorrow I'm going to take your small hands in mine, and I'm going to face the storm, and I am not going to let go, no matter what.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Seven!

My Nico is seven, and seven feels like a big number. He is tall and lanky, and has lost all his baby features. He hasn't had a haircut in just over a year, by his request. Thank goodness for freckles across his nose and his gappy little kid smile, because he looks more like a teenager every day sometimes. He is a confident reader, and has recently developed a love for Magic Treehouse books, which he can read quietly to himself. He is mostly nice to his brother, though not always of course. He's still sensitive and a little bit quirky, but has definitely grown out of a bit of both. He's good company and gives great hugs. I'm so happy to be on this adventure with him, and would like it very much if the remaining years of his childhood would pass by very slowly.








Sunday, January 08, 2017

Less than this.

I've taken advantage of two weekends mostly at home to start the year by tossing stuff out of this house. First I went through my own dresser and the stuff piled on / around it, and found five medium-sized diaper boxes worth of stuff to throw out, donate, or take to the consignment shop. Today I took the whole day to clean every bit of the kids' rooms. I even moved their beds and dressers so I could dust and vacuum underneath and washed the curtains. Going through their things yielded another diaper box of clothes to sell and a kitchen-size trash bag full of stuff to throw out. I finally repainted Nico's wall where I patched it before Christmas, and then while I had the paint out anyway I put a coat on the nightstand I bought to refinish for Elliott when he was a toddler. I keep finding stuff and more stuff and asking myself "Ugh, how much x does one family need?" and the answer is always "less than this." I'm not really a minimalist and I never got into konmari*, but it does feel nice to start the year with some divesting.

I roped MB into hanging up the corkboard I put together for the boys' state park pins and National Parks junior ranger badges, a print that has needed to be put back up in Elliott's room for at least a year, and a curtain rod so I can put a cute curtain up over Elliott's blackout curtain. He was efficient if not enthusiastic.




(Yes, Elliott still sleeps in a crib. He can't climb out, and also : last baby.)


On NYE I combined a painting and a frame that I bought on separate occasions at my favorite consignment shop and convinced MB to hang them in the dining room. I love this very much, even though I'm giving up on remembering to take a picture during the day without the lights reflected in the glass.



* I did co-opt one konmari thing - I refolded the kids' shirts so that they can see everything. I'm hoping this will result in them wearing more than a rotating three or four of their obscene number of shirts.



Reading:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I used to re-read the series every time a new book came out, but then I didn't have time once Order of the Phoenix came out, and now it's been years. A twitter friend is reading them for the first time and tweeting as she goes, and it's utterly charming and inspired me to pick them back up again. It feels like a comfortable cozy blanket to be back in these stories again.

Playing:  Hamilton, still.