Six little whiles more than usual

When your kids start repeating back phrases, you realize what you must sound like to them. Sometimes it is awesome: Ella’s first word was “HEY!” D2 tells me she loves me “so, so, so much.” But sometimes, you realize you say some things so often they have become meaningless. Apparently one of mine is “a little while.” As in, “I’ll be there in” and “I’ll only do it for” and “it will only take.” When my daughters, who seem to have inherited the nervousness and trouble falling asleep that I had as a child, ask if I will stay upstairs by their room until they fall asleep, I respond that I will stay “for a little while.”

So, it wasn’t too long until Ella figured out that my little whiles were sometimes not long at all. And she starting asking for multiple little whiles. (Adorable.) Last night, she asked me to please stay upstairs “six little whiles more than usual.” And reminded me that the last time she’d asked that, it didn’t actually seem any longer. So please could I try harder? Sure–I decided to read in my bed for 20 minutes while they fell right to sleep. I had several books and magazines to choose from and they seemed tired. Probably they’d be out before that.

I propped up both of the fluffy pillows on my side, since MI was gone and I could hoard, and started reading the newest edition of Cooking Light. I generally love this magazine. But right after you finish feeding two children an imaginative dinner of tortellini and sliced apples–one of the four meals they will eat–and wrestle them slowly into their beds, its hard to completely immerse yourself in planning future meals that they won’t eat and will create more dishes than normal. So despite my good intention (and desire to have someone else cook such dishes for me) my interest waned. I decided to read it laying on my side. And then I set the magazine on the bed and read it with my cheek against the pillow.  And then… then… it was midnight?

Apparently I drifted off–who could have seen that coming!?–around 8:30 on Friday night. Both children were still awake, probably. Who knows?  And MI was gone. Don’t worry about safety, though; Ella is getting pretty responsible and it is not often, anymore, that she does something that I think could have easily killed her. She had things under control until MI came home. Whenever that was. I hear that Ella was still awake and she went downstairs and they played and hung out and had a snack. And they came upstairs and turned off my light and built some IKEA furniture to dance music and hours passed.

So, suffice it to say, I totally delivered on my six little whiles more than usual. I kept my word.  Parenting for the win.

I Know Cabin Fever

How long until we were buried up to our necks in My Little Ponies and pieces of discarded popcorn and semi-functional markers without lids? Not long, I assert, not long at all.

Our family just finished a six-ish day weekend. D2’s school was closed on Thursday and Friday for teacher development, then regular weekend’s “stay-at-home” days, then President’s Day holiday, then snow day. And this morning was a school delayed start. So you’d think I would have had plenty of time to write a blog post during all of those crazy days, right? You’re right. But I didn’t. Here’s why:

1. I pretty much cleaned the whole time. When there is a snow day, I have a tradition of deep cleaning (tradition=two, or maybe three, times before this). Something about being trapped in my small home surrounded by piles of things makes me want to get rid of it all. This weekend I tackled my bedroom closet. And it is so much neater and I got rid of lots of things I don’t need anymore. The untrained observer might wonder how seven pairs of sneakers survived the purge, but that observer should stop being so judge-y and admire my t-shirts progress and the several pairs of donate-able heels I identified. (I find heels so much easier to give away than sneakers, don’t you? I like to imagine they are going to someone who would actually wear them–love them even. I think there are people who love heels, right? Win for me, win for the new owner, win for the shoes, who can finally feel good about themselves. Masochists.)

2. I pretty much cleaned THE WHOLE TIME. When I wasn’t deep cleaning, I was straightening. We have been working hard as a family to keep our house neater. I have found the best way to accomplish this goal is to minimize the time we spend at home. But this long, snowy weekend was all of us–and sometimes neighbors–always at home. So I had to put my best self toward the effort. I alternated between feeling:

a. Like Mr. Incredible (not the husband nickname, but the Pixar super hero):

b. and, A morbid curiosity about what would happen if I stopped straightening all together: How long until we were buried up to our necks in My Little Ponies and pieces of discarded popcorn and semi-functional markers without lids? Not long, I assert, not long at all.

3. MI hogged the good computer. It *is* his computer, admittedly, but I started using it too a while ago and now find that I can’t possibly work on a computer with only one monitor. Writing a blog is an evil genius job, and I don’t feel like an evil genius unless there are two screens. He was using the two-screen computer all weekend. “Taxes and summer camp registration and critical file backup,” he claimed. But I know he was just staying in the room farthest from the toy and art disaster areas, blocking out the “Frozen” soundtrack repeat loop, and hoping against all hope that small children feed themselves over the weekend. Well played, MI, well played.

4. D2 is 3 years old. In my anecdotal field study, based on a very small sample, this is the age at which children go completely crazy. (How did terrible two’s get the bad rap? Two is adorable. Three, dear readers: fear three.) She was so cute, playing around all weekend. Until something UNBELIEVABLY TERRIBLE happened. Like the clip-clop pony princess could not fight gravity and go up the ramp of its own accord. Or when she tried to color over glitter glue with markers, the markers got glitter glue on them. Or hand washing went awry and a drop of water landed on her dress, requiring an entire outfit change. Crusts on bread. Snow on shoes. Sauce on pizza. Syrup on fork. Milk instead of … not milk. Yesterday’s dress still in the laundry. The list of awful things that happened this weekend was long, and we all paid the emotional price.

So now, on a youwouldthink busier day in which I was back to work and had an appointment and am leaving soon for yoga I sat down to write. Because I have energy, and perspective, and no time yet to make popcorn. Booyah cabin fever, take that.

The Modernization of School Projects

Last week I attended Ella’s school’s “Art Showcase” to learn about how the teachers incorporate arts and technology into the standard curriculum. Ella loves school, brings home cool art, and seems to be learning a lot, so I was prepared to be generally impressed. Any organization that wants to provide the paint and glitter and do all of the clean up has my complete blessing. After all, at home we mostly just color computer-printed pictures of the Disney Princess Palace Pet “Blondie” over and over, so we probably need artistic backup.

D2's growing collection of Palace Pet print-outs.
D2’s growing collection of Palace Pet print-outs.

The showcase was also going to be a good chance for me to learn more about architecture class, one of her “specials.” I have heretofore been skeptical about architecture class because I figured it:

  1. Was in reality a class to appease the increasing number of helicopter parents trying to prep children too early and too aggressively for college, a northern-Virginia trend I fight hard to beat down.
  2. Would actually teach her about architecture and she would love it and then I’d have multiple people in the family who want to ‘appreciate and explore’ architecture. MI doesn’t need a partner in that crime.

After just one fourth-grade demo, though, I was completely on board. It was amazing to watch 8 year-old kids making scale models of Fort James on design software to complement a social studies project. I felt proud–if obsolete–to be raising, driving, and providing snacks to such geniuses. I now look forward to the future house Ella will design for me on her island.

Then I went to the demo of technology in storytelling–in Ella’s class!  She was so excited and reminded me beforehand to “remember my smartphone!” (I figured she wanted to star in lots of pictures and I was ready to snap away. Nope.) The demo included a project by each kindergartener where they had used a computer drawing program to illustrate the story of the Three Little Pigs. The children each recorded themselves narrating the story and then they pulled everything together into a video. I needed my smartphone to scan the QR code to pull up her specific project. After I hunted around the Google Play store for a QR reader ap, which I had not used before, I was ready to watch:

So, wow, right? I shared the link with my family (saving well over two dollars in postage, since you used to have to mail such things) and then had a few good laughs with my brother and sister about how we used to make dioramas in shoe boxes and I once won a state-wide prize for building a model that used parts from a toilet.

This is kindergarten education now, huh? Well, I am not backing away, afraid. (Why would you even think that?) The art showcase was school’s shot across the bow. And I will prepare. I am downloading apps. I am going to start reading all the fliers that come home (sorry, dear teachers, that we missed the one about recommended costumes for today’s 100th day of school festivities. Just saw that. . . Don’t worry, I recycled it.) And I am thinking of enrolling myself in the new STEM preschool that just opened in my neighborhood so that I can keep up.

 Time to step up art with Mom:

The time we took a piece of yellow paper and. . . painted it blue.
A tribute to the time we took a piece of yellow paper and… painted it blue.

Algorithms aren’t funny

Apparently math has a minimal sense of irony. That’ll teach me to do sarcastic research affiliated with my own account.

Last week I started pulling together information for a blog entry on a topic of great importance to me: workout attire. My initial ideas for the post were inspired by this insightful Redbook article, “How to Wear Workout Gear All Day.” I read the article, intrigued because I had previously thought that there was just one way to wear workout gear all day: put workout gear on in the morning and then. . . don’t change. Boom: workout gear all day.

Turns out, it was advice on how to ‘style’ workout clothing like real clothes. But, in my humble, finely-honed-and-generally-correct opinion, the advice was ridiculous. Like, ‘wear leggings with a sweater.’ OMG, finally good news on this! Someone should tell high school girls they can wear leggings all the time like pants. I anticipate that trend will be BIG. And universally flattering. ‘Wearing tennis shoes with whatever you want’–did you know that worked?! Pause for a minute to think of your growing wardrobe and how you can jump next to your toddler as he scooters way more comfortably than you would have in your heels. And I assert that an Anorak is neither a workout item, nor a work item. Even if you cuff it asymmetrically.

So, with budding insights like these, I decided to create an alternate list of how NOT to wear workout clothes–a list I think we can all agree is more important. So I began research, looking for ideas and images of some of the worst, weirdest workout outfits, gear, and trends out there. I had a good start. Like:

1. Cropped workout sweatshirts and long-sleeve shirtsReebok crop. Now, I liked cropped shirts as much as the next person: hardly at all. This is not ok, amIright? How often do you need to wear long sleeves but nothing on your stomach? Never, workout warriors. Never.

2. The other side of leggings: those paired post workout with a top that doesn’t cover your rear. Buzzfeed tried to help with the “Am I Wearing Pants?” flow chart, but a lot more education needs to be done on this topic. Learn the rules. Tell your friends.

3. Underwear as outerwear. Think of it as the slip dress of Crossfit. Like this, which is good for skiing under two other layers. But not by itself. Repeat after me: this is not a shirt. This is not a shirt.

4. Mesh: this is the new hotness in workout catalogs “to keep you cool.” Ok, with some of them that have venting in the back or knee or underarm. But companies have, as often happens, misapplied the trend and lost track of what we are trying to accomplish. This doesn’t keep you cool. Things like this and this keep creepy guys coming to group fitness classes and we need to work together to stop it right now.

5. Low crotch “jogger” pants. Fitness gear inspired by hoodlums of 1994.  Pass.  I like to be able to actually move in my workout gear. Plus, I think they are also called “harem” pants. Let’s reflect briefly on that as a society of empowered women.

I wanted *eight* things for my own list, though, to nicely parallel the Redbook article, so I ‘saved as draft’ and went to conduct more field observations at the gym. But before I could make any substantial breakthroughs, though, the magical internet advertising algorithms saw my browse history of unfortunate-looking fitness apparel and revved up its efforts to sell it to me.

So, I still don’t have items 6-8 for my list (feel free to propose in comments below, if you do!) but I see at least one ad at all times that would allow me–usually with free shipping!–to become my own worst dressed list.

Apparently math has a minimal sense of irony. That’ll teach me to do sarcastic research affiliated with my own account. I will be sure, in the future, to use MI’s persona. Just like I did back in 2013 when I needed to learn what “twerking” was (thinking of his ensuing months of article suggestions still makes me giggle).

Lessons learned. Go out there and wear your workout clothes.

Miley-Cyrus twerking day

I am the Dread Pirate Roberts

I love the Princess Bride. My sister and I watched it several (dozen) times growing up, and I read the book a couple of years ago. (Did you know the book is hilarious!? S. Morgenstern, so talented.)

As I was reading the book, I felt a sense of connection with the main character. Not Buttercup, who I could never completely embrace as a heroine. Maybe it was her sudden-onset, rather underwhelming “true love.” Or because she was completely lame in the Fire Swamp. (I am not alone. (And please, youth of America, use better grammar in comments on literary sites. The comma can be cool. Like, for real.))

I totally got Wesley. The person he loved mostly ignored him. She was largely unaware of or unimpressed by his awesomeness. Her thanks were clipped and unfeeling. And, upon inferring his feelings of love for her, she abused them by asking him to fetch things she easily could have gotten herself.

Wesley was pretty much in a permanent state of trying to get my children ready to go to school in the morning when we’re out of sandwich bread and it is cold outside but D2 doesn’t want to wear her coat because its blue and Ella keeps asking to play games on the iPad even though she’s still not wearing pants and school starts in 7 minutes.

Fetch me that pitcher?

After such an experience, it makes sense that Wesley is drawn to becoming the Dread Pirate Roberts: a rich, take-no-prisoners buccaneer who is actually a series of individuals collaborating to maintain an effective, fearsome reputation and make their lives better and jobs easier.


A persona with parenting gravitas; who makes children leap immediately into bed and stay quietly until morning; who makes one healthy meal–with spices!!–that everyone gratefully eats with appropriate utensils; who merely looks askance at toys on the floor before small people race to pick them up, lest they instead become the spoils of piracy. I think with a bit of costume design and some solid one-liners we can do this.