Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything, watching comedy and documentary-type things, and wholeheartedly embrace the podcast. I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening. Here's my two cents worth.

Also: ate. Made this yummy soup a couple of weeks ago. The first day I was all meh, but by the next afternoon it had done that magical thing that soups do as they sit and gotten all kinds of delicious and I think I ate like three bowls. So I recommend making it the day before you actually want to eat it, using only 6-8 cups of chicken broth, upping the amount of beans and/or tortellini, if you're into those sorts of things (which I totally am), and definitely eating it with a bialy from Hot Bread Kitchen. Do it.

Also: ate. Made this yummy soup a couple of weeks ago. The first day I was all meh, but by the next afternoon it had done that magical thing that soups do as they sit and gotten all kinds of delicious and I think I ate like three bowls. So I recommend making it the day before you actually want to eat it, using only 6-8 cups of chicken broth, upping the amount of beans and/or tortellini, if you're into those sorts of things (which I totally am), and definitely eating it with a bialy from Hot Bread Kitchen. Do it.

READ

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem
Jillian Lauren's writing is so honest and raw and real that I love it. In this, her first book, she recounts the months that she spent in a yes-for-real-not-kidding-it-really-was-a-harem in Borneo. It's interesting, slightly gossipy, and actually not too raunchy. She gives a face and a voice to some of her fellow, um...co-workers? Roommates. Let's go with roommates. 

Everything You Ever Wanted
While I enjoyed Some Girls, I had first been introduced to Jillian's work a few years ago through this memoir of her infertility and subsequent adoption journey. After finishing Some Girls I immediately went back to this one (Any other re-readers out there? Re-reader for LIFE). This one really resonates with me, especially on a parenting level; it's still honest and raw, and also powerful and descriptive and beautiful. She brings you right into the emotions of her journey in a very tangible way. If I were you, I'd skip Some Girls and go right for this one.

Hallelujah Anyway
I love Anne Lamott. While this work doesn't quite have the power of, say, Traveling Mercies (another book I could re-re-re-re-re-read), this one is a quick read, and a kick-in-the-pants reminder in that Anne Lamott way of the power of mercy and forgiveness.

The Leavers
I'm not really sure what to say about this one. It's a novel that I never really looked forward to reading, but once I began reading each night, I had a hard time putting it down. Part of it I think has to do with the plot; a pre-teen Chinese boy is unexpectedly left by his mother in New York City and has no idea where she's gone. There's just a lot there that is difficult for me to relate to (undocumented immigration, poverty struggles, life in NYC), but that's not really a great excuse because I read books all the time with characters that are nothing like me (aka kind of the point of reading). I think I also had a hard time actually liking the main character and his mother. In a way I didn't even want to root for them. But again, they did suck me in each time I picked up in the book to read, so I guess I had some sort of emotional investment in their story in spite of myself.

Object Lessons
This coming-of-age novel really pulled me in. It details the life of Maggie Scanlan during the summer of 1966, as she enters her teenage years. It's no hippie manifesto, but it details the intricacies of family dynamics so well. I can relate to and remember that age, that feeling of being a little bit of an outsider while also able to understand so much and yet not quite enough of the adult world. It's quiet and thoughtful, and I appreciated the character of Maggie's mother also finding her own voice.

The Hate U Give
Get thee this book. Or, if you're like me, go on your library's waiting list as number 382 and wait some months for it. Young Adult literature is having a moment lately and I am HERE for it. I would never have known this was Angie Thomas's debut novel. No way. Oh, right, so what is it about? No big deal, just the life of a black girl whose black friend gets shot unjustly by a police officer right in front of her. Ahem. Sound familiar? Starr, the girl, straddles both the black community in which she lives and the more privileged white world where she attends school. It is so well-written, raw and even funny at times. And just a little bit applicable to our current political climate. I almost lost it completely on the very last page.

WATCHED

House of Cards
A little dark, a lot intriguing. Tyson and I have been binge-watching this one. Well, at least binging as much as we can with three small children, which means we're about two months in and have nearly finished season three. The first two seasons were fairly depressing, though still compelling. I will admit to enjoying the third season the most so far as it's been more political intrigue than twisty drama.

LISTENED

For the Love Podcast   
Jen Hatmaker is bringing it in her new podcast. She's basically my spirit animal. I haven't gotten into every episode, but my favorites so far have been with Glennon Doyle and Nichole Nordeman. Both episodes have been filled with so much honest truth that you can't do much but sit there, folded laundry abandoned, as you nod along to all their words.

Note: any links to Amazon in this post are affiliate links.

Seven

We walked around our college campus a couple weeks ago, kids and all. As expected, it brought back a lot of memories. But besides reminiscing about all of the late nights in the design building and the walks across campus and the Campaniling, all I could do was look around at the students as they passed and exclaim, “They don’t know ANYTHING! They don’t know ANYTHING about ANYTHING! WE didn’t know ANYTHING!”

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Apologies college students. I know that’s not exactly true. But seven years later and it sort of feels like it.

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The kids were packed off this weekend, to give us peace and quiet and time to celebrate. We bumped into a groom (of course we did) as we walked around the Cathedral downtown, just a half-hour ahead of his own wedding. He was in the back as we were about to leave, all suited up, boutonniere in place, on a picture-perfect beautiful fall day just like our own. Tyson figured out who he was first, before I did. “You’re the groom?” I blurted out, “Congratulations!!!” (I know that three exclamation points are not editorially correct here, but had you been there, you would have heard those three exclamation points.) “We’ll be celebrating seven years in two days. Before you know it, it will be seven years later and you’ll have a mortgage and three kids!”

Yeesh. Fortunately, I didn’t scare the poor guy. He flashed a grin and said, “Great! That’s what I’m hoping for!” So he’ll be all right. Even though he looked about twelve.

I had the grace to not blurt out everything I wanted to say. Mostly I was thinking about how that handsome groom ALSO DIDN’T KNOW ANYTHING. Neither did his bride. Not a thing. They had absolutely no freaking idea, as they were minutes away from walking down the aisle, what on Earth they were getting themselves into.

Of course, it’s not their fault. We didn’t, either.

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Seven years in and we’re actually not sick of each other. No itch here. We still enjoy each other’s company, can have conversations that last for hours (or would if we didn't look at the clock and do the math to calculate how much sleep we have a chance of getting in before the kids wake up), and look forward to ditching the kids with Nana and Papa to grab 30+ uninterrupted hours of meals, sleep, and discussion to celebrate ourselves.

Seven years seems like both an impossibility and an eternity. In some ways that number doesn’t even seem possible - are we actually even old enough to have been married that long? Then again, so much has happened since October 2nd, 2010 that I must be doing the math wrong. Surely that many life events can't possibly have been packed into such a short amount of time.

We’ve spent the past seven years growing up together. Thinking of us as actual "grown-ups" still seems weird, though I suppose we've earned the title given all the kids and the minivan and the 30+ years we each possess and the fact that we spent a good chunk of our child-free time this weekend cleaning out the garage and enjoying it. (I’m still cool, I swear.) We spent the entirety of our 20s together, most of it married, as we went from living with roommates in college apartments to living in just-slightly nicer apartments together and then into a real, actual, bona fide house.

Speaking of moving up in the world: remember our first dining set? It was a folding table and chairs. We graduated to a "some assembly required" model of dubious construction from Target, and one of the most thrilling days of my life was last summer, when a truck from a real, live, actual furniture store delivered our current dining table to our house - chairs, bench, and all - fully put together, carried by other people that we could actually afford to pay to place it exactly where I wanted it set up, ready to go. Magic!  

We've learned how to cook (me), how to precisely load the dishwasher (you), and how to raise babies (both still learning).

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Not only are we celebrating seven years of marriage today, but this May marked a decade since we met and (one hot second later) started dating. Ten years together. How on Earth? 

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(Oh, and I *could* have bought you a card but instead I just put together the 700+ words above AND saved us $4.99 and it's definitely not like I totally forgot or anything. Happy Anniversary!)

Life Lately

“Come!” Nolan says, taking my hand and dragging me towards the TV. “Cooommmmeee!” And he points, expectantly, to watch another round of “You’re Welcome” from Moana. So much for no screen time before the age of two with this second-round kid. Enjoy, buddy. #thirdkidlife

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Though his actual favorite song is "Wheels on the Bus". "Bus!" he screams, "Buuuuusss!!!" Unfortunately, he knows that we have it on CD in the car. Just FYI, it takes us 3.5 rounds of "bus" to get to Target. 4 to get us to preschool. I don't even want to know how many it's going to take when we road trip it to Iowa.

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First day of Preschool:

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The outtakes:

Asked if they missed me and they both said, "No." In a tone like, duh, mom, why would you even ask that?

First day of dance:

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Stillwater is one of the more picturesque suburbs in the Twin Cities. I danced out there several times a week starting in elementary school, so I kind of feel like I grew up there. It's a bit of a drive, now - 45 minutes or so in light traffic from our house - so I don't get there much now. Saturday we were able to spend the day there, a first with the kids. 

We started out on a boat.

Only a matter of time before we get the "are they triplets?" question...

Only a matter of time before we get the "are they triplets?" question...

Caden was in his element and asked 4587 questions about water and boats. Though I think he was disappointed it wasn't a boat like Moana sails on. (Only a little, though.)

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We then moved on to ice cream.

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I would just like to point out that Nolan's ice cream is half of a normal kid's-sized portion, and Caden's, which includes both his cone and the entire cup of ice cream sitting next to him, is almost a full-sized kid's portion. Why is America so overweight anyway? The world may never know.

We ended at the park. But not just any park. Teddy Bear Park.

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Where Nolan and this bear became BFFs. (And he's not sunburned, and no I didn't up the saturation of these images, kid literaly gets that red the second he steps out the door in any sort of humidity. Combine that with running around the playground like a crazy person and the result is a face as red as his pants.)

A little braver every day.

A little braver every day.

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Every. Time. We. Bake.

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Their combined voice power when they run around playing is louder than ten mixers running at the same time, but sure guys, cover your ears while this single mixer whirrs around on medium. YOU GUYS MAKE NO SENSE.

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Speaking of running around playing, Caden and Brooklyn's favorite game lately is to play "Neighborhood". Which, to most kids, would probably be called playing house, but here it's an almost never-ending refrain of: "Do you want to play neighborhood?" "We're playing neighborhood!" "You be the dad and I'll be the mom so we can play neighborhood." Maybe I have Daniel Tiger to thank? I really don't know, but it's adorable. They go to sleep, wake up ("The sun's up! It's morning!"), make food, go to the store, go to work, take care of their babies, and I was especially proud of Caden the other day as I overheard him say, "Daddy's going to make dinner because mommy has to go to a meeting. Bye mommy! Have fun at your meeting!" And also: "Daddy's going to the store so he needs the diaper bag!" and he slung a pink purse over his shoulder. That's right little man, you rock that pink "diaper bag", and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. #feminism

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Let it be known that the summer of 2017 was the official summer of "Do you want to see a trick?"

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Flips, drops, jumps, twirls, slides, and ten types of climbing. Between them there's nothing these three haven't conquered on this playground. And Nolan is RIGHT THERE with the rest of them. Might as well be triplets, after all.

A Start

As a child, I colored. I went through reams and reams and reams of printer paper. My dad would bring home stacks of it from his office. The old kind, remember the green and white striped stuff with those feeder circles on the sides? Part of the fun was creasing and re-creasing the edges, then ripping them off to throw away or tear up into a miniature snowstorm.

There are pictures of me coloring with a set of crayons at the kitchen table, in the living room, on our front stoop. Though not enough to capture just how much of my childhood this actually involved. In those pre-smartphone, pre-Instagram, only cameras with actual film kind of days, only a few photos exist of me and my favorite pastime. If I were a kid now, my mom’s Instagram feed would be filled with images of me scribbling on pads of paper sprawled all over the house.

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The summer after first grade, I won a second place prize at the State Fair for one of my projects at school. I remember my art teacher, Mrs. Tonder, pulling me out into the hall to tell me she was going to enter one of my creations in the fair. (It wouldn’t be long before our art classes were cut, the ones I thrived in, due to funding.) I didn’t really know what that meant, but I was glad she liked it. I had never been to the State Fair before, though it later became a part of our family culture.

We went to the fair to take a picture of me next to my artwork in a glass display case. It was surrounded by other pictures, mine proudly affixed with a red ribbon. My hair is pulled back, with heavy bangs and all, my t-shirt shirt tucked into my sweatpants, clearly denoting that I was a kid of the '90's.

Later there was an award ceremony for my entire school district to showcase all of our work, K-12, of those who had placed at the State Fair. The story goes that when I was at the front of the room and Mrs. Tonder explained my project and then asked if I wanted to say anything about it, I launched off on a 5-minute lecture before a room packed with kids and parents and relatives on how I created it, the colors I used, the story we read that inspired my work. I had a lot to say.

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I went through a mermaid phase. I remember keeping a ream of printer paper together to create a book that wove back and forth with illustrations of The Little Mermaid. I was going to be a mermaid when I grew up. (Spoiler alert: that hasn’t worked out for me.) I went through a horse phase. A Lion King phase. Lots of Disney. I forgot until recently that my goal, once I got a little older and realized that maybe that whole mermaid thing wouldn’t work out, was to be an animator for Disney. I inhaled images of the designer’s process work just as much as the actual films themselves, absorbing the evolution of characters through sketches and the introduction of color. It fascinated me.

In sixth grade we made our migration from Minnesota to Orlando that March. I could have cared less about all of the rides. I would have preferred a tour of the animation studios. Maybe they would recognize my talent and hire me right then and there.

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My grandma made me promise her, when I was 12 or so, that I would go to school and do something with my art. The fine arts had their appeal to me, all that sketching and painting, but I realized even at a young age that actually making a living doing all that had its disadvantages. The term "starving artists" comes to mind.

I did go to school for design, interior design, which I had decided on by the time I entered eighth grade. That people would go to college only to change their major was absolutely baffling to me. Interior design, which could provide an actual, regular paycheck with benefits. (Though I would quickly realize after graduating two years into a full-blown recession that a design degree of any sort wasn’t actually any better.)

I entered the workforce for a few years. My first job, though technically in the design field, felt like a complete waste of that degree I’d worked so hard to get. My second job wasn’t exactly my dream job either, but at least there we were speaking the same language, discussing room layout and material selection and debating with contractors over window placement and wall removal.

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I don’t design much anymore if you look in at me from the outside. The arrival of twins and then another has left me consumed more with keeping babies fed and alive than with sketching or color choice or schematic layouts and room function. I spend more of my days pulling together supplies for them: glue, construction paper, crayons, stickers, scissors on the days I’m feeling really brave, than doing anything with any of those materials myself.

My brain still thinks like a designer, just like it always has. I still choose children’s books based on the illustrations. Heck, I still choose my own books based on their covers. Color-coordinating the kids’ outfits, when they let me, gives me a secret thrill each and every time. The first thing I notice when I walk into a space aren’t the people or the noise or the food but the way it's designed. The materials, the colors, the layout. Tyson laughs but listens as I critique the design of our latest date night restaurant or the library where we attended storytime earlier. I explain to an audience of one how the space made me feel, how it could be improved. I get to make smaller decisions, choices for our own home: a new bed, a new dresser, some throw pillows. I daydream about re-doing the twins’ bedroom, what the basement will become once we have the time and the money to finish it off.

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A month or so ago, I ordered a coloring book, some pencils. Even on the longest of days, the days where I am emotionally and physically spent, I can find the energy to color. I play with patterns and colors and lights and darks. I’ve colored some things I hate, some I really like. It’s not much; it’s a start.

It’s a return to something, my childhood I suppose. Except now I sit in the dark, in a quiet house, still at the kitchen table though at an hour and with a beverage I would have never been allowed as a child. I choose a page, find my pencils. And I color.

Slow

Slow. That’s how we’ve been moving lately. My usual up and at ‘em, “where are we going today?”, ready and raring by 8:30 am children have settled this August into the ease of summer. Early risers to the core, they wake with the sun but have found contentment sitting around in pajamas, eating later breakfasts, and finding plenty to do in their own playroom, sorting through piles of books and choo-choo tracks and dolls and Moana figures.

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It’s been a struggle some days to get out of the house before 9:30 - a first for us, really. Not that we have much to do. August makes me want to pull my hair out. This in-between period (summer activities having ended a solid six weeks before the fall ones begin) needs something - anything - to give us some routine. There’s no more t-ball or story time at the library, preschool and dance class have yet to begin. Thinking of something to do every morning and afternoon is proving to be a bit much, to put it mildly. Yesterday found me paralyzed by overwhelm on the couch, as the long stretch of afternoon lay before me: what on earth were we going to do for the rest of the day? Did I really have to entertain three little people for another three entire hours before dinner time? (Solution: pull out the pool and water table, invite a neighbor over, drink some water. But not before I lay there filled with dread for a few minutes too long. Jesus, take the wheel.)

Some days it’s as simple as that. And while I try to keep on top of planning playdates and giving some sort of structure to our days, five mornings and five afternoons is waaayyyy too much free time. One morning goes to grocery shopping, another one or two to cleaning, but after our 12th trip to the park in ten days I’m ready to move on to something more regular. Activities that require me to show up with children in tow and plan approximately nothing besides having snacks on hand for hangry toddlers.

In other news, living at the park for days on end means that your small children learn pretty fast how to climb up the death slide. 

In other news, living at the park for days on end means that your small children learn pretty fast how to climb up the death slide. 

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The upside to all this is that they’ve found their footing in independent play. Caden and Brooklyn rush away after breakfast to build elaborate train tracks that wind their way through the main level (a tripping hazard for the rest of the day), zoom their cars around the street-pattered rug, and play complicated games of “neighborhood” that involve going to the store, sleeping, waking up (“The sun is up! It’s morning!”), going to work, and giving each other time-outs (a three-year old’s perspective of Life As A Grown-Up). “Do you want to play neighborhood?” one asks the other, and they rush away, Nolan tagging along behind.

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So I don’t do super great with slow. I am more than ready for routine, a reason to be out of the house before the clock rolls over to 10:00. Summer is great and all, but even as a kid I was always ready for school to start back up again.

Fast isn’t exactly my speed either. Every-day-all-day-go-go-go sounds equally unappealing. I just need a bit more structure. Some options, so that the days we don’t have plans feel actually relaxing, instead of another in a long line of do-nothing days.

Can I crave something a bit more medium? Medium sounds good. A medium pace I can get behind. I think we’ve got that set up for fall. A few mornings of commitment, afternoons mostly free, one evening activity. The countdown is on.

Love ya summer, but I’m ready to move on. It’s not you, it’s me. (Well, maybe it’s a little bit you with that hot, humid weather and all. But mostly it's me.)

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This afternoon, I leaned into the slow a bit, as best I could. The semi-cool weather has me dreaming of fall, and with the apple orchard opening for the season, my destination was clear. We sure as heck weren't going to the park again. (Not to mention the apple orchard is a 30-minute drive. An hour in the car where it only feels like I’m parenting because Wheels on the Bus is on repeat? Yes, please.)

Fall hasn't quite taken over the orchard yet: the hayrides, props for photo ops, the elaborate stacks of hay bales and dried corn stalks were not yet the decor of choice. I knew as much, but also knew that an open field next to a lake would provide just as much opportunity for entertainment.

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And a stop inside for the first apple treats of the season? Pretty much perfect. (Apple donuts FTW!)

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The phrases "Let's go!" and "Hurry up!" are going to be peppering my speech a bit more in the coming weeks. If you couldn't tell (ha!), there's a big part of me that's totally and completely fine with that. At least we embraced the slow today: throwing sticks in the lake, jumping off the giant tree stump, and enjoying the apple orchard pretty much to ourselves before it becomes completely overtaken for the season. And for now, I have three more fresh apple donuts to get me through the meantime. Or at least the next few hours.