Life Lately

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Important Update:

IT'S WARM! 

The last time I posted a Life Lately update, we were literally days away from a blizzard to end all blizzards, one that buried us under (almost) two feet of snow. IN FREAKING APRIL. I'm happy to report that the sun is out, the birds are singing, and the only thing we're digging ourselves out of right now is the sandbox. 

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And not a moment too soon since preschool officially ended last week. As far as I'm concerned it's the first of two Terrible Awful Times of Year until the summer activities begin. (The other being the month of August, after all the summer activities end but before the school year ones begin.) Our calendar is a lot emptier now that preschool, dance, and swimming lessons are all coming to a close. I'm not going to argue with a bit more flexibility but the end of all that structure always feels a bit abrupt. 

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These two look like they grew about a foot since September. It's like I sent babies off to preschool and they returned as Big Kids. I'm sure next year will leave me an emotional puddle on the floor what with Kindergarten looming over us and all, but for now we're looking forward to the summer ahead of us before returning in the fall to the same building, the same classroom, and the same teachers, the only change being three mornings each week instead of two.

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In other News I'm Not Quite As Excited About, Nolan leveled up to a toddler bed.

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If you can't tell from the grin, he's a lot more excited about this new development than either Tyson and I are. 

People have told me I'm "brave" for making the switch and I'm here to set the record straight: NOPE. No bravery here. As IF this were my choice. I would have kept this over-active boy stay in a crib until he graduated high school if it were possible, but he up and went and figured out how to climb out of the dang thing. At the age of two plus a few months he lasted longer than Caden and Brooklyn did, though still not long enough for my taste.

It's actually going pretty well, and in fact much smoother than the twins' transition did, but of course it's not as convenient as dumping him in a crib knowing that he's unable to get out or bother us and would eventually fall asleep. Instead of being miserable about it, I've been claiming the time as my own, sitting in the hallway outside his bedroom with my phone, a book, or my laptop, catching up on messages, reading, writing, or some good old-fashioned online shopping for the hour or so it takes him to settle down and fall asleep.

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In other Nolan news, you may see him around wearing an eye patch. Nothing major, just a little lazy eye we're working to fix. He's only wearing it for an hour a day right now and we'll re-evaluate with the optometrist in September. I should say he's SUPPOSED to be wearing it an hour a day, and while we've had a few good days we've also had some terrible ones. He's not super fond of the thing and waits for the moment I walk or look away to rip it off. I'm thinking of getting some fun patches like these but I don't think even that's going to make him care very much. I've tried decorating his eye patch with stickers and all he wants to do is rip the patch off to see them, and besides sitting in front of a mirror for an hour I'm running out of ideas. 

  It WOULD all be good if just kept your freaking eye patch on.

It WOULD all be good if just kept your freaking eye patch on.

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In house news: I stained our deck! With my own two hands! By myself! Somehow it was really important for me to tackle this project on my own. Partly because this is our third summer in the house and we have yet to buy adult-sized patio furniture. (Of course the kids are taken care of.) Staining our desperately beat-up deck was motivation for that purchase. I guess what works to motivate my kids is also what works to motivate me right now, "If you do X then you get candy!" Except instead of candy it's a set of patio furniture. And I totally rewarded myself with candy, anyway.

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Caden and Brooklyn not only celebrated the end of preschool, but also had their first dance recital this past weekend.

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Preschool didn't do it to me this year, but dance sure did. Being backstage and then watching their show, with their little costumes and the makeup and that HAIR and those grins and all those little attempts at dancing DID ME IN. ALL the feels, that's for sure.

I'm not sure how to explain it exactly, besides this that I jotted down as part of a writing exercise yesterday:

It's strange to be the one behind the curtain. Tears spring to my eyes. They're equal parts sad and happy; both mourning that my time is over (does that sound selfish?) while also feeling so full that my proud mama heart could burst. Wasn't I the one out there just yesterday? And yet look at them, these babies, in their tutus and their bowties and their makeup. It's the beginning of the story for them. They're ready for the magic and the beauty of it all.

I take out my phone from my back pocket as they watch the dancers before them, captivated. I take a few photos and pray one turns out in the dim light. A behind-the-scenes photo of the next generation. Maybe they'll be the ones backstage with tears in their eyes someday.

As of now, Caden isn't sure he wants to continue next year. He loved the costumes and the stage but hasn't been too fond of the actual classes the past few months. He's thrown out trying everything from hockey to gymnastics to focusing on swimming next year. Then he caught my attention yesterday morning when he said that maybe he does want to dance next year, after all.

Of course, I kind of hope he does. If nothing else, Brooklyn will continue on, and I'm so glad we had at least one recital with them together.

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Read, Watched, Listened

I love reading just about everything (okay, you won't see any mystery or sci-fi picks on here), watching things that make me think and especially if they make me laugh, and wholeheartedly embrace the podcast. I also enjoy hearing about what other people are reading, watching, and listening. Here's my two cents worth.

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READ

Other People's Houses
I LOVED this book. It was funny and irreverent, serious and observational. It made me laugh out loud several times - which books don't usually make me do. This book was a somewhat satirical take on modern suburban life, parenting, and marriage focused on the friendship dynamics of a group of neighborhood friends. I'd call it a perfect "beach read": easy to read, funny as hell, and with a bit of a bite.

On Writing
If you're a writer, you need to read this book. Part memoir, part writing manifesto, Stephen King describes both his path and success as a writer and offers writing tips. He touches on everything from grammar to the editing process all interwoven with personal anecdotes. While I found some of his approaches basically impossible in my current season of life (I believe six hours is the number he suggests for reading and writing each day), I understand the purpose behind them. I borrowed this from the library but will be purchasing my own copy to read and re-read each and every year.

This is How it Always Is
The mother in this book was everything to me. Fierce, intelligent, and protective, this novel is all about secrets, family, and the lengths we go to protect those we love. Both Rosie (the mother) and her husband Penn have an intense love for their family of boys, and this novel details their story when the youngest defines himself as transgender. It was a beautiful look at the support a family offers their LGBT child without ending in complete tragedy. 

Britt-Marie Was Here
After Beartown, I put my name on the list for every one of Fredric Bachman's books at the library. This one didn't quite do it for me. What kept me turning (er-swiping) each page was my desire for Britt-Marie to succeed. I found the ending a bit disappointing and the characters fell flat for me. I also had a hard time getting into the setting. Maybe I sound crazy, but I could never quite picture it in my head so I had a hard time really getting into the book. 

Americanah
I wanted to love this book. Ifemelu moves from the chaos of Nigeria to the United States, away from her home and her boyfriend, Obinze, where she starts a successful blog with observations on race in America. I was left wanting...more. I wanted more of Ifemelu, more about her blog. I felt like much of her personal journey and work was glossed completely over. A lot of the book was filled with diatribes on race disguised as dinner party conversation. The dialogue was bizarre to me. While I agreed with many of the points and appreciated the observations and opinions on race in America (and elsewhere), I'm not sure a novel was the best place to do so. To me it felt like an lengthy op-ed disguised as a novel for much of the book.

Everybody, Always
Bob Goff fangirl over here! *raises hand* This book is filled with joy and wisdom and basically charges us to love everyone. What if we spent our lives loving people, even (especially) the difficult ones? His personal stories range from hilarious to unbelievable to flat-out difficult. I find myself thinking about how I can "become love" to specific people or in specific moments, as he so often does in the book. I will come back to this book again and again.

WATCHED

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
The comedians in this show are just as hilarious as the title itself. Jerry Seinfeld drives around with famous comedians and they, well, get coffee. Most of the episodes are a quick watch (20 minutes or less) that Tyson and I find ourselves reaching for on the evenings we're plain old tired. A couple of our favorite episodes have been with Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah.

The Big Sick
So good! We're not big movie people but I'd heard friends rave about this one and I loved it. Funny and touching, it details comedian Kumail Nanjiani's real-life meeting and courtship of his wife Emily. There's disapproving family (Kumail is Muslim, Emily is white), a mysterious illness resulting in a medically induced coma, and comedy throughout. Do it like we did: order take-out, cue it up on Netflix, and make it a date night in.

LISTENED

It's been a struggle for me to keep up with my regular podcasts lately, but I enjoyed this episode from Coffee + Crumbs on meal planning, this one from Jen Hatmaker on a mom spreading love and hugs to the LGBTQ community, and giving more love to Jen for her interview with the Pantsuit Politics ladies in this episode.

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

Whole 30 Recap

Whole 30 is OVER! O-V-E-R over!

Yeesh, don’t cheer too loudly, Shannon.

Really, though, I'm glad it’s done. I survived. One of the most famous tough-love lines from Whole 30 is “Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard.”

Umm...I have to say I found drinking my coffee black to be pretty damn (mentally) hard.

So wait, back up. Why did you do Whole 30 in the first place?

Plain old curiosity, honestly. While I feel like we generally eat pretty healthy (I cook most nights, make things from scratch, don’t drink soda or eat fast food, etc.), lots of my recipes still utilize things like grains, pasta, and dairy. I also love to bake and the real heavy cream and sugar in my coffee each day is definitely a bright spot. Plus: beer. Wine. Cocktails. What happens if I take all that away?

So while I did not and do not have any underlying health concerns to address through a program like Whole 30, I was just genuinely curious about what would happen by taking out a good chunk of things in my diet. Would my skin be clearer? Would I sleep better? Would my energy levels spike through the roof? What’s all the hype about, anyway?

Well, what did you find out?

Honestly, I felt mostly the same. I never got to the “tiger’s blood” stage or crazy energy levels some people talk about. I also have three young kids AND Nolan transitioned to a toddler bed during the month which took a toll on my sleep, so maybe hyped-up energy levels were an unrealistic expectation in the first place.

I did feel more clear-headed. It’s hard to say for sure, but I truly feel as though my head was less fuzzy than it’s been the past few months, especially during the typical slump of the mid-afternoon/early evening hours. However, I have to say I also attribute that to spring finally arriving in these parts. A mid-April blizzard did nothing to improve my mood, (I was, in fact, MORE crabby than usual since all I wanted to do while we were trapped in the house was bake and eat all the bread and cream-based soups), but the sunshine has been a total game-changer. I have to say I always feel perkier at this time of year, regardless of diet.

The best surprise has been the absence of bloating. As in: gone. I didn’t even know I was bloated before; I just thought it was how my stomach looked after having three kids. But my stomach has definitely been flatter and my pants have been fitting looser. I was surprised at how soon I noticed (or didn't notice) the bloat, too, really only four or five days in.

What about the kids?

The kids did not do Whole 30 with us, besides at dinner. I only make one dinner each night, so they eat what we eat. However I wasn’t going to make this any more difficult (or expensive) than it already was, so we still had cereal and milk on hand for their breakfast, grilled cheese for lunch, and Goldfish for snack time. Also, since we started the day after Easter, I wasn’t going to forbid two four-year olds and a two-year old from eating their Easter candy because I’m not a monster.

What will you do moving forward?

There are some things we’re committed to. No more buns for our burgers, for example. Lettuce works just fine and even the kids loved wrapping their juicy hamburgers up with the crunchy green stuff. I found a few recipes we loved, so I’ll keep those in the rotation. And I'm going to keep an eye on the labels of things we're consuming (so. much. sugar). Those are some small changes, but ones that will still make a difference.

Really, though? We’ll go back to eating a lot like we did before. Neither Tyson or I felt that much different on Whole 30 or found any glaring sensitivities to any foods we omitted. I often found myself feeling like my food was missing something: a piece of bread with my soup, some naan with our curry, cream in my coffee. I missed these things as much for the change of flavor, texture, and variety as much as anything.

I am going to be more intentional with my snacking moving forward. I found myself actually snacking more on Whole 30, which, while technically “forbidden” I found it's a better way for my body to process food than with three large meals. I do much better with smaller portions and a couple small snacks during the day. I simply can’t eat very much at one time. Bananas with cinnamon and cashew butter were a favorite afternoon snack of mine, though moving forward I may also add a sprinkling of chocolate chips. :)

I also realized just how much I missed baking. I often bake myself or with the kids and it was pure torture to not bake for a whole month, especially during the snowstorms we had not once but twice (aka prime baking weather). I love baking for the creative outlet, as another activity during the day, and, yes, I plain old enjoy eating the results, too. Bring on the brownies!

Anything else?

I was amazed at the community surrounding the Whole 30 program. Not the forums (talk about crazy die-hards) but just the regular people in my life. I had several people message me the very first day I posted something in my Instagram stories: some were beginning Whole 30 for the first time like me, others were offering their help and support. Literally many of them said, “Let me know how I can support you.” Who does that? Some of these friends were people I hadn’t talked to in years or had never even met! I was truly amazed and encouraged by the support these people offered and provided...all because of a Whole 30 hashtag!

I also realized just how privileged I am to do a program like this in the first place. First of all, it’s expensive. It stretched our budget this month and we spent way more on food than I am comfortable with going forward. I also found it tricky to get some of the more specialty items. Even though we live in a large urban area, the nearest Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are 20-25 minutes away from our house, in a direction we don’t typically travel. They’re also nearly impossible to navigate with three kids since there’s only room for one in the cart. Then there’s the whole time aspect. It plain old takes a lot more time to cook when you’re chopping, cutting, and making so many things from scratch. I often started dinner much earlier in the afternoon or found myself preparing food over naptime when I would have preferred completing other household tasks or basking in the one quiet hour of my day. I can only imagine how much more difficult it would be to be a working or single parent and stay on top of all the food prep.

Also: condiments. Condiments, condiments, condiments are life on Whole 30. Primal Kitchen’s Chipotle Lime Mayo was a Godsend this past month. Mustards, mayos, dressings, etc. were essential to keep the food interesting for me.

But tell me, did you cheat? Even a little bit?

Okay, okay. Yes. I did. The most glaring example was when we were at a birthday party with tacos when the infamous mid-April blizzard went through a couple weeks ago. Tyson and I looked at each other and realized what the drive home was going to entail, which would land us smack into bedtime. We realized the effort it would be to put the kids to bed after the excitement of a party, then make dinner, and then eat at a somewhat unreasonable hour was going to be a lot. Also assuming we didn’t get stuck in the snow on the way home. (A legitimate concern, we got 22 inches of snow in less than 48 hours.) Tyson and I looked at each other and decided to just eat the dang tacos. And y’know what? They were delicious. Neither of us felt that different after eating them. (Tyson’s honest-to-God biggest complaint was that his lips felt raw from eating some salty tortilla chips. Hang in there, hon.)

There were a couple other times where I fried my egg in butter because it stuck to the pan when I used ghee or coconut oil and once I used ¼ cup of regular flour because I didn’t feel like buying a $15 bag of almond flour for a recipe. I’m over it.

I also made a smoothie once or twice, whipped up “pancakes” out of a banana and an egg a few mornings to switch up my breakfast routine, and once I even licked the peanut butter off my finger when making the kids’ sandwiches, so clearly I’m going to Whole 30 hell.

Bottom line.

I am not a Whole 30 convert or fanatic. It was an interesting experiment but one I’m ultimately glad to be done with. I'm happy to go back to less chopping and convenience on nights that we're short on time. I’ll also be glad to grab a bowl of yogurt, fruit, and granola in the morning. However, the bloating find was a major one for me. It’s nice to know that if I’m ever feeling "off" I can do a quick reset for a week or so to get back on track.

Overall I think the biggest reason Whole 30 didn't work for my personality as much as it might for others is that I can have a little bit of something and call it a day. I am the person that can eat just two cookies from the batch, one piece of Easter candy without demolishing the whole basket, or drink a single glass of wine because that's more than enough for me. Melissa Hartwig, the founder of Whole 30, wrote about this in terms of Gretchen Rubin's concept of being a Moderator or an Abstainer. I'm a Moderator all. the. freaking. way. It didn't feel like "food freedom" to me to say that I couldn't have certain things. I did not enjoy just how much I thought about what I was putting in my mouth. Was it compliant? Was it not? If not? Too bad, so sad, walk away. It felt too black and white to me. In some ways it made me want certain foods even more, even things I don't typically eat, and I found it wasn't very healthy for my brain.

I'm going to toast with a beer tonight (another thing I missed, though honestly not as much as I thought I would) and enjoy moving forward.

In case you're curious, (and still reading!) here's an assortment of some of my favorite recipes and things I ate on a typical day. These are the things foods you'll find on our table moving forward...along with a jar of Chipotle Lime Mayo in our fridge!

  1. Dinner: Chicken fajita bowls.
  2. Breakfast: Garlic roasted potato and red pepper hash. Fried egg. Coffee.
  3. Lunch: Applegate hot dogs with mustard. Mixed-greens salad with shredded carrots, diced onion, sunflower seeds and balsamic vinaigrette. Pamplemousse La Croix.
  4. Breakfast: Compliant bacon. Fried egg. Sliced strawberries and banana with cinnamon. Coffee.
  5. Dinner (with leftovers for lunch): Barbacoa beef bowls with butter lettuce, pico de gallo, and fresh guacamole.
  6. Snack: Sliced banana with cinnamon and cashew butter.
  7. Breakfast: Fried egg. Compliant bacon. Garlic roasted potato and red pepper hash. Cold brew coffee.
  8. Snack: A handful of medjool dates with roasted, salted cashews.
  9. Dinner: MY FAVORITE. Tikka misala meatballs (made with 1 lb. ground pork and 1/2 lb. ground beef). Coconut cauliflower rice.
  10. Dinner: Sheet pan sausage and roasted veggies (based on this recipe, though I used Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and red pepper). Dijon mustard. Watermelon spears.
  11. Mocktail: Coconut La Croix with a lime.
  12. Dinner: Hawaiian steak kabobs. Coconut cauliflower rice.

What I See

“Tell Mommy what happened at church today,” Tyson said as he walked in the door with Nolan, who was fighting to get his jacket off. (“Work!” he cried, toddler-speak for, “This doesn’t work!”, used whenever he is stuck on either a physical or mental problem.)

I stood at the kitchen counter and cut up the pizza they’d brought home for dinner. “What happened?” I asked, distracted, wondering if Brooklyn would want pizza or something else to eat since she was sick. Her lethargy and almost fever were the reason we’d stayed behind.

“I fight. Kid,” Nolan said, (more toddler-speak), with a slight gleam in his eye.

My brow furled. I paused and turned away from the rainbow of plastic plates awaiting pizza slices on the counter. “Wait. You did what?” I met Tyson’s eye. Did I hear that right? His expression was half amused, half exasperated.

“Yup. They kicked him out. He hit another kid with a toy. Right on the nose. You should have seen the bruise; it was impressive.”

I finally moved to help my warrior-child with his jacket, noting the sticker on his back as I peeled it off his arms. JESUS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE! it proclaimed. The irony.

I probed for more details. No, he wasn’t exactly kicked out, but since it was almost the end of service it was just easier for Tyson to take him. No he wasn’t really in trouble, nobody was mad. In fact, some of our favorite volunteers were in the room and seemed more bemused by the whole episode than anything. Yes, he’d be welcomed back next week.

I sighed, watching this kid, this overly energetic, spirited, precocious, lively two-year old of mine eat his pizza in the messiest way possible. 30 seconds into dinner and he already had a dollop of sauce on his nose, toppings in his hair, more food off his plate than on it. There went our four-year streak of never being called back to the children’s area during church.

I wondered if the volunteers in the toddler room saw what I see: a lovable, unusually active even for his age, typically well-intentioned little boy who has an absolute overabundance of energy. Did they see that he hit the kid on the nose only because the other boy was trying to take the toy from him in the first place and this is how two-year olds solve problems? Surely that’s what happened. I couldn’t see him bopping a kid on the nose for no reason, but I knew he’d have no problem defending himself. Self-confidence was not something he lacked. Did they see any of his redeeming qualities or did all that energy cause him to be labeled only as “the naughty one”?

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Nolan gives me a grin across the parachute before he takes off at a run for the 14th time during circle time at open gym. I know the routine. It takes me less than half a second to bolt after him. He has such a hard time sitting still to focus. For anything. Outings I did as a matter of routine with the twins: library storytimes, visits to the local coffeeshop, the simple act of strapping them in the double stroller, are virtually impossible with this one rambunctious toddler. I don’t even try storytime with him anymore. Open gym is great, except for this 10-minute circle time. I look at the other 30 kids, ranging in age from babies to five-year olds, all sitting patiently as the gymnastics coach explains the rules for jumping in the foam pit. As I wrangle Nolan back in my arms, I notice another mom staring at me. Not staring, really it’s more of a glare. My cheeks get hot, hotter than they already are from running after him for the past hour. I meet her gaze, daring her to say something. She doesn’t, but continues to stare me down.

I feel like saying something, but everything I think of sounds pretty awful in my head. Do you have a problem? Too confrontational. What are you looking at? Not any better. Two-year olds, amiright? Too trite. I have three kids under five and I’m doing the best I can!!! Emotional overload.

I’d love to give this mother some grace, but I don’t have it in me today. I noticed her earlier, sitting calmly, while her own five-year old ran around to use the gymnastics equipment. Hasn’t he ever pushed the limits before?  What is she looking at, anyway? I realize that every other kid is sitting more or less patiently, but doesn’t she remember what two is like? I’m not sure what she wants me to do. He runs, I retrieve. He runs again, I retrieve again. I’m trying to teach him what it means to sit still and listen without causing too much of a scene. I’m doing what I can. I feel shamed and judged and hate that I feel that way as I take a seat again on the bright-colored mat.

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The park just down the street from our house is big. It’s one of the first things I noticed about the neighborhood. The giant blue plastic sea monster made it instantly distinctive and added to its charm. There are swings, plenty of slides, and lots of opportunities for climbing. It boasts a smaller, separate toddler area (“ages 2-5” proclaims a sign), and the large, main one (“ages 5-12”). Every single one of my kids has been pretty much over the toddler area since before they were two years old. But Nolan has really put those recommended ages to the test. He’s been able to climb up to the top of the tallest part of the playground since he was 14 months old. Yes, the part of the playground for the 5-12-year olds. My just barely one-year old thought it was no problem.

I used to run up there after him. I’d take a running start and dash up a slide as he climbed through the tunnels, up, up, and up some more, so I could meet him at the top to help him go down the tallest slides (one of which I’ve nicknamed “the death slide” for how ridiculously steep it is). Leggings and sneakers weren’t just the cliche wardrobe choice as a stay-at-home mom; they were a necessity for all I needed to do to keep up with him.

Now I stand with two feet planted on the ground as I watch Nolan climb the tallest ladder on the playground, one foot and then another. Last summer it was his entire life’s ambition to climb up there (“Do it MYSELF!”) and I wouldn’t let him. One wrong move would mean a twenty-foot drop to the ground and I wasn’t confident in my abilities to catch him. Two years old and I’m tired of fighting him. I don’t have it in me anymore to tell him he can’t when he’s so clearly confident he can.

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Other parents will alert me sometimes to what he is doing, their nerves showing as they watch his tiny body climbing higher and higher in the air. I smile, thank them, and say I know. He has so much energy, so much drive, so much ambition. I know he’ll get to the top, turn around, and scream, “I did it!” with his arms raised in the air. Every time. It never fails. I wonder if they see what I see: an active, determined, persistent, daredevil of a two-year old. I wonder if they worry he’s setting a bad example for their own small children as he climbs the tallest ladder, jumps from a step you’d think is too high, dangles like a monkey and drops to the ground from a bar more than twice his own height.

I don’t care what they think. I know what he can do.

I watch him climb. Wait for him to tell me he did it. Watch for him to be proud.

Life Lately

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Easter. Has it really come and gone already? Looking out the window it seems impossible (just leave us alone already, winter) but the gallon-sized Ziploc bags in my pantry filled to overflowing with jellybeans, chocolate rabbits, and pastel colors suggest otherwise. While we had a nice Easter, it also just didn't seem very Easter-y. I'd feel like we should have a do-over if I wasn't already burned out on holidays by this time of year. Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year's to Valentine's Day to Birthday Week to Easter is quite enough for me by now, and I'm happy to sit back and basically coast again until fall. Just yesterday Brooklyn asked me, "Which holiday comes next, Mommy?" and I thought for a moment before happily replying, "Mother's Day." I'll take it.

As for Easter itself this year? Less than two weeks ago and I don't have much to report. We dressed up, went to church, the Easter Bunny hid their baskets, Uncle Tyler hid a bunch of eggs, the kids gorged on candy and I bought tulips just to make it feel like the slightest bit of spring. Hahaha.

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Swimming lessons have commenced and you are looking at three little fish. With "Do we have swimming today?" being asked on the daily around our house, it's become the most highly-anticipated activity in our week. They've taken to the water with ease and you should have seen Nolan's enthusiasm for jumping into - and under - the water this week. (Unfortunately his attitude of no fear applies to water, as well. Great.) Just a few weeks in and Caden and Brooklyn have already progressed to using goggles (earned only by keeping their faces in the water to the count of "five bananas"). I may be projecting here, but maybe swim team will become our sport of choice? I'm all in just for the joy of sitting in the 92-degree heated pool area.

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We're into all things super heroes lately. We being primarily Caden, Brooklyn most of the time, and Nolan just because whatever his big brother and sister do must be cool. Batman, Batgirl, and Robin are the favorites (and the Halloween costumes for the year - or so they've told me and given the obsession lasts all the way to October) and Caden is rarely seen without his blanket cape.

"Mommy," he asked yesterday, sitting pensively on the couch, "Who is your favorite super hero? Batman or Batgirl or Superman or Elsa or Iron Man?" After further questioning, I figured out that Elsa is a super hero because she has a CAPE attached to her dress. Duh. 

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Have I mentioned the part where it's still basically winter here and everything is terrible? It's all anyone talks about lately. We're going on our sixth month of snow and cold and everyone is over. it. all. "Do you think it will ever warm up?" "Some winter, huh?" "Can you believe this winter?" " It's been a long winter" and "UGGGGHHHHH" (from the parents) have all become standard greetings around here.

Keeping the kids occupied, particularly Nolan, is my main challenge lately. At the beginning of the cold, I was eager for the chance to hunker down and be cozy. Let's snuggle up with blankets! And read books! And watch movies! And drink hot chocolate! And play with Plah Doh and build block towers and create art and do all the indoor things! Six months later and I'm burned out, I have no new ideas, we've gone to all the indoor play areas one billionty times and the TV has come to the rescue with more and more frequency. We. just. need. to. be. outside.

Don't let the photos above fool you. The train track and the Play Doh didn't keep that kid occupied more than a hot minute before he was over it and onto other things. I'm sick of looking at my house, I'm sick of toys strewn everywhere because the kids are bored to distraction, and I'm sick of trying to come up with new things to do. No one should have to parent three kids under the age of five through six months of snow and cold. This rant brought to you by: the longest winter EVER.

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2018 04 03 Food 01.jpg

In other news, we're on day 11 of Whole 30. So far so good. I guess. I still miss cream, sugar, pasta, rice, ice cream, and most other dairy products. Anyone who tells you otherwise or says "You won't even miss ______!" is a lying liar. I do miss those things. We have actually discovered some truly tasty recipes (such as the chicken fajita bowls pictured above) and I'm sure some of the recipes and changes will stick with us. But I can't wait for day 31 when real cream and sugar is going straight back into my coffee. Dairy-free creamers taste like lies and just aren't the same.

One nice change for me is a significant change in the amount of bloating in my body. As in little-to-none. I didn't even know I was bloated before, I just thought that was how my stomach looked after having three kids. My stomach area feels completely different now, in the best of ways. I was surprised at how soon I noticed that change, too, really only five days in. Otherwise I've felt mostly the same, thankfully avoiding the raging sugar-withdrawal symptoms that others warned me about. 

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Nolan calls buttons "butts". It's as hilarious as it sounds. "I push the butt!" "My turn to push the butt!" "My butt!" "I want to push the butt!" "Push this butt!" Etc. Insert all the laugh-cry emojis here.

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2018 04 04 Both Playtime 01.jpg

All these two want is to play together lately. All the imaginative play. Give them a couple of dinosaurs, Barbie dolls, or Moana figures and they're all set. Or sit back and watch the epic tales that ensue as they send their dinosaurs off on a spaceship where it meets up with an airplane, and the pilot loads every figure in existence in our house from Olaf to farm animals to all the Little People onto the plane, and then Elsa flies to the rescue (because she can fly with that cape, obviously) because they all get stuck in outer space, and afterwards they fly home to eat candy and go to bed because it's clearly time for nigh-night after such an exhausting day.