Thursday, January 31, 2013

100 Books: January Update

I have been a reading fool, which is part of the reason I haven't been around much lately.  This month, I have read 14 books, but I have high hopes to tear through another one tonight-- either the trashy thriller I snagged at Walgreens the other day when I realized I wouldn't be able to make it to the library (and good thing I did because I forgot to bring my library books with me today-- maybe I'll remember tomorrow, but it;s only going to be 6 tomorrow, so I may try not to go ANYWHERE) or Love Is a Mix Tape which I just this second found on my office shelves.  (I have read 250 pages today for my class next week, so I am thinking the mix tape book which is much slimmer).

Getting a PhD in the humanities will make you a fast, fast reader (I used to read 1500 pages a week-- usually more for my classes), and I have loved  having time this year to curl up with a good book.  Swearing off the e-reader has made me go to greater lengths to find books-- the library, Walgreens, my own neglected bookshelves, as well as Amazon and Barnes and Noble-- but I have been lucky enough to find a good book at my fingertips whenever I want without resorting to downloading.

Here are the 14 books I have read so far, in order from least favorite to most favorite (but really, there hasn't been a bad book):

Brave Girl Eating by Harriet Brown:  I read this memoir of a family's struggle with anorexia during a single nap, so it was certainly interesting, but it effected me the least of all the books I read this month.
Dumping Billy by Olivia Goldmsith:  A cute book, and I LOVE Goldsmith, especially Flavor of the Month.  This particular book was released posthumously, after she died of plastic surgery complications.
My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman:  Engaging story, badly drawn characters, but a terrific narrator.
Knitting Under the Influence by Claire LeZebnick:  As the name suggests, this is total schlocky chicklit, but still funny and fun to read.  That's how I feel about all of her books-- good when you want something mindless, though-- fast plots and terrific dialogue.
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin:  I liked this book, but it was a kind of slow read for me, and I was totally overwhelmed by Rubin's inability to examine her own considerable privilege.  It didn't sound hard for her to be happy.  Being a pretty privileged person myself, though, I fond some great tips.
The Litigators by John Grisham:  Ben likes Grisham so much that he buys him in hardback.  He urged me to read this one when my first stack of library books didn't last a whole week, and I was skeptical.  But I really loved it.  The plot was engrossing and the end was really satisfying.  I smiled the whole time I read this thing, even on the elliptical.
The Chocolate Money by Ashley Prentice Norton:  Sad! Funny!  Awesome narrator!  This was another fast read.
The Foremost Good Fortune by Susan Conley:  An excellent memoir about a woman who gets breast cancer while living in China with her husband and 2 sons-- beautifully written, haunting.
The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg:  I loved this book so much I tried to send it to Sarah, but I used the self-serve machine at the PO and the book has since vanished.
Great House by Nicole Krauss:  A beautiful book.  I just finished it at lunch, so it might be higher on my list if I had more time to process.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich:  The second-to-last line of this book is the most perfect thing I ever read.  It made me burst into tears on the elliptical because I loved it so much.
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss:  OH MY GOD this book is amazing.  If you haven't read it, you should RIGHT NOW.  I cried and cried and cried at the end, but they were good tears.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:  Yup.
Elsewhere by Richard Russo:  Russo is my favorite living author, and I have read everything he has written, so I knew I would love this book.  If this baby were a boy, in fact, he would be William Henry with the nickname hank after my favorite character is all of literature from Straight Man, my favorite book in the world.  Reading this made me want to reread Russo's entire oeuvre.

I got 6 of these books from the library, 5 from Amazon, 2 from Barnes and Noble, and 1 from  my own bookshelf.  Next month, I want to check out more books instead of buying them, but I also want to read Jen Lancaster's new book and John Irving's among others, and there's NO WAY I'll be able to fight through a wait list to get new releases from the 'brary.

I'd love any book suggestions you have, too!

Friday, January 25, 2013

This week

A whole week almost!

I've been busy, though.

I had my first class on Thursday, and I read 3 more books, putting me up to 12 this month.  The big kids only had 3.5 days of school this week, and I had 2 solo nights while Ben finished up his adjunct classes-- only 1 more left!

Hockey was an epic fail.  We were so late that Jack only had 20 minutes to skate-- more like 35 for Harry, but Jack freaked out while I was trying to cram on his skates.  Next week, I am putting them on at home, and they can walk in on the damn blade covers.

It's single-digit cold here, too, which make everything a little bit terrible, especially after dark.  It's also snowy, and there's salt EVERYWHERE, meaning everything has a little grime-- shoes, floors, backpacks, coats, pacifiers.

 No school on MLK day, but I had a little work to do.  Harry and I went out for breakfast at a coffee shop at the crack of 7 and worked happily until 9.  I got my stuff done, and he read, colored, worked on math, cut out shapes, wrote in his notebook, and NEVER ONCE STOPPED TALKING.

 We came home to find the rest of the house still in jammies, and Harry and Cooper got to work on a Star Wars coloring book.

 Monday evening, we had a sitter for Cooper, so we could take Harry and Jack to Show Week for their Little Gym karate class.

 And after, we went out for a nicer than usual because we didn't have the monkey-like, high chair eschewing toddler dinner and pie at our favorite diner at the counter where we never get to sit because of the monkey.  Jack ate my pie and his carrot cake.  With no utensils.  It was so cold that we left the car running in front of the restaurant while we ran in for pie.  Classy and environmentally conscious.
 Cooper likes sunglasses.
 On Wednesday, my brother went with me to Cooper's Little Gym show.  He was very serious about waiting for and receiving his ribbon.

Today, I could not stop thinking about TJ's organic toaster pastries, so we bought some, and it turns out Cooper likes them too.  MOTY.

 How precious is this hat from Jamie's Etsy shop??

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Baby stuff and groceries.

Cooper has decided he no longer needs a high chair.  Instead, he'd prefer to sit on Ben.  This picture sums up how theu both feel about the situation.

Suddenly a huge, huge tummy.

They picked out their own clothes.

Sent Ben to Carters to pick out clothes he thinks are adorable-- and they are so, so adorable!

He also got this tiny gray headband, which is JUST the feminine touch this tiny rock star sleeper needs to transition from Cooper to baby girl.

My FB friend Katie surprised us with this adorable Badger tut and headband from Inspired by Gianna

Baby's hospital clothes and hats (yeah, the boys wore the hospital issued hat and t-shirt, but I have gowns and an organic hat with a flower and teeny ruffley socks for our baby girl).

I also ordered an adorable custom designed hat from Jamie, that I am really, really, really excited about.

The kids were in rare form today.  So tired and cranky.  We went to Benihana to celebrate Ben;s mom's 60th last night, and the kids LOVED it, especially Harry. But we didn't get in the car to drive home until 7:45, which messed bedtime up, and for some reason all of our kids get up earlier when they have been up later WHICH MAKES NO SENSE.

Since we were up at 5:13 (are you KIDDING ME??) we took advantage of the early wake up time and Cooper's lack of a morning nap to go to 2 different grocery stores (we know how to live it up).  As always happens in the winter, our grocery bill is astronomical because we are buying organic produce that's not in season.  We thought mayyybe by shopping around, we could get better deals.  We did find $1 carrots and $2 celery, and the local bagels we like were on sale 10 6-packs for $10 (which was amazing-- they are $.50 a bagel at Whole Foods), but generally, we came to the realization that we like what we like and it doesn't totally matter how much it costs-- we are still going to buy it.  At the same time, we can make it cost less, especially now that Cooper doesn't nap til noon, and we have all Sunday morning to compare cheese prices and find $3.50 bags of organic kiwi.  SO EXCITING.  (Also, you would not believe how much yogurt we eat every week).

I washed and folded and hung baby clothes today-- new ones and my old favorites from the boys.  We have plenty of teeny sleepers and impossibly small onesies.  I might get a couple more nightgowns-- those were so great when the boys were tiny-- and I am in the market for girly Miracle blankets, especially since we used Cooper's until they got holes. Maybe some more tiny socks.  But that's it.  For now.

Neither Ben nor I has been able to envision any clothes for her past the 0-3 stage.  Dresses look so UNCOMFORTABLE.  Won't her teeny baby legs be cold? And tights aren't snuggly-- I know this because I wear tights all the time.  I know it'll be summer when she's growing out of her super tiny clothes, but we keep our house cold, and I remember Jack's poor little skin getting mottled when he'd wear summer clothes.  SO we're taking more of a wait and see approach, which is funny because we are usually impulse buyers.  Also funny that I am eschewing tulle for cotton and putting a premium on comfort.  That's what having boys first will do to you, I guess.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lunch blues

This week was HARD!

 Monday wasn't-- Ben taught class and was home by noon. I laid around in my PJs, grabbed a workout while Coop napped, and took Harry out for a snack and groceries after school so we could whip up some chicken enchiladas to cook while the big boys and I went to karate and Ben and Cooper went to the Genius Bar to see why Ben's old, old laptop (it's younger than Jack which is OLD for a computer) couldn't run Java (needed Snow Leopard-- all fixed-- phew!)

 Tuesday wasn't, either. Neither one of us had anything to do, except Ben volunteered in 4K, and I volunteered in first grade. I don't even think we cooked dinner-- more like "made some food" Before Ben taught another night class.

 But Wednesday! Wednesday was killer! Ben had to leave by 6:30 am, and our lovely babysitter came over at 8, meaning I had to get me and the kids ready for the day, and my plans to wake up early and take a quick shower were foiled by Cooper who suddenly-- no matter what time he goes down-- is awake at 5:45. Blurgh. Then, I had meetings ALL DAY (seriously, my spoiled academic self is not used to an 8-5er). Ben taught a random night class, so he was gone from 6:30 am-10:30pm, and I had to do all the bedtime stuff myself which was actually fine because I hadn't seen the kids all damn day, which sucked.

 Thursday, Ben was home all day, and I managed to wrap my meetings up by noon, which was good because I needed to nap from 1-3.

 Today, we had another early morning with both of us leaving for work and the sitter coming over (thank god for wonderful babysitters-- another perk of knowing graduate students!) but I hope to be home before Jack is out of 4K today (and neither of us could go on his field trip, and he totally ugly cried about it. We felt SO BAD because this is literally the ONLY MORNING between now and the end of August that we both have to be somewhere at the same time) (and I have a meeting in a minute and some unexpected desk time b/c I am otherwise prepped for classes next week, so I really do have to be here right now).

 And when I write it all out, this week doesn't look so bad. Wednesday was kind of rough, I guess.

In keeping with my Happier at Home inspired theme of being, um, happy with all the aspects of my life that I can control, I decided to try to remake a task I find bothersome:  packing lunches.  Jack's is not bad because he just has to bring a morning snack to eat while the kids in his class who qualify for school breakfast eat breakfast.  Since he eats with Harry and Cooper at 6:30, I just send a YoKids yogurt tube and half a bagel with cream cheese and some sort of organic, low-sugar juice pouch or a Horizn milk box depending on what's in the fridge.

But Harry.

He needs a lunch he'll actually eat that's healthy and free of dyes, so he can have a good, focused afternoon.  He's not much of a breakfast eater (half of a half-bagel with peanut butter, berries or oranges, and some whole milk yogurt-- I also give him whole milk to drink in the morning because he barely eats his food), and he has a TINY (think one graham cracker) snack at school at 10, and that's it until lunch.  He is also easily distracted and likes to talk to his friends, so he finds himself pressed for time in the cafeteria, hence the awesome bento box.  The one I use is a Laptop Lunch.  I bought 2 sets of the box and inside dishes, so I can pack the next day's lunch whenever I have a free moment instead of waiting for it to come home from school, and I only bought one of the outer insulated carrying cases.  It came with a water bottle that we never use because he likes to buy milk.

This week, to make myself like the task better despite having more work responsibilities than I have had in awhile, I tried to be creative with lunch.  One day, I packed cereal and a juice, and he used his milk for his krispies.  Another day he had leftover pizza.  Another day featured hard boiled eggs. There was a random chicken leg.  But at the end of the week when I looked at the pictures, I realized that even when I try to be creative, he generally eats the same damn thing.  What can I say?  The organic fruit selection is shit lately, so we have a ton of clementines and kiwi, which are the only organic things besides apples that look delicious, and Harry can't take apples because whole ones don't fit in his special snowflake lunchbox and he hates when slices turn brown.

Cooper is happiest at home when he is destroying something.

Any tips for breaking a lunch rut? Any go-tos you find yourself packing every week?

Monday, January 14, 2013


This week is one of two weeks a year when Ben and I both work at the same time.  I know-- how awesome are our schedules??  The only problem is, when you are not used to needing any sort of childcare and handling 2 jobs with almost no juggling, overlapping work days (1.5 of them!) can seem like a huge PITA.

 Luckily, I am keeping it in perspective as I sit here on the couch in my sparkling clean living room-- I just spent almost 2.5 hours cleaning the kitchen-- appliances, teapot, inside of the oven, floor, cooktop-- it was super relaxing (I mean it-- I really like cleaning the kitchen).  And now, I am enjoying a surprise chocolate malt that Ben brought home from his trip to the Genius Bar (have to walk to through the food court to get to/from the Apple store) and watching my fingers swell from our salty but delicious chicken enchiladas, made with rotisserie chicken and more cheese than was probably necessary.

Cooper is quite the bath tub splasher these days.  Since yesterday, actually.
Jack and Cooper dressed alike today.
Also! Speaking of dressing! It will be nice to get dressed and leave my house for a destination other than the grocery store.  Unfortunately, I am running out of work appropriate clothing options.  Any clothing options, really.  The grocery store, in my super long North Face coat, giant sunglasses, and knee-high boots, is where I look the best. When I have to uncover half my face and take off the coat, things get lumpy.  Thank goodness I only have to go to campus twice a week.  Surely I can scrounge together 2 decent combos a week for 9 weeks.  Maybe I can challenge myself to no repeats!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The secret to solo hockey nights is cookies.

After 20 minutes of sweaty work, they were almost halfway ready to go to hockey.

Cooper was happily contained with freshly baked chocolate chunk cookies (Harry accidentally grabbed chunks instead of chips at the grocery store, and after tasting the cookies, he called this a "good mistake") and the use of me as his human high chair.

I packed him this little meal. He only really ate the cookies.

Also, he stopped in a hallway to watch a goalie bounce tennis balls against a wall, and a really sweet coach gave him one, which totally made his night.

And the cookies came in handy on other solo nights this week.  There were 3 of them.  I bough more chunks, eggs, and vanilla in advance of this week's solo nights.  But no hockey because I am coming home from a day of meetings and it's just too much-- facing 3 kids who've been living it up with a babysitter all day is a little too much, you know?  It'll be all I can do to feed everyone whatever semi-nutritious takeout I've purchased, bathe them, and tuck them in before I pass out.

Inexplicably, these are Jack's "weekend teeth," although this picture is from Thursday.

Cooper got this tent for Christmas from his grandparents.  He was skeptical at first.

But the big boys

dove right in,

and before long, Cooper joined them.

They all helped me sort baby clothes before school on Friday, and they could not get over how tiny and adorable and pink everything was.  Neither could I.

Harrison is writing a new chapter of the Star Wars series.

Is this what baby girl will look like?

I have decided I want to read 100 books this year-- and not e-books, either.  Actual real books.  So retro.  I have severely cut back on my wasting time on the internet time and so far this year, I have read 5 books: The Middlesteins (great), Happier at Home (not bad), Elsewhere (Fantastic!  Richard Russo is my favorite living author, and reading his memoir makes me want to go back and reread his entire oeuvre), The Round House (a great book, and the second-to-the-last line was so beautiful it made me burst into tears on my elliptical machine), and Gone Girl (Terrific!  Totally lived up to the hype!).  I went to Barnes and Noble and got 2 Nicole Krauss books, The History of Love and The Great House, so those are up next.  So far, I have bought all of these books, and while I love to buy books, I am not going to have the shelf space to sustain 93 more.  So, that means I have to find time to go to the library, preferably without the majority of my children.  Also, Amazon is way, way, way cheaper than B&N, and I love using Prime.

In Happier and Home, Gretchen Rubin picks a word for each year-- a word to live by, sort of.  I have seen this trend flying around FB and the blogosphere, too.  If I had to pick a word, I think I'd pick relish.  I want to relish in 2013 and all the last firsts a final baby will bring.  Reading 100 books fits right in-- I love to read and rarely make time for it but you know?  It's surprisingly easy to find time to read while hanging out with the kids, and I feel way, way, way less neglectful snuggling onto the family room couch/playroom floor/bottom bunk with a book as opposed to my laptop or phone-- I am better able to engage with them and with my book, and it's a way better example than a constant screen.  We'll see how it goes-- a couple books a week for a year?  Think of all the late night nursing sessions I'll have to fill... 

Cooper has been having some ongoing nap issues.  I think part of the problem is his new room and him not quite feeling comfortable in there-- he cannot sleep with the lights off, and he always liked his old room totally dark.  And part of it is the sad, sad fact that he is finally dropping that second nap.  Anyway, today, it took some time to settle him down for his one and only nap.  I told him as I was changing his diaper that if he took a good nap, when he woke up, we could go to the grocery store and get a treat and he could be my helper (he LOVES to be a helper). By the time he woke up, I decided it would be way easier to just take Harry, and I didn't think Cooper would remember or care.  WRONG.  When Ben took him downstairs to play, he started to cry, but I didn't really pay attention.  They came back up to retrieve Ben's laptop from the garage, and Cooper started putting on shoes.  I asked him if he wanted to go with us or stay home with Daddy, and he pointed at the door and mumbled something.  This was inconclusive, since Ben had just walked out that door to get his computer.  I told him if he wanted to stay home, he should say dada, and if he wanted to go to the store, he should say mama.  Very clearly and without hesitation, he said "Mama."  Of course, Harry and I took him with us.  Where he proceeded to freak out so loudly at the butcher counter that I had to actually take time back home, leaving my cart and returning for it a half hour later, which really screwed up dinner prep.  Some helper.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Room shuffle: the conclusion

 Harry and Jack are becoming good little skaters, and Harry is a good puck handler, too.  I haven't taken them to hockey for awhile-- because putting all of their gear on SUCKS-- but I took them on Saturday as a trial run.  They are signed up right now to play twice a week-- on Saturday morning and one other night over the dinner hour.  In the fall, this was not a problem because Ben and I were both home that night, and he took the big boys and fed them after practice, and I had dinner with Cooper and put him to bed a little early.  Everyone won.  In the spring, though, I am on my own with 3 kids, including one bored, hungry baby, and 100 pounds of sweaty equipment.  FUN TIMES.

I broke 3 fingernails to the quick and bled all over Harry's skates and then called Ben when I finally got them on the ice to demand that he get on Amazon and order 2 pairs of velcro skates ASAP even though velcro skates kind of suck.  He did, of course, but they didn't qualify for Prime, so this week, I am SCREWED, but next week, we should be on the ice much faster.  Since both boys are in seatbelts now, I also get them ready from the waist down before we get there-- shorts with velcro on the legs to hold up their socks that go over their pants, silly padded suspender hockey shorts, knee pads, and tall, thick, footless hockey socks that velcro to their undershorts.  Then when we get to the rink, I "just" have to help them with shoulder pads, elbow pads, neck gear, jerseys, helmets, under gloves, gloves and those goddamned skates.  I don't know what Cooper is going to be doing while all of this is happening.  Maybe screaming in his stroller, but I think the stroller is going to be more trouble than it's worth since it will be an epic battle to get him back in when it's time to go, unless  have some sort of chocolate to bribe him with.  And then there's the taking off of everything and the cramming it back in the stinky hockey bag and getting three kids outside into the freezing, black cold with a hockey bag the size of Jack and 2 sticks.  Hmpf.  I'll let you know how it goes.

We finally, finally, finally finished the room shuffle.  Now all I have to do is figure out the baby's name on the wall in her room (I have the letters-- decoupage is not going as smoothly as planned. but I am like $75 into the project and will probably keep going) and wash her tiny pink clothes and hang them on the tiny pink hangers that are just waiting in her closet.

We ended up spending about what we anticipated, but we saved a ton on bedding and accessories by going to IKEA and re-purposing stuff we had, and we splurged a little more than we thought we would on furniture by going to a local furniture store for dressers instead of getting them at IKEA and buying night stands to match.  So, it all came out in the wash.

Here's Ben putting the finishing touches on her room:
 Cooper is so confused by the move.  I honestly did not think he would care, but he so does.  Anytime we tell him it;s time for night night, he grabs a couple pacifiers and his blanket and heads to his old room.  He was happy to try out the crib, but a little confused when I laid him down because it was NOT nap time.
 Speaking of Cooper, here is his cute little room.  I really think I like it the best, and besides his dresser and nightstand, we only spent $34-- 30 for that print of cars and trucks to round out the Target theme and 4 for a basket to hold his current favorite board books.
 I should probably put pictures of him in this growth chart, since it only has Harry and Jack for now.  It is also totally meaningless because it is apparently hanging at a different height than it did at our old house, and none of the measurements are accurate-- but it matches the room, so there you have it.
 Cooper's crib and nightstand, although I have since moved the book basket because he tried to lean over the side of his crib and grab books this morning when he first woke up and the crash took years off my life-- I thought he fell out of his bed. I am going to be totally pissed if he have to move him to his toddler bed just days after purchasing a second crib.
 And now, perhaps, you can get a better sense of the Target theme.  Wait til I pull out the old Circo robot quilt for his fire truck bed.
 Dresser. And all Target accessories on top.
I am, of course, a big fan of the baby's girly little room.  I like how spare everything is right now, too, because I know she is going to accumulate plenty of crap to fill it up.  We moved Jack's dollhouse up here to gain valuable floorspace in the toy room, but he doesn't mind and is happy to play with it upstairs. (We also moved his fire station into Cooper's room in anticipation of the toddler bed to be, and he's cool with that, too, because Jack is a kid who is used to someone taking all his shit).

 I LOVE this sweet little IKEA crib.  Ben tried to fool me and say it only has one level, so he wouldn't have to take it apart to lower the mattress, but Facebook shamed him into admitting the truth.  I know we could have gotten a white crib anywhere, but I love our other IKEA crib that is Harry's age and still going strong.  I also love that their furniture conforms to international safety standards, does not have any drop sides, and is not made with horrible chemicals in the wood.  I am planning to put her name on the wall behind the crib if my letters turn out.  If not, we'll at least do a giant first initial like the boys have.

 My natural inclination is to fill this shelf with as much crap as I can as quickly as I can, but I am really going to wait until it nautrally fills with baby odds and ends and more toys.  I am looking for more stuff to go on this wall, but I am waiting to find the right thing instead of just gobbling up Target art by the canvasful.

We filled this frame with pictures of us and our siblings as babies, as well as with Harry and Jack and their cousins.  I love, love love it.
Wait, you are thinking, didn't Circo make more mindldess little kid art work?  Wasn't there a turtle and frog series, too?  Why yes, we respond. CHECK OUT OUR BATHROOM,

And wasn't there an alphabet pattern? And monkeys way back in the day?
So much Target.

Nagging Ben to let me borrow his paint brush today while he was embroiled in touch up painting from moving all of our stuff everywhere, I woke Cooper up accidentally an hour into his only nap of the day, so we had to bribe him with a Fannie May chocolate sucker to make it through the grocery store.  We're awesome.
And not only are we Circo addicts, but also we are obsessed with EXPEDIT shelves, hence a toy room face lift, just for kicks:
Ben freaking hates making IKEA furniture, but he is so good at it!  I think he's relieved, though, because there isn't a single thing we need for any room.  FOR NOW.  And just in time, too, because he returns to the real world this week, and I return to taking care of my kids by myself.  Boooo.  But a certain first grader has school tomorrow, and he is very excited.  And so are we.