Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Gratitude

Getting to see the Florida grandparents in their natural habitat-- LOOK HOW TAN THEY ARE, YOU GUYS.

 Making sure we take the kids to the beach once or twice a year and prioritizing a family spring break every year.
 Home sweet home
 BUNNY BAIT.  Try it, and you, too, will be grateful/hate yourself.
 Kids who love the library as much as I do:

At the library, putting the library app on his iPad so he can request all of the Percy Jackson books from the comfort of his man cave.  And! He asked the children's librarian for help setting up his PIN all by himself, which is the best library skill a kid can learn-- how to ask for help!

 The ability to bleach my teeth transparent.
March.  A lot to love.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Things I am Leaving in March

DESIGN HOME.  I am leaving Design Home in March, you guys.

I have spent SO MUCH MONEY playing that game, and the problem is that you kind of need a steady flow of cash to keep yourself in fake art and flowers.  I think I spent $25 last moth and maybe even more in Feb.  YOU GUYS.  That's bananas.  The problem is I still want to play it, so I am taking a hiatus in April where I just log in and get my daily reward and then if I want to play in May, I will be filthy rich.  SHIT.  Typing this out, I realize how addicted I am.

So maybe I am not leaving Design Home in March, just spending money on Design Home.  BABY STEPS.


Also, I am working really hard in leaving behind my midlife crisis, but that's proving to be harder than I thought it would be.  I am sure you will hear more about this as May approaches, but maybe not.  But probably.

A few small things I'd like to not do anymore:

  • Eat super late at night so I have to fast all effing day until 2 or 3 pm.  But my weekend plans make me think this won't change right away...
  • Lose my shit when the windows are open.  So far so good, but open window season has just barely started
  • Go days without petting the dog.  Last night she curled up next to me on the couch, and I realized as I was playing with her face fat that I hadn't petted her since we got home from our trip.  I mean, the kids are ALL OVER HER, so she gets her share of cuddles, but still!  Pets are for petting!

  • Go weeks without bathing the dog.  I think this is related to the above.
  • Stop slacking my my skincare routine.  I am lucky to use 3/10 steps these days and sometimes I don't even wash my fave before bed. Gah!
  • Shortchange my own work time.  It's always easy to find something else to do, but it's not fair to clean a toilet instead of writing a book and then get mad at everyone about it when I am motivated by my very own fear of failure.
Seems doable, right? **worried face emoji**

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Mother's Book of Blessings: TLC Book Tour

I am doing another TLC book tour, and JUST IN TIME.

Are you looking for a Mother’s Day gift?  Because, I mean, you SHOULD be.  Either for yourself or for, you know, YOUR MOTHER.

I am doing another book review as part of TLC book tours, and the book I read for today is an EXCELLENT gift.

As the editor explains in the lovely introduction, this book is both a collection of prayers and good wishes for mothers and prayers and good wishes that mothers can pass onto their children.  I wish I had discovered this book even earlier in my parenting journey because the sweet bedtime prayers—based on many different faith traditions—and the lovely holiday blessings are exactly what we have been missing in our tradition repertoire.

The book is broken into categories like holidays, bedtime, travel, marriage, etc, and there are blessings for every stage of your mothering life from the birth of a new baby to older children leaving the nest.

This one, for example, made me cry:

I absolutely love this for a bedtime prayer:

This one is the perfect thing to commission a calligrapher to make on a frame-able sign:

And did I mention there are transcendentalists?!  Because the book is brimming with Wordsworth, Longfellow, Emerson, Whitman.  Are those guys all transcendentalists?  I actually don’t think so.  But!  No matter. THERE IS POETRY is what I am trying to tell you.

Actually, this book made me realize—though its collection of blessings and lovely vintage art—that mothering is poetry, a helpful mindset in light of the midlife crisis I described for you last week.  While this book is really useful for specific occasions—next wedding toast I make, for example, will start with a quotation from this book—for me, I think it will work best as a way to guide my morning meditation.  I can pick a page—any page—and sit with the words or the images as a quiet inspiration for my day.

Here are the deets:

About A Mother's Book of Blessings

• Hardcover: 352 pages • Publisher: National Geographic (March 27, 2018) This beautifully illustrated keepsake contains more than 100 blessings from around the world that will commemorate life's special moments and encourage everyday reflection for the whole family. With ageless wisdom for every occasion, this elegant little book is the perfect gift for moms to share with their children -- and for themselves. Time-honored proverbs, enlightening parables, and inspiring poetry, illustrated with exquisite vintage art, encourage readers to contemplate and celebrate life's milestones. These uplifting words and their invaluable lessons, drawn from cultures around the world, will resonate with families of all walks. Whether commemorating a birthday, or celebrating a housewarming or a special holiday, this timeless treasure of 100-plus blessings provides guidance and encouragement for everyone: an enduring keepsake readers will turn to again and again.

Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

SPRING BREAK in eleventy billion pictures

Now I know why I usually post spring break as it happens.  I am home from a week of fun, and I have SO MANY PICTURES.  It would have been waaaaay easier to post them day-by-day.

The only unpleasant thing about our spring break was that Ben had a different spring break than the kids and me, so now we are back and I am home with all of them for the rest of the week by myself, adjuncting online and trying to keep the house reasonably clean.  And!  Even though they are older, it is really hard for me to get any kind of work done while everyone is awake and around, so I have to get up super early to have any time, and sometimes I use that time to upload like 200 pictures to a blog post.  So.

Ok.  Here goes.

Drive to Florida (spoiler: it's a long freaking way to Florida)

Ben and the kids picked me up at work, and we made everyone eat a hefty snack in a random classroom and then piled in the car and drove to Clarksville, TN.

 I have to tell you, if you are planning to drive all the way to Naples, FL, you must really hate planes, and we should be best friends.
 Also, GO FURTHER THAN CLARKSVILLE, which is an excellent stop for ON THE WAY HOME.
 The kids were thrilled that the Marriott pool stays open until 11
 And I was happy I remembered my wine cans.
 The kids ate a 10pm Chipotle dinner dripping wet in the lobby bistro (and then on our way home we stopped at the same hotel and encountered signs urging guests to wear clothes in the lobby and refrain from bringing outside food into the restaurant.  But I think this was totally a coincidence).
 Don't you?
 The only room left at the hotel (basketball tourney in town) was a king suite with a king bed and a pull-out couch.  So Cooper slept on the chair.  Until 3 am when he came in the bed with Ben, Dorothy, and me.
 No one slept well (IMAGINE THAT), so we ignored our alarm and didn't get on the road until like 7:30.  GAH.
 The kids were, as usual, really good passengers even though we barely stopped at all, set a timer for them to eat lunch, and drove until it got dark, postponing dinner until after 8.
 PANERA!  Always a crowd-pleaser.
 We rolled into Ben's parents' house at like 10:45 pm because we are THE BEST HOUSEGUESTS EVER and proceeded to trash the place.

Morning in Naples 

The next morning, the kids woke up bright and early because they are robots who never need to sleep.
 And everyone had a healthy breakfast.
 Milestone for me:  I wore a romper in the light of day:
 We toured the grandparents' new neighborhood

Zoo day!!

 And then went to the zoo because I LOVE ZOOS.

Also?  I love Jack's sense of style:
 This zoo was a delight, and the weather-- 70s and dry-- was PERFECTION.

 My favorite part was the pontoon ride around a small lake to see monkey islands-- no pandas, of course, but this almost made up for it.

What can I say?  I am a sucker for a prehensile tail.

 Dorothy had birthday money from my aunt, and she used it to buy this pink unicorn, natch.
 Romper twins!

Pool break

We had lunch at Karen and Dennis's neighborhood clubhouse, which is basically where I would be 24/7 if I lived in their 'hood.  

 The kids LOVED the pool. (I loved the hot tub until a bro with a margarita got in and all the kids got out, and I felt like a weird old lady and curled up in the sun instead)

Everyone settled in to their normal pool routine as if it was summer at our own neighborhood pool.

Dinner on Marco Island

This was our first trip where the kids were completely fine with all semblance of their routine out the window.  We ate breakfast when they woke up, but then we didn't eat lunch until like 1 pm ET and dinner was a really late night thing.  And they were FINE.  Well behaved, even.  SO WEIRD.

Dorothy and I were shoe twins:
Which clearly blew my mind enough to merit 2 pictures.  YOU'RE WELCOME.

 The beach was perfect.

 I mean, seriously.
 And so was Dorothy

 Sunglass switch
 Dorothy and I went outside while we waited for our food and a really sweet lady joined us just to take our picture.  People were generally SO SWEET and nice in Naples.
 After dinner we walked the beach and filled our pockets with shells.

 Cooper wrote words, which at first we thought were messages
 Totally charming, right?
 But then we realized he was just writing words he cold spell.
Back at the grandparents' we enjoyed sunset

 And a birthday cake for Dorothy
 Complete with a serenade, of course.

 Beach day in Naples

The first thing the kids did when they woke up every morning at their grandparents was run to the pool room to spy on the alligator in the pond outside
 We took a completely gorgeous walk through the neighborhood boardwalk on a crisp, bug-free morning
 Ben modeling excellent head-ware:
 Me making the truly stupid face I make when I see animals:
 A super sweet woman with two giant golden retreivers took a pic of all of us:
 Look!  A real monkey on the path!
 I include this one of us on the way to the beach to show you that I have developed a real THING for cheap pink sunglasses.  I am in the market for some heart-shaped ones next.
 Ben unloaded the car.
 And we settled in to 4 hours of beach bliss.

 So many shells!  The kids, used to the smooth cement beaches of Hilton Head, loved both the powdery white sand and the shell bonanza.

 I was clearly engaged and living in the moment all day long.
 I just have my kids lie on the sand and pile it on top of them until they are immobile, but grandparents?  Will turn you into a turtle or a mermaid

 This was our only foray into the shade, and, spoiler alert, that was a bad idea, actually.

  She looks like Maxine on the old Shoebox cards.

 It was just so gorgeous!
 Ben, sporting high dad-on-the-beach fashion
 I even got to READ A BOOK while my kids played in the waves.  I miss babies, but this was amazing.
Speaking of amazing:  A DOLPHIN right there not 10 feet in front of us. It even jumped for us, the little show-off.

Last night in Naples

Alligator watch:

I don't know about you, but my very favorite thing to do on vacation is hang out at the beach all day and then get cleaned up and go out to dinner. CHECK!
 The kids were actually super cute about using this sign by the pool to keep track of all their spring break tasks.  They hit every item on their list.
 We ntoiced at dinner that Cooper's suncreen application was a bit spotty.  OOPS.
 After the kids went to bed, the grown ups had strawberry margaritas and sat in the hot tub.  It was perfect-- 60 degrees in the room, 100 degrees in the water.

Downtown Naples

The next morning, we headed to downtown Naples to explore the cute little shops and have a second breakfast.

Oh, Ben.

 We also stopped by the March for Our Lives, which was awesome.
 Look how sunburned Ben's legs and feet got!  I think it's because the kids were so awesome and independent that we actually got to SIT ON THE BEACH which is not something we have ever been able to do.  Usually we are standing or in the water, and our legs and feet are protected.  Oops.
 Harry thinks his dad is the coolest, obvi
 Ben, relaxing.
 Cheers to no nutritional standards!
 He could not believe I got him a Coke and he didn't even ask me for one.  I AM SO COOL.  (Also, a terrible mother).
 One last photo opp:

Before we got BACK on the road.

St. Pete's beach day

We engaged in some extra-fun beach-hopping
 The firs thing we did when we got to St. Pete was marvel at how perfect and kitschy and mid-century, and a little bit seedy it is.  Last time we were in the Tampa area, we went to Clearwater, which has a WAY DIFFERENT and way less awesome vibe than St. Pete, which is my new favorite.

We had an amazing lunch at Boulevard Burger and Brew, and you should, too, if you go to St. Pete, which you should-- trust me on this.
 Even Cooper liked it.
 Jack is a happy and laid-back traveler, so OF COURSE he liked it.  Also, he got a mac and cheese burger AND fried mac and cheese, so.
 Fried buffalo mac and cheese balls.  WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!
 Their album cover:
 Behind the scenes:
 We didn't stay here-- we just loved the statue
 THIS!  This is the place we stayed, and it was amazing. SO RETRO!
 The beach was perfect

 (sun protection factor: a million)

 The kids loved the pool.  And I took a thousand pictures.  Here's the top 5%:

 The drive home

The drive home was loooooooooong, you guys.

We left our hotel at 6 am and went to Gainesville to check out UF and have breakfast.  I have said it before, and I will say it again:  college campuses make the best pit stops

 From Gainesville, we went BACK to Clarksville (and also, The South, why are all of your towns and cities villes?)
 Quick Steak and Shake stop near Atlanta
 CRABBY afternoon
 Made bearable by this book!
 And then we were back to our same old Marriott, only this time a suite with 2 queens and a pull-out.  SO MUCH BETTER.

 The little kids HATE Panda Express, FYI.
 We made one final college campus stop at U of I in Champaign

 Harry and Jack stocked up on merch

And we enjoyed a cute greasy bar
And felt remarkably at home on a campus we have never visited before.  Colleges and libraries, man, instantly comfortable.
 I found this in Jack's road trip notebook when we got home.  It's perfect, yes?

And there you have it.  Another fabulous spring break.