Friday, April 30, 2021

May Goals

 ** Normal BMI: THIS IS WITHIN MY REACH! I have lost 10 pounds, but my BMI is still a 26. Just 1.9 points or 7-ish pounds to go! Might not finish that this month, but it is righthere.

So close

** Lunches with friends: I have missed this SO MUCH and thanks to the magic of vaccines, it might be able to happen again-- cannot even wait!

Current lunch date

**Work on my book EVERY. SINGLE. WEEKDAY.

This has not happened a ton this month. I WONDER WHY.

** Prep summer and fall by Memorial Day, so we can all enjoy the pool


In other news, April! Was Skirtathon! I showed you a few of my super old skirt looks, but here are the rest:


It's been so fun to get dressed up and take selfies and share them with a group of people who is doing the same thing. Especially since April is the cruelest academic month-- fun to commiserate with women across the country.

Ok, here's the big news: I AM GETTING MY DUGGAR HAIR CUT this afternoon. YOU GUYS!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Teenager in the HOUSE...

 And also in the back yard.

Jack had 3 friends over to watch TV and eat a ton of junk food from  a safe(r) distance last weekend, and it looked SO FUN.

I had the kids text their individual pizza and giant cookie orders and stocked up on pop and candy and individual popcorn bags; Jack used a tape measurer to arrange the chairs, which was darling, and they watched something my own junior high friends could have gathered to view, which was trippy.

Birthday success!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

2 Years Gone

I will always remember the night my dad died. 

Even though he was only 2 days out of a major surgery, all signs pointed to recovery and imminent discharge. He took a shower. He was WALKING around the ICU. He transitioned to oral pain meds. Those were the major things his doctor told him he needed to do before he could continue his recovery at home.

 A few out-of-the-ordinary but not completely unusual flags spiked small warnings that everyone missed: he had a couple of breathing treatments, complained of some chest pain, was preoccupied with needing to go to the bathroom but felt constipated, was suffering from renal dysfunction. Now, these seem like clear signs of impending doom, but hospital staff treated each one as an isolated incident, with only the kidney problems rising to the level of repeated concern, and he never got the x-ray that might have revealed blood clots in his lungs before they killed him.

We expected bad news the day of the surgery, almost didn't believe our luck when he woke up afterwards.

 After he died, we found hospital selfies on his phone, but he didn't call or text much during his stay. I sent him a picture of Beatrix in her cone of shame, asking if he was going to have to wear one too, but he didn't reply. The last text he sent me was on April 20, 2019. I told him we were in Peoria and grabbing lunch. He said great. 

The last voicemail on my phone is transactional, too, about reservations for Easter brunch. It's long, though, because logistics abound when you are eating with a bunch of kids, so I saved it. Of course.

I used to talk to my dad on the phone all the time, especially after Bomma went to the nursing home and couldn't answer the phone without staff to help her. Before that, she had been my go-to phone call in the middle of a long day home with little kids, but my dad easily filled that void. He loved to shoot the breeze and hear what the children had been up to that day-- he especially loved Cooper's antics and tales of Harry and Jack when they went to school without their ADHD meds. It's been two years, and I still want to call him midday.

Walking into acupuncture the other day, I remembered mid-April of 2019, standing in the hallway outside the clinic trying to get my dad off the phone so I wouldn't be late for my appointment. If I could take that call again, I wouldn't rush him off the phone. Acupuncture appointments come and go, but your dad only has another week on the planet, and all that.

I stood up at his funeral and said I didn't even want to make any new friends for the rest of my life because how could I have a friend who didn't know my dad (and also, you know, I am a misanthrope). And then I went and made a whole new person born into this my-dad-less world.

COVID was a grief gift for me, a fatherless mother of a new baby girl. No one visited us in the hospital. None of our parents welcomed her home. Grandma and Grandpa were just abstractions to Minnie who only knew us. Until last weekend, a tiny part of my brain has been able to pretend that he just hasn't met Minnie yet. With this two-year anniversary, though, comes reality. He'll never meet her. She won't have any Grandpa Gary stories to add to the trove. Minnie will live a whole life without my dad. He lived his whole life without the idea of her. 

The night my dad died, I was too sad to sleep. That morning, I woke up with a dad. Sleep meant that the next time I opened my eyes, I'd be without. The best course of action seemed to be to stay awake forever.

Thursday, April 25, 2019, was take your kid to work day. Ben took Harry downtown where they wore suits and saw the Governor. I took everyone else to campus with me where they attended lecture and gorged at their favorite campus cafeteria. I have great pictures of that day and had already written a blog post in my head.

Ben and I sat on the couch having a glass of wine and decompressing (it is exhausting to work with your children AS WE ALL KNOW BY NOW) when Jon called us to say my mom called him because the hospital called her to tell her my dad's status had changed. We talked with Ben (our brother) for 30 minutes speculating about what that could mean even though we all knew exactly what that meant. Then my mom called, sobbing, and told us doctors had been doing CPR but they stopped when she got there, that he looked so bloated, that he was still warm. It happened so fast, everyone assured us. A minute of feeling lightheaded, maybe, first. Perhaps some confusion. Then nothing.

I was ice. Immediately. Freezing, shaking, shivering cold-- like a fever. Can grief cause a fever? Dr. Google doesn't think so, but I was sick with it for weeks before it faded to something less acute but still so completely unqualified, unquantifiable. NEVER. ALWAYS. FOREVER. NOT AGAIN. ETERNALLY. We seldom use words so big, so bald, so unimaginable, but they are the only language we have to talk about such a terrible absence. 

Two years later, this dad-shaped vacancy is always with me. Sometimes, I just miss him, an unexpected wave. Other times, it's proof that I had a dad and he was so great that his absence is its own presence. Occasionally, I see a cardinal-- a slapdash blur of red against a brown branch-- and think it might be him, watching us, checking in to see what the kids are doing since we can't chat anymore.

It's an uncomplicated grief. He was wonderful. We miss him every day. We loved him. He loved us. We all knew we loved each other. We told each other everything we needed to, as soon as it occurred to us to say it. Parents are supposed to go first. I was over 40 when we lost him-- hardly young, hardly a shocking death. 

Even simple grief is heavy, more than I wish I had to lug around with me.

When he died everyone told me that it might not get easier to miss him, but it would get easier to live next to the loss, and this is, of course, exactly right. My dad is dead. It's awful. It's also spring, and there are flowers, and the vaccines work, and Minnie has the most squishable cheeks. Grief has stepped politely aside to make room for these other things, too, but it lurks next to them, next to me, all of the time. 

Happy Deathaversary, Dad. This feels like yesterday, but it was, unbelievably, the last day we saw you: April 21, 2019.

Saturday, April 24, 2021


 Now that I am fully vaxxed, I am back to the Target to buy literal trash. HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS OF IT. Yay science?

Doesn't she look so MAD to be sleeping? I cannot resist snapping a quick pic almost every time I leave the room.

Current nursing view. CAN YOU EVEN HANDLE HOW BIG THOSE FEET AND LEGS ARE? I clearly cannot.

She's always judging me.


Friday, April 23, 2021

Interaction budget

 Ok! Heres' the framework we have developed to interacting in a COVID world now that we are both fully vaccinated, and it has been over 2 weeks since our last dose.

For me, it makes sense to think of an interaction budget. If we were sending our 4 big kids back to their 3 different school buildings, this would be our entire budget. We would spend it all on school and the associated risks of all those cohorts. Since we are not, we have more interaction "dollars" to spend, so here's how we're spending them:

1. Return to in-person dance. Dorothy is thrilled, and the recital is outdoors again this year. Her class is well-spaced; everyone wears masks. The social distancing protocols in the building are excellent, and they have been open safely for months. We feel great about this one. ProTip: Both she and Cooper like double masking better than single-masking because they find that their cloth masks get wet (barf), so they enjoy wearing a kiddie-sized surgical mask underneath.

2. Little League for all 3 boys. Even though our county relaxed its outdoor mask mandate (WHYYYYYYY?) most people still wear masks. Everyone stays 6-feet apart, and Ben is coaching Cooper's team. Harry and Jack are very good social-distancers.

3. Umpiring for Jack and Harry. Little League is doing a really good job, you guys.

4. Summer job for Harry. He is working the front desk at the pool. He'll double mask with an N-95 on the bottom, but I think the real risk will be hanging out with work friends, not the job itself.

5. Pool, dive, and tennis this summer. We might get the 3 middle kids private lessons together instead of having them join groups, but Harry can play tournaments if he wants to. We did the pool last year, and Jack dove, but this summer, we are letting Coop dive, too, and adding tennis.

6. Gymnastics and dance camps for Dorothy this summer.

7. Small birthday party for Jack. He is having 3 friends over to watch a movie in the back yard. They will wear masks and stay 6 feet apart. They texted me their orders for Crumbl cookies and individual pizzas, and we will have popcorn/ movie candy/ soda/hand sanitizer on their chairs. Jack's grade has not returned to in-person school yet, and none of these kids is going back anyway.

8. ACUPUNCTURE! I went yesterday, and it was angels-singing awesome.

9. Outdoor meet ups with vaccinated friends: This one is tricker because we are being really careful with the kids, and I am not ready to take Minnie out to restaurants, etc, but we are figuring it out a little at a time. I have big plans for brunch, lunch, baby walks, and a pedicure.

10. Neighbor friends: All the big kids have at least one person they can play with masked and outdoors, and this is fantastic. Jack and Harry do not play obviously, but you get the idea.

So, that's how we're using our interaction budget. Since we are both working from home (me until September when I will lecture once a week in person and am already thrilled about it and Ben until this summer sometime) and keeping the kids home, we have a little more freedom to venture out in controlled ways. I think if we had exposure at work and school, we would do less besides those things, and that factored into our decision to keep the kids home. This is obviously different for people who have fewer kids or who have less risky people at home. Hopefully, kids Harry and Jack's age can get vaccinated soon, and we can worry even less, you know?

What about you? How are you living your COVID lives these days?

Thursday, April 22, 2021


 My mom could finally come over and meet Minnie, thanks to the magic of Pfizer and Moderna! You might remember that when she visited in September, we stayed outside AND wore masks. Not this time!!!

I can't believe it has been OVER A YEAR since we shared space indoors with anyone who doesn't live here.

We had so much fun last weekend. It felt completely normal-- which was weird, you know? We just hung out, grilled steaks, played a couple of games, went to bed early, etc-- no change in our super scintillating routine.

Minnie loved my mom right away, and everyone was so happy to see her again-- even Beatrix.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Jack's 13th Birthday!!

Minnie helped me open packages, break down boxes, and do all the wrapping. She's a saint, that one.
Oh, the 9-hour cheesecake. It's what he always wants, and it is magical. WORTH the whole day of prep.
Ben and I ordered a The Office birthday decorating kit, and we watched the Kelly birthday episode while decorating

I loved everything about it.
So did Jack.
We did presents
And pancakes.

We had Chipotle and ice cream for lunch
Jack got all his work done for the week early and then went for a bike ride.

We had ribs and all his favorite sides for dinner.
Minne dressed fancy.
He made a Kahoot about himself