Reclaiming my home despite Captain’s plan to keep his favorite stuffies

First thing in the morning is my favorite time of day.

I pad out to the kitchen. I get first dibs on the huge, fresh, coffee pot. As I should, considering past Jessica was kind enough to make it for future Jessica.

The only thing I like almost as much as drinking coffee, is writing about drinking coffee or reading about someone else making and drinking coffee. Maybe this is the novel I was born to write: COFFEE.

I take several gulps and top it up before I settle in to my snuggy corner on the couch. If you’re wondering what this might look like, BB recreated it:

I feel very seen.

I’m warmed by the thought of my dear family: Captain, BB and RB, all still peacefully asleep or imprisoned in a crib. Their existence all the sweeter because of their absence.

No family member should be seen before 7am. If so, something has gone very wrong and it is unclear who it will end worse for.

In an ideal world, I use this time to write. Otherwise I use this time to drink my coffee. Stare out the window. Check the weather. Email. Text. Browse the news. Review the calendar. Refill my coffee. Will RB to go back to sleep.

I survey my work. The home reorg is well underway. Every day that both kids are at school I’ve been on a tear: donating, storing, returning, consolidating.

RB undoes some of my work. I can count on her to move things back to their original spot, but for the most part I’m winning.

BB has fourteen UNOPENED presents from her birthday almost three months ago. They are in plain sight, unwrapped, but unplayed with.

If they’re still brand-new in December they’re at risk for getting wrapped up again.

I may or may not get around steaming off the wallpaper in BB’s art room, formerly known as the dining room.

When the previous owners’ realtor recommended they remove the dining-room wallpaper, they balked and said they had removed enough already.

I should be thankful the whole house didn’t look like the dining room. A more spiffed up house might’ve invited better offers than ours and then who knows where I’d be now.

I’d be in a home that was featured on the Hoarders reality show if Captain had had his way. Although that house DID come with a school bus in the yard.

So here I am. The giant well-loved Little Tikes slide from 1982 is no longer in my living room. It is waiting in our garage to return to Worcester.

Captain is on board with my clearing out and oblivious to it.

I have a giant, stuffed panda from my childhood. It lived in Worcester until we moved here. All of a sudden we had room for her. She drove down in Captain’s car:

She lived in BB’s room until two weeks ago. I ask BB,

“Do you want the panda in your room?”

“I need her because I stand on her head to reach my books.”

“What if you had a stool there instead?”

“That’s good!”

I moved the panda to the rocking chair in my bedroom. Both waiting for their return to Worcester.

After several days of sleeping in the same room as the panda, I review with Captain everything I’ve accumulated. I mention the giant stuffie. He asks,

“Where is it?”

This is what I mean by oblivious. The panda has been watching us sleep. Captain has been putting on his underwear right in front of it and it registered zero.

I point to the rocking chair. He exclaims,

“You can’t send Pandy back!”

PANDY?!?

“Pandy and I drove here together.”

MY giant stuffed panda, who I’ve had for 30 years and feel ready to part with, spent one quality car ride with Captain and now they’re best buds.

She never even had a name before.

The question is does Pandy also need her rocking chair? Send help.

What every adult needs in their bedroom

Cheetah mom ready for a cat nap

T minus one day and I will be home alone.

Two years ago, mid-pandemic, mid-new baby, this seemed so out of reach I didn’t even dare daydream about it.

Now Captain is required to go to the office three days a month, but somehow he’s only doing two days this month. BB started first grade today and RB starts preschool tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the perfect storm. I will be home alone and it won’t happen again for another month.

It feels like one of those celestial events that the news mentions: THIS WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN IN OUR LIFETIMES. Or for several years. Or it’ll happen every 30 days give or take a recalcitrant employee.

The stars have aligned in my favor. I would usually go to zumba Wednesday morning, but part of me feels like I should just stay home and marvel at my aloneness.

I’ve been on a tear reorganizing the house. RB, the most OCD organized two-year-old I’ve ever met, surveys what I’ve done to the playroom/livingroom. She demands,

“Who put the toys away?”

“I did.”

She walks off.

That was easy.

“She seems easy going” says no one who knows RB. But so said her future preschool teacher.

I wasn’t about to throw RB under the bus. I’ll see how long it takes her teacher to change her assumption.

RB is outgoing, has a disarming smile and a flirtatious shoulder shrug, which could lead anyone to think she goes with the flow. SHE DOES NOT.

And if you’re thinking flirtatious is not an adjective to be applied to a 2.11 year old, maybe it’s charm or personality, but whatever it is, it is enough for me to understand how some people are born con artists.

Her adorableness may be keeping her alive as her OCD challenges my ability to not scream right along with her.

Over the summer, she insisted that her beach towel be spread out on the sand for her. I obliged. If there was one corner folded over, she screamed,

“It’s not right!”

When BB left her dress-up shoes on the front mat with the regular shoes, RB yelled,

“This is not good!”

When there was seaweed stuck to the wheel of my beach cart that I didn’t even notice. Who would? RB badgers me,

“It’s dirty.”

“It’s ok.”

“It’s dirty!”

“What’s dirty?”

“The wheel!”

“It’s okay for the wheel to be dirty.”

She looks doubtful. I ask a fellow adult for backup,

“Are you worried about the seaweed on the wheel of my beach cart?” Wink. Wink.

“Not at all!!!”

RB sways. She seems unconvinced. I ask her,

“Do you want to go play with the kids?”

“Oh yeah!”

If I can get RB in weather appropriate clothing tomorrow, that will be a win. We’ve been landlocked for over a week and RB is still insisting on wearing her bathing suit every morning.

I walk in her room and I’m greeted with,

“Is it a beach day?!”

Today she agreed to wear clothing, but added flippers:

A few weeks ago I gave BB the internet’s worth of sneaker options. She zeroed in on the rainbow animal prints. She drew a picture of herself and declared,

“Cheetah power!!”

I had my misgivings and did some online sleuthing. I delivered the potential death blow to this shoe choice,

“I think those might be leopard spots.”

“Oh. That’s ok!”

This morning BB channelled her cheetah power all the same.

First grade here we go!

Bathing suit padding, yea or nay?

What the heck is up with removable bathing suit padding?!? I have no idea if I stand with the majority on this or not, but I can’t abide it.

I always want padding. I never want to remove it. I don’t want my nipples poking through. Maybe this is a middle-age issue.

For years I refused to buy any suits with removable padding. Fixed padding made for a successful summer.

I’m down to my final week at the beach. I have lived in my bathing suit for two months and this year I succumbed to style over function. Both of my 2022 bikinis have removable padding. And boy is it removable.

It mushes, it bends, it inverts, it ALWAYS comes out in the wash. I ALWAYS spend a lifetime figuring out which side is which and reinserting. Then removing and reinserting on the other side. Then vowing to never wash my bathing suit again.

If I spend five minutes juggling nipple pads, several times a week, then that adds up to two hours of summer WASTED.

TWO HOURS. So many other things I’d rather do: read, drink, chat, swim, reapply sunscreen, reapply sunscreen on my kids.

Never mind. Reapplying sunscreen on my kids may be worse than reinserting bathing-suit padding.

It would be fine if they didn’t act like I’m KILLING them every time.

When do they successfully apply their own lotion? And while we’re talking self-care: when do they cut their own nails? Or even just go to the bathroom without an attendant?

After going potty, RB came wandering through the house asking me to rip her off a piece of toilet paper. There was a full roll of paper within arms reach, but she decided she’d come look for me to get it for her.

At which point the purpose of the toilet paper is called into question. Do you really need to wipe if you’ve air dried or dripped off through the house?

I’d rather stand in as toilet-paper valet than reinsert bathing-suit padding.

Obviously I like the finished product or I wouldn’t have kept the bathing suits and I wouldn’t have worn them all summer. Tell me if I’m missing something, besides a thin, asymmetrical, padded triangle.

Back to a time when I didn’t have bathing-suit padding, but I did have a sunscreen attendant

Writing about writing makes for a short post

I want to write more than a biweekly blog post. I’ve thought or said something similar since I graduated college.

Putting my desire down in writing may be helpful. Or it may not. If I can procrastinate for 20 years, anything is possible.

Yes I have valid demands on my time. Refer to children mentioned in previous posts.

Somehow I find enough time to do post-grad level research on how to treat whatever the heck allergic reaction is happening around my eyes.

There’s time to search and give up on what jeans I want to be wearing. There’s always time for a news doom scroll. And if in doubt, I just refresh social media, the weather, my photos, my calendar, my email, my period app.

Sounds like a phone issue. I’ve tried disconnecting from my phone. I’ve hidden it away in a kitchen cabinet. Which was more helpful than I thought it would be, considering I knew where it was.

It’s also an internet issue, because I LOVE to write on my computer, but it’s very easy to switch from google docs to TripAdvisor.

So no phone and no internet, then no excuses? Nope. Cause then I resort to the very last thing in the world I want to do: cleaning.

It starts to sound like I don’t want to write if I’d rather scour toilets. Writing is harder than scrubbing, scrolling or basic minding of RB so she stays alive.

I’ll be handing that over soon. Partially. My baby is starting school this fall! Three days a week. My excuses keep dwindling.

Three days a week will go quick. I could write or I could go grocery shopping BY MYSELF. I already have a feeling which one it’ll be.

I’m going to sign up for some generative writing classes. It may be helpful to be held accountable. By them and maybe you.

I could write more about this or I could go to the beach…

How writing was going 13 years ago.
Training in things to do when not writing

S’mores! To burn or not to burn

Some foods speak to me. In the summer it’s s’mores. It may be because I was deprived for the first ten years of my life. I was told it was longer than that. Either way, we found each other and it’s been 30 ish years of true love.

As a kid, our Cape neighbors invited me over for dinner. Or I invited myself, but somehow I was there. They asked me if I wanted s’mores. I’d never even HEARD of s’mores.

It was a split second decision. Do I claim I know what it’s all about or admit the truth? I eyeball the accoutrement. This doesn’t look like a fake it til you make it situation. I relent,

“I’ve never had them.”

The kids swarm around me,

“YOU’VE NEVER HAD S’MORES?!?!?!?!?”

“No?”

“You’re going to LOVE them!”

I’m not even sure if I’d ever roasted marshmallows before. Maybe I had and on their own they were unremarkable.

I don’t remember the exact ratio of marshmallows to chocolate to graham cracker that I had, but it was FANTASTIC!

I rushed home to inform my family of the food group they’d been missing.

“They’re called s’mores!!!”

“Never liked them.”

“WHAT?!”

I overcame my family’s failing and have eaten them ever since.

I’ll make them over a fire, the grill, the stovetop, a hand-held lighter and in a desperate pinch I’ve tried the microwave, which is by far the poorest option.

Imagine my joy when a few book clubs ago the host put out a spread including s’mores. My least favorite part of the process is fishing all the ingredients out of the cupboard. She’d done the dirty work for us.

I settled in for some roasting. All of sudden everyone is screaming and yelling at me,

“They’re burning! Your marshmallows are burning!”

I’m confused. Of course they’re burning. That’s how it’s done.

Everyone is appalled. They’re appalled I’m obliterating my marshmallows and I’m appalled this is a thing. I had no idea I was in the minority of s’mores makers.

Then I was at a party and the adults handed out s’mores to the kids. How does this end well?

BB is a lot of different things, but careful and clean are not two of them. She and s’mores will end in a house fire or with marshmallow in her hair.

I step back. I’m the last person who should come between her and this experience.

They hand her one marshmallow and a couple squares of chocolate. It dawns on me that my ratios are not the only way to do it either.

I prefer 6 squares of Hershey’s milk chocolate. I tried dark chocolate once. It’s a no go. And I like 3 marshmallows. It sounds like a lot and it IS messy, but extra delicious.

If I’m going to go to the trouble of digging all that stuff out of the pantry, might as well make the most of it.

BB had success and loves them too. She did not want to burn her marshmallows. I’ll give her the freedom to live with that for now. It’s probably safer.

And this answers the life question I’ve been pondering:

“Do I have enough to say about s’mores to fill a whole blog post?”

Burning s’mores? No problem. I’m professionally trained to fight fires. For real.

Squishing up baby chubs while I can

My babies are growing up! Aside from the one I was lucky enough to have a choice about.

BB finished kindergarten and after MONTHS of weaning RB is officially done breastfeeding.

Back in December we were down to nursing 1-2 times a day. In Disney it ramped back up. Anything to stop a tantrum.

After Disney we got down to once a day. Then the couple months before Alaska, it was a strange situation of latch for a few seconds, pop off and go to sleep happy versus no latch and sob brokenheartedly for a LONG time. I opted for the 5 second latch.

At home she was insistent,

“Mommy milkies.”

“After we snuggle a little bit.”

“Mommy milkies!”

“After….”

“MOMMY MILKIES!!!”

“Ask nicely!”

“PLEASE!!!”

Then we went to Alaska. I planned to avoid a repeat of Disney. I didn’t offer and RB NEVER asked.

We returned home and she still didn’t ask. A couple weeks went by. I thought that was that. Then one day we were snuggling, she patted my shirt and chest,

“What’s that?”

“My shirt.”

“Mommy milkies!”

“Yes.”

“I want some.”

“No, they’re all gone.”

“Yummy in my tummy!”

“I know.”

“I WANT MOMMY MILKIES!!!”

“No, your choice is to snuggle or go in your crib.”

“I don’t want choices. I’m getting my water.”

I can still hand express a few drops. I’m not sure what I’m trying to prove. I’m happy she’s done even if it has left my breasts shells of their former selves.

As I’m getting ready in the morning, BB lets herself into my bathroom to poop,

“Why are your mommy milkies hanging down?”

Why does privacy mean nothing?

So we’re rolling this into summer and potty training for RB. And by potty training I mean if she figures it out at the beach while she’s peeing on herself, great.

She’s been sitting on the toilet for months now. RB’s life goals are whatever BB is doing.

She wants nothing to do with the little potty and she wants nothing to do with a step stool, despite falling into the toilet several times.

She’s cut off from toilet paper until she actually pees in the toilet. This is an ongoing discussion.

RB is weaned, maybe potty training and staying in a crib forever. BB is a rising first grader who just got her ears pierced for her 6th birthday.

We agreed that if she’s old enough to get her ears pierced, she’s old enough to wipe her own butt. Even if she’s in my bathroom.

SUMMER!!!

Alaska and the gear that made it possible

We’re home! We traveled around Alaska for 2 weeks, changing towns every couple days. We vacationed by plane, train, bus, boat, bike, zipline, raft, tram, hike, helicopter, dog sled, truck, van and some of us in a backpack carrier.

It was a dream come true. In part thanks to RB’s brand-new iPad. I understand people traveled with children before there were personal devices, but thanks to the iPad, I never felt compelled to dose her with my stash of drowsy drugs.

It all felt a little miraculous. RB is a notorious screamer, clinger, avoider of dogs. One of my biggest pre-trip fears was that she would ruin our dog-sled ride. I bought all the dog-sled books. I thought about buying the helicopter books too, but she likes her vehicles.

There were smiles on the helicopter. No desire to pet the dogs, but no complaining. Then she sat on the very front of the dog sled, snow slamming into her face and not a peep.

I swear she wasn’t drugged.

Also BB and I were on a different dog sled than her, so either way we were guaranteed a good time.

I planned a bunch of “summer activities.” Hikes that in the summer would not require snow gear. May is considered the shoulder season for summer tourism in Alaska. I knew that, but didn’t understand that that meant a week before we arrived in Denali National Park they still had 7 feet of snow.

Now if you say the word “hike,” RB responds,

“Snow?!”

It didn’t stop us, just slowed Captain down. That and 33 pounds of toddler on his back.

The rafting trip was touted as a ride gentle enough for babies and 100 year olds. It was. There was very little white water and when there was white water, RB shouted,

“Again! Again!” Then both kids went back to general complaining. BB wanted to stand like RB, refusing to admit that her center of gravity was way higher and that falling overboard into the 40 degree water was a surefire way to ruin my trip.

Next time we need class III rapids or an iPad on the raft.

After the iPad, my second most favorite trip purchase was Cosco’s Scenera NEXT 7 pound, $60 carseat. I’m not being paid anything for this post and I paid full price for the car seat. Although if anyone is tempted to pay me, I’d be happy to dedicate a whole post to the Scenera.

It fits on top of a rolling carry-on suitcase. At first we tied it down with a bungee cord, but it actually just stays there with nothing.

You might be thinking, ‘Jess, did you really need a carseat?’

Aside from one week with a rental truck, we didn’t really need one. BUT I cannot say enough good things about having a 5-point harness.

BB is the type of kid who at 18 months wouldn’t get out of her toddler bed until an adult came in the room and told her she could.

RB is the type of kid who will be in a crib until further notice. The 5-point harness was made for her.

We used the car seat EVERYWHERE. She slept in it and I carried her in it into restaurants, hotels, national parks. It probably made her less safe on the train, but it made me more sane, so it’s a delicate balance.

It contained her, but it made her feet reach the airplane seat in front of her during our red-eye flight home. Yes I booked a red-eye. No I’m not totally insane. We saved a lot of money on those tickets. Hopefully enough money to book another red-eye someday.

At 1:00am, RB was happy, awake, watching her iPad and operating the in-seat airplane entertainment screen with her bare feet. Much to the detriment of the man in front of her.

So as far as I can tell, that’s the only downside of a carseat on a plane.

As we slogged through airport security, the suitcase with the girls’ stuff was flagged. TSA demands,

“Is there a machine in here?”

“A what?!”

“A machine!”

“Oh. There’s a baby music player.”

“All machines need to come out. We told you that.”

Maybe there needs to be some fine print about what qualifies as a machine.

Going back through security to return home, the “machine” did not come out and wasn’t flagged for extra screening. Although our to-go salad was. Maybe there was a questionable amount of salad dressing.

Last but not least I need to give a huge shout-out to vanilla ice cream.

iPad, carseat and vanilla ice cream. They saw us through. BB managed a somewhat varied diet of everything you can imagine on a kid’s menu. RB existed on ice cream, some fries, some chips, some crackers, some granola bars, some cookies, a fair amount of juice, but mainly vanilla ice cream.

And we never saw nighttime. The sun set around midnight and rose around 3am. Our rooms were dark enough and we were tired enough it didn’t stop us from sleeping, but any sense of what time it was was lost.

That feeling that it might be dinner time or bedtime didn’t hit us until 9pm. Then it was way too late to care about anything besides getting everyone in bed or their crib. The travel crib is the fourth MVP of the trip.

Last night BB asked me,

“Why didn’t we floss in Alaska?”

“We’re lucky we brushed our teeth.”

At 10pm, on the evening of our return, I sat in Seattle’s airport playroom, entrenched in the smell of old feet. I studied a sign instructing children to remove their shoes. BIG MISTAKE.

On our way TO Alaska we spent 3 hours in Minneapolis’ airport playground. It’s a winner. It’s well-ventilated, has big play structures and everyone is encouraged to keep their shoes on.

As my children ran around like lunatics, crashing into several other Boston bound lunatics, I overheard the parents discussing what drugs to give them on the plane. Foot smell aside, contentment washed over me. What a fabulous trip it was and great to be headed home with like-minded people.

Both kids in the crib for the win.

An eighteen hour travel day and two littles, Alaska here we come!

My moment of truth is almost here. We leave for Alaska in 4 days and I’ve been trying to come to peace with the packing for months now.

I traveled around the world carry-on only. I’m very happy to wear the same shirt everyday until the weather changes or it wears out. Yes I washed it. Things can dry overnight, or when it was hot enough, things dried right on my body.

Turns out when I returned home a couple years later, I didn’t smell great, but that was news to me.

Now we’re headed to Alaska and in addition to our carry-on allotment we have a giant checked bag and a carseat.

I’ve been whittling away at our packing. BB was desperate to take a skort. I nixed that. That’s two items of clothing functioning as one and it might not even be warm enough to wear it.

Then there are the non-negotiable items: the giant, crib-music player that RB turns on multiple times a night. It’s a necessity. Anything related to sleep takes top priority. But it gives me the heebie jeebies. I’m devoting suitcase space to a 3d lullaby machine, that could’ve been used for a gazillion skorts or just less stuff.

BB has 2 security bunnies and her large fleece security blanket. Who gets attached to a large fleece blanket? Another non-travel friendly, sleep necessity.

We’re moving towns every few nights, so the less we have, the easier it’ll be. In theory.

Our biggest item is the travel crib. I’ve gone in circles about this. A few of the places I really want to stay don’t provide cribs. So there were several options: stay somewhere else, RB sleeps in a bed or on the floor or take a crib.

If we’re doing this, I’m staying at my top places. I contemplate a free-range RB and a sun setting at 11pm. It sounds disastrous.

They sell black-out shades that cover an entire pack ‘n play, like you’d cover a bird in a cage. GOODNIGHT!

I’m sold. The travel crib fits in our biggest roller, with room for snacks.

I got the last room at one of my top picks, a place that hangs out over Seward Harbour. The woman who runs the place and I are on a texting basis. That’s how small some of these places are I guess?

She says,

“I only have a second floor room, but I don’t like to put kids up there.”

“Why not?”

“I was sitting in my office and I saw feet dangling. A kid was hanging off of the balcony and when I went up there, the parents kind of just shrugged and said they knew.”

I assure her my children will not be hanging off of the balcony. THIS IS WHY I NEED A CRIB.

Years ago I met families backpacking with their kids and that’s always been my dream. Someday I thought, maybe I’d have a family I could do that with.

Now I have my family and we’re taking six backpacks, three rolling carry-ons, one large checked roller, one car seat and one umbrella stroller.

Happy 40th Birthday adventure to me!

I’ll be back in two weeks. Stay tuned.

Sorry Goofy, no room for you on this trip.

Family Time

I locked my children outside.

The good news about our deck stairs being unfinished is that there’s a baby gate blocking them at the top. It has turned our deck into a giant, outdoor playpen.

The kids went out. I locked the screen door and I’m enjoying my coffee in peace. That’s how school vacation week is going.

It started with our Passover seder. Considering 2.5-year-old RB refuses to sit through a regular family dinner, I knew we were doomed.

She sat for longer than I expected, however long it took her to drink the prescribed 4 glasses of grape juice.

At which point she slipped out of her chair. She was quiet, happy and BB didn’t make any moves to follow her. We continued to read from our picture book Haggadah, which somehow still manages to feel like it’s really long.

RB let herself out onto the deck and was doing who knows what. She reappeared, pressing her face against the screen door, shouting,

“Happy Passover guys!”

Happy Passover!

BB found the afikomen, while RB read a book and said,

“Where’s the komen?”

I gave BB a five dollar bill and gave two ones to RB. BB was crestfallen. I offered to trade her three one dollar bills for her five and she couldn’t have been happier.

Having saved two dollars, Passover was officially a success and we rolled right into Easter. RB again had zero interest in hunting for hidden things.

BB was hyper focused on finding all the eggs, but had little interest in the candy inside. RB sat in the pile of eggs BB brought her and mainlined jelly beans. They may make a good pair after all.

Now one child is napping and the other one is washing my car, or the bottom half of it.

I call the Alaska railroad. I’m hoping to upgrade our train tickets to Denali. There are two service levels: goldstar and adventure class. Adventure class was all that was available when I booked, but a couple goldstar tickets appeared yesterday.

The woman on the phone reminds me that the seats are not interchangeable. If BB is in goldstar, she can visit adventure class, but if RB is in adventure class she can’t go to goldstar.

The woman asks,

“So who are the two staying in adventure class?”

I pause long enough that she feels compelled to add,

“You can’t leave the two kids there by themselves.”

Well good to know I wasn’t the only one considering that.

Captain is facing a new requirement of 3 days a month in the office. If he’s to be believed, it may be the end of him. I’m not convinced.

The idea that there may be a time in the future when I’m home alone, feels so improbable that I can’t write any more about it.

Vacation week also seemed like a good time to test out RB’s new ipad. It was a success. She entered zombie mode.

There is hope for our trip and anyone else stuck in adventure class with my kids.

My quest for normal messiness

I’m not trying to have any more kids, but it often feels like it would be nice to have another point of reference. Where does each random behavior my kids exhibit fall on the spectrum of what’s “normal” for a 5 or 2 year-old?

My gut instinct is that BB is on the extreme messy end, but what do I know? She’s the only 5 year-old I’m living with.

At the beginning of the pandemic I turned our dining room into BB’s art room. BB is incapable of cleaning it on her own. Sometimes we do it together. Sometimes I do it by myself. Sometimes I see Captain in there muttering under his breath.

One evening I came downstairs and Captain was staring into the abyss of layers and layers of paper, glue, scissors, crayons, paint, pipe cleaners, markers, jewels, stickers, foam, feathers, and felt pom poms spread across the expanse of the table and floor.

As I write this, it occurred to me, maybe it’s my fault for giving her so many mediums.

I press into Captain’s side. He says,

“How does this end?”

“You mean what is going to become of BB?”

“Yeah.”

“I think she’s going to be one of those people who ends up with rotting food in her bedroom and she won’t care.”

He looks at me in horror. I have missed my opportunity to make us feel better.

I don’t let the kids take food upstairs, so this future is not imminent.

BB simultaneously knows her surroundings are a mess and doesn’t care. One morning she woke up inspired. She rushed to her art room and sketched a picture of her bedroom, complete with a dresser full of half-open drawers and clothes falling out every which way.

She’s observant. She knows things are a mess.

When BB eats anything, 20% ends up on the table and floor. That’s if we remind her to hold over her plate. Without any reminders the situation deteriorates. And while she’ll acknowledge a grape, tortellini or whole cookie on the floor, the chances of her picking it up are zero.

My gut instinct tells me she’s messier than the average bear. School reassured me that that’s correct.

BB came home and told me,

“I got in trouble at lunch today.”

“What happened?!”

BB is nothing if not an extreme rule follower. Minimal baby proofing required because she just wouldn’t do what she wasn’t supposed to do. So I couldn’t begin to guess what happened at lunch. BB explains,

“I made a mess with my lunch.”

“On purpose?”

“No! But the teacher didn’t believe that it was by accident.”

And there is the proof. BB is so messy that other people can’t fathom it’s her normal state of being.

Two years ago I questioned if I could parent my way out of the mess, then RB came along and is at the opposite end of the spectrum. BB couldn’t be messier and RB couldn’t be neater. BUT that is not a clear positive. RB, in my opinion, may have severe OCD.

RB NEEDS to put things in their spot. Her lovie has had a specific spot since she was 11 months old. If she takes a book off the shelf, it goes back in the exact same spot, between the same two books.

When BB gets home from school, she strips and leaves a trail of laundry from the front door, through the kitchen into the living room. RB follows on her heels, picking everything up and muttering,

“Put away, put away.”

I will tell RB to go play and instead she’ll be under the kitchen table with the dust pan sweeping up half of BB’s snack.

If I leave something somewhere it doesn’t belong. I have a pint-size person at my feet telling me,

“Put it away!”

If I put her water bottle anywhere but in its “spot,” I’m going to hear about it.

When I pick RB up at the YMCA playroom, she’s compelled to clean up before she leaves.

Going to a playground with her is really just a trash pick-up mission.

So as impossible as it is for RB to leave a mess, I now feel how futile it is to hope for BB’s underwear to not end up on my kitchen table.

BB is desperate to share a room with RB. It has the whiff of a social experiment and I’m inclined to give it a go. But not until RB is done with her crib.

RB loves her “cribby,” as much as I love having her contained. She likes to sleep all smushed up at one end. So considering that, she’ll fit in it for another three years.

How does this all end? Will our home somehow average out and end up in the middle of the messiness spectrum?

I’m at the point where I wonder if maybe BB’s M.O. leads to a more enjoyable, go with the flow lifestyle, with or without underwear.

My dining room
Room to spare

No more masks! And more from BB’s version of events

Bye bye masks! It would feel good to burn them all, but BB still needs them for the bus and it’s not my style to get rid of something I might need in the future. Just ask my over-stuffed house.

I’m relieved for BB. It’s tough going wandering around with a mask and fogged up glasses. Last year, a week after her ophthalmologist appointment, her pre-k teacher mentions,

“I’m worried she’s having a hard time seeing. How are her glasses?”

Great as far as I know. I ask BB,

“Are you having a hard time seeing?”

“My glasses were fogged up.”

Now she wipes them, but a year ago I think she may have just sat there and waited it out.

And now there is no daily feedback from her teacher. I’m left to sift through BB’s version of events in an often futile effort to discover the truth.

The other night BB was telling a very long winded, detailed version, of that day’s recess. It bordered on fantastical. She finished with,

“Then So-and-so grabbed snowflakes from the air, made a snowball and was about to throw it at So-and-so, but I stepped in between and blocked it.”

“I thought you had indoor recess today.”

“Oh yeah, we did. This was back in the fall.”

The next morning she prances to breakfast in a tutu. She tells me,

“Mr. L. told us to wear tutus today.”

“Your gym teacher told everyone to wear a tutu?”

“Don’t tell him I said that.”

And BB may be introverted, but it’s good to know she feels very comfortable giving her teacher a piece of her mind.

At the beginning of the year her teacher called on her to answer a question, to which BB replied,

“Oh no Mrs. C. I wasn’t raising my hand.”

Then last week BB came home and told me,

“Mrs. C. told me to practice my lower case letters.”

“Ok.”

“I told her I don’t have time for that.”

I told Mrs. C. it turns out we do have time for that.

Then in passing BB mentions that math is hard. A little alarm bell goes off in my head. I ask,

“What’s hard about it?”

“I lose my breath saying all those numbers.”

Good to know.

And this was from awhile ago, but it may be one of my all-time favorites. BB and her class were learning the song “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” BB informs me,

“It’s in old English and it always makes me want cupcakes.”

“Cupcakes?!?”

“Yeah you know… My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee ICING!”

Now I want a cupcake too.

Never thought I’d be in the pool 2 days a week in JANUARY

Our regular routine has resumed, except some crazy person signed RB and me up for two parent/child swim lessons a week.

Yes it was me. It sounded like a good idea in December.

The YMCA lowered the lesson price. Then after I signed up, they offered a 25% discount on a second class.

EVERY MORNING RB asks to go swimming. So I thought why not?

Why not: It’s freezing out. So much effort. It’s freezing. Less fun than enjoying my coffee. It’s freezing.

Why: RB wants to go. Plus I already shaved for the first lesson of the week, so might as well take advantage.

The Powers Aquatics program is incredible. I regret regret regret not signing BB up for it when I had a chance. Although I’m not convinced she has the right personality for it. RB does.

BB can swim circles around RB, but with Powers Aquatics I think she could’ve been at this level 2 years ago. BB declined a second weekly swim lesson. Solid choice.

The girls’ locker room has always been my go-to for shower and changing. It used to be empty. Now it’s packed. And now I realize that my post-swim strategy is not a popular choice.

Everyone seems to focus on their kid first. Ok, sure, we make sacrifices for our children, but this isn’t one I’m ready to make. As it is, RB is a shower hog. She wants to be held and the minute I turn to get some hot water on me she shouts,

“MY TURN!”

After our shower, she gets her towel and she waits while I get dressed. She watches the freezing women and the dressed kiddos.

I’m treating this like an oxygen mask airplane emergency situation. I’m putting my clothes on first before helping others.

It’s working for me.

The dream is that come this summer both kids will be swimming circles around Captain and I’ll be reading my book.

Plus with two lessons a week, I’ll get double the underwater photos. If that doesn’t make it worth it, I don’t know what does.

Mickey, magic and a melt down or two

I’m having a serious case of the post-vacation blues. We hemorrhaged money all week, except for the few seconds Captain found ten dollars on the ground. And I swore I wasn’t going back for ten years.

Now I’ve got Alexa playing the Disney fireworks music on repeat and I’ve got tears in my eyes. You could send me back next week.

The whole thing feels a little miraculous. We departed January 1st as thousands and thousands of flights were cancelled. Ours was on time and no one even made a peep about RB being on mask revolt.

It was our first big vacation in two years. A plane. A hotel. Gorgeous weather in the middle of winter. My best friend Goofy. A hot tub. Drinks. Being fed with a wave of my magic arm band.

And I got to hug one of my real-life, best friends who was in Magic Kingdom the same time we were. It was magical.

I couldn’t ask for anything else. Except maybe a few more hours of sleep for RB. Actually A LOT more sleep for RB. We had one too many meltdowns. They were all too many and I lost count.

Our double stroller turned out to be a nice way to hold our coffee and push our bags around. RB was determined to walk. And not just walk, but walk without holding anyone’s hand. I started eyeballing the kid leashes.

RB’s pace was so SLOW. Nevermind that we couldn’t count on her to even be going the right direction. So one morning in Animal Kingdom I forced the stroller issue. I didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn, to reserve rides, to be held back by a toddler strolling along somewhere in the vicinity of her luxurious stroller.

Well I learned my lesson. The only thing slower than a toddler walking through Disney World, is a toddler flat out on the ground refusing to go anywhere, do anything, or let anyone touch her.

So she walked. She even complained about her feet hurting at the end of the day. You can imagine about how much sympathy I had for that.

We went with Genie+, it’s a must. Then Disney wants to charge even more for individual lightening lanes. I guess it’s worth a try. We did pony up for Rise of the Resistance. A two hour wait wasn’t for us. But $9 a pop for Space Mountain?! I’ve been going on that ride since I was in utero. Not happening.

Screen time told me I was on my phone an average of 12 hours a day. And I have the blisters on my finger to prove it. I’m still reflexively opening the app and checking the ride wait times. This week looks pretty good.

BB had the time of her life and that in of itself made the trip. Turns out she loves traveling, roller coasters and the huge water slide at our hotel. If those are the only things we ever have in common, our future is bright.

Captain does not love roller coasters but he was a very good sport and tagged along. Either that or he didn’t want to be left with RB. She was really out to lunch for a good portion of the trip.

She reminded me of super drunk people who insist they’re ok to drive and then pass out two seconds later.

BB went hard and was asleep the second her head hit the pillow. RB went just as hard, but then decided to party in her pack-n-play for another couple hours while Captain and I escaped to the hot tub.

By the end of the trip, she was short about 28 hours of sleep. If she could’ve flown home next to someone else, that would’ve been nice.

It was very tempting to restock my Disney wardrobe. Aside from one new Forky shirt, I resisted. Do people wear these clothes when they’re not in Disney World? The last time I wore my Goofy shirt was when I worked there twenty years ago.

Twenty years ago. I didn’t realize how nostalgic it would be to return with my babies. And how unimpressed they’d be when I pointed out the places I had worked. Captain was the most incredulous,

“You drove the boats?!”

Which may be because he’s not super impressed with how many times I’ve crashed our car into things.

I DID drive the boats for the fireworks cruises and I didn’t always dock well. That’s why people are supposed to stay seated.

We did so much and I would do it all again. As I wallow in my 861 vacation photos and 6 videos, that’s after culling, the only thing left to do is plan my 40th birthday trip.

Alaska I’ve got my eye on you.

True love.
The melt down to beat all melt downs.
Magical.
Apparently they play Christmas music until February. I don’t remember that.
Shhh. I can’t emphasize that enough.
Nothing like feeling your ears flapping in the wind.
Til next time!

Santa, Mickey, and our elf. I’ll let you know how it ends

My ambivalent relationship with Santa continues.

BB loves the guy.

I remember my disappointment when I found out the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real and that was only a couple bucks here or there. I don’t wish I’d never believed, but the transition to not believing was a downer.

How crushed will BB be?

I keep asking other people how they felt when they learned the truth and in return everyone asks if BB is starting to have doubts.

Zero. Zero doubts. If anything, she’s doubling down on believing.

We’re headed to Disney in two weeks and BB has been studying her guidebook as if there’s a midterm coming up.

She points to Mickey and Minnie on the cover, who are looking fabulous in their 50th anniversary gear by the way, and asks,

“Are they real or people in costume?”

“What do you think?

“Well considering they can walk, and with smiles like those… They’re definitely real.”

So that’s where we’re at.

Santa on the bubble barge came to our neighborhood last week.

BB tells me,

“It was the real Santa.”

“How do you know?”

“I looked at his beard. How could he be fake with a beard like that?”

How could he?

And I don’t subscribe to this naughty list. It causes BB anxiety.

Over and over I remind her that she’s getting Christmas presents whether or not she’s nice to her sister. Even if it would be really nice if she were nice to her sister or at least maintain the status quo.

BB tells me,

“I told my friends that you said there’s no naughty list for me and they said you’re wrong. There is a naughty list.”

There’s nothing I can say to prove I know more than a 5-year-old.

I’ve been playing along for a few weeks now, but reached a breaking point.

A few days ago BB came home and asked our elf-on-the-shelf Tutu to please bring her a candy cane. I meant to put out a couple candy canes, but I forgot. Tutu moved. A miracle in itself.

The next morning BB was tearing the house apart in a fit,

“There are no candy canes! I asked Tutu for candy canes. So-and-so’s elf gave them a this and So-and-so’s elf gave them a that and Tutu hasn’t given me anything.”

When did the elves start bringing presents?! Santa help me.

Maybe because it was the first conversation of my day or maybe because it was Dec 18th, but something snapped. I wanted to throw the “magic” out the window. I tell BB,

“I grew up with no elf and I didn’t believe in Santa. Many people in this world do not have an elf or Santa. And maybe your elf knows that you had 8 nights of Hanukkah and now you’re going to have Christmas.”

Unswayed, BB tells me,

“I know, but I believe in Santa.”

I know. And believe it or not, Tutu brought candy canes the next night. RB gobbled hers up before it was out of the wrapper and BB’s is still untouched on the counter.

Who knows what RB makes of all this. Her priority is candy. She’s still walking around asking,

“More Happy Halloween?”

….

Don’t worry Goofy, we’ll be reunited soon!

If only that hat still fit. But I wouldn’t mind finding that Goofy cap!
No real Goofy here, but I felt like this was a quality photo.

Til death or disintegration do us part

And that’s a wrap on Hanukkah! It was a good one.

Captain and I had an evening out, which never fails to remind me how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place.

I sported the faux, suede leggings I wore when I met him, which he loves and my new fuzzy coat which I love and he said looks like a sheep. Who doesn’t love sheep?

It was a dreamy moment without anyone bugging me for presents or more presents or when are there going to be presents. On our way out, I float into the restaurant bathroom. As I’m washing my hands, the woman next to me says something unintelligible followed by,

“…. very nice.”

“Thank you!”

In my contentedness, I made the assumption that she was saying something about me. Perhaps my sheep coat is very nice?

She stops washing her hands, turns to face me and enunciates loud and clear,

“THIS RESTAURANT is very nice.”

“Oh yes, it’s a LOVELY restaurant.”

There’s no way to recover from having assumed this was about me, but we spend a good five minutes singing the restaurant’s praises just in case.

For Hanukkah, my mom spent the week mending Blankety, my security blanket. I’ve mended her here and there over the 39 years of her existence, but it kinda breaks my heart.

No one wants to take a needle and thread to someone they love. Yes I understand she’s an inanimate object.

Blankety has never been one to wash frequently, especially as she’s gotten older and has really started to disintegrate. I washed her when I first met Captain. Her equivalent of a new pair of faux, suede leggings.

I washed her again right before BB was born. And I washed her two days ago.

Did you do the math on that? The blanket I smush against my face every night of my entire life, went 5.5 years without a wash.

A month ago as I did inventory on our winter gear, I said to Captain,

“I can’t believe the winter boots I was wearing when we met are 10 years old. They’re older than our relationship.”

Captain eyes Blankety in our bed and mutters,

“That’s the oldest thing in our relationship.”

I point at 47-year-old Captain,

“You are the oldest thing in our relationship.”

I may have won that one, but it made me take a hard look at poor Blankety.

She faded from bright pink to brown several years ago. Then her remaining innards started showing through and I couldn’t bear to put her in the wash.

Then I started to break out. Then Captain mentioned she doesn’t smell great and he steers clear of her in our bed. I think she smells fabulous and I’m not trying to share her with him, so good.

My mom promised to mend her and I promised to wash her.

I won’t say she looks like a whole new blanket, but she is a whole new color. Let’s do it again in 5 years.

I’ll be 40 this coming July. It’s got me contemplating mortality and Blankety’s life span. Will she live another 40 years? Will my faux, suede leggings still be around? I can only be so lucky to find out.

Blankety through the ages:

Blankety in her newborn glory.
Circa 1991. Forgive the bad photoshopping of my underwear; I was going to crop the photo, but thought you might enjoy the loafers.
Blankety camping in Kenya.

She’s hard to see, but Blankety is under my chin.

No Blankety here. Just Hanukkah.

Hanukkah Hustle, ’tis the season

Anyone else concerned about the container ships stranded at sea?

I’m not sure what all is on them, but to be on the safe side I panic bought all of BB and RB’s Hanukkah and Christmas presents three weeks ago.

Hanukkah IS early this year, so that’s not too crazy. It still feels a little crazy, especially considering BB’s favorite color is in flux and how long can RB be obsessed with Baby Shark? Don’t answer that. Through December would be enough.

I thought I had a decent mental tally of what I had gotten each of them and it felt equivalent in my head. I put it all out the other day. Not even close.

I remove a third of BB’s presents to return to Target along with a pair of pleather leggings that didn’t fit. Those were for me.

The Easter Bunny made this same mistake, except she didn’t realize it until she put the baskets out and even then she thought it was close enough. The first words out of BB’s mouth were,

“Why did the Easter Bunny give me more than RB?”

Second thing out of her mouth was,

“Why did the Easter Bunny give us so many bathing suits?”

Maybe the Easter Bunny knew BB was going to spend the summer at the beach and couldn’t help herself.

And I will not make this mistake again. For the first time, I’m embracing duplicate gifts. Not everything can be the same. RB’s put-things-in-her-mouth phase is lingering. She still eats crayons.

This is partially my fault because I only let her color when she’s strapped in her highchair.

Which is her fault, since she’s proven that given a crayon and free range, she will color on any and all surfaces.

What about their different interests you say? Screw that. Their number one interest is having whatever the other one has.

And even so, I’m sure there’s going to be fighting. I already removed several large toys from the living room after any attempts at sharing turned into full-on screaming,

“MINE! MINE! MINE!”

I’m about to donate everything. Let them fight over the sticks in the yard. Plenty of those. And they BOTH put those in their mouths. BB tells me,

“I’m in a phase.”

“Oh yeah?”

“A puppy phase.”

“I see that.”

“Is that what phase means?”

Yup. I guess it does.

Home Goods has proven time and again that it surpasses any other store for the most random, Hanukkah tchotchkes.

And as I continue to complain about having too much stuff, I set off on one of several annual, Hanukkah, tchotchke expeditions.

Home Goods did not disappoint. Giant gelt stuffies. I grab two and head for checkout.

I can count on Home Goods’ cashiers for commentary. She exclaims,

“Oh wow! I’ve never seen these before!”

And before I can say anything, she adds,

“Well I’m not Jewish.”

“Well I am Jewish and I’ve never seen them before either.”

BB and I went out again yesterday. We popped into TJ Maxx. We approach the counter with a coat, jammies and 2 pairs of slippers. The cashier asks,

“Did you find what you came for?”

“No! We came for Hanukkah stuff.”

BB asks,

“Do we have time for the two other stores?”

“If we hustle.”

We roll through Joann Fabrics. Random I know, but they’re good for wrapping paper and I’ve exhausted the internet. Hanukkah overalls from Target are sold out.

BB asks,

“Are we going to the last store? We really hustled.”

An Ode to Coffee and Electricity

WHAT A WEEK. Electricity? Very under appreciated until it’s gone.

No matter how many times I forgot and flipped a light switch, it was to no avail.

I get annoyed when storms are over hyped, but the zero hype that there was for this storm meant I’ve been feeling bamboozled.

The first injustice hit quick. With only one of three nightlights working, BB joined me on the couch at 6:30am Wednesday morning.

My solo mornings, watching the sunrise, with the lights voluntarily turned off are one of the most pleasant, self-sustaining moments of my day.

Wednesday morning, as BB whined about no school, 30 minutes before anyone is allowed to whine at me, I realized that I was DESPERATE for a coffee. The giant, widow maker dangling by a tree thread over our front door wasn’t going to stop me.

I gathered both children and left a note for Captain:

“Gone for 2 coffees.”

And gone we were. As soon as I saw the first traffic light was out, I knew we needed to head out of town. Drive-thru after drive thru was closed. Road after road impassible. Next town over I saw people emerging from Whole Foods, to-go cups in hand.

Heavenly bells chimed. I looked down at myself: pajamas, random shoes, rain coat. It’s a drive-thru outfit. It’s not something I’d wear in public even in the depths of the pandemic loungewear movement.

Who am I kidding? I’m going in. The line was long, but not nearly as long as when I left 20 minutes later with 2 cups of coffee in my hands.

As BB whined and RB said “Coffee? Coffee? Coffee?”, I navigated our way home. I saw people drive underneath trees resting on wires. I stopped there.

We returned to find Captain searching the house for us, lost without the ability to text me. No one reads hand-written notes left on countertops anymore, even when there’s no electricity OR cell service.

I gave him a cup of coffee. As hard as it was to relinquish, he obviously needed one as much as I did.

We made a plan to evacuate to my mom’s. She mentioned not driving until later when it wouldn’t be so dangerous.

I spared her the coffee adventure for the time being.

In the meantime BB had her eye on Halloween and all things related. We were on notice for the school parade. Would it happen? Would it be canceled?

BB has started making her own social plans. She tells me,

“I’m going to A’s to go trick-or-treating.”

I explain that parents need to be part of the planning or she has no plans and I haven’t heard boo from A’s parents. BB throws up her hands,

“What am I going to do?”

“What do you mean?”

“I have to go trick-or-treating with you and dad?”

I’m not sure when spending time with us became a nuisance.

Halloween feels magical. It’s warm. We have electricity. The school parade was rescheduled for today. We join trick-or-treating forces with BB’s friend and BB seems unfazed by the parental oversight.

RB insisted on walking despite lagging behind. And if you’ve ever wondered what will happen to a full-size Hershey’s bar if you clutch it in your hand and refuse to put it in your bucket all night. You get to smear it everywhere when you get home. Just ask RB.

So did I risk my family’s life for 2 cups of coffee? Maybe. But we’ll never know what would’ve happened to them if I’d gone without.