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Unrelated to the title of this post: Carla has recently begun speaking with what I can only describe as a Baltimore accent. We do not live in or near Baltimore.

Now to the topic at hand.

You know how sometimes there are good things going on in your life – good, or at the worst, neutral – and you know you should feel happy and grateful… and you DO, you do feel happy and grateful… but also they are kind of stressing you the cluck out?

Yes. That.

It’s kind of like saying that you have an exotic luxury cruise coming up, and you are so stressed about whether the new bathing suit you ordered is going to give you weird tan lines but you may not have enough time to get the strapless version shipped to you from Milan… and you are having anxiety about making sure that your Ferrari is going to be driven once a week while you’re gone… and you’re hosting a welcome party for Beyonce’s twins but the caterer isn’t very responsive and you’re not sure if she was able to get the live baby lobsters you wanted to give out as party favors.

Why are you complaining about something that is a) voluntary and b) positive? Why are you expending energy on being anxious about THIS when there is so very much going on in the world to which you could direct your worry? CAN YOU NEVER BE HAPPY?!?!?!?!

I mean, I’m not saying I’m going on a fancy vacation or that I even have a Ferrari. (Nope. My turn-of-the-century Honda doesn’t even dress up as a Ferrari for Halloween.) And Beyonce and I are just not that close. But… good things, nonetheless.

[Edited to add: This is nothing crazy out of the ordinary, by the way. It’s more along the lines of — but not quite — buying a new house: great! But accompanied by lots of meetings with the mortgage broker and dealing with home inspections and packing and learning the new neighborhood. Or like — but not quite — getting a promotion, where you may get a raise and a new title but you have added responsibilities and maybe need to take a management class and also now you have to give presentations to the whole company. That sort of Good Thing with Added Stresses.]

So. Good things. And yet… I am stressed out.

There are so many logistics! And planning! And phone calls! And Unknown Things!

My face is breaking out from the overwhelming weight of Copious Junk Food and Excessive Anxious Thoughts (not to mention the heat, that awful old-dish-sponge heat that lies on you in a stinky, sticky, damp layer). I cried on the phone to a stranger this morning. My sentences tend to begin in my head and end in speech, leaving the person I am speaking to feeling confused and a little concerned that I am in need of medical attention. I am forgetting things, and having to re-do things.

Part of this is because I have not had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in a week, instead spending the wee hours of the morning staring at the ceiling fan as all sorts of horrific tragedies play out in my brain in Game of Thrones style gore.  Waking up at every hour like clockwork solely to watch the ticker tape of Things That Have to Be Done scroll across the bottom of my mind screen while a wide-eyed newscaster screeches Breaking! News! of Things That Are Making Me Anxious one right after another. Sitting straight up in bed in a panic about something ridiculous, like the well-being of the (now two) baby deer who live part time in our yard. And when I am sleeping, I am having nightmares of the trying-to-save-my-child-from-a-shooter variety.

On top of everything, Carla is turning FOUR, which means that I am also smack in the middle of my annual Mooning About the Relentless Passage of Time and also Having Strong Feelings About Carla’s Birth because that will apparently never stop being a hot topic for my brain to stew over.

Also, there was a centipede in my kitchen this morning.

[Edited to add: Not five minutes — MINUTES — after I posted this, I went into my bathroom and there was a giant silverfish lounging on the floor, all, come at me, bro.]

To combat the stress, I am: A) Making lists. B) Reminding myself, in a stern but kind way, that the stress is in service of a positive outcome. C) Working out as often as possible (which makes it sound like I am at the gym multiple times a day, when really I am trying to get back up to the baseline of multiple times a week), because there is something weirdly soothing about sweat and working-out-related pain. D) Writing it all down in great melodramatic whiny paragraphs, then deleting it. (This post is, um, the not-deleted part.) E) Telling you, in hopes that you Get It and/or will distract me with something, anything. F) Trying to take some of the creative energy that is currently going toward catastrophizing and redirect it toward my actual writing. G) Keeping caffeine to a minimum. H) Reciting the things I am grateful for in a loop while in the car, in bed, in the shower.

Are any of these things working to keep the anxiety at bay? Not so far, no. But these are early days. And what do I know? Maybe they are keeping the stress at a lower level than it would be otherwise. WHAT A FUN THOUGHT THAT IS.

Carla will be attending a couple of different camps this summer. It’s our first experience with camp, so, if you imagine my mind like a large industrial size gas stove, with pots of worry on each of the burners, the camp pot is currently set at a low simmer. With each passing day, though, it comes closer to a boil.

Part of that, I think, is that there has been little to no communication from the camps. We got emails right away that they processed our payments… and then… nothing. One of the camps required some sort of something that I’ve forgotten, to take place in April, and eventually I just contacted them myself to get it taken care of. (Would the camp administrators have ever reached out to me?) One of the other camps did send out a sort of welcome email, which promised to send more information in the coming weeks (it has not). The welcome email also included three attachments, two of which were forms that didn’t apply to Carla and one of which was a welcome letter (why couldn’t the content of the letter be part of the email?) that mentioned camp t-shirts and where to buy them, and also gave the date of a… something. I don’t really know what to expect, but I guess we get to go see where the camp takes place and… maybe meet some of the camp staff? It’s very unclear, and I have read it several times to make sense of it.

So the lack of communication is concerning. And it feeds into the part of my worry that derives from the fact that this is a Total Unknown. I never really did camp as a kid. We had a nanny when I was growing up, and my brother and I spent our summers at home. I think there were several years of swimming lessons, and maybe a few visits to a local park that offered face painting. But mostly, we played in the vast wilderness surrounding our house and tried not to get bitten by a rattlesnake. (It was a pretty idyllic way to spend a summer, I have to admit. I have fond memories of riding my bike over gravel and over twin ruts in the prairie that counted as a path; of inspecting ant hills with great care and interest; of swinging for hours in the sun; of swiping a handful of oats from the horses and planting them and watching them grow; of writing messages on pieces of birch bark from the wood pile; of playing with kittens in the hayloft; and so many other outdoor pursuits. I feel like I spent all summer long outside, but memory may be playing tricks on me.

The one childhood camp I remember attending was a sleepaway camp, and the first night I was there I developed pneumonia and had to be sent home. In any event, I was much older than Carla is, and plus this was a million years ago, so I have no idea how camps work anymore. The paragraph-long descriptions that persuaded us to enroll Carla are, from an information perspective, very slim. What does it actually mean to be “exploring the natural world through art” or “mastering new sports skills”?  What will the kids be doing all day?

One of the things I am fretting about is Carla’s reaction to camp. I think she will love camp, based on the broad understanding that the kids will be outdoors a lot and that there will be art and sports. But transitions are challenging for Carla, and I am a little concerned that it will take her so long to adjust to camp that she won’t get much out of it. Also, I have this nagging worry that the camp counselors will be… lacksadaisical, and I have scary visions of Carla running off and getting lost in the forest or something.

Okay, breathe, breathe. It’s going to be okay, yes? The camps will eventually send me some real information, right? I will know more than the dates and location of the camp, preferably before the first day of camp, yes?

I keep opening emails to the camp director, wanting to ask in a cheerful and not-overly-eager-or-bothersome manner whether we can anticipate any details in the coming days… or if there is a welcome session to introduce Carla to the camp venue… But then I chide myself about being patient and close the emails. I don’t want to be labeled as That Mom until they get to know me.

It’s been a long, long while since I’ve done a randomosity post. But random topics still burble to the surface, so let’s get them all out in the open.

Fifty-one weeks of the year, I really enjoy living on this particular street, in this particular house. We live on a quiet cul-de-sac that is close but not too close to a main intersection in an urban-leaning suburb of a mid-size city. I feel like we get the neighborhoody aspects of living in the suburbs, but have plenty of businesses and restaurants and ice cream shops nearby. And it’s quiet. I realize I said that one sentence back, but it’s important. There’s not a huge amount of action, beyond the teenagers playing basketball across the street. The traffic is minimal.

But one week of the year, a business that resides (lives? exists?) on an adjoining street holds an event that draws people from near and far. So for the duration of the event – not quite a week, but close enough that I will count it as a full week, for complaining’s sake – our street is busy. Lots of cars driving down it, to check out the event. Or to try to leave the event, without realizing that our street has no outlet. Or to park on the side of the street before hiking back to the event venue. The event lasts late into the evening, so there are cars driving and people talking excitedly and people beeping their horns as they engage their remote locks well past ten. Is event starting to look a little wacko, as words go, or is it just me? By day two, I begin to go crazy. Carla is a fairly deep sleeper, but I get that crazed newborn-parent feel of, SHHHH, you are being TOO LOUD, there is a BABY SLEEPING, and there is nothing I can do about it.

I don’t like it, is what I’m saying. It makes me cranky. It makes me feel wary of talking to anyone while we’re outside, which we are a lot at this time of year. It makes me double and triple check the locks on the doors (because people heading to the event are super likely to be burglars/murderers) (no). It makes me feel like whispering and ducking past windows and uncomfortably aware of the proximity of my bedroom to the street.

I will be glad when this year’s event ends.

 

We have a new addition to our household. A new baby deer. Its mother leaves it in a snug little bundle of white spots between our deck and the azalea bushes.

Fawn 1

Baby deer!

This year, Carla spotted the fawn first. And, being a child who loves animals with a passion that makes her literally vibrate with the desire to pet and hug and adopt, she cannot stop thinking about the fawn. This has made it rather difficult to enjoy our backyard; she is constantly hopping out of her seat at lunch or dinner to go peek at the fawn. Or, instead of playing in the yard, she is peeking at the fawn. Or, instead of doing anything at all other than peeking at the fawn, she is peeking at the fawn.

She wants to show it a pinecone. (It won’t care.) She wants to share her ham with it. (No.) She wants to bring it up on the deck to show it an ant that is crawling as quickly away from Carla as its legs can carry it. (No.)

We have had lots of conversations about deer being wild animals, and being especially careful around baby animals, because their mothers will be protective. And how even though deer are so pretty and docile looking, they can bite and kick.

This has sunk in a bit further in some areas than others; Carla still wants to pet the fawn (no; wild animal). But she refuses to go into the backyard by herself just in case the mommy deer is there and wants to bite her or kick her or lick her (okay, good point; also it probably won’t lick you).

I don’t know why I continue to be disgruntled by the presence of baby deer in our yard. This has happened… every year since we’ve lived here? Our yard is a deer daycare. But each year, I feel annoyed at the mother deer for just abandoning her baby in my yard, where I then feel obligated to care for it. (I mean, insofar as “care for it” means peeking at it occasionally, keeping Carla away from it, and fretting about its safety.)

And I DO fret about it! We were moving some deck furniture around the other day, on the very deck against which the fawn was snuggled, and it was making a tremendous racket, and I commented to my husband that I hoped it wasn’t terrifying the poor creature. When the lawn service people arrived, I ran around in a panic, trying to replace my pajamas with clothes so that I could go out and warn them to stay away from the fawn’s azalea hidey-hole. We are having our deck refinished in a few weeks, and I am really hopeful that the fawn’s mother decides to take her on a field trip somewhere else so that the sanders and scrapers don’t scare the poor thing out of its spots.

Part of me feels so annoyed at the mother deer, for not picking a safer location to stow her offspring. But I suppose it is an urban deer, and this probably feels a whole lot safer than the corner of a busy intersection or the back of a schoolyard playground. And I suppose the fawn could always complain to its mother about the creature with the curly blond fur who keeps poking its face over the side of deck and waving pinecones at it, and suggest that they find a new daycare center.

Fawn 2

“Please stop peeking at me. You are making me very nervous/annoyed/camera shy.” – Fawn

As long as we’re talking about the backyard, we did get a playset. I loved all the comments and ideas, especially the suggestion to turn our weed patch into a beautiful garden (believe me! I would LOVE that!). Of course, being me, I continued to obsessively research and read reviews and bother people with questions. In the end, we concluded that a playset is the right decision for us. Time will tell, I suppose. To tell you the truth, I think the playset is really for ME. It will be so much more convenient to throw Carla in the backyard than to schlep her to a playground when she is overcome by the need to swing. And we can host playdates MUCH more comfortably if there is something for the kids to do outside. So I’M excited about it.

 

I’ve been on the hunt for a few very specific items of clothing lately. One is The Perfect Skirt, for which I continue searching. Let us take a gauzy look through time at one I had in college: white, a lineny blend, cut just above the knee, a-line. THAT is the skirt I am looking for. It was the ideal cut/shape for my shape/cut. It was a nice summery, neutral color. It was a casual material, which I am REALLY interested in; I have plenty of This Would Be Fine at the Office kinds of dresses/skirts; I really want some This Is Cute But Totally Casual Enough for the Playground or Library Story Time options. But I have yet to find it. I bought this skirt from Nordstrom, and despite being adorable in the online pictures, it was NOT The Perfect Skirt and I have since returned it.

Nordstrom skirt

Photo from Nordstrom.com

Another item I am seeking, in bulk, perhaps, is Rear-End-Covering Shirts. I already have a few that are dressier, so right now I am looking for casual options. I have found some good ones, I think: this one from Athleta,

Rear end shirt Athleta

Photo from Athleta.com

…and this one from Loft. (I got the Loft version for, I think, $12. But now they are on sale for two for $18!)

Rear end shirt loft

Photo from Loft.com

But I find myself wanting moremoremore because a) I enjoy wearing leggings and b) my rear end is self-conscious. My trouble though is that shirts that seem to fit the bill either don’t actually cover my rear end (I am more generous in the backyard than 99% of the models modeling the “rear-end-covering” shirts), or they make me feel shlubby. I want casual-but-put-together, not rolled-out-of-bed-and-grabbed-my-husband’s-undergarment-off-the-floor. I guess a more accurate way to describe it is that I like my tops to have some shape to them. Yet, like The Perfect Skirt and The Perfect Jeans, it seems really hard to find something matching my specifications. So I’m snapping them up when I come across them.

 

The room mother for Carla’s preschool class collected money for a year-end gift for her teachers. The gifts were lovely and generous, and I was delighted to not have to come up with ideas for something her teachers would like and not throw away. But when Carla and I were leaving her classroom on the last day, one of the other parents brought in two large bags from a fancy store and handed one to each of Carla’s teachers.

Listen, Carla and I wrote personal messages in cards for each of her teachers. They went above and beyond for us this year, in many ways, and I wanted to express my gratitude in words in addition to submitting some cash to the group gift. So I acknowledge that maybe these other parents felt similarly, and wanted to really show the teachers how grateful they were.

Or, of course, maybe they didn’t participate in the group gift. Or maybe their love language is Gift Giving. Or maybe other justifying thoughts I can’t come up with.

My worry, of course, is that this is What You Do; you give money to the room mother for the group gift, and then you ALSO buy a personal gift for each teacher. Which seems ridiculous, but what do I know? So many tiny, unimportant-in-the-greater-scheme-of-things stresses related to Having a Child in School! I had no idea!

My desktop anthurium – which you may recall was purchased purely because I was looking for a red lamp – for accent moreso than for light – and couldn’t find one – has lost its… well, I suppose they are flowers? The red pretty rooster-face looking portions of the plant. There were two to begin with, and one darkened and crumpled a few months ago, and now the second is going the same way. I don’t know anything about anthuria, outside of the fact that I fed them with ice cubes. Well, I guess I did a rather poor job of even doing that, considering that they have chosen death over waiting to see if I will remember to ice them each week. So I have no idea if they will flower again, in time… or if I need to find another one. One of the things that made it so clear I needed to buy THIS anthurium was that it came in such a lovely bright red vase. I neither want to buy a new red-vased anthurium nor replant an anthurium in this vase. So I suppose I will stare hopefully at my remaining anthurium leaves and try to remember the weekly icing.

1 Anthurium

Photo from gardenknowhow.com

That’s it for now, Internet. What’s up with you?

Yesterday was Carla’s last day of preschool. It was a short day, so I ran to Target after I dropped her off. I had a list of things we needed, and a stack of coupons, and a cartload of Feelings, and where better to go when you have Feelings, I ask you, than to Target, where you can mindlessly wander the aisles and also participate in the soothing act of buying things?

It surprised me – which is surprising, knowing me – how much I was affected by The End of Preschool. I’ve been having terrible dreams for days: the one where I’m trying to save Carla from an active shooter but the only path away is riddled with motorcyclists and highways full of speeding cars; the one where I’m trying to save her from a furious grizzly bear lumbering toward us at the terrifying speed of bears; the one where she’s swimming with her face in the water and I’m terrified she’ll drown (way to be super original in your choice of metaphors, sub-conscious).

It’s pretty clear that this little milestone is presenting as a more significant marker of The Ceaseless Passage of Time than maybe it should be.

 

Right after I yanked my cart from the corral (and wiped down the handle with my own sanitizing wipe; I am nothing if not a germaphobe, and the wipes provided by Target say NOTHING about being sanitizing), I heard the two part harmony of children crying. The volume and intensity ramped up as I rounded the $1 section, and as I trekked down the aisle between the purses/jewelry section and the bank of checkouts, I could make out words. The older child was wailing, “I want the candy!” Her younger sibling was crying, too, but – it seemed to me – in sympathy rather than in any sort of personal outrage. The older child was really getting into it, hysterical sobs punctuated by very loud, very insistent screams of “I want the candy!” Her timbre and noise level read full-on meltdown and I am sure her mother was glad of the early-morning dearth of shoppers.

I felt, as one does, great affection and empathy for the mother, who was calmly unloading her cart onto the conveyor belt as her child railed and flailed.

As I passed, I overheard the person behind the family note, to the mother, “She wants the candy!” in a tone that conveyed bewilderment as to how the mother had missed this crucial point. And the mother responded, with great patience, “I know, but she can’t have the candy because she hit her sister. And I can’t give her candy just because she’s upset.”

Oh, internet! I was already weepy with all the sunrise, sunset feelings that The End of Preschool had brought on. But now, here was a mom who was just doing her best to teach her children, who was being scolded – albeit very gently, it seemed, from my in-motion and distant eavesdropping – for allowing her child to scream rather than just giving her the damn candy, and, in addition, she was calmly and steadfastly defending her actions to said scolder. Like she really needed a THIRD person to instruct when all she wanted was to buy her diapers and her chicken dinosaurs and get the hell out of there. I wanted to wrap my arms around her, internet, and tell her she is doing such a good job. That it will be all right.

But I don’t know that it will be. And especially at that moment, when I had to suppress the urge to shout, “Give her the candy now because she’ll be off to college in an eyeblink and you need to ENJOY EVERY MOMENT!”

 

We’ve been enjoying some really glorious weather the past week or so. Low humidity. Cool breezes. Warm sunshine. Carla and I have been spending as much time outdoors as possible.

One of our favorite activities of late is “bubbles.” I have this enormous bubble wand (from Target, obvs.) that produces excellent bubbles, both in size and quantity. I stand in our front yard and wave the wand, and then Carla chases the bubbles and tries to pop them (often with her face, which I have tried explaining is not the smartest plan).

It’s good from an energy-expenditure standpoint; Carla really throws herself into the chase. She runs hard, she leaps, she twirls, she dives. I contemplate her future as a soccer star. After fifteen or twenty minutes, she’s breathing hard and I know she will sleep well.

But aside from being good exercise (for her; unless you count “mild upper arm tiredness” as exercise on my part), it’s also kind of magical. The bubbles have their own sort of childish beauty, shiny and round, bumbling around the yard on air currents, nudging into one another, popping on the grass. When a breeze picks up, they erupt from the wand all at once: a flock of smooth and iridescent birds, bobbing this way and that in luminous clusters. When the air is still, they form slowly, elongating shimmers that finally coalesce into globes, unsure of their shape as they stretch and wobble through the air.

I love watching them burst against Carla’s hand, her cheek, her blond head. Even more, I love watching the gleaming orbs drift skyward, growing smaller as they rise, pinpricks of light against the clouds.

 

Preschool ending must have really messed me up, because – despite my list – I kept forgetting things. So I’d be in the pretzel aisle and remember that I forgot to pick up vitamins. And then I would schlep all the way back to the vitamin aisle… and realize I forgot all about Carla’s shampoo, on the complete other side of Target. And then I’d get to that side and remember I needed aluminum foil, which was way back in the opposite corner. It was a good thing I had a couple hours to kill, because I traversed that Target many times over.

One of my coupons was for 20% off Cat & Jack toddler clothing (ONE item, which at least they now state on the back of the coupon; harrumph). So I searched for awhile among the toddler clothes. But really, Carla is big enough now to shop in the older children’s section. (Of course, a pair of shorts in size XS or 4 may be identical in price to a pair of 4T shorts in the toddler section, but the coupon is applicable only to the 4T shorts.)

A whole end-cap of socks was on clearance. The display was in disarray, with all the sizes out of order. I dug around until I found the style I liked in size medium — lots of colorful stripes; pom moms on the back of one pair. A pack of Frozen socks caught my eye; Carla has a set that she’s outgrowing, so it would be nice to replace them. But they only had XL and XS – enormous socks for much older children; little teeny socks for tiny baby feet. So I had a little cry right there in the clearance section.

A whole wall of Carlas, at every age. Little wide-eyed infant with the jerky kicks and the balled up fists. Soft blond fuzz and chubby thighs crawling across the carpet. One-year-old Carla shrieking with delight as she clutches a blue carnation in her fist. Eighteen-month-old Carla saying “Hi, hi, hi” into a toy phone or digging into a baby-Carla-size pumpkin with an enormous spoon. Two-year old Carla eating snow by the bowlful, cheeks pink from the cold. Three-year-old Carla jumping gleefully on a trampoline in the backyard, blond curls taking flight around her. Three-year-old Carla in her polka dot dress and backpack posing with her chin up on her first day of school. Three-and-a-half-year-old Carla, fearless on skis, twirling with her father on ice skates, arms wrapped around the neck of a tolerant neighbor dog. Nearly-four-year-old Carla, chasing bubbles in the sunshine. Lifting her feet off the ground and gliding on her balance bike. Bending over a drawing – real! recognizable! – of a person. Skipping down the hall toward her classroom for the last time, “Elsa” braid swinging at her back. Slipping away from me, ever forward, not a glance behind.

Me, running to catch up. Never having mastered now enough to fully enjoy it. Grasping to hold onto each glimmering moment, even as the breeze catches it and pushes it up into the sky.

When I left for the grocery store yesterday, I was feeling pretty smug. My freezer is FULL of meat, which is generally the most expensive item on my shopping list, and I’d come up with a meal plan that required only a small package of beef for stir frying. So I was feeling confident that my grocery bill would be nice and low.

Well, it wasn’t. It was, in fact, higher than normal. As I was doing Lamaze-style breathing while the checker scanned and scanned and scanned, my GAWD haven’t you reached the divider between my groceries and the next person’s yet?, I kept soothing myself with this thought: But they’re STAPLES.

I’d hit the trifecta of 1) Lots of fresh fruit at decent prices, and 2) Lots of good sales on Things We Always Need, and 3) Needing to buy more of things we’d either just run out of, or were close to running out of.

The woman behind me had a full cart, too. And it was kind of interesting to see the things that she was buying, in comparison to the things that I was buying. For instance, she had two gallons of milk (I buy a quart every… whatever the lifespan of a quart of milk is), a bunch of boxes of bran cereal, Thousand Island dressing, a big bag of pre-washed spinach, and a watermelon (among other things; I tend not to take thorough notes while poking through someone else’s grocery cart). I would never buy watermelon! I have only purchased spinach a few times! It’s so fun to see how different our lives are from other people’s!

It’s fun to think about what other people consider “staples.” Outside of flour and salt and olive oil, or whatever. Recently, I mentioned that half-and-half is a staple in our house, and Swistle, in the comments, noted that half-and-half is a staple in her home as well. And so I’ve been kind of wondering, what are the staples at YOUR house?

Here’s what they are in mine…

Produce: My husband eats a banana every morning, so I buy those every week. My daughter LOVES fruit, so I buy whatever is in season and least expensive. (Although yesterday I kind of went crazy, buying strawberries AND blueberries AND cherries, and I PLEDGE TO THE INTERNET GODS THAT I WILL WASH AND FORCE MY FAMILY TO EAT EVERY LAST MORSEL.) We eat a lot of broccoli and green beans as sides, so they’re usually on the list. Same goes for iceberg lettuce, which is (probably, I haven’t done any tests) nutritionally meaningless, and yet I can’t quit it. And onions, potatoes, and lemons are super versatile, so I buy them most trips to the grocery store, unless we’re flush with them for some reason.

Dairy: Shredded cheese is totally a staple around here. We eat tacos maybe once a week, and I like to make pizzas for lunch. My husband eats yogurt every day for lunch, so I’m always loading up on yogurt when there’s a good sale. Carla eats yogurt fairly regularly, but then sometimes she’ll boycott yogurt completely, and it’s impossible to tell what the next day will hold, so I buy a lot of the yogurt pouches you can freeze. They are super expensive, so when they are on sale I grab a ton. Half-and-half and sour cream are also staples.

Frozen: Carla, for some reason, loves frozen vegetables. So we usually have a bag of frozen green beans and a bag of frozen broccoli florets in the freezer at all times, and often a backup. She also enjoys the Mrs. T’s pierogis, so when they are on sale, I toss a box into my cart. Same goes for pancakes, French toast sticks, fish sticks, and chicken nuggets. You can almost guarantee you’ll find those things in our house on a given day, so if they are on sale I have trouble NOT buying them. (Which sometimes results in two unopened boxes of fish sticks in the freezer at the same time, so I really need to figure out how to curb that particular Must! Buy! Now! impulse. I think I am what advertisers call “a dream consumer.”)

Meat: We eat a lot of chicken and pork. I get my chicken at the grocery store when it’s on sale and freeze it in two-to-a-bag Ziplocs. I get the pork tenderloin at Costco (unless there’s a good sale). I also get beef at Costco and then grind my own meat for spaghetti, tacos, and chili. Carla LOVES fish. She started out strongly preferring salmon, but she’s branched out into things like opah and swordfish and tuna. So when it’s a good price, I buy some, cut it into small Carla-size chunks, and freeze it. Yesterday the wild salmon was $34.99 a pound and I wish I could all-caps a number because WHAT. So I am glad I still have a piece of more reasonably priced salmon lounging in my freezer for the next time Carla has a salmon craving.

Pantry: Our grocery store is always having sales on canned beans, which means that sometimes my pantry is overflowing with black beans, chickpeas, and dark red kidney beans. We always have a lot of tomato sauce on hand, as well as coconut milk, chicken stock, rice, and taco shells. Carla loves Cheez-Its and Goldfish, so we usually have one or both of those in our pantry. My husband drinks coffee and I drink tea, so we always have those on hand. My husband eats a specific brand of pretzels every day for lunch, and it is now impossible to find them at Target, so I buy two bags at a time just to make sure we don’t run out. Rice Krispies and applesauce are two other must-haves, although I HATE buying Rice Krispies when it’s not on sale, so sometimes we go without.

Spices: The spices I cannot live without are cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, garam masala, cardamom, and coriander. I am constantly buying those things on sale, to the point that one day I discovered I had more cumin than any person could ever use in a lifetime. (I have now gone for several months without buying cumin, which makes me feel a little panicky.)

Condiments: Ketchup is one of Carla’s I-Cannot-Live-Without-You condiment. She also likes maple syrup to an absurd degree; this morning she asked if I could pour some maple syrup into a little bowl for her so she could dip her strawberries in it. Um, no. Then there’s hot sauce, which I count up there with oxygen. Which is how my husband feels about peanut butter, so there’s always plenty of that to be found.

Alcohol: I am the only person in our household who drinks alcohol really at all, so I usually pick up a bottle of Riesling. We typically have gin on hand, for in-law visits and occasional gimlet cravings, but we are OUT of gin right now and I am not interested in replenishing it at this time. If we’re anywhere near having guests, I keep an eye out for wines with high Wine Spectator rankings that are under $10. Come to my house for cumin, stay for the cheap wine.

One of the magical things my mom could always do was whip up a meal out of items just lying around our house. (She didn’t, like, store pasta on the couch or anything. The items she cooked with were in normal food-storage locations.) I suppose, now that I think about it, she probably did meal planning just like I do. But it appeared that she could come home, open the freezer and take a peek in the pantry, and then just throw something together. After many years of buying my own groceries and making my own meals, I feel like I’ve finally reached that point. I prefer to plan out meals in advance (hahahaha – just kidding; I HATE meal planning) (but I do it anyway) (shakes fist at adulthood), but when I haven’t been able to get to the store, or we are just back from a vacation or whatever, I feel pretty confident that I can pull something meal-adjacent out of the items we have on hand. I mean, as long as I have some chicken breasts, a lemon, a potato, and some white wine, I can feed you something pretty delicious, if lacking in greenery.

(Re-reading this, I’m realizing that I am super lucky to be able to buy and stock so many fresh [and otherwise] foods, and I feel a Food Pantry Stock Up trip to the store with Carla coming on, so we can help other people fill their cupboards and bellies, too.)

Okay, now, your turn. Let me peek inside your grocery cart and pantry and fridge. What are the Must Haves and Can’t Live Withouts in YOUR house?

 

Groceries

Don’t be fooled; we had six total grocery bags, packed FULL of groceries. This is just a representative sampling because I didn’t have any other photos to add to the post. For example, I came home with four times the pictured amount of yogurt ALONE. 

We have reached the stage of life where I am constantly searching for books that have some sort of teaching component.

Carla loves to read. And I find that reading a book about a topic and then discussing that topic and whatever lessons are inside it really help secure them in her brain.

But I am picky about the books.

The Berenstain Bears series is okay.

We have Too Much TV and The Truth and both are all right. Not perfect – Papa Bear is (as many cartoon/children’s book fathers seem to be) kind of a dolt, who seems to have as much to work on as the cubs do. And that annoys me, for some reason. Not that parents in kids’ books shouldn’t be real and vulnerable and have their own struggles, but… I don’t know. There’s just something mildly irritating to me about how the Bear Family parents come across. They are SUPER CHEAP though, so that’s nice.

I love the Frances books.

We have A Birthday for Frances and Bread and Jam for Frances and we have checked out Bedtime for Frances from the library many, many times. They are not perfect either; I seem to recall that the father threatens to spank Frances in the bedtime story, and I am not a fan of that. But otherwise, I very much admire her parents’ calm, unflappable way of dealing with Frances’s antics. My biggest complaint about the Frances books, perhaps, is that there aren’t enough of them.

Last fall, we were getting some… feedback from Carla’s teachers that she may benefit from a refresher on listening and following directions. So I researched a bunch of books on the topic, looked them up at my  local library (NOT IN THE SYSTEM AT ALL), and ordered a few highly-rated books from Amazon.

We read them each once.

(In case it’s not clear, I did not like ANY of them. I Just Want to Do It My Way would have been better titled “Staying on Task” or “Asking for Help” or something. And, in that book and in That Rule Doesn’t Apply to Me, I found the inconsistent rhyming and use of different fonts very irritating. Plus, they seemed to be geared toward a kid a bit older than Carla is. Which I guess isn’t the BOOK’S fault so much as mine. They are destined to be donated, I think. [To be fair, Why Should I Listen was okay. It showed multiple examples of a child not listening, and the consequences. And it also showed a few examples of how bad the child felt when others didn’t listen to him.])

Now, I am looking for books about talking to strangers and being polite and keeping your hands to yourself. I have a bunch in my Amazon cart, and I just need to order them. But what I keep wishing for is these books that I had as a kid.

At first, I couldn’t remember anything about them except that they covered a wide range of topics. But then I found them on Amazon! They belonged to a series by Joy Wilt Berry, and when I was a kid, the series was called “Let’s Talk About…” Looks like the originals came out in the early-to-mid 1980s. Of course, they are long out of print. (It seems like they got revised and republished a few times, as recently as 2000. But even those aren’t sold directly by Amazon.) (I haven’t looked for them anywhere else. YET.)

It makes me laugh to scroll through all the titles. If you take a look at the ones that I remember CLEARLY from my childhood, you may get a sense of what a delightful child I must have been.

I like to think I really absorbed the lessons of the books and have transformed into a polite, honest, non-greedy, hardworking, non-bossy person. But let’s be honest, I’m still not the neatest.

It’s comforting to think of my mother seeking out books in the same way I am now seeking books for my own daughter.

I suppose I can order used copies of some of them. I wonder if they hold up to my memory of them?

Anyway, I am wondering if YOU have any books of an instructive nature – about anything, really, from using good judgment to table manners to making friends to using an indoor voice and everything beyond – that you loved, as a child or as a parent.

In the meantime, I am going to go order some books from the Cheri J. Meiners Learning to Get Along series.

And maybe a couple of other random books for good measure. (At around $3-$6 a book, why not?) (I may have a book buying problem.)

Note: All of the photos above came from Amazon.com. I think you can see that if you scroll over the photos themselves, but… who knows.

It was a few days before Easter when we first spotted them: two wolves, crouching on the church lawn, faces snarling, poised to leap.

Have I told you before that I have A Thing about wolves? They might count as what one might call a “familiar” – I think there’s some sort of demons/witches involvement in that term, but what I always think of is something akin to a symbolic animal or even a muse. Something that shows up in various forms and fashions throughout your life, possibly at Important Times, and takes on some sort of personal significance. It was hard not to read something meaningful into their appearance, is what I’m telling you.

The church lawn wolves were plastic or plaster or some other inanimate material, but they were startling nonetheless.

It’s a Catholic church, I think; I know nothing of Catholicism, and not much about religion in general. My mom would know, I thought. She attends church regularly and reads books about religion and religious texts and has deep discussions with her pastor.

Alas. She didn’t know! We speculated for a few minutes about their theological significance. Maybe the wolves were somehow related to the Easter season. Maybe they were supposed to signify the wolves that are trying to attack Jesus’s “flock.” Maybe they were the church mascot. Maybe there was some little-known Bible story we were forgetting/hadn’t attended to very well.

We decided that I would call the church. I was a little reluctant to do this; I don’t like making phone calls, and I was unsure who to ask. But my mom was confident that WHOEVER answered the phone would be delighted to answer my question, and would probably go into great detail with his/her answer.

Over the Easter weekend, I pondered the wolves. I combed through my memory of Bible stories. I examined the Easter season from multiple angles. I dressed the wolves in various metaphorical costumes. Nothing seemed right.

My first call was fruitless. The recorded voice – someone who had been coached to speak clearly and to enunciate and to speak much more slowly than he might normally do – gave a long list of options from which I could choose. None of them sounded right. Did I need to be connected to the priest? Probably not? The parish? I… have no idea. The school? No, that one’s definitely a no. The accounting office? Nope. The final option was to stay on the line, but no one ever answered.

I called back later, went through the list once more, and stayed on the line. This time my call was answered, and so was my question:

The wolves are there to scare the geese.

No theological significance at all.

Church lawn wolf