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Posts Tagged ‘TV shows you should watch’

I was ALL ready to go for a nice long healthful walk this morning but then I got home from camp dropoff and my foot was already screaming at me, simply from a) driving and b) walking from the car to the door of the house. So I have scrapped the exercise idea and am typing nonsense to you instead. 

  • I cannot find SkinnyPop snack bags anywhere. And by “anywhere” I mean at Target or at the grocery store that offers curbside pickup. I suppose I could go to Costco, but going to Costco is a Whole Thing and I like to put it off as long as possible. 
  • Every few months, my face decides to FREAK THE FREAK OUT and today is that day. Yesterday, it broke out into dozens of little itchy pimply bits, so before I went to bed I washed it really well and then applied a thick layer of Eucerin. Then – and I think this was a mistake, although it’s hard to tell because I have experienced this same Face Freak Out many times and I don’t think I always do this step – I applied some benzoyl peroxide via Q-tip to the afflicted areas. Then I went to sleep. When I woke up, my cheeks and forehead were bright sunburn red and everything was tight and itchy. I washed my face again, applied another thick layer of Eucerin, and now I just have to wait it out. I wonder why it does this? It’s regular enough that I don’t worry (so much) that my face is going to stay this way forever. But it’s irregular enough that I never know what’s going to provoke it. I am washing all my sheets and pillowcases today, though, just in case that helps. 
  • My husband and I are (finally) watching the latest season of Stranger ThingsWe watched a recap of the series before we started the first episode, and seeing all the seasons condensed into key moments like that made me laugh. The series is SO RIDICULOUS. It sounds absolutely bonker balls. And yet it is so good! I love the characters and I love to hate on their TERRIBLE hair. The danger is palpable and so intense. The acting is pretty great. I love it. This season is VERY intense though.
  • One of my favorite parts of watching the show is the closed captions. My husband and I have reached that glorious stage of life during which we really PREFER to watch shows/movies with the captions on. But for Stranger Things in particular, the captions for the musical choices bring me great joy. “Intense synth music” it will say, in parentheses. “Eerie stinger.” The adjectives give me life. “Curious synth music” or – my favorite – “inquisitive synth music.” How do I get the job of the person who writes these captions?
  • After an episode of Stranger Things – or anything that’s intense/scary – I need to have a little mental palate cleanser. Lately, I am watching an episode of Seinfeld. I have been making my way through the whole series over the past year or so, and I’m finally at Season 9. As with most TV shows from the 90s, there are a lot of storylines that are completely cringeworthy now. But so much of it is still so, so funny. And I am constantly reminded that Julia Louis-Dreyfus is one of the great comedic actors of our time. Plus, there are countless guest stars: Aunt Becky! Lorelai Gilmore! Sarah Silverman! Luke Danes! Charlotte York! 
  • I cleaned out my Contacts list on my phone. So many names of people I haven’t talked to in years – a few I haven’t talked to in a decade. A couple of people who are no longer with us; I deleted the entry for my husband’s grandmother, but not the one for my friend. A couple of restaurants from which I used to order takeout when I traveled for a job I left in 2012. Contact info for colleagues from that job and for the job I left in 2016. The number for the psychologist I saw several years ago. Details for various car services in various cities. Phone numbers for several old babysitters. The address and number for the dear woman who took care of Carla in the infant room of her first daycare. The numbers for both daycares she attended. Names and numbers of mothers of some of Carla’s former friends. And so many many names that I no longer recognize AT ALL. Kind of makes me wonder how many phones have me listed as a contact… and how many of those phones’ owners remember me.
  • The reason I started cleaning out my Contacts List is because I was hunting for a specific number. We have a tree in our yard that is starting to overtake our driveway. The bottommost branches scrape against my husband’s car when he pulls into the garage. I think it’s time to call in a tree expert. And we HAD such a tree expert come in and remove from branches from the defunct telephone wire a couple of years ago… but for the life of me I cannot remember what his name is! There are a couple of candidates in my phone – local numbers with names I don’t recognize. But did Past Me add any helpful notes about who these people were or why I have their numbers? No, she did not. Future Me is changing her ways, though, mark my words! We did have a separate tree service come out and trim the giant oak in our backyard, so I could call them… but it took FOREVER to schedule them to come out, and I don’t particularly want to wait forever. They did do a good job, though. And seemed very knowledgeable and professional.
  • I am still thinking about the poor cashier at the party supply place. I went in before Carla’s birthday party to order a couple of balloon centerpieces. The place was fairly busy – two people waiting for their balloon orders to be fulfilled, a man in front of me in line, a handful of other people wandering the aisles. But the poor cashier was FRAZZLED. He was doing everything at five times the appropriate speed – like when I asked for a specific balloon, he dashed over to the balloon card catalog and fumbled through the cards trying to find the right balloon, then dropped the balloon on the floor. Then he asked me what other colors I wanted for the centerpiece and I told him, and he swooped over to the area where the centerpiece balloons are kept, but then he grabbed only three instead of four, and had to swoop back to get the fourth, and then he dropped one of those. When he was writing my receipt, his writing was nearly illegible and his hand seemed almost shaky. And then he forgot to give me my credit card back. And then he dropped the pen, and couldn’t get the credit card receipt out of the machine. I felt SO BAD for him. And it wasn’t like there was a big line of people forming behind me. And no one was yelling or tapping their foot impatiently. One woman did come up to him and ask if there were any staff members on the floor, and then asked him where she could find the party games, and he told her. So it seemed busy but not frantic, you know? Maybe this guy was brand new at his job, and nervous because of that? Or maybe he had too much coffee that morning? Or maybe he’d already been yelled at by his boss for being too slow? I don’t know what the deal was, but I felt terrible for him because I know that feeling. I wish there was something I could have done. I wanted to say, “No hurry, I’m not in a rush.” But that seemed condescending, or like it would call attention to his distress. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything that I could say that would soothe him, so I tried to just speak in a low, calm voice and smile in a mild and unhurried way. If he were Carla, I would have suggested that he stop and take a few deep breaths, but I resisted the urge. 
  • I made a new type of pizza sauce yesterday. It’s quite good, so I want to record the recipe somewhere (although this may be a poor place to put it) for future consultation. I put a 28-oz can of tomato puree, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and 12 large leaves of fresh basil into the blender and blended them up. Then I added 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic to a small pot and heated them gently until the other stuff was done blending. Then I added the contents of the blender to the pot and added approximately 1/3 teaspoon of dried oregano and about 5 shakes of cayenne and stirred everything together. I heated everything through until it started to boil, then I turned the heat off. It was really quite good.
  • A while back, Wordle “reset” and ended my winning streak. It’s not like I have that impressive a streak (although I have yet to miss a single word) (because I consult my husband if I get stuck and he is AMAZING) (there have been a couple of days when I somehow forgot to do the Wordle though, which I hope we can all agree is not the same as getting one wrong), but I like seeing how many Wordles I’ve completed and how many days it’s been since I last forgot to play. (72 days, before Wordle stopped keeping track.) Now I still get the satisfaction of playing, and it still shows the breakdown of how many times I’ve gotten the answer in 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 guesses (0, 5, 19, 62, 27, and 13, respectively) but it no longer says how many times I’ve played. I am not a fan of this development.
  • Okay, I contacted the tree service that took care of our oak. Partly because they are a known entity, and partly because I can EMAIL them instead of calling. Why don’t more companies offer this option?

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Wow, do I hate the time change. It should have kicked in already, right? Instead, I still feel like I’m sleeping less and yet also sleeping late and it’s making me very grumpy indeed. You’d think I would be THRILLED at the news that the U.S. is planning to put an end to the time change. Instead, I’m apprehensive. What new inconveniences will NO time change insert into our lives? What can I say. I am bitterly opposed to change, even if said change means changing the time change. Better the devil I know, I guess. 

It has come to my attention that I may have forgotten to update you on a few small things here and there. Things that make literally no difference to your day-to-day well-being. And yet, for completeness, I am going to give some updates. At least, on the things that I remember I need to update you on. Perhaps, if there is something you have been eagerly awaiting an update on, or a Burning Question you have for me, you will mention it in the comments, and I will answer it. 

First of all, let’s talk cake. As you know, I did indeed order my own cake from a fancy artisan bakery for my birthday. It was only $35 (I had thought it would be in the $70 range, so $35 seemed like a bargain), and my interactions with the baker/proprietor were 100% via email (which made me love her even more). Carla and my husband happened to be with me when we went to pick up the cake, and Carla was aghast that I was going to see the cake before the appointed candles and singing time. I think this is because I always hide her cake from her until I bring it out with the candles glowing and her family off-keying “Happy Birthday” while she waits at the table. We didn’t do candles or singing for my birthday, which is fine. The cake was GORGEOUS. A sea of lemon curd, ringed by a crown of raspberries. Here, let me show you:

A THING OF BEAUTY

I want to stop there, because it was beautiful, and the lemon curd and raspberries were perfection. But I am sure you are wondering “How did it TASTE?” and there I start feeling a little discomfort. Because I want to tell you that it was perfection… but it was… well, it was almond cake, for starters, when I had requested vanilla. And the buttercream – which was applied in the exact right amount!! – was vanilla as well, when I had requested cream cheese. The layers were separated by both lemon curd and raspberry jam, which was a little odd, but I’d said I wanted lemon curd and if there were raspberries involved, I wouldn’t be mad about it, so she interpreted that in her own way. It was fine! My husband, who likes cake much more than I do, assured me it was a Very Good Cake. And I don’t want to be ungrateful! It was lovely! But it was not what I asked for. Oh well. It was still quite fun and I don’t regret ordering my own cake, or ordering it from this particular bakery. And it is infinitely better to not-love a cake when that cake was baked by someone other than your beloved husband. Edited to add: Okay, I am coming back here to say that it was much more than fine. It was a beautiful, well-made, gourmet cake. It was not exactly to my tastes, but that’s more on me than on the pastry chef who made it for me.

Dinners continue to mystify me lately. I continue to load up my cart with khaki pants and sensible cardigans. I have some pork chops, some tilapia filets, and some beef I can use for stroganoff or stir fry. I also bought a package of chicken, intending to maybe give chicken a go again. We’ll see. But even with all these perfectly serviceable foods in my fridge, I am baffled by what to make. It is currently 5:15 pm and I have NO IDEA what to make for dinner. UPDATE: We are getting takeout from the Lebanese place that does spicy cauliflower. We had tacos last night, and that seems to be the only meal that has ever existed. (Obviously, I could do stroganoff or stir fry, but those things seem much too complicated to implement NOW.) Tell me what you’re having for dinners this week, even though it is somehow already dinnertime on a Wednesday. I could surely use the inspiration.

Speaking of dinner, I have been returning to the stir-fry sauce suggestions post frequently, for ideas. So far, I have only tried yum-yum sauce (per several suggestions) and it was wonderful and rich and perfect with the shrimp I made. My husband also dug a jar of gochujang sauce out of the depths of a cabinet, and I used that on a stir fry one night. It was… okay. Good mainly for its novelty. I think I made a roasted gochujang chicken once many years ago, and the sauce was better in that capacity than it was on stir fry. I will be working my way through the rest of the suggestions, as they are all appealing. Well. Except for the peanut butter suggestions, because I do not care for peanut butter. But I still appreciate your suggesting them as options!!! My husband, for whom peanut butter is a Desert Island Food, would love them!

I can’t remember if I told you this already, so forgive me if I have: Mornings continue to be awful, but we have instituted a new system of rewards and consequences that may or may not be helping. A little. Carla gets a set amount of screen time on the weekends – two hours per day. So we are now tying her morning timeliness to screen time. For every minute past the appointed Leave The House Moment, her screen time is reduced by five minutes. For every minute she is early, she gets two minutes of additional screen time. This worked terribly the first week (she lost nearly all her screen time), and then much better the next week, and less well the next week. In advance of Spring Break, we have sort of relaxed the rules… but I am eager to pick it back up again after Spring Break ends. The best part about it is that I feel less involved in getting out the door, if that makes sense? Obviously, I still want to be on time! But having this system makes the whole thing feel kind of out of my hands, which relieves some of the stress of pushing and pushing and pushing. I don’t know. Ask me later if it’s helping my overall Morning Mood. It’s still too early to tell. 

In the same post linked above, I mentioned that I was fretting over what to do for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. A couple of people mentioned family photos and that idea kind of knocked me over as The Perfect Thing. But there were so many obstacles to get through to figure out if that were the right gift, or even doable! First, feasibility: we are celebrating the anniversary in a very remote location, so I didn’t know if photographers would be available. Turns out there are MANY photographers in the area, but most specialize in weddings. And that meant $$$. So the next obstacle was cost. I made several requests-for-quotes via online forms, and heard back from one photographer. And then I had to have a phone call with her, which you know I love. She was very nice and her pricing was absolutely reasonable. But then I felt I needed to get buy-in from my parents. Because what if they already had events scheduled for their anniversary weekend? Or what if the idea of dressing up and getting photos taken sounded horrible to them? I was very reluctant to “spoil” the gift – but I decided removing the element of surprise was far preferable to showing up with an expensive photographer and be faced with a group of reluctant subjects. My mother seemed very pleased by the idea, so I booked the photographer. And voila! Gift handled!

Speaking of gifts: I recently learned that my mother’s beloved clay focaccia pan? pot? dish? died a sad untimely death, and she is on the lookout for another one. I would love to get her one, as her birthday is coming up. But I have no idea what the original was like. The only specific I managed to extract from her was that it was CLAY, not cast iron. I have no idea if it was round or square or rectangular or what. And google is NOT helping me out here. A terra cotta cazuela looks like a good candidate, maybe… although I guess I was always under the impression that focaccia was Italian and not Spanish, so a cazuela is perhaps not the most authentic vessel. Or maybe a bread cloche would be better? I am really hoping that you know exactly the thing I need to buy for my mother’s focaccia making purposes. 

My daughter and I watched Turning Red together. While I am glad to have watched it, I can’t say that I LIKED it. Not true of Carla, who has since watched it an additional four times and has been playing 4*Town songs constantly on our Echo. I liked some of it. I liked that it was a movie that touches on the physical and emotional changes kids go through during puberty. (Although I did get a little caught up in trying to make “turning into a red panda” completely analogous with puberty/menstruation, which it is NOT.) I liked that it explored the complexities of mother/daughter relationships, although those parts made me cry. I liked that it showcased the importance of friendship. I liked the diversity of the characters, in race and body shape. And I liked the message that it’s okay to be yourself, even if that self isn’t exactly what your parents want you to be. But there were parts I didn’t love, also. I didn’t love that the main character (Mei Lee) lies and defies her parents… or that the message “be yourself” seems to condone both of those things, as well as other things like physical violence and disrespect. I didn’t love that the changes Mei Lee goes through are referred to as “upsetting” by the mother. (I mean, I get we’re talking about a girl who is literally changing into a red panda, which would be upsetting… but it read to me as though the parents found puberty/menstruation to be upsetting, which seems like the wrong message.) I was mad that Mei Lee’s mother was so heedless of her daughter’s privacy and private inner life. I didn’t love that Mei Lee (and, later, her mother) are so unwilling to be honest about their feelings that they end up lying to their mothers in ways that make things so much worse. And I found it just plain confusing that Mei Lee is fine with being herself, but literally ALL of the other women in her family go through with a special ceremony to suppress their own selves. Kind of a mixed message. Then again, perhaps I am expecting WAY too much out of what is simply a cartoon for children. No movie is perfect, and there is no reason THIS movie should be held to an unreasonable standard. It has plenty of commendable aspects, and my kid likes it. And it sure beats Puppy Dog Pals or The Suite Life of Zak and Cody.  Have you watched it? What did you think?

What are you watching, TV-wise, these days? My husband and I just started watching Severance on AppleTV. It is kind of like Office Space meets Black Mirror and I am hooked. In the universe of the show, a company called Lumon severs its employees’ minds in two. (This is a big controversial thing, in the show’s universe.) While outside the office, you are a normal person except that you have no memories of what goes on while you are in the office. While at the office, your mind is only aware of what goes on in the office; your outside life doesn’t exist. The main character’s best work friend leaves the company due to mysterious circumstances, and the main character tries to put things together both inside and outside of the office… without knowing what his other “half” is doing. It has some dark humor and some very dark moments and some very poignant commentary on grief and some extremely thought-provoking ideas about autonomy, and then there is the mystery of this company and what it does and why. The whole thing is totally captivating. 

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Meal planning, grocery store reports, and randomosity. Seems like that’s all I can dredge up for a blog post these days. Thank you for reading anyway.

(Perhaps you could use one of your over-long randomosity bullets as its own blog post! you might suggest. Ah. If only my brain were capable of processing posts in manageable bite sizes instead of epic book-length tomes.) 

  • I finally got my hair cut and colored this week. My original appointment was a month ago. But the day before I was scheduled to see her, my hair stylist canceled because she had Covid. And then the day before I was rescheduled to see her, I thought I had Covid. My hair was very, very grey and now it is very, very brown and I am deeply grateful to my hair stylist. This time, she also dyed my eyebrows. You will have to trust me when I say that I currently look exactly like Uncle Leo. (The dye has temporarily adhered to the skin beneath my brows, and my hair stylist promises it will wash out in a day or so. Until then, I say, “Hello!”)
The resemblance is uncanny.
  • (This is not a new bullet, but WordPress disagrees.) Aside from the absolutely ridiculous name, I love it. It has the base primer, which makes my lashes super long. And then it has the top layer. And it’s waterproof so it never runs or smudges. It is a little difficult to remove, but it stays on so well I don’t mind. Since we are all wearing masks for the next FOREVER, it is my new best friend. I wore it skiing the other day, when it was snowing so heavily that my family and I were human moguls by the time we reached the top of the chair lift. And I made the mistake of putting my goggles on top of my helmet, where they immediately became crusted with snow and ice, which rendered them completely unusable, so I had to spend the rest of the day with snow flying directly into my face. My mascara did not budge.
Yes, that is a sliver of my actual forehead. Titillating.
  • Who was it that recommended I watch Sex EducationMy husband and I just finished Season 2 and I love it. The first season was good. I wasn’t crazy about the premise: Otis, son of beautiful sex therapist Gillian Anderson, starts offering a sex advice clinic of his own at school, with the help of prickly bad girl Maeve. For the entirety of Season 1, I had to suspend a LOT of disbelief, and plus the advice that Otis charged for seemed really basic – like no one could simply google their issues and get the exact same solution? But the characters were interesting, and I became Very Invested in a couple of the side stories, so we went straight into Season 2. And it was GREAT. The cast of characters are so fun and interesting. Everyone is complex and has their own inner struggles. I love how diverse the cast is (although there could be a little more size diversity), and I love how plainly and non-judgmentally a wide variety of sexual preferences are portrayed, and I love the friendship between Otis and his best friend Eric, and I love Gillian Anderson even though her character can be kind of irritating. Anyway: it is a really different, interesting show and I am hoping my husband will be up for jumping right into Season 3. (This may sound like “no, duh” advice, but if you aren’t interested in seeing/hearing about pretty graphic sex acts, I would skip this show.)
  • Has it been cold in your neck of the woods? It’s been cold here, but nowhere near as cold as it COULD be. I grew up in the land of Minus Sixty Degrees, so I am pretty blasé about our current in-the-teens temps. We do have some pretty serious icicle action going on though. These guys are all come at me bro and I want to say, Whoa, whoa, whoa. Chill out, my dude. No need to get so defensive.
  • Where I was originally going with the previous bullet was that my office is quite frigid lately. I used to have a space heater, one that’s so old I can’t remember when or how or why I acquired it. It died last year. Is it still sitting forlornly in the corner of my office, mourning its inability to fulfill its life purpose? Yes. Despite my sympathy for the defunct space heater, I decided to buy a new space heater and I found this little guy. So far, I really like it. I park it in the middleish of my office and direct it toward my desk, and it definitely makes the space warmer. I think it would be perfect for a cubicle or a small office. It has a little handle, and it is very sensitive to being bumped, and I really like it. It’s little, too – about the height of a hard-bound book, and a very cute little fella. Because as we all know, cuteness is a key factor in which space heater to buy.
  • Not that I’ve been in my office a whole lot this week. Even though I am supposed to be doing revisions, I have instead been traipsing all over hither and thither for all sorts of stupid appointments. Annual gyn appointment. Annual mammogram. Routine physical to establish with a new PCP. Hair appointment. Financial advisor appointment. PTA meeting about something I volunteered for. And then I just had to make a bunch of phone calls (UGH) to set up more appointments. Eye appointments for me and Carla. Dental appointment. Car maintenance appointment. Ugh ugh ugh. I hate being on the phone and I feel like my schedule is BOOKED for the rest of the year. 
Actual text between me and my husband. He is very accommodating.
  • May I complain a moment about the central scheduling system my healthcare provider has? I spent a very long time on the phone with a scheduler, trying to set up eye appointments for myself and Carla. And while I am grateful that I could call one number and get appointments for us both, with different doctors, I am… a little concerned. I explained my time/date parameters, and she found a time and a date. So I plugged them into my calendar on my phone. And then she said, “Okay, I have you scheduled on DATE at TIME.” But… that was not the date she and I had agreed on! So I asked her to double check it, and she confirmed the original date and time, in a tone of voice that indicated I should have been paying closer attention. And then when I scheduled Carla’s appointment, she said, “Oh, I have an appointment on the same day as your appointment – DATE.” But the date she said was not the date we’d agreed on, so I had to ask her to double check it again. Also for Carla, I picked a specific location near our house, and a specific time of day (after school, because the doctor will need to dilate her eyes). The scheduler set it all up, and then said, “Oh, I scheduled it for DIFFERENT LOCATION. Is that okay?” I said no, could we please find a date at the nearby office. And she said sure, and then offered several early morning times… when we had just discussed that the appointment needed to be in the afternoon. FINALLY we got it scheduled, and then she told me the date and time, and they were different from what I had just plugged into my calendar! It was a very confusing call, and I really, really hope that Carla and I are scheduled correctly. 

  • In my never-ending quest to find ways to use the bananas that eventually soften into mush before anyone (ahem, CARLA) eats them, I attempted a new recipe. It was a MAGICAL recipe, let me tell you. Elisabeth posted it on her blog, and it sounded ideal for my particular child: it contains oats (which she will eat RAW by the bowl), bananas, and chocolate chips. It also used dates, which I had on hand from the sticky toffee pudding we never ate. No liquid though, which I felt was surely a mistake. But no! As soon as I turned on the blender, the banana liquified and the ingredients morphed into a beautiful, uniform batter. I was generous with the chocolate chips. The cupcakes were so easy and seemed so wholesome. And none of my family members liked them. HUGE WEARY SIGH. [CLARIFICATION: They are not dry. They are perfect. If they didn’t have a banana flavor, which I cannot stand, I would have eaten them myself.]
I think they LOOK beautiful, but apparently they are “too DRY, Mommy.”

  • I need some advice about my “mud room,” even though I am pretty sure that my situation is un-fixable. As I have complained about at great length in the past, my “mud room” is a teeny tiny square of space between my garage and kitchen, with a shoe closet on one side. We come in through the garage, remove our shoes, toss them in the general direction of the shoe closet, and then enter the kitchen. It’s not great normally, but currently, with the deep snow we find ourselves in, it’s reached a fever pitch of untenability. Our feet are wet and muddy, so the floor gets wet and muddy. And there’s no easy way to remove one’s shoes and then step into the kitchen, so mud and dirt inevitably get tracked into the kitchen and then all around the house. I am zooping things constantly. I am spraying and wiping the floor constantly. And then, multiple times a day, the floor is a filthy mess again. Plus, the shoe closet is FULL. There is NO ROOM for all the snow boots that have assembled. The other closet, where I store the snow boots in dry weather, is too far away for us to reasonably store the boots in between wearings. And because some people like to wear normal shoes when it’s not actively snowing, I can’t simply stow the regular footwear in the other closet. I guess I could move SOME of the shoes, so that we could put our boots INSIDE the closet, instead of outside. But that still doesn’t resolve the Mud and Dirt issue. I would love to get a boot tray… but the “mud room” is so small that a boot tray would make it impossible to open the door. I don’t think a boot tray would fit inside the shoe closet, either. It’s tiny, plus we already have a shoe shelf in there, taking up most of the real estate. You will have to believe me that there is no In the Garage Solution, either; our garage is tiny, and there is barely enough room to squeeze past our cars to get inside. We cannot remove our shoes outside before we come in. So. Is there some obvious solution I am overlooking? Or is this just a Grit Your Teeth and Keep Zooping situation?
  • This may be really silly question, but if you track your reading, and you also have children, do you track the books you read with/to your children? I track the books I read on Goodreads, and I never used to count the books I read to Carla. (Mostly because my husband is the primary bedtime reader in our household – his accents are MUCH higher quality.) But I have making an effort to read to her more often outside of bedtime, and we just finished Frindle and I tracked it. I mean, I read the entire thing. Out loud. So I want credit. Credit that matters literally only to me. 
  • By the way, have you read Frindle yet? It was seriously such a good book. It’s about a boy named Nick and his teacher Mrs. Granger. As part of an effort to distract Mrs. Granger from teaching/assigning homework, Nick decides to make up his own word for a pen (frindle), and then launches a campaign to make frindle the real word for an ink-filled writing implement. It was a fun book about how words come to be, and how students can make a difference, and how important good teachers are. My voice was wobbling all over the place as I read the last two chapters. It was really such a lovely, fun, moving book. Carla liked it too, but being a child and not a parent/former child, she didn’t fully understand the beauty of the Nick/Mrs. Granger relationship. 

That seems as good a note to end on as any. I need to go gear myself up to make yet another phone call and schedule yet another appointment. And then I have two meetings today. Blech. 

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I am sitting in a dark house, staring out at a brooding sky and wind-tossed trees. It is deliciously quiet right now. Thanks to your powerful not-Covid thoughts, Carla is Covid negative and back at school. Hooray!

We were very productive yesterday: in addition to going to the doctor, I did four loads of laundry – INCLUDING folding – and have a last load waiting for me to put it in the washer (I have been trying to see a load through from hamper to folding before I start a new load; reduces the pile up). We also cleaned out Carla’s desk, which had an entire trash bag’s worth of junk in it, and we listened to Project Hail Mary (which I listened to based on Jaida’s excellent recommendation and loved so much that I explained it to Carla, and my enthusiasm made her want to listen to it also), and we watched a very long video of someone who gives makeovers to OMG dolls. Carla subsequently added “liquid latex” and “heat gun” to her list of must-have crafting items. It was nice to have a little extra time with my kid, but she has another day off coming up and I am very glad she is back at school.

After I dropped Carla off, I went to the grocery store and spent all our savings on food. I have not been noticing a huge number of shortages… things seem to have leveled off, a bit. (Although at Costco this weekend, there was no Kirkland-brand toilet paper, and both toilet paper and paper towels were one-per-customer.) Plenty of staples – beans, pasta, flour, sugar, pepperoni. Even Lunchables are available again. A thing that I do find concerning is that Target now has “only X left” on pretty much anything I try to order online. This is true whether I choose “pick-up” or “shipping” as my delivery option. It could simply be marketers playing to the scarcity strategy, but whatever it is, it definitely cues my panic response.

You know a thing that I find unnecessarily anxiety-provoking? When someone can’t hear what you’re saying. The checker at the grocery store had a hard time hearing me, and was really frustrated-acting about it. Which I get! It must be frustrating, to not hear someone! And I am sure that she has to deal with this same situation multiple times per day, what with people wearing masks, and her being stuck behind a plexiglass shield and all. But she did that thing where she shook her head and closed her eyes in an “I am counting to ten” kind of way, and, her tone said “this is entirely YOUR fault” and I felt helpless and defensive and equally frustrated that I couldn’t make myself heard and ugh. I just hate that. Makes me feel shaky and tearful when it should be a simple exchange of, “Oh, sorry! I will speak up!” and “Thank you! That’s better!” instead of disgusted dismissive shrugging like I am purposefully being a jerk.

She also seemed mad at me that I asked her to re-scan my apples. I bought Jonagold apples because a) I can’t remember the last time I ate a Jonagold apple, and cannot remember how they taste and b) because they looked so beautiful and shiny and red. I purposely avoided the Honeycrisp apples because a) they were $0.50 per pound more expensive and b) also looked pale and bloated. So I pointed out that they had rung up as the wrong apple – which she had me repeat twice – and then she said in an angry way, “Well, they come up as Honeycrisp when I type in the number on the tag.” Which. Okay. Either some Honeycrisp apples migrated into the Jonagold section or the tag was incorrect or the computer was reading them incorrectly or she typed the number into the computer incorrectly or I blacked out in the apple section and got Honeycrisp instead of Jonagold… I don’t know, but it didn’t seem to me that I had been BLAMING her for doing something WRONG when that is clearly how it came across. She is never as friendly as some of the checkers, but she sure drank some curdled milk this morning or something.

A package of M&Ms classic mix (M&Ms, peanut M&Ms, and peanut butter M&Ms all in a single bag) caught my eye at the checkout, but I neglected to act on my impulse and buy it. I wavered because I don’t really like plain M&Ms. But I am regretting my inaction now.

We got the bill for the exterminator, and it was MUCH higher than indicated in our previous infuriating and elliptical conversation. And I can’t decide whether I need to simply pay it and find a new exterminator service or if I should email him back and request an explanation. And I KNOW that prices are rising and costs are increasing, so there could be a reasonable explanation for the discrepancy. But I want to KNOW. I don’t want to just pay whatever he says the price is, willy nilly. We got a nice letter from our snowplow service saying – in advance – that they had a lot of increased costs and so our bill would go up, and I really appreciate that kind of up-front transparency. We will gladly pay the increase. Part of me wants to email the exterminator, just to see what he says. Although I am afraid he will then call me.

My root canal takes place next week. My husband took the day off from work and will drive me to and from the appointment and presumably ensure I don’t die afterward. I am not looking forward to it. But it will be nice to no longer have severe pain in my jaw. (Although I have heard plenty of stories about root canals not “taking” and needing to be repeated. Arrrrggghhhhh.)

This past Sunday, because Carla wasn’t going to school the following day, the three of us watched Cruella, with Emmas Stone and Thompson. There were some men in it, too, but the Emmas were the real stars. It was a decent movie, although it made Cruella a little too sympathetic, and I still am not quite sure I can make the narrative jump to her wanting to skin and wear a bunch of a Dalmatians as a coat. Also, the whole nature-vs-nurture theme of the movie could have done with a little more thinking through, but I suppose what do you want from a children’s storybook villain origin story. Carla was quite taken with her and has resumed speaking with a semi-British accent.

This is a bit of a delicate topic, maybe. But… do you shave your face? I had not done any sort of facial hair removal until a couple of months ago, aside from an occasional plucking of a stray eyebrow hair, or pulling out the hair that insists on sprouting witchily from the mole on my chin. But now I am completely obsessed with these Tinkle razors. I think I have used these enough times now to be able to recommend them with confidence. A little back story: an acquaintance mentioned these to me over the summer, and said she’d gotten a couple extra and she would give them to me. Note that she did not ask if I wanted them. Then the next couple of times we ran into each other, she’d slap her thigh and say, “Oh darn, I forgot to bring them for you!” As you might imagine, after each of these exchanges, I would spend long minutes with my face pressed up against the mirror, trying to determine whether my peach fuzz had graduated into full on facial shrubbery. Surely, my furry outer layer was so evident that this person felt COMPELLED to get me to take action. So when she finally pressed a couple into my hands, I was ready to give them a try. I had never tried any sort of facial hair removal options before because my mother had always given me stern and strenuous warnings about how the hair would grow back thicker and darker than before. A mother’s admonitions are a hard thing to get past, even when one is in her fifth decade of life. So far, I have not noticed this to be the case with the Tinkle razors. There is a period during which the face feels a teeny bit rougher than normal, but then the hair goes back to its normal downy state, and I haven’t noticed any change in color whatsoever. Anyway, these are very easy to use and I LOVE THEM and I am not going back and if you are looking for a facial hair solution I recommend you give these a go.

What are we supposed to be watching on TV these days? My husband and I watched Midnight Mass (interesting and thoughtful concept; Hamish Linklater; too many long-winded monologues) and Squid Game (VERY stressful but impossible to stop once we started) and are of course watching the latest season of Great British Baking Show. But we need something new. I want to watch that murder comedy with Selena Gomez (Only Murders in the Building) and my husband wants to watch Succession and neither of us is particularly excited about the other’s choice. What have you watched recently and loved?

I looked up the person who does the OMG doll makeovers and she apparently makes somewhere around $14,000 a month.

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It’s a dreary, grey Sunday – the kind where the weather is obstinate and heavy but refuses to give into the relief of rain. Everything is Deeply Oppressively Gloomy. I feel like writing (actually, I feel like Avoiding Exercise), so let’s try some medicinal randomosity.

  • Speaking of medicinal remedies: I plan to make a batch of chocolate snickerdoodles with Carla at some point this afternoon. If the weather clears up, we will have a farewell “party” tomorrow with the three friends she’s been doing an afterschool activity with for the past couple of months. The weather has to clear up because the “party” involves pizza and cookies and will take place outdoors. The cookies will take place either way. 
  • One reason I feel so gloomy is that I am in a phase of poor sleep. I know it’s a phase. I have been in poor sleep phases before. And yet knowing it is a phase does not prevent me from being absolutely certain that I will never get a good night’s sleep again, that this is my life now, and I will live out the rest of my days feeling tired and groggy and cranky, craving carbs and thinking of nothing but strategies for finally breaking the poor sleep pattern that will surely fail.
  • I am not having trouble falling asleep, which is the issue that plagues me when I am stressed. Instead, I fall asleep just fine, but then either a) wake up five hours later as though that is an appropriate amount of time to sleep night after night (it is not) or b) wake up multiple times throughout the night, ensuring that I never get the deep restorative rest I need. The other night, I counted and I woke up eight times. Twice to pee and six times because my husband did something obnoxious like turning over or breathing.
  • My normal get-back-to-sleep strategies are failing me. Nonetheless, I doggedly keep at them. Maybe THIS is the night I will sleep. I keep trying to remember that lying in bed and resting has value, even if it is not as MUCH value as actual sleep. I also keep wishing that my husband – a real live doctor – would say, Wow, you should go see your doctor about this. He does not, which I think indicates that there’s nothing I can do about it except wait for the phase to end. 
  • Things I have tried: Sleeping in the guest room. Making my husband sleep in the guest room. Exercising in the morning. Exercising in the afternoon. Taking melatonin. Taking Benadryl. Eliminating screens for an hour before bed. Taking a warm shower before bed. Wearing socks to bed. Wearing squishy ear things in my ears (they have a name, but all I am coming up with is “ear phones” and that isn’t right; the lack of sleep is already setting in as mental decay). Eliminating soda. Eliminating alcohol. Not eating too close to bedtime. Cutting out all liquids at nine pm. Drinking warm herbal tea right before the nine pm cutoff. Doing soothing stretches right before bed. Going to bed early. Going to bed late. The only thing left to try is giving caffeine up entirely (I drink tea every morning), but I don’t wanna.
  • Okay, I am done talking about my sleep struggles now. 
  • If you are a fan of at-home exercise routines, I would like to recommend Lindsey of Nourish, Move, LoveI found a few of her exercise routines on YouTube, and enjoyed them. And then I found out she has free challenges on her site. I’ve been doing the April challenge, which has a great mix of routines. None of them is too long, and they require very little equipment – maybe a yoga mat or a chair or a set of hand weights if you have them. If you have no equipment, she recommends workarounds. She suggests variations you can do if you want low impact or higher impact, so I never feel like I have to push myself to do things my body can’t handle. I find her routines to be challenging but doable, and they make me sweat and they make my muscles sore and I always feel good when I’m done. And she seems like such a lovely person – she does the entire workout along with you, and makes “oh my gosh this is hard” faces and sweats and shouts motivational things at you. She doesn’t really talk at all about weight loss, at least not that I’ve noticed – she will mention eating a balanced diet once in a while, but really she’s all about feeling strong and powerful. I love that message. Sometimes she has other people join her for the routines, and sometimes she’ll invite advertisers to come work out with her. Like there is one exercise routine where she works out with a representative from the Minnesota Pork Board, or something like that, and I find that so charming – both that she would get a sponsorship from Big Pork and that they would send a representative to work out with her. And so she’ll mention pork a few times during the routine, about how it’s a lean protein that’s great for building healthy muscles. It’s very low pressure and I find it amusing and sort of sweet. Anyway, it’s all free and available on her website or on YouTube and if you want to switch up your at-home workouts, you might want to give her a try. 
  • I am still on the lookout for The Perfect Summer Dress. I have rejected every dress I’ve tried on. Once again, I’m confronted with the fact that I do not look good in a maxi dress. Apparently this is a lesson I am forced to learn annually, because it never sticks from year to year. I really WANT a maxi dress – they seem like they would be comfortable and cool and look cute with a denim jacket – but they are not for me. Really what I want is the T-shirt and jeans equivalent of a dress. But with a waistline. And the sad fact is that I am too lumpy for jersey, which is what most of those dresses are made of. So. The search continues. Lauren says my perfect dress is at Boden, so I am looking there.
  • Reading Lauren’s latest post reminds me that I need to get cracking on my seed starters. So far I have purchased the seeds and seed starter and moved a seed tray into my dining room. That FEELS like progress, but I am really no closer to growing pepper plants and sugar snap peas than I was before. 
  • In an effort to Treat Ourselves (and also treat me, by removing a large something from the freezer), we made schnecken for breakfast. My in-laws had sent us the schnecken some time ago but they ordered us an enormous quantity, so we had some left over. If you have not ever experienced schnecken, it is similar to a cinnamon roll… but with less cinnamon. It also has raisins, which I pick out. It tastes like eating cooked cinnamon roll dough made out of butter. A very decadent treat indeed.
  • Would you like a non-update on my housecleaner situation? As you may know if you read Swistle’s recent post on the topic, I have been eager to call my former housecleaner to see if she wants to return to cleaning our house. Now that I am fully vaccinated, and Carla is out of the house all day, IT IS TIME. After Swistle posted on the topic (and also sent me a very nice, reassuring email), and I read all of the lovely comments, I gathered my nerve and placed the call. She sounded genuinely happy to hear from me, which was such a relief; I had worried that she would be mad that we had discontinued her services (after paying her not to come for several months, it started to feel weird to keep doing so).  When I said, all in a rush, that I would love for her to come back now that my husband and I are vaccinated, I could HEAR the smile in her voice as she said, “I would LOVE to come back!” But of course, you know, it wasn’t as simple as all that. She has, understandably, taken other jobs. And I think she had just placed a new ad for her services. So she said she needed to check her schedule and get back to me. This was nearly a week ago and my confidence in that “I would LOVE to come back!” is now wavering. Also, when we spoke, she said “I think I still have your number” and I SHOULD HAVE said, “Oh, just in case you can’t find it, here it is” but I DIDN’T and so now I am fretting that she has no way to get in touch with me. Plus, I forgot to say that I would want to know EITHER WAY – even if she can’t work me into her schedule now, I would ask her to put me on a wait list for next time she needs to fill a spot. And also, I was so overwhelmed by making the call and talking with her after so many months that I completely forgot to mention that I’d prefer her to wear a mask. Well. There’s nothing I can do about any of it NOW. I suppose I could call back after a couple of weeks go by just to check in. I really REALLY do not want to find and vet and train another housecleaner, especially when my old one is so lovely and wonderful. 
  • Meanwhile, the house creeps further and further toward squalor. Some sort of mental switch flipped, I think, when I heard my housecleaner’s voice. And I just felt Done with housecleaning. Carla is doing her best to contribute, having renewed her interest in various toys with thousands of tiny parts/crafting projects that require her to pull multiple supplies out of the craft cupboard and strew them all over every available surface. My recent clothes buying craze hasn’t helped either; I have “to try on” and “to return” piles all over the place.
  • What are you watching right now? My husband and I just finished Bodyguard, which, in case you are operating under the same misapprehension, has nothing whatsoever to do with the 1992 movie The Bodyguard starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner. I got over my disappointment pretty quickly because it was a great series. It was very action packed and made me EXTREMELY stressed, though. Like, heart pounding, gripping my husband’s hand tightly kind of stress. So keep that in mind if you plan to give it a try. The lead – Richard Madden, of Game of Thrones fame – was fantastic, and should probably win an Emmy for his jaw-muscle acting alone. There was also some good hair acting in the last third of the series, but maybe we should award THAT Emmy to his hair styling team. Prior to Bodyguard, we finally watched Little Fires Everywhere, the TV adaptation of the best-selling Celeste Ng book. It starred Reese Witherspoon and Joshua Jackson and Kerry Washington and a whole host of child actors and it was excellent and thought provoking. I am telling you this as though I am not the last person in the universe to watch it. It was one of those rare TV shows that, to me, was even better than the book – but in a way that made the parts of the book I loved really shine… and in a way that made me appreciate the book anew. Reese Witherspoon is one hell of an actress, is one of my takeaways from the show. Also, Joshua Jackson is Full On Dad Mode in this series, which may be upsetting if you are accustomed to seeing him as a teen heartthrob; I never watched Dawson’s Creek so it didn’t bother me, but I could see how it MIGHT. Anyway: two great shows in a row, and now I am at a loss for what to watch next. 
  • Speaking of shows, the next season of Ted Lasscomes out July 23! I don’t know how the second season could possibly stand up to the quality of the first, but I am excited nonetheless. Have you watched the trailer? Ted Lasso (and Ted Lasso) was a real bright spot in the past year and I am really looking forward to having MORE Ted Lasso in my life.
  • Every single time I type “Ted Lasso” I type “Lasson” instead, and then have to erase the terminal N.
  • Earplugs. They’re called earplugs.

All right, Internet. Time for me to go make some cookies and then get through Leg Day. How are you on this, the final Sunday of April?

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Last year, I ended this yearly recap with “A new decade lies before us, Internet. Fresh and unwrinkled, with no mistakes in it yet. I hope it brings all of us health and happiness and grace.”

Oh, Past Me. So innocent. So unknowing. 

Despite this year being… you know. Awful in so many, many, many ways, I do want to recap it. First, it’s An Established Tradition on this blog. (If you’re so inclined, you can read past versions of my responses: 20192018201720162015201420132012201120102009. This yearly recap originated with Linda of All & Sundry.)

Second, this is a year for the history books, and, well, it feels worth recording.

Also, please forgive the formatting. WordPress and I are NOT getting along today.

As usual, I reserve the right to delete ignore or scoff at any of the questions below. Please let me know if YOU do a year-end recap – I love to read them.

  • What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?
    • Lived through (the first nine months of) a global pandemic. 
    • Supervised my child during remote learning. 
    • Stayed at home with my daughter all summer.
    • Tried Keto.
    • Entertained friends and family solely outside. 
    • Dyed my own hair. 
    • Downloaded and used Zoom, many, many times. 
    • Celebrated every important-to-us holiday and birthday without extended family.
  • Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Once again, I had a bunch of loose aspirations for the year, many of which are quite blackly hilarious in light of the pandemic. At least I was able to achieve the main one – “I am not going to put a huge amount of pressure on accomplishing anything outside of keeping myself and my child alive. Even my husband is ON HIS OWN, for keeping-alive purposes.” Good enough, self.

  • Where did you travel this year? (This is my own recasting of a question I could never answer which was How many countries did you visit this year?)

This year, I visited Florida, Montana, and Michigan and that’s it because the pandemic put a kibosh on all my travel plans. We went to Florida pre-pandemic. We went to Montana when the pandemic was just starting to creep across the country. And we went to Michigan in October, just the three of us, and rented a little house in the middle of nowhere and did outdoor activities and brought takeout back to our rental. 

  • What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?

A return to some sort of pre-pandemic normalcy, for myself and my country, and across the globe. A strong third draft of my manuscript. More time alone with my husband. Dinner in a restaurant. The ability to travel without worrying about infection/infecting.

  • What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    • March 17, which was the last day of in-person first grade for Carla and the day when Shit Got Real.
    • September 14, which was Carla’s first day of second grade and her return to in-person school. It was a day of WILDLY CONFLICTING EMOTIONS but it turned out to be the best possible decision we could have made, for our particular child, with our particular circumstance. 
    • My husband’s birthday in October, during which he turned 40. He continues to grow ever hotter with the years, which is truly unfair but also really enjoyable for me.

  • What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Surviving.

  • What was your biggest failure?

My FEELING of failure is related to how poorly I’ve taken care of myself this year. It’s not a REAL failure, because I succeeded in Making It to the end of 2020. But I have self-soothed against pandemic anxiety by eating and drinking too much, resulting in me feeling that I have been a) overdramatic and b) using the pandemic as an excuse to lose control. But I am also trying to be kind to myself, and there is time (I hope) to recalibrate. 

I am also frustrated that this novel still isn’t done. So frustrated. But again: trying to be kind, take it one day at a time, and remind myself that the pace doesn’t matter as much as the product.

  • Did you suffer illness or injury?

No, thank goodness.

  • What was the best thing you bought?

The outdoor heater for our back porch. It enabled us to socialize with a couple of families well into October. Oh! And Carla’s bike was a GREAT purchase. She got so much exhilaration and joy and exercise from that bike!

  • Whose behavior merited celebration?
  • Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
  • Where did most of your money go?
  • What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I was really looking forward to going skiing with my parents and Carla for the first time. The pandemic nipped that right in the bud. 

  • What song(s) will always remind you of 2020?

There has been – thank goodness – a LOT of music in 2020. A bunch of it comes from Just Dance 2020, and will be forever stuck in my head thanks to Carla’s insistence that we repeat one song over and over until we drop from exhaustion. Despite my early worries – well, I guess it’s still too soon to tell, but I don’t THINK these songs will fill me with the dread of this year. Instead, they remind me of the good times. Dancing with my daughter. Staying up too late, just the three of us, watching music videos on TV. Driving together somewhere outdoors and isolated from people, listening to many of these songs every time. I hope that’s what sticks with me. 

  • Compared to this time last year, are you:
    • a) happier or sadder? 
    • b) thinner or fatter? 
    • c) richer or poorer? 

  • What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing (evergreen item). Going on dates with my husband (HAHAHAHAHAHA). Exercising. Reading.

  • What do you wish you’d done less of?

Feeling sad. Eating my feelings. Worrying. Doomscrolling. 

  • How did you spend Christmas?

Just the three of us, enjoying each other’s company, getting together via Zoom and FaceTime with our extended families. It seems wildly unfair to say that I really enjoyed our Christmas alone together. But I did. While I definitely look forward to having my parents here next year, it was so, so nice to be able to have a nearly stress-free Christmas, to stay in my pajamas for nearly 48 hours straight, and to be able to retire to our separate corners (Carla with LEGOs, my husband with a puzzle, me with a book) and just co-exist in a very amiable, very loving, and very quiet space for an entire weekend. I kind of loved it. That does NOT mean I want/need it to be this way every year. I was mainly glad that I wasn’t overwhelmed by grief at being apart. 

  • Did you fall in love in 2020?

I had crossed out this question in previous years because it is stupid. BUT I am uncrossing it on (??? what is the opposite of crossing out?) this year because I feel like I fell more in love with Carla this year. Her flexibility and adaptability and determination and general cheerfulness throughout the pandemic have been a sight to behold. But beyond that, we spent more time together this year than we have since those first few months after her birth. And let’s be honest, back then, we were strangers. Not to mention that the most interesting things she did in those early days included rolling over and sleeping multiple consecutive hours in a night. Now that she is seven, she is SO INTERESTING and FUN and we have real conversations and do things together that are enjoyable for both of us. In past years, I was super anxious for her to go to camp during the summer because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to occupy her by myself. This summer, camp was not a possibility for her, so we DID spend all summer together. And it was FINE. Some days, it was even GREAT! 

Most of all, I’ve gotten to know her better, and, hopefully, to understand her better. I see what she goes through in a school-esque setting. I have a better grasp of her work process, of her strengths and challenges when it comes to learning and friendships. I have a new appreciation for how much effort she puts into her schoolwork, how kind and supportive she is to her friends, how unexpectedly shy she can be in front of her peers, how she lights up when she has one-on-one time with her teachers and classmates. 

Our time together is now more precious than it ever was, simply because I understand better than ever how wonderful she is, and how quickly she is growing up. I treasure the rare moments when she wants to snuggle up and read with me, the times when we can move our bodies outdoors together, the delight we share when I introduce her to something I love (Full HouseEllen TebbitsFriends). I have always loved her with my whole heart. But I fell so much more deeply in love with her this year. 

  • What was your favorite (new) TV program?

THANK GOODNESS FOR TV. Somehow I watched a lot less TV during a global pandemic than I thought I would? Not that I ever thought about it before; I am just kind of surprised that I haven’t been vegged out in front of the TV for nine months. (It was still a lot of TV.) (I love TV.)

  • *
    • Ted Lasso was so, so, so wonderful. Best sleeper hit of the year. (Sleeper hit for me because the previews made it out to be a show about soccer, which is a topic I have ZERO interest in.) (IT WAS SO GOOD.) 
    • The Babysitters Club remake was AMAZING in every way and I was so delighted to watch it with Carla, and plan to watch it with her again in the future because it will resonate with her in new ways as she gets older. 
    • I loved The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
    • Never Have I Ever was super fun. 
    • I watched Veronica Mars for the first time and loved it. 
    • I started watching The Mindy Project for the first time and found it to be very comforting in its romantic absurdity (although I have had more than enough of the weight hate). 
    • The Crown continues to be surprisingly riveting. 
    • Making It and LEGO Masters and Magic for Humans are new to me and all wonderful, feel-good pandemic viewing. 
    • Great British Baking Show and Penn & Teller Fool Us and Songland continue to be excellent, soothing fare. 
  • Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
  • What was the best book you read?

This year, despite going through several long periods where I just COULDN’T get through a novel, I read more than 45 books which is a record for me. And so many of them were so good!!!!! 

  • *
    • The Searcher by Tana French is probably my top book of the year. She’s just such a masterful writer – her prose is gorgeous and the characters are so well-drawn. I didn’t find the plot to be among her best – it’s pretty simple and easy to parse – but there were some surprising (and creepy) elements that I liked, and I just enjoyed it so much. 
    • I read Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and absolutely fell in love with Thomas Cromwell, whose life and motivations are so richly imagined by Hilary Mantel. I have the third installment of the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, on my nightstand, but didn’t manage to pick it up in 2020.
    • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a book I still think about, even though I read it back in August. I bought it for several of the bookish people I know for Christmas. The way Bennett handles questions of identity and how people present themselves to the world was so skilled and thoughtful. 
    • I typically don’t read romance novels, but The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan was spectacular – fun and touching and funny and well-paced and just an excellent read. (I STILL haven’t read the sequel, The Heir Affair, because of really dumb reasons, like that I read the original on Kindle, so I want to read the sequel on Kindle, but every time it is available from the library I am in the middle of something else. I should really just buy both of them in print and move on with my life.)
    • Speaking of genres I don’t often read, I just this week finished Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia which is what I would categorize as a horror novel. I’ve heard it compared to Rebecca, which I loved when I read it many years ago (and now want to read again). But Moreno-Garcia’s book is ENTIRELY its own. It was fascinating and surprising and like nothing I’ve ever read before. No wonder it’s been on so many Must Read and Best Of lists all year long. 

You know my favorite genre is mystery/thriller, and I read some GREAT ones this year. 

  • *
    • I literally just read The Holdout by Graham Moore yesterday – I started it at lunchtime and finished it right around when my husband got home at about sixish, so perhaps that tells you that it was EXCELLENT and UNPUTDOWNABLE. Well written, well-paced, great use of multiple perspectives and timelines. There were some surprises in the plot and it was just… so, so good. This was a book I hadn’t heard of – my husband bought it for me for Christmas and this just solidifies the fact that he is a GREAT picker-outer of books. Now I think I need to go back and read more of Moore’s work.
    • Long Bright River by Liz Moore was superb, with a surprising plot, great characters, and a careful, thoughtful handling of the subject of addiction. This one book made her a person whose next book I would by unquestioningly.
    • Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden has to be on my list because I think about it long after the fact. The mystery itself wasn’t perhaps my favorite, but I absolutely loved the descriptions of life on the reservation and the protagonist’s experiences with legal obstacles and his reluctant foray into traditional tribal approaches to problem-solving. I look forward to more books by Weiden. 
    • I also really, really enjoyed The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh – it was so fast-paced and built on such an interesting premise. Like watching a really good action movie, but in book form.
  • What did you want and get?

For my family and friends to be safe and healthy this year. So far, so good. We are very, very lucky.

A VACCINE. My goodness,

Also, a new president. 

  • What did you want and not get?

A refrigerator that doesn’t leak mysteriously and incessantly. New windows. Unity around a workable, scientifically-backed virus containment strategy.

  • What was your favorite film of this year?

Um. I think we probably watched more movies this year than ever before, but damned if I can remember any of them. A lot of them were oldies from when my husband and I were youths – you know, Back to the FutureI and IIThe GooniesJumanjiHoney I Shrunk the KidsJurassic Park. Most of them held up pretty well. 

  • What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
  • What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

IF THERE HAD BEEN NO GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

  • How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?

2020 Fashion was all about comfort. Soft bras, soft pants, soft shorts, no makeup, no shoes. Let’s exchange our pajamas for some Daytime Leggings and then switch back in a few hours. That kind of thing. I did buy some leopard print shoes and some jean shorts (gasp!) though. I am never going to feel comfortable wearing a bra again, that’s for sure.

  • What kept you sane?

My husband. Exercise. My terrible, ubiquitous, addictive phone. Recipe and exercise blogs (most of which I just save for later rather than putting to immediate use). Good TV. Carbs. Tequila. The Office Ladies podcast. Reading your blog posts. Long walks, when I was able to take them. My backyard, when the weather was bearable. Writing here.

  • Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Ted Lasso, who is, admittedly a fictional character rather than a celebrity. Nonetheless, I LOVE HIM. 

I also fell in love with Jenna Fisher, of The Office fame, through the Office Ladies podcast she hosts with Angela Kinsey. She’s a beautiful TV and movie star, yet she portrays herself as kind of this nerdy, super-organized, socially-awkward person… and she just seems like someone I would want to be friends with. I love hearing about her celebrity friends and experiences — her life is SO unlike my own. But she is also such a REAL person, and she gets so REAL on her podcast, talking about REAL things, and she seems so kind and caring. I love how supportive and thoughtful she seems to be — she is always describing her cast- and crewmates from The Office in such a positive and genuine way. But she gets deeper, too. In one episode, she told a story about eating an entire bag of snack mix in one sitting, and saying that sometimes it is okay to not be okay. That has stayed with me. For the most part this year, I have not been okay with not being okay. I feel melodramatic and like I should be grateful for what I have and like I should buck up and have a stiff upper lip and get some perspective. But it has been A TOUGH YEAR. It SHOULD be okay to not be okay. It IS okay. I keep repeating that to myself like a mantra. Not to wallow, but to reduce the guilt and the self-recrimination. Anyway, Jenna Fisher for life, y’all. 

  • What political issue stirred you the most?
  • Who did you miss?

My friend who died. My housecleaner (sob!). My parents, although we got to see them right before the pandemic tipped over into This Is Really A Big Deal, and they also drove out to visit us this past fall. I know this is a TON more time than other people got to have with their families. Still. It wasn’t enough time, and they weren’t here for Thanksgiving which was a bummer. I am a mega introvert, so I didn’t really miss anyone else. I mean, it would have been nice to see some of the other moms more often. But I got to see my two closest local friends a few times, which was honestly kind of the perfect amount of socializing for me.  

  • Who was the best new person you met?

Shocking to absolutely no one, the number of people I know/interact with dropped significantly this year. But you know what? I DID meet someone new this year! She and her daughter moved here, and she enrolled her daughter in Carla’s school, and we actually met in person for a “playdate” in a parking lot. (Parking lot lines are really helpful in keeping children socially distance, FYI. There’s your 2020 Hot Tip of the Year. Get them to an empty parking lot, set them up in individual spaces with one space in between them, and allow them to shout at each other in lieu of actually playing together.) Anyway, we have gotten the kids together via Zoom several times since, and we text while they play and both mom and child are delightful. I am very glad to have met them, and, honestly, the circumstances are very soothing to my introverted, socially awkward soul.

  • Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020.

Somehow, my answer from 2019 is pretty apt for this year as well: I don’t know. That things could always be worse? Ugh. That’s a terrible life lesson, true as it may be. That sometimes things seem pretty grim and you just have to keep going? I am still processing the past few months and I don’t think I’ve fully wrapped my head around what’s been going on… or how to apply what I’ve learned (what I’m learning?) to the future. So that grit-your-teeth kind of thing is all I have right now.

Maybe, on a slightly more positive note, that despite everything, there is SO MUCH to be grateful for. Even when the big things are uncertain and scary and sad, there are plenty of tiny, wonderful joys to be counted and held up for inspection and treasured. I have made a point to consider all the blessings in my life this year – sometimes just FORCING myself to be grateful dammit – and I feel more aware of them, and of how full my life is even when it seems otherwise. I hope among all the wreckage of this year that you, too, have found some kernel of gratitude. Not because you SHOULD, but because it helps to have even a small glimmer of light to walk toward when everything seems so unbearably dark.  

  • Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

“I’m so thankful. Scratch that baby I’m grateful.” – Katy Perry, “Smile” 

Happy New Year, Internet. May 2021 bring us all happiness, health, and togetherness.

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I had to double check that it truly is SEPTEMBER SEVENTEENTH SOMEHOW. This has long been a refrain of my life, the “where has time gone?!?!?!” theme, and yet it never ceases to astound me because WHERE has the time GONE?

Time has taken on even new depths of slippery-ness now that Carla is back in school. (She is SO HAPPY, internet. I know it could go remote at any moment, but for now she is SO HAPPY.) I keep jolting out of whatever I’m doing and thinking, “Where’s Carla?!” as though she’s still in the house somewhere and I’ve forgotten about her. Or I will look at the clock and think, “Oh my god! I need to go get Carla!” even though I may, in fact, have four hours yet before I need to pick her up. 

We have all these new things to do each day – make sure she doesn’t have a fever, answer some “do you have Covid or Covid symptoms?”-style questions via an app before 7:30, make sure she has a selection of masks to take to school with her – and it’s making me jumpy. I will be prepping her breakfast and think, “Oh no! I didn’t take her temperature yet!” Or we’ll be in the car line and I’ll yelp, “Shoot! I didn’t fill out the online form!” Or we’ll be just ready to step out the door and I’ll feel that sick sensation of having forgotten to wash her masks. When, in fact, I have plenty of time to take her temperature and I already filled out the form and she has plenty of clean masks.

And then there’s the new pickup time. The kids all have staggered arrival and departure times, and I need to pick Carla up at 2:45. Which is exactly the time I used to leave the house to pick her up. You are seeing the issue, right? Even though I have set my alarm for 2:30, so that I can leave the house right then to go get her, my brain is always going, “Pshaw, you have plenty of time!” because it still thinks I don’t need to LEAVE until 2:45. And then I’ll be puttering around doing lord knows what until I see that the clock says 2:37 and then I FLIP OUT. I have even included a little note that shows up when the alarm goes off, that says “PICKUP AT 2:45.” Still, my brain is convinced I have more time than I do. We live very close to Carla’s school, so I haven’t been late yet. But it’s been very very close. (I don’t know what would happen if I were late. Nothing, probably. But I like to FOLLOW the RULES.)

This is all part of adjusting to a new routine. I have set myself all sorts of alarms and reminders on my phone so I won’t forget any of the steps. Plus, we have purchased new whiteboards and listed out all the things Carla needs to remember each day (she can’t bring a backpack, but she does need masks and a water bottle) (she also has to take a shower immediately upon arriving home; I don’t know if this will help at all with germ containment, but it definitely helps move bedtime along more smoothly). We don’t have any after-school activities; our only commitment is one day a week, every other week, which helps significantly.  I think we have some good systems in place to help keep us on track. But it’s still early days, so I am feeling off-balance and afraid of making a mistake. 

When I was writing this post, I could not for the life of me remember the word for “commitment.” I was WRACKING my brain and coming up with nothing. Well, not NOTHING. The brain is very helpful, and was serving up all manner of wrong and not-even-remotely correct words. I am going to hope this isn’t a sign of aging but rather a keto-related brain fog, yes I have just started keto again and I don’t want to talk about it. Because I was in the car and unable to Google, I texted my husband. I am sure he lives for these urgent interruptions in helping seriously ill people. Obviously he knew the exact word I needed. He is a brilliant, wonderful man. This is the kind of thing that keeps a marriage fresh.

To change topics rather abruptly, Carla is very into LEGO right now. She’s always liked LEGO; she and her dad love to build scenes from Frozen and the like from sets. A few years ago, her grandmother even made her a big table-top sheet of LEGO that she can build on; it lives in our living room as a permanent part of our décor. But this summer, she’s gotten really into it. She used her allowance to buy a big tub of LEGO, rather than one of the build-something-specific kits, and she’s been busy building things and breaking things down and incorporating her creations into her imaginative play. I love that she finds it so absorbing. The other day, my husband and I watched football and Carla just… played with LEGO. The entire time. 

Aside from the important fact that CARLA enjoys LEGO, I like it because I feel like I can get points for playing with her while not actually playing. Listen, I love my child with the fire of all the stars in the universe, but I do not like playing with her. I do play with her. We play Barbies and we play restaurant and we play pet store and we play all sorts of things. But I do not enjoy it. I enjoy crafting and reading and going for walks with her. I enjoy doing things by myself. Playing, not so much. 

But with LEGO, I have carved out a very clear role for myself: that of Piece Finder. The way it works is that Carla will decide she wants to build something – a park or a hotel or a triceratops or whatever – and then she will tell me, “Find me all the green pieces.” Or, “I need all the 2×2 bricks.” Or, “I need this eye that looks like it’s closed so I can make my alligator wink.” And then I will sift through her giant tub of LEGO pieces and find what she needs. It is soothing and I am spending Quality Time with her and – most important of all! – she counts it as playing.

(“You never play with me!” has been a frequent tearful complaint these past six months, because creating lesson plans and taking her to the dog park and walking along as she rides her bike and watching her swing on the swingset and playing board games with her and taking her on hikes and teaching her how to bake banana bread and designing elaborate chalk obstacle courses with her and searching for bugs and watching Full House with her do not count as “playing.” Omfg.) 

We watched LEGO Masters starring Will Arnett (who normally annoys me, but whom I found rather endearing on this show??? even as he simultaneously sort of annoyed me????) together as a family. When it was airing live, earlier this year, I rolled my eyes at it. Carla kept wanting to watch the previews and I kept discouraging her from wanting to watch it. So lame, I thought. Grown ups playing with LEGOs? Ugh. But it turned out to be a really sweet, charming show featuring extraordinarily talented (and sometimes DEEPLY annoying) contestants and truly mind-blowing creations. The things these people can do with LEGO!!!! It makes me eager for Carla to pursue a LEGO-oriented career, like as a LEGO designer or builder or whatever you call them. How COOL would that be?????? (My husband and I agreed that the prize for winning LEGO Masters should be that you get to design something for LEGO. Or maybe get, like, an internship at LEGO or something. Because the contestants were SO creative and skilled with LEGO, it seems like the $100,000 prize was just not enough.) 

One thing that I found charming about LEGO Masters was that there is all this LEGO specific terminology. Like, I had no idea that LEGO is a plural noun. It’s not LEGOs, which I still have to correct myself from saying; it’s just LEGO. (I feel like kind of a dumbass saying LEGO as a plural. The same way I feel like a dumbass if I try to pronounce a foreign word correctly. Which, in both cases, is a stupid way to feel.) And the little LEGO pieces are called bricks. And they have ALL this lingo for different types of brick usage. It was super fun to learn.

One thing we did NOT learn, which would be intensely helpful: how to easily unpair bricks from one another. I spend a LOT of time breaking my thumbnails trying to get bricks apart for Carla’s various building needs. (We have a little orange thing that’s supposed purpose is for getting LEGO apart, but I do not know how to make it work. Most often, it slips and stabs me.) 

This post is not leading anywhere, so instead of leaving you in as completely abrupt a way as I switched subject matter earlier, I will say that we are now contemplating buying Carla a LEGO dragon. She requested one specifically, and I think it would be an excellent Christmas gift. She also wants 1,000 2×3 black bricks, but perhaps she will need to save up her allowance for that particular purchase.

We did get her a LEGO Advent calendar. There are several options in this category – like a Harry Potter version and a Star Wars one. We got her this one because it seemed a) the most Christmassy and b) it had the most options for actually building things; some of the others seemed to feature a lot of figures and not as many things you can put together. 

I can’t believe we’re thinking about Christmas already, but there you are. Well, I guess this post is ending where it began, with time slipping and sliding away. Before you know it, we’ll all be filling trash bags with scraps of wrapping paper and wondering how 2021 is right around the corner.

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