Tuesday, February 25, 2014

at the moment I'm... no. 5

pictures from our first family trip on the T last weekend

grateful...that everyone is sleeping and it's almost 6 am.  It's been weeks since this morning time was private.  It's a toss up because I do love the extra snuggle I can get when Elliott wakes up early or Milo staggers out asking for milk before his eyes are even open, but this quiet time feeds me.   

sad...that vacation is over.  This would be a no-brainer except I am normally very desperate for our routine and I don't think I've ever gotten to the end of a summer or vacation and not been very excited to get back.  I was kind of startled on Sunday night when I realized I would miss being home with the boys.  Maybe it was because no one was sick this time, or because work stress is more ramped up than I ever remember it being, but I could have gone a few more weeks playing stay-at-home mama.  That's why I'm lucky to be a teacher- April vacation isn't too far away.

dreaming...of the summer.  For obvious reasons, and also because I really want to get into more "homeschool" kind of activities with the boys.  I'm watching Milo's language explode, and I want to capitalize on this spongy period.  Last summer we did theme weeks, and I'm hoping to maybe do color weeks this summer?  Or a week of colors, a week of shapes, a week of numbers, a week of letters.  I also want to ask around and see if any other local families want to come over once a week, just circle time and a craft?  I can't think of anything better.

proud...of my Sunday night food prep.  It took me three hours to food shop, plan, chop, cook, and bag things this week, but all of it was time saving.  I chopped and bagged up five days of veggies for Ben and I for lunches, bagged five days of popcorn for Ben and Milo for lunches, bagged Ben's lunch snacks (I put a cheese stick, fruit snacks, granola bar, and veggies all in one bag to make it easy for him to run out the door) prepped five containers of hummus for lunches, shredded a rotissere chicken, drained and rinsed beans, chopped two heads of broccoli, made a dozen egg and ham breakfast muffins, roasted a pan of sweet potato wedges, cooked a huge pot of a rice, and made a huge pot of chicken vegetable soup.  It seems like overkill, but when I get home from work at 4:20, I have to pack four lunches and have dinner on the table by 6:00.  Add in that I usually want to play with the boys or do some little art project, and I have so little time.  If you're thinking that I should pack lunches after they go to bed, please understand that on a MAJORITY of the nights of the week, by the time Ben gets home, I am very close to falling asleep on the floor with my nose in The Little Blue Truck.

At the moment I'm still rested from our February break and not yet exhausted from being back in the swing of work and classes.  It's only Tuesday, but I'll take it for now.  

*I borrowed the idea of at the moment posts from yourwishcake- her blog is a do not miss. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

making moves

Milo is passed out in his crib, Elliott is eating the rind of my grapefruit, and I'm sitting here, trying not to panic.  It's not working.

Over the past few weeks, Ben and I have been crunching numbers.  Arguing, then huffing away.  Having long and important talks and then hugging each other like we're drowning and repeating "Its...good.  Its going to be good." a la Tobias Funke.  Making lists and sending out e-mails.  Looking at each other and saying "I just don't know.  What do you think?"

We're not sure if we can move.

IT'S THE YEAR OF MOVE!  It's the one word that defines the entire YEAR.  It's something we've been terrified of and we finally took the plunge without ever once considering that anything was holding us back besides our own fears.  But there are a few other things.  Like money.  We spend a CONSIDERABLE (read: more than ALL other expenses) amount of money on daycare every month.  Enough that it would more than double what we could afford for a mortgage payment if we waited until daycare wasn't an expense anymore.

So do we wait?  What does it mean to wait?

Daycare expenses might change, based on Milo's speech therapy and assistance he qualifies for next year.  Today I sat in on one of his sessions for the first time since going back to work.  I forgot how stressful it is, to sit and hold my breath and pray he behaves and follows her directions.  Almost none of his work is about speech anymore.  It's all "adult-directed practice" and "social skills."  He definitely isn't going to ace his one year reevaluation testing session in April.  But what else will happen?  Will he qualify for public preschool and be on an IEP?  3 days a week or five?  If he doesn't qualify, does he stay in his home daycare setting, or do I push for something more structured?  What would that cost?  How does that work?

Ben and I sat around after the therapist left and tried to make sense of everything.  It's such a small thing in the big picture, where exactly he'll be when he hits the magical 2.9 age where all the services stop- but will he be somewhere where he can get what he needs?  Aside from the worry of that, it's pretty clear that we can't guarantee that we'll be in a situation to move, or have any extra wiggle room financially.  As gut-wrenching as it is, we might actually be in a spot where we'll be paying MORE.  

So no.  We can't move.  Not right now, and not for awhile.

My mind is reeling.  Ben's, too.  We were moving for more space and to feel more comfortable.  If that's on hold, at least we can try to find ways to achieve those things where we are.  Take better care of our home, spiff it up, use the vertical space, make our porch 4-season, buy a dishwasher.  Carpet the living room.  Spring for better toy storage.  Then it spirals into add a second story?  Refinish the basement?  Dig a moat? Buy a dragon?  Does this become our forever castle?  We are big talkers, cautious thinkers, rare doers.  I don't know how to come up with something that makes everyone happy and is actually doable.  I don't know how to do anything besides ramble my heart out about this.

I'm still scared and frustrated.  I love this neighborhood very much, but it was going to be so simple to leave it behind and start over somewhere fresh.  I know this is going to happen for many years, so now I need to start making SOME sort of move.  Our house can be more functional, and it has to be, now that we've stopped assuming that we're going to be leaving it behind any day now.

If you made it this far, I commend you.  This was purely for me to let it all fly out through my fingertips, and this post is wordy even with me holding back and leaving out all my fears about how to set up the best learning environment for Milo.  Even though our plans have shifted, the word of the year is still MOVE.  Now we're just getting a move on right in our own home.

Monday, February 17, 2014

winter diversions


1. Ben and I in Boston for his work holiday party  
2. Elliott's first try at a sensory table
3. Milo coloring a diaper box mural
4. Valentine's night actually turned out to be one of our nicest dates in awhile


5. Milo checking out a lizard surrounded by a cool taxidermy display
6. Ben and his guys.  I am obsessed with this shot, however blurry 
7. Bubble room happiness
8. Elliott is about the size of a traffic cone


It's the heart of winter.  Lots of snow days, the weather constantly disrupting plans.  We've been trapped inside a bit, and gotten out some, too.  The second set of pictures is from our family date to the Boston Children's Museum for Valentine's Day.  We parked at Alewife station and took the train into the city for Milo.  Elliott got strapped to my chest and flirted with strangers.  It was our first time at the museum with two walkers and our first big outing without the stroller.  It was a really great day.  We ended with cookies and quick Lulu visit at a bakery around the corner.  We were exhausted but happy when it was all over, which I think means a good weekend.

It's February break now, and we're set up for a week of hair cuts and appointments and tiny daily adventures.  I spent today cooking and coming up with plans to keep the boys busy until we're back in our normal routine.  It's a nice little life.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

my funny valentine



Ben and I had our first Valentine's day in February 2005.  We had been dating for a few months and mostly lived in his college dorm room.  I remember sitting in class and hearing people talk about the different restaurants that they were going to that night, but that wasn't really the kind of thing Ben and I would do.  Our dates were to Daka (the cafeteria on campus) or the riots that accompanied sports events.  I think we had both, in our cool, college, alternative way, sort of shrugged off Valentine's day, but in the end, I convinced him to take me out.  We went to Barnes and Noble.

When we got there, it was predictably half-full.  We wandered around and browsed.  We were still really young, super interested in each other, content to be kind of broke and kind of different and I was probably wearing one of his sweatshirts and this particular night might have fallen into the phase where I kept my money and ID in one of his old wallets with pictures of The Smashing Pumpkins taped inside.  I was so desperately into Ben.  After we had checked out the different sections we liked (fiction, fantasy art, children's books, comics, magazines), we took out the cafe-owned chess board with the pieces in a metal tea tin and Ben taught me how to play chess.  

I used to be even MORE prone to reading kids books and bursting into tears, and I did on this night when I read Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers for the first time.  It's a simple, sweet story about a boy and a lonely penguin who become friends.  To this day, an Early Childhood degree and 1000s of picture books later, it is still my favorite of all.  I've read it to every class I've ever had.  It was kind of the beginning of the "off beat" picture book, a genre that probably has a better name somewhere but I can recognize it in a second- hipsterish illustrations, geared more towards adults than children, ridiculously excellent design, almost never available in paperback.  It's huge now.  This was the first time I saw it and it made my heart beat faster.  Ben bought me that book, and I still have it.  It says "Miss Kauffman" inside because it predates our marriage.

When I got home that night, I e-mailed the address on the dust jacket of the book to tell Oliver Jeffers about our date and how his book had made such a fan out of me.  It's exactly the kind of thing that I would hem and haw abouot now, but 19 year old me couldn't imagine a thing Oliver Jeffers would rather be doing than hearing about my evening and the way his book made me feel.

Here is my e-mail:

Last night for Valentines Day my fiancee and I went to a bookstore,
where he taught me to play chess, and then when were browsing the
children's books, and I found your story.  We have a particular
affinity for penguins.  We read it to each other and I admit I cried
because I thought it was so pretty.  He bought me the book, and it was
the best Valentines Day present of my life. So, thank you.

He instantly responded:

I'm very glad to hear that. I hope you beat him at chess after it all.

I love you, Ben.  I love you, Oliver Jeffers.  I love you, books (my very first and most fervent friend).  I love you, 19-year-old Ashlie.  All of you, I hope you have someone to be weird with.  Happy Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Move update: January



Our family choose a word to define 2014: move.  I'll be checking in monthly to follow our progress moving our bodies and moving out of our current house.

Bodies: I wish I had more encouraging things to say about this.  I'm not an athletic person, and when winter comes, I basically turn into a hibernating animal.  In college I was in excellent shape, due to having completely free afternoons, a completely free gym in walking distance, and the goal of a wedding to work for.  At this point, I have 1000 crappy excuses and a gym membership languishing on our debit card.  A few times I've gone to the gym after the kids are in bed, but with zero regularity.  

I found some good little at-home calorie blasts on pinterest, including one where I actually know the moves and might possibly follow through.  I need to make it a part of my routine to make it actually happen.  I'm following some inspirational feeds on instagram: Holly (@hollieiv) and Diana (@livylovestorun) are both workout beasts and post amazing pictures of their workouts, yummy meals, and their coveted electronic tracking (I want a fitbit so bad).  Honestly, if you can connect it to social media, my chances of following through skyrocket.

We are having 10-15 minute family dance parties every night between dinner and bath time; Milo begs and insists that we put music on and DEENCE!   We run back and forth, jump a lot, and both kids ask to be lifted and tossed.  That is definitely more moving then a month ago, so I guess it's moving in the right direction. 

House: I mentioned before that I'm feeling super reserved about leaving.  I'm realizing how much I freaking love our tiny house and I'm typing feelings without even realizing I had them: I'm scared to leave here.  When we moved in I was a total mess in my early twenties and selfish and crazy and I grew up here, made babies and brought them home, taught them to walk and play and sing here, took Christmas pictures and had birthday parties and leaving really scares me.  Reason #2 to have a blog: free and silent therapy. 

So I'll be working through those emotions, because no matter how scared I feel, it's time to leave.  The boys need more space and we want to have people in our home more often and the only way to make it work is to get a little more space.  But our sweet little neighborhood, our friends, our walks.  The lady who keeps ducks.  The great trick or treating.  The bookstore at the base of the hill, the playground around the corner.  My refusal to get into any in depth conversations with Ben about this process is making a lot more sense now.

We made the biggest step we'll make and contacted a realtor who had sold several houses in our area lately.  She was nice and great and we have a short list of projects to work on before we list the house.  We're also going to open houses and getting prequalified to have a solid idea about our budget and our must haves before honest house-hunting even starts.  We have a plan.

So that's how we're doing so far.  Unsurprisingly, I've turned fairly straightforward goals into emotional minefields.  We're 1/12 of the way through, let's see what else I can get conflicted about.

Friday, February 7, 2014

busy lovely messy free

This week is better than last week.  I think January is always hard- resolutions, bad weather, no holidays.  We've had some snow days, which, as a parent, I've miraculously stopped rooting for.  There are no days off when you have toddlers.  Vacations, even dates require more work than just slogging through a normal routine.  A bout with a really bad head cold, which is so insignificant that it has "common" in the name, and still, somehow, can bring my world to a whiny stop. I was in a funk, which I may or may not be emerging from.

I thought this week would be harder.  I started a class about teaching second language learners that is required for all teachers in Massachusetts, and the only place I could get in was a town about 40 minutes away.  I was annoyed about the drive and the hassle and having to do this work now, when I'm also finishing my masters this semester and seriously, how much can be asked of me, I MEAN, I HAVE TWO KIDS, OKAY?  (My sister often dramatically screams out the last sentence to mock/humble me when I'm getting a little wrapped up in Ashlie Tragedy.  I hate/love her.)  Actually, it was like a mini getaway on a school night.  I stopped for a coffee and drove in relative silence and spaced out during my class and there were even snacks.  It's bad when snack break in a cramped middle school classroom feels like a cocktail party.  But it's also super good.

Like every single one of you, my brain is so full it's basically seized up.  We've met with a realtor who is helping us get moving on our MOVE goal, housewise.  Pulling credit scores and going to open houses to "practice."  Ben is so gung ho, and I am not.  I didn't expect to feel so much resistance in my heart.  I know it's time to leave.  My brain just TURNS OFF when anyone starts talking about it.  We have to fix the porch ceiling and paint the kitchen and I can see a mental movie of these things happening but it's like someone else's life.  I need to get my shit together so Ben doesn't have to do all of this by himself.  It's too much for one person.

And all week, I've been a little shocked and so incredibly warmed by so many people supporting me and voting for this blog on Top Baby Blogs.  I submitted Simple Mama to the list to maybe get some exposure and start putting myself "out there."  I had no idea how many dear friends and strangers were cheering for me and reading my words and taking time everyday to do something as silly as vote to move me up the list.  I'm #14 on the first page because of you guys.  Writing here is one of my favorite things to do; thanks for making it real by reading it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

January Family Scrapbook













A little look back at our January.  We fought bad colds, turned one, celebrated birthdays, went to the discovery museum, had a party, and hung out at home.  It was cold and wintery and I was in a funk.  Milo started saying a million new words.  Elliott started walking and then running.  Work picked up and stressed picked up and I mostly took pictures of the good parts.  We're off to a good start.

(If you're here for the first time from Top Baby Blogs, welcome!  I'm so happy you're here.)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

at the moment I'm...no. 4


...excited that my blog was just accepted to Top Baby Blogs!  If you like this place, you can vote daily to show your support.  The more votes we get, the higher we rise on this list of "family" blogs.  It's good exposure, and I feel a little geeky thrill because it's where I first found a lot of the people who inspired me to start blogging myself.  I also feel a little strange asking for votes, but I'm exploring making a side career out of my writing, and this is one of the things to try.  If you're interested in voting, you can click here or on the icon in my side bar.  Wish me luck!

...fighting a cold.  Like Meg-Ryan-in-You've-Got-Mail, gave-up-homeopathic-and-pumped-full-of-chemicals, entirely-different-tone-of-voice caliber cold.  I know it got it from the babies, and I feel terribly that they've been dealing with this for a week.  I'm moody and all I want to do is eat donuts and sleep, but I really need to save my sick time for sick children, and Ben is working this Saturday, so I'm still on duty.  I've been finding solace in tons of natural honey-based cough syrup and Target brand dayquil.

...battling a funk.  Winter funks get me every time.  Luckily, I caught this one when I found myself reevaluating my entire life and planning my escape from teaching and imagining a completely different existence where I...weave rugs, or some shit.  I realized that I was not unhappy with my job or my future.  Just my month.  Things that make me feel better include: making the bed, packing lunches and cleaning up from dinner before sitting down on the couch, drinking tons of water, and spending extra time reading.  Ironically, my funk makes me want to do NONE of these things.  It's a beast.

...indulging in an extra dose of social media.  I've found that I really love representing myself on Instagram.  When I take the time to capture things beyond just my kids, (even though they're still featured stars) I get more excited about those parts of my life where I could use some extra motivation.  I spend a lot of time in my life picking out books for my children, my students, and myself.  Sharing them on  Instagram gives a better picture of who I am in my feed.  Same goes for the energy I put into planning meals and doing a family dinner, even when it's just the boys and I at night.  I've stopped feeling defensive when people say, "Pictures only get shared for praise and feedback.  People are looking for external validation."  DUH.  Why else are we sharing pictures and sharing our life?  Because feedback feels good.  It helps me celebrate what I love and commiserate when things are hard.  I have more thoughts about the backlash against social media, but for now, I'm just Instagramming away.

(I borrowed the idea of at the moment posts from yourwishcake- her blog is a do not miss.)