Thursday, March 27, 2014

ordinary, as always

I promised myself that this morning I would get to work early.  No reading down the rabbit hole of blog rolls and writers I find inspirational.  No combing through sites that take submissions to determine their style and craft a pitch.  No doing last minute chores, no lazily picking my favorite recent snap to throw on Instagram.  AND YET here I am, with half a cup of still-hot coffee, and my buddy Milo curled up next to me with a sippy cup of milk.  We're sharing a blanket and talking about the last scene of Back to the Future 3, which he has watched twice and daily reenacts by telling any poor stranger about "THE CHOO CHOO THAT GOES DOWN DOWN DOWN AND CRASH THE CAR!  AND DOC!  AND MARDY!" He acts it out with a big Thomas train and small grey matchbox car.  Ben is super proud.

This weekend I'm going to my little sister's baby shower in Florida.  It's crazy that she's almost a mom.  It's crazy that this weekend is already here.  It's represented "later" for a long time.  Elliott (who is still a free lap child) is coming with me.  Milo (who is no longer a free lap child) is not.  It feels weird to go with one and not the other.  I have one entire suitcase full of presents and baby things.  I need to find a swim shirt and gather up some swim diapers.  I'm optimistic and nervous about the plane with Esh.  When I planned this, Milo was too little to understand being left out, and Elliott was much more docile, but babies grow.

I have a caterpillar tattoo on my hand from our outing the museum this weekend.  It's at the filthy temporary tattoo stage where it's mostly worn off and largely disgusting, but I can't get rid of it.  Milo has one, too, and he keeps grabbing my hand and observing the deterioration and saying things like, "I check it.  Gone-y?"  He then pushes his hand next to mine and we see how different or the same they look.  He has told me he knows that when the caterpillar disappears, a butterfly will pop up on our hands.  I need to find some butterfly tattoos.  Also, Eric Carle, thank you for teaching my 2-year-old science.  Caterpillars become butterflies.  Babies become boys.

I'm giving myself four more minutes to drink coffee and live online and hum the Peppa Pig theme music.  Then Milo and I will go wake up Ben and Elliott, and I'll vacuum the floor before the speech therapist comes for the morning, and then I'll finally get to work.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest post up at Liberating Working Moms!


Today I'm over at Liberating Working Moms talking about the (phony, stressful, unwinnable) pursuit of happiness.  This picture kills me, because I'll never forget standing in front of daycare that morning, five outfits carefully picked out for the week, new lunch boxes, sharpened pencils, and an innocent sense that now I finally had it all figured out.

"My husband looked so concerned when he told me he thought I wasn’t happy.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that no one is."

Read the rest to finally hear me admit out loud (Mom) that I find it impossible to live life without wishing for something else: Work, Family, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

Friday, March 21, 2014

write feed play read no. 1

The tagline of this blog is write feed play read for a reason- these are the four areas of family life that I spend the most time on.  Periodically I'll check in to write about what we're eating, playing, and reading right now.  My Instagram feed (@ashlieelizabeth) is usually based around the same concepts, so be sure to check there, too.

write:  I've been taking time to actually write, beyond my normal free association here.   The effect is similar to taking all the serotonin-inducing drugs, spinning in a sunshine meadow, and winning the lottery.  I forget how happy I am when I take the time to do what I love.  I've been working on all kinds of projects: little scenes from a fiction story that I daydream about during my night class, blog posts to submit to other publications, my first LinkedIn profile, even communication for parents and professionals at work has been doing it for me.  Some of my projects will show up here soon!  

feed: As a family, we've been eating healthier.  There are still days of take out and Goldfish are never leaving this home, but I've been purposely trying to put more whole food into our lunches, and get away from weekends being Ramen-fests.  Elliott is super into hummus, black olives, and strawberries.  Milo still prefers yogurt and peanut butter sandwiches, but he's also letting me give him avocado and mix pureed squash into his mac and cheese.  I just discovered that 40 spices hummus is delicious with sweet apple slices.  I rely heavily on a weekend evening of chopping and portioning out veggies and snacks to make packing lunches and cooking dinners easier.  

play: Play kind of sucks right now, because we're burnt on our indoor toys and spring is a tease.  We've gotten out a few times, but it's very wet and icy, and periodically still freezing cold.  Milo has started hollering "PARK TIME" as we drive around town.  Both boys are into our play food, and coloring is a big hit, even though Elliott loves to eat the crayons.  We have a visit to The Eric Carle Museum planned for this weekend and I cannot wait.


read:  Lots of book stuff lately, as the library and bookstore are sure bets no matter the weather.  Milo loves train books and it started to "read" along with me on books with repetitive text (think Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?)  He also loves to grab whatever novel I'm reading from my bedside table and flip though it singing, "read mama book!"  Milo is potty training, so we have Leslie Patricelli's Potty and the classic Everybody Poops in the bathroom.  Elliott is VERY into books, it's painfully adorable to watch him and sit and flip through for long stretches of time.  He likes books about people, books with textures, and books with flaps.  When he sticks out one finger to touch the illustrations, I have to restrain myself from wringing his neck at the cuteness.

I just reread Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner and forgot how much I love it.  I shot through another Madeline L'Engle (The Arm of the Starfish) in one sitting, and I'm still plodding slowly through Clash of Kings from the Game of Thrones series.  I have The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin next to my bed, but I don't know if I'l finish it- it's a reread.  Lastly, I'm indulging myself and rereading After the End, a post-canon Harry Potter fanfic with adult themes written in an entirely believable universe.  Swoon.

That's what we're up to!  It might be one of my favorite lenses through which to check out this little life!  What are you reading and eating and entertaining yourself with?  I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

at the moment I'm... no. 6

...cozy.  I promised myself that I wouldn't go on and on about THE TIME CHANGE, BLARRGGG, but seriously, I am snuggled up with Milo tucked next to me and lots of blankets piled up on us and it seems like we could sit happily on this couch forever.  It's hard to get going at work in the morning, but I'll take it for the lighter afternoons.  We've already been on one family walk and more are in our future.  Ben comes home from work when it's just getting dark.  Everyone is sick of snow and ready for spring, which is a huge charm of living here; the weather changes drastically 4 times a year and we're always ready for the new.

...studious.  As much as I try to downplay the classes I'm taking and not allow them to take up a ton of space in my schedule, I do have weekly homework and readings and I have to pay attention.  One week of thinking I could bang out homework day-of during my lunch break showed me that I was fooling myself and looking like a fool in the process.  Monday night I set up my laptop in the kitchen after the boys were in bed and spent two hours e-mailing my project advisor, checking the blackboard postings for my RETELL class, and finishing rubrics and lesson plan reports for both classes.  For my final project of my masters I'm researching the effect of rubrics on the writing of young students, and this is an awesome excuse to make Pinterest a legitimate part of doing homework (RESEARCH OF COURSE).  I wanted to crash on the couch, but it did feel good to be accomplished.

...rethinking.  This weird thing has been happening to me, and I don't really have the right words to describe it, which gets really frustrating.  It's the tiniest change in mindset that is helping me get through my days with so much less angst, and that's saying a lot for this dramatic overthinker.  Basically, in the morning, I picture my whole day as a kind of one-time-only commitment. Old work day= 1. wake up and grumble to work 2. get to work and grumble through work 3. get home and get ready for the next day of grumbling.  New weekday= wake up, have coffee, evaluate different roles that day.  Some teaching, some obligations (appointments, phone calls, etc), some chores, some writing, maybe a playdate, maybe a haircut.  I think my old way of thinking was too cut and dry, so IT IS MONDAY A WORK DAY I WORK AND THAT IS ALL I DO.  If things go badly at work, my day sucked and can't be fixed.  This gives me a chance to be successful somewhere WORK WAS TOUGH BUT WE HAD A GREAT LIBRARY TRIP AND I DID A LOAD OF LAUNDRY SO TOMORROW WILL BE BETTER PLUS I'M AWESOME. I also feel better about being a working mama when I keep the mama part in that title as important as the working part, and honor that during the week, too.  I think most people naturally think that way, but it's been revolutionary for me.

...loving the myfitnesspal app, picking out presents for my little nephew, gathering summer gear for the trip Elliott and I are taking to Florida, Madeline L'Engle books, my daily breakfast, professional development days, my new organizational pad from etsy, tattoo plans, face cleansing wipes (LAZY FOREVER), and dreaming of outdoor adventure.

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

real life real talk: the systems have failed us


Last night the systems failed us.  No real huge upsets, and no exact clear reason why, but it had something to do with children ripping off their diapers and spilling the contents all over the hallway (TWICE), a baby inexplicably screaming at the tops of his lungs like I was dipping him in hot oil when I lowered him into a lukewarm bath, or a toddler who, angry at begin forced to sit on the toilet, kicked over all the soap/shampoo bottles, upset the towel basket, and crashed the magazine rack into a puddle of pee on the floor.  I don't think it helped when I saw the scene in the bathroom, yelled "What are you doing?!", Milo yelled back, "PEEING!", and I rested my head against the doorjamb and cried.  Just a little dramatic, but then, that's where he gets it.

I took a deep breath and got over myself and helped Milo flush and laid him down for jammies.  I was quiet and not angry or huffy anymore like I had been for the last 15 minutes.  Milo looked at me carefully, then rubbed his fist across his chest in one of the last signs he still does and said, "Darry, mama.  I darry."  I picked him up and gave him a hug and he put his hand on the side of my face and said, "Mama cry?"  I said, "No, mama happy."  I did the sign for sorry back to him.  "I'm sorry I yelled.  I love you."  And I let him stay up a little later and cook Elliott and I soup and ice cream&apple sandwiches.  By the time Ben got home, Monka was in the dryer (a victim of a pee puddle) and Elliott was in his dark room and Milo was laying with me in our bed, talking about exactly what was going to happen to "pee monka."

The point of all this was that a little hour long episode of absolutely crazy ENDED MY NIGHT.  Ben opened the door and Milo burst into the living room babbling about Monka and pee and milk and books in one excited sentence.  I told Ben a little about our crazy afternoon.  He looked as tired as I felt.  I feel asleep while Ben was reading off the names of Thomas' friends.  I woke up at 10:30 when Ben was coming to bed.  The kitchen and living room were tidied up and kids were asleep.  I said thank you 30 times and went back to bed.

So yeah, you can have great routines and the worlds coolest to-do list notepad (I do) and no matter how organized you are, you're sometimes going to fall asleep at 7:45 coated in the fluids of your kids with dramatic, exhausted tears drying on your cheeks and fall further behind in your homework and feel guilty that you left your poor husband to fend for himself all night and it's just going to happen.  Dust yourself off and do it again tomorrow!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

perfectly, boringly ordinary

It's Sunday night.  Ben is watching The Eewok Adventure with Milo.  Elliott is slowly walking in circles, picking up different toys or pieces of clothing and shaking them until he finds something better.  He skipped an afternoon nap and is exhausted.  Milo looks five years old in Ben's lap.  I made it to the end of the day without showering, but I've been working on a hard cider since well before sundown.  This weekend I got to read a lot.  I grocery shopped.  We did things as a family, and took the boys with us on solo errands.  We made tents in mama and daddy's bed, and folded clothes, and ate pancakes together at the table on Saturday night.  Lunches are packed for tomorrow.  When the boys are sleeping, we'll order take out and watch the Oscars and fight to stay awake until the end.  And then we'll fall asleep and do the whole thing over again: workweek, weekend, month after month, year after year.

Written this way, it seems perfect, but it was a little messy and boring, too.  Ben and I argued about Portland, Oregon.  There were a few times where the chaos of giggling fun was too big to be contained and people bumped heads or elbows and there were tears.  A picture on Instagram made me angry with myself that I keep putting off  finding swimming lessons for the boys.   I spent too long reading the titles in the parenting section of Barnes and Noble and had a panic attack about not being The Parent I Wanted to Be, but it was remarkable how quickly that feel went away once I physically removed myself from the area.  That's growth.

In the end, the two paragraphs above squish together and become a perfect metaphor for our whole lives right now.  It's not weekend getaways or cool home improvements or bars or shows or travel.  I'd like some of those things, but it's not the time.  At this instant, which is really just a split second in the big picture of a live well lived, we're just keeping it together. I want to be more spontaneous and adventure more, but I also know that my life runs much, much better when I stick to a routine.  Lesson plans weren't troubling this week because THEY ARE WRITTEN ON THURSDAY NIGHT/FRIDAY MORNING, FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.  Packing lunches and dinner happen without fail because they happen at the same time every night.  Pizza is always on Thursdays and a crock pot is always on Tuesday.  It's not exciting, but it keeps my head on straight.

I remind myself to be patient.  It's a lot of work to have a one-year-old and a two-year-old.  It's a lot of work to have full time jobs and two classes and try to maintain a marriage and maybe a social life in the three freaking seconds that remain.  We're far from the only family to ever have so much on our shoulders, so I know that I have good company in trenches, making it work.  One day, my intrepid family and I will hop trains and planes and automobiles and explore this country and other countries, too.  We'll throw caution to the wind and go see movies late on a Wednesday night, pack lunches in the morning as we're running out the door, skip school and go get ice cream sundaes.  Our time will come.  For now, to survive, and to remember how to thrive, we'll vacation gently, weekend slowly, and trust the boringly ordinary days to get us through.