Monday, June 30, 2014

at the 8

This picture was taken on the last day of school last week.  Right now its June 30th, and the perfect time to organize and evaluate before my only work-free month of the year!  At the moment I'm...

...celebrating.  On the last day of school, once all the kids are safely home and our classrooms are packed up, we have a big staff party at someone's house.  It's always a really fun time, but this year I arranged for a babysitter until Ben got home from work and a safe ride back to my house, so I really enjoyed myself.  Fast forward to a few days later and I was headed to the cape for a weekend of bachelorette fun for a close friend.  I've had so much uncharacteristic fun (out late, quite loud, cigars and shots, etc) and tried so many new summer drinks.  I'm loving Leinenkugel Lemon Berry Shandy, Shipyard Melonhead, and Newman's Lemonade with strawberry vodka, preferably mixed by Ben, my personal bartender.

...rededicating.  The one downside of all this nonstop partying is that my healthy living focus is pretty much scrapped.  The past week had us so far out of routine that I was eating all sorts of crazy snack foods and calling it meals, not tracking, and even sometimes not hitting my step goal.  It was worth it for a fun transition to summer, and I had a great time, so I'm not going to beat myself up.  I did, however, spend an hour or so last night making vegetable soup and chopping fruits for snacks...I'm ready to dive back into a healthy routine this week.

...adjusting.  It's the first full week of vacation and we have play dates and family outings planned every single day.  I have a loose schedule I'd like to follow about morning activities- trips to the library, crafts, working on words with both boys- but if someone wants to interact with us, that's always going to be the priority.  Two of our great summer traditions are taking place this week: the summer reunion with Cait and Vedder, and our yearly trip to Gloucester for the July 3rd Horribles Parade.  I'm practicing getting up and getting dressed without dragging out our mornings.  We're getting into the habit of taking a morning walk as a family.  We're getting into the summer spirit.

...overdue.  For a pedicure, for some time with Laurel, for a trip to Florida, for a reading update, for a major list session, and for a couple of other things.  If the boys nap this afternoon, I'm going to play secretary and get our family calendar/to do list organized for the month of July.  I'm so lucky to have a life so full.

What are you up to at the moment?  I'd love to hear!  These posts are inspired by Kerri from Your Wishcake, and I highly suggest you check her out.

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Friday, June 27, 2014

Coffee and Blogs No. 6

Summer is here- officially on the calendar and for the lucky, lucky kids and adults who get a summer break.  I use this season as an excuse to get ice cream for dinner (often) and drink spiked lemonade, and I wish you that same kind of happiness.  Here is some good reading to tackle over a frosty iced coffee, maybe on your phone, maybe at the beach?  

I want to make friendship bracelets this summer, but if you're not into reliving camp activities by yourself, this is a round up of summer camps for adults.  The documentary film making camp seems AMAZING.  I would also happily live every single second of the itinerary from a camp for kids if I could fill the campground with all my adult friends.

On a camp note, this episode of This American Life is one of my favorites.  I heard it rerun last summer during a weekend of traveling (meaning I heard it about 7 times on different NPR stations) and was shocked to hear it was from 1998.  It holds up really well, since camp holds up really well.

Deep thoughts about your recently used emojis.  This made me stare at my screen for a little while and evaluate my life.  I may submit mine for analysis, but I'm scared.

I'm never not going to add something about YA literature.  Here is a ranking of the coolness of female kid lit characters, and here is a great defense of adults reading YA from one of my favorite sources for book reviews and celebration of a reading life.

Would you like to be smarter in 3 minutes?  I imagine that if you can share these corrections to common history misconceptions without sounding like a know-it-all, it would make interesting intelligent chit chat at BBQs and beach weekends with friends of friends all summer long.

Why I Miss Being a Born-Again Christian.  I have nothing witty to say about this.  It made me feel a little sad and a little less alone, if that makes any sense.

David Sedaris has a Fitbit.  I thought I was doing good with step count, but as always, he's put me in my place. (Thanks to Carolyn for this article!)

This article about dressing for the ordinary days is so relevant as I enter a few months of not having to go to work.  I am famous for wearing workout clothes and ratty t shirts to chase my kids, which is okay but also not that okay, since I like the idea of being more put together.  It's almost always a goal of mine to "get dressed."

My pinterest board about clothing and style has gotten a little refresh lately.  The petunia plum dress, scarlet flats, and camera necklace make up my dream outfit for the weddings I'm going to this summer.

Willpower is an exhaustible resource.  This explains why I can be so much more successful with my healthy living goals on the days where my routines are solid, and why the summer sometimes feels like the wild west when it comes to getting things done.  This article inspired me to make a summer schedule and to still spend my evenings getting organized for the next day.

I found my dream job.  Researching someone's past, organizing the facts into a timeline, turning it into a keepsake piece of this real life?  Librarian has a challenger for the title of Ashlie's Next Career.

I spent some time updating the pictures and hash tags in my side bar.  If you get the blog in your e-mail or a feed reader, please click through and check out the new look!  I'm in the market for a domain name and a new header this summer.  While you're here, consider voting for Simple Mama on Top Baby Blogs.  You're awesome, thank you.

Happy reading, lovelies!


Friday, June 20, 2014

Current State of Affairs

One of the bloggers I've been following the longest is Danielle from Sometimes Sweet.  As a former high school English teacher, she used to have Journal Days and give the students writing prompts.  Now she gives her prompts to the blogging world, and many people link up and answer.  This is the first time I've ever wanted to participate.

The prompt: 

This week, write a "State of Me" address. Write about how you're really doing- what you've been thinking, what you've been up to. What have you accomplished lately? Where is there room for growth? Where are you right now in life and where are you headed? Current joys, currents sadness...write it all out. Discuss the current state of YOU. 

The State of Ashlie is pretty dynamite.  I often use this space to voice fears or share insecurities or just vent in general, but I don't have quite as much practice tipping my head back and celebrating.  I'm putting some hard work into my life right now, and I'm getting back as good as I give.  I think it's the perfect time to recap some of my success and the things I'm looking forward to.  

I laid it all out on the line when I shared about how I wanted and needed to lose weight.  The ashlie gets fit post was met with a lot of love and understanding and support, and a little weirdness (I heard some "Geez, are you okay?!" but most people got the message).  I've been making taking care of myself one of my biggest hobbies, and moving super slowly so that the changes can stick.  I'm keying in to the fact that if I can link it social media in some way, anything I try will be successful.  I use a few different apps and pieces of technology to keep track right now, and I'm loving it.  Things I find indispensable include: a digital scale, my Fitbit, the myfitnesspal app, the MapMyWalk app, and the Couch-to-5K app.  For all the apps, my username is ashlieelizabeth, with the exception of the Fitbit app, where I'm Ashlie E

I'm going to go deeper into how I use my Fitbit in another post, but it's a huge motivator.  It gives me a good sense of when I'm most active (which you would think would be obvious, but I'm usually surprised), and right now I have it linked to myfitnesspal, where I track my food, so I'm getting an accurate reading of calories in versus calories out in a 24-hour period.  That is my most valuable tool at this moment.  Right now I'm burning around 3000 calories a day and eating around 1900- my "goal" is 1540, but I almost always go over, and as long as I'm seeing a healthy calorie deficit, I don't let that worry me.  I am also using the MapMyWalk and Couch-to-5K to keep track of my running.  I actually use both apps when I run because I like encouragement I get from my "real" runner friends on Map, but I use the prompts on Couch-to-5K to train properly.

The proof is in the numbers.  I've been paying close attention to eating and exercise for about a month.  I've lost 10.4 pounds and am able to run up to 30 minutes without stopping to rest or walk.  I've come to this success very slowly, I feel, but I'm also not beating myself up AT ALL, and taking this stance very consciously.  I know that I can drink shakes or restrict calories or cut out food groups and lose weight a lot faster.  There are days I run and days I opt to walk or dance in the kitchen instead.  I've had ice cream every weekend this month.  As soon as I start turning this into means to an end, it will truly be over.  I'll gain all the weight back and be stuck in a cycle I don't like.  I'm really trying to teach myself to have a new kind of life, one that includes rest days and dessert and also mindfulness and vegetables and knowing that I have to work up some sort of sweat every day to keep this body healthy.  There might come a time when I need to use something more strict to get me through a plateau but for now I'm focusing on burning more than I eat and staying happy.

I had a suspicion that something deeper than exercise vs. calories might be holding me back from weight loss, and my primary care doctor suggested that I add therapy to my plan for tackling my weight.  I absolutely tried it- I went for a month, which ended up being three sessions.  I didn't stop because it was bad or painful or weird, but I honestly had such an improved mood from eating right and the endorphin high of exercising that there was less malaise in my life, and I felt like there wasn't much to talk about.  I still often feel overwhelmed and I'm messy and I have deferred goals, but when I'm taking better care of myself, those things are less likely to completely depress me.  I don't want to say, "Oh, I jog a few times a week and suddenly everything is rainbows!" because that's not the case.  I just feel more able to take things in stride lately.

As I take better care of myself, I'm realizing that, for me, self-care is something that needs to be directly taught.  I have to force myself to schedule hair cuts, order contacts, or dress in something other than yoga pants.  In preparation for summer I've reordered my contacts so I can stop wearing my frumpy glasses on sunny days and practiced my headscarf game to add flair to my simple summer outfits.  I've put aside some money that I hope to use to flesh out the tattoo on my left leg- I want to add two foxes that represent the boys.  It might seem silly or frivolous, but these are things that make me feel more in control of my life.  I look like this because I consciously choose this style, I own it, this is me.  That's something I've never really gotten the hang of, but I feel on the cusp of it.  I'm not waiting for my goal weight to look cute again. 

It helps that I'm back into the swing of reading.  I've been careful to not conk out on the couch so I can wash my face and read before bed, and I'm carrying my books to school with me so I can read when my students have their silent reading time.  I even read a few chapters snuggled with the boys the other night while they were enjoying their Friday night movie.  When I read, I feel more in touch with who I actually am.  It sounds silly but it's something I keep going back to as I feel more and more "adult" in the world.  

I'm going to spend my summer reading, meeting friends, getting dressed, and moving it whenever I can.  I'll brew some iced coffee and tie my hair up in a headscarf and force myself not to break out in hives if I get invited to do something last minute.  We'll have campfires and I'll see my family in Florida and buy a pretty dress to wear to summer weddings.  I'm feeling proud and hopeful and confident, totally in love with my little family and ready to spend a little time on myself.  I'm pleased with the current state I'm in, and realizing that things are only going to get better from here.

Play along and tell me the State of YOU!  You can link up at Danielle's post, too.

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ben is a rad dad.

(The boys as Temple of Doom characters at Halloween.  Ben's smile stops my heart a little bit)

(Ben's first Father's Day with tiny Milo.  We went to the zoo.  Elliott was a squiggle in my belly.)

(When Esh was small, Ben would smooch him and scratch him with his beard and he would giggle.)

(Ben takes care of the majority of overnight stuff.  Every night.  Still.)

I think it's safe to say that Ben is in his element as a dad.  He's really, really good.  He was wonderful to our babies and to me when we were all struggling as a family of infants, but now that we have two walking, running, communicating, preference-sharing creatures with personalities and the ability to wield G. I. Joe figures, he's over the moon.

Both boys have their own ways to connect with Ben.  Milo is his movie kid, and will wake up on weekends when he knows Daddy is home begging to watch Back to the Future or Star Wars (which he calls Dun Dun based on us singing the Imperial March to him).  They act out scenes from the third Back to the Future using a toy train and a grey car.  Milo will request the theme music from E.T. when we're driving, and then narrates to us what is happening: "Dog no go on rocket!"  and "Bikes up go in the sky!"  When we have to be apart for awhile, we say, "I'll be right here," and he repeats it solemnly.  He likes Ewoks.  I have had no part in this, and usually say momish things like "These movies are too old for him!" but I know that while I have the final say on what they eat and the exact temperature that renders a sweatshirt necessary, movie culture is Ben's arena.  He only shows them certain scenes, never wanting them to be scared or worse, bored.  He is very carefully tricking them into loving these movies.  It's working.

Elliott is not as into TV unless there is singing.  He's very musical, and I can see Ben sharing CDs with him as he gets old enough to appreciate Ben's collection.  For right now, though, they click over action figures.  For some reason, they make Elliott crazy in the best possible way.  Ben (and his parents) have kept careful track of his childhood toys, and we are also collectors at flea markets and yard sales.  We have one tin of kid-safe (and they're probably not safe for the kids, these are just the figures that can be damaged without breaking any hearts) figures that were brought up from the basement, and the sight of the box makes Elliott start flapping his hands and grunting.  Ben was pouring them over Milo at five months when he was a stay-at-home dad, so I know he's been waiting for this.  Elliott likes to pick up "the guys" and clink them together, making them bash into each other, making little "pow pow pow" sounds.  Again, originally, I was horrified, "Ah, he's learning war-like behavior, omg, let's make the guys be friends!" but again, I backed off.  I can make them hug their babies and give kisses and sing Frozen with me all day, because those are my interests and likes, but this is a way they can connect with their dad, and frankly, not something I need to understand.   Ben already passes out dollar bills at the flea market letting the boys pick their own guys to flesh out our collection.  But of course, those don't get mixed with the G. I. Joes.

Ben reads books, washes clothes and dishes, brings cups of milk, kisses boo boos, goes to the park, gives piggy back rides, and patiently sits through endless requests of "Daddy, you be the bad guy and I be the good guy!" on a daily basis.  He takes impeccable care of me, which I think is a very specific way that a father can show love to his children- by taking care of  their mother.  Ben is a rad dad, raising rad boys, and I'm so glad to be in this truly rad little family.  Happy Father's Day, Ben.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

don't fix it

This morning it's cold and rainy and the house smells like oil for some reason we can't figure out.  We had people in, even called them after their work when it still smelled so badly.  I woke up in the middle of the night last night (Milo next to me, Ben on the couch, Elliott whimpering) and the smell hit me like a wall.  I got up and walked around and wrung my hands a little, but right now it's something that no one can do anything about.  It just exists.  This oil smell that reminds me how little I really understand about how my house works.

Milo just woke up to come hang out with me.  He has a black eye, from a train track that hit him at school.  I think he was pulling it from someone, got it away from them, and went flying backwards.  He hit himself with it, and it was just a little mark until days later.  Now it looks like he got into the eye shadow- purple and green right below the eyebrow.  He says it doesn't hurt.  Thinking about his black eye reminds me how little I really understand about his day, most days.  I'm not there.  I can look at pictures of the year, read the daily list of facts about eating and sleeping, check his sticker chart for having a dry diaper.  But I don't really know what he says to his friends, or how much he interacts with Elliott, or what his routine looks like.  I have to wait for summer for that.

My personality never stops wanting, and I'm constantly wondering about other situations I could be in.  I only recently stopped describing myself as someone who was planning my next life.  I want to do every single thing that can be done, so it doesn't surprise me that some days I want to spend every waking second with my two greatest accomplishments, and other days I want to be miles away from the screaming kids that live in my house.  I never, ever felt sad coming back from maternity leaves.  For mother's day, my gift was being away from my children for an entire day.  But lately, I've felt uncomfortable about being away from them.  I'm not sure why.

Another thought hit me yesterday, while I was calculating the boring purchases I needed to make (baby gate to replace a wrecked one, carbon monoxide detector that was not related to and yet incredibly related to the weird oil smell) and weighing their importance against my next paycheck, and thinking about how the daycare checks would stop over the summer, and how much easier things will be when ...we have a bigger house, ...we don't have to pay so much for daycare, ...we eventually (hopefully) live closer to family, ...I'm home with the boys this summer.  And then wisdom hit me in a scary, clarifying slap: no it won't.  Nothing will be easier.  When we live in a bigger house, our mess will expand to fit the space.  When we have more money, our expenses will shoot up.  We'll always spend all of it.  We'll always want more.

I have to operate under the assumption that right now is absolutely as good as it is ever going to get.  I have to be comfortable that I'm leaving Milo and Elliott in good hands during working hours, get used to pinching pennies or using the credit card when we need a baby gate and there's no other way, and stop wishing away hours, even during the weird vortex of the last two weeks of school.  I have to trust that the oil smell will go away, or it won't, and then a combination of Google and neighborly advice and the phone numbers stuck to the furnace will guide me.  I don't understand how any of this works, but it's working, and right now, I'm not willing to drive myself crazy to figure out why.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Coffee and Blogs No. 5

Links to go with your coffee.  Let me know what you're reading!

I've been really interested in the moon and astrology, and I love the above chart about what you might feel and could do during each of the moon phases.  It's for business people, but I think it's universal advice.  I found it on Pinterest and can't track down an original source- please let me know if you know where it's from!

I have a long way to go in understanding everything about gender and kids, but these were some good tips for avoiding stereotyping your children, especially if you have younger ones.  I like that the tips were for parents of both girls and boys.

Maya Angelou died recently, and I realized that I mostly know her work in quotes and snippets.  I added one of her books to my summer reading list, and I really enjoyed reading this transcript of an interview she gave.  I love hearing about her approach to writing (the actual, physical day-to-day) and her honesty about herself and what makes her tick.

There has been a lot of talk about Levar Burton and his campaign to get Reading Rainbow started again.  I was obssessed with Reading Rainbow as a child, and still get a thrill if I book I come across has that little logo on it.  I'm pretty sure the Kickstarter is already funded at this point, and I can't wait to see where the project goes next.  

I didn't realize I missed taking quizzes until I starting taking them again on Buzzfeed.  I got a perfect score on this Disney Song one, obviously.

It's time for my biweekly Yes and Yes link.  She did the best post of awesome women and their awesome quotes.  These ladies are rad and the things they say are rad.  It's a little burst of girl power, and I would normally feel super gross using that phrase, but it might be okay here.  You be the judge.

I already have a Steve Zissou finger puppet, and now I want the Tennenbaums and obviously all the Potter characters I can get my hands on.

More shopping: Milo is named after the lead singer of The Descendents, and I've been searching for a good tshirt for him.  There are some okay ones, but I'm very particular.  This one is PRETTY GOOD, but still not THE ONE.

I got some great responses to my recent post about fairy tales.  My friend Jen recommended this podcast from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, which gives some perspective about why fairy tales come across the way they do, and my friend Anna pointed me in the direction of this scholarly fairy tale expert, who may lead me to more understanding as I look into her work.

I put together my Summer Syllabus- books, movies, TV, music, and a few miscellaneous activities.  Ben and I already watched Point Break, which was deliciously terrible and incredibly quotable.  You can follow my reading progress on Goodreads.

This was my favorite link of the week (month? year?) and made me misty-eyed while I read it.  I was a total Book Girl before there was a cool culture built around it, and I still enjoy every aspect of this crowd despite being a teacher, wife, and mom.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Syllabus 2014

I love living in Massachusetts because the seasons are RIDICULOUS in the best possible way.  It's been pretty chilly and cloudy for months, and now that summer weather is creeping in, everyone appreciates it so much and you look outside and basically see the population twirling with their arms reaching to the sky.  As a teacher, I have about 8 weeks off this summer, and I'm going to live. it. up.  We have plans for tons of day trips, two weekend getaways, meeting my nephew, some weddings, a 5K, beach time, family time, and ice cream as often as possible.

The list below represents what I hope to read, watch, and listen to, as well as some misc. summery things.  I really want to make friendship bracelets.  I left off work reading, even though there are a few books I'd like to flip through, because my mind is just focused on fun right now.  I asked for recommendations on Facebook, and also took suggestions from reading lists here and here.   I have so much good material that I'm probably going to make a back-to-school list in the fall.  Thank you for pointing me towards great stuff!

You can follow my reading progress on my Goodreads account, as long as I remember to load stuff.  The kids books are based on the fact that we're headed to Story Land this summer, and I want Milo and Elliott to hear lots of fairy tales and nursery rhymes before we get there.  I'm really looking forward to Creativity, Inc., which is about Pixar, and What Alice Forgot, which is about being a middle aged mom and and wife.  I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (about local eating) and Fortune's Rocks (about a teenage girl and her love affair with her father's friend) every summer.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Jemima J. by Jane Green
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty 
Listening for Madeleine by Leonard S. Marcus
How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Kids Books:
Five Minute Fairy Tales

Ben and I will be working on the Watch list together, and it's heavily influenced by my wimpy tendencies.  I can't watch torture, violence, rape, any excess of tension, families being hurt/separated, people dying, overly sad or difficult basically eliminates any of the popular series right now, and anything Ben has interest in.  My Netflix profile recently watched is Super Why, Sister Wives, New Girl, and Parks and Rec.  So this list is a little bit of a stretch and also will help us with the hour-long lethargic "What should we put on?" conversation nightly.

Curb Your Enthusiasm (Series)
House of Cards (Finish Series)
Parks and Recreation (Rewatch series with Ben)
Call the Midwife (Series)
Pointe Break
Birth of the Dead (documentary)
Jurassic Park 1 & 2
Terminator 1 & 2
Ever After
Moonrise Kingdom
Grand Budapest Hotel
Godzilla (Theater)
Wet Hot American Summer

I don't listen to music.  Ever.  NPR or audiobooks unless Ben is in the car with his iPod or CD collection.  But the boys really like music, especially Yo Gabba Gabba and our Disney pandora station.  I'm going to make a few mixed CDs we can turn to when we're traveling around this summer.  And listen to new podcasts when I run and clean (I can't go cold-turkey).

Yo Gabba Gabba
The Weepies
Pop Music Everyone Liked Last Year

Make friendship bracelets
Have a campfire and cook something on it
Contact at least 3 publications to freelance for them
Go strawberry picking
Canoe or Kayak with Ben
Go to the drive in for a family night

OKAY!  How about you?  What are you going to read and watch and radly consume in the summer months?  Let's make the most of the season that makes us sweat, shall we? <3