What I am Reading and Doing


Chicken’s first letter, written to Granny. This was entirely her own doing, and is extremely cute. Translation at the bottom.

Last month I had a loose goal to stay off screens in the evenings. Or something like that. See- I don’t even remember the exact goal, because that’s how seriously I took it. (Not at all).

My idea was to read more books. And I tried- I really did. But, honestly, finding good books that I looked forward to reading (instead of watching New Girl or reading blogs/fb) was hard.

I tried a few books that friends had recommended. I read about 50 pages of “Daring Greatly” and then had to return it to the library. And- honestly? I don’t know if I’ll go back and check it back out. Similar to “Quiet“, I feel like I read my 50 pages and got the gist of it. I know that really doesn’t give credit to the book in its’ entirety. But when I read “Quiet”, I feel like I learned the main point in the first little stretch, then relearned it again in different ways until the end. My thought with “Daring Greatly” is- did I already learn the main point in the first 50 pages? That vulnerability is a seemingly counterintuitive good thing? Great! I agree! And I’m not sure I need to read the rest of the book to be even more convinced. Hence, book abandoned at 50 pages.

I also picked up “Quotidian Mysteries” again. A friend gave me this book when Chicken was a baby and I marked it up, underlining and starring so many portions. (Then I gave that copy away, which I have regretted ever since. Mostly because the newer copy I just purchased has a horrible cover. And I wish I could see all the underlining I did the first time I read this, with my first little baby in tow. Boo.) Returning to this short book (really a lecture that Kathleen Norris gave once, in print form) has been great. One of those that I read and keep thinking “hmm…yes!”.

So, now that I have complained about two bestselling books that have changed people’s entire lives for the better- any book suggestions for me?

(And I’ll give you a big old eye roll if you think I can muster enthusiasm for the classics or something like that, at the end of the day. That is just not where I am these days. Minimal brain power required, please.)

Moving on:

Here is something I read today, and I liked it. My husband and I had this sort of conversation a few times around the topic of brain surgery and the emotions that came with that. How much of those emotions (namely sadness or fear) do we show to the kids, and how much do we try to keep hidden, to deal with in private? We didn’t want to alarm our kids, and certainly we set a strong tone for how everyone is going to feel about the hospital visits and tests. But I don’t like the idea of being stoic and brave all the time, either. Because a) that’s wildly inauthentic at times and b) it’s okay for our kids to see us sad or worried, and see how we handle that. (Right? Where’s the “How to Walk Your Family Through Brain Surgery” handbook?). Anyway. I thought this post about arguing was good food for thought in terms of what we show and do not show our kids.

Lastly, I read this a few weeks ago and have been on the oil-pulling train ever since. This should come as no surprise, given that I also tried washing my face with oil (success! Still doing it!) and going shampoo-free (abandoned long ago) and going antiperspirant-free (please let’s never talk about that again. It makes my armpits hurt, just thinking about it).

I hope you have a good time and I hope that you come back someday.

That is how I feel about you, reader.

Brain Dump


1. We went trick or treating last night. I had a princess and two dragons/dinosaurs in tow. We went to the Lawn (which means nothing to those outside of Charlottesville).
The Lawn is the main area of the UVA campus (ahem, grounds) and students apply to live there for their senior (ahem, fourth) year. Every Halloween the Lawn is swarmed by a bazillion people in costume, trick-or-treating their way from room to room.

Here’s something I forgot about trick-or-treating on the Lawn: looking over at my child and seeing some student crouching down and taking his picture. I know he’s a cute baby dinosaur/dragon, but it surprises me when someone else wants to document that cuteness.

Kind of like when my friend Abigail saw a picture of my daughter hanging in the Art building on grounds. In the picture, I was holding her and she was looking at the camera over my shoulder. I had no idea the picture was taken, much less that it would be displayed for anyone to see. I mean…that’s weird, right? [Said by the women who puts pictures of her kids on the internet. Clearly I'm not a kids-on-the-internet purist. But at least I am putting these pictures up on my own terms. The Lawn thing and picture-in-the-Art-building thing is weird.]

2. Speaking of the baby, he dumped a full box of Grape-Nuts (okay, actually- we buy generic Nutty Nuggets) on the kitchen floor on Monday. It is Friday, I have swept a few times, and I am still stepping on a stray Nut/Nugget a few times a day. Not my favorite.

3. This summer my friend Keely posted on facebook that her kids were watching a movie. (Maybe the third movie that day). First, I judged her biiiiiiiiig time for obvious maternal failures across the board. A movie? In the middle of the day? For shame.

Second, I am kidding about “first”.

Here’s what I really thought- I don’t do movies enough with my kids. I usually put a show on out of desperation or frustration at the end of the day, and they watch until we eat dinner at 5:30’ish.

There’s a baby sleep book somewhere that says “sleep begets sleep”. In our house, shows beget asking to watch more shows. When my kids get a little taste of a show, they ask for more and more. The 30 minute freedom I get from putting on Wild Kratts on Monday afternoon is usually overshadowed by the incessant question of “Can we watch a show?” during any downtime for the next three days. When we go show-free for a couple of days in a row, they tend to quit asking.

So I have been doing a semi-regular Friday afternoon movie time instead of little bits of screen time every day. By Friday afternoon I have used up all of my good parenting skills and am running on fumes anyway. It is a perfect time for a movie. Like, right after I publish this I will put the movie on and the electronic babysitter will be in charge for a while.

Works for me.

4. As some may remember, I finished a triathlon just over a month ago. My overall physical fitness has taken a sharp turn for the worse since then. It is hard to get motivated to slog out another long run on the treadmill, so I don’t. I jog (slowly) for 30 minutes, feeling bored and impatient to be done the whole time, and don’t necessarily feel like it has done me much good. So I read this the other day and decided to add a little variety to my running.

On Wednesday I did intervals, alternating a jog and a run every quarter mile for 2.5 miles. I hopped off the treadmill feeling like I worked hard, but it felt good. I’m into sustainable exercise and forcing myself through the same boring routine day after day does not make me want to keep it up. Intervals are a nice change. I did the same thing today and added a little weight-lifting at the end.

5. If I may give some unsolicited advice to anyone who cares: Eliminating breakfast choices makes our mornings run smoothly around here. My kids eat oatmeal just about every morning during the week. If they finish their oatmeal and want to choose a cereal, they can. But usually by the time they eat a bowlful they are full. Therefore, my whole morning is on autopilot, leaving brain space for stuff like conversations about school or thinking/planning for the day ahead. Also, oatmeal is substantial and I don’t usually need to do a morning snack as a result. It’s an easy food coast until lunchtime. It makes sense, right?

6. October is over! I can officially plunge right back into facebook!

Maybe I’ll elaborate more later, but first reaction to a month without facebook: I barely missed it at all. I felt a little out of the loop once or twice when friends referenced something that was common knowledge in the facebook world. And, like I mentioned once before, I missed the chatter when a friend got published and then had her article reposted over 20K times on facebook. BUT that was the exception, not the rule. Most of the time I was very happy to have a reason to NOT be on facebook. I read a few books this month, instead. And felt bored and didn’t have anything do, once or twice. I like that feeling.

And here we are in November, and I have not come up with a single goal. Anyone have an idea for me?


How My Life is Different Without Facebook

You’re probably curious as to what this post is about.

I’m a little over a week into my facebook-free life and 1) it really doesn’t matter much at all and 2) there are plenty of other ways to kill time, if you just look for them.  Blogs, for example.

A friend of mine was published recently and I missed reading the chatter about that on facebook.  I read the two comments on the actual website, but I know there was a ton more discussion on people’s facebook pages.  It makes sense- facebook is easier to comment on, so a lot of people just do that instead of taking the extra 7 seconds to fill in their email address and check the box that verifies they’re not a spammer.  And word verification on a blog or website?  Forget about it.  I usually just move on if I see that, and keep my solid gold comments to myself.

Facebook, on the other hand, doesn’t require that stuff.  I know that this little blog o’ mine gets more feedback via my personal facebook page than in the comments section here.  So yeah- I have missed reading what people are saying about this friend’s article and- for a little bit- thought about signing back in to catch up.  And I miss the extra comments and “likes” when I post my blog on facebook.  There, I said it.

Other than that, I miss facebook the same way I miss a fingernail I couldn’t stop biting.  (I’ve been biting my fingernails as long as I can remember!  There is a long history to this analogy).

Fingernail, I didn’t want to bite you, but you kept calling me back.  I couldn’t stay away, as much as I wanted to.  As much as I purposed to.  As many times as I vowed to let you grow and forget about you.  I know that biting you is, most of the time, not all that good for me-   but, fingernail, you’re always there!  And the temptation is too great.

(My facebook relationship, in a nutshell).



Here is one thing I did because I was NOT piddling around on facebook:  Cleaned three windows!

Back story: sometime in the last year, two friends had their windows washed within a couple of weeks of each other.  Both commented on how much brighter their house looked as a result.  And then I saw this, about how taking your screens out lightens up your space.  Of course, then I looked at my windows downstairs and saw all the little spots on them that is probably fly poop but I refuse to google it to find out because eww gross I’d rather not know.  And also I let my kids stand on the furniture to watch exciting things like the trash truck!  And recycling truck!  So there are little hand prints all over the windows.  In short, you could barely see through the filth and the concept of clean windows was popping up on my radar left and right.

When I think about washing windows, I think “hire it out!” because my memory of that task is my mother, taking our windows out of their…window spaces(?) and spreading them out all over the living room and then cleaning them for hours.  Bleh.  Who can get pysched up for that?  Not me, Jose.  So that task sat at the bottom of a to-do list for the past year.

So when my husband casually tilted the window out of its window space(?) last week I was all NO WAY IT IS THAT EASY???  And cleaned two of them the next day.  I used some Lysol that my in-laws left here when they took care of my kids.  (Because we don’t have any Windex, if that tells you how often I clean mirrors or windows.  And no, you hippies out there, I didn’t have any vinegar either.)  I used Lysol, the roll of paper towels that my in-laws also left (I don’t buy those.  Can I buy back a few hippie points?) and the issue of the Hook free newspaper I had just finished reading.  Easy peasy.  It is not a perfect cleaning job, but who cares as long as I’m not looking through fly poop to see the garbage truck anymore?

I did the third window yesterday.  The baby woke up from his nap and I thought to myself “Self, I bet you can wash that third living room window before the baby really gets pissed that he is still in his crib”.  And I did.  I cleaned the window and got the baby before he got really riled up.  I felt like homemaker of the year.

Now I can’t stop looking out my windows and marveling at the difference.  Seriously.  And once the stupid stinkbugs back up off me and this cool weather stays, I will take the screens out, too.  For extra brightness!