Whatcha reading?

Weekends are becoming more what they should be around here lately: relaxing. We still have lots to do (soccer practice, and also a crapton of leaves to take care of. Yay Fall.) but we are able to fit relaxation and fun in.

For me, that means reading! And not only audio books (like it was for the past few months), REAL BOOKS. It’s exciting, and this year I’ve developed the habit of diving in to several all at once. At the moment I’m reading…

A Storm of Swords (GOT Book 3): I’m listening to this one, because I’m a huge baby/whiner about how long they are, and was getting bitter about how much reading time it was soaking up. Well, trading that in for a cool 47 hours of listening… I guess it’s a win? It’s a great book, and I’ve slowed down how much I’m listening.

One for the Books by Joe Queenan: I impulse bought this one after hearing an interview with him on NPR. He’s a brash Philadelphian (his accent was part of the appeal, though it’s not *pleasing* in the widely understandable way that, say, a Southern accent is, something about it makes me miss home.) He’s an author, but this book is about how much he reads (150ish books/year). His reading habits are nothing like mine and at times he is annoyingly flippant about books I like, but it’s making me think and sort of rededicate myself to reading more.

Catcher in the Rye: I am not quite sure why, but I feel it’s time to reread this one. It’s one I’ve read 3 times now, and I’m super excited to crack it open again. I have the copy I read in high school & I was really into underlining stuff and writing in books then. I continued that tradition and it’s sort of a whole different experience each time I read it, and funny to see how time changes what parts speak to me. The first time I fell in love with it (the second time I read it- first time I didn’t really get it, I think), I was 2 days into studying abroad in Ireland (10 years ago… how can that be?) Something about it, even though it’s not about being a stranger in a strange land or any of the things I was feeling, takes me back to those feelings. I’m pretty excited to re-re-re-reread it.

Oh, and I am sort of slowly making my way through Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake because I love Anna Quindlen (or bc you know, I am secretly 20 years older than I’ve been letting on?), and Showstoppers! for work, as a writing style to strive for in our next book. I get to read a book for work, that’s pretty cool, right? (It’s pretty geeky though.) Scott and I started listening to Paterno on the way home from DC the other weekend and we’re going to listen together on roadtrips. Really, really loving it so far, and I think most Pennsylvanians/Penn State fans would!

And, I promised myself I wasn’t going to flake out on book club for next month, so I will read the Wedding Gift next! Promise!

Movie Night!

Friday nights usually go a little something like this in our world:

YAY it’s Friday! Wahooo! Ugh, I’m so exhausted.

We’ve settled into this family tradition in the past few months of renting movie on Friday nights. (Sometimes we’ll buy if we are moderately sure we’ll like it and it’s nice to have several to choose from for road trips!) We order a pizza and eat like crap. (In fact, despite having eaten out one night this week, and having leftovers in the fridge, Scott and I were just talking about how we *cannot even consider* just regular leftovers… doesn’t feel right. Friday demands junk.) We snuggle on the couch, turn off the lights and put on our jammies. We let Margo pick which movie we want to watch, though we do often gently guide her based on what we’re in the mood for.

Side note: we do all of this on iTunes these days (since we’re a iFamily…) A few months ago, we took a big jar of change to a Coinstar machine. We turned it into itunes cash. It’s been great to slowly burn through “free money” on iTunes (ie, money we didn’t know we had.) And Coinstar doesn’t take a cut of it if you don’t get cash back & turn the coins into a gift card. We felt super smart, had to share that.

Our (current) favorites are:

The Lion King.This is by FAR the favorite; every time we say anything about a movie the answer is “Lion King!” She loves little Simba (and really, how can you not, he’s so cute, if a little bratty.) She doesn’t seem to understand why Simba’s daddy just falls asleep after that wildebeast herd. Weird. It’s not all that funny, although Timon and Pumba are obviously the grown up draw. Never realized how funny they were watching it as a kid. (Also strong communist themes with Scar. Too academic? Sorry.) This movie does hold a special place in my heart; me and my sister watched it at least daily one summer. Sometimes I recall just watching it until Mufasa died, cause then it gets heavy. Also, little Simba = cutie pie. <- Margo’s words, though tweenage Jamie & Ashley concurred evidently.

The Lorax. I love this one, and was sort of surprised since I never really loved the book or old movie. The addition of some characters & songs made a big difference. I love the message & love the music. My parents watched it with Margo the one night they babysat for us last month and I really would have given good money to see my dad’s face during “How bad can I be” 🙂 Not a real “pro-business” song.

We also own Up, Cars, Curious George, Finding Nemo and Ice Age, and they’re all good but I’d say The Lorax and LK are the big favorites right now. I really like both of her favorites, especially because, OMG you should see her face during the opening scene of Lion King. You know, when all the animals come running. It’s quite adorable how excited she gets. Here’s an impression:

*said with no breaths between words* “look! a tree! An elephant! A baby elephant! A giraffe! Canteloupes! Birdies, mommy, look! A waterfall! Where’s Simba!? Elephants!! Aw, Rafiki and Mufasa are hugging!”

And as much as we love our collection, we have so much fun watching new things every so often. Last week we watched Madagascar 3, might be the most I’ve laughed at a kids’ movie! Margo laughed a lot too, so it was a win. I would totally buy that one.

I have a great list from my Twitter friends on new ones to try but am always on the lookout for new movies to try. We did preview Cinderella last weekend and, well, it seemed so boring. Just not really up to the pace and witty banter standards of Pixar & DreamWorks that we’ve gotten used to (and enjoy as a whole family, not just the kid). I could be wrong, I haven’t watched a princess movie since I was a kid, but I sorta yawned and passed on it.

Anywho, is it quitting time yet!? Thinking maybe Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or another Madagascar movie tonight! Anyone else do a movie night? What are the faves?

 

Dressing A 2 Year Old Girl: Rules and Lessons Learned

So, some recent convos on Twitter got me thinking about my daughter’s wardrobe… how my views have evolved and pet peeves, and what I’ve learned in the 2.75 years I’ve had to dress her up.

Make no mistake, I love dressing my daughter. She is way funner to dress up than myself, and, cheesy as it may sound, she actually influences my style. To a greater degree than it is cool to admit…

In the beginning, I got an onslaught of little-girly, teeny and (mostly) free/gifted clothes. When they say “It’s a Girl,” it’s like an unstoppable impulse to go buy a tiny pink onesie with something cute written on it. (I remember folding freshly washed onesies reading “Cutie Pie” and “So sweet” just terrified it’d be “ironic” & my daughter wouldn’t be those things and therefore the shirt would be ridiculous… lol.)  I did it, my entire circle of friends & family did it. As she gets older and her personality is becoming apparent and she has real interests and opinions, I sorta don’t feel the same as I used to about some clothing things. I don’t follow a hard and fast set of rules, however these are some of my guiding principles.

My Kid Talks, Her Clothes Don’t*
*usually

My first rule is a strong limit on words on clothes for my kid. When you really start to think about it, uh, she can’t read. If I put her in a shirt that says “Rock Star,” isn’t that a little unfair? (Or maybe just odd?) She doesn’t even know what a Rock Star is, and is that something I want her to aspire to? Ok, that’s a different tangent, but worth noting, little girl clothes are notoriously off in the skanky direction. Not likely to find one that proclaims “I love Science and Math!” or something, you know, that we WOULD want to encourage. This summer I bought/inherited a few plain colored shirts that paired with plain shorts or skirts. It was easy (even a dad can match outfits!) and I wasn’t putting some sort of weird persona on my kid.

I’m not absolute, I did just buy a babyGap shirt the other day that says “Bonjour” and has a cat on it, because she loves “Happy Lion” and cats. Also, a Lifeguard shirt because she’s so obsessed with Lifeguards it just had to be done. So maybe I act as her power of attorney a little on the “if it has to have words, at least let them be relevant” rule. I know a common “I’ll never do that” -> “I totally ate my words and am doing it anyway” issue among toddler moms is “character t-shirts.” I don’t think I ever promised to avoid them altogether; we have a few (mostly Elmo). I have a t-rex shirt and a lion shirt for her for Christmas too, because, well, she loves them! And who can resist that happy moment when you get them something they love and feed an obsession…

Comfort first

Margo has always been a sturdy little lady. That said, the jeans I’m pulling out of the hand me down box now (3T) are the first jeans to really fit her well. The first year it was a joke… she’d been sitting up for several months and I put jeans on her and she couldn’t even sit. (But, they looked SO CUTE. Don’t worry, I didn’t make her wear them.) And last year sort of worked, though I didn’t subject her to them often because I could tell they weren’t comfortable. I have this weakness for babies and tots in jeans, this was a hard, hard concession for me. Don’t let them tell you you won’t grow as a mother, people.

(Aside: I LOVE jeggings on her for this very reason. They look so cute, but they’re more comfy than jeans. See? Oh, and bonus, they’re Circo and cost like $7 on sale. Win Win Win, to infinity. )

Here’s the thing that has come to be a guiding principle for me in the Comfort realm: kids play. She shouldn’t be limited in that because her clothes are limiting her or her shoes. And, in my experience/opinion, girls clothes are far more prone to inhibit play (not ALL, but there are some scary things out there, people.) Shoes are a big thing, in our experience. We’ve had several friends send hand me downs (which we’re so grateful for), so we have shoes to choose from (i.e., we have shoes in our closet that I didn’t pick out…) Several sandals (and even wedge heels…) just didn’t fit her right or she complained about them. At first it was a little sad – these dainty white thong sandals would go perfect with this dress – but then I realized “Dummy, she’s a kid! Throw some Crocs on her and move on.” And that’s the beauty of the hand me down – no guilt when you don’t use them.

Sidenote: do toddlers EVER like thong sandals? Margo wouldn’t tolerate them long enough to get the second shoe on!

Less is More
This is my hardest rule to follow. Even within the strict parameters mentioned above, I STILL always end up with too many clothes. (I know, first world problem.) I have been approaching it from the past year from a quality over quantity standpoint. Many of Margo’s clothes now are going to be worn for several seasons, if not years (like the dress-turned-into-tunic look!) I’ve been getting less at Target and more at Lands’ End and Zulily. I hate the feeling (which I’ve had every single season so far…) of having clothes that we hardly touched, or clothes I really loved that I didn’t feel she wore enough. I’m constantly reminding myself of this one, and breaking this rule. It’s just… freaking girls clothes! Irresistible.

Cute (not sexy)
Sad it has to be said, but there you go. This rule I am holding tightly, rocking in a corner. Will become ever more relevant as she gets bigger (and I like to think I don’t need to be reminded…) Maybe it’s more like a mantra. Or prayer.

So, what are your principles in dressing your little ROCK STAR/DIVA/CUTIE PIE? 🙂

The Post-Election Post ( in which I don’t gloat)

I know this viral 30 days of thankfulness thing is going around FB and the social Interwebs. It’s not the worst thing I can think of, but sometimes it does come off as… IDK, bragging? I won’t give you a list of how perfect my kid and husband are or all of the things I have. But, running the risk of being “unoriginal” in November, I have a sort of overwhelming feeling of gratitude today, mostly relating to yesterday’s election and the results.

Spoiler: My gratitude is not (very) politically divisive.

I’m thankful to live in a country where we all can vote. Women, minorities, any citizen. I’m proud that 69% of my state voted, and that I don’t know of anyone who didn’t vote. I’m proud to include my daughter in this tradition and am excited to continue to teach her about her civic duty.

I’m thankful for the progress this country voted for yesterday. Gay marriage, marijuana legalization, openly gay senator, more women in the US Senate than ever before… Americans are becoming more open minded. And voting down crazy pants men with terrifying opinions on abortion and rape that have no business being legislated. *fist bumps all around on that*

I’m really thankful for social media. Last night as results came in, and even more so, during the 3 intense Prez debates… it was the perfect mix of substance, snark and humor that balanced out the tension. I’m happy to have a place to go to share opinions without losing friends for them. (That’d be Twitter, not Facebook. I most definitely have burned bridges on Facebook… but that’s a whole ‘nother story.)

And I’m thankful to have a husband I can high five when we finally received the “Obama Wins” headline late last night. I’m not a gloating type, and I truly DO empathize with Romney’s die hards. I was that distraught in 2004. *Clinton lip bite* I feel your pain. I’m more thankful to have a husband I can rant with, discuss issues with and who is engaged in politics too. And extremely thankful we agree (most of the time.)

I’m (mostly) thankful it’s over. I won’t miss the election, or the Facebook and Twitter promoted stuff (which, since we hardly watch TV sort of replaces negative ads for me), but I will look forward to the tell-all postmortems! When does Game Change 2 come out?

Getting my Mommy Mojo Back…

My post-marathon days have felt sort of like reanimation… I’m slowly getting my energy, body movement and mental focus back. This weekend was pretty amazing; I didn’t work out at all. I didn’t have to prioritize anything over spending time with my kid. Without running long on Saturday morning, there was time to fit in all the “chores” without missing out on family time, and energy enough to enjoy family time.

(Marathon training wasn’t all bad, but it was a sacrifice. I’ve been enjoying the “decadent” feeling of having time to do all the things I missed.)

That whole Daddy’s Girl forever and Mommy is Chopped Liver shenanigans? Evidently I got my mojo back this weekend and things have been going better. For the most part, we’re in a happy, balanced, “I have two parents and they’re both cool by me” house. I worked hard to be present, be in a good mood and it was fun for all. I am sure there will come a time, maybe in the near future, where I’ll revisit the awesome comments you guys left – heck I used some of them this weekend! 🙂

We started out with Margo’s first soccer class on Saturday (OMG, the cute factor was really unfathomable.) She had a blast and it was really, really fun to watch her with Scott. We had to go out on the field a few times to “save” her from the big scary man coaches. She’s not much for dudes, turns out.

Sunday morning I went to the Raleigh Marathon to cheer for my friends, and repay the scores of anonymous marathoners with some of that encouragement I loved so much during my race. Sunday evening, me and Margo hit the pool together. Super fun! That is so “our thing” and I’m trying to do it every time I have the opportunity!

Getting a pic of Margo when she’s not talking: impossible.

Last night, we had a dance party to the Rock of Ages soundtrack (which Scott threatened to embarrass me with, but I’m owning it. Yes I own the Rock of Ages soundtrack. It’s awesome, not ashamed.) Margo loved it, & even started singing “I love Rock n’ Roll!” We were dancing together to power ballads. & I heard this little number…

“I don’t need to be the king of the world, as long as I’m the hero of this little girl.” 

And I was just content. Yeah, I’m still that so it’s all good. And even if she doesn’t like me sometimes (or for long stretches), I like to think I still will be. Right?

Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?

In a word…. yes.

Fair warning: I am an opinionated Democrat (though I don’t often blog about it.) I’ve even stepped back the Facebook and Twittering on the election. Today’s post isn’t about changing minds or winning votes (many of you have probably early voted already)… it’s about acknowledging the answer to the question that the campaigns love to ask. To the extent that the President has impact over any of the below (which, I guess, indirectly he does), it’s relevant.

In the past 4 years, a lot has gone on in our life. House, kid, two higher ed degrees in our household, new jobs for both me and Scott… We’re a middle class family, two working parents and we live comfortably. I’m not writing this post to brag or say that since we’ve had a good 4 years, everyone else has. We’re believers in personal responsibility and the majority of the success we’ve had is because of our sacrifice, education & hard work. The government did not write my husband’s dissertation or compel us to have a child. But I do think it’s only fair to acknowledge the programs that have assisted us to get where we are; constantly criticizing the government is easy, thanking it is less popular.

My husband graduated with his PhD in 2009, with some of it financed through loans. We couldn’t consolidate them through any banks, so we turned to the US Department of Education. Instead of a crippling payment, it’s half that, and at a fixed 2.0%(ish) interest rate.

We bought a house in March of 2009. We were first-time homebuyers and received an $8,000 credit. It certainly made buying a home (in a crumby market) more attractive, enticed us to spend it on our home once we got in it. We were also the beneficiaries of a low federal interest rate, which made us owe less over the life of our loan.

Despite a bad economy and high unemployment rates, I got a job. That probably has little to do with the government, but still.

We refinanced our home under Freddie Mac program (since our house appraised low and our ownership % wasn’t high enough for most other programs. Not our fault.) Refinancing at an even lower rate saved us around 100,000 US dollars. Yes, you read that right.

I know our situation isn’t necessarily representative of the country, and that we’ve had some negative impacts as well. Our healthcare premiums have gone up, for instance.

I’m not giving Obama and the government full credit for all of the huge things we’ve done in 4 years. BUT, they were there, they deserve a shout out at least. All of the above incentives and programs, we would have done those things with or without them, but it’d have been harder without them. It seems sort of out there, but those things *actually helped* and did what they were intended to do.

So, thank you.

Sightseeing in DC: Toddler Edition

On our trip to Washington DC last weekend, even with the marathon, a toddler and nap schedule and potentially hazardous weather, we had so much fun. DC happens to be one of my most favorite cities ever, and when I finally got to the Mall I was grinning like a fool.

First off… sightseeing in the city in the two days before a marathon. Talk about a half-baked idea! I had such a hard time trying to make sure I wasn’t walking too much or too fast and drinking enough and eating well. It was sort of a pain. And as I laid in bed Friday night (race was Sunday) and my feet gave a little throb of pain, I sorta kicked myself. Even so, there were trade offs; we didn’t do as much as we could have. And, being a family vacay (and one where I was asking Scott and Margo to basically do nothing but watch strangers run on Sunday), I couldn’t do some things I really wanted to do. Like the Newseum. (OMG, I haven’t been to it since it’s been moved and I wanna go soo bad.)

We arrived Friday, and it was sort of a slow day; everything took longer than we anticipated. I got my stuff at the expo, Scott took Margo to the Air and Space Museum. So much driving, waiting, walking and toddler wrangling made it an exhausting day. Hangry Jamie even made an appearance before dinner! The Air and Space Museum wasn’t as huge of a hit was we’d hoped for Margo (at 2 months shy of 3)… she breezed through a lot of it before I got there and wasn’t really interested in backtracking at all. I was sorta sad I didn’t have a chance to look at more stuff there; it’s a fun one. Also worth noting, no nap and lots of driving *may* have tainted the toddler mood. (It definitely did.)

But, Saturday was darn near perfect. We decided to just go slow. Scott had spent so much of Friday carrying Margo (who didn’t nap! Did I forget to mention that?) and he was pretty spent too. We took the metro to see the White House. Margo kept talking about how we were going to see Obama in Washington DC, we couldn’t miss it. Obviously, didn’t see Obama or even get to go in the White House, but it was pretty fun to see it! We walked (meandered) past the Washington Monument to the Smithsonian (didn’t open til 10! Whaaat?) It was a gorgeous fall day… & we were in full parent papparazzi form and got like a bajillion pics.

We also visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This might be my most very favorite museum experience ever… she was so excited about the dinosaur bones and they have a really awesome exhibit of stuffed animals.

Awesome, awesome butterfly house too. You had to pay for it, but it was so worth it for the concentration of butterflies. I’ve been to my share of butterfly houses (*humblebrag*) and I’ve never been so close to them. We were all in a great mood, it was a really awesome museum for her at this age and given her interests (animals and dinos being in the top 5.) We also went a little nuts in the gift shop. What can I say, I love a museum gift shop… We had lunch at the cafe there. Um, holy yummy food. I was shocked… I had a roasted eggplant sandwich and a cupcake. Much more than the hot dog/chicken fingers you’d expect.

I think I’m left feeling torn between wishing we’d had more quality time to do stuff (we didn’t even see half of the Natural History Museum) and being so thankful for what we did get to do. It was awesome family time. We stayed in a hotel in Arlington, and we weren’t particularly close to a metro stop (the “shovel” had to take us there. “Shuttle” for those of you who don’t speak Margo.) We ended up spending our evenings in Arlington/Pentagon City & eating nearby… nothing special.

BUT! Scott is going back to DC for a work trip later this month and Margo and I are most likely tagging along. I’m totally excited to do it all again – with energy! – and also have a nicer, closer (FREE) hotel. Potentially want to hit the zoo (if it’s not terribly cold), American History Museum (first lady gowns! weee!) and, probably Natural History again (we missed the whole buggie exhibit, after all…)

And one of my most very favorite pictures ever: