So It Begins

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I started back up at work on Monday.  This year, I don’t know, felt different – in a good way.  I don’t know if I was just feeling especially good after having finally gotten the house under control, or that I was feeling particularly rejuvenated after actually getting up with my alarm, having a nice shower, and having time to apply makeup and eat a decent breakfast (while listening to one of my favorite podcasts), for once.

But whatever it was, I just felt, I don’t know… on.  Like, on form; sociable, confident, relaxed (or at least as relaxed as I ever get, which, granted, is several notches above baseline for most people).  I felt productive, I felt connected to the students and staff, and conversation was fun and fluid, all of which are often challenges for me.  I don’t know if it was my resolve to start changing these things about myself, or the scaffolding I put in place to make the mornings (and subsequently, rest of the day) run more smoothly, but whatever it was, it apparently worked.  It was a great first few days back.

And I am so, so glad I have a four day weekend, because damned if that shizz didn’t drain all my energy.

But I feel good.  I feel like things on the job front have gotten off to a good, fresh start, and I’m happy to return Tuesday to my new assignment, and to resume my vocational duties (one of my favorite parts of my job) later in September.  And it leaves me free to divert the energy expended on school prep the last few weeks back to things like creating and maintaining a managable schedule for my hobby time, and for my weight management (both of which fell by the wayside – again – in the last few weeks).

To those of you fellow educators recently returned to work, I hope you likewise had a smooth transition back to the daily grind.  To those parents sending their kids back to school after the summer, we are ready for them.

2 down, 178 to go.

Sense Memories

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Let’s be real:  with a pre-schooler, some of the only guaranteed “me” moments I get, I get in the bathroom.  If I sometimes take a little longer than necessary to indulge and get some damn reading time in, sue me.

Generally, it’s on my phone; it’s 2018, and I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Insta, and I’ve got this blog, obvs, plus e-mail, Buzzfeed, and about a dozen other time-wasting sites in my phone’s bookmarks.  But every once in a while, I go old school.

My folks, who are in their mid-60s, are old-school when it comes to bathroom reading. They still have magazine subscriptions, and still keep back issues in the bathroom.  I was flipping through one a couple of days ago – an old (like, 2016) issue of Reader’s Digest, which has been a staple in my folks’ house since I was a child.  One of the features in this issue was a Reader’s Question: what sound best encapsulates your childhood?

There were a variety of answers – the sound of playing cards in the spokes of a bike, the sound of chocolate milk being slurped with a straw, the sound of shuffling cards and rolling dice.

I started thinking; I don’t think I have a particular sound that fully encapsulates my childhood, but there are so many other lingering, powerful sense memories that harken back to the weirdest, most obscure moments or times in my life, but a lot of the recollections are likewise sensory snapshots, not narratives:

Mandarin Orange Body Spray, Unknown Brand
Late summers, early college; eighteen or nineteen years old.  My cousin Nikki practically lived with us; there were few weekends where she couldn’t be found camping out at our house.  During one stay, she forgot a bottle of mandarin orange body spray that I loved because it was warm and floral and spicy, all at once.  My sister and I sprayed it on our pillows before Nikki finally reclaimed it, and sometimes I can still smell it – 1 am, watching shounen-ai anime on VHS, camped out in the living room.  Matresses and sleeping bags lined up on the floor.  We had notebooks with hand-written RPG-style stories that we passed around, and hidden word documents with thousands of words of yaoi and slash fic that we wrote.  Listening to the Queer As Folk and Velvet Goldmine soundtracks, and watching Dragonball Z at midnight.  I sometimes wonder if there’s any chance Nikki’d remember what brand it was, or if it’s still made, but we’re talking almost twenty years ago, so I’m not especially hopeful.

Land O’ Lakes Flavored Hot Chocolate
Christmas.  Always, always Christmas, and Christmas break.  Christmas Eve, standing in the doorway to the bathroom in my bathrobe and tights while my mom curled her hair.  The Animaniacs “Little Drummer Boy” segment. Playing Five Minute Mysteries while we waited for my parents to be ready to go out.  The faerie-light illuminated drive to my Aunt’s house, the holiday themed riddles and brainteasers that we always played.  Novelty Christmas songs.  Snowflakes that melted on the windshield before the wipers could wipe them away.  Late nights, watching the snow fall.  Waking up on Christmas morning at 3am, the house quiet.  Sneaking into the living room to explore untold treasures.  An old, creaky pull-out couch (with a bar that absolutely killed your back if you didn’t lay on it just the right way), watching old episodes of Beavis and Butthead, and the music video for Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”   For some reason – and I haven’t actually had any of it in years and years – I occasionally crave the Chocolate Raspberry one, even though I feel like at the time, it was not one of my favorites.

“Stars,” from Les Miserables
Summer, age fifteen.  Calisto and Caslon Antique fonts.  Writing late at night and feeling completely creatively unfettered for one of the first and last times ever.  Self-insert fanfics where I am completely inappropriately cast as the romantic interest.  My sister and I drawing fanart for our own stories, multiple illustrations over multiple chapters.  Kate M’s “Uncharted Stars,” and La Javert’s Flying Homepage.  Sitting outside after midnight and sharing headphones.  Drinking tea and watching soft-core pulp films on Showtime.  Trolling the AOL Playbill theatre forums and making fast friends with anyone under eighteen.  Handwritten letters and elaborately decorated envelopes.  Cassette tapes mailed halfway across the country where we talked and sang and played If-Cubed.  The echo function on Nikki’s karaoke machine, and the theme song to VeggieTales.  Videos filmed on an on-loan camcorder that weighed nearly as much as we did.  Nikki as Little Cosette, eyeshadow smudged like dirt on her cheeks.

What are some things – a taste, a sound, a flavor – that bring back memories, whether they are full narratives with a distinct plot arc, or likewise hazy snippets of visceral sensory recollections.  What conjures up something you thought you’d long since forgot?

So Long Luvs: The Last Diaper

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Tonight, I put our last diaper on my son.

He’s been using the potty successfully for weeks now; since the end of May, more or less, though I’ve been hesitant to write about it because, hey, I don’t tempt fate – the second I get too cocky about it is the second he turns around and decides he actually kind of misses not having to get up to use the potty and missing the end of Peppa Pig, and boom, he’s made a liar out of me and we’re back to square one.

But it’s been long enough now that I feel confident saying it – our son is potty trained.  He can tell us he needs to use the potty, he can hold it a reasonable amount of time (should we be out and about, away from an immediately viable toilet), and he can wash and dry his hands more-or-less independently afterwards.

In fact, he recently started peeing “like a MAN!” (his words), which has been great, in that lifting him up and having to basically hold him on the toilet when were are anywhere other than home (and away from his Elmo potty adapter seat) has gotten increasingly difficult as he’s gotten increasingly bigger.  It’s also a disaster that has resulted in a lot of internal screaming as I watch him touch public toilet seats to steady himself mid-stream, and one bathroom at home that just, like, has a sheen of pee on it.  Just, a fine misting of pee, airbrushed on the walls.  You know, for a gloss effect.

While he’s actually been night-dry for longer than he’s been day-dry, last week saw a run of three or four night where he had nightmares, two of which resulted in a wet bed, so we decided, more to give our washer a rest than anything else, we’d put him in diapers at night.  I mean, we still had some left – not enough to be a viable gift or donation, but far too many to throw away – so we might as well use them.

And tonight I used the last one.

There was a long stretch of time where I was terrified I was never going to get Bear potty-trained- I was honestly afraid he’d be walking into first grade still in pull-ups.  And I felt like it was going to be my fault.

I have trouble regulating my own needs – I forget to eat, forget to shower, stay up way later than I should because I get sucked into these rabbit holes of Special Interests and General Bullcrap and totally lose track of time – and here I was reading articles about how to potty train your kids by literally taking sitting them on the potty every fifteen minutes essentially around the clock (with a scheduled night-time potty trip where I’d have to wake my child up, are you friggin kidding me??)

But even barring my neuro issues, and even barring the super intense three-day potty training regime, I didn’t know how I would ever be able to implement a regular enough schedule to successfully train him.  I work, as does my husband.  My mom, who watches my son while my husband and I work, wanted to support our potty training efforts, but she’s physically impaired, and also cares for between two and four other kids during the day.  She’s capable of caring for my son and keeping him safe, but there was no way she’d be able to devote the time needed to keep up whatever potty-training regime we conjured up.

But you know what we could do, and did do?  We made the potty accessible – it was in the corner of the kitchen when we started, so he could get to it himself, without having to alert us or try to open the bathroom door by himself.  We checked in with him every  20 or 30 or 45 minutes or so – we didn’t time it, just when it seemed to make sense – and offered him the potty.  And in the morning, every morning, we sat him on it.

And what do you know?  At some point it clicked.  At some point, he started telling us, albeit it generally as pee trickled down his leg, that he needed the potty.  I mean, there was a learning curve, but hey, it was progress.  He was getting somewhere.

And after that, it was almost like a switch flipped.  Suddenly, he was sick of sitting in wet, dirty diapers – he wanted to use the potty.  That’s something that was so, so key – he wanted to make this change, and when he wanted it, all we had to do was make it accessible for him and encourage and praise him for it.  Our actual, direct involvement, was quite minimal, honestly.

And so tonight we put him in our last diaper.  Probably the last great milestone of the pre-school years – he can already walk and talk, he can dress himself (more or less),  he grabs and totally unpeels his own Babybel cheeses, and he opens and inserts the straw into his own juice boxes.  My husband and I will soon be rendered obsolete.

It’s a sweet moment.  I spend so, so much time marveling how this amazing little person could possibly be the same tiny potato I brought home from the hospital less than four years ago who relied on me for literally everything  – everything – just to survive.

But right now, I’m mostly marveling at not having to scrape poop off a screaming pre-schooler’s butt anymore.  That’s pretty sweet, too.

Friday, Fri-yay: August 24th, 2018

& (1)It’s my last Friday before they, like, actually start meaning something again.  Honestly.  I meet the end and the beginning of the school year with equally mixed feelings – on the one hand, I feel better with a schedule and a routine, and I kinda sorta have to have one foisted on to me, because I suck at self-regulating.  But at the same time, I miss late nights to myself, staying up late reading fanfic, or doodling, or Facebook messaging stupid memes to my sister.  I miss pool parties and beach days and not having to cart a 30lb. coat everywhere, and not taking an hour to get all Bear’s snow gear on in the morning.

But – fall is pumpkin spice and apple-picking and cinnamon scented candles and taking Bear trick-or-treating and having weekend crafternoons where I serve finger foods and hot apple cider, you know?  And on top of that, I get a routine.  So, yeah.  Sad to see summer go, but I am pretty ready for fall.

And so much is happening!  I literally already have myself booked through September, and we still have a week of August left.  No clue how that happened.

Anyway, this week:

I guess the first big “yay” is just having such a busy schedule the next few weeks – getting back into the routine and the daily grind is always easier when I know I have non-work fun stuff to look forward too.  This includes a festival and a party tomorrow, a local feast/street festival next Friday, a trip to Connecticut next Sat., a pool party next Sunday, and a birthday party on Labor Day proper.  Throw a few more events in there throughout the month, and then cap the month off with both Welcome to Night Vale Live and Hamilton.  September will be busy.

Second, Pumpkin Spice Lattes are back on August 28th.  Yeah, roll your eyes ;it’s over-hyped, it’s so cliche, yada yada yada.  I’m too old to either feign ironic interest in things I genuinely enjoy or pretend to be somehow “above” stuff that I like.  I love lattes, and I love pumpkin spice.  Call me basic.  I’ll be over here sipping my delicious damn drink (also, for further exploration into how you’re not better than me – and almost certainly have your own PSL – see Jim Gaffigan’s McDonalds bit).

Third, Barefoot wine has a sweet red blend that has been the jewel of my evenings this past week.  It’s been a while since I branched out from reisling or moscato, and it was worth it.

Anyway, it’s later on Friday than I’d wanted to get this out, but I got it out – ha ha ha!  Take that, crappy executive functioning!  What’s been good in your week?

Bear’s Weekly Book Haul: August 24th, 2018

Bear's book haulWell, here we are, end of summer.  I start back up at work on Monday (more on that later, I’m sure), and after Labor Day, out library resumes it’s regular hours.  We’ll probably retain our Wednesday schedule when it comes to taking out books, but with the library resuming it’s weekend hours, that opens up the possibility of being able to take Bear to other programming – our library has some nice story time, read-aloud, and craft programming for younger kids, so that’ll be nice.

Ugh. there’s a lot of things I’m looking forward to about fall.  But that’s literally another blog post.

Anyway, last week’s clear winner was undeniably Poor Louie, by Tony Fucile.

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Tony Fucile has spent a great deal of his professional career in animation, including work on The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, which I think is really obvious in the style of this book (more Iron Giant than Incredibles, honestly).  The drawings were adorable, and it was a sweet take on a story trope that’s been done before (big sibling – fur sibling, in this case – feels displaced and lonely with the impending birth of the younger sibling).  Bear is very, very firmly an only child, but I bet this would be a nice book to read to older-siblings-to-be.  Bear really enjoyed how evocative and emotive Louie was, and loved giggling at his faces while he walked in the rain as was “tortured” by babies.  And, of course, he loved yelling “POOR LOUIE!” every couple of pages.

This week’s batch was chosen by Bear’s dad.

Morris Mole, by Dan Yaccarino:  “Meet Morris Mole—he has always been a little bit different. When the moles are running low on food, it’s up to clever Morris to save the day. With a little help from an unexpected friend and a lot of digging, Morris learns that even the smallest creatures can do big things.”

Come to the Fairies Ball, by Jane Yolen:  “All the fairies are excited to be invited to the King’s ball, except for one young fairy whose only party dress is in tatters, but some wise words from the resident ants help her be all she can be.”

Any Questions?, by Marie-Louise Gay:  “Many children want to know where stories come from and how a book is made. Marie-Louise Gay’s new picture book provides them with some delightfully inspiring answers through a fictional encounter between an author and some very curious children — together they collaborate on writing and illustrating a story.”

The Only Child, by Guojing:  “A little girl—lost and alone—follows a mysterious stag deep into the woods, and, like Alice down the rabbit hole, she finds herself in a strange and wondrous world. But… home and family are very far away. How will she get back there?”

Drawn Together, by Mihn Le:  “When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.”

That’s all for this week.  As always, if you have an recomendations for books for us to read together – or emerging reader books that Bear can start looking at on his own – leave it down in the comments!

Manic Energy

I’m having one of those days where I want to take on everything, but wind up doing nothing.  That stagnation that results from having too many things to do rather than nothing at all.

Today hasn’t been a total bust; I’ve wrapped up a few small projects and got brainstorming on a few others.  But I’m ping-ponging around from one to the other like crazy – I get no sustained momentum on any of them, just fits and spurts and sudden bursts of activity for each one in succession.

Every once in a while I have to get up and pace, because I’ve lost focus, but not drive.  It’s maddening.

Sometimes I think these moments would be less frustrating if I had an infinite (well, infinite-within-our-finiteness) well of time from which to draw.  If I had no other obligations – no job to get to, no chores to do – then I could just ricochet endlessly from project to project and maybe, eventually, see some of them through to fruition.

I guess I’ll never know.

 

Reclaiming Creativity: Bucket Lists and Mail Art

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I know that I mentioned in my last bookhaul post that post-vacation, the nascent habits – which, honestly, had very, very little time to really take root – had essentially shriveled and died.  That wasn’t totally unexpected – it was too early in their development for them to survive such a massive upheaval as what wound up being an incredibly whirlwind week 1,300 miles away from home.

That being said, though, all the scaffolding is still here and still in place – I have my checklists, and a household that is still in decent (not perfect, but decent) shape, and there remains no excuse not to just jump back on the bandwagon.  Tonight I go back to my Good Night routine, and tomorrow I’ll wake up to my Good Morning checklist.  I also have a Breakfast, Lunch, and Snack planner (that I haven’t yet posted, but will once I pretty it up  bit) that I plan to start using to get me back on track eating right, and I spent a good chunk of the weekend at the gym.

So – Food and Exercise, back on track.  Habits, on their way back on track.  Cleaning, well, we’re close; we’re getting there.

So now it’s time to try to tackle some Creative stuff.

Ages and ages ago, on a now defunct site known as SuperViva, I was introduced to the idea of Bucket Lists – the things you want to do before you, well, kick the bucket.  Since then, across various services, on various websites, and in various pen-and-paper planner, I’ve been jotting lists of “someday” goals.

And then just, not doing them.  Like, at all.

You know the one time I kept a bucket list and actually made significant progress on several of my goals?  When I kept it on LiveJournal, and had actual people actually reading the entries, seeing the progress (or lack thereof), and holding me accountable.

So I decided to make and post one, here and now.  The link to the bucket list is here (it will also be linked in the nav menu!)  It’s not full of crazy or extraordinary items – just real things, big and small, that I’d like to accomplish or make progress on.

One of the things on that (sure to be ever-growing) list is to send and receive mail from all 50 states – it’s a goal that combines my love for hoarding small trinkets, and for making handmade cards and care packages.  It’s something that’s creatively fulfilling, because I get to mix, match, and make little pieces of art, and emotionally fulfilling because I know the person receiving that mail is going to love receiving a piece of real mail amidst the bills and advertisements.

So I went and resurrected my old profile on my favorite snail mail trading site, and found the first profile that seemed appealing – a woman in Texas who loves stickers, uplifting quotes, elephants, and bullet journalling.

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Relevant recipient info:  favorite animals are elephants and penguins; they love their happy planner and bullet journal, and they like receiving inspirational quotes.  Pictured: personalized card (with penguin/elephant doodle), bujo/planner stickers, color-it-yourself inspirational postcard, double-side typographic art, two sew-on strawberry patches.

It is perhaps not the most artistic or creative piece of mail I’ve ever sent out, but after several years on hiatus, hey, I’m pleased with it.  It got me pawing through my craft stuff (which is the first step towards getting actual ~⋆crafty⋆~ ideas), and I know it will put a smile on the recipient’s face – and honestly, that’s the whole point.

I’ve set up a gallery to collect/document the mail I send and receive – it’s linked through the main navigation menu, and you can also find it here.

Feels good to be doing something creative again.  Hopefully this, like everything else, can be developed into an actual part of my lifestyle, and not just something I keep swearing I’ll do “someday.”