Thursday, December 31, 2020

Books I Read (Dec)

Total Books Read for December: 2

Bring my 2020 total to a measly 20. 
5 of those 20 were read in January alone, 
meaning I read 15 books in 11 months. 

BUT I also had a baby 
and was navigating a global pandemic, 
so I'm certainly cutting myself some slack. 

 

Wild Game 
By Adrienne Brodeur

This is a beautifully written book, like poetry. 
But the characters greatly annoyed me
and I had a hard time going back to read it 
because I felt so annoyed at the characters. 

About halfway through, however, 
my annoyance faded 
and instead I felt consumed by the story. 
The tumultuous, trainwreck story. 
And the end, the end was truly beautiful. 



Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake 
By Anna Quindlen

This book is like a warm hug. 
A beautiful, smart book 
that I thoroughly enjoyed reading 
and looked forward to picking up at the end of a long day. 

It's like a big fuzzy chair 
that envelops you when you are exhausted 
from being on your feet all day. 

How many cozy descriptors can I come up with? 




Monday, December 21, 2020

20 Questions

 Natasha did another survey so of course I must copy. 
And then Allena did it too
Also using this to sprinkle in more photoshoot photos!


1. Introvert or Extrovert? 

I once tested at 98% extrovert. 
I thrive off of spending time with people 
and I'm totally energized by big parties.
 (Versus Introvert Adam, who is exhausted by people and parties.)  
All that said, I really do enjoy my alone time 
and have not minded being trapped in the house with COVID. 
In fact, I've questioned if I'm more of an introvert than I thought? 



2. Favorite Movie? 

Ben Hur, circa 1959 with Charlton Heston. 
I have had a crush on young Charlton Heston my whole life. 
(For a hilarious recap of my crush history, see this post here.) 



3. Arrive early or late?  

I MUST BE EARLY or right on time. 
I am totally a basket case if I'm late. 


4. Last book you read? 

Wild Game 




5. Favorite Holiday? 

Christmas 100%. 
I love Christmas. 
I love the music, the decorations, 
the presents, the food... 
everything. 




6. Pet Peeve:

I have so so so many pet peeves
I am easily annoyed. 

Here's a smattering of some recent ones... 
People who treat pets like children, 
not clearing the microwave after done cooking, 
people who complain about problems 
but then make no effort to fix them, 
homeowners not salting/shoveling sidewalks, 
people who are late, 
and many many more. 



7. Foods you refuse to eat:

Eggs. 
Avocado.  
Mint (except in toothpaste). 


8. Favorite Fast Food Chain: 

Arby's. 
Arby's makes me so damn sick. 
But I love those roast beef sandwiches and curly fries. 
I eat it every 5 years or so because I get so sick from it. 


When Aaron was 3,
he asked for burgers for dinner. 
I replied "Sorry, we don't have any meat in the house." 
Aaron: "Why don't we go to Arby's?" 
Me: "Uh... what?" 
(Reminder: we had not been to Arby's in his lifetime
Aaron: "I saw it on a football commercial. They have the meats!" 


9. How do you keep fit? 

I run. 
I have been a runner for over a decade. 
The farthest I've run at one time is 16 miles, 
when I was training for the Philadelphia Marathon 
(before my knee gave out). 

I don't always love running. 
Sometimes I set out for a run 
and I'm not into it either physically or mentally; 
my legs feel like concrete and it's just miserable. 

Most times my runs are just "decent," 
not good or bad. 

And sometimes, I find that elusive runner's high, 
where I barely notice my legs carrying me, 
and I feel like I'm flying. 
I have, after checking that no one is watching
stretched out my arms like a bird, 
soaring on the runner's high. 
At a peak runner's high is when every runner 
thinks he/she can sign up for a big race,  
like 10-milers or marathons, 
totally unaware that the runner's high
never actually hits during the race. 

I also do yoga, 
but that's to offset the running. 
Running is brutal on any body 
and my body needs deep stretching to recover. 


10. Morning person or night person? 

I am a morning person. 
I love getting up early and getting stuff accomplished. 
A productive morning is deeply satisfying to me. 

I enjoy nighttime, but nighttime is for fun. 
Nighttime is for drinking and socialization 
or snuggling up and reading. 


11. Favorite drink? 

Alcoholic drink: Mimosa. 
Nonalcoholic hot drink: Hot chocolate. 
Nonalcoholic cold drink: Kombucha.


12. Irrational fear? 

Flying.  
It is well documented that I am batshit terrified of flying. 
I still fly, 
but with lorazepam and wine. 


13. Go-to snack? 

This changes monthly. 
I am the type of person to eat the same thing for weeks 
then never eat it again for years
Right now my go-to healthy snack is a basic apple. 
My go-to unhealthy snack is chocolate covered pretzels. 


14. Strongest Sense?  

Smell. 
I can smell things no one else smells. 
I can run by a house and know that the inhabitants smoke pot. 
I can smell salmon for days after it is cooked. 

My eyesight is also pretty good, too. 
I used to have 20/15 vision, 
but a decade of staring at screens has reduced my eyesight to 20/20. 

Fun fact, my worst sense is hearing. 
I probably should have a hearing aid. 
I am notorious for asking for people to repeat things, 
often three or four times. 
It drives Adam NUTS. 


15. Fictional Place You'd Like to Visit? 

Diagon Alley first, 
St Mungo's second, 
and Hogwarts third. 



16. Kindle or Actual Book? 

Forever books. 
I love the feel of a book. 
I can describe to you the thickness 
and the texture 
of my favorite books. 


17. Last Movie you Went to see in Theaters? 

I did a lot of digging to figure this out. 
Originally I thought it was The Last Jedi (Dec 2017) 
then knew I took Aaron to Smallfoot (Fall 2018) 
then realized I did see the latest Star Wars movie, 
The Rise of Skywalker, and that was Dec 2019. 
Obviously haven't gone to theaters in 2020. 



18. Favorite season? 

Spring. 
I LOVE when the earth wakes up after a cold winter. 
I love the flowers bursting out of the ground. 
I love watching the green leaves spread over the trees. 
I love the freedom of shedding jackets and sweatshirts. 
I love that the kids can get wet from streams and water fountains, 
and not worry if they'll freeze to death. 




19. Beach or mountain? 

Eh, I'm indifferent. 
They each have their pros and cons. 
I love the cool mountain air 
and all the hiking trails. 
I also love jumping ocean waves 
and eating ice cream on the boardwalk. 


20. Favorite cereal? 

Cheerios. 
Plain old General Mills cheerios. 
Cheerios is a comfort food to me. 
When I'm sick, I eat cheerios. 
Because it's so bland, 
it can also tolerate different milks. 
I've been testing out dairy alternatives (most are crap)
and now use Elmhurst "milked cashews" in my smoothies. 
Cheerios, IMO, is the only cereal that works with nut milk.



Thursday, December 3, 2020

Life Lately

I will admit: 
I decided to write this blog post 
because my sister did a photoshoot for us 
and I wanted an excuse to post some photos. 
If you are in the capital region of NY 
and looking for a photographer, 
her website is here

A collection of random things in our life lately... 


1) Adam is once again working full-time from home.  

He started back in the office 2 days a week in the fall 
then his company really pushed to get everyone in full time, 
so he moved to 4 days a week in November. 
Over Thanksgiving, PA governor announced 
"mandatory work from home unless impossible." 
So he's back home!

There are some annoying things about Adam working from home:
I have to be more conscious of Carson's crying 
(the office/nursery share a very thin wall). 
I lose my serene office space 
and am relegated to the dining room table. 

But the pros outweigh the cons. 
When he's having a slow day, 
he can come downstairs and hang out with us. 
We eat dinner earlier at night, because he's not commuting home. 
And, best for my sanity, I'm NOT CHAINED to the house; 
I can leave Aaron home doing virtual school 
while I take Carson & Oliver out! 

Adam and Aaron twinning for the photoshoot


2) Two-Week School Break/Virtual

Both Aaron and Oliver's schools were closed 
for in-person learning
 for 2 weeks around Thanksgiving. 
For Oliver, this was just a 2-week break 
and for Aaron, this was 2-week virtual. 

I did not think Aaron would be returning, 
and am SHOCKED to report that they are both 
going back on December 7th. 
Aaron will continue to be in 2-day hybrid.
Oliver's Nature Preschool will stay open unless there is a mandate 
from either governor or the city of Philadelphia. 



3) Carson is 10 months old. 

He is turning into such a chill baby. 
After a colic-y entrance into the world, 
Carson has finally found his spot as third child. 
His sleep schedule is fairly predicable, 
he eats almost anything, 
he's extremely portable out-and-about, 
and any fussiness can be solved 
by food, bath, or being held in the carrier. 



Equally important as the above...

4) My new luxury obsession.
 
I bought these towels on Black Friday 
and they may be my favorite thing I've ever bought. 

I feel like I'm in a spa. 
They are plush but not too thick, 
absorbent but still soft. 

I never thought I'd fall for luxury linens 
but I've fallen hard. 


5) Are you a monster like me?

Do you know someone who only eats the cookie dough 
out of the cookie dough ice cream container? 
Leaving little craters like swiss cheese?  

I am that monster. 
Adam refuses to buy cookie dough ice cream 
because he knows how horrible of a person I am. 

If you, too, are that monster, 
let me introduce you to Ben & Jerry's Cookie Dough Bites
Available in the frozen section, 
they taste JUST LIKE the ice cream version. 
I'm obsessed 
and I want you to be obsessed too. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

Books I Read (Nov)

 Total Books Read for Nov: 2


The Day the World Came to Town: 
9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland 
By Jim Defede

This is a heart-warming book, 
great for lifting your spirits about humanity. 
It's about the planes stranded in a tiny town on 9/11 
when the US airspace was shut down 
and how all the townspeople rallied to go above and beyond caring for the passengers. 

Again, really heart-warming. 
(Perfect for Election Week stress!)
The only problem is that it's a really dry read 
and didn't hold my attention for more than 30 minutes. 
There are also a lots of different characters 
(some you meet once and some reoccur) 
and I found it near impossible to keep track of them. 



A Very Punchable Face: 
A Memoir
By Colin Jost 

If you watch/enjoy SNL, definitely read this. 
If not, skip it. 

There's a lot of truly hilarious stories 
but I think they are only hilarious 
because I can hear him telling them in his SNL voice. 


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A COVID Conservative Thanksgiving

 "When you are driving on a highway, 
anyone going slower than you is an idiot 
and anyone going faster than you is an idiot.


This applies to many areas of life. 
But I think it fits best with COVID. 

There are "COVID conservative" people, 
who are extra cautious 
and, to many of us, border on neurotic. 

Then there are "COVID progressive" people, 
who are less cautious 
and, to many of us, border on reckless. 

I try my best to not judge people's COVID highway driving. 
Except, of course, for the really reckless, 
like mask-less indoor gatherings 
then I judge judge judge. 


For Thanksgiving, our family switched our COVID driving lane. 

I wrote about our plans a week ago
to get together with my immediate family on Thursday 
and then Adam's immediate family on Friday. 

Some people would say this plan was 
"reckless COVID driving" 
but to us it was :
 "oh it's just our immediate family, so we're good!


Then Carson got a fever
and at the same time, 
people we knew personally started testing positive. 

On a telehealth call with our pediatrician, 
I asked about thanksgiving. 
Her response: 
"Absolutely 100% you should not be 
getting together with ANYONE for Thanksgiving. 
Baby fever OR NOT. 
You should have never had these plans to begin with.

The judgment was literally SEETHING through my screen. 

Sick baby judging our Thanksgiving plans


We canceled all our Thanksgiving plans 
and are now having a quiet 4-day weekend at home, 
just the 5 of us and our last-second 11 lbs turkey. 
I have never cooked a turkey in my life 
and I don't even know how it'll work in my 1966 oven. 
All I care about are the drippings to make gravy; 
if the turkey itself is inedible, I don't really care. 


I think we'll be driving in the COVID conservative lane 
for the rest of November 
and maybe into December. 
I am mentally preparing now for an only-us Christmas. 
I'm of course bummed, 
but I'm trying to focus on the positives, 
like a cozy relaxing holiday, 
with less food prep and more reading time. 


I hope all of you have a good Thanksgiving. 
(Natasha, switch this to holiday planning!) 

If it's a COVID progressive Thanksgiving, 
be safe. 
If it's a COVID conservative Thanksgiving, 
this won't last forever!

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thanksgiving Preview

 I can't decide if this is more like a survey 
or more like a recap 
but I'm pretending it's a survey 
because I don't care for recaps. 

Let's talk Thanksgiving!

Image from here


1. Favorite Thanksgiving Traditions? 

This is terribly cliché, 
but I love the tradition of getting together with family. 
For the last 7+ years (maybe more but I forget), 
Thanksgiving has been about the same. 

Thanksgiving day is lunch at my parents' house, 
always including my uncle and his husband, 
and then an assortment of other family 
(some years big, some years small). 

Adam's family's Thanksgiving is dinner on Friday.  
It used to be Thursday evening 
but that conflicted with his sister's in-laws.
On one hand, I am a little annoyed 
that it imposes on my Black Friday traditions 
(more on that below) 
but it is super nice to not have two enormous meals in one day. 

Thanksgiving 2019: hugely pregnant


2. Favorite Thanksgiving Dish?  
Will you share the recipe? 

I do not have one favorite, 
I have a plate. 
A very specific plate. 
And it must include very specific elements. 

Turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes 
all piled together in an indistinguishable mush, 
then absolutely drenched in my dad's 
homemade thick, luscious gravy. 

I guess you could say the gravy is my favorite dish 
(I have licked it out of the pan on many occasions) 
but the gravy shines best when accompanied 
by an enormous pile of thanksgiving mush. 


3. Football game?  
Yes/No?  
In person? 
On TV? 

Even though we are a family that loves football, 
we have never turned on the TV at my parent's thanksgiving. 
(Sundays are the sacred football days.)

At Adam's parents' house, the football game is usually on 
but as a background noise, 
rather like a Thanksgiving soundtrack. 


4. Talking Turkey - white meat or dark meat? 

Dark meat fresh, 
white meat leftover. 
Dark meat tastes funny when reheated; 
I can't explain why but it does. 

Also, I generally only eat turkey when in the mush plate mentioned above. 
I'm not big on meat, 
so turkey by itself holds little appeal. 


5. Do you call it stuffing or dressing

Stuffing.
 
And I have a controversial take. 
I have tried many people's stuffings; 
my mother-in-law makes a stuffing 
that people rave about all year long. 
And it's very good!  No denying that!
But my favorite stuffing of all time?
 
Stouffer's boxed stuffing. 


6. Tell us 3 things you are thankful for in this crazy COVID Thanksgiving

1. Health. 
So freakin' cliché, I know. 
I'm thankful that my immediate family is healthy 
and that both our parents remain healthy, 
both from COVID itself 
but also as a general health. 
Our four parents all regularly exercise, 
eat very healthy diets, 
and take care of themselves. 
No one is overweight
 or suffering heart problems 
or any other major health issues. 
No one has any ailments that make them more susceptible to COVID complications.

2. The nature opportunities in our area. 
Fall and spring are my favorite times to be outside 
and this fall we have been gifted with beautiful weather 
and gorgeous colorful trees. 
Despite it being a major metropolis, 
the Philadelphia area is just bursting with nature trails, 
and I love that we still have so many places to explore. 

3. Extra gravy. 
We won't have my uncle and his husband this year 
(COVID travel restrictions) 
and my sister may not make it down from NY, 
but the less people means more leftovers of my dad's gravy, 
and I'll take that that silver lining.  

Thanksgiving 2017


7. Pumpkin Pie? Apple pie? Pecan pie?

I do not like pumpkin pie. 
I do enjoy a good apple pie and pecan pie, 
and I lovveeee this pecan chocolate pie


8. If you celebrate Christmas, 
do you put up your tree before or after Thanksgiving? 

The Christmas tree goes up on Black Friday. 
That is my Black Friday tradition and I'm very strict about it. 
Other than a brief hour or two on the computer in the morning, 
I spend the entire day making my house look like 
Christmas (and a little Hanukkah) vomited all over it. 
Example here


9. Back Friday shopper, yes or no? 

Yes, but only online. 
 I use the barrage of sales to spend less money on gifts
I have a spreadsheet gift list that I prepare every year 
(yes, a spreadsheet, I LOVE SPREADSHEETS) 
and when Black Friday arrives, 
I go through my spreadsheet checking every gift against the website sales. 
If something is on sale, I snatch it up. 
Otherwise, I wait until Cyber Monday. 
And if it's still not on sale for Cyber Monday, 
I buy it full price a few days later. 


10. Do you sit at the table for Thanksgiving dinner or dine more casually?

Both of our families have always sat at a table. 
I never in my life have had a casual dining experience 
and I am sort of repulsed by the idea? 



Thursday, November 12, 2020

Hybrid School

 We are in our 4th week of hybrid! 
I thought hybrid would be a shitshow but, once again, 
the fabulous teachers have shown they can handle anything
I should never have doubted them. 


How It Works

Students in hybrid are 2 days in-person, 3 days virtual. 
Parents pick their days, 
so some students attend in-person on Mon/Wed 
and others attend Tues/Thurs. 
Everyone is virtual on Friday. 

The all-virtual option remains available too 
and many kids are signed up for that as well. 

Whether hybrid or virtual, school is synchronous 4.5 days a week. 
Meaning, the teacher in the classroom 
is teaching the in-person kids 
as well as the virtual kids via smartboard interaction
(both hybrid-virtual and all-virtual). 

In person, everyone wears masks all the time 
(including outdoor recess) 
unless eating lunch, 
where they are spaced out 6 feet across the cafeteria. 


Things I Didn't Expect

1) Classrooms are really uneven in their ratio of hybrid to virtual. 

Example: 

Mrs H's classroom has 11 students in-person MW, 
9 students in-person T/Th 
and only 1 student all-virtual. 

Mrs M's classroom has 2 students in-person MW, 
6 students in-person T/Th, 
and then 12 students all-virtual. 

Aaron's class has 5 students in-person MW (Aaron included), 
 5 students in-person T/Th, 
and 11 students all-virtual. 


2) The kids have to bring EVERYTHING back and forth to in-person. 
Every book, every pencil, 
every laptop and charger cord. 
WHEW. 

To accommodate, Aaron travels with both a rolling backpack 
and his usual school backpack. 
He's going to have Popeye arms at the end of the year. 




COVID Positives

The school district has had a handful of positive tests. 
Each school building in our district has had 
at least 1 student and 1 teacher. 
(7 buildings total: 5 elementary, 1 middle, 1 HS)

When anyone tests positive, 
the in-person classmates and teacher 
are all quarantined at home for 14 days 
(still teaching/learning, just all virtual). 

COVID tests can have a false negative 
(especially in the first few days), 
so it's advised to quarantine for 14 days 
even with a negative test. 
Sounds like overkill, I know,
but if that's what it takes to keep the kids in school, 
I'm all for it. 
(Easy to say when we aren't the ones quarantining!)

GOOD NEWS: the school safety protocols are working. 
While people are testing positive (as was inevitable), 
the transmission is all outside of school. 
For example, several students got it from their dance studio. 
There has been zero classroom transmission in school. 
No positive student or teacher has passed COVID to any in their class. 


How's It Going

Surprisingly well. 

Aaron really likes the variety of in-person and at-home. 
He loves seeing friends at school 
but also loves being home without a mask all day. 

I enjoy it, too. 
I get a break from Aaron 
but I still get to listen in on his life at school on the days he's home. 


Our Weekly Schedule

Mondays & Wednesdays

Aaron is away at school 9am-3pm. 
Oliver is away at school 9am-12:30pm. 

During Carson's morning nap (usually 9:30-11) 
I try to accomplish at least *one* house project. 
Doesn't have to be a big one, 
but just something to give me a sense of accomplishment. 

Tuesday

We are all home. 
I spend Carson's morning nap hanging with Oliver. 
We play games and read books together. 

Thursday

My dad comes over. 
Usually he takes Oliver out on some sort of outdoor adventure. 
Sometimes he'll stay home with Aaron 
and I'll take Oliver to the zoo. 



Friday

Aaron is home and synchronous for the morning only. 
Oliver is away at school until 12:30. 
I like having Aaron's classmate Elizabeth (fake name) 
over at our house on Fridays. 
They can have school together in the morning 
then play all afternoon. 

***

I expect we'll continue like this for the rest of the school year 
and I'm quite ok with that. 
Now, I wouldn't want this for Oliver in kindergarten next fall, 
but we have a backup plan in the works for that.