Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Books I Read (September)

 Total Books Read for September: 

My goal was to read 4 this month 
and that just did not happen. 
and my book reading took a hit. 

By Curtis Sittenfeld

It was ok. 
It started strong 
and I liked the ending 
but the middle felt like a vast wasteland 
of teenage emotions. 

I also vacillated between relating to the narrator, 
and absolutely hating her. 

The author wrote another book called "Elligible" 
which I LOVED so much.
(Elligible review here.) 

The Boyfriend Project 
By Farrah Rochon

This book started out with a bang. 
It was so interesting 
and the characters were so engaging. 
I loved it. 

Then in the middle it turned meh 
and, honestly, the ending was kind of blah. 
It wasn't a bad ending at all, 
it just wasn't that spectacular. 
So overall? Eh, decent. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Closet "Makeover"

I'm calling this my Closet "Makeover" 
because it sounds better than 
"I organized my closet 
and here's some crappy pictures to show you!

On Saturday, my parents took the big boys for the day. 
I made a deal with Adam that he could golf all day Sunday 
if he was on Carson duty* all day Saturday. 
That man cannot resist a golf bribe. 

*since Carson does not take a bottle, 
this means my boobs were still on call

My walk-in closet has been bugging me for months. 
It still perfectly fits all my clothes (with room to spare) 
but the storing of "other stuff" did not suit my current lifestyle. 


Those shelves, while handy, were filled with "stuff." 
When we moved in, I didn't need all the shelves so I displayed some childhood trinkets. 
Overtime, as happens to any space, 
I grew to fit the space 
and then grew to overflowing. 

My shoes collection had outgrown it's current storage 
and my purse collection was a mess. 

In Process

Everything out, except hanging clothes, 
because today's purpose was not sorting clothes. 

Swept the floor and vacuumed the baseboards. 

Purse & shoe collection laid out in my bedroom. 
The leather purses and shoes were given a leather treatment, 
hence the rags. 

All the "stuff" on my shelves. 
This took the longest time to go through 
as most of it had lived in my closet since we moved in 4 years ago.  
I asked myself 
"Does THIS absolutely need to be stored in MY closet?
In many cases, the answer was no. 


Turning my shelves into a shoe display 
was an idea I got from Cupcakes and Cashmere
The founder Emily redid her closet (a true makeover!) 
and I loved the idea of letting the shoes stand out, 
since they bring me so much happiness and joy. 

My purses all neat and organized in their protector bags. 

Start to finish, this took me 4 hours. 
3 hours were spent on the closet itself 
and the last hour was finding new, appropriate homes 
for the items that had been evicted. 

A lot of those items went into the donation bin. 

My closet was also home to my breastpumps and supplies 
but with 4 months until Carson turns one, 
I doubt he'll be taking a bottle before pumping becomes obsolete. 
I'm trying to find local women's shelters 
that will accept breast pump motors (I have two!) 
and pumping supplies. 
While breast pumps are [currently] covered by health care, 
there's still many women out there without coverage, 
most of which have to work. 
Additionally, with the Affordable Care Act on the chopping block, 
there's a high risk that breast pumps may not be covered by health insurance soon, 
which means it's even more important that I not toss mine! 

And that, my friends, is my poorly-photographed closet "makeover." 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Life Lately

After the lull of COVID lockdown 
and the sweet summer at the pool, 
September came in like a hurricane. 

First was the big adjustment to Virtual learning (that here), 
then just 4 days after that started, 
we escaped up to the lake for the first time this year, 
spending 10 days basking in the Finger Lakes weather, 
eating too much food and drinking too much wine. 

Then the week we returned, 
Oliver started again at his all-outdoor Nature Preschool
That weekend we celebrated Rosh Hashanah with Adam's family. 
I immediately dove into prepping and tagging 
outgrown baby clothes and equipment 
for a local annual consignment sale. 

On Tuesday I dropped off a giant carload of baby stuff 
so that's done, whew!
(Anything not sold gets donated. 
I don't want it back!) 

We still have Yom Kippur at the end of the month 
but that requires minimal cooking 
since we just order a big "Break the Fast" tray from local deli. 

All that over with, 
I feel like I can finally BREATHE. 

We still don't have a routine in place. 
Almost every day is totally different than the previous. 
For example, on Mondays I drive Aaron to Elizabeth's house 
and drop Oliver at preschool. 
Wednesdays and Fridays, Elizabeth comes to our house 
while Adam takes Oliver to preschool. 
On Thursdays, my dad comes over and sometimes he takes Oliver out 
and sometimes I take Oliver out while my dad stays with Aaron. 

The lack of routine is hard since I thrive on routine. 
It's easier to exercise and eat healthy in a routine. 
But that's just what life is like right now. 
And once we get any resemblance of a routine, 
everything will change again. 
Our School Board voted to return to school on October 19th, 
using the hybrid model previously presented (that here). 

Through all this, I've been trying to prioritize taking care of me
Because as moms, that's usually the first to go: ourselves. 
I've been using my weekly goal journal 
to establish habits and patterns I need to focus on during the week. 

A few things I've focused on

- Drinking all 3 Hydroflasks every day 
(each a different ounce, but adds up to around 80oz

- Going to bed at 9:30pm 
(Carson wakes up between 5:30-6:30am

- Reading a chapter a day, usually before bed
(current book: The Boyfriend Project

- Meditating at least once a week 
(great for when I'm still wired at 9:30pm and need to sleep)

- Yoga at least once a week 
(did my first in-person all-outdoor yoga class

- Running three times a week 
(normal for me)

- Plan my next day's meals the night before 
(prep my morning smoothie, identify fruit to be eaten up, etc

Me dressing for outdoor yoga in 50 degrees

My goal in life used to be just "lose weight" 
but I am learning that as I shift my priorities to other things, 
I am a much happier, healthier person. 
Plus, a well-rested, in-shape, de-stressed Emily 
has a far more motivation to eat healthy, 
than a tired, worn-out Emily. 

I'll end this rather long rambling post 
with a picture of almost-8-months-old Carson. 
He's so chunky. 
He eats everything. 
Salmon! Shrimp! Curry! Zucchini! Broccoli!
Makes me wish I'd been more adventurous with my other kids earlier. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Virtual School

Virtual School: 2nd Grade. 

In some ways it is better than I expected 
and in some ways, worse. 
And I have a confession to make. 
(Did I just turn this into a click bait post? Ugh)

From a technology and curriculum standpoint, 
it's better than I expected. 
The first three days were rough, 
a lot of figuring out where to go
and how to access things 
(what's the code for this program?) , 
but by the 4th day, Aaron was back to being fully self-sufficient. 
Our school uses a combination of Zoom, 
Google classroom, and various online learning apps. 
And I have to say, I'm impressed with how smooth everything flows. 

Our school day is perfectly structured for working parents 
because it's 100% synchronous learning. 
Aka: the teachers guide the kids through everything. 
Zoom is on for 6-hours straight 
with scheduled breaks, lunch, etc being dictated by on-screen timers. 
This is essential for the kids who can't read a clock yet 
and wouldn't know when it's 12:45 to log back in again. 
For individual work, the teachers put the kids into a "waiting room" 
which is like a zoom pause, 
and then can pull them in and out of the waiting room 
for assignments or 1-on-1 time. 

It sounds complicated but it runs so smoothly I'm shocked
If anything, the setup has exceeded my expectations. 

The hard part? 
It's just sad. 

I hadn't originally planned to enter a "pod" 
(grouping school children together). 
I assumed Aaron could be independent just like he had in the spring. 
Halfway through the first day, I knew this was not going to work. 

I can't put my finger on why now feels more isolating than the spring. 
Is it the asynchronous learning versus synchronous? 
 Maybe it was because no one was going anywhere in the spring? 
Either way, I knew this was not sustainable. 

There is a girl (I'll call her Elizabeth) in Aaron's class 
who we've had playdates with over the years. 
I texted a proposal to Elizabeth's parents  
asking if Elizabeth could come to our house a few days a week. 
Elizabeth's parents both work so they jumped at the opportunity. 
We did a trial day and it was MARVELOUS. 
It totally changed the attitude of the virtual day. 
Granted, Aaron is a little more wild and distracted with a friend 
but it's totally worth it. 

Going forward, Elizabeth comes to our house Wednesday & Fridays, 
and Aaron goes to Elizabeth's house on Mondays. 
These are the same days Oliver is in Nature Preschool. 
Tues/Thurs are flex days. 
We are still working through our new routine schedule. 
As I wrote in my Back to School post
I'm trying to keep a very "laissez faire" attitude. 

I definitely wouldn't attempt this with a kid not in Aaron's class. 
(And sadly, none of our pool friends were in his class! 
The downsides to having seven classes to a grade.) 
Elizabeth and Aaron have the same breaks, 
the same lunchtime, same recess, 
the same specialist, 
and the same projects. 
If one kid isn't sure what they are supposed to work on, 
they can turn to the other and clarify. 
It takes all the pressure off me. 

My confession? 

I kind of love it. 

There, I said it. 

I love having a peek into Aaron's daily class. 
I love listening to his teacher, 
who is a rockstar woman of saintlike patience. 
(She is also married to a woman 
and they have a daughter together 
so YAY for diversity!
It's little things, like hearing her call the kids "tiny humans" 
that makes me crack up. 
I love hearing what Aaron (and Elizabeth) have to share. 

And, just like in the spring, I love seeing how smart Aaron is. 
I can peek into the room for math and reading assessments, 
and it blows my mind what he can do. 

I also love the flexibility. 
Like we spontaneously went to the lake for 10 days 
and Aaron was able to do school from there!

So YES, I know that kids will thrive so much better in the school system. 
I know that this setup only works for the most privileged of privileged families
I don't work and my only complaint is being tied to the house. 
Aaron is not special needs so he can excel in any school format. 
We are very privileged.  

So while I know the kids will do better in person, 
I'm taking my little bit of happiness where I can find it. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Back to School

 Natasha posted this Back to School 
and I am, of course, stealing it. 

1. Do you have kids going back to school 
and what does that look like? 
What is your plan?
On Monday, Aaron went back to school (virtually).
Our school is doing 100% virtual until Thanksgiving (Nov 27th) 
and then the plan is to resume in-person instruction 
(although I have zero faith that will happen). 

Oliver will return to his all-outdoor Nature Preschool 
on Wednesday, September 16th. 
He will be in-person, outside per usual, MWF about 3.5 hours a day. 
This is the same as prior years. 
Both his prior year teachers are returning, 
although they are cutting class sizes in half, 
so instead of 2 teachers to 12 kids, 
it'll be 1 teacher to 6 kids.

2. Do you have any current back to school transitions?
Front door photoshoot. 
One picture of the kid in their outfit 
and one picture of the kid (if school age) in their graduation shirt. 

3. Did you have any back to school traditions growing up?
I don't really remember. 
But one year I got a pink princess plastic lunchbox 
(you know the simple box kind) 
and my two friends had the same in purple 
and we were so psyched. 

4. New lunchbox?  New backpack? Both?
I buy cheap character Target backpacks, 
so I have allowed a new one every year. 
Except this year, of course, 
where everyone is keeping their same backpack 
because #COVID. 

I've used the same PlanetBox lunchboxes since Aaron was in preschool 
and they are going on 4+ years in pristine condition. 
I cannot say enough good things about these lunchboxes. 
I have an entire Instagram account dedicated to them. 

5. Any special back to school meals? 

Usually no, but since this is such a weird year, 
I let Aaron pick a "last meal of summer" for Sunday night
and (surprise surprise) he picked "fast food."
When I asked what kind, he picked Chick-Fil-A but they are closed Sundays. 
Then he thought for a long time before asking: 
"Isn't there like a king or something burger one?"  
It was a very proud mom moment that my child has no idea what Burger King is. 

6. What are back to school outfits? 

We don't have uniforms so nothing special here. 
In previous years, I set Aaron in front of Target's website 
and let him pick out a handful of new shirts to wear. 

7. Especially this year, how will you stay organized
 and get into a routine? 

If there's one thing I've accepted from COVID, 
is that I can't plan anything
which goes counter to EVERYTHING in my personality. 
I'm approaching school with a very "laissez faire" attitude. 
Eventually we will find a groove that works. 
(Just in time for things to change again.)

8. Do you have any end of summer plans?
We are going to the lake for 10 days. 
We couldn't go in the summer because Adam's 
aunt and uncle up there have every COVID risk symptom possible, 
but they left today so we can goooo!!!!!
We'll haul up Aaron's school laptop 
but I don't plan to make him do anything while we are up there. 

Last year Labor Day at the lake

9. What are you and your kids looking forward to this school year? 

Aaron: "Being allowed on the computer all day!" 
Oliver: "Seeing Ms Katie!" (his favorite teacher) 
Me: Routine. 
Even though we don't have a routine planned like in prior years
I know we'll eventually fall into one
and I appreciate the soothing nature of a good routine. 
I'm also much more likely to eat healthy 
and exercise consistently in a routine. 

10. Do you give teacher gifts? 

Generally, gifts are given at holidays, 
teacher appreciation week (May), 
and end-of-school-year. 

In Aaron's elementary school, homeroom parents collect $20 from each family 
and use that fund to buy the teachers gifts at holidays, 
appreciation, and end-of-year. 
Teacher's fill out a "favorites" list, 
distributed to all homeroom parents, 
so we know what to get. 
I was a homeroom mom in kindergarten 
and I bought our teacher endless giftcards 
because I truly believe all teachers want is giftcards. 

In Oliver's Preschool, there is no such coordination. 
Last holidays, I bought
 each teacher a "Not All Classrooms Have Four Walls" tee (here)
(ok ok, I said they only want giftcards but I couldn't resist), 
wrote a nice card during teacher appreciation week, 
and then gave them each an REI giftcard at end of year. 
I normally do Target giftcards but one of Oliver's teachers 
made a snide comment about Target being a "plastic landfill."
(I mean, she's right, but I still love Target.  SORRY, EARTH.)