Solo Hotel Time

Due to the nature of my job, I can usually expect at least one brief out of town trip per month. Also due to the nature of my job, these trips are not to exotic or touristy destinations so my overnight accomodations generally involve being in a chain hotel in a town of 10,000 people or less.

(Last night: Country Inn and Suites, Bemidji,Minnesota)

So, although I miss my little family while I am gone and I’m not exactly whooping it up in a swank location, I can’t deny that there are some pleasures to be found in the solo hotel experience.

First, there is the temperature. I am part polar bear and I LOVE a nice cold room to sleep in. At home, we keep the AC on 72 in our bedroom at night. As soon as I got into my room, I turned the thermostat down to a nice brisk 66 degrees. My dear husband’s teeth would be chattering but I slept like a BOSS.

Second, there is eating in bed. At home, we don’t have a TV in our bedroom and, even if we did, I would not likely eat dinner there. But in the hotel, I am happy to curl up under the covers and eat my burrito bowl in bed while watching Bravo. I’m not sure what is better: not having to share my guacamole with anyone or knowing that if I spill I can just move over to the other queen sized bed and sleep there.

Third, the blissful privacy. Nobody asks to sit on your lap when you are peeing at the hotel. Living the dream here, people. Living. The. Dream.

The downside of hotel time is that it makes me remember how much fun it was to stay in hotels with my husband, before we had the little monkeys. Hotel sexy times + sleeping in + traveling? Sigh, those were some good times. At least we only have 15 years to go before we can do it again.

Well, crap, now I’ve depressed myself.

I should probably get back under the covers and self-medicate with a crappy reality show while eating candy in sheets that I don’t have to watch.

Ahh, that is the stuff.

Small Things

I am wearing a matching bra and unders set today and I swear my boobs look 37% perkier than usual. I really only have one matching set (insert lament here about the pains of finding bras when your size is in the back half of the alphabet…) but I do wonder why I don’t make more of an effort to find more sets given how damn cute I think I am when I’m wearing one.

I’m cute to the point where I might just have texted a female friend a cleavage shot so she could admire the adorableness of my bra.

It is probably a good thing that basically all of my friends are women.

Stupid Expensive

I was walking to a coffee shop in my neighborhood last night when I passed a picture framing shop. I stopped for a moment to admire a particularly pretty frame in the window and thought briefly about a piece of art work that I’ve been meaning to get framed for roughly three years now.

I love the picture and I’d love to better display it in our house but every time I think about framing it, I remember again how crazy stupid expensive framing is. The painting I’d like to frame is on the larger side and the estimates are well into the hundreds of dollars, even with the ubiquitous Michael’s coupons that are always floating around.

The thing that always gets me about the cost of framing is that I just don’t understand why it is so expensive. It seems like such a basic thing: please put four pieces of wood around this thing, thank you. How is that $475?

There are other things like this, of course, things that the cost of is always an unpleasant surprise, even though it shouldn’t be. I’m always taken aback by dental bills (why, oh  why, does all dental insurance suck?). I feel deeply annoyed by the cost of practical household goods like batteries and cleaning supplies. I’m not a wine drinker so when I go to purchase wine to take to a party I’m always briefly shocked at how expensive wine is, even the cheapest stuff. Don’t people know that you can buy Diet Coke for far less money?

Perhaps these things seem outrageously expensive to me because I just don’t value them enough. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between a $4 or $40 bottle of wine. I can’t tell a custom frame from a Target clearance rack frame. This makes me curious: what kinds of things are on your “this is stupidly and surprisingly expensive” list?

Evelyn is kneeling with me in the sand. Our hands move under the perfectly clear water, feeling for rocks that are especially smooth. Her small hands unearth an orange rock that is flat and thick as a nickle. She instantly decides to add it to her collection.

Out deeper in the lake Miles is pushing a 5 foot piece of driftwood through the water. The water is barely above 60 degrees and his lips are tinged with blue. In a few minutes I’ll call him to shore and tell him to come warm up. He’ll swear he isn’t cold.

This is why, even though it can be so much work to travel with young kids, I’m still always game, even when it means messing with sleep schedules or dealing with backseat bickering (which, SERIOUSLY, knock it off children). Because, really, sometimes we just need cold water and sand between our toes.

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My Hills

(No, this is not a post about my boobs– so sorry to the person who ended up here by Google searching for “boobs is plus sized mom”, you’ve been misled again)

Before I had children I, like many other not-yet-parents, was full of adorable opinions about what I would and would not allow my kids to do. My list included things like “no eating in the car” (I found car seat crevices en-caked in Goldfish dust to be visually unappealing), “no kids in the big bed” (I honestly begrudged my husband space in the bed when we first got together. No touchy in the bed, please), and “I’ll always calmly explain appropriate behavior when a child is being naughty. No yelling.” (Oh, me. Cute, cute, naive me. You now have a 3 year old. Calm explanations no longer apply)

I’ve now been a step-parent for ten years and gave-birth-to-them parent for seven. I routinely sling french fries in the back of the car and hope that they buy me five minutes with no whining. Any child who is smart enough to come to my side of the bed instead of my husbands will likely find themselves snuggled into the big bed with me, as I will always screw over my “no kids in the bed” principals in favor of 90 seconds more sleep. I have come to realize that while I don’t yell a lot, I also no longer believe that trying to reason with a illogical dictator who smells like Go-gurt is a fool’s errand.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have any parenting hills I’m willing to die on…it just means they are different ones than I thought they’d be.

(side-note: My hills are my hills and are no reflection on your hills. I don’t believe that there are an awful lot of absolutes in parenting, so YMMV and all that.)

(except for vaccinations. There is only one right answer on that one. Because, well, SCIENCE. Vaccinate your babies.)

The 10 battles I am willing to fight over and over include:

1. Being polite. My kids say “please” and “thank you” or they don’t get sippy cups or dinner plates or the lollipop in my outstretched hand. They say “thank you” to the free sample lady at Costco and to the waitress and to anyone else who does them a service. They remember unprompted a lot, but if not I will remind them, every single time. I will be damned if I raise rude kids, or at least kids who are impolite in front of me.

2. Anyone can play with any toy. Pink is an everyone color.

3. Everyone learns to swim and everyone wears a bike helmet. No exceptions, ever.

4. Thou shalt not: Even though I use nearly every other swear word as the mood sees fit, I have enough lingering vestiges of hardcore Protestant Christianity in my system that any swearing involving the word “God” would make me enormously uncomfortable to hear coming out of my child’s mouth. My 7 year old is getting his OMG habit nipped in the bud if I can help it.

5. I did not give birth to anyone who is stupid. So the prohibition on the “S” word as a descriptive for siblings stands, now and forever.

6. Bribery is always an option, but one to be deployed with care.

7. I am not a cruise director and your boredom is not my problem. My 7 year old is growing fearful of telling me he is bored ever since I told him that every time he says those words to me, he has to find me a toy of his that he no longer wishes to keep. Obviously it must be a boring toy if he is so bored, right? Might as well give it to another kid to play with.

8. Sit on the couch like a PERSON and not like a slowly melting candy bar, dripping over the side.

9. No, I am never going to pay money for the Spongebob movie. I don’t care if you can see the picture for it on the cable guide.

10. You have to wear pants at Target, Evelyn.

Ah. That feels good to share. I should probably expand this to be the next big seller parenting guide.

The Cost of Real Life

One of my many jobs (current and former) has been to teach financial literacy classes at the college level. While I have mixed feelings on these classes (I’m not sure they actually work, in terms of creating behavioral changes that lift people out of poverty), one thing that has always been interesting to me about these classes is how little most college students, especially the traditional age 18-22 year olds, understand about what a real, adult life costs. When I ask them to draft budgets for what they think life will cost after graduation, most of them anticipate being able to live really comfortably on $25,000-$35,000 a year. I suspect this is part of why student loan debt is so high…most students I know always accept their full loan award, even if they don’t need all of it for tuition. They take that extra $2,000-$4,000 to live on because they have no idea how much their loan payments will be or what adult life costs.

I was thinking about this today as I balanced the checkbook and remembered these charges from this week:

Car upkeep: $916 (for a car that wasn’t even broken. This was replacing spark plugs, replacing brake pads, oil change, etc for 70,000 miles service)

Swim lessons for the kids: $130 (well worth it but yowza)

Diapers, diaper pail liner, wipes: $40

Taking the kids to the children’s museum: $32 (we have an annual membership. This was for lunch and parking)

We are already well past $1000 in one week and this doesn’t even cover groceries, gas, mortgage, and all the other regular bills. Obviously the car thing isn’t a regular expense but when I calculate that someone making minimum wage would have to work over 150 hours to pay for these four ordinary expenses, it just reminds me of how hard it is to be poor and how very hard it is to STOP being poor.

On a related note, yesterday I submitted my ninth and, hopefully, last financial aid application. As a grad student, I’m only eligible for loans, which I plan to use to pay for my last 9 credits of school EVER. I will have taken all the school one can take. My son told his friend yesterday that I’m in 22nd grade, which seems like a good time to wrap it up. Once I graduate, I’ll be looking at paying back a lifetime total of over $60,000 in student loans (undergraduate and graduate). The $60,000 is just the prinicipal though, so the real amount I’ll pay back will be roughly the cost of this house:

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The thing is, it is worth it. At least, I think it is. I for sure wouldn’t have my current job without my MA completed and my salary has pretty steadily increased since I graduated in 2000.

But then I consider that I’ll be paying off these loans for the next 20 years and I’m all sad Dawson about it.

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But I guess that is still okay too, since I’m not in ugly Kardashian cry zone about it yet.

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Poor Kim. She may not have to worry about student loan debt (for, um, more than one reason) but at least I don’t have ugly crying pictures of myself available for public consumption on the internet. So there’s that advantage of being a regular gal with a regular sized ass, I suppose.

The Race

I’m less than 10 days out from my first race since I got pregnant with Ev. Ev is now three and that means my racing muscles are a little on the rusty side.

(Does anyone remember when this was a blog all about how I was going to race all the time? Yeah, me neither).

I’m doing the Point to LaPointe again. And, once again, I’m pretty sure I could have trained more/better/harder. This race is a 2.1 open water swim in Lake Superior with a two hour time limit. The first time I did the race it took me just about an hour and 45 minutes. The second time it took an hour and 24 minutes and was, from start to finish, one of the most fun races I’ve done. I felt good and strong and fast.

Then a week later I found out I was- surprise!- pregnant with Evelyn and proceed to spend the next five months barfing and sweating.

Wondering where that ferry boat is.

First known picture of Miles and Ev. Ev was about the size of a pencil eraser and was still a resident of Hotel de Womb

It has been a long time coming for me to feel good and strong and fast again in the water. I’ve had some good practice swims lately and I feel confident in my ability to finish in less than two hours, unless the weather is seriously bad and the waves are a lot higher than average.

Time wise, I think I might be able to finish in about an hour and a half, which would put me firmly in the back to middle of the pack. I am as competitive as it gets but  I would still be 100% happy with that. I am aware of the fact that I’ll be competing against some very fast, very serious swimmer types. I mostly just don’t want to come in last.

I am excited for Miles to see me race again and for Evelyn to see me race for the first time. I’m also feeling proud of myself for putting myself out there again. It can feel slightly revolutionary to be fat and in a race, especially when swim suits are involved. I realize that on a day-to-day basis, I don’t look like many people’s vision of an athlete but I am. I’ve practiced and trained and put in lap after lap in the YMCA pool. I won’t win but I’ll finish, knowing that I’m quicker than I was a few months ago when I started training.

And hopefully I’ll feel good and fast and strong.

5 Lessons Learned: Taking a 3 Year Old Camping Edition

One of my goals for the summer was to have some special one-on-one time with Evelyn, who has, for a variety of reasons, gotten a bit less of my attention this spring/summer than her brother has.

Because I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of girl, I decided that we’d really do this one-on-one time thing and go camping, just me and her.

Yes. Tent camping with a non-potty trained three year old. What could be easier?

Have I mentioned that I’ve only been camping once in the last 20 years and it was last month? And I’ve never put up a tent by myself before? And I booked a place by a lake in northern Minnesota, even though I despise mosquitoes?

I realize that this sounds like I am setting up a narrative for disaster but I have to say that the actual experience was really, really great. That being said, there are still a few important things I learned in the experience:

1. Embrace the fact that normal bedtimes mean NOTHING to a child in a tent. At home we usually start the bedtime process for Ev at 7:00 or so. In the tent, the fact that it was still very much daylight at 7PM made it very clear that she was no where near being ready to fall asleep. The sun finally set close to 10 PM, which meant that Ev was up until at least 10:15 PM.

2. Related to #1: Remember you don’t need to go totally off the grid. Did I bring my laptop and a DVD of Frozen with me? Yep. Did I feel VERY grateful to myself for doing this at about 8PM each night? YEP.

3. When your child is a water lover, temperature is a minor detail: A storm blew through the night before we got to the camp ground so it was chilly the first day we were there. The night time temperature dropped into the 40’s and the morning air temperature was in the low 60’s. Did that stop my child from wanting to play in the lake for roughly six hours straight? Nope.

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4. The bugs. Oh God, the bugs: I saw mosquitoes that were as big as my fist. They swarmed in the bathrooms and by the lake sure. We’ve been home for a week and I still have bites on my neck, ass, and ankles. Please note that I was using the highly chemical, DEET filled spray. That all natural, organic stuff made from essential oils? Yeah, no. That is for suckers who are dying to become a mobile food truck for blood suckers.

5. Never underestimate the importance of packing diaper wipes: Ev is still in diapers (sigh) so I would have packed them anyways, but I was glad to have them for wiping dirty hands and cleaning my ankles when a peeing in the woods experience was a little more, um, splashy than I expected.

Even accounting for the bugs and the dirt and the accidentally peeing on my own foot parts, I can’t wait to do it again. It turns out that I kind of love camping (who knew?) and I’m eager for mother/daughter camping trips to become a tradition for Ev and I.

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Something tells me she is on board for that too.

How Does My Garden Grow?

Every time I walk through my kitchen, I feel compelled to look out the window, to check again on my garden.

This summer was the first time I’ve ever tried my hand at growing anything besides children and I approached it with a sense of grim pessimism. All I need is one edible vegetable, I said, just one to make this all worthwhile.

Well. This:

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is now this:

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In a few weeks we will likely be swimming in squash.

It will go well with the cherry tomatoes just starting to ripen and the romaine lettuce whose tender leaves I’ve already started nibbling as I do the weeding.

The verdict is still out on whether my onions, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, and spaghetti squash will go the way of the squash or the way of my herbs, all of which I have killed (R.I.P chives, basil and dill).

There is a slow magic to gardening. It is the most natural thing and yet I keep finding myself ridiculously delighted by the fact that there is FOOD growing in my YARD. Actual, edible food.

I’m already planning for next summer. A friend has promised me cuttings of her raspberry bush and my neighbor wants to go in on a joint apple tree venture (we’d each need one in our yard for apple tree sex, apparently). I want to expand my plot to include bell peppers and to grow full size tomatoes.

Ooh, and watermelon. Yes.

I think I’m hooked. This is the most Midwestern addiction (besides meth, I suppose) I can imagine.

Pro-Tip

When you are explaining the birds and the bees to your 7 year old, do your best to explain it in such a way that he doesn’t wonder if a vagina is “like an extra toilet”.

I need to correct this understanding of his or else his future partners are going to be on the receiving end of the WORST dirty talking ever.