Almost Home


After starting off relatively mild, our Minnesota winter became epic in February: -45 degree temperatures, blizzard warnings, and SO. MUCH. SNOW. We don’t usually travel for the kid’s spring breaks, but around inch number 35 of snow, the winter finally broke my spirt and I booked the kids and I tickets to Arizona.

It had been just about five years since we’d been back to Arizona, which is where I grew up and where my son was born. It’s still where my parents, siblings, and come very dear friends live so it felt like it was time to go back. The fact that it was in the upper 70’s/low 80’s for most of the trip and that the kids are now old enough to be easy to travel with didn’t hurt either.

(Side note: those of you who are in the life phase where you have to travel with infants, know this: IT GETS BETTER. My kids were 6 and 10 on this trip and can carry their own luggage, entertain themselves on the plane, and can even handle airplane bathrooms on their own. Magical.)

There were many parts of this trip that ended up being awesome. We loved the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, hiking in Sabino Canyon (something I’ve been doing since I was a kid and my Girl Scout troop lost me there for a very eventful 45 minutes or so), and doing some mildly terrifying (for me) rock climbing at Windy Point.


We stayed for a few nights in Phoenix with one of my oldest friends and it was fun and slightly disconcerting seeing our kids play together. E. and I met when we were 22 and filled with big questions about our futures. Would we find love? Get married? Have babies? Have careers we loved? Now we are 40 and the answers to some of those questions were hanging out with each other in her backyard pool. Time goes so fast.

But it was the time in Tucson that felt the most surreal to me. Tucson is where I grew up and I’ve lived more years there than anywhere else. I lived there and then left for college but then returned. I once moved to South Korea when I was in my 20’s but still returned to Tucson. It felt like the place I could always come back to, but now it no longer feels like home. Driving around there were some things that hadn’t changed at all but I didn’t feel the emotional connection I thought I would. It felt familiar but I had no longing to live there again. I can’t actually see myself living there again, like ever.

Perhaps part of it is that I just like the version of myself I am now more than I liked who I was when I lived in Arizona. Arizona was familiar and was my childhood, but living there was hard sometimes. In the ten years since we moved from there, I’ve grown children and a career and into a version of myself I actually like. I miss the hiking and the spring sunshine felt good, but it just isn’t home anymore.

It snowed again this week but it was still good to be home.


Meditation on Six

Six almost seven is riding her bike down the alley behind our house, weaving around melting snow piles, but straight through the puddles that splash mud up from her boots to her neck. Six is the Harry Potter scar on her forehead, carefully drawn on with my lip liner. Six is jeans that are suddenly too short, tucked into hand-me-down boots. Six would rather wear an old shirt that belonged to her brother than anything new, especially if the new thing is too pretty. Six is chasing her friend down the street, braids bouncing, yelling to see if she wants to build Legos or play with her American Girl doll. Six would like to build a fort: in the snow or in the basement or in her room. Six wants to hide because she knows she’ll be found.

Six still climbs in your lap to watch TV and cries if you snap at her for not being pokey about getting her school clothes on. Six goes to bed with 20 stuffed animals in her bed and wonders why she can’t have 30. Six is wiggly teeth and mystery scratches and bruises from playing hard and not caring yet if she falls. Six loves her teacher and her brothers and her favorite cousins. Six will cheerfully tell you that you are number five on her list of favorite people, unbothered by the fact that you gave birth to her.

Six still believes: in Santa, in the tooth fairy,  in the idea that most people are nice and good.


2018 Year in Review

While New Years Eve is still a day away, I thought I’d use my quiet Saturday night to do my annual end of the year review.

(Side note, it was quiet because our children were both out of the house, playing with friends. I was making hot tea for my my husband and I and he noted that “this is what every Saturday night will be like in not too long” referring to the kids being out in the world without us. He’s right and it reminds me that the amount of time your kids are actually little and living with you is so short in the grand scheme of things. My son is 10 and if I really want to depress myself, I can think about the fact that his childhood is already half over. This can be a maudlin time of year.)

As in past years, I’ll be answering the template that used to be standard back when everyone was blogging. Now hardly anyone is blogging (though as long as Swistle blogs, I will be happy) but I still like to recap things. So here we go!

1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Took a long trip by train with my family. It was such a great trip and it made me really appreciate having older kids who are really fun to travel with.

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Last year I said: For 2018 I’ve got A LOT on my list of things I’d like to do. I’m turning 40 in August and I have a list of 40 things I’d like to accomplish before then. I’ve got maybe six of them done so far, so I’ve got plenty to accomplish. The biggest one is to finish the first draft of a novel I’ve been slowly working on for about two years.

I ended up doing about half of the things on my turning 40 list, which is about par for the course for me, I suppose. I got most of the things done that related to stuff with the kids and several of the money things but almost none of the ones that related to health and fitness. Sigh. I did not finish the draft of the novel and I bummed about that.

For 2019, I want to keep it simple. I want to write more days than I don’t write and I want to take better care of my health (I’m writing this while dealing with my second bout of bronchitis for the year and a sore back, which I managed to injure while coughing)

3. How will you be spending New Year’s Eve?

We’ll be home and cozy. I have to work during the day, which feels ridiculous since I imagine it will be awfully slow, and I’m hoping I feel better and that we can all play some games and have snacks.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Did anyone give birth?

I didn’t attend any funerals this year, so nobody very close to me died. A number of folks at work welcomed babies this year, so I got in some newborn snuggles, which is always nice.

5.What countries did you visit ? Did I travel this year?

We went to Canada! Montreal and Toronto were both excellent cities and we really enjoyed it. I also went to Florida twice – once for work and once to take Ev to Disney. I also went to Kansas for Thanksgiving, as always, and presented at a conference in Salt Lake City. I also went to Chicago for work and got to see Hamilton, which was everything I hoped it would be. This year had quite a bit of travel, including a week at family camp and a weekend in a cabin in Wisconsin for my birthday. While I loved all the trips, it was not the cheapest year, so this year will be a little more restrained. I’ll go to Los Angeles in March for a work conference and then we’ll do a little family vacation to Wisconsin in August, but we’ll be skipping family camp this year and I don’t see any other big trips on the horizon.

6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

A different President (I’ll say this every year until there is a sane person back in the White House) and a better immune system.

7. What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

My 40th birthday was a pretty great day — I got taken out to dinner and given presents by some dear friends before going to see the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert. It was an awful lot of fun.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?

I made it through a year at work that was REALLY challenging sometimes, including the transition to having a new boss (who is terrific so far). I also did some freelance writing that I’m proud of at The Billfold, which is a website I like a lot. I’m also starting 2019 feeling like my family/marriage situation is in a good place, which is always a good thing.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I feel like I didn’t do a great job of maintaining friendships this year. I didn’t do a lot of face-to-face time with people I like a lot. It is really easy to get sucked into the busyness of life at 40 and go months without connecting to people you really like.

I also continue to struggle with relaxing and giving myself enough down time. I’m a doer by nature and I think I would be healthier if I chilled out a little more (I hear the sound of my husband nodding vigorously whenever he reads this. Yes, honey, I know)

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes, the usual assortment of bugs and back pain. Nothing that required hospitalization, thankfully.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Tickets! Tickets to Beyonce, tickets to Hamilton, tickets to Florida for Ev and I… I really enjoyed experiences this year.

12. Where did most of your money go?

The usual culprits: the mortgage and student loans. One of my goals this year was to try to pay a little extra to both each month and I think I managed to pay just over $1000 extra to the mortgage and about $1300 to the student loans, which is a fairly big drop in the bucket. I owe just over $6000 less on my student loans at the end of the year than I did at the start, so I know I’m making some progress. The current goal is to have them paid off before Miles (age 10) graduates from high school.

One annoying expense this year was replacing our bikes after someone stole them out of our garage. I still feel very annoyed by that when I think of it.

13. What song will always remind you of 2018?

The last song of the Beyonce/Jay-Z concert was Apeshit and the crowd really does go Apeshit. This song was a banger.

I also really liked listening to Maggie Rogers and The Greatest Showman soundtrack, though I’ve still not seen the movie because PT Barnum was trash and I want to enjoy the music without having to connect it to him.

14. What do you wish you’d done more of?

The usual suspects: writing, spending time with people I like, swimming or hiking, and reading.

15. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stress eating candy while muttering “motherfucker” in my office. Like I said, it was a tough year at work.

16. What was your favorite new TV program?

Oh, this was a good year for TV. I finally watched Brooklyn 99 and I love it so much. The Good Place was at the top of my list last year and continues to be there this year. I self-soothed by watching a lot of the British Baking, often with my daughter, which was fun. I also really like Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. Nanette on Netflix took my breath away.

17. Do you love anyone now that you didn’t love this time last year?

Nope. No new editions to the love list, but no deletions either, so I think that is a win.

18. What was the best book you read?

I read 42 books this year and I rate each of them on a scale of 1-10. There were three 10 out of 10 books this year: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anna Fadiman. I tried to prioritize reading books by women and people of color this year and would also recommend Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery? Let’s change this question to something that doesn’t assume I am trying to stay abreast of the latest in pop culture. How about what item of clothing did I wear the most?

I wore a lot of dresses this year, including some $17.99 ones from Target that are comfy enough to lounge around in at home but also nice enough to where to the store.

20. What was your favorite film of this year?

I really loved Black Panther and Widows. It was a good year for Daniel Kaluuya.

21.What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

See above! The day after I turned 40, we went to a our favorite cabin in Wisconsin and spend a perfect few days swimming in the lake and reading on the screened in porch. It was a good birthday week.

22. What kept you sane?

My family, some positive changes at work, texting with my friend E., carving out time to go to a cabin in the fall with 22 other women and relaxing in the woods.

23. Who did you miss?

My step-sons, always. We got to see both of them in 2018 and that was great. Hoping for a repeat of that in 2019. I miss face to face time with my friends.

24. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned.

Stop being surprised when an asshole acts like an asshole.

25. What pictures best represent 2018?




Vanity Fair

I recently renewed my subscription to the magazine Vanity Fair, despite the fact that I still have issues from four years ago that I never quite got around to reading. Vanity Fair is an interesting magazine to me in that I am so clearly not the target demographic for most of the advertisements and I don’t share their deep and on-going obsession with all things Kennedy family related. On the other hand, I do think they have some great long-form articles about topics that I didn’t know I was interested in until I was three paragraphs in. I also appreciate that they aren’t shy about noting what a massive wanker our current President is. I’m happy to support that kind of writing.

But, dudes, can we talk about how insane the advertisements targeted to people with a shit ton of money are? Let’s walk through the latest issue together.

First, a note about the cover. Natalie Portman is an undeniably gorgeous woman. But what is this facial expression? Does she need to very glamorously barf? Is she dead inside? Did she just wake up and get immediately stoned? I do not know.


And then there is this ad. Because, sure. That is the logical answer to the question “What shoes do I wear to take my bird and ropes for a walk?”

NP 1

And then there is this very relatable image. She gazes to the heavens, where will her gas come from? She’d walk to get her own gas but it is taking all of her energy to keep holding her head up with those absolutely enormous sun glasses on.

NP 6

I don’t even understand these two ads. What does “Play it like Hermes” even mean? Hermes was the god of sleep, animal husbandry, and thieves, fertility, and travel (among other things), so I feel like there is a lot of ground that command could cover. As for the other one, I have questions? Is that an ad for watches or lipstick? Is it a watch that needs frequent adjustments? Or a lipstick that can be used in lieu of an appropriate screwdriver? Am I just too poor to understand?

Boss: “Why are you late to work?”

Me: “My very expensive watch says to not let numbers define me and I have no idea what time it is. Time is a construct for people without money”

NP 3

For when you have a job interview, ballet class, and a funeral all on the same afternoon:


I want two things in my bracelets: for them to be expensive and for them to remind me of  car tires. I’m in luck!

NP 9

She put on her glasses and gazed into the distance, the question never far from her mind… were the bangs a mistake?

(narrator voice: yes, yes they were)

NP 8

Her bangs look stupid, but I would truly like some information on her lipstick color.

On the plus side, there is an article about feuding Popes that looks promising. And, in the context of the ads in this magazine, their fancy robes and hats look super reasonable!

Disney: Magic Kingdom and Epcot


For our last full day in Florida, me and my girl did a double header: Magic Kingdom and Epcot. I had planned to just go to Magic Kingdom and then I realized that the Monorail would connect us pretty easily so we decided to go for it. It made for a long day and I don’t really feel like we did Epcot justice as we were only there for about three hours, but I’m still glad we went since I’d never been. Now I know that if/when we go back to Florida, I want to spend a whole day there, especially since the kids will be older and more into it.

As with Animal Kingdom, I highly recommend getting some FastPasses. If you can get one for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, go for it. Both times I’ve been to Magic Kingdom, that’s been the ride with the longest line. That wasn’t an option for us (all the passes had been snapped up by the time we booked), so we FastPassed for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (so fun, we did it four times), Splash Mountain (also fun and you get MUCH LESS wet than you do on the water rides at Universal), and Space Mountain (a classic that I loved and that Ev found too scary to do a second time. I’ll be honest, getting her on it the first time took some bribery). Since we didn’t really plan ahead for Epcot, we didn’t have any FastPasses. If I had to do it again, I would try to get a FastPass for Test Track (fast and fun) or Soarin’ Around the World (this is a MUST ride. Not scary at all but really cool). The other highlight of Epcot was the mini-aquarium area (near the Finding Nemo rides, naturally) where Ev and I happily watch manatees swim for at least 15 minutes.

Also, as with Animal Kingdom, I was really pleased that both parks were fat person friendly. The only ride that would be tough for a bigger person was the Seven Dwarfs ride because of the way the bar goes over your legs (knees together, bar goes around your hips/thighs). If you are a pear shape or carry weight in your hips and are bigger than a size 24 pants, it will be a tight fit. Everything else was easy and comfortable.

I will say that my plan to avoid crowds by going in September totally paid off at both parks. It was still SO HOT but the lines for most of the rides were less than 15 minutes. Ev and I had said a goal to go on at least 15 different rides and we totally hit that goal with enough time to do some rides multiple times. If you can handle the heat, going in September is worth it.

On a final note, even though we had a great time, I’m still not a *DISNEY!!!* person. I’ll never wear a Disney shirt or have a favorite princess, but would I go again? Yep!

Doing Disney as a Non-Disney Person: Day 1

When it comes to going to Disney, there are some people who are *DISNEY!!!!* people and some people who are not. It is very, very easy to tell the difference. The *DISNEY!!!!* people are on the plane in matching family themed t-shirts. They are probably staying at one of the many Disney hotels and going for the full experience with all the stuff that you have to plan in advances (sometimes months in advance): the Magic Bands, the reservations at the character breakfasts, the appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Bouitique, and of course the Fast Passes.

I think that is a totally valid and fun way to experience Disney (if that’s your jam), but this is a post about doing Disney when you don’t have a wardrobe of Disney clothes, want to do just slightly more than the bare minimum in terms of planning, and care a lot more about rides than meeting characters or seeing the shows.

As I mentioned in my last post, my six year old and I went to Orlando in September to avoid the biggest theme park crowds (and, it turns out, to sweat as much as humanly possible).  Let’s talk about the Disney part of the experience, day 1:

  • Over a year ago, I had won four one-day Park Hopper passes in a charity auction, so we I knew Ev and I would do at least two of the parks. We chose to do Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom. We ended up making a last minute decision to add Epcot on to the end of our Magic Kingdom day. While I’m glad that we saw Epcot, I feel like we only really scratched the surface of that park, despite the fact that we were at the parks from 9am-8pm (23,000 steps that day!). If I do Disney again, I don’t know if I would do the Park Hopper option again, unless it was for multiple days. I think one park per day is PLENTY to do. If you do try to do two parks in a day, the Magic Kingdom/Epcot combo is probably the easiest since you can take the Monorail to get from one to the other at no cost.
  • A note about transportation — we stayed in a non-Disney property that I chose largely because it was pretty centrally located to the parks. It was fine, though it was a place that also has time-shares, so there was some sales pitching for signing up for that, which is politely ignored because the offer of a free weekend in Branson, Missouri is aggressively not my jam. I didn’t rent a car so we did an airport shuttle to the hotel ($64 round trip for two people) and used Uber to get to all the parks (most trips were $9-14). Parking at Disney parks is $20 a day, so Uber and not paying for a rental car ended up saving a few bucks for us. A note about Uber — the Uber drivers we had were all SUPER nice and because of the Parks, they all drive A LOT. I didn’t have a single driver who had done less than 1,000 trips (you can see their trip total on the app) and all were 4.5 stars or higher, so I had no anxiety about getting murdered.
  • The first park we went to was Animal Kingdom, which I’d never done before. I did make fast pass reservations in advance, but only a few weeks in advance, so some of the ride options were already full. If you are going and a Fast Pass is available for the Avatar Flight of Passage is available — GET IT. That ride had by far the longest line (180 minutes as of 9:15am) but was really cool. I would have like to have gone on it twice but the lines were too long and we got rained out at the end of the day. There was a moment at the beginning of the ride when they are getting you locked in your seat that felt a little scary for Ev (I think she had A LOT of time to get nervous about it while we were waiting over an hour in line). Once the ride got going, she was totally into it.
  • We used our Fast Passes on Expedition Everest (my favorite ride and the most rollercoaster-y, though not too scary for my 6 year old, who calls it “a stomach dropper”), Kali River Rapids (fun and you don’t get nearly as wet as you do on the water rides at Universal studios. More of a sprinkle than a soak), and the Kilimanjaro Safari (we liked this so much that we did it twice. I HIGHLY recommend doing this toward the end of the day. The ride is in an open jeep/bus thing and is about 20-25 minutes long, so it’s a nice chance to get off your feet and rest for a bit. I also think the animals are more active when it isn’t the heat of the day. If you have a littler person, let them get in the row first because they’ll get amazing views of the animals as they walk around.) IMG_4198
  • Some of the other things we really liked at Animal Kingdom included:
    • The Boneyard: This is a play area where I could sit in the shade and Ev enjoyed climbing and doing the slides. Worth a stop if you are with kids under 12)
    • The Mahrajah Junkle Trek is like a mini-zoo tour. You can see tigers, monkeys, and a cool bat exhibit among other animals. Mostly shady, which is always appreciated
    • Lunch at Blaze Tree: good BBQ options and a staff that is ON IT in terms of making sure people with food allergies are taken care of (Ev and I don’t have any, but it was nice to see them being so attentive to people who have them).
  • A note about Animal Kingdom as a fat person: As I said in my last post, I’m about a size 22 with an hourglass shape and large breasts. I love rides and hate worrying about whether I will fit in them or not. I had ZERO issues with any of the rides/options at Animal Kingdom. I feel like Disney does a good job of really being accessible for people of size and, from what I can tell, people with physical differences.
  • There were several things at Animal Kingdom that we didn’t get to do (even though we were there from 9am-5:30pm) because it started POURING down rain at about 5:15, so rides were shut down and there was little hope that we would be able to dry off enough to have fun even if the rain stopped. I’m bummed that we didn’t get to see the Rivers of Light show in the evening because I’ve heard that it’s a great one.
  • We didn’t do any of the shows because my girl is all about the rides and really isn’t to the shows or characters. You can do a full day with just rides, if that’s your kind of fun.

I’d happily go back to Animal Kingdom if I went back. Expedition Everest was really fun and the Avatar ride was different and cool. I’d just try to aim for a day that wasn’t so rainy!


The Very Sweaty Guide to Universal Studios

A few years ago, I took my son (who was 7 at the time) to Florida for a Disney/Universal trip. Due to some circumstances that were out of my control, we did the trip with very little in the way of planning. No fast passes, no thoughtfully crafted itinerary, just a plane ticket and a vague sense that I wanted to see the Harry Potter section of Universal Studios. We went during March, which was great from a weather perspective and fairly God awful from a crowds at the park perspective. We had a great time, but Disney especially was so busy that it was hard to even find places to sit and eat and the ride lines were really long.

I knew that I wanted to take my daughter someday and that I for sure wanted to go during a less busy time of year. We ended up going last week and I totally got my wish — the parks (we did both Universal Island of Adventure and multiple Disney parks, which I’ll cover in a later post) were far less crowded in September than they were in March. The trade-off though? It was SO HOT. SOOOOOO HOT. The temperature was over 90 every day that we were there with humidity around 75%. It was like being in a humidifier. There was no relief for it. We left our hotel every morning at 8:30am and by 8:32am I was already sweating. I’m now back in Minnesota and it is currently 42 degrees and I’m still convinced that I’m slightly sweaty from the trip.

All that being said, Universal Island of Adventure is a super fun park. If you decide to go, here are some completely subjective opinions about it:

  1. There is a fast pass option that allows you to go in the express lane for any ride, one time. This option is $99 a person (more for the pass that let’s you use the express lane an unlimited amount of times) and is, as far as I can see, kind of a rip-off. There are 15 rides that you can use the pass on, but while we were there at least 5-6 of those rides had no line or a line that was shorter than 10 minutes. Given that you already pay $105 to get in the door, paying almost $10 extra per ride seems crazy to me.
  2. The Harry Potter rides are both really fun. The Forbidden Journey line can get long, but it takes you through Hogwarts Castle and is mercifully air-conditioned, so it isn’t too bad a wait, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan. We did this ride twice and it was probably my favorite at the park. If the wait time is under 30 minutes, you are lucking out and should go back in line and do it again. The other ride (The Flight of the Hippogriff) was my 6 year old’s favorite ride in the park because it was just enough of a roller coaster that she felt brave but not so scary that she felt afraid.
  3. We did lunch at Three Broomsticks restaurant, mostly to be inside and in the shade. I got the beef pasties meal and it was fine but the portion size was real small. My daughter had the ice cream for lunch because it was hot as balls and I was too tired to say no. She reports that it was “very good” but she’s 6, so her standards aren’t exactly super high.
  4. The HANDS DOWN best money I spent at the park was on a $15 refillable drink cup. The cup, which currently has a fairly horrifying Halloween theme, can be refilled with fountain drinks or Icee at multiple carts/booths at the park. Given the heat, I was really determined to make sure we stayed hydrated and I refilled this sucker with Vitamin Water at least six times plus with Diet Coke and Icee a few times. Ev and I shared it and it was well worth not paying $3 every time we were thirsty. One note, there is no place in the Harry Potter section to refill it though. IMG_4104.jpg
  5. A word about doing Universal as a fat person: Theme parks can be an anxiety provoking experience for the plus size person. I’ve had the experience at the Mall of America where I made it to the front of the line and then was too big to fit in the ride. That experience sucks. At Universal, there are several rides that have a sample seat that you can test out before you get into line to make sure you fit. If you are concerned, do it. I tested a few of them and at first I was worried that people who see me trying them out and that would be embarrassing somehow. But then I remembered that people have eyes and my size isn’t actually a secret, so who cares if they saw me double checking a harness. Honestly though, I never felt like anyone was paying that much attention. Everyone is too busy getting into line themselves or trying not to pass out from the heat (have I mentioned the heat yet? SWEATY). I’m a little over 5’8 and usually around size 22 and am an hourglass shape with large breasts. I fit into every ride, though the Incredible Hulk ride was a very tight squeeze. They do have a modified seat that gives a little more room but that was still TIGHT. They might not tell you about the modified seat option, but you can discretely ask for it when you are near the head of the line. If I was more of a pear shape or carried my weight in my butt/hips, I would not have fit. The rest of the rides were basically fine, with the Doctor Doom Freefall also being a bit of a squeeze. Thankfully none of the rides more designed for younger kids were tight at all, so I could easily go on all the rides with my daughter.
  6. There are two water based rides (Bilge-Rat Barges and Ripshaw Falls) that are both fun but you have to know that you are going to get head-to-toe soaked on them. This seemed like a refreshing idea in theory but the high humidity meant that it took my cotton shorts well over three hours to dry which got to be really uncomfortable. If I had to do it again, I would have worn faster drying workout type clothing instead. They do have drying machines you can use that cost $5 per person but I was too cheap for that.
  7. The worst ride was the Skull Island:Reign of Kong ride. It was loud, it totally scared my kiddo, and it wasn’t really fun at all. Unless you are just a big King Kong fan, I’d skip it.
  8. The Dr. Seuss section is great for younger kids and has a water play area. We hit that at the end of the day and my daughter played in the water for about 45 minutes while I sat in the shade and drank Diet Coke. This was a good decision.
  9. A very smart idea is to take a portable phone charger with you. It was nice to use my phone to play games during some of the longer waits and not worry about my battery dying.

We were at the park from about 9:30am to 6pm, which was about 18,000 steps on my watch. I’m glad we didn’t do the park-hopper option because we were plenty tired after the first park. I did the other Universal Studios park when I was with my son and it was also very fun, with a slightly better overall Harry Potter area (Diagon Ally verses Hogsmede). I didn’t regret skipping it this time though as my girl isn’t into Harry Potter (yet). If/when I go back to Florida in the future, I’d probably do both parks but on separate days.

Next post: Disney World!

Next Chapter

My nightly routine has multiple steps these days. I pee, brush and floss, wash my face, inspect the mirror for evidence of new gray hairs (I’m up to 7 now!), pee again (you can never pee too many times), put in my mouth guard (I’m a stress related nighttime teeth clencher), put on my wrist guard (I seem to have Candy Crushed my way into a carpal tunnel flare up), and then slip into something soft and faded to sleep in.

I turned 40 last week and sometimes I feel it.

Inside, of course, I don’t feel any older than I did before, though I’m aware that I’m more steady and less critical of myself than I was 10 years ago. In the weeks leading up to my birthday I wasn’t sure if turning 40 would bug me. I sort of felt like it should, but maybe only because I’m a woman who lives in a particular culture that values women who are 22 over women who are 40. Which, with all due respect to any 22 year olds reading this, is total bullshit. I have zero desire to be 22 again. The truth is that my 30s were better than my 20s and my 20s were WAY better than my teens, so I feel like there is good reason to be optimistic about the next decade.

I celebrated my birthday by going out to dinner and then a Beyonce and Jay-Z concert with a group of friends. We ate kalbi at a Korean place and then danced and danced at the concert. I got home after midnight, tired and vowing to do more squats (Beyonce, man. Beyonce is legit inspiring when it comes to what the power of strong thighs and booty can do). The next day I left for four days in a cabin with my family. So far 40 means: good friends, enough financial security to swing concert tickets and a cabin rental, a marriage that feels stable and safe, two kids who make me laugh and who are still young enough to think that playing in the lake with me for two hours is the best possible way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

If I live as long as my parents (who are still alive) and grandparents I’m almost at the halfway point of my life. I’m not sure what I make of that thought. I just know that right now, I’m happy.

I Can Quit You

I’ve been culling my Facebook friends list lately, in an effort to both save my sanity and in reflection of the fact that my kids are getting older and I want to be more selective about who gets to see pictures of them or to hear some of the stories from our life. Some of the deletes were easy — I started by getting out of any group that I didn’t add myself too (I have no desire to be in 27 dead groups of people who used to sell LuLaRoe). Then I looked at my friend’s list and asked myself “do I care even a little about this person’s life?” and then deleted all the “Nope” people.  This group included former student workers from a job I had a decade ago, a former neighbor who has turned into a rabid anti-vaxxer who believes that the CDC caused the AIDS epidemic through the use of polio vaccines (huh?), and one old ex boyfriend that I friended a million years ago when I wanted to see what his now wife looks like (we all have our moments of internet shame).

The next question I asked myself was “does this person regularly post things that make me want to set my hair on fire?” and this is where things got a little trickier. I’ve deleted a handful of people in the last few years, including my own father, because all their posts did was put trash in my feed. Now, I should note that this isn’t because my dad is a Republican, even though I’m very politically liberal. I have a fairly high number of politically conservative friends (thanks Christian college!) and I think there is value in not living in an online echo chamber. But Trump changed that for me. I’m okay with realizing a friend and I disagree about the estate tax. I can even engage in civil, interested conversation about why I think we should substantially reduce funding for the military or about the appropriate role of unions. But I can’t abide the ugly dehumanization of people. Or glee over human rights abuses. Or tacit acceptance of mocking of people with disabilities. I can’t.

I’m someone who very much sees my social media life as part of my real life. Some of my closest friends (like the people who are my “in case of emergency” contacts for my kids) were people I met online first. My online self and my real self are the same, which makes me wonder if deleting people from my Facebook life means I’m deleting them from my “real” life. I haven’t spoken to my father since I unfriended him on Facebook the day after Trump got elected. I can imagine a future in which it is years before we speak again and I feel peace about that. I think about deleting some other “friends” who I can no longer respect and I wonder if I should tell them why I’m done. I wonder if they’ll notice I’m gone or if they’ve muted me because my cute kids to anti-Trump ratio of posts is no longer favorable to them.

This is what happens when you realize you don’t disagree about politics — you disagree about whether other people’s children are actually fully human. If we disagree about that, I don’t think I’ll miss you at all.


This morning I woke up to a house that is quieter than usual. My son, who just turned 10, is away at overnight camp for the first time. I found myself fretting about him a bit while I got ready for work. Did he sleep okay in the cabin last night? Was it too hot? Is he making friends with the other campers? Did he remember to check himself for ticks?

It was just an odd feeling to not know what my child was doing at that exact moment. I’ve pretty much always known what he was doing and feeling most of the time. Even though he was totally ready to go to camp, I feel the weight of his absence and I wonder how many times I can refresh the Facebook feed from his camp (hoping to see a picture of him) before I seem kind of pathetic.

But here’s the thing: I chose this.

I chose to send him to camp. I chose to send him to this particular camp. I chose to send him for a particular amount of time and I know when, where, and how I’ll get to pick him back up. He’s safe and secure and still I worry about him.

Can you imagine being separated without knowing where your child was? Without your child knowing where you are? In a place where you don’t speak the language and when the outcome is so desperately uncertain – will you ever see each other again? How long until you find out something, anything about their safety? What if your ability to be reunited hinges on your child being able to tell someone who doesn’t speak their language your full name and birthdate? What if you never got around to teaching them that? What if you start hearing stories about other children trying to kill themselves?

How would you ever be okay again?

I feel like the stories coming from the border are going to break me. I made myself listen to the audio from inside the detention center where children are being housed in cages and I felt like something in me turned black. I’m so angry. I’m so angry. I’m so angry.

I tried to make myself feel a little better by throwing some money at the problem and donated to some organizations doing legal work for unrepresented minors. I imagined calling some family members who voted for Trump and asking them if, knowing this, they’d still vote for him. If they said yes, then I would know. I would know that they aren’t ever allowed to be near my children again. I went back on Facebook to look for a picture of Miles, who is probably happily swimming right now.

What a fucked up country we are. How broken and rotten at the core we must be.