They Coulda’ Been Great: September-December 2016

It’s been a long time since I’ve added an update here…Like A YEAR. I’ll start with the rest of 2016. (What is this? All answers are HERE.)

September 2

9:17 p.m.

“So Mom, what was your favorite ride to watch today?”

Right there, Eleanor summed up my day at the amusement park.


September 6

3:48 p.m.

I took 5 pictures of the kids on their first day of school before noticing that the bus had already arrived (9 minutes early). I’m sure they felt nothing but relief as they ran off to catch it. They loathe my forced photo shoots. Then again, George will have to live with this as his first day of 4th grade picture for the rest of his life… And don’t even get me started on Oliver’s refusal to give up the backpack we bought him in first grade. He looks like a trendy girl from the 1990’s with one of those ridiculous mini-backpack purses. Otherwise – YAY SCHOOL!

pic 1

4:46 p.m.

Big surprise when Oliver got off the bus today… For years, he’s been telling me he wants to be a safety patrol. Look at that proud smile! As soon as we got home he told the neighbor’s cat all about it. He’s now polishing his badge. Obviously.

pic 2


September 13

9:07 a.m.

Walking to school this morning…

George: Mom look! Alice’s pee is going in the same direction as another dog’s pee.

Me: It is?

George: Yeah, she’s peeing on the same spot so the tracks match up.

Me: Well, dogs like to do that.

George: I think she’s leaving that other dog a message.

Me: That would make sense since dogs like to pee in the same places everyday, leaving messages.

George: Yeah, and they always check their mail.

…we’ve talked about dogs “leaving messages” since the twins were in preschool. When we first got Alice, George asked why she always sniffed places where other dogs had peed. I explained that Alice could tell a lot about those other dogs through what she smelled, their age, gender, breed… Later that night after he had used the bathroom, he saw Alice sniffing the toilet, “look Mom. She’s smelling my messages.” Thankfully, George has never been interested in checking his mail.

pic 2

4:46 p.m.

Oliver’s teacher had the kids fill each other’s “buckets” (yes that’s a bucket) with notes that (hopefully) say something complimentary. There was a lot of the generic “nice”, “awesome” and (inexplicably) “hi” notes. But this one made me smile. Also – I wholeheartedly agree

sept bucket


September 15

5:35 p.m.

If I was ever asked to encapsulate my twins’ personalities on paper…

“I [Eleanor] started 4th grade today. It was pretty exciting. I think my favorite part will be starting band.”

“George started 4th grade today. he doesn’t like school. but he mite have adHd.”

sept 4th grade times

6:16 p.m.

Me: Eleanor – do you want to do the running program at school?

Eleanor: Yeah! That sounds really fun and I’m good at running.

Enjoyment of physical exertion AND self confidence? Clearly there was some switched at birth situation at the hospital…


September 16

2:30 p.m.

It MAY be possible to not sing along when Whitney comes on the radio with “How Will I Know” … But I really don’t want anything to do with that world.



September 21

7:45 a.m.

Walking your son and his friends to school provides unexpected learning opportunities. For instance, I learned from them that if you are stranded without water, the best means of hydration is drinking your own urine. They have of yet to learn anything from me. #boys

sept walk


September 22

7:33 p.m.

How is everyone doing this three fictional characters thing!? At first I thought it was another buzzfeed quiz. Is there some kind of fictional character encyclopedia I can reference? This could easily be a week long research project for me… Suggestions?

Also – I haven’t seen one Sex and the City character. Is that so 10 years ago? You people are digging deep!


September 23

5:13 p.m.

I think this is about as close as I’m going to get for 3 fictional characters. A little expected…but the most accurate. My short list also included Leslie Knope (for her oblivious optimism – but ultimately too energetic), Monica Geller (for her Christmas tree – but I could never attain that level of perfectionism), Elinor Dashwood (but I can’t include her AND Lady Grantham), Sansa Stark (pointed out to me a while back by Diane Cooper Gould), Nancy from Thirtysomething (but that made me sad), Angela from My So Called Life (but that was just high school me) and “every TV mom ever.” And if you don’t get Bob Newhart, then you’ve never met my family.

3 fictional characters 3

10:17 p.m.

“Wash your face! With soap! But not too much soap… And use water!”

Bedtime routine directives require a high level of precision in this house.


September 24

12:56 p.m.

Oh, just sitting at Dunkin Donuts, using the wifi and surreptitiously lip syncing to Mariah’s “Always Be My Baby.” You?


9:18 p.m.

Best tweet: “This is what America is! We disagree but we don’t hate.”

No one enters the Oval Office without a certain level of ego…but hate is unproductive and destructive. Any campaign that features hate and fear mongering does not get my vote.


October 3

10:43 p.m.

Mammogram perk: no one asks you to step on a scale.

Has it been a year? Don’t forget to schedule your annual appointment!

7:51 p.m.

Chris: you smell lotion-y.

Me: I just put on my moisturizer. I do it early so I’m not all, “I’m too tired…I don’t feel like it…” at bedtime.

Chris: Why don’t you just do it in the morning.

Me: I have morning AND evening skincare routines.

Chris: You do?

Me: YES!

Chris: I don’t know! I’m not a girl!



October 4

5:34 p.m.

Baby Andrew and I decided to rock stripes today. Nailed it.

Also – is that the cutest baby you’ve ever seen OR WHAT? Everyone at Target thought so.

Thank you for the baby love today Anna Donaldson!

baby andrew

7:28 p.m.

“Inexplicable aches and pains are just part of the human condition.”

One of my fancy answers for “I don’t know.”

I have no idea why my children bother asking me questions…

9:00 p.m.

Someday my children will look through old family photos and talk about what a creep their mother was taking all of those pictures while they were sleeping but COME ON!

oct sleep


October 7

10:44 a.m.

Me: What are you wearing?

Visiting 6 year old: I’m going on summer vacation.

Me: Okay…

V6YO: She [Eleanor] said we were never friends.

George: That’s what she said.

Me: Don’t say “that’s what she said.”

V6YO: But THAT’S what she said.

Me: That’s not what he meant…

Eleanor: I was just kidding.

V6YO: Well, I’m still going on summer vacation.

As long as we all know where we stand.



October 9

7:16 p.m.

This is turning 10:

1. Dressing yourself in the morning and wearing the same mismatched clothes to your party.

2. Letting your parents buy ANOTHER pinata which they think you still like…because they’re right.

3. Convincing your mother to replace original oil paintings with Halloween decorations you received as presents.

When did the party end? When George came inside and said, “Mom! Ask Armando’s parents if he’s had his tetanus shot!”

Happy birthday George and Eleanor!

hb 1

hb 2

hb 3

hb 4


October 10

4:00 p.m.

“Mom! Where are my gloves?” Because that’s not creepy enough…. Things I didn’t consider when I said, “yes – you can buy a Minecraft sweatshirt.”

oct sweatshirt


October 22

7:52 p.m.

Oliver (playing some kind of roughhousing game with Eleanor): Okay Eleanor – that’s one strike. Four more and you’re out!

Apparently we work on a five strike system now. #givingALLofthechances

[Then George – who isn’t playing – passes through the room, saying “it’s fun having a brother like Oliver.” I should think so.]


October 23

10:04 p.m.

I’ve always loved this 1970’s picture of a very tiny me, back when all you needed for family fun was a rope, a board and a frighteningly close tree trunk.



October 24

4:49 p.m.

8 year old neighbor to George after going home to ask his mother something:

“She said no in a way that means she won’t change her mind even if we keep asking.”

My kids should take lessons from that boy…

7:30 p.m.

You guys! We should totally start a band. (No – I really couldn’t tell you why George isn’t wearing a shirt.) #twins #pleasedontstartaband

oct band


October 27

4:22 p.m.

4th grade art project (aquatic theme?) Which is Eleanor’s and which is George’s? Hint: we fully live up to gender role expectations around here… #twins



October 29

12:00 p.m.

Such a beautiful, sunny day! Perfect for a stroll outside…a bank robbery or two…

oct mask

2:45 p.m.

“Halloween Brownies isn’t a thing.” …and other things I say to my kids at Target. Epilogue: we’re making brownies this weekend.

4:35 p.m.

It’s like the weather KNEW my shirt would arrive in the mail today.

nasty woman

6:30 p.m.

2 pumpkins down!

oct pumpkins


October 31

5:30 p.m.

When you wait until the last minute to decide what you want to be…you get to wear last year’s ninja costume.

oct george

You would think that after 4 years of being a vampire, he would want to try something else. You would be wrong.

oct oliver

And the winner for Most Animated Demon is…

oct eleanor


November 1

6:13 p.m.

8 Year Old Neighbor: I have to tell my mom the scores I got on my tests today.

Me: Were they good?

8YON: Yes! On the first one, I got 22 out of 27 and on the shorter one I got 22 out of 22.

Me: That’s great! On the shorter one you got a perfect score!

8YON: And I got almost all of the answers right on the longer one.

Me: That’s true – very impressive.

8YON: Yeah – and they were almost all wild guesses.

Good to know all of that hard work is paying off.


November 4

4:08 p.m.

Today, I got an e-mail from Oliver’s science teacher. As he advances through grades (now in 5th), he spends more and more time outside of the classroom working in small group and one-on-one academic pullouts. It’s necessary since he is working at a different grade level than his classmates, and luckily, he’s a good sport about it. From what his teachers tell me, he never complains or seems to see it as a negative reflection on him as a student. BUT he does get to stay with the class for “specials”, science, etc. Back to the e-mail…His teacher summed up so much of Oliver’s personality in a few lines. Kids who have academic challenges are often insecure in school and don’t seek the spotlight – and I am so grateful for my son’s confidence and positive sense of self. Here is what she wrote:

“I just wanted to share these pictures from science with you. Today Oliver had another great class! We were playing “echolocation tag” and he volunteered to be blindfolded and act as our “bat” who had to use just his sense of hearing to find his bug dinner. He was great! Then, knowing his love of butterflies, I let him hold one of them on his finger as we released it. He was so gentle and so sweet with it. When we went back inside, he said, “I’m gonna miss my little buddy.” It made my day! He is such a great kid!”

I can’t imagine life without MY little buddy. Though at 5′ 2″, he’s not exactly little anymore…



November 8

11:44 p.m.





November 9

10:47 a.m.

This morning, I sent my kids off to school with one directive: prioritize kindness.

They’ve watched silly videos and made Trump jokes…and on a more serious level, they’ve expressed outrage that a presidential candidate would publicly mimic a reporter with a disability, call women pigs and slobs, say Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers, suggest that a Black Lives Matter protestor DESERVED to be beaten up…and every child with access to YouTube has heard the “grab them by the pussy…when you’re a star you can do anything” brag. So I don’t blame my kids for believing that someone who could behave like that would never be elected as president. If I had their level of life experience, I would have had the same confidence.

So today they get their first taste of the real world. They see that much of our country is willing to brush aside racism and misogyny, and to take flat out lies at face value – simply because they want “change.” Apparently, at any price.

But that’s MY perspective. They’re just kids. And today they will be in school with other kids who are celebrating. And all of those kids have one thing in common – they are just reflecting the ideals of their parents. They do not have the life experience or intellectual capacity to truly engage in intelligent debate. So they shouldn’t be debating or arguing with each other. At all. Every single one of them should feel safe at school. They should not be berated for supporting “a racist” and they should not jeered at because their “corrupt” candidate lost. No child should be bullied for the decisions their parents have made.

So I told my three elementary school students to be kind. And to accept nothing less than kindness from others. Teachers will need to police this carefully, but I hope that when no one is looking, my own children choose to be kind. Today, they will have an early life lesson in balancing anger with graciousness. Something that doesn’t come easily to anyone.

We already talk a lot about how people need time and space to “feel their feelings.” I will continue that conversation so they understand that moving forward doesn’t require leaving those feelings behind. And that they will have to give the same courtesy to others. The fact that our country needs to be healed is a given – but that will never happen unless people are allowed to grieve and feel fury on their own timetable.

And probably the most important lesson that my white, middle class, extraordinarily privileged children can learn today is what it feels like to be a minority. Especially since this experience is but whisper of what people of color face on a day to day basis. I would love to spare them this fear of an uncertain future…but maybe allowing them to truly acknowledge those feelings will plant a seed for future empathy and understanding.

And all of this is on me as the parent. It’s on all of us. As our country spends the day crying, celebrating, hoping, despairing and planning, we also need to think about our children and what we want them to learn.

Children respond best to clear, uncomplicated messages. And I think kindness is an excellent place to start.

1:00 p.m.

Yesterday’s choice was easy. Today’s is much harder…



November 13

4:58 p.m.

Just arrived at the grocery store and realized I’m still wearing my slippers. #suburbsrepresent



November 14

5:58 p.m.

I used to think I was a really patient mother. Then math homework happened.

6:15 p.m.

Me: What is 11 minus 4?

Oliver: Give me one of your fingers.

#teamwork #MathHomeworkHostage



November 18

8:42 a.m.

6 year old girl walking to school with us today…

“My name is NO! My number is NO! …”

Practicing? #attagirl #theygottaletitgo

9:45 a.m.

Eleanor has been very concerned about me forgetting that she needs a costume for the 4th grade’s Colonial Day at school (what is she trying to say?). Proved her wrong with an 11th hour Pilgrim costume from Party City. A little off from a historical standpoint…but we said “good enough!” Apparently it pays to keep the bar low. I asked George if he wanted to dress up but he said, “no way – that’s so embarrassing!” The gender role conformity continues…



November 24

10:29 a.m.

Eleanor: On The first Thanksgiving, they didn’t dress up. They just gave thanks.

Excellent argument for not putting on fancy clothes today….


November 27

10:52 a.m.

“Can you find the elf? and 11 candy canes?” It’s not even December and we’re already talking about the damn elf. Decorations, Advent calendars and Elf placement begins on December 1 in my house. These kids need to slow their roll…



November 29

4:26 p.m.

Homework with 6 year old neighbor…

Me: What is that?

6YON: A pig.

Me: Write “pig” there.

6YON: [writing]

Me: That says “pike.”

6YON: Well at least I know how to spell “pike.”


8:42 p.m.

Eleanor asked if she could read a book to the boys tonight. Now she’s quizzing Oliver on reading comprehension. What is it with 10 year old girls making everything about school?


November 30

3:18 p.m.

I just bought one of those shatter resistant glass screen protectors…and shattered it while trying to put it on my phone. Sounds about right.


December 1

7:14 p.m.

Still life titled “Mom! We’re home!”



December 2

3:00 p.m.

Love my new wrapping paper from The Container Store.



December 6

7:14 p.m.

Me: Oliver…are those the same clothes you wore yesterday?

Oliver: Yup.

Things I notice at 7:00 pm. #RaisedByWolves


December 9

8:55 a.m.

“No! I said no detours, no climbing and no touching things. We are just walking to school. Let’s go!”

I totally bring the fun.



December 11

6:57 p.m.

Oliver wants me to buy him a Santa suit because of course he does.



December 13

8:29 p.m.

Eleanor is in the school play (Peter Pan) and her part is “Small Brave Girl” – one of Tiger Lily’s entourage. All of her songs involve lyrics like “ugh a wug” – so not at all offensive or anything… Anyway – everyone with more of a chorus role has been tasked with coming up with their own name and backstory. We were thinking of potential Indian names, and at the moment Soaring Sparrow (because she’s small, light and swift) seems to be the winner. Not set in stone, so if you have any other ideas, feel free to pass them on. But don’t even with Stands With A Fist. I already tried…


3:30 p.m.

NOW it feels like The Christmas season.



December 14

7:07 p.m.

For the first time ever – I’m not micromanaging how the gifts are positioned under the tree…yet. #PerfectBowsAREMoreFestive



December 16

4:07 p.m.

Okay – so I don’t have a picture on my phone that really shows this off to full effect… But I never cease to be amazed by my prophetic consumerism. When I was pregnant with the twins, I bought these adorable prints titled, “Banditos” (which the kids called “Bendy Toes” when they were little) from The Black Apple Etsy shop. I mean – how did I know??

bt 2


December 19

7:20 p.m.

Oliver is doing word searches and needed help finding “CANDLES”. Eleanor is always ready to boss people around and was happy to assist. She found “CANDY” but Oliver was adamant that he had to find “CANDLES” first. I said, “Oliver likes to do things in order,” and channeling Buddy the Elf, he agreed, “I like order – it’s my favorite.” Then Alice padded over to sit on the workbook. #teamwork



December 20

4:20 p.m.

Since I can’t send everyone a card… This picture was taken on our cross country trip this summer. If I had any idea that Sioux Falls would offer this kind of photo op, I would have dressed them in nicer clothes (which I guess would have required having packed nicer clothes…)



December 24

6:13 p.m.

I just managed to make a double batch of cookies with one extra stick of butter. Now that the rage is subsiding, I’ve decided that there are worse problems to have in the way of cookies.

6:30 p.m.

Weird mix of proud and jealous. That’s my childhood right there – down to the casual yoga pose. Meanwhile I am cleaning the kitchen and icing cookies. #nostalgia



December 25

6:30 a.m.

I don’t want to brag…but it’s December 25, and we remembered to move the elf every single night! Of course, a couple of those “nights” involved me waking up at 4:00 am in a cold sweat and running downstairs with a speed to rival those mornings that I hear the trash truck and realize that I didn’t put out the garbage. Whatever – it’s a personal best. #ElfMagic


7:35 a.m.

We put the “crack” in crack of dawn crafts. With safety goggles. #sorryneighbors




December 31

2:30 p.m.

Oh little green ornament on the ground…we are on the same page. I think I’m ready for the holidays to be over now.


One thought on “They Coulda’ Been Great: September-December 2016

  1. Gabriela

    Man, have I missed your blog posts. This was another example of your exquisite ability to convey even the minutest of details with great alacrity. I am bowing down to you with the deepest admiration. Thank you for the fantastic update. I savored your every word.


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