Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Great Moments in Parenting

I come out of my dissertation cave to bring you a great moment in parenting. 

It happened last night.  Like many nights, Mayzie snuck into our room and woke me up to cuddle.  Like most nights when this happens, I was feeling too tired to bother to get up and put her back in her bed.  That was my first mistake.  

We snuggled down.  I took a deep whiff of her hair, as I always do when my girls are close.  I closed my eyes to go back to sleep, and then it happened.  Mayzie convulsed once, and I immediately opened my eyes and sat up a bit.  It was dark, but I felt the slime of vomit running down her cheek.  I sat her up and then it exploded everywhere not once, but at least 5 times.  It was all over me, Mayzie, my pillow, the bed, the wall, and even a bit on a sleeping Andy’s arm.

 I yelled, “ANDY!”
(How does this guy sleep through everything?) 

He jumped up and into action, and Mayzie kept spewing.  I’ll spare you the details of the puke, because I’m sure you can imagine yucky puke that sticks to you when you stand.  <Insert gagging here>

I grabbed Mayzie and headed straight to the bathroom. I plunked her in the bathtub and stripped her down while she pointed out all the vomit that was on me too.  I cleaned her up while she shivered, and eventually got all the chunks out of her tangled hair. 

When we walked back to our bedroom, Andy was almost done making the bed with new sheets and blankets.  He’d already put the dirty ones in the laundry, including the koala that Mayzie had been holding when it happened. 

This was NOT fun.
No really, it was disgusting, and a parenting moment that nobody wants to remember. 
But I want to remember it. 
I don’t want to remember the nasty vomiting mess of crying that it was.
I DO want to remember the divide and conquer approach that Andy and I immediately took.  I want to remember our teamwork in a crazy 1am situation.  Did we stop to talk about it and make a plan?  Nope.  We just did it.   That was a great moment in parenting.  That was 10+ years of partnership working in harmonious cooperation.  It was gross, but beautiful at the same time. 

Aaand now I retreat to my dissertation cave. 
Due January 6th

I’ll sleep after that. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I have a confession to make.
I've been sleeping in the afternoon.
This wouldn't be such a strange revelation if I was a 3 year old, but I'm 34 years old and my 3 year old doesn't even take naps for me anymore.
So you might be wondering how I'm accomplishing these naps if Mayzie isn't even asleep.  Well, that's a little complicated...ok, not really.  I've been turning on a movie and sleeping on the couch while both my kids slobber in front of the TV.
Well, they're not exactly slobbering, because when I wake up there's a mess.  
These naps have to stop!  Two stories will illustrate why.

1. We took the kids to Boo at the Zoo, where they got a bag full of candy.  I woke up from a recent nap to find two empty bags of candy and a floor full of wrappers.  The girls weren't exactly bouncing off the walls, but they were certainly happy and full of smirks.  This is how I learned that the top of the refrigerator is not a safe place to hide things anymore.

2. Yesterday I woke up from a brief nap (actually I have no idea how long I was asleep).  I passed a closed bathroom door on the way to the kitchen and knocked.  Annika tried to sound nonchalant and busy in there, but something was amiss.  (It is seriously hilarious to listen to a 5 year old trying to be nonchalant btw!)  I opened the door to find her holding a half-empty can of frosting.  I successfully stifled my giggles and punished her appropriately, and resolved to stop the naps.

Why am I taking the naps?
Well, I'm having a hard time sleeping at night.  I've got a whole lot of coals in the fire and the accompanying anxiety of not knowing which is going to work out is waking me up.
So I'm still taking a break from regular blogging, mostly because I'm working on all these coals.

I'm resolved now though: NO MORE NAPS!
<YAWN> Where's the coffee?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fall Apple Activities

As I am completely engrossed in job applications, conference papers, and my dissertation, I thought perhaps a guest post might be fun.  How fortuitous that my friend Ryan had a Fall Themed post just for me! 
Enjoy being crafty with Ryan: 

Now that we are firmly in fall, it is the perfect time for apple crafts with your kids.  Whether you are doing them as an outdoors activity on a clear crisp day, or around a warm fire with everyone bundled up in their kids pajamas, these activities can be a great way to celebrate the most colorful season with a colorful fruit.  From painted apple prints, to all natural bird feeders, here are three ways to make the most out of the fruit and the fall season!

1.       1. Craft your own apple tree
For this activity you will need brown and green construction paper, cotton balls, scissors, glue, and magic markers.  First have your child trace their hand and as much of their forearm as will fit on the brown construction paper.  Then cut it out.  This will be the trunk of the apple tree.  Then they can cut out a bushy circular shape that is a few inches wider than their hand print from the green construction paper – this will form the leaves of the tree.
The next step is to glue the green “leaves” piece so it attaches to the back of the “trunk” piece, forming a complete tree.  Then, the cotton balls can be colored in with red, green and yellow marker to make different, delicious types of apples.  Once the ink in the cotton balls has dried out, they too can be glued onto the tree.  The tree can be decorated with squirrels, birds, bumblebees, or any other animals you may find in an apple orchard.  Once everything is dried, you may want to hang it up on the wall, put in a scrap book, or attach it to a large poster board.  If you attach it to the poster board, your kid can add to it to create a whole apple orchard, or you could even make a tradition where each year they add a new different kind of tree and they can see firsthand how their art skills develop!

2. Apple Fall Prints
This activity is great because even the youngest kids can have a blast doing it.  You will need some paint, a few paper plates, an apple sliced in half, leaves of different shapes and sizes, and a poster board.  Pour some fall colored paint (red, yellow, orange, green) onto each of the paper plates.  Then it is as easy as dipping the leaves and apple halves into the paint and stamping them onto the poster board.  They can be shaped into your child’s name, like a sun with a golden delicious apple stamp in the center and then fiery covered leaves surrounding it, or into whatever shape your child can imagine!  You can also use magic markers or paintbrushes to add more elements to the artwork.  If you put the apple tree from the first activity on a poster board, this can also be a fun way to accentuate the background.  This activity can get messy, so it may be a good idea to either lay out some newspapers, or do it outside and bring a change of clothes or a kids bath robe for your children to change into before coming bck into the house.

3.     3.   Organic Apple Bird Feeders
During the fall many animals are trying to eat as much as they can to store some energy for the long, cold winter.  You and your child may be able to help the birds plump up by making an all-natural apple bird feeder.  For this, you will need an apple corer, darning needle or skewer, a few feet of natural twine, some peanut butter, and sunflower seeds.  Here is how to do it:
1.       Note: This step involves sharp tools so an adult should do it for the child. Put a whole through the center of the apple with an apple corer, skewer or large needle.
2.       Thread a piece of twine through the center of the apple and tie it off so the apple can securely hang from it.
3.       Coat the apple in a thin layer of peanut butter.
4.       Cover the apple in sunflower seeds.
5.       Hang up your natural bird feeder from a nearby tree, windowsill or awning.
If you hang up the birdfeeder somewhere in view of your window, you and your child may be able to watch the different birds come by and feast off of it.  For older kids, they can grab a pair of binoculars and a local field guide to observe which kind of birds come, and if the bird feeder lasts long enough (or you just build more) they can take notes of which birds come at which times of the year.  Another idea is to add things like nuts, oatmeal, or rice and see if the birds have a preference for certain foods.  If your kids take good notes on their observations, it could even make a great project for extra credit in a science fair or for class!
Fall is definitely apple season, and with projects like birdfeeders, painted apple prints, and crafts to make your own tree, you and your child can fully embrace it!  If you go to an apple orchard you may even be able bond with your child while you pick your own, and it is a great opportunity to spend a little more time outside before the winter weather sets in!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pardon the Interruption

I'm currently almost busier than I have ever been in my life.  I have so many things in the pipe-line that need my attention, and sometimes I find myself completely overwhelmed as my shoulder muscles start spasming.  This is no fun, but it must be done.

I write this not as a lame attempt at sympathy.  No "poor Hillary" necessary.  I'm happy as can be working my butt off, despite the ever present somatoform stress expressions.

This month is always nuts for Academics that are on the job market...and yes, I've decided to put myself out there after much convincing by several professors in my department and others.  I don't feel prepared, but that's fine.  If you know anything about Academic hiring processes, this means that I'll spend time preparing my applications for submission by their various deadlines (most within the next month).  I'll then get to wait, which really means getting back to my dissertation.  I'll hear back in November if I get to be interviewed, and will most likely interview at the AAA meetings in Chicago.  That's a pretty quick turn around really, all things considered.  So IF I got an interview and dazzled them, then I would be invited to probably another round of interviews.  IF I got past those, then I would be invited to come give a lecture to the department presenting my work.  All the professors in the department would "engage" me as a scholar (read: pound me with questions that I should or should not know the answers to).  I'll get to schmooze with the department, and then fly home to wait again.  And wait, and wait, and keep my fingers crossed.

In addition to the faculty positions I'm applying for, I am also applying for postdoctoral positions at several universities, 2 writing post-doc fellowships, and 3 independent research postdoc fellowships.  Didn't you know that I'm ambitious?  Perhaps a bit too much for my own sanity.

Again, I'm writing all this down more for posterity so I can look back and laugh at how silly I was for stressing out about all this stuff.  I NEVER want to give the impression that I am part of the holier-than-thou-Oh-so-busy club.  I hate that club.  I hate what they stand for.  I hate the super-American-ness of it all, and I refuse to be a part of it.  I want to document this for myself.  I want to write this so that my family understands why I'm not calling or answering the phone so much, and why I always look tired.  I want them to be proud of me, but more than that, I want to be proud of me.  I know that going balls to the wall (pardon the expression) is really the only way that I'm going to be satisfied with myself.

So pardon the interruption if I don't get around to publishing as much as previously.  I'm busy being a Mama PhD, and loving almost every minute of it.

P.S. Be proud of me: my dissertation is seriously starting to take shape now with almost 1/2 of it finished!

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Guess who just finished another chapter draft and sent it off to her committee.
Guess who is done with her 2 postdoctoral applications 2 days before they're due.
Guess who will be celebrating with a bottle of yummy wine, blue rock candy, and a viewing of the finale of Breaking Bad with good friends.

Yep, that's me!

I'm trying not to get too excited, since I have another research proposal due one month from today.

But for today, I'm celebrating the mini-victory.  I beat my own procrastination.  I beat my sense of unworthiness.  I finished a lovely chapter and 2 applications ON TIME, and that is an accomplishment worthy of celebration for sure!

Hip Hip Hooray for me!

Monday, September 23, 2013

STRESS Expressions

I sincerely HATE when my body has to remind me that I'm trying to do too much and I need to slow down.  Today, the day before I make a HUGE presentation, my body has decided to remind me that I need to back off the pressure cooker that I've created for myself.  The somatic expression of my stress is not a new thing, but that doesn't mean it is welcome either.

My stress pains start between my shoulders.  The muscles that wrap around my shoulder blades start to twitch and the tops of my shoulders turn into rocks of muscle-y flesh.  Next comes the jaw-clenching which eventually results in tension headaches. Then my entire spine from between my shoulders to where my head rests starts to feel like every muscle is contracted at once, and I can hardly turn my head.  The PAIN is very very much real, as is the stress that I'm trying much too hard to ignore right now.

I can't stay in bed.  I can't lay flat without shooting pains in my spine.  I can't turn my head.

This happened once before, in Germany, and I went to see a doctor that was only semi-helpful.  She might have been more helpful if she hadn't embarrassed the crap out of me BOTH times I went to see her.  I stayed in bed for at least 5 days before even seeking help that then didn't even help me.  I don't want to do that again.

But today, today I HAVE to make myself feel better.  I HAVE to be able to move around without crying.  I HAVE to be able to look and feel good tomorrow for my presentation.  So today I will try to stretch.  I will try to relax.  I will try not to vomit in the steam room of my gym.

Here's hoping the stress wanes long enough for me to pretend to be smart, pretty, and talented for an hour tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#iPPP Brains

We've got brains.  Yes we do.  We've got brains.  How about you?  

Here we have Supergirl, standing on something she's not supposed to be on at the children's museum, while her princess sister stares up completely fascinated by the lights inside the brain sculpture.  

I love this picture for so many reasons.  First of all, it was taken at the birthday party of dear friends of ours.  I love that Annika found a way to do something she isn't supposed to at a museum specifically designed for children.  I love that Mayzie is somewhat oblivious to Annika and in her own little fascinated world.  I love that this was taken during the brief hours long interlude between each of my girls being feverish and sickly.  Most of all, I love this picture because of the giant brain sculpture that occupied my girls for at least 5 whole minutes of intrigued bliss.  

It serves as a great reminder for me that their brains are growing and shaping in ways that I can't even comprehend at this point.  My words and actions must be chosen carefully, lest I teach them unintentional lessons.  The pressure of parenthood can sometimes be a little overwhelming.  I remember the initial freak-out over the fact that I was now responsible for raising these tiny little beings, and it really hasn't waned as they get older.  Their opinions and knowledge are still so shaped by what we teach them, though I know that won't always be the case.  But for now, I'll keep their little brains in mind whenever we are interacting, and try to remember that my words and actions are a part of the way that they will be shaped over the long term.  

P.S. We LOVE to play Zombie around our house, and routinely "eat" each other's brains.  This could also be an explanation as to why the girls are so fascinated with brains.  Annika even asked me this morning how brains stay together and a fun anatomy discussion ensued.  Yeah, we're that kind of family. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Childhood Sick Roles

The sick role is the culturally shaped performative aspect of being sick.  Basically, your culture teaches you how you are supposed to act when you are sick, and you do it in part because that is what you have learned and think you should behave.  Talcott Parson's concept of the sick role is rather widely accepted, though it has also been contested and redefined by things like chronic and mental illness more recently.  

**And now is when you remember that I really am an anthropology geek at heart.**

Don't worry, I'm going to relate this all back to my life now though...

This past Thursday, Mayzie all of a sudden came down with a fever.  I immediately put her on the couch and started to cater to her every desire.  I did so unconsciously, but then also geekily realized that I was teaching her the sick role by doing this.  Yes, I like to apply social science theory in my daily life.  So what?  **sarcasm**  The fever hit hard and she had to miss school on Friday.  

Here we are on said couch cuddling and probably watching yet another episode of Trotro.

Mayzie had to miss her cousin's birthday party Friday night, but thankfully was better by Saturday morning to attend a superhero birthday bash at the Children's Museum the next day.  We three girls had a great time at the birthday party, and then I left to go get some work done (as I do most weekends).  By the time I got home on Saturday evening, Annika was running a fever of 102.3.  

Today, Annika has fully adopted the sick role on our couch as you can note here in her fetal position.  Doesn't she look like such an angel?  

This is the thing about the sick role: I feel it my duty as their mother to teach it to them.  I want them to know how important it is to take the time to feel better when you are feeling sick.  I want them to behave in culturally appropriate ways as American girls.  Do I know and understand other cultures' sick roles?  As an anthropologist, I should certainly hope so.  But do I need to implement them in the life of my family?  Certainly not.  Not all professional knowledge needs to be applied in my personal life right?  

As a complete aside, I MUST note here two of my favorite German sick role observations.

1. If you are ill or getting ill or think that you might at some point in the near future become ill, you must ALWAYS cover your neck.  I cannot tell you how many Germans advised me to put on a scarf when I was feeling a tad bit under the weather.  I found it comical.  Do we do that too?  

2. Go immediately to the Apotheke (pharmacy) and get yourself some preventative medicine.  We don't really do this in the US, but I actually like this policy quite a bit.  Most Germans, upon feeling the first hint of sickness, will head to the Apotheke and get some vitamins and/or tonics to ward off sickness.  I've certainly adopted this policy of vitamins at the beginning of sickness, though our preventative medicine here in the US leaves MUCH to be desired.  

Let me return to childhood sick roles and my girls.  I was astounded at Mayzie's ability to completely recognize that her sick role was a way to be treated completely differently.  At first she would ask for things demurely, as if not sure that she would actually get them.  By the end of the day, she was demanding things without even a hint of please.  She hasn't quite mastered the art of remaining submissively demanding yet, but she could certainly learn from her sister who insists on giving me the Puss-in-Boots eyes all day long at every request.  

Fingers crossed that Annika is feeling better this morning.  I would hate to mar her perfect attendance record for a silly little virus that produces a fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, and nothing else.  Here's hoping I'll still get my 3 hours of work in today, regardless of if I have to tend to a sick girl. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

5 Things about Anthropologists' Kids

The children of Anthropologists are a little bit different than your average child.  Their parents study people for a living, so how could they not be?  Here is a short list of ways I think that anthropologists' children (including my own) are changed by having us as parents.  

1. Anthropologists' kids can explain cultural relativity to their Kindergarten class.
My daughter might not know the term cultural relativity, but she can sure explain the fact that different people in different places have different rules and that's ok.  Essentially, that is the crux of cultural relativity, without getting into too much nuance.  We'll save the nuance for when she's a little bit older.  

2. Anthropologists' kids know a ton of random trivial facts about cultures far and wide. 
Annika already knows that not everyone keeps dogs as pets and that some people like to eat bugs.  So far, most of her random knowledge has to do with food, but this will surely expand as she grows up and I trot out more random facts to make her gasp.  

3. Anthropologists' kids catch the wanderlust bug early.  
As noted earlier, Annika already wants to travel around the world.  Her list of places to visit grows by the week, and I can't wait to take her.  I want to explore the world with both my girls while they are still young enough to be in awe of it all and old enough to remember it for the rest of their lives.  Of course, I do still consider myself in this category, but I know that isn't for everyone.  Andy gets a little peeved whenever I talk about travel too much.  He tells me to just put it on the list, but the list is becoming a little unmanageable.  Let's hope my girls keep their wanderlust throughout their lives, just like their mama!   

4. Anthropologists' kids get more stamps in their passports.
Certainly related to #3 is the fact that anthropologists' kids do actually get to travel more than most other kids.  Depending on where their parents do their research, they may be making frequent trips to Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Brazil, or some other locale.  The fact that these kids already have passports, already makes them a little different than other kids too.  Annika is 5, and is about to get her 2nd passport.  Anthropologists' kids can be seasoned travelers who speak multiple languages, but it doesn't mean they are always good while under way.  They are still kids after all.  

5. Anthropologists' kids get observed more than other kids. 
Anthropologists are observers by training, so it only stands to reason that they would observe their own kids.  Some of us like to think of parenthood as the ultimate participant observation.  Nancy Scheper-Hughes, an UBER-famous anthropologist, actually published an article on her children's observations while they were in the field in Brazil with her.  She had them keep journals and she later wrote about what they experienced.  Now THAT is what you call observation.  When I was pregnant the first time, one of my professors made sure that I read all there was to read in the anthropological canon about infants' acquisition of culture and the culture of birth.  I'm pretty sure that non-anthropologists focus most of their pre-baby reading on What to Expect, without critiquing it for culturally biased opinions.  The observation started in the womb, and continues as they grow.  

We anthropologists have a very different conception of normal, as most of us understand that it is completely culturally and situationally relative.  I had a friend once chastise me for not breastfeeding another friend's 2 year old, because that's what they would do in Tanzania where she did her fieldwork.  That's an anthropologist for you!  She would probably laugh at that now, but at the time she was dead serious.  

We are an odd bunch we anthropologists.  We think about things a little differently, so how could our children know any different?  At least we help form them into interesting humans!

Here is our lovely family in Berlin (my fieldsite). 
*Photo Credit goes to our good friend Mike Terry.
Mike also does some amazing mixed media work that you can check out here

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Something I learned this week.

Yay Mama Kat!  I've been learning so much these past weeks, but I promise I'm going to try to narrow it down to just two things.

1. I am not ready for the academic job market.
Some people know they are ready to apply for professorship jobs while they are still writing up their dissertations.  Looking through the calls for applications that are floating around the internet for cultural/medical anthropologists, I have come to the realization that I am absolutely NOT ready for the academic job market.  I have zero publications to my name.  My dissertation is only half done.  I only have a vague idea what kind of classes I would teach, and the idea of competing with some of my colleagues (that I know personally) makes me queasy.

Yes, I have submitted one article for consideration.  Yes, I do actually have a little teaching experience, including designing my own course.  Yes, I do have a successful record of getting my research projects funded.  But do all those things add up to a competitive candidate for a professorship?  I don't think so.

The result is that now I am going to concentrate on only applying for postdoctoral positions and independent research funding.  I'm working on shaping a research proposal that would keep us here ideally for another 5 years, and I get to present it to the potential field site on the 24th.  I'm really excited about the prospect of conducting more independent research, even though the process of getting it all set up is a little daunting.  I've also narrowed down the postdoc positions that I'm applying for to just a handful that I actually want.  I'm hoping this is a good strategy, but only time will tell.

See, we really ARE hanging in the balance again right now!

2. I have totally bitten off more than I can chew.

In addition to all of the things I'm working on right now, as listed above, I've also started doing some freelance work part-time.  First up, I've been working on some qualitative data coding.  It is the same kind of stuff that I'm working on for my dissertation, so it isn't difficult.  It is paid by the hour, quite nicely I might add, and it is a contained project with attainable goals.  Secondly, I've taken on a freelance gig doing some simple SEO research for a very small company located here in Evansville.  It is completely unrelated to anything else in my life, other than blogging which I'm only mildly good at thanks to my guru Marianne, and I like it that way.

The issue: I cannot actually do ALL of these things and still sleep.  My working days are limited to Monday-Wednesday-Friday 8-10:45am, Tuesday 8-2:30, all weekdays 5-9pm, and weekends when we don't have other plans.  Does that sound like enough time to you?  Did you notice that there is very little time to actually spend with my husband in there?  I've TOTALLY bitten off more than I can chew.  Here's hoping that Alanis Morissette is right in recommending biting off more than I can chew. (Apologies if that reference is too old for you.)

I mostly thrive when I have too much to do.  I really do.  When my time is precious is when I get the most done.  Just thinking about it makes me a little exhausted, but this too shall pass.  There will come a time when I will be free to do what I want, and I'm sure that I'll mostly spend it knitting and watching bad television.  Until that time comes, I'll be busy pounding away on my laptop if you need me.

What did you learn this week?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#iPPP Family Days

There is nothing more important to me than family.  We are soo lucky to be surrounded by extended family here, and the perks are truly endless.  This past Saturday the amazing Aunt Amy gave us her free tickets to see Sesame Street Live.  When Andy first told me about the adventure, I asked, "Oo, so your Aunt Amy wants to take the girls?"  No such luck, but free is free either way.  

Here we are before the show. 

Mayzie giving me her best CHEESE.

Annika trying to look cheesy & scary, and succeeding at both. 

The show was really fun, and I loved the questions Annika kept posing me.  She would lean over and ask, "Mama, are they real?"  
I replied, "Well, what do you think?" 
Annika said, "Yeah, I think they're real.  What do you think?"  
I deferred, "I think you're right."  
Someday I will instill a skeptic in that girl, but now is not the time to do so about fluffy characters.  Let's wait at least a couple of years until after we take them to Disney World the first time. 

The show introduced a new friend from India, and Annika became fascinated.  I could see the wheels turning when she turned to me and asked, "Mama, can we go to India?"  Yes my dear, yes we can.  It is on the list of places I'd like to see before I leave this planet, and we will make that happen.  I adore the little adventurer that she already is and how large her world is.  I love that she dreams BIG and wants to travel.  I love that her perspective is already going toward the global, and like to think that I have something to do with that.  Perhaps all my silly anthropological quips about customs in other cultures are actually starting to sink into her evermore connecting brain.  Time will tell. 

We ate an early dinner, so we had time to take the girls outside to run around and get some fresh air before the mosquitoes descended.  The girls scared a Mama Duck and her 3 ducklings into hiding in the brush and loved every second of their waddling.    

Here is Annika giving her best DUH face and pointing at the ducks. 
Can you see them? 

The evening light was drizzling through the clouds as the sun sank ever lower, and I tried to catch the moment as much as possible with my phone. 

The girls found a flock of Canadian geese to chase into the pond. 

It was a beautiful day filled with family love.  Taking these days off could make me feel guilty for not working on my dissertation or multiple proposals that I have going at the moment.  But I don't let myself feel guilty.  I know that I will never regret spending too much time with my kids as they grow so quickly.  These fleeting moments make me appreciate the time I do get to spend with them, and make me so much more productive when I'm away pounding on my laptop like I do.  I love family days.  

P.S. For the best explanation of why time seems to go faster as we get older, check out this PhD Comic from a few weeks ago.  


Monday, September 9, 2013

One Year Ago

One year ago, we were still living in Berlin.  
Andy had JUST left to go back home again in Indiana already working at the job he still has.  
Our friend Ruth was in Berlin for the first time, working as our nanny for our last month there. 
The girls were growing bigger all the time, and were happily taking Ruth on a tour of all the local playgrounds. 
I was frantically running around Berlin gathering data for my dissertation and being continually drawn apart by my interviews and my want to be home with my girls.  
I was having a really hard time being away from Andy. 
I was in love with Berlin and was having a hard time even thinking about leaving.
I cried, a whole lot, about leaving and out of frustration with things at home that were still in chaos. 
It was a tumultuous time, see this post. 

I can't believe how little these girls look!!

I am stronger for having gone through it. 
Upon reflection, it was one of the most difficult, challenging, and rewarding parts of our Berlin adventure.  
I MISS RUTH, who now lives in Colorado.  
I miss our friends in Berlin.  
Funny enough, our old nanny Tali comes home this week after having spent a year as an au pair for our friends in Berlin.  
Life is complicated and fun and stressful and amazing all rolled into one big ball of whatever you want it to be.  
I'm a happier me for having had these experiences.  

One year from now?  Who knows where we'll be.  Isn't that intriguing and fun and stress-inducing all at once?  As always, I'm trying to enjoy the ride and laugh along the way. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

3 BIG Events Yesterday

Yesterday was a BIG day in the Melch house for 3 reasons.  Here they are in chronological order.

1. They FINALLY announced who is going to play Christian Grey.  Charlie Hunnam has been in my Top 5 ever since I watched the 1st episode of Sons of Anarchy.  Hey plays a great tortured gorgeous bad boy already, so Grey won't be too much of a stretch, though he will be going noticeably up the class scale for his new drama family.  I'm drooling already, and I haven't even read the 3rd book.  Please note: Academics can read smut too!

2. Our girls got to experience their first power outage.  We were reading stories on our bed when all of a sudden we heard a loud boom.  The power went out and the girls immediately started asking questions.  I love that they got curious instead of scared!  I checked the fuse box just to make sure and we wandered outside to check to see if our neighbors were also without power.  They were.  Thankfully there was still enough light outside to finish reading our books before bedtime, so we did.
Side note: They are currently outside banging around, fixing the power lines, so I'll shortly have to relocate in order to get ANY work done today, the only day that my girls are gone all day.

3. We finished reading the stories and Annika had already climbed into her bed.  I said, "Come on Mayzie," and then it happened.  Mayzie jumped down from our bed and bonked her mouth right on the corner of the nightstand.  She did that silent scream and I got a bad feeling.  I snatched her up and held her tight to my chest before I laid her down on the bed to inspect the wound.  Of course there was a ton of blood, so Annika started freaking out.  I told Annika to calm down and get me a rag.  She brought me a piece of toilet paper, so I went to grab a washcloth.  When I wiped the blood away, I saw that Mayzie had bitten through her lip and that our perfect record of never having been to the Emergency Department was in the toilet.  I called my MIL who came to pick up Annika at the ED.  She's really awesome like that.  We didn't even get a chance to sit in the waiting room before they took us back.  The doctor came in, pronounced possible cosmetic stitches necessary, and I said, "let's do this."  Two stitches and an hour and half later, we were out the door.  Mayzie didn't even shed one tear; she's so brave.

Such a big Labor Day for us and I didn't even mention the fair we went to in the morning and the swimming in the afternoon.  Did I mention that Andy was out of town at a Concert?  I was worried (excited?) that he might not leave me home alone with the girls for another weekend, but he assured me that he has the utmost confidence in my mothering skills.  DARN!

How was your Labor Day?  Did you do anything fun and relaxing?  Are you drooling over Charlie Hunnam too?

Friday, August 30, 2013

To My Mama Friends

I have some great mama friends!  I know that everybody thinks that their friends are the best, and they probably are the best for you, but I want you to know that I've found my tribe.  The only problem with my tribe?  We all live so far away from each other.  My tribe is located in Cleveland, Berlin, Indiana, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Minnesota, Florida, California, Washington D.C. area, and several other places that I'm sure I'm forgetting.  With all of us being so spread out, I sometimes get these awesome-sauce e-mails from my friends about the other mothers in their chosen area.  Yesterday I got the one below from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous.  The contents of this essay are the reason that we can be friends.  Enjoy! 

To my Mama friends:
There is a growing trend among my playground group that has me worried.   Mothers I know are increasingly more reliant on the internet to make any decision regarding their children.  They simply have no confidence in their decisions without an 'expert' telling them they are correct.
Whether it concerns the best activities for a six month old's fine motor skill development, the impact on using the perfect verbiage to build self esteem, or the ideal age for team sport participation, the moms I know are using the internet as a constant crutch for their parenting choices.  Constant.
And I get it.  I do.  No one wants to be the subject of some scary tell-all book/movie à la Mommy Dearest, right?  We want the best for our kids.  So, the best they will get.
But is that truly best for them?  I hate to question such a sincere dedication to one's offspring, but let's be honest-  Is the internet reallythat helpful in being the best parent we can be?
I can't lie.  I'm the first to hop on WebMD when my kiddos aren't feeling well and I've yet to be connected with their pediatrician.  I read mom blogs.  I even used to subscribe to the mom websites that seem to proudly tout their one-stop shop for all things baby. 
I'm finally realizing that I can't keep up.  There will always be a new study.  There will always be new methods.  All this constant Googling does is lead me- and I suspect others, too- into being a neurotic control freak of a mother.  This is a race I simply can't win.  True to my stubborn nature, though, rather than lose it entirely, I am dropping out.  I'm reclaiming my confidence in parenting. 
My children's birth certificates do not list BabyCenter, Mothering, TheBump, even the almighty Google.  But they sure as heck have myname on them.
Because here's the thing- there are two things that I can tell my children.  I can tell them:
You are breakable.  You are flimsy.  The slightest mistake on my part will cause this whole façade to crumble away and you'll be left with irreparable damage.
OR  I can tell them:
You are strong.  You are resilient.  Yeah, I'm going to screw up, but you're tough and you can handle it.  You'll get through my mishaps just like I got through my mom's mishaps and she got through her mother's.  That's the way of life.  It's not perfect.  But it's worth it.
No, I don't hold a doctorate in child psychology.  I didn't just finish my latest research on the effects of internet usage among mothers with toddlers.  I'm just another mom.  No credentials.  No accolades.
And frankly, I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

#iPPP After School

School ends for Mayzie at 11am.  We promptly eat lunch and then she lays down for a nap.  Sometimes I take a nap too, but more often than not I'm working on something dissertation or postdoc related.  By the time Mayzie wakes up, it is almost time for Annika's bus to drop her off.  There are about 15 minutes of every week day when Mayzie wants to stand outside and watch for her sister's bus to come around the corner.  It is the most adorable thing ever to see her face light up when she sees that bus.

Here she is waiting for the bus to arrive:

Annika always comes home completely famished and wanting to eat everything in the kitchen as quickly as possible.  Some days, she gets lucky.  Some days we make something special and sweet for both the girls to eat after school.  This day it was brownies:

After school time is so special to me.  It is the time that I get to help with homework and hear about their days.  It is the time that we get to cuddle on the couch because they are exhausted from all that learning and playing and doing.  It is the time when I remember just how lucky I am to be able to be here for them to come home after school.  My parents weren't that lucky.  My flexible schedule of working whenever I can makes me available to them in a way that I couldn't be if I had an 8-5 job.  I love that about being a grad school mommy, and I want to appreciate it while I can.  I know this after school gig won't always be great and I might not always be able to be here for them at this time.  But for now, just now, I'm reveling in the happy smiles that come my way as Annika bounds off the school bus and gives me and Mayzie big bear hugs. 

Hooking up with Greta and Sarah for their weekly #iPPP.  


Monday, August 26, 2013

Bored...Not Me

As a SAHM and graduate student, I don't get bored very often.  I always have things that I SHOULD be doing, but I also try to make time to just relax.  When have a slice of extra time, this is what I like to do.

10 Things I like to do to stave off boredom

1. Knit
I LOVE to knit.  I honestly start knitting Christmas presents in January and typically have to finish them all up as quickly as possible in December.  I always have at least 2 knitting projects going at a time in case I need to switch it up.  Confession: I knit while watching TV so that I feel like I'm still being productive.  Type A anyone?

2. Write lists
I have so much going on right now, that keeping up with my own schedule can be difficult.  I always have running lists for things that need to get done by a deadline.  If I ever think I might be getting bored, I start making other lists like: Things that need to get done around the house, Cleaning tasks, shopping lists, long term goals, goals for the week, etc etc etc.  I think you get the point.

3. Pinterest or Etsy Surf
Hi, my name is Hillary, and I'm completely addicted to Etsy and Pinterest.  There, I said it.  You can follow me on both.

4. Read a book
My best friend, who also has a PhD, told me that the one thing she missed in grad school was reading for fun.  She advised that I always keep a fun book going on the side.  I took that advice to heart, and have always one going.  I even started a book club with a couple friends so that we could talk about the books we read together.  Currently we're reading Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter.  It happens in 10 minute increments usually, but I love that little escape.

5. Hold a living room dance party
Oh yes, sometimes the only cure for boredom is to get up and shake our booties!  The girls love it, and I usually work up a little bit of a sweat.  Bonus: tiny workout!

6. Get outside
Nature always changes my perspective.  Slowing down and listening to the sounds of the birds and watching my girls find bugs with their magnifying glasses reminds me that chilling out isn't such a bad thing.

7. Ask my girls what they want to do
I LOVE this game.  I love to hear what they come up with.  Currently, they keep trying to nonchalantly suggest that we go back to Holiday World, the local theme park.  More often than not, they want to go to a playground or go get ice cream.  I'm always down for both of those things!

8. Call a friend
I love randomly dialing my friends all around the country and surprising them.  It is so much fun to hear their voices and to catch up.  I tend to keep friends that I love for a very long time, and keeping in touch with them, even if only occasionally, is really important to me.  I love random phone calls from long out of touch friends too, so being the one to call makes it all the more fun.

9. Organize or clean something
That's right, I don't just make lists about what needs to be done.  I also actually do things.  I'm not talking major projects, but sometimes the cabinet under the sink just needs to be reorganized.  Sometimes I need to go through the pile of papers and actually put them in the filing cabinet.  Sometimes the refrigerator just needs to be cleaned out.  If I think I'm bored, that is when those things happen in our house.

10. Play on my iPad
Yes, I do play games on my iPad.  I like to play word rush (kinda like boggle) and any puzzle games.  I refuse to even try that Candy Crush Saga because I KNOW I'll get addicted.  I also really like to peruse the local real estate on Zillow and check the news on Huffington Post.  This isn't even counting the games I play with the kids on there, but that's a separate list all together.

So there they are, 10 things that I do to stave off boredom.  I am quite rarely bored, but it does happen.  I really wish for bored days sometimes.  Being bored is also a chance to get lost in your own thoughts, and lost in thought is sometimes where my best ideas come from*.

Bored?  Not me!

*PhD Comics is one of my favorites, despite totally embarrassing myself in front of the guy who draws it.  That is a story for another time though.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

40 by 40 List

My fellow LTYM cast-mate Heather Sokol is an awesome-sauce work-at-home Mama to 4 kids.  She is hilarious, an expert over at Babble, and is always the center of attention in every room I've ever shared with her.  She's raucous and TALL and I <3 her so much that I wish we lived closer so we could hang out and drink copious amounts of wine and laugh together more.  Alas, she is 3 1/2 hours away.  Heather wrote this amazing list of 40 things she wanted to accomplish by the time she turned 40.  I was in awe just hearing that she did that, but then I read her actual list.  This girl is ambitious!  I love a girl with chutzpah, and Heather's got it.  I HAD to know more.  Luckily she was gracious enough to allow me interrogate interview her about the list.  She's like famous y'all and she has 4 kids, so her taking the time to answer my silly questions really means the world to me.  So without further ado, here's Heather in her own words.  

You can connect with Heather on Pinterest and Twitter @JustHeather too!

1. Did you know that if you google "40 by 40 list" that your blog is the first thing to come up?  You must be inspiring many of us 30-somethings going through our own identity crises.  How do you like being a hero? 

Wow. I actually didn't know that, but I'm thrilled if my list helps inspire others. It was a winding, arduous journey of discovering who I wanted to be when I grew up, and I am honored to think that I may have a small part in helping others do the same.

2. How did you come up with the idea for the list and your personal list? 

I can't take full credit. I found a 30x30 list on a now defunct blog, and I just loved the idea of a timeline for all those "someday" items. It took me most of a year to even come up with 40 items for the list. I was stuck in this rut of being nothing more than a wife and mom, but I knew that I had to be in there somewhere. The list ended up being a mix of things I've always wanted to do and things other people were surprised to find I'd never actually done. I tried to avoid things I felt like I should do because this was my chance to be a dreamer.

3. How do you feel about where you are on the list now?  Were your goals realistic, overly ambitious, insane, or perfect for you?  

At first, I was very task-oriented with the list. It took awhile for me to realize that as long as the spirit of the list was on track, I was successful. Now it's not really about goals so much as remembering to get out of my comfort zone now and then. I will likely never hit all 40 items, but I'm doing things I never thought I would, learning a lot about who I am and who I want to be, and that was the real point.

4. Did you post the list anywhere other than your blog, like in your house or on your desktop?  

I didn't, partly because I didn't want a list of things I couldn't accomplish staring me in the face when things weren't going well. When I'm working towards something specific, I might put a photo on my computer desktop. Mostly, though, I just check in on the blog page whenever I need a reminder or a feeling of accomplishment in seeing the crossed off items.

5. Now that you are closer to 40 than you are to 30, would you revise the list in any way?

I often revise the list, actually. Sometimes I'll look at an item on the list and realize it is there for the wrong reasons or I've outgrown the need to do it. Other times I'll think of something I should have added and it nags at me so much that I end up scratching something to include it.

6. What advice would you give to those of us thinking about composing our own lists?  

Before you think about what you want to put on your list, spend some time thinking about why you're starting it in the first place. That will help you compose the list, stay true to its purpose over the years, and feel more accomplished even when you aren't checking things off.

7. If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?  

I need some kind of super seeker power. We're always losing things around here - shoes, homework, car keys. I think I could about 2 hours back into each day if only I had the amazing power to find things immediately.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

Long term goals are hard to keep up with.  It is so easy to walk away from a project that you know you won't finish in one sitting or in one year.  By the time I graduate with my PhD in May, I will have been in graduate school for 8 years.  That is one major long term goal that I'm checking off the list.  A good friend in grad school once told me that a PhD is a degree in literacy and persistence.  I completely agree.  Yes, I set short term goals for myself, mostly because I feel better when I have boxes to check off.  I feel more accomplished.  

Intellectually, I know that getting a PhD is impressive, but I regularly forget it.  I'm remembering now more, since I'm no longer surrounded by my fellow PhD students and professors all the time.  Getting a PhD isn't for everyone.  Heck, most days I'm not sure it is for me.  Everyone I know with a PhD has at some time felt like they are an imposter and/or like they should be doing something else with their lives.  Existential crises aren't specific to academia, but we certainly have perfected them.  

But I won't be deterred by the overwhelming-ness of it all.  I won't let the long term goal and all the work it will take to get there scare me off.  I will do it.  I will do it.  Instead of the little engine's model of "I think I can," I choose to know I can.  I choose Dory's way of thinking, "Just keep swimming.  Just keep swimming.  What do we do?  We just keep swimming."  
Yeah, that's the perfect motto for now.  

On a completely separate note, I'm going to be really sad when the pool closes and we can't go swimming in the afternoons after school any more. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

2 Years Ago

This week, Mama Kat challenged us to: 
Open your picture folders, close your eyes and pick a random photo to share and write about.

I have to admit that our pictures are sorted into pretty little folders.  This is just another symptom of my hyper-organization.  This picture is 2 years old, though it feels like a million years ago.  

This is from the crazy summer before we went to Germany.  This is from the summer that was filled with panic attacks, late nights at cafes, and too little time with Andy.  It was the summer of Tali working as our part time nanny, and Mayzie saying her name before she said Mama.  It was the summer that I crammed in my qualifying exams as quickly as humanly possible.  It was the summer of Mayzie's diaper rash from HELL! We made plans and more plans that summer, and it actually all came together in the end.  We had no air-conditioning, save for the window units in our bedrooms.  But it was great.  Looking back I spent glorious amounts of time in the backyard watching our girls scamper through the sprinkler and dunk themselves in the kiddie pool.  We had a swing that hung from a high branch and the girls would fly through the air as fast as I could push them.  Annika was 3 and Mayzie was 1, and I was trying so very hard not to take my stress out on them during the days we had together.  We took too many trips to the zoo to count, and found every cool spray park in a 20 mile radius.  It was a summer that I want to 1/2 remember and 1/2 forget.  I'd definitely like to forget the part when my last living grandparent died and my advisor chastised me for missing a deadline because I was attending her funeral.  (Yeah, that really happened.)  

This picture is from the part I want to remember.  I want to remember the good times we had together.  I want to remember how this was the summer that my girls really started to discover each other.  I love their faces in this picture.  Don't they just look like they are conspiring something?  Now they really do conspire together, and it usually has to do with waking me up or trying to get away with something.  Here they were still so young.  Mayzie only had a few words and Annika was still sputtering her sentences.  I loved and hated that summer in the same breath sometimes, and spent far too many afternoons crying on the floor in my office instead of enjoying my time.  I felt guilty for wanting to work when I was with my kids and for thinking about my kids while I was working.  (Isn't that the paradox of every working mother?)  It was a summer study in contrasts, and my girls went through it all with me.  I'm so very thankful that they didn't have any long-term memories at that point! 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Play Dates #iPPP

I love a good play date.  
The following conditions are required for a good play date to occur: 
1. Free-flowing conversation that can be interrupted easily, totally nonsequitor-esque, and still great. 
2. Non-judgement of parenting skills from all parties
3. Kids who don't completely antagonize one another, and perhaps even play well together. 
4. Location must be kid friendly and stress reducing (NOT inducing)
5. Punctuality: be there within 15 minutes of said meeting time, 
6. Regularity: Once a week is perfect
7. Know when to quit!  Even if the conversation is flowing, if the kids start melting down, you gotta stop. 

On our last play date, Annika decided it was fun to climb the bicycle rack.  
Major props to Kristen for both not judging AND for knowing that that's just Annika. 

Group pictures are obligatory, but cooperation is not.  Annika just wasn't having it that day. 
Don't Evan, Alex, & Mayzie look cute though? 

Earlier this week, Mayzie had a much different kind of play date.  
Here she is playing with Ms. Beliza, the jaguar at the Mesker Park Zoo.  
Mayzie would touch the glass and climb up on the display area, and Beliza would reciprocate.  Mayzie was completely un-phased by the gigantic teeth or the fact that she was playing with a deadly cat through a glass surface.  She giggled and had fun while a boy in a stroller behind us screamed in horror.  Granted, this didn't follow all my above rules, but I definitely loved this play date for different reasons including the high cute factor.   

For me, play dates are important.  They remind me that I'm not in this parenting thing alone and that everybody's kids are a little wacko sometimes.  They keep me a little more sane when I'm craving adult conversation, and make me so happy to always have something to do with the kids on those days.  We've explored more because of them.  We've discovered places we didn't know before.  We've even learned all about how other people snack, which is always fun since my kids naturally want whatever snack the other group has.  Most of all, play dates help me learn new parenting techniques, and don't we all need new ways to deal with the same old dilemmas that we face day in and day out?    

For my girls, play dates are important because they learn to interact with other kids that aren't the exact same age as they are.  They teach them how to share and that things aren't always fair.  They are challenged to come up with new ways to deal with new situations, and that is an invaluable tool I hope they carry with them always.  

As most Tuesdays, I'm linking up with my girls Greta at Gfunkified & Sarah of The Sunday Spill

Monday, August 19, 2013


Transitions aren't always easy.  In fact, sometimes they are downright difficult.  Last week was one of those difficult transitions for me personally: both of my girls started school on the same day.  

Annika on her big day

Mayzie on her big day

There aren't any pictures of me on their first day; it wasn't pretty.  My babies are growing up so quickly.  It snuck up on me, them leaving me at home in peace and quiet to actually work on my dissertation during the day.  I didn't get much work done that first day though, as I was too busy looking at baby pictures and trying not to act lonely without any small child demanding snacks and attention.  By the time I had to go pick up Mayzie from preschool at 11 a.m., I had finally gotten it together enough to look like I hadn't been crying all morning.  

Annika took the bus to school on the first day, which only mildly frightened her private school educated father.  She had a fantastic day, or so the note from her teacher said.  She's so very excited to be earning "cash" for her good behavior, but is absolutely peeved that they have monkey bars on the playground that she's not allowed to use until after Christmas.  (For the record: I don't get that rule either, but I didn't say that to her.)  Her favorite part of school so far is recess, and she never remembers what they had for lunch.  She does come home completely famished and begging for snacks, so perhaps she isn't eating much while she's there. There was a moment of panic when Annika forgot to get off the bus after school, but a quick call to the school and 10 minutes later, and she was home.  She now gets a personal bus stop on the way home, I think because the driver took pity on me upon seeing me dragging Mayzie to the stop every morning.   Oh Annika.     

Mayzie only went to one day of preschool last week, but she had a great time.  This week she'll go the usual 3 half days, and I'm anxious to see how she does.  Despite being quite precocious and verbose at home, she was completely silent on her first day at school.  She really does need to warm up to people to get talking in general, but I expected her to at least speak to her teacher whom she had met previously.  She did at least come home and tell me all about how school went and what they did there, so that was nice.  

We are in the process of changing from one state or condition to another: in transition.  It's not just the girls who have started new chapters, I have as well.  I've finished another dissertation chapter, or at least mostly.  I wrote an essay for a graduate student paper competition and I'm slowly reshaping it into a full chapter.  I'm also starting to write applications for postdoctoral positions.  I'll be applying for 8 different postdocs in addition to writing an NIH RO1 research grant.  I have no idea which of these great opportunities I'll be able to take advantage of, but at least the waiting will be filled with dissertation writing and picking up smiley girls from school.  The limbo and waiting will be that much more tolerable this time than last time because of the fact that there are multiple different outcomes that would be favorable, and they are all different.  When we were waiting for my dissertation funding applications, the only desirable outcome was to get enough money for us all to go to Germany.  If you ask my MIL, there is only one desirable outcome: us staying here.  If you ask me, I'll tell you that I know that no matter what the outcome is, we will be happy.  If we can move our family to Germany for a year, we can do anything.  

Transitions can be difficult.  The settling in period will be filled with fits and starts and rethinking and rescheduling and growing pains.  Andy moved into a new office today to commemorate his new promotion.  We are all in transition.  We're getting rid of our double stroller.  We're moving out of that stage of our lives, and that is a good thing.  We're trying to find our balance again, but fully aware that true balance won't be a reality until after this dissertation is completed, defended, and passed.  But there is joy in the transition; Joy in the feeling of things moving forward and knowing that they will turn out how they are supposed to.  For now, I'll revel in the transition and work as hard as possible when I can.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

And So It Ends...

Today is the end of one of the best summers of my entire life.  It has been a busy busy summer.  Instead of lamenting the end of a beautifully wild warm summer, I would rather celebrate the joyous season that it was.

We kicked off the summer with an awesome trip to Holiday World where we thoroughly enjoyed the water park, free sunscreen, free drinks, and loads of fun trying to scare our girls on the rides. 

We had numerous playdates with our new IRL friends of Taming Insanity infamy.  They love to play dress-up too, and KZ is awesome-sauce, so it was a perfect fit from the beginning. 

Annika got to go to four different camps, and the final one she got to attend with her sister at the Children's Museum of Evansville

Remember that trip to DC that I got to take without my kids?  Well, I also got to see some amazing old friends such as my previous grad school office-mate Prisca.  I seriously LOVE this lady! 

Andy & his mother (aka Nana) had an adventure in gardening that did NOT turn out well due in part to these lovely fellows that we found on the tomato plants. 
In case you were wondering, that is a horn worm.  They were about 4-5 Inches long and at least the circumference of a nickel, fat and disgusting.  They were REALLY well camouflaged and hard to find, but the girls really loved playing with them and then sending them into the lake for the fish to eat.  

We went to the Zoo more times than I can count, and the girls had a great time every single time.  Here they are playing in one of the misters on a very hot day.  

I got to hang out with my BFF Theresa more this summer than in the past 7 years combined.  That was so great!  Here we are at her family's cabin by a gorgeous lake.  We actually got to go without the girls and had a great time just sunning ourselves, eating way too much food, and jumping off the sun-deck into the lake water to wave at passing boats.  I also got to go to see NKOTB with this girl, and we reminisced about our favorite new kids and all the paraphernalia we used to have.  (My favorite was and will always be Jordan Knight, in case you were wondering.) 

Speaking of Cabins, we also got to go the Melch family cabin weekend this year.  We had so much fun tubing with the girls and cruising the lake with the whole family.  We ate too much and slathered sunscreen on like it was our job.  The kids had a blast collecting tiny frogs, and we all remembered how much fun we have together.  Chad and Andy had so much fun that they passed out on the couch after dinner one night--normal for Chad, but unusual for Andy.  

Our dear friends from Cleveland Meagen & her son Sean (Annika's previous boyfriend) came all the way down to visit us.  Andy was kind enough to put all three kids to bed one night so that Meagen and I could drink some beers at our favorite local brewery and talk like the old friends we are now.  My personal favorite topic we discussed: the definition of a hipster.  

While Meagen & Sean were here, we kept our usual Taming Insanity playdate, and even managed to score ONE picture (out of at least 30 taken) with all the kids' faces in it.  It isn't perfect, but it perfectly sums up the chaos that our lives are most of the time.  

Did I mention that we went camping again with another family that we love and had a super-fun though mosquito infested weekend with them?  
Just typing all that out makes me exhausted, and that's not even counting all the trips to the pool, etc etc etc that we fit in too. It was the most amazing summer, and we intentionally made it so because we knew that it was the last one before both girls will be in school.  

Tomorrow begins the school year for both our girls, and the fall will eventually show up full of sweaters and jeans.  Mayzie will be attending preschool 3 half days a week, and Annika will be in Kindergarten full time.  The morning routine rush out the door begins again, and I'll spend my evenings packing bags.  Weekend time will fill up quickly, as it always does, and this next season is sure to fly by in a different wave of busy.  

For now, I'm still living in my sun dresses and loving running before the heat of the day becomes completely oppressive.  The highs are mostly in the lower 80s, which feels nice now.  The nights are cooler now, and we know that this lovely season will fade sooner than we want it to.  Don't get me wrong, I love the fall.  It is my favorite season actually.  This summer has just been so outrageously amazingly fun that I don't want it to end.  Could I have fallen in love with summer again simply because we finally have central air for the first time in 8 years?  I think there might be a connection.  Whatever it is, I'm a little sad to see it go.  



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