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the dress (Image sourced from Google)

So, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about #TheDressThatBrokeTheInternet. I’m not going to go into detail on the story; here’s a fun article from the Washington Post if you need the background.

I was was offline when the story first broke, and when I logged into Twitter on Friday morning, it was Dress Central. My feed was full of #whiteandgold and #blueandblack. I quickly googled, found the original image, and threw in my two cents. (For the record, I saw blue and black.)

Hubby and I had a fun, silly debate about the dress later that morning when we met up for a parent-teacher conference. He saw white and gold, but not to worry – our marriage will survive. I got some more good laughs out of the story over the phone with my BFF – she and her boyfriend both saw white and gold, but she got really into the dress phenomenon and texted me about the science of brain teasers the rest of the evening.

And that was pretty much it for me. At least, until I saw this opinion piece on Time.com.

The dress is (according to comments on the Facebook post of the article) everything that’s wrong with America?  (Even though the picture originated in the UK?) We should all be ashamed of our lack of rudimentary scientific knowledge?  We have to stop talking about it RIGHT NOW and only discuss real, hard, important news?  The author says she’s not going to judge us because ISIS destroyed priceless art and Twitter was yelling “WHITE GOLD” and “BLUE BLACK” – except, look there, she just did.

Please, spare me the pearl-clutching.

I had a couple of thoughts in response to the Time opinion.  The first thought, I’ll be honest, was, did someone get scooped?  Just a little?  No one likes a sore loser.

Okay, serious snotty response, though.  (Complete with Downton Abbey gifs, for no reason except that it’s my blog and I like fun.)  First of all, slow clap to the author for remembering everything she learned in sixth grade.  We learned about vision in seventh grade, so I guess my education was inferior.  And while I remember discussing colorblindness at length, I don’t remember learning that everyone perceives color differently.  Maybe we did learn that and I forgot, because I was 12 then and I’m 33 now, and some of the trivia I learned in middle school has been pushed aside to make room for stuff I needed to remember in order to pass the Bar.  BOOM.  Drops the mic, walks away.

And what is so wrong with fun, anyway?  What’s the big deal about someone photoshopping llama heads into the dress?  C’mon, you have to admit, the llamas in dresses were funny.  Is it a problem because Taylor Swift weighed in on the debate?  (Maybe the writer saw white and gold and she’s jealous that Taylor and I totally saw blue and black, which is the right answer.)  Is there a problem with taking five minutes off from worrying about the state of the world and chiming in on a silly online debate?  Seriously, Time, why do you hate happiness?

Now, before you jump all over me, I do realize that the piece was filed under “humor.”  So maybe it was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, and just inadvertently came across as obnoxious and sanctimonious.  I’ll extend a bit of the benefit of the doubt and say that was the intention.  But it does grate a little – and I have to say, I’m tired of seeing “why is this news?” every time a news outlet publishes a piece of entertainment journalism, or “shouldn’t we all be thinking about the situation in [insert unstable region here]?” every time something a little bit silly goes viral.  Believe it or not, it is possible to be very concerned about ISIS and also think it’s kind of neat that people see different colors in the same dress, at the same time.  LET THE PEOPLE HAVE THEIR FUN.  Soon we’ll all forget about the dress, and the llamas, and be back to our workaday lives and worries.  Can’t we get a break, have a silly debate, maybe re-learn a little bit of science (for those of us lucky souls without perfect memories of the torture that was middle school, that is)?

It’s not “a new frontier in stupid,” for goodness’ sake.  It’s a little bit of harmless, mildly educational fun, and it’ll be over soon enough.  You’re clutching those pearls so tightly you’re going to snap the strand.  Learn to let go and relax a little… can I interest you in a yoga class?  Or maybe a llama meme?

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Well, here I am at 37 weeks pregnant today (early term!) and just now getting around to talking about running in my second trimester.  As you probably know, running brings me a lot of joy – especially training for and participating in races.  I’ve run many 5Ks, 8Ks and 10Ks, one ten-mile race, and four half marathons (one of which I ran at 11 weeks pregnant).  Because I enjoy running, I wanted to try to run as far into pregnancy as I could.  Some women are running right up to their due dates; others stop earlier.  For my part, I planned to stop running as soon as it got too uncomfortable.

First trimester running went fairly well.  I tempered my expectations, increased my fuel and water intake, and just went with it.  Some runs were great – like The Color Run at nine weeks pregnant – and some were really tough – like the Biggest Loser Half Marathon at eleven weeks.  Starting with that race, I implemented a walk-run strategy of four minutes on, one minute off, and I continued that strategy into my second trimester.

My second trimester saw me running a lot less.  I was still fatigued from the first trimester and never really experienced that wonderful second-tri burst of energy.  I guess that’s to be expected.  When I was pregnant with Peanut, I was constantly exhausted – to the point of falling asleep at my desk and crashing on the couch before 8:00 every night – and I never got the magical energy burst I’d heard so much about.  The best I could say was that the second trimester rolled around and I was able to get back to my normal life without taking quite as many naps.  With Nugget, I definitely experienced first trimester fatigue, although not to the extent I did with Peanut.  (Nausea was Nugget’s preferred method of making his presence known.)  And once again, I didn’t get to enjoy that second-trimester energy – thanks, I think, to a demanding job, a stressful fall, and an energetic toddler going through a clingy phase.  So while I tried to muster up the energy to run, I didn’t have much in reserve.

Most of my second trimester running was done on the treadmill.  I liked the treadmill for a few reasons: it’s easy to control the speed, it’s right there in my basement, and it’s hard to fall down.  I did a fair few training runs on the treadmill, running my intervals and enjoying the fact that I could keep two big bottles of water at easy arms’ reach.  We had a big snowstorm that would have kept me off the roads no matter what, so I sure was grateful to have a safe option for running right in the warmth of my house.  Even treadmill runs felt challenging, but I slogged through them because I had two races to prepare for.

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At 21 weeks, I ran the Greater Buffalo Track Club Cross-Country 5K with my dad.  That’s right, in a “Running for Two” shirt, so that everyone would know that I had a good excuse for being wheezy and slow.  We had a great time, but man alive, that was a tough race.  I think I would have found it challenging no matter what – running over leaves and grass and tree roots and lots of uneven surfaces is always going to be difficult – but toting along a very noticeable baby bump added a whole new level of difficulty to the run.  I enjoyed running with my dad, and I felt pretty accomplished after completing the race, but the run itself was kind of miserable.

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Three weeks later, at 24 weeks pregnant, I ran the Buffalo-Niagara YMCA Turkey Trot.  (Uh-huh, in my “Running for Two” shirt again.)  I’ve run the race twice before, and – as expected – this was my slowest time.  Still, I was happy with the way the race went, and I did find it easier than the cross-country 5K, even though it was almost two miles longer.  (It’s amazing how running 3.1 miles in the dirt can make running 4.97 miles on pavement feel like luxury.)  I stuck to my 4:1 intervals and just enjoyed the scene and the fact that I was still out there.

And then I decided to go out on a high note.  Or maybe I didn’t decide… but in any event, the Turkey Trot was my last run of this pregnancy.  I felt good about the fact that I’d kept up my running for more than half of my pregnancy, and while I never made a conscious decision to hang up the running shoes, I haven’t gotten them out since.  I’ve switched to lower-impact cardio – namely, hiking and walking – and I’m feeling good about that.  Nugget has run four races with me now, and we’ve covered quite a few miles together, and I do hope we have another couple of hikes and a few more walks in us before he officially joins us here on the outside.  But the Turkey Trot felt like a good natural break point, and I’m happy with the way it worked out.

Tips for Second Trimester Running 

I’m no doctor!  Consult your practitioner before beginning any exercise regimen, especially if you’re pregnant.  These are just some tips that worked for me, in my personal experience.  So please keep in mind that I have no idea what I’m talking about and take everything I say with a grain of salt.  Thanks.

  • Consult your doctor.  This was my most important tip for the first trimester and it’s my most important tip now.  Make sure your obstetrician is on board with pregnant running.  I had the green light to run as long as it felt comfortable and the baby was doing well.  I got a clean bill of health at my mid-pregnancy anatomy scan, which was why I felt comfortable continuing to run as long as it was fun for me.
  • Hydrate and fuel!  Another one recycled from the first trimester.  Pregnancy puts your body through the ringer, and hydration is more important than ever.  I aim to drink 64 ounces of water every day, whether pregnant or not, and I usually exceed that goal.  And fueling might be even more important than hydration!  In the second trimester (and the third, too) you need about 300 extra calories per day to fuel baby’s growth.  If you’re working out with intensity (which running is) you need to make sure that you are not only replacing the calories that you burn, but adding those 300 extras on top of that.  Extra GU or sport beans help if you’re running any kind of distance.  And you can’t go wrong with a turkey trot – you know you’ll make up all the calories you burned and then some at Thanksgiving dinner!
  • Give intervals a try.  Running 4:1 intervals kept the sport manageable and fun for me.  I’m not the most talented runner out there by a long shot, and I know there are many women who can keep running at a pace which would be impressive to non-pregnant me, well into their third trimesters.  That’s not me.  And if it’s not you, either – if you’re a back-of-pack hobby jogger like I am – intervals might be the strategy that keeps you going well after you’d otherwise have stopped.  Give them a try – it doesn’t have to be 4:1; it can be any interval that feels comfortable for you.
  • Know when to stop.  Running will always be there.  When it gets uncomfortable, or too hard, or you just don’t feel like running is the right activity for you anymore, hang up the running shoes and don’t feel guilty about it at all.  They’ll be there when you’re ready; the most important thing is to cook a healthy baby.  Pay attention to your “tells,” and give yourself permission to stop, switch to lower-impact cardio, or hey, just rest, when running no longer feels right.  For me, that natural end point was 24 weeks.  Running was starting to feel really hard – harder than usual – and it just wasn’t as fun as I wanted it to be.  So I quit – temporarily.  And while I miss it, I know that I’ll have lots of time to chase goals in the future.  Speaking of which…

What’s next?  I’ve got some big plans for postpartum running, and I can’t wait to put them into action.  I was hoping to run my first marathon in October of 2014 – I’d even registered for the Mohawk-Hudson River Marathon – but I chose to defer my race entry once I learned that I was expecting.  So I’m now targeting this coming October for my first marathon, which means that as soon as I’m cleared for exercise after Nugget’s arrival, I’ll be working on building up my running base in preparation for marathon training.  I’m also hoping to try some trail running this summer, and to get in another half marathon – the Mighty Niagara – in the fall.  I’m psyched to get back out there when I’m ready, and I’ll be sure to share how it’s going.

Moms, did you run while pregnant?  What are your tips for second-trimester running?  Friends without kids, any good tips for making a zero-to-hero comeback?

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One of my goals for 2015 was to hike in a different park every month.  Last month, we visited Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve, which counted as both the January hike for what I’ve dubbed our “twelve months hiking project” and the first of our four seasonal hikes for 2015.  For February, I set my sights on Knox Farm.  We’ve been to Knox Farm a number of times in the past and have actually hiked there in spring, summer and fall (unblogged, but if we’re friends on Instagram you saw some of the pictures).  (An inadvertent four seasons hiking project!)  We’d even seen it in all its winter glory when we took Peanut there to play on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, when there was already a blanket of snow on the ground.  I was eager to check out the snowy wonderland on the trails.

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Boots on the ground!  Hubby didn’t repeat his mistake of leaving his snowshoes in the car, and he loved having them.  I was struggling a lot more in just my hiking boots.  We were walking over drifts, which were fairly well-packed in some areas, but I still broke through the pack quite a few times, and the snow was up to my knees when I did.  I only got stuck once, though.  It would have been a much easier hike had I been wearing snowshoes too – I should have rented a pair.  Next winter I’m planning to ask Santa for a pair of my own; I didn’t want to buy them this year because Nugget has pushed me up a size.  Anyway, hubby has really been enjoying his, which makes me happy.

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Guess who had an even easier time on the hike?  The backpack is definitely the way to ride.  Wish she would’ve given me a turn.

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As you can see, the drifts were pretty deep!  I led the way and tried to pick the best packed snow.

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There were lots of snowshoe and boot prints and cross-country ski tracks.  I loved seeing the evidence that so many people are out enjoying this space even in the cold weather.  We saw a few couples snowshoeing and one couple on skis.  I really miss cross-country skiing; it’s one of my favorite outdoor activities and I haven’t done it in years.  Next year I’d really like to get back to skiing – both downhill and cross-country.

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This trail is actually a nice loop, with short and long options.  I’d planned for us to take the short loop, just because of the cold.  But we found ourselves walking and walking without breaking off, because there were no packed snow trails leading away from the longer loop.  And in fact, we soon discovered that the long loop trail wouldn’t work either, because the packed snow simply ended and there was no way to follow the trail around without me sinking into hip-high drifts.  So we decided to make it an out-and-back instead.

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We found our way to the frozen-over creek and then turned back.  Look at those drifts, almost covering the wood fence!  This was where I got stuck and needed hubby’s help to free myself from a drift.  Snowshoes would have really come in handy… hubby never broke through the pack once.  I’m definitely getting a pair for next winter.

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All in all, it was a successful hike.  I worked up a good sweat, breathed my fill of fresh air, and got to spend time in nature with my two favorite people.  (Three favorites, if you count Nugget too, but he slept the whole time.  Hubby and Peanut were livelier hiking buddies.)

Gear:
Hubby: Tubbs Frontier snowshoes; I still don’t know what his winter boots are; Black Diamond men’s hiking poles; Deuter KidComfort III child carrier.
Me: Oboz Bridgewater BDry waterproof hiking boots (SO WARM LOVE THEM); Black Diamond women’s hiking poles.

Do you enjoy winter hiking?  WNY friends, what park should we check out for our March hike?

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Let’s have a show of hands: who here is absolutely done, over it, with this endless winter?  ((raises hand))

I generally don’t mind winter.  I like outdoor winter sports – skiing, ice skating – and I think snow is pretty, and there is absolutely a place for cozy days spent curled up under a blanket with a good book and a cup of tea.  I’m usually not tired of winter until March, when what I call “ugly winter” takes over – you know, the stretch of days when there’s no more fresh snow to cover the dirty piles by the side of the road and the sky is just grey for days and days.  But this winter started too early – “Snowvember” feels like it was ages ago now – and I’m tired of fighting through the ice to get to work every day, tired of the slushy sidewalks, and especially tired of the biting cold.  For the past few weeks it’s actually been too cold to leave the house – other than to go to work and school, which we have to do.  But all weekend outings were suspended until the temperatures were at least in the positive degrees.  It hasn’t made for much of a fun life lately, I can tell you.

This weekend, though, was a marked improvement over what we’ve had recently.  The temperatures were in the twenties, which felt downright balmy compared to the frigid -30 RealFeel temps we’d been experiencing.  So we took advantage of the warmer weather and got out of the house twice over the weekend!  Look at us go!  On Sunday we actually got out for a hike – more about that coming later this week – but first things first: on Saturday we visited one of our winter happy places, the Buffalo Botanical Gardens.

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If you were reading last year, you may remember that we went to the Botanical Gardens several times and Peanut developed a deep and abiding love for the koi pond.  We didn’t go over the summer and fall because the weather was nice enough to allow for more outdoor activities, so we saved the Botanical Gardens for the colder months, when we knew we would desperately need those hours of warmth and green.  Daddy took Peanut there on New Year’s Eve and they had a marvelous time – I didn’t get to go, because I was working.  Daddy reported that Peanut was initially a bit apprehensive about her old BFFs in the koi pond, but she warmed up to them quickly.

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This time, she warmed up even faster.  In fact, she basically charged past the reception desk shouting “Fishies!  See the fishies!” while I tried to restrain her long enough for hubby to purchase a family membership for the year.  (We’re apparently on a membership-buying kick.)  We barely got her coat off before she was rocketing through the palm court on her way to visit her aquatic besties.

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I’d say she was pretty excited.  The dimple was out in full force and she was practically hyperventilating with glee at seeing these fellas again.

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The koi room is the place to be if you are a toddler at the Botanical Gardens.  Not only is there a POND with FISH, but there’s a wooden bridge and a set of stairs that seems to attract every toddler in the place.  Peanut made a new friend her age and the two of them walked the bridge and stairs for a good twenty minutes, which is an eternity in toddlerdom.

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Walking the bridge and stairs was a favorite activity last year, too.  It’s nice to see that some things don’t change all that quickly!

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(Well, what did change was Peanut’s competence at the activity.  She’s getting really good at stairs.)

After almost half an hour spent in the koi room – between bridge/stair walking and fish watching – we decided it was time to move on and see some of the other sights.  Peanut was filled with baby rage at being dragged away from her beloved pond and bridge, but she quickly got over her fury when she met this guy:

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There were paper dragons hanging all throughout one of the greenhouses, in celebration of the Chinese New Year.  Peanut enjoyed exploring the dragon from her safe spot in Daddy’s arms.  She only ripped one of the dragons’ beards off.

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Then it was time to move on again.  We quickly herded Peanut through the desert room – it’s one of my favorite greenhouses, but there are too many prickly things to allow a toddler to loiter there – and on to the Wegmans Family Garden.  It happened to be Family Day at the Botanical Gardens and there were volunteers set up at tables throughout the greenhouses with various activities for the little ones.  We begged off making a strawberry with crepe paper and glue because I had visions of crepe paper glued to Peanut, and Peanut wasn’t interested in making rubber stamps out of fruit.  But she did make and then taste some fresh squeezed orange juice, which was delicious.

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Most of the time spent in the Family Garden, though, was devoted to reading books…

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And playing in the sandbox.  Peanut is crazy for this sandbox and loves to test out the toys.  She kept her feet on the ground at first, but when another little girl climbed in, Peanut clambered in after her (while I cringed and wondered how much of the sandbox would be coming home with us).

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Ah, well, sometimes Mom just needs to relax and let go of worrying about things like sand in the car.  They’re only little once, right?  Plus, it will be good practice for the beach this summer.

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Peanut had a ball, anyway.  As did we all.  It was refreshing to wander through the greenhouses, breathing in the scents of the flowers and enjoying the warmth and the abundant greenery.  You can almost forget that it’s below freezing outside.  I think we’ll be back a few more times before spring.

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Do you have Botanical Gardens in your city?  What is your favorite winter survival trick?

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On Wednesday, my friend Katie posted her “alphabet of right now,” sharing snippets of her daily life through the vehicle of an alphabet.  Then she invited her readers to do the same.  I loved the idea, and although my alphabet is probably a bit prosier than Katie’s lovely one, I’m sharing it anyway.  These are the ABCs of my current day-to-day.

A is for air.  I’m feeling a lack of it lately.  It’s been too darn cold to venture outside for much of the month.  I’m hoping that this weekend will be a little bit warmer and less windy, so we can go for a walk.  Even a short one.  I need big gulps of fresh air.

B is for bedtime, battles and bedsharing.  Battles are what we have at bedtime most every night – battles with a toddler who doesn’t want to settle down.  And bedsharing is what we have been doing as a result.  Usually starting at around 1:00 a.m. when Peanut wakes up and realizes that we’re no longer sitting next to her crib or standing over her, rubbing her back.  But lately it’s been as early as 9:00 or so, when we’re tired enough that we want to go to bed too.  It’s just a phase, it’s just a phase, it’s just a phase…

C is for countdown.  Four weeks to go until my due date!  I can’t believe I’ve actually gotten this far.  I expect to go a bit early, just based on my last pregnancy and how things are going with this one; my goal is to get to 37 weeks, which is one week from today.  Nugget has done a great job baking away and while I would like him to stay in until he’s really fully cooked, every day feels a little bit safer.  Every day I breathe a little easier and allow myself to hope, just a little more, that we will avoid the NICU this time.  And every day is, of course, one day closer to meeting our newest little love.

D is for dragging.  Which I am.  I’m constantly exhausted.  Between pregnancy, being mom to a toddler and being swamped at work, it’s all I can do to get through the day sometimes.

E is for excited.  It took awhile for me to get past the anxiety about having another preemie, but I’m genuinely excited to hold Nugget in my arms and to experience the next phase of parenthood… in a few weeks!  I might be excited to meet him, but I’d still like him to stay put until full term.

F is for frigid, which is what this weather has been recently.  We’ve scrapped entire weekends full of plans because it’s been too cold to leave the house.  Temperatures at -9*F, with windchill up to -30*F?  This is just ridiculous.

G is for girl time, which is necessary for my sanity.  Lunches and friend dates with Zan have been a lifeline in a season of stress.  I always leave a lunch with her feeling lighter.  I’m also trying to cultivate some friendships with some of the moms of other kids in Peanut’s class.  We have a nice group of families in our class and I’d love to turn some of those friendly acquaintances into real friends.  I’m working on it.

H is for homesick.  Which I have been, particularly, of late.  Just when I think I’ve cried every tear I have to cry over leaving D.C., I find that there are more.  Moving was the right thing for our family, and there’s plenty of good to be said for our current living situation, but… it’s hard when I wish I could be having lunch with my girlfriends, snuggling their new babies (so! many! new! babies!) and still living in a place I loved so deeply for so long.

I is for Ithaca, my college town, which won at winter humor when the local tourism board updated their website to encourage people to visit the Florida Keys instead, due to this “ridiculously stupid winter” we’re all having.  I got a good laugh out of this article, which my alma mater shared on Facebook.

J is for jokes.  I’m endlessly grateful to be married to a guy that I laugh with on a daily basis.  Lately, most of our jokes have revolved around certain of Peanut’s favorite books and TV shows – especially Curious George.  We refer to the Man with the Yellow Hat as “Ross,” make up hilarious stories about his love life, and crack each other up with impressions of the other characters.  It’s good to laugh like that with someone.

K is for karma.  Our city rental from our first year here is up for sale after our landlords were unable to re-rent it.  I’m not proud of this, but I feel the tiniest bit gleeful about that.  We had a lot of issues there, especially shortly before we left, which I didn’t get into then and won’t go into great detail about now, because I try to keep this space positive.  The major issues, though, were pretty serious, especially at the end – a flagrant breach of the lease and a flat refusal to let us take on a month-to-month arrangement or a short-term lease extension – we were told to either renew our lease for a year or get out.  It wasn’t a healthy living situation for any of us, but especially Peanut, and we knew we couldn’t stay another year, but the rigid stance they took on our short-term proposal contributed in a major way to the debilitating stress we felt over our housing hunt.  I don’t wish ill on anyone, but after the shabby way in which we were treated, a small part of me got a bit of a smile out of the fact that they lost out on a lot of rental income when they refused to work with us, and that they are now trying to unload the place.  I’m not proud of it, but hey, I’m human.

L is for lists.  Gosh, I’m making so many of them lately.  Work projects that must be completed before I head out on maternity leave.  Work projects that are ongoing and will need to be passed off temporarily.  Tasks that need to be done in the nursery.  Activities to do with Peanut before the new little guy arrives.  And so many more.  So far, it’s been mostly lists, and not many check marks.  I have a lot to do.

M is for monkey.  And not just any monkey: Curious George.  Peanut is really into George lately – always wanting to watch the cartoon and read the books, and she loved visiting the special George exhibit at the Buffalo Science Museum.  I can’t wait for our next visit!

is for Nugget!  He’s on my mind all the time these days.  Who will he look like?  (I’m predicting hubby, because Peanut is my mini-me, and Nugget’s sonogram pictures don’t look anything like hers.)  What will his personality be like?  What will be his favorite food, sport, book?  I’m loving speculating about who my boy will turn out to be.

O is for Ollie.  That’s what I named my new (well, new as of this fall) car.  Lately, every time I get in the car, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have it.  Ollie is an SUV and happens to be particularly good in snowy and icy conditions (even among other SUVs).  When I imagine what it would have been like to try to navigate this winter with my old car, I am genuinely frightened.  I feel so safe in the new car and so thankful that I didn’t have to face this hideous winter slipping around in an unreliable fourteen-year-old sedan.  Honestly, I don’t know how we would have gotten to the store or to work, some days, without Ollie.

P is for Peanut, and soaking up every minute of time we can with her while she’s still an only child.  And brainstorming ways to help her adjust to the new arrival, and to make sure she knows that she is still loved and cherished just as much as ever.

Q is for quiet, which is sort of lacking at the moment.  Work is crazy – I’m trying to transition and wrap up a bunch of projects because I’m getting the feeling that I’ll be going out early again (although not as early as last time, obviously, which is a relief) and I’m also moving offices.  I come home wiped out at the end of the day, but with a two-and-a-half-year-old in the house, there’s no quiet refuge to be found.  I have to find some way to get even five minutes of peace into my day.

R is for reading.  Reading to Peanut, which I do every single day, and reading to myself, which I am finally making more space to do.  I’ve finished some very good books lately, and it feels good to be excited to turn pages again.

S is for snow.  It snowed the other day and I was actually happy to see the flakes, because that meant it was getting warmer.  That’s right.  For the past week or so it’s been too cold to snow.  Let me repeat that: too cold to snow.  That’s when you know winter has defeated you.  When you’re actually glad it’s snowing because that means the temperature is on the upswing.

T is for trades, which everyone in Buffalo has been talking about – specifically, the major trades the Buffalo Sabres have concluded recently.  I was sad to see some of my favorite players leave, but happy that the team got some really talented guys in return.  I hope it works out and that next year they have an exciting season.

U is for understanding, which I am trying to be when it comes to some of Peanut’s current phases.  We’re dealing not only with the bedtime battles I mentioned above, but also with food-throwing and general disobedience.  Yesterday found me cleaning the kitchen floor on my hands and knees (36 week baby bump and all) after she threw her entire dinner plate.  (And before you get up in arms, hubby had a late work call and wasn’t home, or he totally would have taken one for the team and done the cleanup.)  No meal is complete without at least three time-outs for throwing food.  She just seems to enjoy pushing our buttons right now.  We’re a pretty lax household without many rules (no playing with sharp objects, fire, cleaning supplies or anything that could kill you; don’t climb up your slide because you could fall and hit your head; treat books with respect; no throwing food – that’s about it) but she takes pleasure in breaking the few rules we do have and then laughing gleefully as we carry her to time-out.  I think the mealtime shenanigans have a lot to do with teething – she’s cutting molars and it’s been beastly – so that’s what I’m trying to be understanding about.  But there’s a lot of general toddler disobedience going on right now and I am running out of patience for some of those antics.  Deep breaths.  I’m trying.

V is for vacation, which is not actually happening right now, but sure is on my mind lately.  The more the temperature plummets, the more I look forward to burying my toes in the warm sand of the Outer Banks this summer.

W is for wiggles.  Also kicks, and stretches, and pushes, and rolls, all of which Nugget has been doing.  (He’s wiggling as I type this).  I love every single movement I feel from him, because they let me know he’s still okay.  And many of the kicks and pushes and stretches have been strong enough for Daddy to feel, which is new and fun for both of us.  Peanut was never strong enough for Daddy to feel a kick from outside, but busy little Nugget has more than made up for that.  I love the amazed look on hubby’s face every time Nugget wallops him in the hand.

is for xylophone.  Peanut recently unearthed hers in the playroom and has been having a fabulously noisy time banging on it.

Y is for year, and this past one has kind of been rough.  Lately I keep looking back over the past twelve months and cringing.  I’ve been a ball of stress pretty much since this time last year.  First there was the stressful housing hunt that we started last March (and that stretched into June), followed by a really difficult move in my first trimester of pregnancy, then an entire season in which everything broke, and now toddler antics and the impending arrival of a newborn.  It has been a year-long onslaught of stress events.  I really hope that things ease up soon, but somehow I don’t think they will.

Z is for zingers.  I’ve been coming up with some good ones lately, because I’ve been so frustrated with so many situations.  Of course I’ll never be able to share any of them.

Thanks for the idea, Katie!  Friends – what’s your alphabet of right now?  Share in comments or let’s keep the posts going.

CentralLibrary3

As I mentioned last week, I am trying to recommit myself to the Classics Club challenge.  I signed up for the challenge back in August of 2013.  The challenge is to read and blog about at least 50 classic books in five years.  Full of bravado and ambition, I declared that if I was smart about my reading priorities, I could get to way more than that – so I challenged myself to 100.  That would only work out to twenty classic books in a year, and as I had read 100 or more books per year for several of the previous years, I figured that should be no problem at all.  The best laid plans…  Toddlerhood, library mishaps, and rejoining the workforce all took their toll, as did pregnancy, a difficult housing hunt and move, and a fall season in which everything seemed to go wrong at once.  I’ve been in a reading slump for many months now, and getting to any book is a challenge, let alone some of the classics I’ve targeted, which require time and attention – neither of which I have to spare at the moment.

So it’s a year and a half into the challenge.  I should have knocked off at least thirty of the books on my list by now.  Instead I’ve done… twelve.  Wow.  So classics.  Very reader.  Much intellectual.

Here’s my list.  Items with asterisks indicate re-reads.  Completed items are struck through and the reviews are linked.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte*
Middlemarch, by George Eliot
Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
Daisy Miller, by Henry James
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
The Custom of the Country, by Edith Wharton
Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin
Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
Silas Marner, by George Eliot
The House of Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Fathers and Sons, by Ivan Turgenev*
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
Litte Dorrit, by Charles Dickens
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
Confessions, by Saint Augustine of Hippo
What Maisie Knew, by Henry James
The Optimist’s Daughter, by Eudora Welty*
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen*
Emma, by Jane Austen*
Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen*
Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen*
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen*
Persuasion, by Jane Austen*
A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster
Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
My Antonia, by Willa Cather*
Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
Crome Yellow, by Aldous Huxley
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee*
Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo*
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins*
Everything that Rises Must Converge, by Flannery O’Connor
Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield
Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
An American Tragedy
, by Theodore Dreiser
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell
Tortilla Flat, by John Steinbeck
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger*
Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis
Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
Shirley, by Charlotte Bronte
The Professor, by Charlotte Bronte
Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte*
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte*
The Portrait of a Lady, by Henry James
The Iliad, by Homer
The Odyssey, by Homer
Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift*
The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Dead Souls, by Nikolai Gogol*
The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov*
The Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens
The Awakening, by Kate Chopin*
A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier*
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier
Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Finnegan’s Wake, by James Joyce
Henry IV, Part I, by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, Part II, by William Shakespeare
Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens
Richard II, by William Shakespeare
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
Howards End, by E.M. Forster
Where Angels Fear to Tread, by E.M. Forster
The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
The Ambassadors, by Henry James
The Wings of the Dove, by Henry James
Washington Square, by Henry James
The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
A Study in Scarlet, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott*
Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery*
Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery*
Anne of the Island, by L.M. Montgomery*
Anne of Windy Poplars, by L.M. Montgomery*
Anne’s House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery*
Anne of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery*
Rainbow Valley, by L.M. Montgomery*
Rilla of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery*
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett*
The Purloined Letter, by Edgar Allen Poe
Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray
Castle Richmond, by Anthony Trollope

Yeah, I really need to do a better job at this.  I did at least knock out Middlemarch, thanks to a read-along (and I loved it – I can easily see myself re-reading it many times over… once this challenge is a little further along, at any rate).  But there are plenty of other options on the list that shouldn’t be at all difficult to make time for.  Re-reads that I know I love.  New classics I’ve been itching to try.  A few plays.  What has been taking me so long?  Life, I know.  In any event, I’ve said I want to recommit, and I meant it.  Expect to see more “reviews” and more Classics Club participation around here in the coming months.  I’ve got three-and-a-half years to read the rest of this list, and every single book on here is a book I really want to read.  Time to hop to it!

Have you ever bombed out of a reading challenge?

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This is how we science!

For one of hubby’s Christmas gifts from Peanut and me, I decided to buy a family membership to the Buffalo Museum of Science.  I think experience gifts can be some of the most fun – hubby and I don’t always do them, but when we do we really enjoy them.  Still, it had never occurred to me to buy a membership to any museum or organization as a gift, for some reason.  When we lived in Alexandria, Virginia we had an annual membership to Mount Vernon, but we just bought that on our first visit.  And we’d been talking about getting a membership to the Buffalo Botanical Gardens but hadn’t gotten around to it.  We love the Botanical Gardens and we go plenty, but ultimately I thought we’d get more use out of a Science Museum membership – especially after I looked into it and realized that (a) we’d only have to go three times in a year and the membership would have paid for itself and then some; (b) they have a dedicated toddler play area; and (c) there was a special Curious George exhibit coming, just for a temporary period, that would be free to members.  Sold!  So I picked up the membership cards and they were wrapped up under the tree for hubby to open.  He was surprised and excited, because he loves the science museum, and we hadn’t been there since moving to Buffalo.  We started using our membership right away, going for the first time on a chilly Saturday in late January.

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When we first arrived, Peanut was extremely apprehensive.  She didn’t appreciate the dinosaur skeleton towering over the registration desk and she was overwhelmed with the first few exhibits we visited.  The first 45 minutes or so she spent clinging to my neck and refusing to be put down or held by anyone but me.  (Awwww.  So sweet!  But also kind of exhausting to tote a clingy toddler and a third trimester baby bump around a museum.)  Fortunately, she warmed up to the place when we got to the nanotechnology exhibit.  There were blocks, crayons and sheets for coloring, and big magnifying glasses to play with.  I’m sure it all factored into nanotechnology somehow, but I was too busy chasing Peanut around to read the explanatory placards.  She got really into playing with the blocks and probably spent twenty minutes sitting in this chair arranging and rearranging them.  (Focused play!  Her teachers have been commenting lately that she really concentrates when she gets into something.)

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After the nanotechnology exhibit we went to the motion room.  This was when Peanut really got crazy.  There was a lot to do in the motion room – you could build cars and race them on a track, move tiny foam balls through tubing you could arrange yourself, and levitate the same tiny foam balls over pipes with air blowing straight up – and more that we didn’t get to.  Again, I missed out on a lot of the explanations of things due to chasing an increasingly excited toddler around.  No big deal, though – I know we’ll go back plenty more times this year, so I can learn another time (maybe).

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Peanut really liked the car racing track.  She thought it was her own personal slide.  We had to drag her away when some kids wanted to use it for its actual intended purpose.

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There was running and shrieking.  By the way, do you like Peanut’s shoes?  She’s going through a phase right now where she’s opinionated about her footwear.  I can still dress her in any outfit I want (so she looks reasonably coordinated in public) but she must wear her silver glitter Mary Janes at all times – even in the house.  We’ve given up on trying to sell her on her sneakers for outings like this.  Eventually she’ll get tired of the “style shoes.”  Or grow out of them!

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Hands down, the biggest hit was the air tubes.  Peanut didn’t quite get that you were supposed to set them up and then float the balls.  It was way more fun to hold a ball and let the air blow your baby hair straight up.  Well… she’s got a point.  Much hilarity ensued:

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(I love this picture.  Look how happy she is!)

At that point, we decided it was time to bug out and head home for lunch.  As you can see, we didn’t even make it to the toddler play area!  Really, with so many hands-on activities for all ages, the whole museum is kind of a toddler play area.  The nice thing about having a membership is that we don’t feel compelled to push Peanut past her boundaries just to get our money’s worth (because the individual ticket prices are a little on the steep side).  We know we can come back anytime with our membership – so if we just want to stay for an hour and Peanut only wants to play with one exhibit, we don’t stress about it at all.  In fact, guess what we did the very next Saturday?

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The next Saturday was the first day of the special Curious George exhibit.  It’s a temporary installation from February to about mid-May, in which kids get to explore George’s city home and try a bunch of different activities.  Peanut is recently obsessed with Curious George.  It started at Christmas when we found a Curious George Christmas special and then discovered that there is a whole cartoon series (narrated by William H. Macy!) about George’s adventures.  Peanut usually watches an episode over her morning milk before getting ready for school, and she loves the show.  We also own several of the books, which Peanut wants to read constantly since discovering the cartoon.  So, all this is to say, we knew the George exhibit was going to be a big hit.

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And was it ever!  I didn’t know if the exhibit would be more about the books, or independent, but it turned out it tracked the cartoon.  If you haven’t been watching the cartoon every day since December, as we have, you may not think this is quite as cool, but we were running around shouting things like “Look, it’s Chef Pisghetti’s restaurant!  There’s Gnocchi!  Look, Peanut, the Renkins’ farm!  Hey, it’s Professor Wiseman’s museum!”

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It’s possible we were a little bit too excited.

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Anyway, Peanut had a ball.  She tried out some steering wheels (I think there was an actual point to these, and older kids might have been able to figure out what to do, but they were being monopolized by Peanut and a posse of other toddlers that were crawling all over them).

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She tried on some hard hats at a construction site…

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And there was a corner where you could stack these large foam blocks up and feed square blocks into a conveyor belt.  Peanut spent about ten minutes throwing the blocks and cackling with glee.  It was basically a toddler free-for-all in there, so we just let her go at it.

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(I didn’t get any non-blurry pictures of that action, because she was moving too fast.  In her style shoes, no less.)

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Peanut also enjoyed exploring the mailboxes in George’s apartment building, and patting Hundley, the neat freak lobby dachshund.

Then she headed over to the corner of the room dedicated to the Renkins’ farm (neighbors of George and the Man with the Yellow Hat when they’re out at their country house) and found a stuffed bunny.  Peanut was overwhelmed with joy.  She stood in the middle of the room and shouted at the top of her lungs, “EVERYONE!  I HAVE A BUNNY!”

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Then Peanut and the bunny meandered over to the other side of the room, where there were some more science-focused activities for older kids.  Peanut and the bunny spent several minutes fitting these test tubes into little round holes.

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And she examined her fingers under a microscope with Daddy.  Eventually (after about twenty minutes of carrying him around) we finally persuaded Peanut to return the bunny to the farm and head home.  Peanut really had a fabulous time, and I’m so glad the Curious George exhibit will be open until May – I think we’ll be spending a lot of weekend mornings there this winter.  In fact, Peanut’s school and my office are closed for the holiday today, so I’m thinking a visit to George might even be in order for this morning…

Do you have any museum memberships?  What are your favorite local activities?

 

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