Summer’s End

Lately, I haven’t had much to say.

Not that things weren’t happening; they were. 

We’ve been trying to get settled into our new place, which has been interesting. 

The location is great and being in a rental house means overall less worry about things like home maintenance/improvement. But the small size has been a huge adjustment, and I felt self-conscious introducing myself to our neighbors as the New Family in the Tiny Rental House in the Middle of a Neighborhood with Otherwise Extremely Expensive Tear Downs.

That’s the thing to do here: buy an older house in a prime location, knock it down and start from scratch. The tab for all of this is typically $1.5-2 million, which leaves me scratching my head as to how this is so widespread or possible.

The kids also started their new school yesterday. It’s only a 5 minute walk away, which is terrific, and MGM (10) has finally agreed to hot lunch, so there’s one less task to do each day.

I remain cautiously optimistic.

More to come.

Summer Camp

Last week, Spouse and I took a leap of faith and sent Trixie off to camp.

For three weeks, one of which is spent doing a canoe trip that involves setting up tents, portaging and crossing the U.S. border into Canada.

She’s eight years old.

One more thing about that canoe trip: the guides purposefully steer the girls into headwinds and cheer when it rains under the premise that adversity builds character.

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I already love this camp.

“This American Life” recently replayed a 1998 episode (it’s held up remarkably well) entitled “Notes on Camp,”which explains the rituals, memories and strong emotions of kids who’ve grown up attending the same camp every summer. I highly recommend a listen; it would make almost anyone yearn for a type of childhood that most of us don’t get to experience.

The thing I love most about Trixie’s camp is that it’s an all female environment, from the campers to the counselors to the cooks to the camp director. The emphasis is on building strength, confidence and character, something I am 100% behind and I think is best accomplished in this exact setting.

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Trixie is already strong and confident, but the world can be tough on girls and even the strongest wings will have to fly through some storms.

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My friend M’s daughter is also attending this session. This is her second year at camp (she’s older than Trixie) and M. described last year’s experience as transformative for her daughter. I am hoping for the same.

My biggest wish: Trixie attends every summer and ultimately builds memories, friendships and qualities that last a lifetime.

I have so many dreams and hopes for This Girl.

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Fatherless Father’s Day

I avoided social media yesterday.

This wasn’t a planned weekend technology detox – I am not that noble – rather, it was an act of self defense.

June 1st marked the 15th anniversary of my own father’s death, and while I am not the type to dwell on this fact often, on Father’s Day it’s really unavoidable.

In the decade and a half since my dad died from cancer, I’ve had friends whose fathers have also died.

This led me to think: what is the age where it is generally/socially assumed that one’s parent(s) is/are no longer alive?

Certainly it is not 29, which is the age I was when this happened to me. (My mom is still alive and kicking in great health, thankfully).

In the most conservative estimate, I’d wager 65 years is a safe bet. And if you’re 65 or older and you have living parent(s), wow! Celebrate your luck and fine genetics.

Dialing it back: 60 seems safe. Ditto 55. 50? Sure.

When I get to 45 and then 40 years, I’m not so certain.

The math isn’t easy. Average life expectancy in the US is about 79 years, and the average age of a first birth for an American woman is now 26. This obviously doesn’t account for being the sixth child in a family and thus having older parents or being the offspring of teenagers.

If the statistics can be used at all, it would suggest that most modern adults are roughly 79 – 26 = 53 years old when a parent is lost.

Once again, 29 seems to unfairly be on the wrong side of that equation.

So I stayed away from social media posts yesterday and felt grateful to be in the presence of another great dad, my Ever Patient Spouse.

 

 

Mother’s Day Recap

I’ll cut to the chase: the end of Mother’s Day found me in my too familiar spot, alone in a hotel room, preparing for a painfully early (6:15 AM) meeting that is a must attend situation.

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I knew I had to go, but I procrastinated as much as possible to spend more time at home before packing up and hitting the road about 5 PM. An 11 mile stretch of road construction also padded my drive by an extra thirty minutes, which soured the experience even more.

The day leading up to that moment wasn’t too bad, though, despite MGM (9) waking me up at 5:45 AM to try and find a lost iPad.

With the crisis averted, I was able to successfully doze until about 8 AM.

Spouse made breakfast tacos while Trixie (8) and I read outside, coffee in hand (me).

Unfortunately, I tweaked a muscle in my left leg on Friday at Orangetheory Fitness, and running – normally a thing I love to do on Mother’s Day (see below) – was out of the question. After breakfast, the whole family went for a walk.

It was a beautiful day but both kids vociferously complained about being outside. The dog quit after about 10 minutes and had to be carried most of the way home. 

For the past three years, I’ve spent Mother’s Day running my favorite race, the RunDisney Tinkerbell Half Marathon, which is held in and around Disneyland. I’ve typically gone out to California on a Thursday, checked into my hotel and gone to the race expo, then spent Friday by myself at Disneyland, completing a 10K race Saturday and the half on Sunday, then flying home – renewed and refreshed, plus with new bling – Sunday evening.

With all of the changes this year, being gone even more from the family seemed rude, and frankly, I couldn’t justify the expense of a solo trip to Cali when we are sitting with an unsold house (nearly 50 days on the market and no bites, huge sigh), moving expenses, etc.

Back at the Ranch: Trixie and I read outside some more, I took a nap on the sofa (!!!), we went for another walk, made gluten free chocolate chip cookies, and then I really had to go.

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The kids made crafts at school for me, but Spouse also gifted me with this mantra band:

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Nevertheless, she persisted.

While an obvious nod to current-ish events and Elizabeth Warren, I think this is also appropriate given everything we’ve got going on in our lives right now.

Happy Belated Mother’s Day to those who mother – in the broad verb sense of the word – in every possible way.

 

 

Our Home Chef Experience

As I’ve mentioned many times, I hate all domestic chores. 

Especially cooking.

When Spouse and I were first married nearly 19 (!) years ago, I frequently made ambitious but only semi-successful dinners, often inviting friends over to eat un-tested recipes cooked in the 1950s kitchen of our 600 square foot apartment.

The most famous fail was when I made salmon for friends and the directions said to wash fish, so I did.

With Dawn detergent.

The dish bubbled in the oven.

My subsequent strategy for dinner parties became this: get guests intoxicated enough to mostly ignore (and forgive) any missteps with the food.

When kids came along, we didn’t make a lot of effort to step up our game. Shame on us.

While I would assemble things for dinner (a salad, frozen veggies, maybe a sandwich), to say that I cooked often would be a stretch.

The creepy pizza delivery guy also became a little too familiar with our regular Friday night order.

With our pending move and the many changes coming with it (especially the fact that I am gone 3-4 nights per week), we decided that family dinners were more important than ever.

Enter Home Chef.

Spouse did the research on many of the home delivery dinner services available (so many!), and we selected Home Chef based on the fact that they can deliver to our town and have gluten free offerings (mandatory for Trixie – 8 – who has severe celiac disease).

Currently, we get two meals per week. Spouse usually ends up cooking one while I am gone and usually we make one as a family on the weekend.

Pros:

  • These meals are definitely better than what we would make on our own. Some I would describe as restaurant quality, like Cajun shrimp and cheesy grits.
  • Speaking of grits: this is something I never would have made on my own. Never. Having grown up in Wisconsin, grits were NOT a staple in our house. While I’ve had them a few times as an adult – both sweet and savory – they aren’t something I particularly like or crave. But with Home Chef, I found out they were pretty easy to make and grits with cheese and butter, oh my. Yum.
  • My kids have been introduced to new flavors. Last weekend we made a Korean inspired meal with pork and an absolutely delicious cabbage slaw. I don’t eat pork, but I went nuts on that slaw. So good.
  • Portions are large. We order meals to feed four people, but even when we eat a lot (see above re: going nuts on the slaw), there are leftovers.

Cons:

  • It takes us absolutely forever to make a meal. When we have plenty of time, like a leisurely Saturday night, this isn’t a big deal, but weeknights are a stretch to get dinner on the table before the kids’ (theoretical) bedtime.
  • It’s a lot more work than we are used to doing. There’s always so much chopping.
  • The kitchen is invariably a huge mess by the time we’re done.
  • The packaging seems extremely wasteful, especially the cold packs and lining materials in the boxes.
  • It’s not cheap. So far we’ve made every meal we’ve received, but there will be a time that we don’t get to one and have to toss the ingredients, and I will be angry at throwing away money when this day comes.
  • I can’t eat a lot of it. I eat seafood but not beef, chicken or pork. The rest of my family does. We did not sign up for vegetarian options, but we could have. Given the gluten restriction and our kids’ tastes (which tend to run meat-y), we opted to keep meat in the mix and nix the gluten rather than go vegetarian. I still like the sides that come with the meals, though, and I usually make something extra for myself (salad) and fill up on the sides.
  • While well-packaged, some of the meat has leaked. It did not seem spoiled, but it’s unappetizing and potentially unsafe to say the least.

Overall, Home Chef has been a good experiment for us. We’ve been using the service for about 3 months, and it’s still novel. There may come a time when it isn’t, but for now we’ll stick with it.

Final comment: while opinions in our family have generally been positive about the food, Spouse did find this note written by Trixie earlier this week:

 

P.S. This post is NOT sponsored in any way by Home Chef. We use them and I thought I’d share the experience, good and bad.

P.P.S. This blog does not, in fact, have any sponsors, although I would welcome an opportunity to shamelessly plug brands I love, like Louis Vuitton. So, Vuitton, if you are reading this, I would be happy to review your spring 2017 collection.

Trixie’s 8th Birthday

Trixie turned eight on Sunday.

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She was sooooo excited to open her presents that she woke me up at 6 A.M. to get the party started.

After being told that 6 A.M. was far too early to wake everyone up on a Sunday, she came back to check at 6:30 and 7:00.

At 7:01, I relented, got out of bed and fired up the coffee.

Through my friend M., we were able to secure a Hatchimal as a gift.

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Unfortunately, Trixie’s Hatchimal did not hatch, which appears to be a common problem.

We were able to open the shell ourselves, which prompted her to declare that her Hatchimal – “Pinky” – was born via cesarean section.

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After a birthday party with friends at a local bowling alley, the four of us headed home for her dinner of choice: sushi, followed by a (gluten-free) red velvet cake and ice cream, a round of a new game (Disney’s “Beat the Parents”) and a showing of “Garfield, a Tail of Two Kitties.” 

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She declared it the best birthday ever. Heart full.

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Twin Cities Women’s March

After a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided that the Women’s March was so important that we needed to attend.

My mental Pro/Con List looked something like this:

Pros:

  1. This is an incredibly important, once-in-a-lifetime event
  2. As an OBGYN, I am all-in for equal rights and women’s rights, especially reproductive freedom
  3. I am a feminist
  4. As parents, both Spouse and I thought this was a tremendous opportunity for the kids to see activism in action
  5. I could go on with about 100 more points like this…

Cons:

  1. I’d already driven the 200+ mile round trip between our current city and the Twin Cities twice this week. With my new job I’ve been staying in a hotel from Monday to Friday, but this week I had an early morning dentist appointment on Friday and drove home Thursday night after work (in terrible fog and icy rain) and then did the whole round trip Friday. Going to the March meant I had to do it again on Saturday, too. In the best case scenario, I hate driving. In this case, I really detested the nail-biting road conditions.
  2. I thought that parking and the crowds might be a hassle
  3. While I believed that things would be peaceful, I had a tiny worry that some nut job might do something crazy and I didn’t want to put my kids in danger
  4. The real reason: I hate being even *slightly* physically uncomfortable in the cold. My temperature comfort zone ranges from approximately 70-73 degrees Fahrenheit, and this March was taking place in January in Minnesota.

Even in my head, I knew the Con List was totally lame and the right thing to do was to go. Sometimes I grumble about things, but in the end I almost always Do The Right Thing, and the March was something we could not miss.

MGM (9) and I set off on Saturday morning. [Trixie (7) had a birthday party to attend and Spouse brought her later in the morning. MGM and I never saw them, but we knew they were there].

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Proof

The temps were in the mid 30s and there were periods of rain on our drive to the March. We had zero issues with travel and parked without a problem in the parking garage of the Minnesota Science Museum, which was about a half mile from the organizing point for the March. We joined the crowds walking to the starting point. The mood was upbeat. People were incredibly friendly. It felt great.

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Shortly after we got to the organizing point, I got a call from my friend and work partner, P., who had arrived with her daughter. We met them and then the March started. The crowd was estimated to be more than 60,000 people.

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There were so many witty signs along the way. This was MGM’s favorite:

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Pizza rolls, not gender rolls.

This one is even harder to see, but I loved it:

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You can’t comb over misogyny.

One speaker I was excited to hear at the rally was Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American lawmaker in the United States.  She was elected in November to the State Congress. She received huge applause and was very inspiring.

The funniest thing I saw all day was a dog wearing a Donald Trump wig. I wish I would have taken a picture of it because it was so hilarious. This is NOT the dog, but I googled this and found an entire costume from My Best Friend Boutique:

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Remarkably, the rain held off during the rally and with temps in the mid-30s but appropriate winter gear, I was never cold. Not even a bit.

In the end, I couldn’t have imagined Not Going. The spirit, camaraderie and energy were incredible. I was lucky to be a part of this. I think my 60,000 new friends would all agree it Felt Important.

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After we left the rally, we had lunch and I told MGM we could go to the Science Museum if he wanted. He did. This was a bit of quid pro quo on my part, since the March wasn’t his top idea for a Saturday.

They had an interesting exhibit about medical quackery. This is a “brain tester” from the 1920s:

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MGM and I also did an experiment to extract DNA from wheat germ. This took about 20 minutes to complete.

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The last step was a show-stopper: DNA floated through a layer of alcohol to form a swirly cloud in a test tube. We were both impressed.

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We drove home without incident, cooked a meal together as a family and called it a night.

It was a successful Saturday.