This post is generously sponsored by Zappos.
“How many balloons do you think are in there?” I asked my kids, pen poised over the scrap of paper to place in the jar.
“Five thousand fifty hundred!”
So we need a little work on our numbers. Mainly the concept that “five thousand fifty hundred” is not one. I had the best of intentions at the beginning of the summer. We downloaded an app their teachers recommended that helped track their progress in math. We signed on exactly twice and spent most of the exercises freaking out about not being able to find the numbers on the keyboard. Learning is hard.
So maybe we need to work on our numbers AND our typing.
I grew up in my parents’ office – they owned a little office supply/print shop in downtown Dallas when I was younger – so I spent many days whiling away the hours on my mom’s typewriter (not even a computer, kids!) and calculator, the kind with the paper rolls, or painting my nails with White Out. And carbon paper! Carbon paper was my jam.
(Also, I used to run random pieces of paper through the mail meter, over and over again, only to watch it shoot out the other end. I was completely oblivious to the idea that each stamp cost actual money. Sorry, Dad.)
I don’t think we won the balloon count, even when I did adjust their numbers to something more realistic, like 552. But we DID have an absolutely fantastic day at the Zappos #dayofwow, held down at the Fair Market in downtown East Austin, an area of town that is at least 37 times hipper than I am.
So a Day of Wow basically contains everything you can imagine to help kids get pumped for back to school. In conjunction with Crafting Community and benefitting the j.k. livin foundation, Day of Wow featured tons of family friendly activities and crafts for kids of all ages and school levels.
We hopped into a photo booth and had our picture taken with ridiculous glasses and props while the girls waved pom poms in our faces, then headed straight over to the Keds booth, where each girl was given a pair of bright white canvas shoes to decorate at the tie-dye station. Remember drawing on your Keds? Our poor mothers. My biggest accomplishment of this day was suppressing my inner control freak when Claire did not see the point of making her left shoe look anything like her right.
Next up was hammering decorative brads into leather shapes to make fun keychains or pins to attach to a pencil case, also courtesy of Keds. No one hammered a finger! I call that a win.
The best part about this event was that it was not overwhelming for our three girls. I mean, sure, we had to abandon the beaded zipper pulls because with my poorly engineered body containing only two arms, I could only help one kid at a time, causing the other kid to pout and wander off. But a) we were inside, so there was really nowhere she could go, and b) she was easy to find, thanks to the strategically placed snacks and tubs of Honest Kids juice. If you’re looking for my kids, they will always be by the snacks.
Case in point:
We also enjoyed food from Franks Hot Dogs, which I had coincidentally just visited the weekend before (order the giant pretzel; trust me on this), drinks from Honest Kids juice, and the most delicious all-natural popsicles from Cold Ones. Every bit of this event was so very Austin, and we loved it.
Here are a few more shots of our day. The girls are still talking about it, and Zoe even wore her custom Keds on the first day of kindergarten, because she is completely rad like that.
Zoe made a button for every single design they had available. Thank you, sweet button lady, for encouraging her creativity. And her name was Claire, which had my Claire like WHOA.
Also, see that backpack? Courtesy of Dakine and FILLED with amazing goodies from Honest Shampoo & Body Wash to Mabels Labels to the exact Yoobi pom pom keychains I insisted the girls spend their own money on when we were school supply shopping last week.
Back to school has been fun so far, but compared the the Day of Wow, all other days pale in comparison. Crafts are my love language with the girls (when I have enough hands to appease everyone), and this day was truly WOW.
If you couldn’t tell by the massive amounts of photos of awkwardly smiling kids carrying backpacks twice as big as they are, this week marked the first week of school for a whole lotta people.
My girls have waffled back and forth between SO EXCITED! and yeah, no thanks, school. And to tell the truth, I’ve done the same. I spent the entire summer setting my alarm for 6am (instead of the 5:30 that I do for the school year) so I could work, but I’m still not thrilled to start the hectic mornings of packing lunches, making breakfast, and ordering kids to get dressed, brush teeth, pack their backpacks, and help me search for the inevitable missing shoes. Always one shoe missing, always the one they absolutely must wear.
Thankfully, spirits ran high on Tuesday, along with a few nerves. Rachel didn’t seem to want to eat her breakfast. Whereas Claire will state upfront that she’s nervous and might be shy (then proceeds to chat up everyone within earshot), Rachel is quiet and withdrawn when she’s unsure about something. But she carefully picked out an outfit that made her feel awesome: Wonder Woman tee, shorts, her new Chucks, and a pair of sunglasses.
I spent the majority of my day fielding Facebook notifications as my Facebook friends and I checked out each other’s back-to-school photos, and I found myself looking at the pictures of my own girls over and over again, in complete disbelief that I am the mother of two 2nd graders and a kindergartener. My baby is in school, y’all.
Zoe’s been my little buddy for so long, I haven’t really been able to process what life will be like with her gone every day. I keep reminding myself that she’s not staying home with me tomorrow, like her every-other-day preschool formerly dictated. I’m used to taking the big girls to school and coming home to her watching Wild Kratts and requesting breakfast, sometimes second breakfast (just like the hobbits of the Shire!). She came out of school all smiles, but quickly got overwhelmed by the chaos of the pick up area. Her face started to droop, and she asked that I hold her. “I don’t want to come here ever again,” she cried into my shoulder. “It’s too long!”
Even though she’s been ready for kinder for quite some time, there’s still an adjustment period to be had. Rachel and Claire said the same thing when they started school. “Kindergarten is SO LONG for mommies and daddies to come back!” It took a few weeks, but we got there, and I don’t anticipate it will take Zoe as long to acclimate.
So it went well, I think. I am the mother of three school-ages children. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry, but then Christian and I went out to breakfast, so…
Also, if backpacks were personalities, I’d say we nailed this one.
I haven’t had a lot of time to write this summer. And if I’m being honest, I haven’t had a whole lot of inspiration either. It’s been an incredibly busy season, which I have not really been able to say in the past. Previous summers have consisted of seemingly never-ending days, weeks, months of heat and sweat. If we weren’t at the pool, we were hibernating in the air conditioning, driving each other crazy.
But this summer was different for several reasons. It was a summer of “Wow, this summer’s going by fast!” and the summer of not really wanting school to start.
It was the summer of starting a new job the same week the kids started summer vacation.
The summer of our first family vacation in 6 years. The last time that happened we came home with a bun in the oven. Rest assured that steps were taken to insure that did not happen again.
It was the summer of beaches.
It was the summer of YMCA day camp.
The summer of missing my kids immensely when they were at YMCA day camp.
It was the summer of fulfilling a dream and planting the seeds for possible passions.
It was the summer of cousins.
It was the summer of sisters.
And a summer of the discovery of Sonic the Hedgehog and Hello Kitty comic books, courtesy of the public library. YOU SAVED SUMMER.
It was the summer of hanging our heads out the window, because who cares? And I have bigger battles to fight.
Basically it was the summer of me not really wanting summer to be over.
As much as I agonized over this whole camp thing – it’s day camp! Stop being ridiculous! – I know it was really good for them. I feel we’ve turned a bit of a corner this summer in more ways than one. Not once did I have to write “Summer is killing me!” Gone are the days of sweating through a walk around the block with a clunky stroller and two toddlers running in separate directions. Gone are the days of sweating through explaining over and over again to crying children that it’s time to leave the pool. Gone are the days of sweating through a trip to the store for that one thing that just couldn’t wait for the evening. (It was probably toilet paper. With three girls, it’s always toilet paper.) I mean, we did plenty of sweating this summer (fun summer activity – whiling away almost the entire afternoon giving your kids the longest baths eve, one by one), just not over the small stuff.
Some things we did made me realize that I need to help my kids to be more independent. Others made me realize that I need to just let them be sometimes. And other things reminded me that they still need me quite a bit. More on that coming up someday.
So no. I’m not exactly ready for school to start. I mean, I’m ready to have some days and hours to do the work people are paying me to do so I hopefully don’t get fired. But I’m not ready to drag kids out of bed at 6:30am. All summer long I’ve been getting up early to work. I’m usually able to get in an hour or so before they start ambling in one by one, requesting breakfast while rubbing their eyes and blowing their stinky morning breath on me. I’m not ready to give up the lazy quality that even our busiest summer yet has had.
You guys asked and you shall receive. A [brutally honest] review of my second Stitch Fix* box! You can all let out the collective breaths you’ve been holding for the past three months. I get my shipments every other month, but I haven’t exactly caught on to the act of doing timely reviews, so here we are.
Edited to add: It’s come to my attention that people want actual photos of me in the actual clothes. I’ll think about it. I’m a) rarely photo-ready when trying these things on, and b) lazy.
The 2nd fix
I’ll come right out and say this box was a total dud. Some things looked okay on paper, but I didn’t love anything right off the bat. What’s worse: loving things and then hating them on, or not really being excited to try anything at all (hence less disappointment)?
Anywho. Since I’m so behind, I misplaced the little sheet that said how much everything was, but I’ll so my best to estimate. Most of the Stitch Fix items are consistent in pricing anyway.
1. Kut From the Kloth Mila Dress – $98
This looks like a cute little black dress, perfect for summer. The problem is, I am of average height (5’4″) and not too terribly slender, so long dresses make me look shorter and more squat, even with heels. Long dresses look great on a certain body type, and that body type is not mine.
You can’t tell in the picture, but the dress has a wrap style bust with a little ruffle along the neckline. So along with being short and not terribly thin, I also do not have the boobies to fill out this dress, and I hate ruffles anyway, unless they come in potato chip form.
In summary, I was not about to pay $100 for a dress that made me look like a squatty gnome and didn’t even come in sour cream and onion flavor. Your move, Stitch Fix.
2. Papermoon Milly Dress – $68?
What a cute dress! I’m not crazy about the zipper in the back, but I do like gray, because I am boring (that’s not meant to be derisive; I really do own all the neutrals). The dress was comfortable, but the fit was meh.
Why no, good sir, I am NOT pregnant, why do you ask? #pleats
3. Loveappella Lian Zipper Detail Knit Top – $48
I love a good tshirt, only this was less of a tshirt and more of a knit sausage casing, reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s blue period. And what is with the super pronounced zippers on the backs of knit shirts and dresses? If you feel the need to unzip a knit top to get it on, you’ve graduated from “sausage casing” to “painted on.”
I’m just going to say it. The multicolored chevron print was hideous and did my figure exactly zero favors.
4. Kut From the Kloth Danny Knit Pant – $78
Damn these pants were comfy! They were slim fit, like jeggings, and I love my GAP jeggings. They were a tad too long, if by tad you mean lots and lots of inches. But if you find a good pair of pants, it’s worth getting them hemmed, right?
The most important part of trying on a new pair of pants is the pocket check. If the pockets are too high, they look like mom jeans. If they are too wide, they make your butt look bigger. Perfect pants have to have the perfect pockets.
The pockets on these pants were high, wide, and small, making my butt look like a massive black planet. I ripped them off and shook my fist at all of the pocket injustices of the world.
5. Pixley Colibri Heart Print Tab-Sleeve Blouse – $48
I loved this shirt! Well, I liked this shirt. I have actually been shopping around for something this style. It’s longer and looks cute with skinny jeans or shorts. The only problem with this top is I am not a huge fan of hearts. I would never deliberately buy something with hearts on it. Okay, I actually kind of hate them.
So why was I about to keep this top? That’s the magic of Stitch Fix, folks. I’ve determined that by giving me only 5 choices, if I feel even so-so about one of them, I am tempted to keep it. My husband even tried to get me to keep it, so as not to waste my $20 styling fee. But I can’t pay $28 MORE for a shirt that I don’t even really like that much. So the shirt and my styling fee both went out the window.
In conclusion… I received this box in May (I KNOW! So behind. How did you even stand it?) and kept nothing. I pondered whether or not to even continue the service, but I thought giving it one more try couldn’t hurt.
Since I was disappointed in this fix, I made sure to leave detailed notes during my checkout process, letting my stylist know exactly what is was I didn’t like about each item (NO HEARTS PLZ THX). I also started ramping up my Pinterest board devoted to style, but I am not a huge Pinterest person, so I have to make an active effort to do so. Right now my active efforts are reserved pretty much for sleeping, drinking coffee, and eating cheese.
*Affiliate link. Here’s another one.
I screwed up royally and failed to sign the kids up for one last week of camp for August. We’re on a waiting list, but I’m not hopeful. Our summer has been so damn busy that I feel like I’ve hardly spent any time with them, so this is good! It means that I’m spending the majority of my days juggling work and outings and work and assuaging their never ending hunger and work and slip n’ slide! and work and probably way too much Netflix.
It also means that since the one thing I refuse to do is take all three kids grocery shopping, I have to hit up my favorite foodstuff carriers in the evenings. Who doesn’t love that? I mean, with the shocking news of Jen and Ben and now Gavin and Gwen, if there’s anything we can truly count on in this world, it’s that a mom of multiple children cannot wait until after dinner so she can spend her precious evening hours at Costco.
Rachel came with me this time. She’s my self proclaimed shopping buddy, and she’s usually pretty cheerful about it. We spent over an hour in the store picking out our necessities, including 12 pairs of leggings. Say what you will about buying clothes at Costco, but those damn Kirkland leggings are sturdy as hell, and at $9.99 for a 2-pack, I may try to squeeze into a pair myself, even though it won’t even be cool enough here for real pants until about October.
Anyway, $225 later, my debit card was declined because it was expired. BUT! In a stroke of good luck (because it sure as hell wasn’t organization), I actually had the new one with me! Only I hadn’t activated it yet.
Now back in the day when I worked at my credit union, any PIN-based transaction would activate a card. Apparently that is not the case anymore, so we left, no groceries, no leggings. No wine.
I’m kidding; I still had wine at home. I would never let that happen.
Tensions in the car ran high. I was irritated at the whole thing. Rachel didn’t understand why we couldn’t buy her fruit snacks. I snapped at her a few times, which wasn’t the best idea. My girl takes it hard when we’re not getting along.
At a stoplight, Rachel mumbled that when she had a baby, she wanted a boy. Maybe it’s because she is a true tomboy; maybe it’s because she was feeling insecure about the irritation in my voice, assuming that boys always get along with their moms. She asked how parents decided if the baby would be a boy or a girl. I was grateful for the break in tension, explaining that moms and dads don’t exactly get to pick – it’s just luck of the draw.
“When the daddy plants the seed, it starts to grow and develops into either a girl or a boy.”
Conversation, meet nosedive.
“But how does the seed get in the mommy’s tummy?”
“Well – uh – see, the daddy gives the mommy the seed, and it grows.”
“But how does he give her the seed? Does she swallow it?”
“Well…..when a mommy and a daddy love each other, the daddy gives the mommy a seed, and they make a baby…” I was repeating myself. I knew I was giving her the toddler version of the story, and it just ain’t right. Plus, I couldn’t stop giggling.
“It’s not funny!”
“Well, yeah, it kinda is….”
I could feel my defenses crumbling. I had no way out of this. A million thoughts flew through my mind at once. What exactly was I afraid of? She’ll talk about it at school. Talk about what? The truth? God forbid she come to the table armed with the facts instead of a stork.
“Okay. You really wanna know?”
“Yessss,” she grumbled, her way of saying Look, lady. I know you’re holding out on me.
“Okay. When a mommy and a daddy love each other, the daddy’s penis goes into the mommy’s vagina, and that’s how he gives her the seed.”
Good grief, what have I done?
“Yeah……it is pretty gross sometimes.”
It was a pretty quiet car ride home, until she saw a Krispy Kreme and felt the need to point that out. I so rarely get the opportunity to spend one on one time with these girls. Each time feels like a special event, even if it does only consist of a failed grocery run and an awkward sex conversation.
“Rachel, I’m glad you came to the store with me tonight. Even if we didn’t get the stuff we needed.”
“Me too, Mommy. Maybe you should fix your card before you go back though.”
“Yeah. You’re probably right.”
As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, each month I get to share what I’m streaming on Netflix. What should I watch next?
So I’ll just start by saying that I REALLY wanted to watch the new Tig Notaro documentary, Tig, before I wrote this, but I just have not had time. It’s been a busy couple of weeks with BlogHer and family visiting from out of town. But I’m coming for you, Tig! *shakes fists at the heavens*
So here is where you guys get to say I TOLD YOU SO, because I finally sat down and pulled up Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and I love it! I am obsessed with New York City, even more so now that I actually spend a few days there. Sometimes I hesitate to jump on bandwagons, but there’s a reason everyone else is on the wagon. Because the wagon is awesome!
Thanks to the genius that is Tina Fey, Kimmy Schmidt has the same fun wit and humor of 30 Rock. The characters are hilarious and multi-layered, and the shenanigans in which they get themselves are guffaw-worthy. Jane Krakowski is one of my favorite TV comedic actresses, and her portrayal of the uppity Jaqueline Voorhees is not to be missed.
Christian and I had been looking for a comedy to watch together, after way too many serious series like Mad Men and The Walking Dead and Bloodline. We needed to laugh, and Kimmy makes us LAUGH. So if you’ve been holding out on Kimmy, get with the program.
Dialing it back a few years, I was scrolling through and saw one of my favorite movies: Almost Famous. We saw this in the theater years ago (it came out in 2000!), and I continued to think about it for days afterward. I bought the soundtrack and played it constantly in my college painting classes. I wanted to shirk all my responsibilities and take off on a tour bus with a scruffy band. But alas, I ended up graduating college, getting a job, getting married, having kids, and here I am, 15 years later, watching the movie again and thinking that if one of my kids ever has an opportunity like that, I hope to channel my inner Elaine Miller and say, GO.
What are you watching?
I have always wanted to go to New York City. But I was also terrified to go to New York City. As I packed my bags and wrestled with sleep, a nervous ball settled in the pit of my stomach and wouldn’t leave, like when you’ve eaten too much queso, except that’s ridiculous because there’s really no such thing as too much queso.
It would be easier to just not go.
We paid for your trip. You’re going, whether you like it or not.
Travel itself doesn’t scare me. I like flying, and the people-watcher in me loves a good airport (side note: LaGuardia is NOT a good airport. It’s the asshole of all airports.). What made me nervous was being in a huge, scary new place. I get anxious about figuring out how to get from the airport to the hotel. Cabs, Lyft, Uber, creepy guys in suits who try to lure you into a parking garage. The sometimes optimist in me who tries to always see both sides of the story turns into a hardened cynic, totally certain everyone is trying to take advantage of me. No, I do NOT want a Rolex at good price, dear sir!
But I got a cab, thanks to the blogger I met at the airport who remembered there was a magical taxi stand around the corner that no one else knew about. I made it to my hotel, met up with my friends, and exchanged hugs and squeals. It all worked out fine and no one tried to mug me.
Last year, 2014, was my first BlogHer conference. I met a lot of people I had only known online. It was fun and surreal and exciting, but I felt like the in-law at a huge family reunion, following around my friends and allowing them to introduce me to people. I left the conference happy and full and very, very tired. That 2 hour time difference from central to pacific is no joke.
But 2014 me didn’t feel like the real me.
At BlogHer ’15 my friend Angela and I came across a booth in the expo hall for a company called My Intent, displaying simple and cool washer necklaces and bracelets. Pick a word, they said, a word that you love, a word that defines you, and we’ll stamp it for you.
I chose the word REAL.
Much hemming and hawing went on over this decision, and full disclosure, it only came to me because I found myself walking behind directly someone with the phrase REAL FOOD on the back of their t-shirt and my first thought was Hey, I like food! But then my second thought was Hey! Real! That’s my word! Because if life has taught me anything, it’s be yourself, and also to always go with the second idea that pops into your head.
This year, I felt REAL. I was myself. I felt comfortable.
I felt at home. At the conference. In the city. With my people.
New York City allows you to be another person, or at least another version of yourself. In New York City I was the version of myself that didn’t hesitate to run up and hug someone I’ve only met online. I was the version who made midnight runs to Ray’s Pizza, sitting and cackling with my girlfriends about sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. I was the introvert who loved hiding in a sea of faces in Times Square. I could have sat for hours and just watched all of the amazing people passing through. Like this guy.
I’ve always strived to be real. But sometimes we need a reminder to stay true to ourselves and what we believe in. What I learned last weekend is that these women are creating some of the most important work in today’s media. I learned that I believe in so much more than I put out there. I learned that I stand for more than I vocalize, and maybe that needs to change. And I care so damn much about these people that share this little thing called blogging with me.
I’m headed to NYC for BlogHer ’15 on Thursday, and the anxiety is in full force. This year I’m not as nervous about meeting people I don’t know – I will have plenty of friends there, both online and off. No, my fears this year reside in the crowded, bustling city of New York. I’ve always dreamed of going, but I admit, I’m kinda terrified. I don’t get anxious about solo travel, except when it comes to solo “getting where I need to be.” If I can’t find someone to share with, that $50 cab ride is going to hurt.
It’s always interesting meeting someone you’ve only known online. Sometimes people’s online personas match their real life ones to a tee. I always get the feeling that when people meet me in real life for the first time, they’re disappointed that I don’t immediately match up to my online boisterousness. Here are some reasons why. (I originally wrote the following before BlogHer ’12 – which I did not attend. They still stand today.)
I’m a classic introvert and grew up dreadfully shy. I do like to be in (some) social situations (with a wingman), and I do like meeting new people, but I am trying very hard. If I approached you, it was probably very, very, nerve wracking for me to do so. But on the flip side, it means that I really wanted to meet you or talk to you. So yay for you!
A lot of people are surprised by this, because I can be quite animated and outgoing in groups of people. But I usually leave with a wicked headache from all the effort. But…
I often don’t know what to say. This usually plagues me in those situations in which I make the effort to go up and introduce myself to someone. I can get through the initial stages, you know, like “hi,” but then falter miserably after that.
Hi! I’m Leigh Ann. I really enjoyed your presentation/speech/blog!
“Oh thanks! That’s nice to hear.”
Yeah! You’re welcome! So, um…yeah….You have really pretty hair?
Inversely, I sometimes just fly off the handle and say too much. I may mommy vomit all over you about my kids or just keep talking and talking to fill the silence:
Oh, you have a cat? Me too! Two actually. I hate them. One vomits everywhere and the other one’s just an asshole. Wait, where are you going?
Twins? Oh yeah, it’s tough. But fun. Usually. Sometimes. I mean, they fight a lot, but they’re best friends. Kinda. You want to kill yourself the first 6 months, but you get used to it, especially when you don’t know any different. And man, breast feeding was rough in the beginning. Wait…is it just me, or are you backing away?
Which leads to…
I will likely tell you way too much info about something personal. Not like vagina personal (but who knows?), more like just something not meant for people who don’t know me very well.
Case in point: I usually chat with another mom during our kids’ swim lessons at the Y, when I’m not wrangling my kids or threatening to take them home. Last Tuesday she popped by to say that her son was sick, then headed to the gym. When I saw her on the way out, she asked how it went, and I unleashed a bomb of frustration on the poor woman.
Oh, terrible. There was only one instructor today, and my kids were all over the place. I have a good mind to throw in the towel and never come back.
Her eyes flitted down as she laughed nervously and gave me a polite smile. “Oh…well, uh, see you tomorrow…” It’s safe to say she walked off as fast as humanly possible. And that was when I wished I could be one of those people who just smiles and says, It was okay! That woman didn’t need or want to hear my personal grievances.
I’m very indecisive. I cannot make a snap decision to save my life. In fact, if I DID have to save my life with a snap decision? I would probably die because I would either make the wrong decision, or I would meet my demise standing there wringing my hands, grinding my teeth, emitting a deafening “Eeeeeeeeeee!” What a way to go.
Also, I like to please people. Most of my indecision comes from not wanting to make the wrong decision, i.e. the choice you don’t like. This also makes me very agreeable. So just go ahead and decide already.
I’m a people watcher. Sunglasses were made for people like me. I may be watching you right. now.
I’m terrible with names. But I will own up to it and ask you to tell me again so I can remember. Or how about you just give me your Twitter handle?
If we’ve made it to happy hour and you still haven’t ditched me for someone less annoying, know that I love wine, but I will usually choose beer. Also I will probably talk WAY too much if I have a couple of drinks in me.
When I go home, I will likely tear apart the whole event/evening/encounter, sure that I talked too much, laughed too loud, and overpowered too many conversations. It’s just what I do. But hopefully I didn’t, and you left thinking I was relatively normal, somewhat relatable, and maybe just a little bit awesome? Because I thought you were too.
If you’re headed to BlogHer ’15, come say hi! Just keep the above things in mind before you write me off as a total weirdo.