Sunday, December 31, 2017

What I Read: 2017

Inspired by Sarah from Harry Times All Jacked Up (who reads SO MUCH and also has awesome recommendations), I set a Goodreads reading challenge last year to read at least 52 books over 2017. According to Goodreads, I read 55 (though I think maybe there were more?). I embraced Gretchen Rubin's advice and did not finish any book that I didn't want to. That was a challenge in itself but so empowering and now I'm all about it. Seriously guys, don't finish a crappy or uninteresting book! I also didn't count any kid or work books that I read.

So 55 books (or just over a book a week, which I think sounds more impressive.) I'm not going to list all of them, but a few stood out.

Best author I'd never heard of: Fredrik Backman. I read both A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry and I loved both of them so much. This man does character development in a way that is so beautiful. I ugly cried alone on my patio at the end of A Man Called Ove. Read these, and anything else he writes.

Best non-fiction: The Secret History of Wonder Woman. OMG. This book was awesome and I don't typically love this type of book. I love superheroes, but it was so much more than that. Dr. Marston was such an interesting character, and his relationships with women and the feminist movement is fascinating. I still quote or reference this book several times a week.

Girl Power Books: I definitely had a theme this year of strong female characters, but these stood out as the most empowering. The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. The Alice Network. Code Girls. Mischling. This one broke my heart in a million tiny pieces but also had a resiliency theme that was pretty awesome.

Best book for when you feel like the world is a dumpster fire: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. This book was such a lovely story and I recommend it as a palate cleanser for when it seems like everything's going to hell in a handbasket. Crimes Against a Book Club was a close second. This book is hilarious and light. Definitely a good vacation read.

Don't bother reading these: The Fifth Child. This could have been good in a drugstore pulp kind of way but was just weird and ended in a strange way. The Art of Frugal Hedonism. If privilege were personified and decided to write a book. The Woman in Cabin 10. I wanted to like this one and it had so much hype, but ugh. Not great.

I have a few books that I didn't get to this year that I'm excited to start 2018 with. Little Fires Everywhere came in from my library holds at an inopportune time and I had to redo my hold. Now I'm 241 in line, so I may actually buy it. I'm kind of feeling a horror vibe so there a few Stephen King's I'm looking forward to, including rereading It (OMG. Has it always been a million pages long?) I also want to reread some old favorites including Anne of Green Gables (really hoping the girls will read it with me.)

What are you guys reading? Any goals for next year, or books you can't wait to get your hands on?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

My computer got buried in holiday spirit

I stashed my laptop away before Christmas and blogging on your phone is a PITA. SO... I present to you the Christmas photo dump that I will probably backdate because it bugs me to have a bunch of space between events and posts (not that you could tell because I'm a big procrastinator)

I always get the kids matching jammies, but this year I decided (slowly) that the whole family should get in on it. But of course it was too late so we all matched someone else, but not each other. I think C and I having matching pajamas means we're one step closer to square dancing and calling each other "Mother" and "Father"... 

 I felt terrible because C scheduled our bulk garbage pick up for the day after Christmas, which meant that our yard was full of crap on Christmas day.  You're welcome, Neighbors! But then I realized that across the street my neighbor's lights were basically a giant penis and I felt better. 

 My gifts went well and it wasn't too over the top. I deviated a little from the four things, but it honestly wasn't too terrible. A few people suggested a Christmas spreadsheet and I am TOTALLY setting that up now for next year. It really helped even in the last few weeks this year.
This girl asked for a jump rope and earrings for Christmas and she was not disappointed. 

 Eli got his smartphone that came new, in a box, and had never been used by anyone else so basically it was the best day ever. I got paranoid and super locked it down, but he can still facetime his friends which is super weird. I'm trying to be cool about it. 
Syd got these fake glasses in her stocking and they may be a surprise favorite. Could she get any cuter? And my gift-to-her-that's-really-a-gift-to-me was this Feisty Pet rabbit. I love it so much!

The Barbies have arrived! And they are having all sorts of adventures. This morning Barbie and Ryder from Paw Patrol got married. Her Farmer Barbie and her Newborn Puppy Barbie are married to each other and save animals, but not together. She's got exemplary relationship boundaries already. Everyone knows that a little space in a relationship goes a long way. 

I totally went overboard on the games (thank you for your suggestions!) and it was awesome! We've played games almost every day and the kids play together randomly throughout the day too. I love it so much. 
Traditional Christmas chili. I used turkey this year which made it 0 Weight Watcher points so I also ate my weight in cinnamon rolls.

 I have a friend from work who is a super dog lover and has made it her mission to encourage my ridiculousness. Which means that Scout got a Christmas sweater and it's as perfect and ridiculous as you'd imagine. 
These might be my favorites yet

Christmas was pretty much perfect. It started out super busy and ended up low key and casual and my kids wore their Christmas outfits enough to justify buying special Christmas outfits. My folks were here which was wonderful, and then we met up with my brother and his wife in the city (more on that trip later). I keep being struck by how fun it is with the kids right now. All three of them totally got into the holiday (despite my efforts to ruin it for Eli) and they're just so fun right now.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Pre-Holiday Shenanigans

I love love love the week leading up to Christmas. It's super busy, and my house is a wreck, but I love all the cramming in of festivities. This week was especially busy since Christmas is on a Monday so the kids were still in school. 

I just realized that this was my last preschool Christmas and I'm so glad I didn't think about that at the time. It was just as precious and painful as it should have been. The poor teachers put together an ambitious playlist of songs that devolved predictably and adorably. 

Averson got to see Santa again and was so confused that her book-shaped gift wasn't the right size for a boat. 

I took the matching jammies tradition to a whole new level this year. The kids don't have theirs yet and I made C give me his back after he tried them on, but I couldn't wait on the dogs. Because apparently I'm the kind of person who dresses her dogs now? I'm really invested in getting a picture with the two of them in front of the tree. Atticus sees my vision but Scout sucks and doesn't care about my priorities. Also, she tried to eat her pants. 

We were invited to THREE Santa parties this year which is a whole new level of extra for me. I feel like this is a social strata that I was not prepared for and that I'm not entirely equipped to be in. BUT, no mall Santa and Santa always knows my kids' names. Which is awesome unless I decide to completely ruin the magic...

The girls and I made the annual pilgrimage to see the lights and eat ourselves sick on candy canes and kettle corn

And just so we don't get too full of ourselves and how awesomely we holiday, I present the girls' "gingerbread" houses. They wouldn't drop it, so I threw together some icing and handed them a half a box of graham crackers. When that wasn't enough, I ran to the dollar store and brought back a bunch of crap for the world's most ghetto holiday decorations. You can't tell, but these houses are inhabited by Goldfish.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

I quit my job and ruined Christmas (maybe?)

It's been a busy week...

About a month ago, I interviewed for a job at "headquarters" on the team that oversees the mental health programs at several prisons. Between the interview and the job offer is a long and complicated story that doesn't really fit here, but I got an offer that day (yay!) and then they rescinded it (boo!) and then they offered it again (yay!) and then I got a start date (YAY!) that's a month away (blergh.)

I'd been keeping it all very hush-hush until it was official official and I could give my team actual details. Once I had a start date, my boss wanted to advertise my job ASAP so I had to scramble to be able to tell my team. Tuesday was the first chance I had and it was SO HARD. I love this team so much. So much that I actually considered turning down the job so that I could stay with them. They took the news hard, but they were so wonderful and supportive and amazing. I am so grateful for that. There are a lot of hard things about working where I do, but they make it fun.

So that was a bummer, but really as good as it could have gone. I still haven't broken my "No crying in prison" rule, but I came really close a few times.

Also on Tuesday evening was Eli's Scout Christmas party. It was a white elephant/dessert party and he was so excited. I'm embracing the idea of "boy lead" and told him that if he wanted to take a dessert he'd have to make it himself so of course he knocked it out of the park. He made candy cane cookies from scratch, without even using the mixer. SO GOOD. I used one of the games I bought before I got better suggestions for his gift and it was all in all a very easy meeting prep. I dropped him off early, and then went back at the tail end. You guys? I never understood the fun of white elephants until I watched 20 tween/teen boys play. There was much shouting and laughing and it looked so fun! And these kids were super creative too. Eli ended up trading his "Cold Hard Cash" (money frozen in a gallon jug) for the game he brought (side note: Excellent move. The game is super fun and all of us can play it. You should totally get it.)

And now to where I (maybe?) ruined Christmas. Driving home, Eli and I were talking and I off-handedly asked him, "When did you realize Santa wasn't real?" You guys know where this is going, right? SMH. I have said FOR YEARS that Eli never believed in Santa. YEARS. This is the same kid who asked me if we could just give him the money now instead of pretending the tooth fairy brought it. He was always so logical and never talked about Santa as if it was a "thing" so C and I just sort of let it be. We took him for pictures but we don't do the Elf and we don't make a big deal about "What's Santa bringing?" or Santa watching or any of that. We were really thrown off our game when we realized the girls did believe and we had to start playing along.  So of course then C came up with this elaborate story about how he's friends with Santa and they used to golf together. But Eli NEVER got into it and just sort of complacently played along. OR SO I THOUGHT.
This does not look like a kid who believes this isn't super weird

So I'm expecting this *moment* where Eli's going to tell me what it was that made him realize that there was no magical man bringing presents, or a confession that he never believed but thought we did, or something along those lines. Instead, I ask him when he realized Santa wasn't real and he looks over and completely deadpan says, "Right now."

Shitfuckdamniti'materribleparent. But also this kid has the driest sense of humor ever so there are two possibilities. One, I just ruined the last bastion of magic in my poor, logical, man-child's life. And I did it in the most unmagical, unpoignant way possible. Or two, he's playing me. So I awkwardly laugh and start pushing him with "REALLY?!" And this little shit kept it up. I kept trying to get him to give it up and finally he Eddie Haskeled me and said, "Mom? Do I lie to you so much that you can't even tell when I'm telling the truth? I am SO sorry!" I just kept flip-flopping between "Haha! It was just a test! Santa's totally real!" "OMG, Kid, I'm so sorry!" and "Please don't tell your sisters." I asked him about the tooth fairy and he looked offended and said, "Well of course I knew the tooth fairy wasn't real, but I believed you about Santa."  He was so stoic and finally told me, "It's okay Mom. I guess I had to find out eventually. It's not like you ruined Christmas." Little shit. I'm about 85% certain that he's pulling my leg, but it's three days later and he hasn't dropped it. I tried to get C to get it out of him, but even he couldn't get him to break. So maybe I ruined his childhood? Or maybe he's a sociopath?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Memorandum and other news

Last week Eli nonchalantly mentioned that he'd won his class's spelling bee. We were adequately congratulatory, but he was so blase about it. Then Sunday night I got our "Weekend Update from the Principal" and it mentioned that the school wide spelling bee was on Monday and that the class winners would all be competing. As luck would have it, I needed to be at work early and also had to be there several hours later than usual, which justified taking a three hour lunch in the middle of the day. I called C on my way to let him know that I was surprising Eli by going, and he laughed and said he was in the car to do the same thing. So Averson, C, and I got to cheer Eli on and he wasn't expecting it and had gotten in trouble the night before and it was awesome.
Waiting to surprise her brother. Her selfie game is super extra. Also, I feel like that's an unfortunate shadow but also maybe it's been a little while since I visited my threader...

Dude. Spelling bees are super nerve-wracking. I had to work really hard to be a "respectful, silent audience" per the principal's instructions to the hundreds of kids in the gym. But Eli ROCKED it. And the words were NOT easy. I'm a good speller and pretty well-read, and I spell checked some of his answers. Linoleum? Sophomore? INSTANTANEOUS?!?! That one brought the most adorable collective gasp and then sigh of relief when the judge raised the green card.
I love this picture so much. Eli's hands on his head. The kids in the back looking equally distressed. The sea of heads.
Finally it was just Eli and one other kid. During each round, I was judging the words they were given on how likely it was that they would have seen them before. When Eli was given "Memorandum" I was pretty sure he'd never seen that one in his life. I write them, which is the only reason I know how to spell it. 

He came in second in a good contest. As soon as the pictures were taken and everyone was congratulated (including Eli's whole class, who rushed the stage to high five him), he ran over to the judges to find out how to spell "memorandum." I'm pretty sure he'll never forget it. 

In other news, I'm still doing Orangetheory and I kind of love it in a masochistic way. I go SUPER early in the morning, so it's torture on a few lovely levels. And I'm pretty sure it's been an endurance day every day for the last two weeks. But my rowing is getting SO much better and I get ridiculously excited anytime we have TRX work. My push and my all outs are getting faster and now I'm the person who gets ready for work at the gym. Plus I heart my charts oh so very much. I'm basically one step from putting them on the refrigerator. I *may* have e-mailed them to C, and maybe my boss, a couple times... I'm also still doing Weightwatchers and trying to embrace the system even though I've stalled out a little. One of the leaders gave me a pep talk and explained that the "baked on stuff" is the hardest to get rid of. It makes sense, since this is where I always seem to get stuck, so I'm trying to remain optimistic. 

I wanted to put a "sweaty selfie" here, but then I put it in and chickened out because I looked super gross. So new goal: Awesome gym selfie.

My Christmas shopping is almost completely done, meaning I may be able to get stuff in the mail in a reasonable amount of time. I didn't go super crazy with the kids, and C and I really aren't buying for each other this year (except for stockings because they're my favorite. And I've maybe bought myself a few things in the process.) I basically stuck to the Want/Need/Wear/Read system and only fudged a little in Eli's case because his "Want" is a big one. I'm still looking for a family game from Santa. THe kids are getting into board games, but all the ones we own are too young for Eli (Candyland) or too old for Averson. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love them! We play Moose Caboose and it is super fun, and the kids love Mousetrap and dominoes. I have Monopoly PTSD but other than that we're pretty open. 

Once the game issue is solved, I can move my holiday energy to planning our holiday menu and trying to figure out if I want to make (and count points for) cinnamon rolls. Christmas dinner will probably be tri-tip chili again. I always make chili and it's honestly the best Christmas dinner. Warm, cozy, and it just sits on the stove waiting to be eaten so no one's stuck in the kitchen. We often eat while we're snuggled on the couch watching a movie. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

Cali kids camp in the winter

 By some crazy coincidence, 3/5s of the Chiconky family ended up camping last weekend. Apparently our holiday festivities now include a weekend of camping? Eli and his Boy Scout troop took their bikes on a ferry to a decommissioned military base, where they biked and camped overnight. They had to carry their gear on their backs and I was told EMPHATICALLY that he should pack as light as possible. So he went with a sweatshirt, a toothbrush, deodorant and a sleeping bag. He tried to save room by skipping the toothbrush and deodorant but I pulled rank. He may not use it but it's there.

Sydney and I signed up for a "She and Me" Girl Scout camp months ago, when I was optimistic about both the weather and my free time in December. I am SO glad though, because it was super fun and if I'd had to decide about it more recently I wouldn't have gone. We went to the Girl Scout lodge out in BFE nowhere. I was a little concerned because I had the stereotypical "Scout Mom" in mind, and the thought of sleeping in a huge dorm with over a hundred moms and sneuxflakes made me twitchy. But you guys? It. Was. Awesome. We had such a good time. I have such a romanticized idea of camp in my mind and now I'm convinced that it's every bit as awesome as I thought it would be when I was a kid. We did crafts and cooked brownies in a campfire and took awesome but not too hard hikes. But we also had flush toilets and beds and real food cooked in a kitchen. It was perfect. And Syd is such an awesome side kick and so fun to hang out with. I literally can't wait until we can go again. And they have a leader camp that's for adults and they spent the whole weekend doing crafts and singing songsand OMG my nerd is showing.

Just chilling on the fence weaving a lanyard. Like you do.

Consolation cocoa after they canceled the campfire and smores because it was about 12 degrees

Camp bunks! Way more fun than home bunks
Trust hike. And neither of them suffered significant injury despite their best efforts. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Isn't it ironic?

Or a coincidence? I don't really know. Alanis Morissette has forever made me paranoid of my word choice... 

There is an inmate that I've been working with off and on for the last five years. I basically tell people that he's Kanye West, if Kanye West had no money. Paranoid, egocentric, loquacious, philosophical, and kind of a lot crazy. He believes that he's falsely imprisoned and being held by "Headquarters" in order to censor him and keep him from exposing their malicious ways. Let's just go ahead and call him Kanye. So Kanye isn't in my unit anymore, but when he sees me he makes a point to check on me. He's concerned that I'm susceptible to danger from "Headquarters" because of all the information that he's provided to the FBI. He considers me an ally and as such, he worries. So he will come up to me and very quietly, but also conspiratorily, ask "Are you okay? But are you really okay?" And I assure him that I am and then we can move on. That's the back story. 

So I was walking across the yard with my captain the other day, when Kanye asked to speak with me. He walks over, looks around, and then furtively showed me the magazine in his hand. Side note; remember that many people at my prison show off their genitals, so I was a bit hesitant But alas, it was not a picture of a penis. Instead it was some propaganda magazine talking all about how the government is planning to insert microchips in people. And it was a legit publication that someone sent this man. Seriously?! How do you argue with randomly receiving a magazine warning you that the government has you under surveillance? 

It reminded me of a woman that I worked with at the women's facility. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder but also had psychosis, and she was convinced that she was pregnant. She claimed that the spirit of her (living) boyfriend visited her at night and impregnated her via radio waves. No amount of reality testing could convince her otherwise, and she interpreted any somatic experience as further proof of her pregnancy (and not a by product of state food.) It didn't help that I was also pregnant at the time. However, I was making some headway and she was starting to accept that maybe she would not be delivering her radio baby in the near future. So imagine my surprise when she excitedly told me that she had begun making breastmilk! I wracked my brain trying to figure out an alternative explanation for what she was explaining. Sweat? Condensation? What could possibly have happened to make her think that she was lactating? Well, after a few days I mentioned it to my supervisor. He wasn't surprised at all, since she was on a pretty common antipsychotic that has a very uncommon side effect of MAKING PEOPLE LACTATE. So sonofabitch. All that work to convince her she's not pregnant and then she starts leaking all over her damn shirt like the rest of us.