the swing set of giants

The family we bought our house from left their little swing set and it’s given AB hours of entertainment. She was the right size for it when we moved in but she’s growing like a weed and her energetic swinging would rock the entire structure off the ground. Not to mention that I can barely squeeze my hips between the chains onto the tiny seats and it’s not good for my self esteem or public image when I have to unwedge myself from the blue plastic jail.

Last week Christopher built a new swing set. I knew it would be bigger than the old one but I didn’t know how big until we set it up. I like to think I’m strong because I’m the youngest person in zumba which somehow translates to strength in my mind, but my strength was not enough to help Christopher get it off the ground. We had to go next door and ask our neighbor to help us. He’s a firefighter and his arm muscles are literally bigger than their little dog. I’m confident he could have pushed the structure up with one hand but he let us think we were doing some of the hard work.

It’s the swing set made for giants. It cracks me up when I look at the difference between the two swing sets. The average length chains that came with the swings are two feet off the ground. They’re so high that we had to bring out the stepstool so AB could get on them. We could throw a tarp over the top and host a wedding underneath.
Annabelle could not be more thrilled.
“Hi, Mama. What are you doing? Can I help you know what to write? You can say that Christopher and Annabelle built a new swing set for Annabelle. Um. I’m thinking. Annabelle uses this climbing rope as a swing. The Sky People are people who live in the sky that Annabelle made up. *the narrator abruptly leaves the couch and goes to the floor to wrap herself in a blanket* I’m in a shell, Mama! Can you put that on your blog?”

Currently, the politics edition

Laughing at: election memes. We hit a new high for good memes at the beginning of the pandemic but things hit a slump for a few months there. The election nearly killed my spirits but memes are slowly helping revive me.

Thankful: that I can vote. I took AB voting with me after school. I always try to take her since it’s a patriotic thing, but this year felt more special since it marks 100 years since white women were allowed to vote. If I couldn’t vote I’d be out on the streets like Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins.

Not election related, but how accurate and depressing is this one?

Having unpopular opinions about: Kamala Harris. So many people are going crazy that she’s the first woman to be presumptive vice president. “I finally have someone for my daughter to look up to!” It is wonderful that we live in a country that offers such opportunities to men and women. We have come so far in that regard. I applaud what seems to be a dedicated work ethic and I have no doubt she has done good in certain areas, but I cannot hold her up as someone to emulate to my daughter. I can’t use someone who voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act as an example for my child. I will side with morals over gender. For the record, this does go both ways. I don’t agree with the disrespectful way Donald Trump often speaks to and about people. I don’t hold him up as a good example in that either.

Embarrassing myself: at the doctors. I had an internal ultrasound on Wednesday. I’ve had them so often this year I told Christopher we should buy our own ultrasound machine and save the time and money of going to the office all the time. The nurse said my uterus and follicles looked good and I said “Thank you. I’ve really been working on them.” Obviously I was kidding because I have no control over these things, but he nurse did NOT have a sense of humor. She looked at me like I was possessed and should not be allowed to raise any more children. I didn’t say much after that since I was in a very compromised physical position.

Watching: the neighborhood facebook page. This is not a good resource for someone who is trying very hard to be less nosy informed about local goings on. Cynthia’s decorative ceramic pineapples were stolen. Clay posts video footage of “reckless teens barely stopping at the stop sign at Southbridge and Morris. Parents, please control your youth!” “I stepped in dog poop in my front yard this morning. I do not have a dog. Please pick up after your pets or I will be forced to call the head of the HOA and animal control.” One person constantly threatens to call animal control so often I wondered if he’d call when he saw a child dressed up as a dog on Halloween.

Watching: cheesy Christmas movies and loving every second. I said to Christopher, “I assume you don’t mind if I watch Midnight at the Magnolia without you?” and he said, “I’d prefer you watch it without me.” Fine. Be the Scrooge of a person who doesn’t want to surprised and thrilled when two very beautiful people fall in love when they both want the same Christmas tree.

Chauffeuring: AB to swimming lessons. They finally started up a few weeks ago and Sesame has been thrilled. She doesn’t do well with sports that involve balls but she’s excelling at swimming. She takes lessons at the Y and their entire management system is truly a mess. It took more than one month of trying to contact Troy, the aquatics director, and a last ditch frustration visit to Samantha in the office to get the lessons set up. I wanted to threat that I’d leave and go to their competitor, but they’re literally the only place in town that has swim lessons. I should have gone to Samantha in the first place. Within 24 hours we had a teacher and time slot. Two weeks ago I tried to pay for her next round of lessons. The lady at the desk wouldn’t let me pay until Troy looked at the registration form even though AB has been an established student for almost two years. I was offering them $90 so you’d think they would have asked me to sign on the receipt asap. Her teacher told me yesterday that “Troy gave me the paper so you can pay now but I don’t know why he’s involved. All he does is look at it when he gives it to me. It seems like a waste of time.” Amen, sister.  Either way, my little fish is back in the water and loving it. She’s learning how to dive and it’s very similar to how I dive. To be specific, it’s a belly flop every time. I’d sign up for diving lessons myself but who knows how long it would take for the paper to get from the front desk to Troy’s office. I might be 37 by then.

Currently, The Eve of October Edition

Reading: I’ve been in a terrible reading rut. I got halfway through three books before giving up. For years I would make myself finish every book but not anymore. There are too many good books in the world to spend my reading time on subpar books. I borrowed a book from the library called The Swiss Courier on my old standby topic of WW1 and WW2. I forgot I had it until I found it stuck in the bottom of the library book basket. I started it on Monday and was really enjoying it, but had to return it on Tuesday because there were no renewals left. This is my latest batch of books.

The back of The Switch had me at the first sentence. “Eileen, newly single and about to turn eighty, would like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.” She and her twentysomething granddaughter in London swap homes for two months while they sort out their lives. If that’s not a Sarah book waiting to be read I don’t know what is.
With AB, I’ve been reading Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crocket, Giraffe Problems and several more.

Laughing at:

Impressed by/feeling bad about myself: I’ve been researching the new Supreme Court candidate. She is a mother of seven, one of whom is special needs, and somehow has her wits about her enough that she said yes to one of the biggest jobs in the entire country. She balances seven children and has a robust career while I cannot remember which shoe size my one child wears.

I listened to an interview with a man who is a father, an Army doctor, a fighter jet pilot and an astronaut who just spent ten months in space. I went to Sam’s Club yesterday and got lost finding the soda. Astronaut Drew can get himself to the moon but my flight pattern through the produce section of Sam’s looks like this.

Proud of: Annabelle at school. She told me she helped Nolan K find a book he wanted and congratulated Landon on reading well when he’s been struggling. It’s nice to know she’s being kind when I’m not there to remind her.

Helping: Sesame sweep the leaves in the backyard.

Making: I’ve taken a break from my old lady craft of cross stitch and have taken up another old lady craft of embroidery. I bought a new pattern that I planned on starting last night while I watched the presidential debate, but I had a headache so I haven’t started. If I hadn’t already had a headache, all the yelling and name-calling between Donald and Joe would have given me one.

Watching: Somebody Fed Phil. It is delightful. He is entertaining and SO kind to the people he eats with and his crew. He constantly reminds me of our old landlord who we loved.

Planning: our 10th anniversary trip. Every time Phil visits a new country I add it to my possible locations list. Hopefully, by April we’ll be able to move freely around the world. If not, we’ll be visiting Paris, Tennessee or Denmark, Maine.

Playing: trivia games via zoom. It is as full of technical problems as you’d expect. The other team had a question about which fast food restaurant has a chihuahua as a mascot. My team was asked “how many gallons of water can a baobob tree hold in its trunk? Too bad the questions weren’t about getting dizzy in Sam’s.

Currently, the how is it already August edition

Reading: Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie and Shelter Mountain by Robyn Carr. Onboard to read next are From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein and The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters by Sam Kashner. I’m trying to branch out from my go-to topics of WW1, WW2 and presidents/First Ladies, but the library didn’t have the five other books I wanted so I went to the old standbys.  Laughing at: these portraits Annabelle drew of me. This one is fairly accurate. Messy bun. Big earrings. “Lots of eyelashes because I know you like eyelashes.”

Believe it or not, the picture on the left is also me. She said it’s me “reaching for the moon.” I cannot look at it without laughing. It’s so funny and she has no idea why it makes me laugh. I will keep it forever and put it in her graduation and wedding slideshows. I can’t wait to show it to her in a few years. She’ll be mortified and I’ll think it’s hysterical.


Baking: homemade tortillas and naan. I’m trying to add to my cooking and baking repertoire which has led me down the path of making bread and bread adjacent recipes. The naan didn’t turn out right but that was due to user error, not recipe error. I got halfway through the recipe before realizing we didn’t have eggs. I made an egg substitute with baking soda and white vinegar but (unsurprisingly) it didn’t work as well. It tasted ok but we need to redo it. I want to make French bread but Publix is constantly out of yeast and I’m not about to concoct a substitute for that. A few weeks ago, Sesame and I made a mixed berry pie with homemade pie crust. I used a new recipe that called for white vinegar. It tasted odd but I told AB it would taste better after we filled and baked it. It did not. It was HORRIBLE. Hideous. It tasted like a cocktail of chemicals and nail polish remover. That’s the day I discovered that there’s cleaning white vinegar with “NOT A FOOD PRODUCT” printed on the side and regular white vinegar suitable for cooking. We could not get the taste from our mouths.

(I had to X out of while looking for a good gif. Ever since I was pregnant I cannot look at or hear someone gag or vomit without having flashbacks of spending hours leaning over the toilet. I feel myself being seconds away from throwing up. Hyperemesis has forever scarred me.)

Not going: to Walmart. For years I went to Walmart multiple times a month. We did a large part of our grocery shopping there and I’d constantly be running in for odds and ends. I haven’t been since a few days before the cruise in March. It was back in the timeframe known as BtSV- Before the Stupid Virus. That’s an official name that will be used in all history books when they refer to this time. Walmarts here are not the cleanest of places in the best of times, but now they’re even more questionable. I’m going on six months since my last visit and part of me wants to know how long I can keep it up for. The other part of me decided today I need to suck it up and go back to Wally World because it’s significantly cheaper for basics and I will take one of the team to have a thicker wallet. 

Sad about: our good friends moving. Just months after we moved here we met the sweetest family at church. When they found out we don’t have family here the husband said, “We’ll be your family” and they really have been. AB and I have had endless playdates with them. Sarah and I always go to our town’s big consignment sale together and convince each other that we DO need to buy the girls another smocked dress. We have our favorite playgrounds to meet at. I decorated the cupcakes for their daughter’s birthday and Sarah took me out when I lost Elliot. I’ve never once in three years been out in public with Sarah and not run into at least one person she knows. I keep telling her to run for mayor. Their daughter has dealt with several major health issues and AB has learned how to play with someone who needs more time or help doing normal things. It’s been so sweet to watch her care for Lana.

Very sadly for me, they’re moving to Japan this month. I cannot tell you the sadness this brings me. We just finished redoing our kitchen but we might need to sell the house so I can move with them. I stitched this for them as a going away gift. They adopted their sweet little girl from China so I incorporated that in with the flag.

Laughing: at AB’s remarks. I have never been a bikini person but I recently wore a two-piece bathing suit in the hot tub. The top was a little small so I wore a swim shirt over it. As usual, Annabelle had several questions about what was happening. “Why are you wearing a shirt? You never wear shirts when you swim.” “Because I’m not wearing a regular bathing suit and the top is too small so I’m trying to be modest.” “Are you wearing a zucchini?” Zucchini. Bikini. Same thing.

currently, the pandemic edition

Reading: Stand All the Way Up by Sophie Hudson and The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts

Listening to: Virgin River by Robyn Carr. I watched the show on Netflix and a friend recommended the books. It’s very well written but significantly more steamy than the show. I popped my earbuds in very fast so AB didn’t hear anything I would have to explain.

When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi. In another life, I have a dream of being a brain surgeon so I enjoy reading about surgeons and pretending that I too could have saved lives in the OR. I’d also like to be an astronaut and when I was young, I dreamed of being a cash register. I really wanted to hold all those dolla bills. Neither has come true but Pinterest tells me to never give up on my dreams. 

Annabelle has been “playing” the recorder lately. There is a direct connection between her playing and the increase of me wearing my headphones.

Wearing: After many many years of searching and experimenting, I am proud to announce I have finally found the perfect mascara. I sent Christopher the link Annabelle knows my love language is mascara and gave it to me for my birthday. It has lived up to every good review I’ve ever heard.  

Completely over: this stupid virus. It’s outstayed it’s welcome!

Returning to: church. Yesterday we finally got to meet in the building. There was only a smattering of the normal members, but it was really nice to be back. It’s unbelievable how much has changed since the last time we were there. Every other pew was roped off and they all had humorous signs attached to the ropes. 

Not wearing: lipgloss. Masks have made lipgloss a thing of the past which is the real tragedy of the ‘rona.

currently, the year is Marching on edition

Eating: I consider myself to be a potato chip connoisseur. I keep a running list in my head of good brands and what to steer clear of. For a while, Panera changed their chips from the brown bag to another, subpar brand and I almost wrote to management about it, but they brought back the chips in the brown bag so they’re back in my good graces. I was recently at TJMaxx and found a new brand- Deep River Snacks. Their chips are a tad salty but the thickness and crunch level are top-notch.

Another snack discovery is Bobo’s oatmeal snack bites. Warmed up they’re a good snack and taste a little like pie. Annabelle has turned down her nose at them but I like them. I got them in the TJMaxx snack section which is our poor-town version of Trader Joes.

Filling in: some gaps in education. Annabelle recently said something to me about “when cows lay eggs”. I didn’t know that was a gap in her knowledge! I thought she knew they didn’t come from eggs! Later that day, we are walking across the parking lot and she said, ”Do you think it was a good idea for bombs to drop on Hiroshima and Gagasnaki?” We have two VERY different ends of the educational spectrum here.

Dreading: the family presentation we have to give at the homeschool group in a few weeks. I know it’s coming up soon but I haven’t checked the email for the exact date because once I know I won’t be able to stop the countdown clock in my head. This morning my friend asked me if we had done it yet and said, “You say you went to visit your friend a few weeks ago but I thought you might have skipped out because it was your day.” That does sound like something I’d do and may or may not be planning to do on our week. Annabelle told me, “Mom. I’ll teach you how to give talks.” How much can I pay her to do the whole presentation while I sit in the corner cowering from the secondhand embarrassment of our family being the center of attention?

Trying: a new allowance/job system. I strongly believe in not paying children to do everyday chores. I will never hand money to my child for making her bed or cleaning up after a meal. She needs to learn to be a productive member of the family and society. I don’t want her growing up thinking she lives in a hotel or that she needs to be paid for hanging up her backpack. However, I will occasionally have Annabelle do a job, such as sweeping the garage or washing all the doorknobs in the house, that is beyond her normal chores and give her a few quarters. I want her to learn to manage money so I started a system I heard about on a podcast. Every day I write three chores/jobs she needs to complete that day. When all three are done, she checks the box for that day. If she does all three things every day for the week, she will get two dollars. If she completes all the jobs for every day of the month I will give her an extra two dollars. I told her some of it will be in quarters that she’ll have one jar for saving some long term and another jar for tithing at church, but beyond that, she can save or spend the rest. It feels silly to pay for getting goggles out, but I’m hoping this will help her get in the habit of checking her list and learning she needs to be responsible if she wants to earn money. 

We’re two days in and it’s worked well so far. Come back next month to see if the momentum has stayed. 

Wondering: when someone will start paying me for all the chores I do around here.

Reading: so much. I had a bit of a reading dry spell but I’m back in the reading game. 
House Rules by Jodi Picoult. I’ve only read one of Jodi’s books that didn’t suck me in and this was no exception. I read it by the dying light from the fireplace like Laura Inglass of ye olden prairie days.

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer.  I downloaded this on the ipad but since I seldom read books that aren’t actual books I forgot about it for months. I’ll never turn down a good WW2 book.

Motherhood So White by Nefertiti Austen.  I’m only two chapters in so I haven’t fully developed an opinion, but the title caught my attention at the library and the subject matter is not one I normally read. 

On the Bright Side by Melanie Shankle.  I’ve often spoken of how much I enjoy Big Mama and her blog so I won’t wax poetic again, but I will say that I’m really enjoying this book. 
“These days, so many voices tell us what to do, what to think, and what kind of parent or friend or spouse to be that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated. Somewhere in the midst of online arguments and crazy politics and the ups and downs of life, we’ve lost sight of the gifts that are all around us: kindness, love, mercy, and joy.”
As someone who always tries to look on the bright side of life, I enjoy reading someone else’s perspective on trying to do the same thing. She always makes me laugh and I’m a little offended she hasn’t asked me be my friend or started texting me memes yet.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  Michelle said to read this book months ago and I finally started it on Saturday. I don’t know why I waited so long. Michelle seldom steers me wrong in books so I should have checked it out the day she told me about it. I’m slightly concerned about falling and hitting my head and not remembering my life, but other than that it’s great.

Always giggling at: dad jokes. 

Not a dad joke but so accurate because it happens seventeen times a week at my house. I can almost see the cat rolling her eyes.