Nuttin' For Christmas

Merry Christmas, Internet.

See you in a few days.


Star Light, Star Bright


Our Christmas tree isn't "ours" any more. The Christmas trees my husband and I used to have we very simple, elegant, Martha-Stewart-approved affairs, with all white lights and gold and silver ornaments and only things found in nature: pine cones, acorns, snowflakes, apples. Those trees were beautiful, worthy of being feature in a decorating magazine.

Now our tree features a purple hippopotamus and a Perry the Platypus ornament. Our kid is responsible for that. I'll be honest, but don't tell anybody -- we like her tree better.

photo.JPGWe're still creating our family decorating traditions, and we're adding new stuff to our tree every year. When I was a kid, our family tree reflected all the stuff that was important to us: Phillies ornaments, Star Trek ships, handmade craft projects, hand-me-downs. We're trying to incorporate that into our tree as well.

Our daughter is kind of the star of our lives, and so there are a lot of stars on our tree. Shae loves them, and so do we. One of her favorites is one that was made especially for this year's Heart of Haiti campaign. I love that she loves it because it basically features all the things I love in an ornament that will featured on our tree for many years: it's artisan-crafted, it's made of recycled and sustainable materials, and it's going to directly help someone provide a better life for their family.

Mostly I love this ornament, though, because it represents everything that we wanted our tree to say this year: "HOPE." And I hope that she will always love this ornament as much as we do.


I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own. #CleverHaiti


Frosty the Snowman

I can't speak for anyone else, but my week has been absolute BUTT, except for my niece's impromptu birthday bash at Chuck E. Cheese's yesterday -- I KNOW -- so I am sharing this with the world because it gives me so much joy.

I hope it does the same for you.


Falling For You

These kids in my family are weird. When we got out to Chicago for our big visit last month, the weather was lovely, sunny and clear and just a touch of that familiar autumnal chill, so the Grown Ups had this fabulous idea: let's rake all the leaves in my sister's yard into a big pile and jump in it! Fun, right?



So we raked and piled and organized as much as possible -- trying to get three kids to gather leaves into a single pile in the center of the yard where there is good light is about as simple as trying to explain the infield fly rule to Martians who only speak Swahili -- and made our fun little pile of fun. We figured that the most complicated part of this entire process would be trying to determine who would get to jump in first. Ladies first? Age before beauty?




Except THESE LOONBALL CHILDREN OF OURS did not want to jump in the leaves. We had to negotiate and cajole and bribe and practically threaten them to put the rakes down and stop doing work and GO PLAY, DARN IT. We eventually got them (2/3 of them, anyway) to roll around in the leaves, and thrown them, and stuff. Lollipops might have been involved. (Joey was unconvinced, regardless.)



Shae finally "saved the day" by burying herself in a pile and popping out and yelling "BOO!" at everybody. Except, um, she was in the wrong pile. Instead of the nice pile we made in the yard, she went and hid in the big pile in the front of the house, right on the street, in the pile that was waiting for the industrial leaf sucker. Le sigh.



First things first: obviously, I'm not doing NaBloPoMo this year. Or NaNoWriMo, either, for that matter. Just in case you were wondering.

Second things second: I'm sorry it's been forever and a day since I last posted. Would it help if I told you that in the meantime I've been driving through a hurricane and somehow landing myself in an honor society? No?

Third things third: because I know my audience (hi, Mom!) here are some pictures. I'm putting up the Halloween ones first because there is less than a week left until Thanksgiving and the pictures of the kids rolling around in the leaves will still be appropriate then.


It is COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE to get a photo of these guys where they're all looking in the same direction at the same time. But they ARE totes adorbs (hi, babe!) so WHATEVER.


Joey and Jacob may not, technically, have been aware that I was taking their picture here, but they're sure cute. And also total clones of my sisters, so obviously we know who their mother is.


I hope I never get tired of how Makayla follows Shae around everywhere, and how Shae does her best to be a good big sister, even though these two are cousins.


Of course, it is hard not to love this face, or this kid, who lets me pretend to eat her face and loves to play along with my favorite game, "Don't Drop The Baby!" When I say, "Don't drop the baby!" now, she says it right along with me. I miss this age, kind of, sometimes. And then I remember how often you have to say "No" to a two-year-old and I get over it.


If you think about it too long and too hard (or if, for example, you are a future literature teacher who's actually read The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and not just seen the Disney version of the movie), there is probably something inappropriate about letting my kid dress up as Esmeralda for Halloween.


But you know what? I've been accused of far worse than indulging my kid and her desire to redefine what makes a "princess," you know?


How To Have A Nervous Breakdown In Seven Easy Steps

Last night I discovered a previously heretofore unknown superpower: the ability to cause myself to have a panic attack while lying in bed, simply by using the power of my mind. In case you are looking for a hobby or superpowers of your, I have detailed the simple steps of this process for you below:

1. Start out as me.

I'll admit it -- my default condition is pretty much "bananapants crazy." One a relative stress scale of one to ten, where one is "dead" and ten is "having conversations with imaginary sparkly rainbow pegacorn ponies," my daily average is probably a 6½-7 to begin with. I'm your classic Type-A overworked overtired overstressed overscheduled overachiever. "Relax" is in my vocabulary, but not my daily schedule. It's only half a joke that I need to keep three calendars on my desk so I have enough time to get everything done. So I will grant you that maybe I am setting the bar a little high, in terms of your own personal ability to freak out on command, but I encourage you to stretch yourself a bit here.

2. Add cruddy weather.

I hate the fall. I swear that every year, my seasonal affective disorder starts manifesting a little earlier, and pretty soon we're going to hit the point where I'm only at 100% for 25 minutes out of one day in the middle of July. It's like my internal clock knows the very nanosecond that the Autumnal Equinox occurs, and a little switch clicks, and all of the sudden it's like I have PMS all the time or something, for six months. Depression is a bitch, and seasonal depression is even worse, because there's not much you can do about it when you live in the Northeast and the weather won't make up its damn mind. It's been unseasonably warm, and also rainy and foggy and generally swampy, and we can't tell whether to leave the air conditioner on or what, so I'm not sleeping so well to begin with. Lack of sleep makes the SAD worse. Plus, oh joy of joys, it's ragweed season - hello allergies!

3. Add general job dissatisfaction.

I don't talk much about work because it's not one of my Happy Places. Also, I don't want to get fired because of anything I might say. But I'm not entirely happy there right now, and for the foreseeable future, it's not getting any better. I am doing my best, but things are what they are, and I am not dealing with it as well as I would like. I worry about how I do my job, whether I'll still have a job next week, whether I care about having a job next week, etc. And, because I have some workaholic tendencies, I have severe difficulties leaving work at work. I bring things home with me -- not paperwork, but issues and conflicts and concerns. It's hard for me to shut it off. And it doesn't start when I walk in the door of the office, either: I basically stew in it for my whole drive in, and my whole drive home, and the whole time I am there, so I spend at least 12 hours a day steeped in a tea of discontent.

4. Add grad school.

I like school. I really do. I love learning and being on campus and spending time with other grad students in my program and professors and the smell of old books and the crackle of academic electricity. I pretty much hated being an undergrad -- that age between 18-22 was so awkward for me, and I wouldn't want those years back for all the money in the world -- but being a mid-life grad student is so awesome, because I get to experience all the things I did genuinely love about college without the hassle of the late-adolescent self-discovery and the mating rituals of undergrad life. BUT. My classes are at night, after a full day of work and at least an hour in the car (where, I might have mentioned, I was most likely still simmering over one drama or another that happened at work) and a dinner that does not involve having hilariously animated conversations with my husband and kid. I miss them. And learning can be exhausting, especially when you love your classes and you really throw yourself into them, which of course I am doing, because that's how I am, and that's the only way I know how to be.

5. Add political uncertainty.

I had class last night, so I didn't get to (have to?) watch the debate. I don't usually watch the debates anyway, because I already know who I'm voting by this point in a presidential election year, but I do flip around a little bit and check in on the Internet to see how everything is going, and suddenly the prospect of a Romney presidency seemed very real, and this right here was probably one of the keystones of my undoing. Because I had just come home from class where I am learning how to be a teacher, which is an occupation that Romney does not seem to appreciate. I mean, they're all about facts and knowledge and information and critical analysis and stuff. I remember when people like Mitt Romney would refer to people like me as the "intellectual elite," as if being an intellectual were some sort of disease. And to top it all off, many teachers are in unions, God forbid. I got scared at the prospect of trying to look for a teaching job under a President who wants to dismantle the Department of Education. So, like, about here is the point where I starting coming unglued, a little bit.

6. Add attempted travel plans.

I ... Christ on a cracker. I am trying to get to Chicago for my nephew's baptism, and I got the Christmas Club money this week, so I looked into flights. And the prices are scary, but then I remembered that one of the airlines owes me a credit for travel problems that we had last year when we went to Disneyland. So I checked on the voucher that they gave me, and their system says it's still good, so I tried to use it. And now my reservation is sitting out there in some sort of aviation reservation limbo, because one system says the credit is there and another one says the credit is expired and NOBODY WILL CALL ME BACK. And here is where I start coming unhinged. LOOK, JUST TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON. I made the reservation on Tuesday. Ticket prices have already gone up since then. It should not take 48 hours for someone to get back to me about this. On top of it, I am frustrated because in trying to USE THE CREDIT THE AIRLINE GAVE ME, I have to recount the whole horrible story about what happened last year when they gave me the credit in the first place, and I get really really pissed off all over again. Last night I had myself so angry over this in the car on the way home from class that I was actually crying hot, angry tears.

7. Agitate.

So I basically had ALL THIS SHIT going on in my head last night when I went to bed, and I couldn't make it stop. I was just lying there, already stressed out to probably a 13 on that same 1-to-10 stress scale, and then I started getting twitchy. I couldn't keep my hands still. I started rolling around in bed, trying to stop the twitching in my feet. I was lying there in the dark and the quiet and I couldn't turn my brain off. I honestly don't think it's possible for a human being to be more tightly wound without being an actual Slinky (or at least double-jointed). I could literally feel my fight-or-flight response activate, feel the adrenaline flowing through my veins. I got tunnel vision. I hyperventilated. I probably swallowed a gallon of tears and post-nasal drip. And no matter how much I tried, no matter how much deep breathing and relaxing thoughts and yoga posing I did, I could not make it stop. I don't remember falling asleep, but I did not sleep well, and the fevered dreams I had were all about falling and running and impotent rage against the universe.

I want to say I'm fine now, but I know that I'm not. I'm at work and mostly functioning like a human being, but I've been on the verge of tears since I got here. I have knots in my neck and my back that I can't stretch out, and Tylenol and Advil are not touching them. I don't want to have too much caffeine because I'd like to sleep tonight, but of course I am tired and having trouble focusing. I have homework to do, and day-job work to finish. I have dinner to make and worksheets to do with my kid. I still haven't heard back from the airline, but I am mostly staying off Twitter right now because I just can't handle politics right now. I can't really handle anything, honestly, but I have to. So I am. On the outside, anyway. On the inside, I am all ...

Your move, Universe.


So It Goes

When I started grad school, I expected things to be different. I just didn't expect them to be, you know, THIS different.

I didn't expect to go almost an entire month without updating my blog.

I didn't expect that my kid's first day of kindergarten would pass with barely so much as a mention.

I didn't expect that my poor camera would sit in the bag, barely touched, for days, weeks, practically months at a time.

I didn't expect to miss my kid or my husband or my bed or my DVR or my free time quite so much.

I am not complaining here, or at least, not exactly. I am glad that I finally got my shit together for long enough to develop an "exit strategy" and stick with it. You know me: I have my moments when I'm not entirely sure that I am doing the "right thing" here, but by and large I am glad I made the move before I could talk myself out of it.

I expected to love being back in school, and I really, really do, but I didn't expect that I would have such trouble getting back into the "swing" of being a college student. I know my schedule, but I can't seem to set up a routine. I have class on Wednesday and Thursday nights this semester, plus an online class through the middle of October, and I know what I need to do, but I keep finding myself in the middle of a "crunch," and I'm still not sure how to work it all out, sometimes.

I expect that it will take me another two semesters to get myself all the way together, and by then it will be time to student teach, which is a whole 'nother can of worms.

I didn't expect that I would have so much to want to say, and so little time or authority to actually do it. I'd love to discuss my theories and plans and ideas with all of you, but I'm not sure what I'm actually allowed to talk about. At the end of all this, I would like to get employed, and I imagine that anything I say might be used against me.

I definitely didn't expect to feel so frustrated about so many things now. I want to be done with school and get on with "the rest of my life," but I still have a day job to do. If I rush through my classes I won't do as well as I'd like to, but if I slow down so I don't feel so much angst about it, I might end up convincing myself that I am frustrated because I'm doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I expected the sheer panic I felt when I actually got into grad school to settle down some once I got started.

I didn't expect that there would be days when it would be worse.


Here is a random picture of a BLT, because of reasons:

you know you want some. (BLT made with organic bacon, which is a delicious thing that exists.)

Right now, the reasons are that bacon is basically the only thing I still understand any more. As long as there is bacon at the end of the tunnel, I WILL BE OKAY. (Right? RIGHT?)


Wish You Were Here

On Monday -- just three days from now -- Shae starts kindergarten. I KNOW. Didn't we just have her first birthday party like a week ago? They weren't messing around when they said time flies. Like, it was JUST Memorial Day, wasn't it? And now here we are, face to face, a couple of Silver Spoons ... WAIT. Wrong song.


ANYWAY. Shae and my sister and my niece and my parents and I played hooky on Wednesday and went to the beach, to soak up some sun and splash in the surf while we still can. (Also, we knew someone who was down there for the week, so we could stay overnight.) And you know what?


It was kind of a last-minute, game-time decision, but it was exactly the right one. It's funny how sometimes you don't realize how much you just need a mental-health, stress-relief, photosynthesizin' kind of day until you're in the middle of one and you're already 90+ pages into a book and you're sort of half sunk into the sand and you find yourself thinking, "Where has this place been all my life?"


And it was pretty much the perfect day off, too. Temps in the low 80's, low humidity, bright sunshine but not too hot, hardly anybody on the beach really, nice warm water, waves a little rough but nothing we couldn't handle. If you open the dictionary to "perfection," there is probably a picture of a day just like that.


I'm not the sort of person who normally just takes off on a Wednesday, just because, but you know what? I can be convinced.


Salty Piece Of Land

More pictures from the beach, because of reasons.


Boogie boarding: you're doing it wrong. And still, somehow, doing it right.


Shae says that at the next Olympics she's going to win first place in all the swimming events. I don't think she'll be ready for Rio in 2016, but maybe by 2024 she'll be the new Missy Franklin. And if that is the case, I hope that when Costas and company does a package on "how it all began," they include this picture.


Somebody is not sure whether 64°F is quite warm enough for civilized people. (Glad it wasn't just me.)


Now I really wish that I had put Shae in her suit that matches Makayla's. This is what I get for letting her pick her own clothes out - my perfect shot is ruined. RUINED.


We did a lot of jumping. Shae likes to jump. I hope she never discovers the pole vault, or we'll all be in trouble.


Those eyelashes KILL ME DEAD, every time.


It should be reassuring to me that EVERY.SINGLE.FAMILY.PICTURE. turns out like this, because it means it is not operator error, and yet. AND YET.


THOSE EYELASHES AGAIN. Gaaaah. Who do I need to speak to about an upgrade?


Knee Deep

This post needs a soundtrack, so here you go. (And bear in mind that this might be the only time you'll ever see me voluntarily linking to a country song, although technically I am only doing this because Jimmy Buffett is involved. Jimmy Buffett > everything.)


We went to the beach yesterday, for the first time all summer. I am decidedly A Beach Person, so it was like a kind of homecoming.


Except that I, personally, prefer coming home to ocean temperatures that are above 64°F. That is too cold for a mere mortal such as myself.


Shae, of course, had no such compunctions. There was A Whole Big Ocean there, and she was going to be in it for as much and as long as possible.


Getting up at 5am on a Sunday to schlep yourself and your husband and your five-year-old and a trunkful of beach-related gear and soggy sandwiches 2½ hours to New Jersey is not everybody's idea of a good time.


I can sit here and complain until the end of time, but the truth is, the beach is my happy place, my sacred space. My psychological reset button is a salty piece of land.


And already, we're making plans to go back. I have a final exam tonight and a paper due Wednesday, and then I have two weeks off before the fall semester starts. The state park where we like to go for our beach day trips is open all year.


We'll be back, as soon as possible, knee deep in the water somewhere. The Powerball jackpot is over $300 million, so maybe we can make the change in latitude permanent.


OLYMPICS FEVER! - Answers [May Contain Spoilers, Believe It Or Not]

Here's a refresher:



And here are the answers (which may contain spoilers, if you live under a rock or are watching the Olympics only in primetime like some kind of Luddite or something):

#1 = Mary Lou Retton. (1st woman on a Wheaties box!)
#2 = Greg Louganis. (Still and always my favorite.)
#3&4 = (L-R) Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh. (Just lost their first SET ever in Olympic play, still undefeated in matches.)
#5 = Michael Phelps. (Went went on to set a record for number of individual Olympic medals since I posted the original, plus JUST TODAY became the first man to win the same event - 200m IM - in three consecutive Olympics.)
#6 = Janet Evans. (I wanted to be her, until I realized that the 1500m is a VERY LONG SWIM.)
#7 = Ian "The Thorpedo" Thorpe. (From Australia. Adorable nickname. I am a sucker for puns.)
#8 = Mia Hamm Garciaparra. (Women's soccer FTW! Plus, she married Nomar, God bless her.)
#9 = Mark Spitz. (Who probably wishes he was Michael Phelps right now.)
#10 = Nadia Comăneci. (She of the first perfect 10 in the Olympics, in Montréal, and also adorable pigtails.)



Yup, I have it - even though I haven't actually be able to WATCH any of it, since I spent opening weekend in class and almost getting disappeared from the face of the Earth due to some sort of derecho-type weather situation with hailstones the size of nickels and horizontal rain and lightning-struck trees. (These things may or may not be related - I honestly can't tell.)


Let's play my favoritest game in the world: What in the world is going on in rockle's mind? In this case, I have made a collage of my top ten favorite summer Olympic athletes ever as of about 20 minutes ago. Can you guess who they are, what sport they competed in, and how many Olympic medals (of any color) they won? Hints below the picture.


#1 = 1984.
#2 = 1976, 1984, 1988.
#3&4 = 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012.
#5 = 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012.
#6 = 1988, 1992.
#7 = 2004.
#8 = 1996, 2000, 2004.
#9 = 1968, 1972.
#10 = 1976, 1980. (Plus: 10.)


Deep Blue Something

My sister mentioned on her blog the other day that My Nephew The Elder is not much of a swimmer -- yet. In so many ways, he and my own kid are so much alike -- what with the silly Pop-Pop faces and the general excitement about everything and the camaraderie and the matching superhero T-shirts -- but when it comes to the pool, he and Shae are total opposites. She is a cross between a goldfish and a mermaid and a (very skinny) great white, what with all the swimming around while singing and eating everything that isn't nailed to the concrete patio. And he ... is not, so much. He is perfectly happy to sit on the side under an umbrella and eat his freeze pop in peace. (Not unlike his Uncle G, actually.)



I don't know what caused the turnaround -- the heat? some rare disease? too much to eat? or maybe it's fleas?* -- but Joey went all the way in the pool when he was "back East," for the first time maybe ever. The first time I can remember, anyway.


And I can tell from the look in his eyes that maybe he is not quite sure about this whole life-under-water thing, but I can also tell from the fact that he actually did not want to get out of the pool for a little while there that perhaps the next time we go out and visit the Midwest in the summertime, Shae will not be going down the great big waterslide by herself.


Resistance is futile, little man. You will be assimilated.

WHEE! #ibelieveicanfly



Hi, Mom! (A Drive-By Photo Dump)

Still from Chicago: Joey tentatively in the pool.

Chicago 2012 227

Chicago 2012 243

Still from Chicago: Joey ... dancing? ... near the pool. (I didn't know what this was when my own kid did it, either.)

Chicago 2012 270

Also still from Chicago: Shae bowling. Like a boss.

Chicago 2012 337

From when the Chicago peeps came to visit: Joey in the pool, for realsies. (Sorry for graininess - Instagram.)

WHEE! #ibelieveicanfly

Also from when the Chicago peeps came to visit: Our adorable (grand)children, because they are adorable, duh.




Also from when the Chicago peeps came to visit: even when she's being a grumpus, Shae still has a pretty cute face.


Later, gators!