Random Thoughts: The Monday Music Edition

First item: A study finds that empathic people like mellow music, and “systemizing” personalities — that is interest in understanding the rules underpinning systems — favor “intense music”.

Here’s the article about the study.

So now, when Dan asks why I listen to angry music (his term), I can say that I am interested in underpinning systems.

Dan is a psychologist, and a damn good one. Guess what kind of music he prefers.


Second item: The other night in the car, Flora was switching radio stations around. We came across Nirvana’s “Come as You Are” and I made her leave it on. You would think I was driving bamboo shoots under her nails from her reaction.

After it was over, she lost no time in finding a country music station.

Man, I hate country music.

This is, of course, the nanny’s fault. She is a country fan. So part of Flora’s rebellion will take the form of listening to country, apparently.

What do you think? Should I limit the listening of country to her room? My rule in the car is that it has to be at least mutually tolerable. Country is not mutually tolerable.

Sorry, Kim. It’s just not.

Curse you, Country!
Curse you, Country!

But I’m not going to forbid it. I know how that ends.

What do you do when you are with someone whose taste in music is wildly divergent from yours?

Random Thoughts: The Changing Plans Edition

1. My girls’ school district abruptly changed the first day of school on Monday, making it a week later than originally planned. Since my nanny returned to her teaching job in West Virginia ON WEDNESDAY, this left us in a bit of a lurch.

With some scrambling, some help (thanks to @mattieflap and my in-laws), and TWO work-from-home days, I’ve gotten everything covered. Whew.

F and K goofing
Don’t worry, we’re covered.

2. We were supposed to go up to Erie the weekend of the 22nd, but we decided to hold off on that. It’s a bummer because we haven’t been to Erie all summer. Friends of our specifically reached out to invite us up, which was nice. And we were planning the trip, but I don’t want to travel the weekend before the girls start in their new schools. We’re looking at dates in September instead.

3. Apparently Target started a firestorm by deciding to take the word “boy” or “girl” off aisle signs in toy and household departments. It started a big social media and online brouhaha, and I just went clicking around yesterday to see what the story was. And the story is pretty much that: Instead of saying “girl building sets” or “boy bedsheets” the aisle signage will simply say “building sets” or “bedsheets”.

I think nothing of this. Seems pretty straightforward to me. Not all girls like pink, and not all boys like Star Wars.

Then I made the mistake of reading the comments, and people done lost their damn minds.

Some very angry people are not going to shop at Target anymore. Honestly, reading through comments, it seemed like people thought Target was single-handedly going to end the use of the words “boy” and “girl”.

Some people are very confused about the difference between sex and gender.

And, honestly, the subtext I got from many of these angry people was, “I like my gender stereotypes JUST THE WAY THEY ARE, TARGET. How dare you challenge my comfort level? Boys play with cars and girls play with dolls; boys are blue and girls are pink AND THAT’S IT DO YOU HEAR ME?”

I wanted to tell everyone to go do some deep breathing. It was crazy.

I’ve talked about the pink toy thing a little bit here, and I have many thoughts on gendered marketing — just ask me sometime! Short version: Do not like.

I’m glad Target is not going to sell girl bathroom sets or boy Legos. They will just sell household goods and toys, and I don’t think it’s a problem. And if you can’t figure out what to buy your niece because it doesn’t say “girl” at the end of the aisle, just get her a gift card. What she decides to buy herself might just surprise you.

What do you think of the Target move? Think other stores will follow their example? Where will all those angry people shop?

Random Thoughts: The Weekend Update Update Edition

1. Kate’s swimmers ear is responding to her antibiotic drops, and she is feeling so much better. She still needs to stay out of the water for another week or so. And when she does venture back in, we will have to work to make sure her ears get dried right after swimming. Which shouldn’t be difficult, because she was in a lot of pain, and I bet she will want to prevent that from happening again.

2. Once you become used to shopping at stores other than The Big Bird, if you do find yourself shopping there it is an exercise in frustration.

Michael and I hit the farmers market Saturday morning. I put together the weekly menu on the fly, and figured I would hit the Moon area Giant Eagle for the dozen or so things I needed to complete the menu. I had a lot of stuff at home already, but needed some vegetarian ingredients. The Giant Eagle was the closest store.

Never again.

First of all, the prices are outrageous. I hadn’t realized how very high they are when you compare them to Aldi and Target.

Second of all, it has to be the least efficient store I’ve ever tried to check out of. The first self-checkout line I got into, I was behind a guy with a full cart and (I noticed as he started checking out) a pile of coupons. Now, I have no problem with coupons, but why try to use them at a self-checkout?

So I switched to another self-checkout lane — and discovered that I couldn’t use it because I didn’t have my loyalty card with me. So *then* I had to get in a regular line, and it took a long time. A LONG TIME. And while I didn’t time it, when you compare it to the time it takes to check out at Aldi or Target, where you do not wait in line, it took a long time. Fifteen minutes, possibly 30.

M was an angel. And I mean an angel. He didn’t act up, he didn’t melt down, he didn’t ask me for fifty eleven things (we had already picked out a pack of gum as a reward). He was chatty and patient and didn’t climb endlessly on the cart or wander off.

Third of all, why in heavens name do they have so. much. stuff? I mean, aside from acres of foodstuffs to choose from, there are toys and books and middle-of-the-aisle kiosks of razors and travel size shaving cream. WHY?

Fourth of all, our cashier was incredibly slow. She seemed to be flummoxed by the whole system of scanning objects in a certain order and placing them in the bags. The customers in front of me didn’t seem to be a big help, but they sure did want to chat with her.

Ugh. It was just the worst. I’m never going back.

I’ll send Dan, and only when absolutely necessary.

3. My friend Kim and her family were in town to see a production of Kim’s play A Skewed Nude, and we had them over for dinner, and they brought us beer from Chicago, and we had a nice, nice evening.

Chicago craft beer!
Chicago craft beer!

And Kim’s play is *funny*.

All-in-all, a delightful visit, and I do hope Kim and her family got lots of rest after returning to their hotel.

Got any updates?

Random Thoughts: The Brain Freeze Edition

I’m having one of those weeks. I have a lot on my mind, and a lot of different stuff to do, and I’m getting what Dan and I refer to as DITH: Deer in the Headlights. I’m just kind of frozen.

brain freeze face

The job search has been unsuccessful so far. To say the least.

The current job — well, I’m still looking. That’s all you need to know.

Although I am very busy, and the projects are marginally more interesting. I have to move a lot of content by tomorrow because…

We are out of town (the annual Seven Springs excursion) from Saturday to Wednesday.

We were supposed to go to Kennywood on Saturday, but do you know how expensive Kennywood is on a Saturday? Unless you have season passes, and/or go on a weekday, Kennywood is hella expensive for a family of five. If I had managed to get the $23 tickets, and/or they had just general admission tickets (i.e. no rides — Kate claims she won’t go on anything), it’s out of our current budget. Which is a real disappointment.

Also, while we are in Seven Springs, we are having a not-shower for Dr. Sis (have I shared here that Dr. Sis is expecting a baby? Well, she is. Due in September. PRAYERS FOR HEALTHY MOM AND BABY WELCOMED.)

And I gotta print out some games and get some prizes for the not-shower.

Best Wishes
This seems like a nice thing to provide for guests at the shower. What do you think?

And drop off the girls’ registration paperwork for school. And pack. And two more days of work, right.

My thoughts are a little ranty, too, re: Donald Trump running for President, the Ashley Madison hack, and Nicky Minaj on the VMAs. I mean, I can’t even.

So: I’m out for the time being! Have a great weekend! I gotta go make some lists and check shit off.

In the meantime, my children are with their cousins, doing this:

Happy almost weekend!

What do you do when you’re like a deer in the headlights?

Random Thoughts: The This is Bullshit Edition

1. I am hardly reading books at all right now. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m in the middle of a non-fiction book that is super interesting, Hellhound on His Trail. I get sucked in every time I pick it up. I only pick it up about once a week.

Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides.
Good, non-fiction book that I am not reading.

I did plow through Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, both by Stephen King, on the Chicago road trip. Good summer books, although Mr. King could really use an editor with some backbone. I don’t think Advil was available as a brand in the 1970s, and one cannot turn off a cell phone, and then pick it up and speed dial someone. Just little things. Didn’t make me regret reading!

I also picked up Life of Pi, which is a beautiful book. And I’m just not perusing.

2. I attribute this lack of reading to dropping and breaking my Kindle. I am a victim of my own clumsiness and carelessness. Do you have any idea how easy it is to get library books on the Kindle? SUPER EASY. It makes going to the library to actually pick up books seem like a trip to the moon. (Hyperbole much, RPM?) Plus, I never have late fees anymore! The book just disappears off the device.

I miss reading. Twittering and Facebooking my way through an evening isn’t satisfying or good for my blood pressure. Dan and I have been watching movies and TV shows via Netflix (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). Highly entertaining, highly comedic, not inspiring deep thoughts.

I can feel my brain turning to oatmeal.

Give me some books I can request from the library. I promise I’ll go tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain all day anyway, isn’t it?

3. I seem to be accidentally raising a racist kid. He won’t go near brown people — I’m not even exaggerating. We were at the dentist office yesterday, and he had to go to the bathroom. When we got back, a little Indian boy was playing with dominoes in the playroom.

Michael didn’t want to go in the room. He told me he doesn’t like the color brown.

I pointed out that nothing was wrong with having brown skin. He insists that it’s not about brown skin; he just doesn’t like the *color* brown. He likes blue and green. I then pointed out that people don’t come in blue and green; they come in white and pink and brown and yellow.

I need to meet new people.

4. The idiots on Twitter who think @SCOTUSblog is the actual Twitter account of the Supreme Court of the United States.

5. I shouldn’t let Dan go to the State store or the grocery store by himself. Though, I have had a thirst for some bourbon lately.

bourbon and potatoes
Holy packaging, Batman. And that is the biggest bottle of bourbon I’ve ever seen.

What is your favorite bourbon cocktail?

Random Thoughts: The High-Low-High Chicago Edition

First High: Visiting with friends.

On Sunday, we went to visit a college-era acquaintance of mine and her family. (The bright side of social media — she wrote about it here.) We hit the Midsommer’s Day Festival in Andersonville. It was a wonderful stroll through a Chicago neighborhood that we otherwise would not have seen. Kim, her husband John, and her two children were lovely and fun hosts. The children got their faces painted, climbed a wall, and ate french fries and chocolate frozen bananas. I believe her oldest and my two girls have a life-long bond formed in Minecraft.

Katie with face paint.
Katie Cat.

We also spent much time with my friend Erin and her husband Brian. I have dubbed Brian The Angel of Chicago for all the logistical help he gave us. They are both wonderful with our children, and if I had to guess, they have big giant soft spots for Kate especially. We stayed with them Sunday night through Tuesday. Monday morning they absconded with the children at 7 a.m., enabling Dan and me to sleep past 9 a.m. for the first time since we had arrived. They could not have been more welcoming or generous.

Angel of Chicago
Our guide and friend with a sassy M.

The Low:

We lost some stuff, most notably my debit card and — for about two hours — Dan’s phone. He must have gone to put it in his cargo shorts pocket as we were getting off the train on our last day (Tuesday), and he dropped it instead, and didn’t notice until the train pulled away. It was… panic inducing and infuriating, to say the least. Dan leapt into the car (with my phone, from which he had texted, “I am texting from my wife’s phone. If you find this, please turn it into the lost and found.”) The Metra conductor found it, and held onto it until Dan got to Harvard, IL. I mean, he held the train for 20 minutes to return Dan’s phone. He was a hero.

So, Metra, the conductor of the Harvard 5:33 express on Tuesday June 16, went above and beyond to help an out-of-towner. He wouldn’t even accept a cash tip as a thank you.

And, as I mentioned, logistics were tricky. I love the city of Chicago, but driving there is a nightmare, parking is outrageous, and we only navigated the Metra because The Angel of Chicago helped us.

The Other High: Pretty City

The ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
The ferris wheel at Navy Pier. No filter.

Chicago is such a photogenic city. If I had a real camera, I would’ve taken a thousand pictures, half of them at Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) alone.

Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, and aside from Legoland, M’s favorite.

All-in-all it was a good trip. It had its ups and downs, and despite two attempts, we never did get through the doors of the Shedd Aquarium. We walked *a lot*, and the children feel they didn’t get to swim enough. Driving home overnight on Tuesday was brutal — because of the phone fiasco, aside from the hour he was at Erin and Brian’s to eat a little dinner and finish packing, Dan was in the car for nearly 14 hours — but worth it to be at home getting organized to return to our regularly scheduled program.

Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain on low because of the wind.

What city could you spend hours walking around?

Not a Dog Person

This is what I learned when we dog-sat for 10 days.

1. Flora is totally ready for a dog.

She assumed the bulk of the responsibility for walking and feeding Oscar. She made sure he got treats and was put properly in his crate.

She did not hesitate to pick up poop. It didn’t faze her one, tiny bit.

Girls and Oscar dog.
Happy dog.

2. Kate is not ready for a dog.

She hogged, she hassled, she wanted all the dog’s attention all the time. I think she picked up poop a few times, but it wasn’t her favorite. She liked to play tug-of-war with the dog, and she wanted to cuddle him. All the time.

She was kind of a pain in the ass about the dog.

3. Michael was just status update boy. “Oscar’s in the dining room.” “Oscar pooped in the yard.” “Oscar is upstairs.” “Oscar drank some water.” But since I’m not depending on him to be ready for a dog, this is fine.

Oscar at window.
Good doggie!

4. Dan and I are not dog people.

I can’t speak for my husband, but I know he found the exercise of taking the dog out and then crating him before Dan left for the day to be a bit of a hassle.

I thought I was a dog person. I am incorrect. The *idea* of having a dog doesn’t bother me, but in the idea, my children are completely, 100 percent responsible for taking care of the dog, and — this is important — DO NOT FIGHT over taking care of the dog.

I may be more of a cat person, but since Flora and I are allergic to cats, that is not a pet option for us.

Ultimately, I think I do not want a pet for the following two reasons:

1. I am done with other creatures’ poop. Michael is learning to wipe his own butt, and I cannot express how liberating this milestone is — if you are a parent, you understand without me having to use more words. I don’t want to pick up poop or clean a litter box. I want to be done with poop.

2. I do not want another creature to be dependent on me. For goodness sake, people, I don’t even feed the fish.

If we get a pet, the children have to be in charge. It can’t shed, because ain’t no one in this house equipped to do that much vacuuming. And it can’t bark. Or wake me up at 5 a.m.

Nope. Mama’s done.

Of course, despite all these protestations, if it is financially feasible to get a dog this summer, we will get a dog this summer. Dan has been promising the girls a dog for YEARS now. We’re just going to have to suck it up. And hope the dog picks Flora to be its alpha.

Are you a dog person?

Random Thoughts: Mother’s Day Edition

1. After the incredible high of LTYM, I came back to reality Saturday morning, wrangling three children and one dog off to a 10 a.m. soccer game. Already, the day was steaming up, our central air wasn’t working, I had a headache, and was running on an adrenaline high and only about 5 hours of sleep.

Additionally, my parents and my sister were in town; they had come in for the show and for Mother’s Day. My sister had brought her dog with her.

Oscar, our foster dog for a week, it turns out, does not play well with other dogs. Oy, the barking.

2. Kate acted up, which is never good, but when she mouthed off to my parents — well, this was unacceptable. She lost Minecraft for the weekend.

3. Thank goodness for naps. I crashed for about an hour on Saturday. Which was good, because we had to go to dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom and Dr. Sis. We had a delightful and delicious dinner at Serafina’s in Crafton. Turns out Kate and Michael really like polenta, and all three of the children enjoy gnocchi. Who knew?

4. Dr. Sis is pregnant for the first time (due in September; please keep her and baby G in prayers — healthy pregnancy, good labor, healthy baby). At the soccer game as we were wrangling children and dogs, chatting about LTYM, and watching the soccer game, Dr. Sis observed that when I was a teenager, I said I was never having children.

While I do not recall declaring this, it certainly seems that it is possible that there was some point that I did not want children. I didn’t like to babysit, like, at all. I wasn’t fond of children in general — although are teenagers fond of children? I suppose some must be.

It is not out of the realm of possibility that I said I would never have children.

Having them now, though? Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Family portrait
I mean, c’mon. Not only do we have a good time together, we’re a pretty good-looking family!

5. Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post, and my FB and Twitter, about LTYM. I cannot wait to share the video with those of you who missed it.

6. Chicago vacation is OFFICIALLY BOOKED. That is the next thing that I have to look forward to! It’s good to always have something.

What are you looking forward to?

Conversations We Are Not Having

Although I have been following developments in Baltimore, I haven’t said very much.

I’ve also been following the SCOTUS arguments about gay marriage, but I haven’t said much about that, either.

First of all, I’m having a little bit a deja vu about both situations — haven’t we been here before?

Secondly, and more importantly, it’s not for me to speak up about these things. If you read this blog, you know where I stand on these issues.

Black lives matter.

Love is love.

Especially in the case of what is going on in Baltimore — a city I am quite fond of, BTW — it’s not my story and MY voice that are needed.

It’s up to me to sit and listen. Really listen. Not pretend to listen until it’s my turn to speak.

Just listen.


Dan came back from his trip to Memphis. He said the Civil Rights Museum was incredibly moving. And he also said that he has one question for people who talk about Baltimore.

“What are you doing to help? What are you doing to make it better?”

What are you doing to change things?

I think it starts with listening, instead of talking. Hear the pain and the anger. Stand witness.

I don’t know what my next steps are, personally. Find a way to be a better advocate somehow.

Sometimes I feel like President Bartlett from The West Wing.

“What’s next?”

Random Thoughts: The I’m in Over My Head Edition

1. Kate is receiving her First Holy Communion this weekend, and we are having a picnic on Sunday with nearly 70 people (including children) attending. (Thank you everyone who promptly RSVP’ed after my post mentioning that!)

And I haven’t ordered food yet. So. Gotta get on that.

2. One of the things I wanted to do was make vegetarian baked beans for the picnic. We’re having fried chicken, and macaroni and potato salad, and a crudite tray, and the like. It’s hard to get prepared baked beans without bacon.

Here’s something I learned: after soaking beans overnight, you still have to cook them before you use them in a recipe.

I learned that the hard way.

I have been a vegetarian for more than 20 years. And I didn’t know that. This is my first time attempting to recipe with dried beans. So far, I’m not very impressed with myself.

I’m going to try to correct the problem this evening so I’m on track for Sunday. Wish me luck.

3. Still no dress for LTYM. I have an outfit in mind — one already in my closet. And a friend is sending a couple of things from her closet for me to try on.

4. Just for shits and giggles (why SHITS and giggles?) here’s what the rest of my week looks like: Thursday: Order food; shop at Target. Bonus: I will only have M in tow; Dan has the girls until they all come home tonight.

Friday: Attend happy hour for departing colleague. Let’s talk HIGH TURNOVER in my department, shall we? Aunt is picking up Flora (at soccer practice) and M (from daycare); Kate is attending 1st Holy Communion practice and having a sleepover. Aside: This may be a terrible decision on my part, letting her sleep over a friend’s house. I’m going to make every take a rest on Saturday to counteract any negative effects.

Saturday: Flora needs to be at a birthday party at 10 a.m. at the Warhol Museum downtown. Again, allowing her to attend this party may be another miscalculation on my part. Trying to fit in too much in one day. M and I will be strolling around the museum while she is at this party, because I’m not running all over the place. I should probably be home cleaning the house instead. But, you know, culture n’at.

On the plus side, my parents are meeting us at the museum around noon, in order to take the children back to the house, while I go to Sewickley to have hairs ripped out of various body parts. I’m pretty sure this appointment is in service to LTYM and not Kate’s 1st Holy Communion, but neat eyebrows are never inappropriate.

I’m not really sure how or when Kate is getting to me. We’re still working on that detail. She has a hair appointment, at the house, to get pretty — sorry, get prettier — for her big event at 2 p.m.

We need to be to the church at 4:30 p.m. Mass starts at 5 p.m.

I have no idea what we are actually doing for dinner. Maybe someone else will make that decision for me.

Sunday: Party day. I’m probably sending various people to pick up various things before we get started.

Another plus: I have people bringing cookies. We’re having a Pittsburgh cookie table at Kate’s party! This is probably my only smart decision of the weekend. Well, that and accepting my parents’ help, which is a given — that I would accept, not that I assume they will help.

5. Dan is going out of town the following weekend. I repeat: DAN IS GOING OUT OF TOWN FROM APRIL 30 TO MAY 3.

6. And we start dog sitting this little fellow May 2.

Oscar dog

I may be insane.

Just drop off bourbon for me and maybe do a food drop for the children. The pup will have his own supplies.

Are you in over your head this week?