Let Me Life Coach You

I have advice! Lucrative advice because I am clearly winning at life in all ways.

First, however you have been eating your pot roast leftovers in the past has been the wrong way unless you’ve been doing it the way that I am about to show you. This is the ONLY way to eat your pot roast leftovers. Actually, there isn’t really a bad way to have pot roast leftovers, but this is the definitive BEST way.

These are loaded steak fries covered in leftover pot roast, gravy, jack cheese, olives, pickled jalapenos, and green onions. Be smarter than me, and put your cheese against the warm fries and gravy so that it melts. Sergio was smarter than me. He also said he would have preferred regular sized fries, but he is wrong.

Second, don’t eat these before a workout.

I DO recommend them as a great little snack at most times because I love all sour or spicy pickles (sweet pickles are a crime), but not before you go run on a treadmill for a few miles. It will give you the most intense indigestion, which is uncomfortable enough, but it will also cause you to burp spicy pickle burps at everyone on treadmills near you. Nobody wants that.

Third, just go ahead and buy yourself that second pair of sweatpants because life is too short to spend unnecessary time in skinny jeans. I mean, you should definitely wear your real pants to work or actual events, but any other time should be sweat pants, pajama pants, or overalls. Thirty-five has been the year where I have realized that I don’t have patience for more than six hours of tight clothing per weekday. Weekends are all sweats all the time. No, I don’t look good in them. No, I don’t care. But I’m also not providing photographic evidence.

Go live your best lives, guys.


I Lost My Point Along The Way

So now that the good news is out of the way, it’s time for all of the whining and complaining and anxiety involved with the moving process. Aren’t we all excited?

We have already started the process…kind of…sort of. We have someone coming out to give us an estimate on moving our stuff. We already know that media mail through USPS is cheaper than any estimate per pound we might get, so we have three or four boxes of books sitting around our house (and another two or three to go). They are not so heavy that they won’t go through media mail, but they are heavy enough that I haven’t worked up the gumption to put them in the car and then haul them into the post office. We also finally got around to selling our old couch that has been sitting in our garage for over a year. It sold FAST! One of those things that makes you realize you really should have done that a while ago. We also have someone coming tonight for Rosalind’s big dollhouse which actually sold faster than the couch but hasn’t been picked up yet.

Those are the only big items we know we plan to sell though. We have some small items that would make sense to sell in a garage sale, but we’ll see how I’m feeling in late April or early May for that part. I would really like to bring the rest with me. It probably makes more sense to sell everything and start from scratch, but I am so tired of doing that. I want my stuff! Stuff that I’m sure won’t fit into the next place we live, and I’ll wonder why I hauled it across two countries and question all of my decisions. But it’s my STUFF. I’ve already lived almost four years without all the stuff we left stored in Arkansas. It’s time I fulfill my hoarding destiny. We’ll see how it all pans out. I’ll keep you posted on all the nitty gritty details. Much to your chagrin.

In the meantime, some people have wondered how Rosalind has taken the news. She’s excited and worried and waffles back and forth regularly. This was not something we sprung on her out of nowhere. She has always dutifully recited the timeline that we told her from the start. We have also discussed the idea of moving like clockwork since we arrived in Alaska. We began planning a tentative exit strategy about a year ago, and have kept her aware of options ever since. As the prospect became more and more plausible, she began to be more vocal about maybe not wanting to move. So when we told her we were moving, she was just excited to hear it was back near family and friends, and relieved to no longer be wondering where and when. Periodically she’ll have a moment of regret when she has a fun time with friends or thinks too long about having to start fresh somewhere, but she’s pretty enthusiastic so far. In fact, we sold her dollhouse because she pointed to it and said, “I don’t have to take that,” without any prompting. The plan is to eventually fill that metaphorical space with a guinea pig. Metaphorical in the sense that it won’t be the exact physical space the dollhouse vacated because we’ll have moved. You get what I’m saying, right? But I guess it’s also sort of the literal space because it’s unlikely she could have a guinea pig habitat and that huge dollhouse in the same bedroom and still have a bed…….I’ve really spiraled down a rabbit hole here and can’t seem to claw my way back out.

We’re bribing our kid with the promise of a guinea pig, so she’s fine to move. That’s really what I’m saying. The move has also had an unexpected advantage in that when we told her orthodontists we will be moving, they stopped waiting for her incoming teeth month after month and instead performed something akin to having your cuticles pushed back on the half-emerged teeth and gums. It was apparently quite painful, but now there is an end-date in sight with the braces. We’re planning a sticky candy party. She’s excited.

Guinea pigs and candy parties as antidote to difficult childhood milestones. I’m going to write a parenting book.

I think this eloquent and surprising card that Rosalind made me after being in a bad mood one morning last week proves that I’m doing everything right. Right?

Full Circle

I won’t bury the lede, guys. Here is the news –

Sergio accepted a new job.

In Arkansas.

In Fayetteville, to be exact.

It’s almost like when we told people four years ago that we planned to move to Alaska for about three years to get ahead in some areas of our lives and then return to our hometown afterward, we actually knew that plan would work out. We totally didn’t! I’m legitimately more surprised than anyone that it has worked out as we said it would (plus one year because it’s hard to walk away from the financial side of Alaska, not gonna lie).

Even though I won’t be back in Arkansas for good until May 22nd, I already have my first three weeks of food worked out. No other plans are in place yet. Just the restaurants. Priorities!

The best thing about this move is not being close to family and friends, or being back in my favorite town, or having normal amounts of daylight and darkness, or even the fact that Eliot will get to spend his remaining years NOT being tortured into shoes and coats three times a day. No, the best part is the fact that I have procrastinated getting a few things done for almost four years now. Things like changing most of my online settings (my Pandora has kept me informed of all the best car deals in Fayetteville all these years, and this blog still thinks it’s on Central time), or establishing a bank account at a bank that has a branch in Alaska. And now I never have to. Procrastination for the win…AGAIN!

There will be lots more moving posts coming, but for now, let’s just stick with…Yay! WE”RE COMING HOME!


My Other Teacher Talent (Bladder Control is the First)

These are the sounds I was able to identify with 100% accuracy yesterday without ever looking up from whatever I was doing.

  1. An iPhone falling from a back pocket and hitting the carpeted classroom floor.
  2. A fidget spinner spinning.
  3. A Rubik’s cube being completed in what the culprit hoped would be a record time among his friends.
  4. The sound of “not the video clip I assigned” coming out of earbuds that were in a student’s ears across the room.
  5. A thunderous, wet sounding fart. But then, who can’t identify that one? The only thing I will say is that I’ve been doing this long enough that I can tell you with certainty that the kid was as shocked as anyone when he didn’t get away with the quiet zinger he was expecting.

I think we can agree that my life is very glamorous.

Sledding On The Slough

Our neighbors have been shoveling sledding paths into the frozen slough. I have done my yearly pep talk to myself that it’s perfectly safe by now. It rained on us last night and created slick icy conditions which are a nuisance in every way but sledding.

Rolo is out taking advantage of these events as we speak.

This One Has No Direction Whatsoever

Hey, Arkansas friends and family, I hear you are colder than us today. With windchill, you guys are experiencing negative temperatures. Having fun yet?

Sorry if I’m taking a sick pleasure in this development. It’s only because I know it will be fairly short-lived for you. My friends will be having beers on sunny patios come mid-February while I am still looking outside mid-morning wondering where the sun is and whether my car will freeze into an ice cube if the outlet trips. So just let me have this moment.

Meanwhile, we’re having an unusual warm snap for January. I took Eliot out yesterday morning and he basked in the low twenty degree weather. He is old enough now that when he steps outside on the really frigid days, he can’t stop sneezing. If he starts sneezing right away, he’ll just plop himself down right in front of the door and clearly state with his body language, “F#*! you guys. This is stupid” So I’m not joking when I say he basked in the warmth. He wandered around, took a little jog, and just generally sniffed around to his heart’s content. No sneezies.


Eliot is “Sleeps On A Heating Pad” Years Old.

We spent one part of our long weekend checking out the rock climbing gym as a family. Rosalind has taken a keen interest in obstacle courses and general athleticism lately because she LOVES the Netflix show Ultimate Beastmaster. She recognized quickly that the best competitors were rock climbers. So off we went to the climbing gym.

I realized while we were there that though Sergio and I used to do this sort of thing multiple times a week, it has been at least ten years since we have done so with regularity and probably four since we have set foot in a climbing gym at all. Having kids can really warp your sense of time. If I hadn’t added it up, I would have told you I used to climb just a couple of years ago. Needless to say, I’m weak and sore in the forearm and hand area. We all had fun, but Rosalind really ate it up. Maybe we’ll find ourselves incorporating that back into our lives soon. There are lovely big bean bags in which I can rest my old, weak body while watching her. Also they have a ping pong table, and Sergio and I have always been suckers for ping pong.



Easing In Slowly

Well, darn it. The break is over.

I am not feeling that reality.

As I am kind of grumpy because of some schedule shifts and unnecessary upheaval at work, I’ll stick with a few quick pictures from the end of break.

Eliot and I rested a lot.

Rolo was entertained a variety of ways, including her first sleepover at a friend’s house which resulted in an epic three hour nap upon returning home that only ended because I made her wake up.

I decided that this is my favorite way to wear my very comfortable, but not very flattering, overalls – except minus Sergio’s flip flops which I was wearing because I broke this bottle. Everything that falls in our house shatters so forcefully on the tile that we’ll somehow find glass in our bedroom closet downstairs in six months. It goes everywhere is what I’m saying. Ceramic tile in every room of a house should be reserved for only those that suffer from severe allergies.

Oh, I totally wore that outfit with different shoes to the Teacher Work Day yesterday, so I’m already completing some New Year’s Resolutions. I’m winning at 2018.

Book Talk

These are my top five books of 2017 based on the very scientific criteria of “I have recommended them to people in person at least once since reading them.” As these are all very popular books already, you probably don’t need my commentary on them. But comment I will.

Between the World and Me by Ta’nehisi Coates – I had set this up in my head as being a very difficult read because of the sources telling me to read it, and while facing certain realities might be difficult, this is a fast and engaging book.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond – I want everyone to read this book. I know telling you that you need to read a book about grinding, cyclical, systematic poverty might not make you run out and grab this book, but you should. I legitimately couldn’t put it down, to the point that I questioned whether I had reached the level of gawking.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I read this book along with some of my 8th grade lit circles. It’s a great story, and it’s not afraid to be just brutal to the audience, but the originality of the narration is what really sets it apart. Actual conversation with one of my students about 40 pages into the book: Her: “It’s so depressing. Is it ever going to be happier?” Me: “Well, I haven’t read any more than you, but it is set during the Holocaust and narrated by Death…so…no?”

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters – This book reimagines the present if slavery had never completely ended. I was fascinated by the way the author picked parts of our actual history and shifted them so slightly and so plausibly, and in turn, the skill with which he then reimagined the present.

March 1 – 3 by John Lewis (Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell) – Even if you think you know Civil Rights history, this book set is great. If I were still teaching high school government, I would totally use this in class. My middle schoolers frequently tell me that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln were both from the same point in history, so I think I would scaffold it a little before just sticking it into the hands of your average 12 year old.

Here are some other “Worth It” reads . . .

Theft by Finding by David Sedaris – I love Sedaris. Diary entries make for easy picking up and putting down and coming back again later.

The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez – Read on the recommendation of Sergio. I found parts felt extremely familiar (being a bored teen in the South that yearned for rainy Seattle) while others felt entirely foreign (everything else).

Thy Neighbor’s Wife by Gay Talese – Fair warning: this book is x-rated; however, it is the history that stuck with me. I honestly had no idea how recently people were fighting first amendment battles over this stuff. I have a better understanding of the generation gap of the mid-twentieth century than I ever had before.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – I finally remembered to read this! I bought it for my classroom ages ago and then promptly forgot. It’s very sweet and a good book to put into the hands of your older elementary kiddos.

American War by Omar El Akkad – Of all the bummers I read this year, this was the bummeriest. You don’t get to feel even a shred of hope or positivity in this book. It will lodge like a particularly irksome earworm in your brain, though, because it deals in realities that will make you want to just throw your hands up and relocate to just about anywhere else. Somewhere without people.

A Gentlemen in Moscow by Amor Towles – The antithesis to the previous book! No shoe ever drops! You are allowed soothing contentedness throughout this book. If only I had read them in this order. Anyway, we all know that soothing historical fiction is right in my wheelhouse.

Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan – If you are into the nostalgia and sci-fi world of Stranger Things, pick up this ongoing graphic novel. Sergio and I are big fans of other Brian K. Vaughan stuff. This one is more PG than those.

Everything else I read from this year can be categorized as “Thoughtless Plane Reads” or “Maybe not Really a Book?” or “The Book Was Good but the Author has Since Been Accused of Sexual Misconduct, So I Won’t Promote His Book” or “I Read This Book Multiple Times Every Year for School” or “Ongoing Comic Books That I Don’t Really Know How to Promote.”

I hope these few are enough to give you some ideas for your next book purchase! Happy reading!



New Year Stuff

Happy New Year!

We were among the last of anyone we knew to celebrate the coming of 2018. Now that one of my friends is living in Australia, she keeps wishing me well for holidays on what I perceive to be the day before. “Celebrate” is a kind of relative term as both Sergio and I fell asleep around 10:45. Rosalind opted to stay up until midnight for the first time ever. This task was made easier for her because it turns out that North Pole is pretty hardcore about fireworks on New Year’s. There was a steady popopopopopopopopopopopopop all around us in every direction from about 5:30 pm until about 1:30 am.

We participated by stopping at one the little fireworks stands and buying more fireworks than we intended. It was enough for us to go out early in the evening (remember, it’s almost always dark here) and shoot off about 1/3 of them. Our neighbor that is Rolo’s age came out and joined us which only added to Rolo’s new excitement for this holiday. We finished off the other 2/3 by about 9:30.

It became clear as the evening wore on and she continued to play with Nate that his family fully intended to wait and blow their fireworks at midnight. There was pretty much no getting out of staying awake once he invited her to come out and join his family for their show. But Sergio was really tired from a trip to Anchorage the day before, and I just…don’t care that much? So she stayed up watching tv until they knocked on our door, at which point I got out of bed to keep an eye on her from the living room window. Their show was pretty epic but mercifully short. Rolo was in bed asleep by 12:30.

Anyway, we ended up pulling together a kind of fun little family holiday in spite of ourselves. We made some appetizer-y sort of foods for dinner, we decided Groundhog Day was an appropriate New Year’s movie to pass the time between Fireworks Time One and Fireworks Time Two. We shot a lot of fireworks while our toes and hands froze. Rolo had an impromptu playdate with Nate from 9:45 to 10:30 at night. And we set off and saw a ton of fireworks. Not bad at all. I preferred it to many other ways that New Year’s could be celebrated.

I guess that brings me to resolutions. I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but Sergio almost always asks. Last year, I was feeling pretty…adrift…at this time. I had a lot of despair and rage and aimless energy coming off the November election. I wanted something to do, something I could focus on and control, and hopefully something that would make me feel like I was improving myself or my surroundings? I don’t know. So I set two tangible goals that came straight out of behaviors I had picked up in the direct aftermath of the election. I decided that I would read more mindfully in 2017. I wasn’t allowed to read only for escape anymore. If I read one escape sort of book, then I had to read one book that opened my eyes to something important. The other goal is that I would continue to make monthly donations to causes I found important.

I felt really good about these very tangible, measurable goals. So, how did I do?

Well, I failed of course!

Don’t we always fail at our New Year’s Resolutions? Of course we do. I’ll be back soon with what I read. I read a lot of good things. Things that made me face difficult realities or even non-realities that feel too plausible. I didn’t read enough of those things though.

I donated to quite a few causes. However, I never set a clear monthly minimum in my mind. Sometimes I wanted to donate time instead of money but never found an ongoing method of doing so. Some months I did enough, and some months I did less than I intended, and some months I did nothing at all.

So that brings me to this year! I’m keeping the exact same resolutions with some added tweaks. We learn from our mistakes and we improve in the New Year! The reason I plan to keep these is because it’s the first time I have legitimately felt like I consistently checked in with myself throughout the year about my goals. These check-ins caused me to alter my behaviors from time to time. Buy that book, not that book. Throw a couple of those food bank grocery bags into your cart because you haven’t done anything else useful lately. You get the idea.

My tweaks this year will be that I simply need to read MORE. I don’t like my book total for the year. I’ll stick with the baseline of one useful book to one escape book, but I want to read at least one more book per month. Of either sort. I basically just have to look at my phone less.

I also plan to set up some sort of automatic draft situation for the donating to a cause thing. I want the food bank groceries and school fundraisers and rage donations to the ACLU to be the “on top of” sort of donations, not the baseline. I bet you thought I was going to say I planned to find a way to donate my time, right? Ha. Sometimes it’s best to know your own limitations. Right now, this is mine. I’m actually finding a way to be even less mindful about this one, which isn’t great, but I think the outcome is still to the good.

So that’s it for me. How about you guys? Anybody else trying to gain a sense of control over a chaotic world through their New Year’s Resolutions? Oh, right! I’m also resolving to wear these very unflattering overalls I bought online out in public because they are C.O.M.F.O.R.T.A.B.L.E.

Christmas In North Pole

Belated Happy Holidays!

I don’t have an excuse for not posting. Normally, I would be able to say it’s traveling or something, but this year we had Christmas right here in North Pole. It certainly looked like Christmas! I think. I didn’t actually leave the house once on Christmas other than to briefly walk the dog.

Those walks proved to me that even though my onesie plaid pajamas may look straight out of the 1800’s, and function a lot like long johns, they are far too thin to actually just throw a coat over and walk outside. Brr.

While we missed our normal Christmas traditions, and seeing our family and friends, we had a nice day. Santa found his way here and spoiled Rosalind. Eliot was oblivious but, I like to believe way down deep inside, pleased that we were home with him for the holiday for once. We Facetimed home a few times, made way too much food for three people, and read 50 bazillion instruction manuals. Hatchimals are very fun and easy to make hatch. After that, they require a cheat sheet and internet searches to decipher what the hell they are trying to tell you. They cough and sneeze! When you suck at caring for them! It makes me anxious!

The only other momentous thing to happen this Christmas was the emergence of some deep Santa skepticism on the part of Rolo. She never came right out and asked, and she certainly still participated in all the fun Santa lead up to Christmas, but I can tell that this was the last year of complete childhood fantasy Christmas for Rosalind. She was watching and evaluating everything, sometimes bravely pointing out things that seemed suspicious about our behavior or knowledge or handwriting. They grow up so obnoxiously fast.

I was thinking about why most kids seem to hang onto the idea for a year or so after they actually quit believing, and then I considered that it’s probably a toss up for them. We ask them to believe either that magic exists and a nice guy gives presents to everyone, OR that every adult they know, and every source of media, is universally participating in the same mega lie. I would think both seem equally possible/impossible to kids.

Here are some random Christmas pics! And while we didn’t manage to perfectly match our PJ’s, we were able to coordinate a little. We failed entirely to get a normal picture of this though, and so you get to enjoy another Barron Family Leg Portrait. We have a concerning amount of those.