Freckles in April

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

We went to Barnes and Noble on a family date night a few weeks ago and right there on the "new releases" shelf was THIS.

Ok, I generally feel like I know about stuff. Even as a person who hasn't blogged in a while, I usually hear about upcoming things- promising new brands, interesting restaurants, new releases by famous authors. It's part of being in the blogging network- you just hear about stuff. But I had *no idea* The Chemist was coming out.

I hopped onto my library app and apparently I was the only one who didn't know about The Chemist because the waistlist was like 300 people long.

A few weeks later Janssen texted me and offered to share her audiobook version with me. There were still like 250 people between me and any copy from my library so I took her up on it and binge listened to it over the next few days.

Let me begin by admitting that I have a very weird relationship with Stephenie Meyer. I can't put her books down but I also know they're kind of terrible. I hate that I love them. When I bought one of the Twilight books I hid it under a pile of clothing in my closet because I felt so conflicted about owning it.

I do think her writing is getting better. The Chemist is maybe her least terrible in terms of writing style (although I haven't read The Host in ages so I can't say for sure. But it's def better than Twilight with its endless descriptions of Edward's marble torso). And I have to give her props for trying out different genres- The Chemist is a kind of black-ops thriller. She dedicated it to Aaron Cross and Jason Bourne and you can see their influence.

I quite liked the heroine. She's smart and capable which does my feminist heart good. Wimpy, moony Bella drove me bonkers through much of the Twilight series and Alex is kind of the anti-Bella. She can take care of herself and that was really refreshing coming from Stephenie Meyer.

Downside: this is still a very Stephenie Meyer love story.

They've known each other less than a week before someone utters the L-word. There's an assumption from early on that they're going to be together forever which would be reeeal creepy if they had just met on Tinder like normal people. Some of the love interest's dialogue made me a bit gaggy. LET IT BREATHE, MEYER. They can get together later in the book without these constant declarations of undying affection; why rush it??

Romantic tension just isn't her strong suit. She's more of the "throw them together and get it over with" type.

Fortunately, the rest of the plot is really fun with a secret government agency and torture and revenge and awesome dogs so I enjoyed it. I have no idea how much of it would hold up under scrutiny but you can tell she did her research and tried to make it as plausible as possible.

If you're a Stephenie Meyer hater, I doubt this one will sway you. But if you've enjoyed her other stuff then you should go grab this one.

Then come back and talk to me about it because no one I know has read it yet and I want to discuss.


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Friday, March 17, 2017

Getting That Last Bit of Product

I kind of thought most people knew this trick but I just explained it to a friend and blew her mind. SO, here are some really ugly pictures I took in my husband's lab just now to explain how to get as much as possible out of makeup tubes with that annoying packaging that leaves a lot left at the top and bottom.

I LOVE my Wunderbrow but the packaging is so annoying. Fortunately, there's a way to get at ALL that product left at the top and at least a little bit from the bottom.

Products like this have a rubber gasket at the top to scrape excess product off the brush when you pull it out. I suspect it also helps keep the product from drying out since it limits airflow into the tube, so don't do this until you're pretty much at the end of what you can reach with the brush. It serves a purpose but it also limits how much you can get out.

Take a pair of needle nosed pliers and force the edge between the gasket and the edge of the makeup tube. Remove, rotate the tube and do it again. Work your way around the perimeter and the gasket should start to pop out a little bit.

Push the edge of the pliers under the lip and push the gasket up. Remove it from the tube.

Done! Now the brush can get at all the makeup stuck up at the top. It can also go slightly further into the tube without that gasket in the way so you can get a bit more out of the bottom. I'll get a couple more weeks out of my Wunderbrow now!

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Monday, March 13, 2017

On Having a Difficult Child

Stinky, aged 3

My oldest son was 6 weeks premature. He was a tiny little thing but he caught up quickly and became a healthy and strong toddler. He was my sidekick and we went everywhere together- library story time, the zoo, splash pads. He was sweet and funny and smart and I adored him.

And then he turned 3.

Here's what I wrote on my kids' private blog when he turned 3.5:

[Stinky] has become a big bowl full of sass and mean lately. Whenever I ask him to do anything he snaps, "NO Mom. STOP. Just stop talking." 
Um yeah. It infuriates me. 
He seems to be physically incapable of using a nice voice when talking to [Baby 2]. He's always yelling at him and just generally being mean. He refuses to share and has zero tolerance for when [Baby 2] is sad. It really upsets me and I've been at a bit of a loss as to how to handle it. At this point, [Stinky] just spends large amounts of his day in time out. 
This is probably the largest reason I haven't blogged here lately. I find it difficult to say nice things about [Stinky] and it makes me feel bad. He's my baby and I love him but I kind of want to send him to boarding school. I just have to keep reminding myself that it's a phase and it will pass! 

I could have written that exact same blog post at any point last year. It took six years to pass.

Part of the reason I decided in December that I wanted to blog again was because I had this incredibly difficult child that I just really needed to write about. I needed help. I needed suggestions. I needed commiseration. I needed to see if anyone else out there was dealing with this.

And then...we inadvertently figured it out.

Let me back up.

Stinky (now 9) became difficult at 3 and only got harder as he got older. The way in which he was difficult is always hard for me to define though- he could be really sweet and helpful at times (and he adores his little sister, thank heavens) but he could also be sneaky, manipulative and mean. He wasn't normal-kid-naughty; he was on a whole other level. I caught a lot of it but most of this ugly energy was turned toward his younger brother (almost 7). They were either best friends or Stinky hated his guts; there didn't seem to be much of an in-between. Aaron and I often wondered at what point a child's behavior should be considered abusive. We were always on eggshells.

One night over Christmas break I hid the baby monitor into their room. The way Stinky treated and talked to his brother while we were present was really awful and we were curious what he said when he thought we weren't listening. The things we heard terrified us. We immediately went back to their bedroom and removed him to the guest room.

Then I cried.

See, we'd tried everything. Over the years we'd offered incentives and given ever-increasing consequences. We'd given him more one-on-one time with each of us. We discouraged some friendships and encouraged others. We tried a couple different sports. We'd done therapy twice a month for a year at $100 per session. After his last meeting with his therapist she told me she didn't know what else she could do for him and recommended elevating him to a special clinic 45 minutes away to be "evaluated."

We were out of ideas. We loved him but he was hurting our family and he seemed so beyond reach. We didn't know what else to do except take him to the clinic and hope that labeling the problem would help more than it would hurt. We even considered taking him out of school, wondering if someone there was spurring his behavior in some way.

Then abruptly...he was better.

I mean, he's not a perfect child or anything, but his behavior is now more of what you would expect from the average 9 year old kid who doesn't like doing chores.

It's only been a couple months so I can't say with total certainty that he's moved on from the behavior we've dealt with for the past 6 years but I think I figured it out.

Stinky is a textbook introvert. His brother is an extrovert like whoa. We all find him a little exhausting, to be honest, but Stinky is the one who fields most of his energy because they're close in age, shared a room and are playmates. I think he simply kept hitting a wall where he was all-peopled-out and then his brother would just keep coming at him with all his energy and love and enthusiasm and he couldn't handle it and it turned into this big, ugly, behavioral problem.

He needed his own room.

After all those years, he just needed his own. damn. room.

When they shared a room he had nowhere to escape and have quiet and be alone. Now, he'll often disappear toward the end of the afternoon and go read a book with his door closed. He has a place where his loving-but-exhausting brother can't get to him without permission. He has a chance to rest and recharge and be by himself.

This might be a forever change or it might just be a small reprieve- whatever it is, I'll take it.

Moms with difficult children- I see you. I see how hard you're trying. I know the worries and the tears and the exhaustion and I want you to know that you're not alone.


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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dress Appropriately Please

My husband is still a believing Mormon (along with most of our friends) so I've still sort of got one foot in the church, even though I officially resigned over a year ago. I attend church with my family every other week but generally eschew other activities unless they're geared toward my kids. Last month, though, I noticed a new announcement in the bulletin. The stake organized a running and walking club and the first meeting was the following Saturday. "That's a fun idea," I said as I showed it to Aaron.

I'm always looking for ways to get more cardio in and I seriously considered joining the group heading out that weekend.

Until I got the email.

Aaron forwarded the information from the stake when it showed up in his inbox and it looked fine. All cardio and fitness levels welcome. Here's where we're meeting and the time. This is the route. Bring your own water.

Oh and: dress appropriately please.

dress. appropriately. please.

I guess I've been out of the church long enough now that an adult man telling other adults how to dress struck me as incredibly off-putting. That used to feel normal but now it has effectively snuffed out my interest in the running club. I just don't care to have my clothing policed while I'm running.

Or ever, really.

As a private institution the LDS church has every right to dictate what people can or cannot wear to events. But something to keep in mind: would you rather someone show up in a tank top...

...or not at all?


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Monday, March 6, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Rest, "Rest" and REST

When I first started going to the gym with my own cobbled together plan I worked out 3 days a week and rested the other 4 days. Because what's what rest days are for, right? Resting. Sitting around. Not doing things.

And then I started doing Shortcut to Size. I was DYING I was so sore after the first couple days and was so relieved to see a rest day. Until I saw the fine print.

Remember that every rest day should be an active rest day. Rest days are for recovery; they're not an excuse to be lazy. Get out and hit 15-30 minutes of HIIT cardio today, or perform 30-60 minutes of your favorite activity: hiking, biking, walking, playing a sport, etc.

Me, complaining to Aaron: they're not rest days! They're "rest" days! Agghhhhh everything hurts and I'm dying.

That particular program really pushes the HIIT but I hate cardio that's just for the sake of cardio. Instead, as much as possible, I get outdoors.

Aaron: You hike so much!
Me: I'm not hiking, I'm "resting".

Hiking is my rest day activity of choice. I've always loved it but didn't get out very often because it's hard to go with my whiny kids or to coordinate schedules with hiking buddies. Now that I think of it as a necessary part of my fitness routine, I've started occasionally going alone when it's convenient for me (which I love!) and I've found new trails that push me.

I've schedule my lift days so that my hip hop dance class falls on a rest day then I try to hike one of the other rest days. If I can't hit a trail somewhere I'll go for a run or push my daughter around the neighborhood in her stroller for a while. I try to stay more active on my "rest" days but I do also try to have at least one real rest day each week. My muscles need it.

Which brings me to REST. Sometimes you need real REST, not "rest." My thyroid got wonky in January and I dropped my gym time down a lot for a couple weeks until we could get my medication sorted. I didn't hike so much. I went to bed earlier and slept in whenever I could. If your body feels sluggish and you're exhausted it's possible that you need REST*. Train less. Sleep more. Let your body work on healing and rebuilding. Then get back to it!

*or possibly more food. We'll talk about that.


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