Disney 2022

Whew! Disney at Christmas is something else. It’s busy, it’s expensive, it’s beautifully decorated. It’s a lot, and I am here for it.

We intended to fly out on the 23rd, but the northeast was expecting a big storm that day, so we made the call to leave a couple days early. A great choice in hindsight, because our original flight out of Bangor was predictably canceled and by that point we were safe and snug in our resort hotel at Disney World!

Of course, it wouldn’t have been an epic vacation without some drama. In our case, that meant the plague. Gwen started coughing as soon as we got through security at the airport. Ellie had been sick the week before, but both kids tested negative for COVID so we figured it was just the flu. We masked up and crossed our fingers, and thankfully our flights to Orlando went smoothly!

On our first day we did a little shopping and walking around Disney Springs, but Gwen spiked a fever that afternoon, which prompted an Instacart order from Walgreens — thermometer, COVID tests, Tylenol, Advil. COVID test was again negative, so we hunkered down to rest. Thankfully by the time our Disney tickets were active she was fever-free and feeling much better.

Wilderness Lodge was beautifully decked out for the holidays, with a giant tree in the main lobby and lots of cozy corners to relax in. Gwen particularly liked the outdoor pool; even on the colder days (and there were definitely some sub-40’s temperatures) she was ready to go swimming, and would stay in for hours if we let her. The Whispering Canyon restaurant was probably Tim’s favorite, with all-you-can-eat skillets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ellie’s favorite thing was “everything”.

We spent Christmas Eve at Magic Kingdom and Christmas Day at EPCOT. I convinced Ellie to ride the new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster with me (OMG the best) and she took it in stride. To quote Ellie: “I hate you, I hate that ride, I hate you, I hate you, I hate it, I HATE IT.” She was ranting so much as we got off the coaster that I couldn’t walk straight because I was laughing too hard. It can’t have been that bad because she said she’d do it again the next time we came to EPCOT. Riding roller coasters she hates is “her thing”, she says.

But that was really the highlight of this trip — so many belly laughs with my family. I love my kids at these ages — they’re so smart and sassy and fun to be around. There was almost no snapping or grumping despite the cold weather and the sniffles, and all of us expressed how thankful we were to be there, to be together. I got a little sappy after a flight of mimosas over Christmas dinner, especially after our waitress complimented us on how sweet our family was, how good our kids are, all that stuff. (To be fair, she also gave us extra cornbread, which is enough to get me misty-eyed even when I’m not tipsy.)

Disney is not for the faint of heart. Under the best of circumstances, our family can take about 4-5 hours at the parks before we need to chill. Staying on Disney property made that so much easier, because when one of us was ready to tap out, we’d take a bus or ferry or the monorail and be back at our hotel in a few minutes. Occasionally Tim would take one or both of the kids back to the hotel and I’d spend extra time walking around, taking things in.

We had one “rest day” in between parks, and I treated myself to a long massage at the Grand Floridian spa. While there, I checked out the life-size gingerbread house display and the Victorian-style tree in the lobby. If I had to pick one favorite thing about this trip, it was being there at Christmas time to see all the decorations and festive displays.

Unfortunately the plague lingered. Tim started having symptoms a few days after Gwen recovered, and I developed a sort throat and sinus congestion. The symptoms were mild enough that we still went to Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom for our last two days and I honestly didn’t think much of it.

Of course, when we arrived home, Tim and I tested positive for COVID. 🙁 By that point we felt better-ish, save for some lingering fatigue. The kids have continued to test negative, but I’m pretty sure they are the ones who gave it to us. I suppose three years without catching COVID is pretty good, but I do feel some guilt over brushing off our symptoms during the last part of our trip.

We came home and have been resting and staying home as much as possible to avoid spreading our post-Disney germs; lots of LEGO building and TV watching. I’m going into the New Year feeling tired but deeply grateful.

sabbatical & pei, 2022

Oh, hello, blog! I wandered away for a while, didn’t I? I’ve been avoiding my computer since it’s mostly for work stuff, and I can’t type fast enough on my phone, so blogging fell by the wayside when I started my sabbatical in August. Photo dump ahead!

I’m just over halfway through my time off, and my days are mostly spent puttering around the house, painting, building LEGO, playing video games, and hanging out with the kids when they’re not in school. I’m grateful to have this break, but it’s a bit weird not working. I’ve probably overcompensated by taking on more responsibility at home, but I still don’t feel like I’m doing “enough” sometimes, whatever that means. I’m definitely enjoying the increased number of walks and naps (as is the dog).

I’ve also enjoyed all this extra time with the kids. By September I’m usually more than ready to ship them off to school for a few hours’ peace, but this year I was sad to see the summer end. The time off has allowed me to be more fully present with family life and reminded me how cool it is to raise new humans. Last time I was on sabbatical they were just coming out of babyhood, and now they’re entrenched in tweenager-dom. In five years, they’ll be getting ready to fly the coop. They’re coming into their own, and it’s a joy to follow along and cheer them on.

We took a family trip to Prince Edward Island in Canada last weekend, something I’ve looked forward to since Tim and I first visited in 2019. It’s such a beautiful place. Things looked a little rough post-hurricane, and unfortunately most of the national parks and beaches were closed, but everyone was gracious and welcoming. I treated myself to a spa day, we spent some time exploring the city, ate lots of Cow’s ice cream, and visited Green Gables Heritage Place.

Tim and I were smitten, and already planning to do a summer trip when we can visit the beaches. I could see us living there; it feels just like home, the perfect marriage of potato fields and farms with little seaside towns, with the added diversity and culture of Charlottetown just a few miles (or kilometers) away. We floated the idea of immigrating to Canada with the kids, but Gwen is hesitant and Ellie is not at all interested in pulling up roots, and I suppose I can’t blame them.

Now I’m in the process of planning our next adventure: Christmas at Disney! We’d tentatively planned this back in 2020, but the pandemic put a pause on everything. Fast forward a few years and we’re all twice-boosted against Covid, so I feel better about flying longer distances, and at Disney we can spend a lot of time outside. This will also be the first time we’ll stay on premises at an official Disney resort (Wilderness Lodge) and the first time we’ll be away from home for the holidays. It’ll probably feel a little weird to break from tradition, and to experience a Christmas without freezing temps…but it’s a risk I’m willing to take. 😜


It’s finally summer, and I am soaking it up. I may have gone a teensy bit overboard with early summer plans (I blame being cooped up in pandemiclandia for the last two years) so the next few weeks are pretty booked.

We celebrated the end of the school year with a family vacation in Bar Harbor. Our hotel was right on the water and within walking distance to basically everything except Acadia. I didn’t make specific plans, which kept things laid back and gave me time to paint and do puzzles and unwind. I treated myself to a facial and a pedicure at the hotel spa, and the kids enjoyed the heated pool (even if it was only 60 degrees outside, yikes 😱). We saw our first movie in a theater since the start of the pandemic (Bob’s Burgers, funny!) and ate MDI ice cream every night. I think this is going to be a yearly tradition; being on the coast is rejuvenating.

Later this week, the kids and Mom and I are road-tripping to upstate New York to visit with family. (Tim opted to stay home and keep the pets company — he wasn’t thrilled about the idea of the 12-hour drive one way, can’t imagine why! 😜) We’ll spend the 4th in New York, then make our way home with a few days to spare before shipping the kids off to camp for a week.

After that, I’m taking two weeks to do a “trial” –basically a long test — for a role change at work. This role change has been taking up far too much of my brain space for too long; it will be nice to see it through.

Ironically, all of this happens *before* my three-month sabbatical…during which I have nothing scheduled. 😂 I expect there will be lots of painting and lake time, and maybe we’ll try to squeeze in a trip to PEI now that the border is open.

the story behind the story

Back in February, my friend and former Automattic colleague, Michelle, approached me about writing a piece on fatphobia from a parent’s perspective for her magazine, Pipe Wrench.

As an aside: I first met Michelle during the 2012 Automattic Grand Meetup in San Diego. She started on the editorial team a few months after I was hired, and I have this vivid memory of seeing her across the conference room and thinking, “I want her to be my friend.” When we spoke, that thought immediately evolved into, “I definitely want her to be my friend, and I want to be like her when I grow up.” Michelle is a genius, a wit, a word wizard, and a fantastic human being.

Fast forward ten years (what even is time) and she’s created this online magazine that explores one core topic for each issue, with a feature story and multiple shorter essays responding to that feature story. This issue’s topic: Fatness.

Well, I’ve lived in a fat body since puberty, so I have some experience in that area. But fat liberation? I didn’t really know that was a thing until Michelle brought it up. My immediate response was to follow all the fat lib activists I could find on social media, particularly folks of color. I’d started following fat fashionistas and influencers a few years ago, trying to fill my Instagram feed with fat bodies as a means of normalizing fatness for myself. I took this a step further and spent the next few weeks reading about fat activism, listening to podcasts, and amping myself up.

When I received the feature essay, I read it in the parking lot on my phone while waiting to pick up the kids from school. I read it again when I got home. And again that night. Any fears I might have had about not knowing how to respond flew out the window.

I can’t think about medical fatphobia without thinking about my pregnancies, especially my first. Then I think about having daughters, daughters who share half of my genetic code, the same genetic code that says, “Here be fat!” And I think about how they will need to navigate the same unforgiving medical systems, the same societal expectations of body shape and size, and…I was off.

“I think about the time I used the f-word in front of your pediatrician and she looked at me, horrified as if I’d said ‘fuck‘ instead of ‘fat.‘”

I fought off impostor syndrome and put all those years of online journalling and that brief foray into fanfic writing to good use and wrote an actual, publishable essay. I tried to write from the heart to keep things authentic and real, and hooboy, have I mentioned vulnerability is not one of my strong suits? Coupled with a tendency to dial up the drama when I write, I did a lot of thinking and overthinking of every sentence. Thankfully Michelle is an amazing editor and it came together beautifully.

I spent most of Pipe Wrench’s launch day reading and re-reading the other essays (and Marquisele’s piece for, like, the fifth time). I had to take regular breaks to just breathe because it was overwhelming, seeing myself in many of these pieces and knowing that all of us deserve so much better.

The response to the issue has been amazing, and the response to my essay has been humbling. I think I have what Brené Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover”. I am not used to being an active participant in social media beyond a small circle of friends, and it was a little scary to see the notifications roll in. Rewarding, but yeah, a little scary. I have zero regrets, but in the process of writing, I did find stuff I need to work on. It turns out I have more to say on the subject. I’ll save it for another blog.

For now, you should really read Pipe Wrench.

introducing ‘rona

We finally caught the COVID, or one of us did. Ellie tested positive early last week after two days with a low-grade fever and body aches. So far none of the rest of the family has symptoms or a positive test, but we quarantined for several days to be safe. My anxiety has been having a field day with this, of course.

Will we get sick? Will Mom get sick? What if Ellie has long COVID? Why is it so hard to get tests? Why did everyone tell us she was ineligible for a booster when she hasn’t had a vaccine in ten months!? Oh god is that a tickle in my throat?!?

And so on, and so on.

Coupled with the anniversary of Dad’s death and some additional sad news, it’s been a rough month. May always takes me by surprise like that. My body and mind are reliving the past in the background, I wonder why I feel like crap, then I remember. I think next year I’m going to take a week off to just focus on grieving, in whatever form that takes.

Tim and the kids spoiled me for Mother’s Day with a cheesecake from Junior’s. I’d show you a picture but it didn’t last long enough for me to get one. Suffice it to say it was both beautiful and delicious. Here are some pictures of random abstract paintings from my latest notebook instead:

Mom and I also went to Bangor for a day to go to a medical appointment, and it ended up being a fun “Moms Day Out”. We did some shopping and walked around a bit and had ramen at Umami (one of the things I miss most about living in a city is restaurants that aren’t diners). Reflecting on the last nine years, I’m glad we chose to move up here; having Mom nearby is a huge help, but I also enjoy our impromptu trips together, and as time goes by I’m even more thankful for her regular presence in my life. I recognize how lucky I am.

We’re entering the last three weeks of the school year, so there are concerts and awards and class field trips to plan for. It feels like the academic year has flown by; soon I’ll have a sixth grader and an eighth grader, yikes. I am looking forward to quieter times, sleeping in, and less structure this summer.

New York, New York!

We spent a wonderful four days in the big city at the end of April, seeing the sights and shows and enjoying lots of tasty food. It was the kids’ first time in NYC, and they were wowed by the size of everything. The verdict: Ellie could do without “all the honking”, and Gwen wants to live there.

We stayed in Times Square, within walking distance to our big plans: Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Ellie’s birthday presents). Occasionally we grabbed a ride to explore other parts of the city (Rockefeller Center and the Flatiron District) but did a fair amount of walking otherwise. We saw the Ed Sullivan theater (Tim and I are Stephen Colbert nerds), the Times building (Tim’s employer), and two LEGO stores.

Flying in the COVID era was a bit nerve-wracking, especially when the CDC lifted mask mandates on domestic flights mid-way through our trip. Given the rising case numbers in Manhattan, I was convinced we’d all bring home an extra unwelcome souvenir, but it appears we dodged the ‘rona*, at least for now.

And of course, pictures:

* ... or did we? 

shake-ing it up

We’ve reached that part of the year where I feel like it should be spring, but it’s not and won’t be for several weeks. I’m in a perpetual cloud of annoyance because mother nature is, once again, failing to meet my unrealistic expectations, and for all my work on mindfulness and accepting what is, I remain deeply offended by the murky gray that is March.

There, got that out of my system. I wouldn’t be a good blogger if I didn’t complain about the weather, would I?

Beyond the wretched weather, I’m drawing a blank as to how to sum up the last few weeks, because they’ve been equally gray. I’ve spent many precious spoons keeping up with a daily exercise regimen; my Apple Watch doesn’t even know who I am, I’m killing these move goals so hard. I’m on this weird new kick where I go to bed at a reasonable hour and wake up early, it’s pretty bizarre. 😜 I’ve listened to a lot of books. I paint in neon hues to fill the gray spaces with riotous color. My kids are flying through adolescence; there are a lot of BIG FEELINGS in this house, several of them mine. I’ve devoted a lot of time to working on a new Animal Crossing island because virtual worlds are peaceful, and this world is not. Escapism is the name of the game.

I’ve also had a heck of a time with food lately. The “downside” to making meals at home is my taste for most quick-prep food has waned, but I don’t have the ambition to cook a whole meal three times a day.

So I recently started one of those pre-packaged health food memberships with smoothies and veggie bowls. I’d seen this particular one around a lot on the Instagrams and the Facebooks and I was skeptical; their ads — featuring trim, perky young women in skin-tight workout gear, bouncing out the door after hot yoga with a freshly made smoothie in hand — didn’t exactly speak to me. Show me a middle-aged fat lady who’s likely to use her over-priced smoothie to wash down a Hot Pocket and then we’ll talk.

…but OK, the smoothies aren’t half bad.

Ironically, I got into this because Tim wanted to try smoothies as a healthy alternative for breakfast, but he took one sip of some blueberry-chocolate concoction and gagged, and I didn’t want the stuff to go to waste. So now I drink kale and almonds and bananas mixed with almond milk and I start to wonder if I’m on a slippery slope to Soylent.

A bright spot from the last month is Tim getting a much-deserved promotion at work. This has me doing the math to see what 60% time at my job would look like, because I’ve really enjoyed the regular three-day weekend thing, and a regular four-day weekend sounds at least…33% better. The math says so. 😂

2021 in the rearview

Aiyeeeee! Where have I been for three months?

Autumn was a lost cause. I spent most of it awash with stress and anxiety, mostly over work. Burnout is real, y’all. After almost ten years with Automattic, I’m struggling to figure out how I fit in to a company that’s grown to ten times the size it was when I joined, and I’m mulling over what I want my career to look like in my 40’s. Right now, it’s this mishmash of skills and strengths and weaknesses that have yet to be clarified, and the uncertainty is exhausting.

But I’m coming back from Christmas with a renewed sense of determination to redraw those work/life balance lines in permanent ink. I feel rested and refreshed for the first time in many, many months.

Christmas itself was a blast. It’s probably gauche to say it, but for the first time in my adult life, we are not living paycheck to paycheck, so we splurged! Lots of new toys and goodies for all; my personal favorite is a mother’s ring with our family birthstones set in it. We also snuck in a quick trip to southern Maine to see my brother and sis-in-law and do some post-holiday shopping.

Ellie also celebrated her 13th birthday in December, and I’m still reeling at the idea of having an honest-to-goodness teenager in the house. To celebrate, we planned a spring break trip to New York City, where we’ll stay in Times square and see Hamilton and Harry Potter on Broadway. Hopefully by April the current COVID wave will have subsided!

Looking back, my 2021 wasn’t terrible. Echoes of 2020 showed up, but there was also more light, more time with family, and more travel. We’re all fully vaccinated and boosted, so the kids went back to school in person — that alone helped 2021 look better than 2020. Family vacations to the coast and southern Maine kept us from feeling cooped up. I didn’t get to go to France as I’d hoped (boo), but I used the money to buy myself some new furniture, so now my office feels cozy and inviting.

Gwen joined the middle-school basketball team this fall and played in a few games. It’s pretty cool to see how much she’s improved over the short season, and I’m glad we’ve found something to help her expend all that extra energy.

Tim was hired at Wirecutter in the spring, and started a master’s degree shortly thereafter (he got straight A’s this semester!) We paid off our vehicles and home loans and put aside a healthy nest egg for future home renovations/vacations/oh-shit funds. I scaled back to a 4-day work week and we’re not even feeling the pinch. Money can’t buy happiness, but not having to worry about money has definitely increased my happiness. 🤷🏻‍♀️

As for me, I painted, a lot. I filled up a large file box with paintings and sketchbooks. Having a regular creative practice is good for my mental health, and I love that I’m working with a physical medium rather than digital for once. I think I’ve come into my style over the last several months of near-daily practice. I’ve also acquired way too much paint. 😅

Speaking of mediums, in what is arguably the most unexpected turn of events in 2021, I took up cooking. I’ve been using meal kits, which has helped me pick up the basics — things like “at what temperature is chicken done” and “how to make a simple roux” are no longer mysteries — so I’m feeling more confident in the kitchen and more adventurous in preparing things from scratch. But it’s hard to argue with the simplicity and convenience of having all the ingredients pre-packaged and delivered. We’ve also tried dishes we probably wouldn’t have otherwise; I’m enjoying more Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean flavors, lots of rice bowls and curries and veggie dishes. 😋

I’m entering the New Year feeling hopeful. The latest COVID wave is surging, but there’s reason to think it will abate soon. It’s time to hibernate, so it’s not like we have a lot of places to be anyway.

And I have things to look forward to in 2022! I’ll turn 39 in a couple weeks. 😱 We’re taking the kids to New York and Bar Harbor…and maybe even Disney for Christmas?!? I have a sabbatical coming in the fall, and I think we’ll make some much needed repairs and improvements to this house. I’m ready to soak it all up, come what may!