Things to Do - The Stories We Tell & Random Links

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I bought the kids No Stress Chess last week and T wants to play it all the time.

Have you ever tried to play chess against a kindergartner (even this simplified version)? It is basically like playing against yourself and trying to decide whether nice mommy ("oh, you captured my king? How brilliant of you. I never saw that coming.") or mean mommy should win ("Do you even know what strategy is? Of course I beat you."). The whole experience is exhausting. Though now T keeps asking friends over to "play" chess with him. This seemed like even more work, but by "play" chess he means consolidate a ton of stuffed animals in a corner to discuss how best to fight the king.

Happy Friday! Click on over to The Stories We Tell to see how everyone else photographed "toys" this month.


* All of these fancy oatmeal recipes look delicious.

* 25 of the Most Unusual and Dangerous Journeys to School in the World.

* Let's Make Fun of Anthropologie Furniture. YES!! (thanks for the link, Melissa!)

* The Best Movies of 2014 So Far.

* I loved this post - from the Peggy Olsen montage to the unrealistic stock photos. Thank you, Cup of Jo!

* This 7 day cleanse actually looks sort of yummy.

* 18 Green Artists. Fantastic. Especially the oldest living things in the world.

* A list of common misconceptions. Prepare to have your world rocked.

* DIY Fruit Rind Air Fresheners. These look easy and cute.

* Lena makes me laugh.

* For photographers, this app looks cool (has anyone tried it yet?). And these DIY filters look fun to try as well.


Things to Read - Interesting Articles From Around the Web (on the world's hardest race, shady police, the thought process of being late, food allergies, "bitches", and fast food workers)

Somewhat of a random mix this month, hopefully the funny counterbalances the depressing.

1. (The World's Hardest Race) - Would you want to run the world's hardest race? In Leslie Jamison's article for the Believer thirty-rive runners "face hollers and hells, a flooded prison, rats the Size of possums, and flesh-flaying briars to test the limits of self-sufficiency."

"Julian has completed five hundred-mile races so far, as well as countless “short” ones, and I once asked him why he does it. He explained it like this: He wants to achieve a completely insular system of accountability, one that doesn’t depend on external feedback. He wants to run a hundred miles when no one knows he’s running, so that the desire to impress people, or the shame of quitting, won’t constitute his sources of motivation. . . . when it’s midnight and it’s raining and you’re on the steepest hill you’ve ever climbed and you’re bleeding from briars and you’re alone and you’ve been alone for hours, it’s only you around to witness yourself quit or continue."


2. (Shady Police) - Did the Chicago police coerce witnesses into pinpointing the wrong man for murder? According to Nicholas Schmidle, the answer is probably yes. So depressing.

"At one point, Judge Bolan told Mullenix, “Perry Mason does this. Perry Mason proves the guy in the back of the court did it.” . . . . He ridiculed Mullenix’s argument as one more appropriate for the TV show “Unsolved Mysteries.”

. . . .

Wayne Washington reiterated that his confession had been false, saying, “The detectives told me that they wouldn’t let me go until I confessed to murdering Marshall Morgan.” Jody Rogers signed another sworn recantation. Then Jody’s brother, Michael, who had corroborated Jody’s false testimony at the trial, revealed something startling: the Chicago police had secretly been paying him for his co√∂peration. “Every time they picked me up, I got some money,” he wrote in a sworn statement. “They told me if I had any problems with anyone in the neighborhood they would take care of it.”

3. (The Thought Process of Being Late). Funny.

"Anyway the reason I’m “late” is because I work, you know, and even though I was supposed to leave the office at 6:30 I got this really annoying and urgent email. That I ignored. But I only ignored it because my friend sent me this dumb YouTube link that I had to watch immediately, otherwise it would be yet another open tab weighing on my conscience, right along with that Times article I meant to read and the credit card I never picked up from this bar on Leroy. So whatever, I watched the video and then I had to watch another one because you know how that goes, and then it was almost 7 so I ran out the door like a maniac while cursing about how I was going to be late, and then I stopped for a quick snack because you never want to enter a date on an empty stomach."

4. (Food Allergies) - Scientists may have discovered the cause of food allergies in children - we're screwing up our gut bacteria through overuse of antibiotics. (On a somewhat lighter note, apparently gut bacteria also explains why diet coke makes you fat).

"A very quick summary of the study: Scientists took a group of mice with peanut allergies and gave them the gut bacteria Clostridia, a bacteria found commonly in humans. After administering it, they found that the mice no longer had food allergies.

. . . .

So, how long until this result provides benefits for humans?

"There's much, much, much more work to be done," says Nagler. "Next, we want to look at children with food allergies. And then it has to be developed in a safe drug format, and that's going to take some time."

But one thing we don't have to wait for is what this study suggests about the possible culprit behind food allergies: Our antibiotics-happy culture.

"We don't want to say this is a cause and effect relationship, but we do want to raise the concern," says Nagler. "An infectious disease specialist made the point that most kids in the U.S. receive two or three courses of antibiotics in infancy. Most of the treatments they receive are for viral infections, meaning, they're getting a treatment that serves no purpose."

What they're getting instead is the alteration and elimination of the bacteria that may keep allergens at bay. And that's just one of the problems that are associated with the overuse of antibiotics."

5. ("Bitches") - This Momestery post had me laughing out loud (I hate to excerpt because you really should read the whole thing, but oh well, my favorite passage is below).

"All of a sudden, I was snapped out of my daydream and back to my senses by someone tapping me on the leg and saying: “your turn.” Since most of the time I live in my head – this moment is the story of my life. This moment when I’m happily lost inside my mind world and someone in my physical world tries to bring me back to the present – so I have to quickly figure out who I’m with, where I am, and what’s going on. This is why we daydreaming introverts seem constantly dazed and confused. We are like scuba divers who are down in the deep on a quiet treasure hunt but are constantly being yanked back up above water. It takes us some time to surface and reorient.

Searching for a clue- I looked down at my hand and saw one Uno card sitting in my palm. This was a GREAT clue! I was playing Uno, apparently! And Look! I only had one card left! Which meant I was WINNING! Ba-Bam! And before I had any clue what I was doing – I held my card in the air and yelled:


I yelled Uno, bitches, at my five year old and seven year old daughters. I called my daughters bitches. With great glee and gusto. In the middle of a family card game.

. . . .

I called my sweet girls bitches. And even so, I’ll have you know that Amazon calls me an official parenting expert. And so here’s the thing: if you do not call your children bitches- I imagine that you must be some sort of parenting GURU. Good for YOU. Really. Well done.

There you go- there’s your take away. You are an AMAZING parent. Go forth today with great parental confidence and dignity, bitches."


6. (Fast Food Workers) - And finally, the New Yorker published a great piece on the fast food labor protests. I find the following argument incredibly convincing.

"The Berkeley-University of Illinois study, commissioned by Fast Food Forward, found that American fast-food workers receive almost seven billion dollars a year in public assistance. That’s a direct taxpayer subsidy, the activists argue, for the fast-food industry. Taxpayers are also, by that logic, grossly overpaying the industry’s top management. According to the progressive think tank Demos, fast-food executives’ compensation packages quadrupled, in constant dollars, between 2000 and 2013. They now take home, on average, nearly twenty-four million dollars a year. Their front-line workers’ wages have barely risen in that time, and remain among the worst in U.S. industry. The differential between C.E.O. and worker pay in fast food is higher than in any other domestic economic sector—twelve hundred to one. In construction, by comparison, the differential is ninety-three to one.

The fast-food chains insist that if they were to pay their employees more they would have to raise menu prices. Their wages are “competitive.” But in Denmark McDonald’s workers over the age of eighteen earn more than twenty dollars an hour—they are also unionized—and the price of a Big Mac is only thirty-five cents more than it is in the United States. There are regional American fast-food chains that take the high road with their employees. The starting wage at In-N-Out Burger, which is based in Southern California, and has two hundred and ninety-five restaurants in California and the Southwest, is eleven dollars. Full-time workers receive a complete benefits package, including life insurance—and the burgers are cheap and good."


Places to Go - Rocky Run Playground (Arlington, VA)


We have not adventured much since school and soccer began. When we do find some downtime, the kids all enjoy a quick trip to Rocky Run - one of Arlington's newer playgrounds. The huge climbing pyramid with a slide on top constitutes the park's biggest thrill, but the kids also love the bucket swing and hanging/spinning structure that I don't really know how to describe. Also, a preschool-aged playground is on site (though, sadly, no bathrooms). For additional information, click here to read the Meanest Mama's review.

For another Arlington playground with an (even larger) climbing tower, check out Tuckahoe (previously reviewed here). Also Fort Barnard now has a newly revamped playground. We haven't visited yet, but the Meanest Mama has good things to say (click here to read her review).

HAPPY WEDNESDAY EVERYONE? Where have you adventured lately?


Things to Do - This Untamed Life, Mornings

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Late last Sunday night, T woke with a fever. So he skipped school on Monday, too sick to even watch much TV. Luckily, his two best friends kept him company.

Most days, the dogs drive me insane, but moments like this make it all worth it. By Tuesday T returned to his normal self. But the dogs stayed on the couch.

HAPPY MONDAY EVERYONE!! Now click on over to This Untamed Life to check out how the rest of the group's mornings went.


Things to Do - Grateful List (August 2014) & Cherish This Day

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August seems so long ago. I don't usually list the things for which I'm most grateful - our health, our life, our family (wow, that came out cheesy) - but I never forget how important they are.

HAPPY FRIDAY EVERYONE!! Don't forget to check out this week's amazing on Cherish This Day.

* I know it's cheesy but I can't stop singing Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass
* Listening to the XX's Coexist & Bleachers
* Reading Alice Munro's The Progress of Love (esp. Miles City Montana)
* Watching Boyhood
* Watching Maleficent at the Cinema Drafthouse on a rainy day
* Watching Stage Coach (yes, old John Wayne movie) and 180 Degrees South for family movie nights
* Watching the Up Series on Netflix
* Attending the Band of Horses concert/ballet at Wolf Trap (thank you, Colleen for awesome tickets!!)

* Slow cooker red beans and rice (via Cooking Light)

* The National Building Museum's big maze (which is now gone)
* Winterthur, DE
* Walking 7.21 miles on a rainy day at Great Wolf Lodge
* Attending a great (i.e. extra innings) Nationals' Game as a family (though F read a book the whole time and P asked about quarterbacks)
* Hiking at Potomac Overlook Park (we saw the overlook!)
* Trapeze class in Yards Park
* Ziplining with P and F at Harper's Ferry Adventure Park (though check-in was a mess)

* T arting like crazy
* Happy hour at Dori's before the Arlington County Fair
* New library books (for everyone) on a lazy day
* A lazy weekend without any tv (we needed this)


F - going to the county fair, a great family, a nice house to live in and food to eat, going to the zoo, back to school shopping

P - the Building Museum's maze, ice cream at the fair, going to the playground, making popsicles, going on dog walks, eating junk food at the baseball game, taco night, watching Project Runway, my new backpack, my new bow and arrow, going to the adventure park (but not the lines to get in)

T - a nice house to live in and food to eat, my new gun [from the fair], ice cream, my magic wand [from Great Wolf Lodge], MagiQuest, making popsicles, going to the baseball game, that the girls let me in their room if I study with them


Things to Do - 12 in 12 (September 2014)

Fridays are fun . . .

friday (2 of 12)

8 am - This is how the morning begins.

friday (1 of 12)

8:30 am - F and P received a bag of hand me downs that included these awesome shoes. After a fight to figure out who owned the kicks, they've decided to alternate wearing them. Friday was P's turn.

friday (3 of 12)

8:45 am - Walk the children to school. The girls run ahead while T (sort of) waits for me.

friday (4 of 12)

9:30 am - Walk the dogs while reading this week's New Yorker.

friday (5 of 12)

11 am - Meet up with a good friend to check out the National Gallery's Andrew Wyeth exhibit, followed by lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian's Mitsitam Cafe (so so good). Turns out there are benefits to days without children.

[1:30 pm - 3 pm - Stream Click Away for free at home. Sue Bryce is amazing.]

friday (6 of 12)

4 pm - Spontaneous happy hour in a friend's backyard. Apple-ahh-Ritas are so bad they're good.

friday (7 of 12)

5 pm - Still happy houring.

friday (8 of 12)

6 pm - When you're in second grade, pure magic equals friendship with a fifth grader.

friday (9 of 12)

6:30 pm - Walk home from happy hour. Can you tell we've been watching American Ninja Warrior lately?

friday (10 of 12)

8:00 pm - Neighborhood party. I love South Arlington.

friday (11 of 12)

9:00 pm - Party still going. DC Taco Truck + Mariachi band + T's friends buying him his first set of Pokeman cards = a super fun night.

friday (12 of 12)

10:30 pm - T passed out on the couch as soon as we came home. So I carried him to our bed (I can no longer lift T into his loft bed on my own). P bounces around my room, unwilling to let the night end.

Now click on over to Where the Watermelons Grow and Not-So-SAHM to see how their Fridays went.


Things to Do - Cherish This Day & Random Links


For the past two weeks or so I've had almost no desire to take photos. Such apathy tends to come in swings, so I know to ride it out, but still I always feel a little lost when I don't have my camera (even when I don't necessarily want to have my camera). I often think that cameras and phones are the cigarettes of modern age - always keeping our hands busy, assuring that we never look bored.

Anyways, earlier this week the kids and I took the dog for a long walk. I brought the camera along, not really sure I would use it. Luckily the old normal me returned and I started taking hundreds of photos. I was shooting on manual, while the dog - constantly in pursuit of squirrels and rabbits - pulled like crazy on the leash. The kids kept moving at faster and faster speeds. So none of the photos are particularly stellar, but still I'm a little in love with this set as they really capture where we are right now - fight, run, hug, repeat. Over and over. While the sky turns a brilliant shade of red, surrounding us all.

Now click on over to Cherish This Day to check out this week's wonderfulness.



* 15 Contemporary Short Story Collections from Female Authors. Totally worth a bookmark.

* Lately, our whole family can't stop playing this game, (thanks Julia's Bookbag for the suggestion).

* And I can't stop listening to this album. It's more addictive than candy.

* These GIFS (using historical photos) are pretty incredible.

* How Gatsby Went From a Flop to the Great American Novel.



Things to Do - Boyhood (the Movie) and Random Childhood Memories

Have you seen Boyhood? Richard Linklater spent 12 years filming the movie using the same actors. It's sort of crazy to watch a kid actually grow up on screen. Once the movie delves into the teenager years I started to wonder how much Linklater planned the main character's personality years ago, and how much the director changed the script as he watched the actor grow up. Despite the novelty of a film that took over a decade to make, the movie is also notable for the moments it links together. Rather than birthdays, holidays, and the types of events adults are likely to remember, Linklater concentrates on the smaller moments - moving to new schools/places, conversing with a cute girl on a bike, time spent with a mostly absentee father.

After watching the movie for date night, Dan and I opened a bottle of wine and tried to piece together our own earliest memories. One of Dan's friends told us that children rarely remember much before age 7, so lately I'm a mission to dive back further. After a few drinks (okay, maybe more than a few), I hazily started to recollect watching TV with my parents in the basement (my bedroom was upstairs and our only television was downstairs, so every night I dreaded being left alone at bedtime). So every once in awhile my parents would let me stay up late, watching TV with them - my dad enjoyed Benny Hill and some random beauty pageant show - despite my mom's insistence that such viewing was inappropriate (my father reassured her that I was too young to remember anything).

Everyone remembers Benny Hill, but it took some googling to bring back the $1.98 Beauty Show, which manages to mock beauty pageants while simultaneously degrading the women at an even deeper level. As Dan best phrased it, "when it comes to nostalgia for the past, everyone brings out the best stuff and manages to erase stuff like this." Prime time, we're talking prime time. (Not that the Bachelor is any better). Turns out the $1.98 Beauty Show aired from 1978 to 1980, so all my memories of the show predate my 5th birthday.

Have you ever Youtubed anything from your preschool years? It feels surreal to see such a random and vague memory in full color. Disorientating. At one hand, there's a satisfaction that comes with learning that your recollection is real, but so many other puzzle pieces are left out that you feel as if you're grasping for something out of reach. For example, where was the couch in the basement? I can't quite picture it. Nor can I recall our other furniture from the time. I remember the TV occupying the space where the bookshelves are now. But weren't the bookshelves always there? Everything outside the realm of Youtube seems to be lost forever, whereas the women on the $1.98 Beauty Show will continue to carry their rotten vegetable bouquets throughout time. It's odd to think our children (especially mine) will grow up with so many more old memories easily accessible. How will this change how they perceive time itself?

What about everyone else - what is your earliest memory?


Things to Make - Leaf Stencils


I realize there is some irony in finally posting craft projects once school reopens. But, hey, it was a long summer. Anyways, we leaf stenciled with watercolors a few weeks ago and the kids had a blast with this open-ended project. The girls traced the leaves with paint to create lovely designs, whereas T arranged the leaves and glued them to the paper. Either way, we ended up with some beautiful artwork to decorate the walls.


1. Materials: paper(preferably thick watercolor paper), summer and/or fall leaves and flowers of all sizes and varieties, watercolor paints, paint brushes of various sizes, and/or glue sticks.

2. After collecting the leaves, spread them out on a table or work surface. Ask children to hold down the corners and trace the edges with their brushes. They can also paint the leaf and then use it as a stamp. And/or glue leaves to the paper's surface.



Things to Do - This Untamed Life, Breakfast


This week for This Untamed Life everyone is posting breakfast photos - a tough subject matter for me. I'm not a morning person. The girls usually wake 30 minutes to an hour earlier than I do. And they make their own breakfast. But last Friday I managed to drag myself out of bed and take a few photos, which made me realize what I've missed lately. Turns out mornings are actually pretty fun/crazy/unpredictable around our house. Maybe I'll try to see more of them in the future.

Now click on over to This Untamed Life to see how the rest of the group documented their mornings.


Things to Do - Cry, Mope, Celebrate. Repeat.


So today [which will be yesterday by the time this posts] my teeny tiny little baby boy went to kindergarten. You're probably thinking the same thing as me right now. Since when did they allow babies into kindergarten? I mean, just the diapers alone, it's too much. But wait. He doesn't wear diapers anymore. He actually hasn't for a long time now that I think about it. T talks now. Quite a bit. Full coherent sentences, with so so many ideas. When did all of this happen? I sort of know. But maybe I don't. Because while part of me watched a totally-ready-for-school 5 year old march out of the gymnasium, the other part of me saw baby T, crawling down the hall and needing me.

I could say that I'm sad, but that wouldn't quite cover it. Today I had more free time than I've had in 9 years (excluding vacations without the children). I yoga-ed, I grocery shopped. I tried to contemplate the years ahead, which lead to panic coupled with happiness coupled with a close evaluation of all my new wrinkles.

I found my old resume. I started to edit. Then I decided to watch the UP series instead (since I recently started 42 and Up I figured the cast might offer some guidance. They did not offer guidance). I signed up for sewing classes. I cleaned my closet. I planned a vacation (for Memorial Day 2015).

The world is my oyster.

It's only day 1.

I feel old right now. I wish I had Botox. I think one needs a job before they can afford Botox.

How does everyone have a job all of a sudden? I guess they've had jobs all along, I just never really noticed their jobs before. Once you no longer have a job (yes, I'm going to come out and say it, despite being unpaid, being a SAHM is still a job), it seems sort of crazy that EVERYONE YOU KNOW has a job.

I started to work on my website. Did you know I have a website? Darcy Troutman Photography is now booking for fall sessions.

I need a plan . . . I'm working on a plan. Or at least I'm thinking about working on a plan. I'm planning to plan.

Wow, today is tougher than I thought it would be. Tomorrow I've booked: a personal trainer appointment, haircut, eyebrow wax, and pedicure. Then I'll probably cry for awhile.


(Um yes, F wore her "SeaWorld Kills" t-shirt for the first day of school. Apparently, this is what happens when we watch socially conscious documentaries on family movie night).


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