Friday, November 21, 2014

Green Belts in the House

Popping on here to say that, although I'm still reeeeally sick (hmmm, going out for recess duty at work all week in below-zero windchills probably isn't the best for a virus that has settled in my chest, throat, and sinuses! fun times!), am barely holding it together over here, and yes of course, still have to get all my Thanksgiving groceries because I am hosting and cooking the dinner next week, the good news is that my girls passed their Tae Kwon Do test for their green belts on Tuesday night! Also, Julia sang in a lovely school choir concert last evening. So, it's been a good week in those respects. TGIF, you all! Take your zinc and stay warm, wherever you are.

P.S. We are out of milk. What house with kids actually runs out of milk?! That's the kind of week it's been. ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bus. Wheels. Off.

When school and work began in early September and I first transitioned from full-time stay-at-home mom to full-time working mom, every week around Thursday it sort of felt like the wheels started to fall off the bus, so to speak. You know? Like each week started off in a burst of forced energy and pure determination, and it was a total rat-race, but I could do it all--every single homemaking and household-running task I did before I started working full-time outside the home, plus working 7-1/2 hours a day, plus all the taking of the children to their lessons and activities and doctor and dentist appointments, plus doing the farm pick-up on Fridays after work, plus hosting weekend playdates, plus still running 20-25 miles and completing two 60-minute strength training workouts per week, just like before--but by Thursday every week, things kind of felt a little frayed around the edges.

It has become clear that mid-November is the "Thursday" of my first year as a working mom. So to speak. In other words, I've held things together pretty well since September, but in the past week I've noticed a wheel or two rolling away, out of sight in my side-view mirror.

So to speak.

Last week I burned an entire batch of oven-baked bacon I was making for dinner. I'm talking burned--black beyond the way you like it all nice and crispy, TRUST ME. A couple of days later I burned a whole pan of homemade corn-tortilla chips, once again all the way to black and inedible. I was so busy doing a million other things at the same time as I was cooking dinner that I forgot to check the oven until my food was burned to a crisp.

A couple of days after that (on a Thursday!), right after work, with kids in tow, I went to our fall storage-share pick-up at the farm and, while attempting to mix-and-match a 5-lb. bag of root vegetables for my half of the share, I put in and then took out a head of cabbage TWICE before realizing what I was doing. I mean: I chose a cabbage, then realized there was more cabbage elsewhere down the line so I should choose something else for the mix-and-match, so I put back the cabbage, then milled around a bit considering the various baskets of veggies, then obliviously put the cabbage back in my bag. Then walked on and saw the other giant crate of cabbages, and realized I'd put the mix-and-match cabbage back in my 5-lb. bag. After purposely taking it out of my bag to choose something else, instead of cabbage. Are you getting all this?

In addition to the dementia-like moments described above, I also served my family the following dinners all in the same week: PB&Js (yes really), soup (canned) and sandwiches, and hot dogs. All in a row, actually. Because there was exactly zero time to cook dinner on any of those three days.

Lastly, I saved an email from my mom in which we were discussing Christmas gift ideas for my daughters, for the sole reason that I feared I would otherwise not recall the things I'd decided to give my girls for Christmas.

Do you see what I'm getting at here? I said to my BFF Connie, This is what happens when you are essentially holding down two full-time jobs. You lose your freaking mind. Apparently.

I finished off the week with kiddos and errands on Friday after work/school, put away a car-full of groceries and cat litter, went through all the children's school papers and forms, collapsed onto the couch giving thanks for the weekend, and....promptly got sick. Because that's what happens when you're depleted and run-down, of course.

Listen, you all. I love my job SO MUCH. I wouldn't change things for the world. I'm having so much fun at work; I have the perfect supervisor, colleagues, work hours, dress code, setting, proximity to my children, and nature of the work itself. There is not a day when I wish I didn't have to go to work, and when have you ever had a job like that? My job is awesome; it's the perfect job for me. But there is no doubt that when you have one full-time job (and I consider stay-at-home motherhood and the running of a household and raising of children to be a full-time job) and then add another entire full-time job onto that, it is exhausting. You might find yourself burning dinner and having a recurring can't-live-with-you-can't-live-without-you relationship with an organic cabbage.

In the end, it's all good. I'd take this over-busy, under-rested state of controlled chaos over an empty nest any day, after all. And I assume that, much like with parenting itself, going back to work full-time while still mothering young children and running a household carries with it a steep but natural learning curve of stamina. You acclimate, right? What feels horrendously cold in October feels balmy in March, after all. It's like that, isn't it?

I'll leave you with words and thoughts much more lovely than mine, in the form of a new essay by my favorite mother-writer Catherine Newman--not about being a working mom or about exhaustion or burning the bacon, but relevant nonetheless, in that oh, me too! quality of her writing, that way she voices what we all feel and think and do as moms, that way she makes you want to stop time right now, this instant, in the middle of the crazy chaos of the wheels falling right off the bus.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's a Different World

How my life has changed since I started my full-time job:

1. First and foremost, I have been able to pay off my credit card. Holla! Take THAT, trips to Target and tae kwon do classes and children's birthday parties and new contact lenses and running shoes and school clothes for growing children and J. Crew pants found on clearance!

2. My weekends are no longer "free" (ha! ha ha ha ha ha ha. excuse me as I laugh good-naturedly at the idea of a free weekend since the first child was born a decade ago). They are now spent grocery shopping, cleaning, attempting to cook an actual meal, and trying to conquer the endless. mountain. of. laundry.

3. I still clean during the week, but I never actually complete any one task. I figure I get credit just for starting.

4. I have developed a love-hate relationship with my slow-cooker. On the one hand, yay! A way to make a hot, homemade dinner even while gone from the house all day! On the other, oops! My slow-cooker is too powerful and all my recipes are too short to leave dinner cooking for 8-10 hours, even on Low. Hello, burned dinner!

5. I am as scatter-brained as a sleep-deprived, night-nursing new mama. I guess it's because I've got a million things on my plate at any one moment (work. housecleaning. farm-share pick-up. errands. kids' health and well-being. kids' activities. kids' homework. groceries. cooking. field trip permission forms. dentist appointments. shopping. laundry. baking. child's choir concert. child's school safety-patrol schedule. yardwork. flu shots. holiday planning. and on and on and on and blathering on...). This means I'm constantly (constantly!) starting something, getting distracted by something else that needs doing, leaving the first thing to do the second, completely forgetting about the first, branching out to tasks three and four in similar fashion, and forgetting the names of my children, the day of the week, debit card PIN numbers, and my own birthdate. Oh and meanwhile that very first thing I was doing but got distracted from? It never gets

4. I have no time to bake, I am not home to snack, going to bed early nixes any evening sweet-tooth habits, and my job happens to be more physically active than even the full-time mothering of toddlers. Therefore, full-time work has meant that I've lost weight and can't even wear those awesome J. Crew pants I found on clearance just before work began. You know, those pants I bought for work? Insert Marge-Simpson-esque irritated growl here. But hey! A lot of other, smaller clothes I haven't worn in a year or more now fit again. So I guess it evens out? Plus, the holidays are coming. (= more eating, less exercising, the cookie exchange!, and much winter hibernation.)

5. Life is fuller than ever, and all those crazy changes above are totally worth it. It's all just an interesting ride. Thanks for coming along for it. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Six Weeks In.

Ahhhh, here it is, the last day of school (work) before much-discussed MEA (i.e., Minnesota school break, always a 4-day weekend in mid-October).

So, has my adjustment to full-time work taken all the way until MEA? Am I still really, really tired? Well, yes and no. The adjustment part has gone much quicker and more smoothly than I anticipated. The tired part? Every damn day, you all.

I love my job. LOOOOVE it. This part makes the adjustment much, much easier. But I'm beginning, now at six weeks into it, to miss certain things about being a stay-at-home mom. I miss having time to bake. You all know how much I love to bake! These days I try to crank out a recipe or two on weekends (you can't go an entire autumn without apple crisp or pumpkin muffins, after all!), but it used to be a near-daily occurrence. My family misses that part too, ha.

I also really, really miss being able to exercise during the day. I suspect I'll start to miss that part even more in the upcoming few weeks, as the temperature begins to plummet and the blustery fall wind becomes cold and--gulp--we turn the clocks back so that it's dark at dinnertime. Gah. The thought of COLD runs in the dark, DARK evenings gives me chills--of both kinds. Yes, I've done it hundreds (thousands) of times before. (Remember when the babies were actual babies? And not yet in school? That's when I ran, all winter long.) But it's been a long time now, and I'm not thrilled about doing it again.

But other than that, working-mom life is going fairly well. I mean, I've lost control over the house. Not the dirt part; I'm still cleaning on the daily. But the clutter part. I have no time, anymore, to pick up and put back and regularly cull and purge. The kids' clutter is beginning to take over our (small) house, which is making me a little claustrophobic. And also, I've accepted that the jokes in this post are actually pretty accurate (read: not jokes): I have no time to chat with friends or socialize in any way. Even weekends are solidly filled with family time, all the household shopping, catching up on cleaning and laundry, cooking and baking, and squeezing in a daylight run here and there. That, or (and/or) I'm too exhausted to do anything more. (Friday nights, for example, I am a complete ball of exhaustion and good for nothing more than pj's, TV, and bed. And sometimes not even the TV part.)

But. We've made it to MEA. On the balance, everything's good. The first six weeks have been an adventure, for sure--a positive one. Now, four days to "relax" with the kidlets and then off on the next leg of the journey--during which I'll be really, really tired, I'm sure, until Christmas break. :)


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Last Weekend the Sprinkler, This Weekend the Fireplace.

I had the craziest week, you all.

It started out with Genevieve catching a virus (that she hasn't yet kicked 100%, 8 days later) that necessitated a day home from school (and thus a day home from work for me), and ended with my girls' school's annual Walk-A-Thon on Friday, which also happened to be a gray, drizzly, verrrrry windy, and verrrrry cold day (er, 40+ degrees colder than it had been last weekend when Julia played in the sprinkler with friends, hello Minnesota in autumn).

The Walk-A-Thon would have been no big deal at ALL in any other year, but this year it meant going out to walk at different classrooms' times with different autistic children (some of whom also have ADHD and are highly impulsive), know...challenging. ;)

Friday may have been the longest day ever, since after the super challenging work/school-day, the girls and I still had a Target run and farm-share pick-up to accomplish before collapsing in front of the fireplace with blankets, dinner, The Muppet Show on DVD, and frozen custard for dessert.

Or maybe the week actually ended yesterday, when I caught Vivi's virus on a solo-parenting weekend (another bike race, natch) but still managed to shepherd all three of us through homework, chores, guitar practice, grocery shopping, a visit to the apple orchard, and a post-dinner stint at the college rec center for jogging (Julia), walking (me), and shooting basketballs (Genevieve).

To tell you the truth, despite feeling under the weather and being on solo-parenting duty, I found yesterday with its busy slate of activities to be completely calm, smooth, and relaxed. My girls are almost always super-cooperative and calm on these solo-parenting weekends, and we generally manage to have a lot of fun despite chores and obligations. Of course the best part is having two cuddly girls in my bed at night. We pile it high with pillows, extra blankets, and stuffed friends so it's extra cozy, and this time no one kicked me in the night and everyone slept well. :)

All right, friends, onward into a new week. I'm praying for a warm-up and some SUN after last week's rain and chill; a reprieve from virus attack; and maybe even some time to bake these, which my friend Kathy says are beyond delicious. Have a great week, everyone!

p.s. Obviously I have no time to take pictures anymore. Sorry for the boring no-photo text.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rat Race Days

Don't you always pose for photos in front of autumn trees in your tae kwon do uniform? 
(this was actually for a school project; the uniform was unintentional 
and just because we were coming home from TKD class)

If we weren't battling germs, viruses, and the odd bee sting reaction in this house, I'd say things are going great. My daughters' school has been hit hard by every manner of germ, it seems, unusually early this year, and we've been felled by a number of them just like everyone else. I think someone in my household has been sick every single weekend since school began, and Genevieve's on her second sick day today in only one month of school.

The second day home from school means my turn to stay home to be with her, so I'm missing work today for the first time. Although it's only been a month since I started my full-time job, it already feels incredibly strange to be at home on a weekday. There is plenty to do, but it doesn't seem like I should be here right now doing it.

My new daily life is a true challenge: So far I've been doing virtually everything around the house that I always did before, when I wasn't working outside the home 38 hours per week. (Exceptions: Last week I asked Christopher to clean the master bathroom and vacuum for me when I just could not fit it in; and one other time he did the weekly vacuuming for me too.) But I've recalled that I have always been drawn to challenges.

In order to juggle everything I did before, add in exercise and take the girls to their activities, while also working outside the home full-time, my life has become somewhat of a constant race (and a test in efficiency/time management/multi-tasking like never before). But I've discovered that I'm good with races.

I've always liked to be busy; I prefer to be active and my natural inclination is to stay moving all day (now that I'm no longer sitting at a computer writing a book--remember those days?). This is no doubt part of why I enjoy my job so much; it's truly a job that requires a LOT of running around. It's also why I loved--despite the challenges--those years of stay-at-home motherhood with babies/toddlers/preschoolers. (You don't know the meaning of the word "busy" until you've experienced that job.)

But life as a stay-at-home mom with two school-agers isn't as busy, between 7:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., as it was with wee ones at home. It's no wonder I've found myself with a job during those hours that keeps me as busy as I was during the baby years. It just means I'm busier than ever during the time before and after those hours.

And so fall marches on. We've had glorious, summery weather where I live--that stereotypical golden, glowy, blazing-leaves type of autumn that you see in calendar photos. We've been trying to enjoy the heavenly weekends but it's been hard with so much illness in the house. On Saturday we had to come home early from a college football game, and yesterday I stayed home with Vivi from the annual Alpaca Farm Open House, something we haven't missed since the girls were toddlers.

Ah well....none of it is anything serious and there is still time for the pumpkin farm, the apple orchard, more football games.

Carry on, friends! And take your vitamins.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Windy City

I think the proper descriptor for what my life is like right now would be whirlwind. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I wake up at 5:30 and do not sit still--other than a short time for dinner and not even that on all nights; depending on the evening's schedule, I may be eating dinner standing at the counter or wolfing something down post-run after my family has eaten--until I'm in my bed between 8:30 and 9:00.

My FitBit (wrist pedometer; I traded up when Genevieve begged for a pedometer for her birthday and I gave her my waistband-clip model) tells me that between wake-up and home-from-school/work, I typically take between 10,000 and 12,000-some steps each day. That doesn't count my normal workouts (yesterday I topped 23,000 steps for the day, after my evening run).

Before school/work is a blur of getting myself and the girls ready to head out the door at 7:45 and doing whatever daily chores I can squeeze in. After school/work is a blur of going through school bags/papers/forms, helping with homework, cooking dinner, doing laundry, and supervising kids' activities. When Christopher gets home from work it's a blur of squeezing in my workouts, packing next days' lunches, kids' lessons, baths and next-day prep, and runs to the supermarket. At nine I turn out my light and get ready to do it all again the next day.

The amazing part is how much I am LOVING it. My job is fantastic. I love it all and each day goes by in a speedy---well---whirlwind. I see my daughters in the halls on and off all day and take a short walk over lunch so I don't miss out on too much of the autumn sun and nice weather, because I'm not used to being inside one building all day long. I meet my girls after school and it's always a joy to see their waiting faces.

What's also funny is how it all seems surprisingly doable and smooth, how aside from the lack of usual autumn homemade desserts around the house--there is no time for making apple crisp and pumpkin muffins these days--it feels like I'm managing everything just fine, even with being occupied with a new activity for roughly 38 hours per week that I wasn't before.

But then I remember that I haven't been able to even fully read and comprehend the flurry of emails peppering my inbox re: the start of this year's mother-daughter book club--it didn't help that Julia and I missed the first meeting due to sickness--and then my friend Kathy writes to ask something about our 5th-grade daughters' schedules and I answer her that I have no idea, that "I'm barely eating three meals a day and getting the correct children home with me each afternoon." And I realize that starting a new full-time job is a much larger adjustment than it feels on the surface sometimes, when I'm focused merely on running this way and that and getting everything done each day before lights-out.

So: frenzy, whirlwind, fever. In a good way. If that makes sense?

Life's so crazy/funny sometimes. So far, so good.