Sunday, April 24, 2016

Random Spring Notes


It is ridiculous that I have not written here since mid-February. FEBRUARY. What the ever-loving?

I'm terrible.

I'll spare you a paragraph about how CRAZY BUSY I have been and all the usual excuses about having NO TIME TO WRITE. Just consider it already said.

It's hard to sum up nearly 2-1/2 months of mothering life in a few paragraphs. Truth be told, I can't even remember mid-February. Were we done with Genevieve's travel basketball tournaments at that point? Not even sure. What was going on with work? No idea. The good news is that back then, it was winter, and now IT IS SPRING. Does anything else even matter?

So, spring. Easter up north at the grandparents', Julia joining the 6th-grade girls' track team and thus initiating us into the world of daily after-school sports practice (and four-hour WEEKNIGHT meets), interval runs via this new-to-me app (no, I have not lost weight with it, by the way; turns out you actually have to, I don't know, adjust your diet? for that to happen), the annual elementary school arts festival (squeezed in before Tae Kwon Do class, yikes, the fam schedule is tight at times), playdates, birthday parties, and other social busy-ness.

And now here we are at almost May. The girls are taking this session off from Tae Kwon Do due to Julia's track schedule, but will start again in June. Genevieve's well past her school running club's record for most miles run at recess during the course of the year, with 6-1/2 weeks of school still to go. Within the past few months our front door deadlock, dining room overhead light fixture/switch, garage door opener, and girls' bedroom blinds have all broken/malfunctioned. (Have any of the above been fixed yet? Ha ha no.) Our 21-year-old kitty has shrunk to five pounds or less and we are facing an imminent goodbye.  Life goes on, each day a speeding train just like the one before it.

I'll come back, before 2-1/2 more months go by, I swear. I'll post some photos. Happy Spring!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Few Recommendations

Random, I know, but in the dark depths of winter I find that it's helpful to find a few things you love and then latch onto them obsessively. All the better to distract yourself from the fact that you can't go outside without 42 layers of clothing and snow gear, and spring is a good six weeks away.

Here are some recent discoveries that have been floating my old creaky boat lately:


* The Children's Crusade, by Ann Packer. This book had been on my to-read list for several months (it was published last year and in every book-review magazine column I encountered for awhile there), but I'd forgotten all about it until it appeared before my eyes during a browse at the public library a few weeks ago. It's a big, fat, emotional novel--the literary equivalent of a long, rich dinner with many courses--about a family of grown siblings returning to and reuniting with one another, remembering and reliving and flashing back to their childhood together and the complicated, often unhappy marriage of their polar-opposite parents. I couldn't put it down.

* Wish You Were Here, by Stewart O'Nan. Another expansive-family-life novel, a decade-plus old (published 2003) but still spot-on in its depiction of everyday dynamics and exchanges between grown children and their aged parents, fortysomething parents and their school-ager kiddos, middle-aged husbands and wives with each other. So real it felt like listening in on actual conversations and true-life family moments--that are a lot like mine and everyone else's I know.

* What Comes Next and How to Like It, by Abigail Thomas. An beautiful essay-ish memoir of both the dramatic and mundane experiences of this acclaimed writer's life. Not to mention, the best title I've heard since I Was Told There'd Be Cake. 


* "Fire and the Flood," Vance Joy. I fell in love with this Australian singer-songwriter's 2014-2015ish hit, "Riptide," first because it was catchy as hell on the pop-music radio station while driving my kiddos to the pool and back all summer, and then I fell even harder later when I heard the song described as "a ballad [not at all, actually] of unrequited love" and I finally really got it. (Plus: the ukelele! So good.) Then "Fire and the Flood" came out and the fact that it was so cheery-and-in-love after all that "Riptide" heartache just made me--as corny as it sounds--so happy for him. Like, the song actually makes me smile. I imagine this sweet dude is finally happy, and writing about it. ("Late at night, when you can't fall asleep / I'll be lying right beside you, counting sheep.") Good on you, Vance! Plus it's got all sorts of great hooks and Vance Joy's interesting voice.

* "Out of the Woods," Taylor Swift. Hold up now. Listen. I hated Taylor Swift. I mean, the radio had overplayed her annoying top-40 hits so egregiously in the past year or few that I'd developed a probably unhealthy level of hatred toward T.S. Not just her music; it had become about HER. Gah! All her humble-brag lyrics about how cool and sexy and stylish and irresistible she is to boys. Ugh! Hate her! It was a little irrational, I admit. But anyway. This song was released and it was....different. And I love it. It's got that driving, desperate chorus and those relentless drums. It's an awesome running-playlist song.

* "Shake it Out," Florence and the Machine. Yeah, this is about ten million x better than that OTHER song with a similar title--you know, the TAYLOR SWIFT (see hatred, above) one? I was never a big Florence and the Machine fan. But this song popped up on the radio not long ago and the lyrics grabbed me by the throat and slayed me. Wow. Another good run-as-fast-as-you-can song.

Happy reading and running, you all.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Snow to the Rescuuuuuuuuue!!!

So IMMEDIATELY after I wrote that last post about having no time at all, ever, we had a teacher-workshop day off from school, and then a giant blizzard brought a foot of snow and howling, white-out winds to my little town, which resulted in....TWO SNOW DAYS. After a three-day weekend. Yessssssssss.

It was if God heard my exhausted pleas for extra time to get something--anything!--done, and said, I'll help you out here. How about two unexpected days off from work, the children's school schedules and homework, and sports activities? The kiddos will play for hours in the snow with their friends, and no one will bother you because everyone's snowed in, and you can roast your giant squash and finally catch up on the laundry and mop that slush-covered floor. Would that help? And I was all like, I WILL TAKE THAT, THANK YOU.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Three Million Steps Counts for Something, Right?

The other day I got an email from FitBit detailing my "stats" for 2015. FitBit says I took 3,408,590 steps last year, covering 1,399 miles. (And that of course does not count the days I forgot to wear my FitBit or the week or two when it malfunctioned and I was waiting for the company to ship me a replacement.) Thank God for that email, because it allows me to feel like I accomplished something tangible at some point.

Not that I think I failed at 2015. I just mean that the majority of the time, as a working mom, I feel behind on EVERYTHING. I'm sure all the other working moms out there know how I feel. I may generally get meals made and the house semi-cleaned, but there are still all the other things I do not seem to have time for: figuring out the middle school online communication system that I suppose I should learn now that it is halfway through the school year; printing out photos for my daughters' photo albums (which I have not done since last June); roasting the damn 15-lb. Blue Hubbard squash my daughter won in November when she correctly guessed its weight at our CSA farm's fall storage-share pick-up and which has been languishing in our unheated laundry room ever since (next year: no one in my household is allowed to guess, got that?); replacing the ripped window shades in two bedrooms; hanging the towel hooks in the girls' bathroom (which I bought about six months ago. maybe more. but they require a drill. and no one is offering to help me with that.); organizing my nightmare of a recipe "collection"; making some freezer meals for busy weeknights (aren't they all, though? my freezer is not big enough for that); running more; I could go on and on and on..... And sure, some of it is perhaps nonessential; but lots of it (trust me) is just the stuff of life, of running a household and raising a family--and needs to get done.

Most of the time I don't even feel like I have time to be a very good parent. I mean, basic needs are being met, yes. And I do things with my girls, of course--all the time. But I have this sense that the down-and-dirty details of parenting daughters through emotional (read: all) development takes slow time. I can't articulate this quickly and I don't have time to write more, but maybe you fellow mamas out there already know what I mean. How do you talk about puberty or social ups and downs or self-esteem or disappointments or commitment or an overall approach to the difficulties of life, on the fly?--as you're rushing out the door to school or helping with math homework before sports practices or getting groceries with two helpers in tow who are mainly interested in the free cookie samples in the bakery section? Sigh. I don't know, and I feel like I'm failing a little (or a lot), every day. And it never gets better, it just keeps getting worse.

And with that, I'm off, because I'm an hour late for a workout and my to-do list for today is a mile long. You?


Monday, January 18, 2016

Hooray! Winter Photos!

I finally got iPhoto to upload the many photos on my phone onto the computer. Hooray! Now maybe I can order prints for the girls' (hard copy) photo albums. I'm only about, or eight months behind. OMG.

You guys! I got six inches cut off (the back of) my hair last week, without telling anyone or even thinking about it much beforehand. It was a spur of the moment thing. What the what?!

I had had a horrible day at work, the weather was nightmarishly cold (still is! only colder! ha!), and I needed something fresh to focus on. Mission accomplished.

Oh and hey! There is a movie being filmed in my town right now. Yes! Seriously. It's the craziest thing. I know that when you live in NYC or Toronto or Los Angeles (or even Chicago; I remember a time or two when neighborhood streets on the north side were blocked off for a movie crew), movies being filmed where you live is a fairly commonplace occurrence, but I live in a small, rural, southern-Minnesota river town. Sure, it's home to two elite colleges and is famous for its picturesque charm, but...movies aren't filmed here every day. It's kind of a big deal. I wonder what the movie crew thinks of our 15-below-zero temperature and 25-below-zero windchill.

Genevieve's 4th-grade traveling basketball team got 2nd place in their first-ever tournament...

Julia made it into the district middle-school spelling bee (coming up this week), and today we're off school and work for MLK, Jr. Day. (Hallelujah! Needed a day off, big-time.) We went ice skating with friends (not outside! we'd be icicles!):

That's what it's all about when you live up here in the frozen north--finding friends to hang out with and make the most of winter. Staying active, making homemade soup, watching kiddos play basketball. Monitoring the movie-making progress. Sometimes chopping off all your hair just to get your mind off the fact that it's January.

Stay warm.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

New Year, With or Without Sweets

A new year, friends! I haven't even accidentally written 2015 on anything so far, how about you? Small successes.

My girls and I went back to school/work on Monday, feeling not ready and ready (well, them 100% not ready, ha) at the same time. Our break sped by, since we were out of town for much of it. This made it seem short because we didn't have lots of luxuriously empty at-home days to decide what we felt like doing: sledding? skating? movies? playdates? We did get some of those days near the end, but not as many as we would have liked. Ah well. There is also comfort in routine and a schedule, after all. I am always amazed at how quickly everyone adjusts and gets back to "normal." Within two days it all feels familiar and fine.

We are back to EARLY morning wake-ups, homework, and having no time to keep up with the household stuff (me). The girls are also back to Tae Kwon Do after taking autumn off for other things. That feels reassuring and right, also. Their instructor is a gem who deftly and gently inserts life lessons and values into every class in a way that draws the kiddos in; he starts out talking about, say, determination or respect in relation to Tae Kwon Do practice, then generalizes that to how one (should) behave at home with one's parents, or how they apply themselves at school. Gotta love it.

What else? It turned cold and snowy just before Christmas, so we are finally doing things like skating on the corner pond, building snow forts, and running gingerly on icy streets. Since we did get an extra bonus month of non-winter weather in December, I can't really complain. I just hope this doesn't mean winter is going to tack an extra month onto its end and stay cold until June. It hasn't been bad so far, but this weekend the high temp is supposed to be minus two, so there you go. January.

After the hedonistic holidays, I'm back on the wagon of eliminating (= minimizing) sugar and flour (really, most grain-based carbs, which act like sugar in the body) from my diet in a successful attempt to treat my longstanding joint pain. It has worked like a true miracle; I have been absolutely amazed. My hip joints were bothering me so much in the fall that I felt like an old lady and was fairly desperate. (You have to be desperate to voluntarily give up sugar.) After a week or so off sugar, they felt about 75-80% improved. Another week and the pain was gone COMPLETELY and did not return until I'd been chowing down on treats during all of Christmas break. How clearer could that message be from my body, right?? Hello, sugar is a KNOWN inflammatory. It only makes sense that avoiding it would effectively treat joint pain. I'm not perfect, and it's not easy, but it's going pretty well so far and being able to get up in the morning without having achy, creaky hips (not to mention being able to sleep fine at night without tossing and turning because my hips hurt)---and having the arthritis in my toes not even bother me at all---is so, so, so worth it. It's a quality of life issue, for sure.

I think that's about it in terms of life updates. Thrilling, I know.

Truth be told, one of the reasons I haven't posted here much lately, other than having zero time, ha, is that for some mysterious reason I can't get photos to upload off my phone into iPhoto, and it seems boring and off-putting to publish a post that's just a long string of text with no photographs. I'm sorry. I'm sure this is as boring as it gets. I think my mom is still reading, though.

I hope your new year is off to a good start! Give thanks every day for what you have, find joy in some part of every day, and be optimistic about the coming year. It's a clean slate and an open book! Onward. 


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Over the River and Through the Woods

We've been busy making merry, baking goodies, growing bigger every day (well, the littles, that is), and enjoying everything the holiday season has to offer--even if this year, in our town, that did not include snow until yesterday.

Over the river and through the woods we go, and to you, I wish the merriest of Christmases. I know I haven't been around much this past year; life is moving too fast and I can hardly keep up half the time. But I think about you--all of you out there!--so often. We are all in this mothering job, on this journey, together. Every year that passes is another year of growth and memories. Every Christmas is precious and a reminder of another mother and another baby long ago, on a miraculous journey of their own.

Love to you and yours, and have yourself a merry little (or big) Christmas. xoxo