Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 Took a Village

At this end of the calendar year, I can't help but be a little reflective about the past 12 months. 2009 was a fantastic year in some respects (the book! THE BOOK! Also kindergarten, the CSA farm, and did I mention the book?), but it had its major low points as well (public social-media marital bickering, crushing insomnia, the endless preschool-or-no-preschool question, and SLEEPING ON THE FLOOR IN THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE THE NURSERY, oh God, the horror).

There were a lot of times I thought I might just crumble into a weepy pile of mothering housewifely nerves, save for the friendship and love of some pretty amazing people. And I just want to formally thank them all for helping me get through 2009 with my sanity (mostly) intact and my pulse (relatively) normal. Some are fellow moms I talk to nearly every day and who help me through the nitty-gritty of daily parenting, some are townie friends I rarely see in real life but who unfailingly stand behind me in everything I do and leave supportive comments and blogging-love for me via the Internet on a regular basis. One is a long-ago friend who tracked me down after 25 years, looked me up, and for some reason cared enough to read me, write me, and send me care packages through the mail; one is an Internet friend-of-a-friend who I have never even met in real life but who has sent me late-night and early-morning Facebook messages saying things like, "You are right" and "You can do it" and "I have felt that exact same way" at times when I could have cried with gratitude for such words. Sometimes I actually did. And, amazingly, some of the biggest and best supporters in my SAHM life are women who have never been mothers and yet feel like--surely are--friends to the end.

For fear of leaving someone out and unwittingly hurting feelings, I'm not going to name names; but if you think I might be talking to you, well--I am. I can't imagine what I've ever done to deserve any of you, but I thank you for being there for me. In the notorious words of Miss Kelly Clarkson--and the cast of "Glee": my life would suck without you.

Moms Know Christmas

Whew! Throwing Christmas is tiring. Do you know what I mean by that, "throwing Christmas"? It's like throwing a party, only it extends from Thanksgiving through New Year's. It's all the stuff moms are usually--or often--in charge of: planning, shopping for, and cooking the holiday dinners; baking the cookies and other holiday treats; planning, buying, wrapping, and shipping the gifts; decorating the house and the tree; hanging the stockings; ordering, writing, signing, addressing, and mailing the cards; planning and procuring the children's holiday/church outfits and shoes; organizing various fun holiday family activities (holiday carol concerts, ice skating, sledding, visits to Santa, etc.); hosting guests for parties, dinners, and/or overnight stays.

The list goes on and on, but--honest!--I'm not complaining. Generally speaking, I love the holidays, and I'm usually glad to put in the time and work to make them memorable.

Well, OK, true: it's been a little hit or miss since the babies came along. When Julia was six months old, I basically sat at my parents' house and nursed. When she was a year and a half, we had no Christmas; I packed up an entire house with her at my knees the whole time, listened to my sister-in-law (who does not read this blog) throw an insane and hours-long tantrum about not getting enough attention during our move (and yes, I do still hold a grudge), and moved my family two days after Christmas while four weeks pregnant with Genevieve. (It was the Worst Christmas Ever, although finding out on Christmas Day that I was pregnant with Genevieve was certainly a welcome comfort.)

The following Christmas, Genevieve was four months old, and I spend the holiday half-assedly (sorry, Mom and Dad! cringe. I was so tired!) throwing a 40th-anniversary party for my parents and camping out at their house for TEN DAYS with a toddler and a newborn, spending most of my time nursing. Again.

The year Julia was three and Genevieve one, I admittedly was still very, very tired, and I strove to make Christmas as small and simple as possible while not quite skipping it completely.

So there was all that.

But! Last year and this year have been great! I've thrown great Christmases! I've baked and decorated and sung carols and hung stockings and lit candles and driven around gazing at Christmas lights with my daughters. I've done holiday kid crafts and attended family parties. I've cooked big dinners. It's been fun. I've loved every minute.

But seriously, it's tiring. And I don't know about you, but I react to tiredness by skipping planned evening exercise, watching cable TV, and eating Cheetos. Or cheesecake. Or fudge. Perhaps all three. Then January comes and I get sick of the lethargy and sugar, and embrace things like five-mile winter runs and diets and writing projects. It all evens out in the end.

For now, though, I'm resting. And eating. Resting and eating. See you in January.

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Stains Came Out, By the Way.

We've been busy since the last time you heard from me, which is why I haven't really been writing. Would you like details? Or, at the very least, a short summary?

Well, let me tell you.

First, it snowed. A lot.

My girls were super-cute all dressed up for the Family Vespers service at our friends' church on Christmas Eve. (I know you've seen this before. But they're just so cute. And no one's crying!)

We ate hors-d'oeuvres for dinner on Christmas Eve. Then I spilled a glass of red wine on myself, including my white sweater, my jersey wrap dress, and the couch, and spent the next half-hour grappling with a laundry detergent-hydrogen peroxide mixture and several paper towels. Sigh. Eye roll. Sigh.

Everyone liked their presents.

Especially me, because Julia gave me a paper heart with "I love you, Mama" written on it and colored pink, cut out and packaged in a toy basket, covered with a dolly blanket as wrapping paper.

Of course we've been doing a lot of sledding and playing in the snow.

And enjoying wintry views like these.

Not pictured: excessive cheesecake and cookie consumption; multiple bedtime tantrums; beloved friends who came for Christmas dinner; me accidentally going down the steep and super-icy sledding hill BACKWARD when my sled did a 180, while my husband fell over laughing and I screamed at the top of my lungs; giant snowman in our backyard; me lying around reading magazines for an entire day after risking my life running five miles on glare ice and deciding that lethargy is underrated.

Hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours, and also that you are still in the midst of holiday fun, because remember: it's not over until January 2. If then.

Friday, December 25, 2009

For Grandparents, on Christmas

Julia (5) and Genevieve (3), Christmas 2009

I hope I never forget the sounds of their voices in bed last night--Genevieve so excited she was literally squealing with glee, "Santa coming TONIGHT!"--and how sweet and innocent they are when they are this little and they truly believe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Here's hoping that all of your Christmas wishes come true, whether they involve gingerbread:

or wearing your Halloween costume in December:

Love to each and every one of my faithful readers. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Hustle and Bustle

I know I'm supposed to write here, but in all honesty I don't have that much to say. I mean, there's tons to say, I guess--last week was Julia's kindergarten "Winter Sing" at elementary school, which was indescribably sweet; we're at the beginning of Christmas vacation and are busy with sledding and snow forts and grocery shopping for Christmas dinner and baking shortbread cookies shaped like stars; Julia's being tested for hypothyroidism, which would explain a million things about her and would be good in that way but it is always sad to see one's child diagnosed with a chronic medical condition (and we've had several in our family already); Genevieve and her scrappy, hilarious, surly, ill-sleeping self---well, the list goes on and on.

But other than the occasional health/wellness column I'm producing for our town's newspaper, I'm not really feeling the writing bug these days. (Lori, I'm also not doing a thing with the book proposal, by the way. But after the holidays I plan to.) I think I'm too preoccupied with the good (Christmas fun!) and the bad (money concerns!) to have any mental energy left for writing. I hope you'll forgive me for that, and stick with me. For the most part, the girls and I are having a ton of fun--baking ever more Christmas cookies to a holiday music soundtrack, doing holiday arts and crafts and inviting little friends over to play, going to holiday playdates and teas and family parties--so don't worry about us. I'm sure I'll have something to say eventually.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Silent Night

So this morning while listening to a downloaded (not by me) mix of CD music, I suddenly realized that the version of "Silent Night" the girls and I have been listening to obsessively this week is by Sarah MacLachlan, not Shawn Colvin as I told you earlier. Which is kind of funny because, although I love both singers, I do know their distinctive voices. Sorry to have steered you wrong. Have a listen. GORGEOUS.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Genevieve totally needed these pants when she was a baby. Too bad I didn't know about them then, and also that they are CRAZY EXPENSIVE SERIOUSLY WHO HAS THIS KIND OF MONEY? Also too bad that they don't come in size 3T, because she still needs these pants most of the time.

Oh, wait a minute. Anonymous? I STILL LOVE HER EVEN THOUGH SHE'S A SURLY BIRD 90% OF THE TIME AND ANY NORMAL PERSON WOULD HAVE TAKEN TO DRINK ABOUT 2-1/2 YEARS AGO. Did you get that? I can make jokes at my toddler's expense, and it can still be in a loving, good-natured way, and I can even snuggle and kiss her as I think and write these things. I actually love her! And she knows it! And yet, I make jokes like this. Mind-boggling, isn't it?! But true.

In other news, I found out today that my husband's second job is ending again this month, until next summer. Surely you remember last winter, when I stayed awake most nights brainstorming ways to save on cleaning supplies and Kleenex? Also that one month when I couldn't afford to buy milk, Genevieve's prescription refills, AND school snack during the same week? That was fun. Yes, so it seems we'll be reliving that little adventure again during the first half of 2010! FANTASTIC. I can hardly wait to not be able to afford my family's basic living expenses, and to beg my daughters' grandparents for a check to cover milk and medicine! (It was especially interesting that one time one of them refused.)

Despite all this, the girls and I are having Christmasy fun, and trying to focus on the festive tasks at hand. Today we made cookies decorated with red and green sugar, and now my kitchen is covered in sprinkles.

It's totally worth the mess. We've also been chain-listening to Shawn Colvin's version of "Silent Night" (you'd have to be dead inside not to love it), excitedly awaiting Julia's kindergarten class's "Winter Sing" on Thursday morning, and planning scads of playdates and sledding afternoons for Christmas vacation. I can hardly wait. January--and empty pockets--will come soon enough.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Note to Anonymous

To the anonymous commenter who left the remark (which I chose to disallow) basically calling me a bad parent for my post below: You obviously neither understand my sense of humor nor do you seem to have the sensibility required to read a "mommy-blog," so you probably should not visit here again. You are not likely to ever get one of your comments published here, and you clearly don't understand what it's like to parent a tantrummy three-year-old. Anyone who knows me knows that I work really hard every single day to be a good parent to two extremely high-maintenance (each in her own way) daughters, including one exceedingly willful and surly toddler, and that if I didn't joke about it now and then, I'd probably be unable to perform the job of all-day, full-time, no-outside-help, stay-at-home mom. I've got many deficits as a mama, but a lack of love and compassion is not one of them. I do my very best, which--because your mean-spirited comment says a lot about you--I can only assume is a heck of a lot better than yours.

Anyone who reacts with self-righteous criticism to a harried mom's use of sarcasm and humor to manage the stress and strain of full-time mothering MAKES ME SICK. So therefore? You can just go ahead and bite me.

She Spent Yesterday Eating Pancakes and Candy Canes, How Hard Can it Really Be?

She's happy in this picture but those moments are rare.

Random quote during yet another morning festival of tears at our house:


Friday, December 11, 2009

Does Santa Deliver Sleep Medication?

I'm off this morning to help Julia's class of kindergartners make gingerbread houses. You can say a prayer for me if you like. What do you get when you mix 22 five-year-olds with gingerbread walls, icing, and copious amounts of candy decorations? I'll let you know when I find out. I'm hoping the answer isn't "Behavior that would give Santa pause."

Speaking of behavior that would give Santa pause, we haven't talked about Genevieve and sleep for quite a long time. I suppose maybe you were assuming that's because the issue is all wrapped up. Oh, but you'd be so wrong! Don't worry, I'm not going to bore you now with stories of needed naps, bedtime tantrums, and the strange toddler math involving too little sleep and that weird wired state that keeps them up until all hours even though they're exhausted. That's always nice.
Before you kindly steer me toward all the sleep books and sleep experts and sleep studies, please know that I have all that stuff practically memorized. Believe me on this one. I do know what I'm supposed to do with my toddler regarding sleep. She just refuses to comply even when I follow all the rules.

Well then! In other news, my folks arrive today for a mid-holidays visit, which shall include a preschool pancake breakfast with Santa, our town's youth choirs' Christmas concert, a drive around town to see all the lights, and no doubt a good deal of treat-eating, sledding, and cocoa-drinking. Because it is Christmas, after all.

But seriously? Wish me luck with the kindergartners and the gingerbread houses. Gulp.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Layer

We made the fudge! Oh Lordy, did we ever make the fudge. Tell me people, what made me think that making fudge with a three-year-old and a five-year-old was a good idea? I won't go into detail, other than to say this: CHOCOLATE EVERYWHERE.

Perhaps it's fudge-related, but lately I'm noticing a stubborn little layer of extra poundage insulating my midsection. If by "midsection" you mean "everywhere but my collarbone." True, my town is now blanketed in snow and gift-wrapped in sub-zero windchills, but I'm not a hibernating grizzly; I don't need extra fat stores to stay warm.

In truth, I've gained seven pounds in the past year or so, and I've been analyzing possible explanations for this annoyance. Am I snacking too much? Well, I snack a lot, and yes, I have become accustomed to a humming-furnace metabolism in recent years, the kind that burns it all off, but I'm not eating any more now than I was a year ago. Exercising a lot less? No. Sure, I skip a fair number of workouts, but I always have, and in between those missed sessions I tend to make up for lost time by doing things like going for four-mile runs in shin-deep snow and completing the entire 30 Day Shred just to say I can. Is it because I'm almost forty? Is it just aging, plain and simple? Well, while this could very possibly be true, it's so depressing that I reject it as an explanation.

Instead, I've decided that my nuisance weight gain is because I am now firmly settled into the stage of mothering life wherein no one is being carried, pretty much ever, in my arms anymore. My daughters are three and five; they walk on their own two feet, and climb the stairs by themselves. For years there, I was carrying, lifting, or pushing a child pretty much constantly all day long, but now? No more constant 25-lb. weight on my hip. No more built-in continual resistance training. No more lifting, hoisting, carrying, toting. Now that my daughters are no longer babies, I must be missing out on hundreds of burned calories every day, people. Maybe thousands. Not to mention the fact that my all-day mothering job is markedly more sedentary in general than it was a year or more ago. I used to sit down only during stories and naptime; now it's possible to sit down at all the other times, too. Like during lunch, for example. When getting ready to go outside, I can say things like, "Run upstairs and grab yourself a pair of socks" or "You can get it yourself; your legs work just as well as mine," and then remain stationary while their bodies burn the calories, not mine.

Bummer. Before becoming a mom, I always assumed that pregnancy and new motherhood would fatten my figure; instead, it was the early years that burned everything off and kept me thin. Who knew that it would be preschoolerhood and beyond that would mark the biggest change?

Or maybe it's just getting old.

But if you think I'm giving up eggnog and fudge this holiday season, you're crazy. After all, I have the whole rest of my girls' self-ambulatory childhoods to lose the seven pounds, right? And don't go thinking I'm going to have another baby just to get my former metabolism back. I'm not that desperate to be thin.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

First Snowstorm

Yesterday morning it started to snow. The predicted storm was on its way. By late afternoon, there was more than enough on the ground to go out and play in it, so the girls and I bundled up and headed out into the backyard for an hour. It was fairly warm (20 degrees or so), and the snow was fluffy and powdery, so we had a good time tromping around, making snow angels, and digging with sand shovels. Then we came inside so I could cook dinner. The girls busied themselves hiding in the cupboards. Yes, I do find it hilarious that my 5-1/2 year old can fit in the kitchen cupboard.

After dinner, I decided to be an insane person and go for my usual Tuesday run. In the snowstorm. Why not? It was warm (to a Minnesotan), the neighborhood was glowing white, and everything looked beautiful outside, all hushed and lit up with Christmas lights. Of course it was also dark, windy, and THE MIDDLE OF A SNOWSTORM.

It took me nearly an hour to run four miles, and it was totally outrageous and fun, except for when I turned against the north wind and was pelted in the face by icy snowflakes and actually said "Ow, my face hurts" out loud (to no one). But mostly it was great in a crazy sort of way. I live in a quiet, safe neighborhood bordering the rural countryside, so running at night--and in the snow--is often peaceful and gorgeous. I will say that I got a few strange looks though, and I'm sure my neighbors thought I was insane.

Last evening, when the girls were tucked in bed and the wind and snow were whipping in a frenzy outside and the snowplows started out and the school cancellations began, I sat on the sofa drinking hot tea and eating popcorn, recovering from my ridiculous workout, and noticed that the furnace had not clicked on in awhile. Hmmm. It sure felt cold in the house of all sudden. And that is how we ended up calling the furnace-repair company's 24-hour emergency line at 9 p.m. during the first snowstorm of the season.

Luckily, it was a quick fix, and thanks to our fireplace and an upstairs space heater, the girls didn't even wake up from the chill. We went to bed late, assured of no kindergarten for Julia today, and woke up to this:

So what are we doing today? Shoveling out our back door (Christopher), making Christmas cards, listening to Christmas music, braving the sub-zero windchill to test the snowed-in backyard, drinking hot cocoa, and--yes!--making fudge. Poor Daddy has to go to the office (albeit two hours late), but we'll save him a piece of fudge or two.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Unfortunate Update

I just dropped Genevieve off at nursery school (less than an hour after I wrote the post below). Genevieve burst into tears and sobbed her little heart out, even though her class gets to make gingerbread men, paint gingerbread-man-shaped paper, and play outside in the snow today. I guess none of that matters if Mama isn't with you.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

We're getting ready for a major snowstorm where I live, the first storm of the winter and the first real snow of the season (it snowed last week, but didn't even cover the grass). The children are thrilled and excited. Because the storm is supposed to span two days and involve 6-12 inches of snow, yesterday morning Genevieve and I ran out to the store to stock up on the basic necessities. You know: ingredients to make fudge.

In other news, as soon as I wrote that post last week about Genevieve's separation anxiety, she stopped crying about going to school. To be clear, she's not exactly bounding excitedly into her nursery school classroom like she did in September, and she's utilizing the coping strategy of bringing a teddy bear along each time (a practice tolerated by her teachers but technically against policy; you can imagine why the staff might want to discourage 20 children from all bringing their "loveys" to school each day), but the tears have stopped, and Genevieve seems fairly satisfied about going. Who knows? In another week it may be different again, but for now I'm thankful for the respite from preschool angst. On Friday, though, I'm leaving her with a friend for an hour so I can go help Julia's kindergarten class make gingerbread houses--an endeavor I imagine will be either unbearably cute or frighteningly ambitious (perhaps both)--and Genevieve's already lobbying hard for that entire plan to be scrapped. I'll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, I hope you're enjoying your own winter wonderland--whether it involves a major snowstorm, and homemade fudge, or not.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tightening Our Belts

It's been a tough year, financially speaking, for most Americans, and our family is no exception. Thankfully, Christopher is employed and we haven't faced home loss or any other monumental financial tragedy, but money's tight to say the least, especially making do on one income. We always keep Christmas small, but this holiday season, our family is tightening its belt even further, in the following ways:
  • We're using our artificial tree again, despite the fact that we'd much prefer a live tree. You can't argue with saving anywhere from $20-50 by using the tree we already have in a box in the garage.
  • We're cutting our holiday-card list down by 1/3 or more, sending mainly to relatives and long-lost friends who aren't blog-readers or Facebook friends and who therefore aren't in touch with us during the year. (Everyone else: please know this is no reflection on how much we love you, but merely a reflection on our checking account balance.)
  • We're not giving baked goods and treats to all our neighbors, co-workers, and playgroup friends this year. I love doing this--I really do--but the grocery budget doesn't lie. Ingredients are expensive.
  • We're--as always--limiting present-buying, recycling gifts when we can, and focusing more on holiday experiences than the number of objects under the tree. The other evening we enjoyed our town's quaint annual "Winter Walk," and I plan to take the girls ice-skating and sledding this month. We'll also be attending a preschool-benefit "Pancake Breakfast with Santa" and our town's youth choirs' Christmas concert next weekend with visiting grandparents. And, of course, there are always the drives around the neighborhood after dark to see the Christmas lights, walks in the falling snow, and singing carols at home. Experiences make better memories than toys, anyway, and they're often free.
  • I'm shamelessly using some of the grandparents' gift/toy money to pay for my daughters' little-kid gymnastics classes this winter. It's the one activity they do besides school, it gives them exercise when we can't get outside to play, and it challenges them in important ways. It's also hard to afford on our household income alone. Thanks, grandmas and grandpas! I promise you this experience is just as, if not more, enjoyable and important for your granddaughters than another toy.
So what about all of you? Are any of you tightening your belts this holiday season? If so, in what ways? Does it disappoint you, or are you taking it in stride?

Friday, December 04, 2009

At Least I'm No Longer Sleeping on the Floor in the Hallway Outside Her Door, People.

The other day Christopher tried--once again--to switch Genevieve's crib over into a toddler bed. The child IS 39 months old, after all. Of course, come bedtime, she cried for her "cwib," and it was back to babyhood. This was attempt #4 at the Crib-to-Toddler-Bed Transition. Of course, since Genevieve has not been a good sleeper since was one year old (see: the months of April 2008 to September 2009. Especially autumn 2008 with its 5-10 night-wakings per overnight period), it's totally not worth it to argue this point and insist on having Genevieve give up her crib. What do we care? She still wears a diaper at night and is not yet able to wake up to use the bathroom, so she doesn't need to be able to get out of bed on her own. Still, I do wonder if she's setting some kind of record for Oldest Child Still Sleeping in a Crib. It strikes me as odd, sweet, and hilarious all at the same time.

Genevieve told me once that she's going to sleep in a crib until she's "a gwowm-up," but then later she amended it to age five, and then age four. She's not coming down any further, however. Negotiations have hit a stalemate. She's holding firm.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thank Goodness for Sisters

During a lunchtime tantrum yesterday:

Me: Genevieve, Santa is paying attention to how you are acting right now.*

Genevieve (sobbing and wailing): He can't hear me!!!!

Me: YES HE CAN. And he's thinking about whether to fill your stocking on Christmas.**

Genevieve: WWWAAAAAAAHHHHH! (scream, wail, sob, sob.)

Julia: Genevieve, even if Santa doesn't put anything in your stocking on Christmas, I will put something in it for you. I will make you a paper heart.

Genevieve (sniffling, hiccuping, wailing): Thank you, Juliaaaaa!

Me: Sigh.

*Yes, I do pull out the Santa card. Shameless, I know.
**Yes, yes, I know, cruel. But sometimes necessary.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Do A Few Projects...

Yesterday after nap Julia was playing house with her doll, a grade-school-aged stuffed cloth doll with various kid outfits and accessories. As she changed the doll's clothes, she said to me nonchalantly, "My daughter is five. She goes to kindergarten. I work half-days, you know? And on Wednesdays I come home early!" (Wednesdays are Julia's real-life "early-release days," the day of the week when all the school-kids in our town get out a half-hour early so the teachers can do professional training.)

"That sounds perfect!" I told her. "You're lucky. I know an awful lot of moms who would love to find a job like that."

"Yeah," Julia said contentedly. She busied herself with her doll for a few minutes and then paused, glancing over at me conversationally and tipping her palms upward. "I just...go to work in the morning..." And here her voice took on a casual, singsong tone: "You know, do a few projects...have a snack...and then I leave!" She sighed and smiled, and got busy preparing her doll's toys and snacks.

I was left thinking, Now there's a job I could get behind. Doesn't it sound perfect? Go in, do a few projects--this part sounds so easy and enjoyable, doesn't it? As if the projects involve glitter and glue? or a little writing project with pencil and lined paper?--have a tasty snack, and go home by lunch, even earlier on Wednesdays? Ample time to balance work and family? With PAY?

Awesome. Save me a spot at that job, will you? In about fall 2011?