Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Just one scene from 2010

2010 was a great year in many respects. My daughters and I had our fantastic Summer of Fun. (And boy was it ever! Remember Popcorn Wednesday?) We spent our 2nd season at our CSA farm. Julia finally stopped crying at swimming lessons. I got a job--and my own checking account! (Woman Power!)

I ran 7-1/2 miles at one time. I sent my firstborn off to all-day school for the first time, and she flourished. Friends had new babies. (And I did not.) Many people--in-person friends, via-Internet friends, complete strangers--wrote sweet, kind, funny comments to me on this blog, ones I loved, laughed at, was supremely grateful for. Julia made me a cookbook. Genevieve learned to read.

I got published on the homepage of BlogHer!

I successfully managed the professional painting of (most of) the interior of our house. I made a new friend. I got another essay accepted for publication in a book. With the indescribably generous guidance of an experienced friend, I wrote a book proposal, consulted with a literary agent about my book idea (and she liked it!), and am set to send the agent my pitch this very next Monday, in the hopes of getting representation, and, eventually, a book deal.

Those are the big things--the things that come immediately to mind when I consider the year in its entirety. But I also know--as is true for all of us--that the majority of good things about 2010 were the little moments I can't specifically remember: hugs and kisses from my babes, tons of fun and laughs and companionship with my amazing friends, the funny things Genevieve said, the art Julia made.

There were bad things about 2010 too, for sure. I mean, I tried to give up sugar for Lent, people! OMG, that alone!
I'm not saying it was a perfect year--but is any? Believe me, I haven't forgotten the dog days. But seriously: job? checking account? book proposal? BlogHer? Summer of Fun? That's a pretty good year.

Being a parent somehow magnifies everything; parenthood makes your highs higher and your lows unspeakably low. Sometimes it can seem like there's just way too much drama in your life, in your household, when you have children. But the thing is, it's the dramatic ups and downs that make each year its own topographical map of experience--the Summers of Fun, the popcorn cart, the 7-mile runs, the bus stop, the playdates, the new babies, the book deals, the inability to self-soothe, the prescription medication, the times you slept on the floor in the hall outside the nursery. Your years wouldn't be memorable without all that, the big and small, the drama, the ups, the downs.

So 2010 as a mama in wonderland was partly hard and bad; and largely really awesome. If you had any part in making the good parts good, I send my love out to you. On into 2011, with whatever wonders (and challenges) it may hold.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Preschool Word Sort

This is the other handmade Christmas present Julia gave this year: a homemade "Preschool Word Sort" workbook that she made for her 4-year-old baby sister Genevieve, who always wants to do Julia's first-grade Word Games homework with her, but gets frustrated because she does not have a Word Games homework notebook like Julia does.

Again, Julia came up with this idea on her own, put a lot of time and effort into it, and wrapped it in homemade "wrapping paper" (two sheets of plain white paper taped together, with crayon wreaths drawn all over both sides).

Sooooooo sweeeeeet.

(That last page is a drawing of Genevieve holding the very workbook, saying, "This is fun!")

Monday, December 27, 2010

If I Remember Correctly, She Wore Those Pajamas All Day.

I forgot to post this photo earlier: my girls on Christmas Eve 2010, ages 6 and 4. And yes, they are wearing 1.) an old playclothes t-shirt and 2.) a pajama top--rather than fancy red-velvet, satin-bowed Christmas dresses with tights and patent-leather mary janes. Because that's how we roll.

At least their hair was freshly cut.

Best Gift Ever, in my Entire Life, Ever.

The tag Julia made for one of my Christmas presents.
(S.M.T. are my initials.) Don't you love it?

Genevieve and Julia in their brand-new jammies, Christmas Eve

A few weeks before Christmas, Julia started working on a homemade gift for me. She thought of the idea herself, and worked on it for days. She left the project out on her kid table in the playroom as she added to it, so I couldn't help but catch a few glimpses, but she displayed a really innocent trust that she could just leave a present out like that, for days on end, in progress, so I tried really hard not to see anything.

She made me a cookbook.

"To my mama who really enjoys cooking. To: Mama
Hope you enjoy this present.
Merry Christmas! Love Julia"

It has really priceless recipes (or "recapes") that she devised herself, complete with, for each one, "What You Need" and "What You Do."

"Blueberry Cheesecake...What You Do: 1. Empty 1 box
of blueberries in a bowl. 2. Add 2 blocks of cream cheese.
3. Add 1 cup of flour. 4. Add two cups of chocolate chips..."

"Homemade fruit Dip...What You Do: 1. Put orange juice in a blender.
2. Add the yogurt. 3. Add the strawberrys.
Blend until smooth.
If still Runny add..."

"Snowflake Cookies...What You Do: 1. Roll out 1 bowl of (store Bought
or Homemade) cookie Dough on a cutting
board. 2. Press the cookie
cutter into the dough..."

The stapled-together book goes on and on like this. She clearly put many days of work into all the planning and writing. (Note: none of these are things I actually normally make, even with actual, correct recipes. They just came out of her own head.) At the last page was this note:

"Hope you enjoy cooking and eating these recapes. Love Julia"

Keeping it forever.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas to You and Yours.

Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer.

This morning at the hair salon I take my girls to for trims, Genevieve burst into tears and wouldn't scale the haircutting chair because the nice stylist who does their hair turned the Grinch on the little DVD player they keep there. You know, to entertain the children.

The ones who don't burst into tears at the sight.

Well, this is what I have to say about the Grinch: If you have to sit writing freelance articles on health and nutrition for on the laptop on the evening before Christmas Eve Day, doing so in front of the Grinch on television is a pretty entertaining way to do it.

But you can only do that when Genevieve's already in bed. (Which she is.)

Here's hoping that Santa, and not the Grinch, slides down your chimney tomorrow night. Because we certainly don't need any more tears in the world.

Merry Christmas, you all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Are You a Yogi Mommy? Or Would You Like to Be One?

Hi, friends. So, you know I'm writing a book about motherhood and self-care. (Also about, oh, your toddler locking you outside on the patio, the relentless hell of sleeping on the floor in the hallway outside the nursery, and various hilarities related to child-wrangling and at-home mothering.) Well, my longtime friend Tricia Sletten, co-owner and studio manager of the yoga and wellness center Spirit of the Lake, located on Lake Minnetonka in Excelsior MN (just west of Minneapolis), just told me about two new yoga classes the center is offering during Winter 2011, especially for moms, that truly fit into the whole idea that even full-time stay-at-home moms--whose job literally never ends--need and deserve to take care of themselves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

I thought some of my local readers might be interested in these awesome-sounding classes. One is called Swami Mommy--don't you love that name?--, a yoga class especially for moms seeking community and support. The other is Yoga Bonding Postnatal--a new-mom-and-baby yoga class (fun!). There's also a general (non-mom-centric) Intro to Yoga & Meditation class, which sounds like a great way to explore these practices.

And hey--I've known Tricia since 10th grade, so I can totally vouch for her. We'll not comment on just how many years that means we've known each other.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

First-World Problems. Or: You Can Be Stressed Out By AND Grateful For Your Life At The Same Time.

Here is the thing I am learning this week: Even if you are committed to keeping the holidays small and manageable, and compared to the rest of the world you actually do (no travel, limited gifts, lots of simple pleasures like playing in the snow and sledding rather than extravagant expensive activities or too many social obligations), the week before Christmas is still really busy.

Even as you're lazing around in your pj's with your on-school-vacation kiddos, baking cookies and planning sledding-and-hot-chocolate playdates and doing cozy things like sitting in front of the fireplace reading Christmas stories, you're still thinking about the fact that you haven't wrapped any gifts yet, and your freelance-writing job isn't on vacation so you've got deadlines to meet if you want to get paid (which you do), and you still haven't planned the menu or bought groceries for Christmas dinner, and you've still got a major section of your book proposal to revise before the new year.

But you know that two weeks of Christmas vacation will be over in the blink of an eye and you should be cherishing each one of these no-schedule days.

But as a stay-at-home and work-from-home mom you're always on a schedule.

So then you go and eat more Christmas cookies in an attempt to distract yourself from your stressful to-do list. Thus adding one more thing to your to-do list. ("Lose holiday pounds.")

Can anyone else relate???

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pre-Order "My" Next Book Now!

Good news! The next book I'm in, coming out this spring, is available for pre-order already at Amazon. Moms, you know you're going to want to read this one! You could order now, and it will come to your door next spring as a happy surprise.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

All My Daughter Wants for Christmas is a Growth Spurt.

Yesterday was my six-year-old's first-grade Winter Sing. Our neighborhood elementary school hosts Winter Sings and post-concert Cookie/Cocoa Parties every Christmastime for each classroom. It's excellent; just like I remember from when I was in grade school--the parents all crowd into a room with metal folding chairs and the children stand on risers and put on a little concert of all the songs they've learned from the music teacher this autumn. They play those great elementary-school musical instruments like the wooden xylophones that make that great plonk-plonk sound and that studded cylinder thing with the handle, that you roll in your palm and it goes, metallically, clish clish clish. Julia played the triangle. The triangle! Remember?

I would love to show you a photograph of my daughter standing in the front row if only to show you the adorableness of how she's, like, a foot shorter than half her classmates, and half a foot shorter than the others, only I don't have permission to show all her little classmates' faces on the Internet. She's like a super-cute escapee from kindergarten (in fact, she was wearing the same outfit she wore for her kindergarten Winter Sing a year ago), only fully literate and in Challenge Math.

After the concert four times more people than are meant to be in the first-grade classroom went to the first-grade classroom, to narrowly avoid spilling hot chocolate on one another, misplace the baby sisters and brothers, and tour the Book Nook and the Star Box and the corner with everyone's mailbox. First grade is a wonderland.

Then we came home and I spent an hour and 15 minutes shoveling a chest-high drift of snow off our patio and away from the back door, and my shovel broke in two. The end.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Better You Than Me

OK, so we're all up to date on how glad I am that it's not still four years ago. I've made my point clear, have I not? Well, as if to slam the point home, last night I ventured out into the ten-below-zero night in order to drive to the indoor track at the college where my husband works, where I can get into the Rec Center with my staff/family privileges card, to run a few miles inside. I've been sick for about a million years, and it's like the Arctic outside here, so I haven't been for a run in many days. But I just decided to suck it up, sinus congestion and all, go to where I could run without risking my life, and try a few miles just to see if my leg muscles still work. Because Good Lord in heaven, when you're a runner and you're used to a fair amount of fitness and whatnot, not exercising for weeks can really start getting to you. You start moping around all wobbly and defeated. You imagine you might never run six miles again, after all your hard work. You start gaining weight from not getting any exercise. It's depressing.

Well, so, anyway--there I was, suited up and getting on the track. And out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman approaching the walking lanes. And she's got a newborn baby strapped onto her chest in a carrier. She's got her iPod, she's got her walking shoes on, she's there in the pitch-dark of 6:00 p.m. in December--when I swear it feels so late that we should all be in bed already--and she's walking around the track with a newborn baby strapped to her chest. And at first I was like, Wow, brilliant! Why didn't I ever think of doing that, when I had newborn babies? What a great way to escape the claustrophobic misery of the evening hours with a fussy newborn, and also get your exercise in, even in the dead cold of winter!

And the very next second I was all, OMG lady, better you than me. And then I ran right by her, over and over and over again, feeling very fit and fleet--unencumbered. So glad to not be carrying colic on my chest. So glad to not be in charge of the next feeding--and every one thereafter.

I don't mean to sound cruel, ungrateful, or harsh. For a long time I missed newborns--sort of. I do still miss plenty of things about having children younger than mine are now, and it's just as painful as ever--as it is, I think, for every mom--to know that every single day that passes is a time and stage that can never return.

But there is a time and place for everything, and the time when it would have been brilliant of me to go to a track with the baby strapped to my chest is over. Now the brilliant thing is going to the track on my own, in the middle of busy December, with the kids at home being fed their dinner by someone other than me.

Amazing how that works, isn't it?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Feeling Stressed Out About the Holidays? I Have the Solution.

Have you read my piece at yet about how to make your holidays less stressful and more fun?

It's not too late, if you missed it on Friday. Please go read, give another click to the link, and consider some tips to shrink down your holidays in order to maximize your sanity. Thanks, loves! I appreciate every single one of you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Morning, 6 a.m.

At times like this it's hard to believe that in July and August it's often--very, very often, if it's summer 2010--over 90 degrees outside.

In other news, I checked my running log last night out of a need to torture myself oops I mean curiosity, and discovered that I have been sick for roughly five of the past six weeks. See, the thing about being sick as a parent rather than in your previous, child-free life is that there is literally never a time you can retire to your bed for a solid day or two, call in to work, and get over your illness. Noooooo. Talk about a miserable experience that you don't even know is a blessing until you have children and realize that being sick can be A WHOLE LOT MORE MISERABLE. Seriously: what childless person lies in bed sniffling and moaning, thinking, Wow, I am so lucky I can actually lie down in the middle of the day like this when I'm sick.? No one. No one at all. But then you become a parent, and you get sick, and you're all like, omg I would give my left arm to be able to lie in bed for two straight days and do nothing but get better.

I would have to be, I don't know, on an IV to be able to lie in bed all day long.

Hence, the five-out-of-six-weeks sinus infection/cold/upper respiratory infection/interminable cough/sore throat/etc.

And hence the no running.

Which may be good considering the photo above.

(P.S. It is currently 1 degree above zero outside, with a windchill of 22 below.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This is How Saturday Went Down (or: Blizzard Update)

It snowed a whole lot.


We made chocolate crinkle Christmas cookies.
(Among other things.)

It kept snowing.

Until it covered our windows and we went to bed.

This is Mainly for Rita in Oklahoma.

Now HERE'S a good old-fashioned northern-plains Minnesota blizzard for you! Good thing I'm all cozy and warm inside with my girls, candles lit and Christmas carols playing, baking four different kinds of Christmas treats today. I feel awfully Little House on the Prairie-ish. But without the ranging coyotes and the chinks in the log walls and the icy wind blasting into our feather beds and Pa outside trying to make it home through the storm. Other than that, though.

Our back door, 2 p.m., Saturday Dec. 11th.
Check the height of the snow in comparison to the door handle.

Friday, December 10, 2010

BlogHer, You All! Merry Christmas to Me!

Head on over to the homepage of BlogHer RIGHT NOW to see my smiling face. Yes, that's right, I have a piece published over there even as we speak, all about keeping your sanity during the holidays. It has something to do with not leaving all your purchases in the cart in the parking lot at Target and driving away without them. Go read! Squeal! OMG. (So excited.)

My Big News The Sequel

Coming next spring from Coffeetown Press, my second publication in a nonfiction anthology of great women writers...

Real Mothers. Real Careers. Real Conflict.

"Trying to strike the right balance between career and motherhood is one of the most stressful, heart-wrenching issues facing women today. In Torn, 46 women examine the conflict between the need to nurture and the need to work, and reveal creative solutions for having the best of both worlds. Their stories offer hope and inspiration, but also reveal the messy realities of modern motherhood and life’s inevitable crises, both small and large: from breast pump mishaps to battles with cancer; diaper blowouts to debilitating depression; competitive cupcake baking to coming home from war. In the end, the reader can take comfort in the knowledge that there is no perfect mother; nor is there a perfect balance when it comes to kids and career. The real challenge facing women today is not juggling their many roles, but realigning their expectations of what is possible and accepting that success does not equal “doing it all.”"

Remember back in 2009 when I got my first publication in a book--the anthology that was ultimately titled P.S. What I Didn't Say: Unsent Letters to Our Female Friends--and I couldn't believe that my lifelong dream of being a published author in an actual book that people could walk into a bookstore and buy had come true? Well, imagine how I feel now. My lifelong dream has come true a second time.

Torn is slated to launch next May. Spread the word, keep your eyes out for press about the book, and remember the title so you can buy it when it comes out. Pretty please.

Are You to Ready to Point Your Browser to BlogHer?

Hey, you all. Am I the only one SUPER EXCITED that I have a piece going up on the homepage later today? Get ready to read all about how to make your holidays small, and why that's a good thing. Stay tuned....

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Get Ready to Feel Really Superior About Your Parenting.

Those of you who are parents: do you ever have those moments when you realize you have possibly been remiss, for no clear or logical reason, in some seemingly basic component of parenting? Like, all of a sudden you realize the baby--who is now four--does not know how to reliably zip her jacket, which probably bothers the preschool teachers just a little bit, they with their million tiny people to dress for outdoor weather ten million times a day? (Not that this one happened to me. Well, sort of. But not really.) Or, tying shoes! Egad! We haven't taught her to tie yet, and she's six! Didn't even think of it, because seriously: kid shoes don't have laces anymore! But she's sort of supposed to know how to tie by now.

Or maybe something even worse than zipping and tying. Something universally-agreed-upon as fun, integral to a joyful childhood, the very essence of loving parenting. Something like board games and visits to Santa.

I hate board games, especially board games with children. This makes me feel bad, especially when I read about others--really good mothers--who adore board games, get really passionate about board games, surely have whole baskets or storage ottomans full of stacked board games, but, you know--sigh--it is what it is.

Board games should be called "bored games", as far as I'm concerned. (Ha! Did you like my little joke?! I crack myself up.) Therefore, it literally never, ever occurs to me to buy my children board games, of any kind, for Christmas or their birthdays. No, not even the classics like Hi-Ho Cherry-O or Candyland--both of which my daughters own only through the gift-giving efforts of friends and relatives. Not even the ones you would think actually might be a little fun, like Jenga or Boggle. (Wait--those aren't actually board games--or bored games! ha!--but you know what I mean.) Seriously, I never even think of games as gifts. Never. I rarely play the ones we have. I dread the idea of Family Game Night, even though children love that kind of thing--at least until they're, I don't know, 12 maybe? I know. I feel awful about it. I know.

And then there's visiting Santa. We don't do this in our family. I KNOW! Can you even believe it? Again: does not occur to me. Listen, my girls a.) are terrified of Sponge Bob Square Pants (I don't even know how to write that, we're so unfamiliar with him; is it SpongeBob SquarePants? Sponge Bob SquarePants? I don't know); how do you think they're going to react to a giant old man in an odd matching outfit with a huge white beard? Also: since dressed-up Santas are so baffling (there are multiples! how can it be? why do some of them look different from the pictures we've seen of Santa? why do their boots vary in color at times?), we've relied on the old explanation that dressed-up Santas at stores or events are just pretend, Santa's helpers, dressed up for fun but not the real deal. So it's not all that exciting to my daughters anyway.

But really, can you even believe it? Lacking in board games, and have never visited Santa.

Your opinion of me as a parent is probably a lot lower now, isn't it? I probably made you feel really good about your own parenting today. After all, you play board games with your children! You take them to visit Santa! My Christmas gift to you. Enjoy.

Simple And Delicious Family Cooking: Easy Christmas Treats

Thanks to my friend Margaret, the girls and I made the best, easiest, prettiest Christmas treat tonight before their bedtime when Christopher was at a work dinner. Here's what you do:

1 bag small round-shaped pretzels (these are seasonal)
1 bag Hershey's white-and-peppermint striped kisses
red & green holiday M&Ms

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil or regular foil sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the pretzels in a single layer to fill the sheet. Place one unwrapped Hershey's kiss in each pretzel ring.

Put the baking sheet in the oven and watch closely; leave in oven until the kisses are just starting to melt and are soft (a few minutes). While kisses are still melty, press one red or green M&M in the center of each ring. Then place the sheet outside in the cold (or in the freezer) to harden. YUM!

We loved them. Try it!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

OMG! BlogHer!

OMG! I just got a column pitch accepted to be published at BlogHer! On their homepage, you all. BlogHer is huge, in case you don't know a thing about it. (In which case, you should really head over there and check it out.) They get over 20 million visits per month across their network.

I'm probably the only person in the world to get all giddy and make an announcement about a publication before it's actually published. But come on! It's BlogHer. How can I not?

Stay tuned and I'll hook you up with the link when the article is up. (Now I just have to go write it.)

Discussing Ancient History

Genevieve: Mama, were you 11 years old in 1892?


Did they say 'thee' and 'thou' in 1982?

Suddenly I feel very, very old.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Making Memories

Eight new inches of snow, one weekend afternoon, two hours, four sleds, one backyard hill, three families, six parents, seven little girls under seven (two not pictured here), numerous mugs of cocoa, countless Christmas cookies. But, of course, you can't quantify joy.

Friday, December 03, 2010

This is Just Like Painting the Guest Room.

I feel sorry for Genevieve.

The past few days I've been spending every second I can working on book stuff, and that means she's been pretty neglected. I feel badly about it; but then again, there is nothing I can do about it right now. I have an important deadline, I've been fortunate enough to be given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show my book proposal to a literary agency that I got connected with strictly because I happen to know someone who knows someone, and when a big chance lands in your lap, you just don't turn it down. And I don't have either of my kids' grandmas in town who I can bring her to for a few hours here and there because I suddenly have a major opportunity regarding my book and I HAVE TO get some work done on it, RIGHT NOW. And honestly, Genevieve wouldn't want me to hire a babysitter so I could get work done, either; she hates sitters and has serious separation anxiety and trying that would just be worse, I'm convinced.

But in the meantime, I've been reminded just how hard it is to do any sort of work while you're also caring for a small child. I mean, it's next to impossible. It reminds me of last May when I was painting the guest bedroom and, even though it's a very small room, it took me FOUR WEEKENDS (it may have been five, actually) to get it painted. Four weekends, people! Keep in mind that when I hired professionals to paint the entire interior common area of our two-story house, it took them TWO DAYS. To do the whole house. Not even full days, either; more like 10 to 3 or something. I realize they are pros and there were three of them, but still.

Working on this book proposal while also taking care of kids all day (who don't nap anymore) is just like that. I do five minutes here, five minutes there; one e-mail to someone here, one question to someone else there, and every few minutes I'm interrupted (validly so, too) by a little person asking for help, attention, something to do, food, water, me to read her a story or do a puzzle with her. I've had to say "just a minute" or even "I can't right now" an awful lot in the past few days, and I feel awful about that. It's even worse, and rather ironic, that the project keeping me from caring for my child is a book about, well, caring for children.

(In case you're wondering why I can't just work in the evenings, when my husband is home and the kids are in bed--I'm doing that, too. But I'm also doing my freelance writing job to earn money to pay the bills, and I'm doing school stuff and holiday stuff and cooking stuff and I'm running at night, too, and I consider exercise a mandatory health behavior much like brushing one's teeth, so I'm not going to stop running so I can get more work done. Maybe in a total pinch at the last minute, but not for days and weeks at a time.)

I hope one day my book gets published and my daughters can see that I had a real reason for working this hard and neglecting them now and then for a few days or weeks. (Let's be honest: if the book gets published I'll probably be neglecting them a heck of a lot more in order to surf that tide; but if that happens I will get more serious about lining up alternate childcare or grandparent visits.)

And I hope they understand that sometimes if you want to write a book about being an imperfect mom, you have to be an imperfect mom.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Dog Days Are Over

This morning at Target (my third visit in three days, yo!), I ran into a friend I never see anymore, now that her kids go to different schools than mine do. She said she'd seen me in the parking lot on my way in, and at first glace had mistaken me for a college student. I assume she was speaking of my unwashed ponytail and ultra-casual appearance rather than some sort of vibrant and youthful glow, since between the three trips to Target in three days, the nonstop viruses hitting my household lately, the phone consultation I had with an ACTUAL NEW YORK CITY LITERARY AGENT this morning about my book proposal (OMG!), and the 15 hours per week of freelance writing work I'm trying to squeeze into my over-scheduled life, well...let's just say I think my wrinkles are growing wrinkles, and most likely my hair is considering turning gray any second now. But yes, if a friend tells me that from a distance she thought I was a college student rather than a 39-year-old harried mama-writer with too much to do and too little time, I'll take it.

So, the book. I'm writing one, did you know that? It's based on this blog, sort of, only in addition to the stuff about surviving and thriving as a stay-at-home mom from the perspective of one who knows, it also includes a self-help/self-care psychology aspect--seeing as, in addition to being an experienced mom and writer, I'm also a doctoral-level clinical health psychologist. I knew that degree would come in handy again some day.

A lot of movement has happened around my book idea in the past few weeks. It's kept me super busy, and super excited. It occurs to me that the holiday season might not have been the best time to take on the huge project of crafting a proposal and pitching a book to a literary agency. What, I didn't think I had enough to do each day right now?

But it's all good, because things are looking up for me. Oh, and did you watch "Glee" last night?
Did you hear my late-2010 theme song?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Challenge Math

This morning I did my first stint as a weekly volunteer in Julia's first-grade class. My job is to take five kids, including my own, out of the room for a session of "Challenge Math." We go to the empty cafeteria across the hall from the classroom and work through special pages of math problems that require "higher-order thinking." I'm wondering who can possibly do higher-order thinking on a Monday morning, but whatever. I guess those six-year-olds don't need as much coffee as I do.

Anyway, I'm sort of just supposed to do my own thing, work at our own pace, do what I can--that sort of thing. But I'm sitting there with the kids, reading them through the different math questions, all of which are addition or subtraction problems embedded in a sort of larger number riddle, and I'm thinking, Um, how are these kids supposed to be doing this, anyway? I mean, when I'm asking them, "The mystery number does NOT equal 18 minus 9; so what number can we cross out as not the mystery number?" and they have no idea what 18 minus 9 is, do they count on their fingers, or what? Heck if I know. I'm 39, people! First grade was a long time ago. I do not recall how we learned to subtract.

But can I just say? You should have seen Julia's cute little pleased, proud smile when she glanced up and saw me walk into the room when I first got there. So sweet! She was so excited that it was HER mom who was there to volunteer for Challenge Math.

But I've looked ahead in the workbook and noticed we're coming up on addition and subtraction with bigger numbers, and the kind of problems you do with the numbers set up over a line, like so:

+ 9

What the what, now? Do I teach them to carry the 1, or what? Is that what you do in first grade?

Challenge Math, indeed.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Peace, Love, and Questionable Halloween Candy

Ah, Thanksgiving...

A time to gather with the people you love to launch the holiday season, eat way too much, and give thanks for...well, if you're my daughters, rather than list the obvious choices like THE MAMA WHO TAKES CARE OF THEM EVERY DAY AND WOULD GIVE UP HER LIFE FOR THEM OH AND COOKED THE ENTIRE THANKSGIVING DINNER BY HERSELF AND YES I DO MEAN INCLUDING HOMEMADE STUFFING, you would say, "Snow" and, also, "Candy corn."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

9 p.m. The Night Before Thanksgiving

Is everybody happy now? In between writing three freelance articles for, reading a book by the friend-of-a-friend NYC literary agent before having a phone consultation with her in a few days, and preparing part of a book proposal, I made stuffing. It's in my fridge right now, and it has pecans and dried cherry-flavored cranberries (what the what?) in it. I tried to take a picture of it for you, but my camera batteries died and I don't have any replacements.

But HOLY SODIUM! I think the recipe should have directed me to use plain water rather than chicken broth. See?--I told you I'm no good with any recipe that involves a dead bird. (That includes chicken broth.)

Mostly I'm Thankful That the Internet Exists. Seriously--What Would You Do Without It? Exactly.

  • Thankful I no longer have to sleep on the floor in the hallway outside the nursery.
  • Thankful I am no longer the volunteer president of the board that runs my daughter's nursery school during the time (some 2+ years ago--and I still think about it!) when the previous nursery school director lied about her intentions and the work she was doing, quit with no warning a few weeks before school began in the fall, skipped out on her last director duties including training the new director, and took money for work she never performed. (Ah, yes. Good times. Thanks a lot, previous nursery school director from 2+ years ago! Hope you and your conscience are having a good Thanksgiving!)
  • Thankful that, despite a number of random chronic family health issues, the only serious condition I can report is an inability to get through even one day as a stay-at-home mom without raising my voice. Can I blame that on my health? Sure. Let's do that.
  • Thankful that I don't have to roast a real turkey tomorrow.
  • Thankful for each and every one of you. Really!
Above all, of course, I'm super thankful for these two little munchkins:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

No Babies. Thank God. (Love Them! But Thank God.)

Yesterday I started getting the slightest bit stressed about all the things there are to do during the holidays. Not super-stressed, mind you--just beginning to mentally consider the holiday card list and the baking and the parties and the shopping. You know, the usual.

I don't generally get too terribly stressed during the holidays because I tend to keep the holidays small. But there's no denying that at this time of year there's simply more to do. And this year I am more time-crunched than usual because I am currently working (from home) about 15 hours per week, in addition to being home full-time with my daughters, and I'm also finishing writing a book and collaborating with a published-author friend on the book proposal. In between, I'm reading books on and consulting with people about the publishing process and starting to weekly-volunteer at my daughter's school. In other words, I'm busy. Extreeeeeemely busy.

And so it is once again that time of year: the time to stop for one grateful moment and be happy that it is no longer holiday season 2006, when I had a newborn and was therefore basically getting NO SLEEP AT ALL, and was subsequently doing addled absent-minded things like driving away from Target after leaving a whole bag of Christmas toys in the cart in the parking lot. For example.

Good Lord in heaven. So glad I don't currently have a newborn.

(Love you, Julia and Genevieve! Just glad you're not newborns anymore!)

I know a woman whose husband, after they had had two children and were so sure they did not want a third that drastic measures seemed appropriate, underwent a vasectomy---and then six weeks later she found out she was pregnant with their third. I think about this story often and-- even though this family is happy and thriving, God bless them--it never loses its insane drama. Imagine being THAT SURE you don't want a third baby---and then ending up with a third baby. I would be doing a whole lot more than accidentally leaving Christmas gifts in the parking lot at Target if that happened to me, let me tell you.

And so suddenly my life seems not nearly so busy and stressful. See how that works?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Confessions

So I don't know if you know this about me or not, but I don't know how to roast a turkey.

But wait---it's not because I'm a bad cook or a novice in the kitchen or hopelessly domestically challenged. In fact, the opposite is actually true (if I may say so myself).

I'm a great cook, and I love to do it. But here's the deal: I'm a (at least 95% of the time) vegetarian cook. I mostly cook things like pinto-bean sweet-potato chili and cheesy polenta with white-bean tomato sauce and Asian tofu peanut noodles and curried vegetable couscous with chickpeas and raisins.

I don't roast turkeys. Even more so, I don't WANT to roast turkeys. I don't want to learn how to roast a turkey.

So when I host Thanksgiving by myself (meaning, without my parents visiting)--which is always a super-small affair, since our only guest is my mother-in-law in those cases--I do something embarrassingly lame and expensive.

I buy that Jennie-O Freezer-to-Oven Turkey Breast--the one that comes in a bag and is only 2.75 pounds for some ridiculous sum of money north of ten dollars. (For less than three pounds!)

You see, people, you don't have to do a THING with it. You keep it in your freezer (no opening the refrigerator on Thursday morning to find out you totally mistimed how long it would take the turkey to thaw!), you put it in the oven, it roasts. Plus, it's always moist and has great flavor. (I do eat it, despite my mostly vegetarian tendencies.) In my mind, it's totally worth the $11.99. But it's really small. You could never use it for a large gathering--or even a small gathering that involved all adults rather than a few adults--one of whom won't eat much meat--plus two very small children. There are no leftovers, which is depressing to some people at Thanksgiving (though not vegetarians, typically).

You do what you can, people. This is what I can do.*

On Saturday when I bought my Thanksgiving groceries I felt extra lame in the checkout lane, because not only did I have the Jennie-O Freezer-to-Oven Turkey Breast In A Bag, I also had two boxes of Stovetop stuffing. [hanging head in shame....] My cart practically screamed "DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO COOK BUT IS HOSTING THANKSGIVING; GUESTS, QUICK, BEG OFF AND FIND ANOTHER THANKSGIVING INVITATION!"

I wanted to wear a sign around my neck that said, "Awesome vegetarian cook. Do not handle raw dead birds if I can help it. Plus, too lazy to make my grandma's stuffing recipe when I can make the Stovetop variety with only boiling water and about five minutes."

Also, "Am making a pumpkin-chocolate-swirl cheesecake for Thanksgiving dessert, from scratch, and honestly, if you had to choose, wouldn't you pick an amazing pumpkin cheesecake over a roasted turkey any day?"

Wouldn't you? I thought so.

I really have no good excuse for the boxed stuffing.*

[*The really horrifying part about this whole story is that I am making turkey breast in a bag plus stuffing from a box FOR MY MOTHER-IN-LAW. Does anyone really think this could possibly be a good idea? Keep in mind that this is the mother-in-law to whom I once overheard Julia outing me by pointing to a board book and saying, "Mama broke the ballerina doll off the cover of that book once when she got really mad and threw the book on the floor." Needless to say, no one is outing me to my mother-in-law when I do outrageously selfless good-mom things like SLEEPING ON THE FLOOR IN THE HALLWAY OUTSIDE THE NURSERY. Right? Right???? Sigh.]

Friday, November 19, 2010

I Know It's Early, But...

My oldest daughter wrote a letter to Santa about three weeks ago. It may even have predated Halloween. The letter began, "I know it's early, but..."


I understand, though. I can appreciate the need to be on the ball with things. I'm all about the advance planning.

I just hope she realizes a letter to Santa is not, say, a catalog order. Because once I caught her saying something like, "When Santa brings me that Barbie Dream House..." I don't know about where you live, but in our house Santa does not bring $130 toys. Not even for the grownups.

For Christmas this year I would like Santa to bring me a fully furnished and decorated larger house, complete with my dream kitchen--which would include a large granite-topped island, white cabinets, a farmhouse sink with a really cool high curved faucet, and more than one oven--where I can truly live out all my housewifely cooking and baking dreams. But if I get all that, I would also need, finally, a full set of truly high-quality cookware--the kind that doesn't warp and peel in a few years of use so that the simplest act of making pancakes for your family fills you with rage. Please let that cookware be Calphalon, stainless steel, from Crate and Barrel. I know it costs $499, but surely you can work something out. It will last a lifetime! Surely I've spent nearly that already in unexpectedly disposable cheap cookware over my adult life? I would also like a yard for a playset and sandbox for my children. Or--laser eye surgery?

In absence of all that--because I'm trying not to be a distasteful materialistic insult to mankind--I will happily take Friday Night Lights on DVD and some nice metallic charcoal nail polish.

By the way, it's Silk Nog, peppermint-mocha coffee creamer, and chocolate-mint-flavored soy milk season. Rejoice!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

School Days for Moms

So yesterday something occurred to me. I realized that, no matter how much "free" time you have with both your kids in school--and for me, that's only two hours, three mornings a week, soon to be reduced to two times a week when I start volunteering at Julia's school on one of those mornings--you will always, always be jam-packed busy for every minute of it.

I don't know about you, but back before my children were old enough to attend nursery school and first grade, I fuzzily envisioned kids-in-school hours as somewhat busy but not a nonstop race to get things done. I mean, when did I get all this done before my kids went to school? Maybe there's more to do now. After all, prior to this year I was not writing an entire nonfiction book (almost done, you all! ALMOST DONE!) and working part-time from home as a freelance writer. There weren't as many school forms and events and fundraisers. Our social circle was somewhat smaller--it expands each year, as kids get more deeply settled into school life, which isn't a bad thing, of course.

As it stands, half the time I end up using preschool mornings to bake muffins for hostess gifts and playdates and school lunchboxes, do laundry, fill out the school book orders and fundraising forms, pick up milk and bread and bananas, roast pie pumpkins and squash from our CSA farm, return phone calls, go to the doctor or dentist, put gas in the car, return library books, buy birthday and Christmas presents, plan dinner, go to Target, clean the garage, cut down the flowerbeds for the winter. About one morning per week I get a chunk of book-writing done. Another hour might be successfully used for freelance writing. VERY occasionally (like once so far this school year) I might scrap everything and gab on the phone to a long-distance friend I rarely get to talk to. But usually I leave to pick Genevieve up from school and think, "Hmmm. There went an entire preschool morning and my to-do list is still a mile long!" And usually I end up sitting on the sofa after the children go to bed, computer on my lap, pounding out my three-per-day freelance pieces, one an hour, until my own bedtime. And reminding myself to find time to work on the book, somehow, somewhere.

I'm not complaining. It's just that I'm a little surprised. Maybe it's different when both your kids are in school for the entire day. I've heard "yes" from some people, and "no" from others. Some say you lose your job in some ways, and wonder what to do all day; some say you'd be amazed at how fast those school hours go and how easily they can be filled with the tasks of family management (let alone a part-time work-at-home job).

How do you spend your days? Are your babes in school yet? And if so, do you ever have time to sit down with a cup of coffee and a magazine? Would you feel guilty about doing so if you did?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grace in Small Things (Amidst Winter Weather)

In the space of less than a week, we went from this (actually, better than this, but I don't have any photos of last week when it was sunny and 68 degrees outside and we went to the park in bare legs and sandals):

to this:

In Minnesota, we call this "weather whiplash." It happens ALL THE TIME here, during our transitional seasons (i.e., fall and spring). But it's not always quite this dramatic. It is, however, ALWAYS completely discombobulating. Every single time. I don't think the human body--or mind--is meant to go from near-70 degrees, green grass, sun, and daylight until 6 p.m. to 30 degrees, 8 inches of snow, and pitch dark at 5 p.m. in the space of mere days.

Yesterday afternoon I invited some friends over after school to come sled our backyard hill with my girls for an hour before we all went off to do dinner and homework. The "big" girls--ages 4, 5, 6, and 6--who all go to preschool and first grade together, ran around the backyard with their sleds while my friend and I sat inside by the big back windows where we could see them, with her 9-month-old baby. It was one of the funniest--and most hair-raising--things I have ever seen. Because even though our hill is not large by any means, the sight of 4 little girls bumbling all over the hill on 4 sleds, constantly narrowly missing each other, our trees, and the concrete birdbath, was like something out of The Keystone Cops. Only with 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds. I laughed an awful lot.

And that's a good way to spend a Monday afternoon, one week after you were all playing at the park in 70-degree temps. Because in Minnesota you embrace the weather and make your own fun. No matter how crazy things seem at the time.

P.S. Don't we have a beautiful rural view from our backyard? (See the above photo of Genevieve on her sled.) Love.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Primer on Winter Running for Moms Who Just Want to Get Out of the House and Away From the Children for a Little Bit

I get a lot of questions about outdoor running in the winter. Mostly along the lines of, "Um..are you crazy?" Or, "What would possess you?" But then after that a lot of them say things like, "Don't you freeze to death?" and "What do you wear?"

Many people don't think it's possible to run outside in snow, ice, and cold--even some people who live where I live in the frozen north (i.e., Minnesota). But most active people up here either continue to exercise outdoors as the season change or, if they retreat inside to work out at the gym, at least are very aware that plenty of people brave the elements. But people who live in warm climes, like dear sweet Rita, are generally flummoxed by the idea of running outside in the snow. Which is very cute.

It's true that I am a hearty believer in being active outdoors even in the winter. I'm not saying I prefer running outside in January; I'm just saying that, as I wrote in a recent health and wellness column for my local newspaper, there is very little weather, even in Minnesota, in which one cannot exercise, as long as you're dressed for it. Last December, just for fun, I ran four miles in a blizzard. It took me over an hour because the snow was mid-calf-high in places. (This was a total anomaly. I only did it because it was warm outside ("warm" being relative), my subdivision is well-populated, well-lit, and safe even in a snowstorm, the snow was really crazy and beautiful, and...I just wanted to see if I could do it.)

The thing is, if you don't run outside in snow and cold but you live in Minnesota, there are a good four to five months per year during which you will either be a.) not running, or b.) running inside on a treadmill. Also known as the "dreadmill." Gah. So boring I could die.

So what do I do? I abandon my beloved woodsy running trail (which is now snowed in) and resign myself to loops around the perimeter of my subdivision, on the streets. I wear tights, fleece, gloves, earbands, hats. Personally I wear fewer layers than you would think--often just a long-sleeved tee under a fleece or lightweight tech-fabric running jacket--because I tend to be overly warm, and there's nothing worse than being overdressed when you're trying to run. Since it's dark by five p.m. and I run in the evenings when my husband is home to do childcare, I wear a reflective vest with a flashing light. (And sometimes, in severest circumstances, a running headlamp.) I carry my cell phone. I have these super warm winter running pants that allow me to run in true cold. My rule of thumb is that if it is above zero (including the windchill), I go. Even so, one day two winters ago the windchill was 1 degree, but the wind was so strong on the rural edge of my neighborhood that I came home with frostbite on my cheek. Oops.

I don't wear special running shoes, although after last winter (A.K.A. The Winter During Which Every Outdoor Hard Surface was Glazed in a Thick Sheet of Ice for Literally Months on End and Yet I Persevered With My Four Times a Week Runs and Nearly Killed Myself or Broke a Bone An Alarming Number of Times, OMG It Was Awful), I have decided this year to either buy some trail shoes (which have thicker, more traction-y soles) or some YakTrax. (Note to self: Uh, better get on that, since it snowed 8 inches yesterday.)

Mostly I just suit up and go. It's kind of unpleasant. Sometimes it's peaceful and beautiful. Either way, I'm ALWAYS glad I went, once I come home. Even the time I got frostbite.

Rita, I don't have many photos of myself in winter running gear. But I do have these two.

Here's me having just come home from a winter run in December 2005, when Julia was 18 months old and we were just about to move from south Minneapolis to our current college town. I didn't know it yet here, but I was newly pregnant with Genevieve at the time:

Here's me in full running glory--if you can call it that--three or four winters ago, near our house. You can tell it's not that cold out because I don't even have a hat on.

So there you go, people who ask me how winter running works, exactly. It's not hard, or complicated. But it is cold.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Time it Pretty Much is Just a Litany of Complaints.

OK, people, the weather person on the radio just said we're supposed to get 4 to 7 inches of snow by tomorrow evening. Keep in mind that on Monday and Tuesday it was 65 to 68 degrees here, and sunny.

Also keep in mind that the last time I went running--TEN DAYS AGO before I fell ill (I love that expression, don't you? It makes being sick sound so romantic and almost pleasant)--it was also about 65 degrees, sunny, and I wore a running skirt. (You don't know about those? They're the latest thing and all the rage. Although I've been wearing this "latest thing" for four years. Supa cute, people!)

Then I got sick--oops, fell ill--and missed out on ALL THE BEST RUNNING WEATHER OF THE YEAR. When next I lace up my running shoes, I will be wearing TIGHTS and GLOVES and an EARBAND. I will very likely be pushing my shivering self out the door with reluctance.

So unfair.

Listen, if you're a runner in the Upper Midwest like I am, you know that truly perfect running weather only occurs a few weeks a year. Perfect fall running weather even less frequently--generally just a string of days in September and October, when the temperature is not hot, not cold, the air is not humid, the wind is not formidable, the hour is not yet dark.

Thanks a lot, rampant germs, for making me miss out on this last blast of highly unusual perfect weather.


Did I mention I think I have pinkeye? And that my husband is not yet home?

I will end with a pleasant thought, just to be less annoying for you. Um....[thinking, thinking]...I am starting to no longer hate my recent haircut. In fact, I think I don't hate it anymore at all. I'm not saying I love it. But I think it looks fine. Also, it's sort of nice to not have the bottom four inches of my hair resemble an old abused paintbrush.

See? I'm capable of doing something other than complain. But keep in mind I've been up by 4 a.m. for six days in a row, so I sort of have a right to complain.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Not Just a Litany of Complaints. Although There is That Too.

So it's been nine days now that I've been sick with my latest version of Miserable Respiratory Infection. I've got antibiotics, I'm getting better, but I've literally gotten up for the day at 4:30 a.m. or earlier for five days straight, due to uncontrollable coughing. This morning it was actually 3:45. Those alert-looking smiles in my post photos yesterday? I have no idea how I pulled those off.

My daughters are sick too, although in recent days their two-weeks-long colds have faded to mere occasional runny noses and night-time coughs. Until Julia got off the bus yesterday afternoon with obvious pinkeye. In both eyes. With goopy discharge (sorry), which means she's not allowed at school right now. (Side note: I get pinkeye in both eyes almost every time I get really sick. So I am just waiting for it now.)

You have to understand, in hearing all this, that my husband is currently traveling for work and I am on my own, parenting-wise. I seem to get deathly ill quite often when my husband travels for work. Usually I start getting sick before he goes, and then he's off, and there I am, shuffling around with Kleenexes in both hands, groaning and coughing like a tuberucular literary heroine while I run children's baths and make grilled cheeses and supervise homework. But especially, keep in mind that, when your spouse is traveling and you're on your own and sick and severely sleep-deprived, you really need your children to go to school when they're supposed to go to school. Damn pinkeye.

Did I mention that Genevieve fell down at the playground on Tuesday before dinner, and banged up her chin just in time for preschool Picture Day yesterday morning? And that all day yesterday she complained of her "teeth hurting just a wittle bit when I pwess down." Uh.... let's just not press down, then, OK? Here, have some more applesauce.

OK, but listen, you all---here's what's interesting. Back in the day--you know, back when that one time I got so sick while Christopher was traveling that I visited the clinic three times, availed myself of the emergency help of the doctor husband of a friend to procure a prescription for antibiotics on a Sunday night when my babies were in bed asleep and I had no way to go anywhere to get any help--oh, and get this: this friend's husband was actually in a hotel in California at the time--and eventually I ended up in the ER on a Saturday night due to an adverse reaction to a tetanus shot caused by my antitbiotics--well, back during those times, dealing with protracted illness and sick kids and injuries and Picture Day and double pinkeye and not sleeping past 4 a.m. for five days straight would have practically killed me. I mean, it did practically kill me. But that's because my daughters were two and four, or one and three, or not even one and not even three. And parenting two babies, or two toddlers, by yourself for days on end with no help and with sickness to boot, is much, much harder than parenting two young-but-slightly-older children under those circumstances. Which is a revelation, to some degree.

This time around, despite all these challenges, and the fact that even as I type this I feel as if my head is going to explode--seriously, antibiotics, can't you do better than that?--this week I've still written three freelance articles a day for my part-time writing job, for example. Whereas in years past all I would have been capable of doing after kid-bedtime at night is sack myself out in front of some mindless TV.

Don't think I haven't been doing that too, though.

Also, I'm not promising there have been daily showers going on.

But at least I don't have pinkeye, you all. Yet!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hip Happening Boots

Last week my friend Lori in New York was asking for photos of my new boots. I had been rhapsodizing about them on Facebook, about how normally it's not my nature to engage in retail therapy or brazen materialism, but that these boots have brought me great joy. I saw them over the summer in the Title Nine catalog, and drooled over them for months. They were expensive. But on sale. But still expensive.

At the end of August I got a freelance-writing job that is giving me my own income for the first time in 4-1/2 years. For the most part this money is easing our family life a little bit by paying off credit card bills with charges on them for groceries and the doctor, and by providing cash for things like my daughters' gymnastics class and the occasional school expense. But I have also used it for fall clothes and makeup and salon appointments and face cream. It's heavenly to not have to feel horribly guilty about paying for those things.

I rewarded myself with these boots awhile back when I met a personal fitness goal I'd been working toward all summer. (I ended up finding them for less at another site, though I do still love Title Nine.) They are so, so worth it. They make me inordinately happy. I've realized that even (relatively) broke stay-at-home moms deserve a little materialism on occasion. Whoever said money doesn't buy happiness has never gone without little luxuries for years on end, let alone wondered how to pay the doctor bill.

So here, Lori, are the photos Genevieve snapped of me earlier today, boots and all.

She's a pretty good photographer for a four-year-old, isn't she?

Oh, and please ignore the terribly ugly corner of our playroom in which this impromptu photo session took place.

Remember How I Wanted a Nice Surprise?

Is there anything more boring than hearing about how sick someone else is? They're all, wah wah wah I'm so sick, OMG, I feel so terrible, and you're all, Yeah, yeah, who hasn't been there?

So I'll skip all that stuff about how all day yesterday I kept thinking I was getting better and didn't need those antibiotics after all, and then by 8 p.m. I would have sold my whole head just to get its painful throbbing self off my body. And how I woke up at 4:00 a.m. again today because I could not stop coughing to save my life. Seriously, if I had been in hiding from someone out to do harm to me, and them walking past without seeing me depended on my not making a sound, I still could not have stopped coughing. Yikes! That's a creepy analogy.

So since all that is horribly boring, I will tell you something exciting instead. Remember how last year I got an essay published in an anthology, and you would have thought I'd won the lottery with how excited and thrilled I was? And then do you remember that I found that another essay I'd written had been accepted for another anthology? But then nothing happened with that second one for a really long time?

Well, yesterday I got my copy-edited manuscript back from the book's editor for my review. Which means things are moving ahead toward book publication.

Exciting! It's happening! (Again!)

(Side note: I wrote this second essay when my daughters were two and four, and it's about my life back then; it's really odd and interesting and sort of funny to read it now, as if I'm looking into some time capsule and hearing an old voice--one of the harried mom with two toddlers. I'm not saying I don't feel harried plenty of times now too, but there is a huge difference between life with two toddlers and life with a first-grader and a preschooler. Number one: no more diapers. Number two: No! More! Diapers!)

The anthology's title has been changed--these things happen during the publishing process--and a launch date has not been officially set, though the publisher is considering around Mother's Day next spring. I'll keep you posted. Tentative title = "Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood." Now doesn't that sound like something you'd like to read?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Blah Blah Blah Sick Blah Blah.

I'm so disappointed to be sick when my girls are off school. We had to cancel a previously-planned road trip today to visit a friend in another town who just had a new baby, and even though the weather here has been AMAZING (we're talking 60+ degrees and sun, in NOVEMBER), I haven't been able to take my daughters to the park or enjoy the backyard with them at all. It has just about killed me that I've had to sit out my last few "running days"--I normally run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays)--because these could likely be the last nice days we have here until next April. (Or May!) Do you know how rare it is to be able to run with bare legs and no hat on a wooded trail in November in Minnesota? There have been years when it has snowed by now! Plus, we turned the clocks back on Saturday night, and now it's dark at the time I used to run in the woods, which means from now until spring I can pretty much say goodbye to my normal (beloved) running route. (I run the paved streets of my subdivision in the winter, where there are lights.) You can't run in real woods in the dark. I missed my last two chances to do my usual route. Boo!

In other news, Julia may have learned to ride a two-wheeler for real (again). (Some of you know that we have had several failed attempts in the past.) Can it be true? Only time will tell, but things are looking good. Thanks, Rita, for the tip about taking off the pedals for awhile first. Crazy, but it seems to work!

I would really love to be able to write something interesting and witty about being sick, parenting, going to Urgent Care at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, or the upcoming holiday season which is already on my mind thanks to toy catalogs and Christmas commercials and pumpkin pie recipes in magazines. But I'm afraid my muddled sick brain is not up to the task. Maybe some of you could write a witty or interesting comment, instead.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

November. Blech.

I'm sick.

If you've read me for awhile, you know that I don't get sick often, but when I do, I really overachieve. It's like every fiber of my physical being is intent on winning the Most Sick Award. Oh, and also? I get violently ill from multi-symptom cold and flu medications. Something in them makes my stomach decide to attempt escape from the rest of my body. So I pretty much suck it up and power through. And take a lot of Advil for my pounding head, aching ears, and flaming-raw throat.

Ah, November. Not only is it the month in which fall transitions to winter and we turn the clocks back, thus plunging ourselves into darkness at the ungodly hour of When Shannon Runs, but now it's also plagued by illness.

No, I will not be running tonight. Not because of the chill wind or the imminent darkness, but because I will be lucky to be able to drag myself through the day with Genevieve, let alone go outside and run six miles on a rough and hilly trail. Um, no. However, this is making me even more disappointed, because normally my runs are some of the high points of my week. Plus there's all that Halloween candy to work off. Yes, I lost 15 pounds awhile ago, but my body has recently decided to reclaim five of them. It might have something to do with chocolate consumption. But I don't approve.

OK then! Have you had enough of me feeling sorry for myself?

I need a nice surprise. Anyone have one for me?

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Sweet-and-Salty Caramel-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

What's that? You say you want to know how to prepare pumpkin seeds in such a way as to transform a wholesome healthy snack into something you may not be able to stop eating until you've consumed an entire pumpkin's worth? I can give you that!

Sweet-and-Salty Caramel-Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Fresh pumpkin seeds
3 T. butter, melted
3 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Generous pinch of salt, plus more for sprinkling

Take the seeds from however many pumpkins you've scooped out. Wash them thoroughly in cold water to remove all pumpkin flesh and strings (as best you can). Spread in single layer on baking sheet or counter to dry. (Overnight is good.)

Once dry, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine clean dry pumpkin seeds, melted butter, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. Mix well. Spread in single layer (or a rough approximation of such) on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with some extra salt if you're smitten with that yummy sweet-and-salty combination, as I am.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until seeds appear golden brown and smell caramel-y, stirring halfway through. WATCH TIME CLOSELY. You may be unsure that they are done when they are actually done, and burning is fairly easy to do. I baked mine for 16 minutes.

Let cool, then break into smaller chunks and store in tightly sealed container. Or eat the whole thing right then and there. But I'm not saying that's good for you.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Obligatory Halloween Photo for Grandparents and "Auntie" Veronica

Not the best picture in the world, but the only one I got---Little Red Riding Hood and a jack o'lantern:

Both girls are sick with colds and were in kind of a tired/sickly/crabby haze even before we went out to trick-or-treat (above), but in the end it all worked out. I have to tell you, Little Red Riding Hood = easiest costume in the world. It's like the Go-To Cute Costume For The Lazy Mom. A red hooded cape and a basket. That's all you need. Score! Keep it in mind for next year.

In other news, I keep forgetting to tell you all that there have been no further sightings of the snake, nor of its hypothetical 60 babies. THANK GOD.

Also: I'm still heartbroken about having to cut off all my hair. Gah. Ugh. Horrible.

And finally, I'm sort of glad it's a new month. I mean, I wish it were a warmer month, such as May or September, but last week was SUPER BUSY and I let quite a few things slide--book-writing (didn't do any), my strength-training workouts (boring), nutrition (cheese curls, frozen custard). I need a fresh start and to work harder at some of my goals (health, well-being), and a Monday that's also the first of the month seems like a good time to do that.

I will leave you with a quote from my 6-year-old as she rode home from our farm on Friday afternoon after school, wearing (along with her tights and jumper) Hello Kitty rain boots plus a mummy tattoo and her first Silly Bandz bracelet procured at her first-grade Halloween party:

Julia: I feel cool. And I don't mean cool like cold.

We should all feel so cool.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You Think You Don't Care About My Hair. But I Know You Really Do.

Why no, the fact that it is suddenly apparently winter and soon we'll turn the clocks back and then it will be dark at 5 p.m. and last night I resigned myself and allowed my hairstylist to cut two MORE inches off my hair in order to save it from total destruction, bringing the total to FOUR INCHES IN TWO MONTHS and resulting in the most boringest of boring shoulder-length-long-layers-mom-haircut, no--that is NOT helping my mood, thank you for asking!

(Here's a tip for you: if you're a delicate Scandinavian with the requisite sensitive and fragile super-blonde hair, don't grow it really long, skip hair trims, spend every day outdoors in a harsh climate so that it dries out and becomes even more vulnerable, have babies and experience hormonal changes which alter the structure and texture of your hair forever, nor use any kind of heat-styling tool to do your hair in the mornings. In other words, just shave your head and be done with it.)

On the plus side, my hairstylist complimented my little-extra-weight loss and my outfit, and my six-year-old said, when she saw my short(er) hair in the morning, "I like it even better this way, Mama! You always look pretty." (And I didn't even encourage her to say that. Isn't she the sweetest thing?)

Also on the plus side: playdate this morning with two of my favorite friends. Also, the 60 mph category 3 hurricane (seriously) winds of the past two-days-long wind- and rain-storm have waned. To, you know, only 30 or 40 mph. I'm kidding. It's really 26. AND the snow that fell didn't stick, nor last, nor continue to fall.

Winter, weather, haircuts, playdates. Keeping it real, people! And probably a little boring. (Sorry!)

No, I'm not posting a picture of my new hair. Instead I am posting a photo of
the way I wish my hair still looked. Because I like to torture myself that way.

Old School

You know your month is busy when you have to write things down in the margins.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I Wore a Parka to School Drop-Off Today. With a Hood. Also a Winter Scarf. And Gloves.

OK, um, it is snowing right now. Also, the winds have been hurricane-strong (i.e. 50-60 mph) for almost 24 hours. For anyone keeping track, six days ago it was 70 degrees and I was wearing a sundress. OK then.

In other news, this is what my mom had to say about the amount of homework I had when I was in first grade:

"In thinking some more about it, I really think homework as such didn't start until third grade when you went to school. Which is as it should still be! That's plenty of time!! Kids need time to PLAY and just to BE!"

Just to clarify, I HAVE A PH.D. So, you know, I'm pretty sure that the fact that I didn't have homework at age six didn't do me any harm.