Friday, April 29, 2011

I Was On The Radio! And I Made Sense and Didn't Say Anything Embarrassing.

This morning I was the featured guest on the show Art Zany, on my town's local radio station, talking with host Paula Granquist about the book Torn, my essay in the book, the reading I'll be doing next week with Katy Read, and life as a writer-mom. For those of you who aren't local, or who are but missed the show, I'll put up a link to the interview as soon as it's available. I had a great time and Paula and I had a fun and interesting conversation. (Art Zany will also be re-broadcast on KYMN 1080 AM Northfield tomorrow morning at 9.)

Royal Wedding Plans

Julia, sighing happily this morning after watching Prince William and Princess Catherine emerge onto the palace balcony in their wedding finery:

"Some day I'm going to marry an expensive prince."

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Wonder What Color the Girls' Bedroom Will Turn Out to Be?

Painters started on our house yesterday. Last summer we had the entire common area of both floors painted--the kitchen, dining area, living room, entry, etc.--and now, phase two, we're having two of our three bathrooms plus the girls' bedroom done.

This house is ten years old and still had the builder's grade FLAT paint on the walls. If you're a mom, I probably don't have to tell you about the deadly combination of flat paint and small children. You can't scrub flat paint. Enough said.

Awhile back I painted our guest bedroom by myself. While not a mistake, it took four or five weekends (yes--to do one small bedroom) because--oh yeah!--I'm a full-time at-home mom and my children were three and five at the time. Although it turned out fine, I decided not long afterward that time is money. Meaning, the money I pay the nice housepainters to come and do my house is perhaps the best money I could ever spend. I earned this money doing freelance writing for a job that is falling apart on me, and I'm glad I at least saved enough to pay the housepainters to do a job that I'm not really qualified for (evident by how many times I accidentally dipped my hair in the paint the last time around).

Because I was busy parenting/writing/pitching my book to literary agents/being miserable and overwhelmed by an endless winter, I didn't even test out the paint chips I selected by buying a sample and putting it on the wall to evaluate. I just went by the chips, which we all know aren't all that reliable. But, though it may seem incomprehensible to some of you decorator-types (Rita, you know who you are), I figured it wouldn't matter all that much what the colors ended up looking like. The bathrooms are small and need new towels anyway. I just wanted them painted.

Which is how I ended up with a blue bathroom that I was completely sure was going to end up gray.

Uh...oh well!

But more compelling is the fact that this paint is the first stage in the process of transforming my daughters' room from "nursery" to "big-girls' room." Once the paint is up, and I can locate some more money, I need to order them matching twin beds and new mattresses and nightstands, and coordinate matching bedding and little lamps and a bookcase.

It's not as if the crib and changing table haven't been gone for a long time; they have. But Genevieve still sleeps in the toddler bed converted from her crib, and that crib is the one Julia slept in as a baby too. It still has the crib-bedding dust ruffle on it, the one I picked out for my baby-shower registry in spring 2004. That was a long time ago, I'm suddenly realizing. Julia turns seven in just over a month.

So, as always, what may seem at first consideration simply a mundane task in the life of a family--repainting a bedroom--really carries a much larger meaning. Of course.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'll Just Be Over Here Doing the 30 Day Shred...

So...last autumn, back when I first got my freelance writing job and was actually bringing in a nice chunk of "extra" income each month--before my freelance writing job became inconsistent and my extra income shrank to a mere drop in a bucket of family expenses, that is--I promised my girls that this summer we'd get a family pool pass.

In my town, family passes to the popular, gorgeous, new(ish) city pool practically require a second mortgage. We've never gotten one before, because a.) see part about second mortgage, and b.) I knew we'd never go to the pool often enough to make the investment pay off. But after last summer, when the girls and I spent every Friday at the pool, paying a hefty sum for three individual passes to get in every week, I realized that if we could afford it this year, we'd probably get our money's worth out of a family pass. Because how nice would it be to have an unlimited pass and be able to go to the pool anytime, for as short a time as you want, even just to pass a quick half-hour during a cranky time of day, without feeling like you needed to spend at least two or three hours there to make up for the exorbitant fee you just paid to get in for the day? If you have a pass, you don't have to worry about it. You already paid your exorbitant fee; you can come and go as you please!

All our friends have family passes. The girls knew exactly what it meant to have one. They've been excited for months.

So, even though my freelance gig is sort of drying up, and we probably can't truly afford a family pass this year either, I can't go back on it now. I'm buying the family pass, even if it has to go on my credit card. And, in anticipation of spending nearly every day at the city pool this summer, I started shopping online for another swimsuit. One swimsuit worked fine when I only went to the pool once a week; but I have a feeling I'm going to need a back-up this year.

Old Navy was having a sale, and inspired by this post, in which Susan shocks everyone by buying a bikini, I actually ordered a bunch of two-piece separates to try on at home. Which is sheer madness. Not the at-home part; the TWO-PIECE part. But what the heck? It won't hurt to try, and I wanted to catch the sale.

And now my swimsuits are set to arrive in the mail tomorrow, and I am moved to ask you: WHAT KIND OF MASOCHISTIC IDIOT orders two-piece swimsuits at such a time as to guarantee delivery mere days after an orgy of Easter candy over-consumption, and in the throes of post-winter flabitude? When the past six months of continuous cold weather have driven one to misery-induced snacking and bad-weather-induced skipped runs? I ask you?

My daughters better be grateful for that pool pass, that's all I've got to say about it.

Oh, and also? If you see the FedEx guy, would you mind asking him to hold my package for a few weeks? I'm not quite ready for it...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Need a Sister Wife.

I find it hilarious and deeply ironic that I just got called to do a radio interview tomorrow morning about Torn... and the topic of motherhood and work-life-family balance--at the same time I'm supposed to be home dealing with the house-painters coming to start a three-day interior painting job at our house, who are set to arrive at the same time I'm supposed to be driving two children to school.

Hmmm, do you think I'm going to have anything wise to say about motherhood and work-life-family balance? Kill me.

The List Omits "Ate Too Many Jelly Beans and Reese's Snack-Size Peanut Butter Eggs."

I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off lately--getting up at 5 a.m. and still not completing everything on my to-do list each day--and it's driving me just a little bit crazy. I'm a full-time at-home mom; I'm a housewife; my job is never-ending and because it's my full-time, primary work, it includes things like volunteering at school and buying May basket supplies and taking the children around to deliver them on May Day. Contracting with the house painters and planning all the birthdays. Arranging the CSA membership and registering for summer soccer. You know. Maybe you're a full-time at-home mom and housewife too.

But when you try to combine full-time at-home parenting with part-time paid work--even if it's freelance work-from-home like mine is--you quickly run into the reality that there are only 24 hours in a day. And if you're busy taking care of children and cooking meals and doing the grocery shopping and volunteering at the elementary school during the days, you're going to have to do your paid work at night. And on the weekends. When--oh, right!--you're also still a mom and housewife, still cooking, still grocery shopping, still running (back) to Target to get May Day supplies.

And did I mention I'm doing the 30 Day Shred like a totally insane person? Who has time to exercise every single day, I ask you? Oh, yeah--someone whose city pool opens in six weeks. (I was wrong about the date! It opens a week earlier than I'd thought! Frightening.)


I didn't get any freelance work done yesterday. And since my checking account is dwindling and I therefore feel anxious and stressed about not getting any freelance work done yesterday, I decided to make a list of what I actually DID do yesterday, thinking it would make me feel a little better and a little more productive. So here goes.

Woke, fed, dressed, and groomed children for school
Fed cat
Made beds
Dressed and groomed myself
Put away clean laundry
Spent at least an hour trying to figure out how to operate my new cell phone (gah! kill me)
Swept the floor
Brought younger daughter to preschool
Volunteered in older daughter's first-grade classroom
Tended to book publicity tasks
Sent out a book proposal query to (yet another) literary agent
Did 3 loads of laundry
Picked younger child up from preschool
Made lunch and fed daughter
Played Dora Memory board game with daughter
Fell asleep for an hour during daughter's naptime--OOPS! Probably should not include that....
Discussed summer soccer with friend to coordinate registration for our children
Took younger daughter outside to ride bike, play ring-toss, and do sidewalk chalk
Met older daughter's school bus
Fed daughters snack
Unpacked/went through older daughter's school backpack and dealt with school paperwork
Took daughters to park
Supervised half of older daughter's homework
Prepared and served dinner
Trimmed children's nails
Read daughters a chapter in Little House on the Prairie
Helped older daughter pick out school outfit for next day
Spent another hour inputting contacts into my new cell phone (kill me)
Exercised (30 Day Shred, day 8)
Packed older daughter's school lunch, water bottle, and school snack
E-mailed with housepainters and book publicity people
Made shopping list for next day, including May Day supplies and stuff for child's field trip bag-lunch later this week

As you can see "freelance work" is nowhere on that list. But I suddenly feel a little better about what I get done in a day. And also a little pessimistic about ever getting a whole lot of paid work done while I'm also a full-time at-home mom.

Maybe I need to hire a wife?

Monday, April 25, 2011


A writer from my town's local community website interviewed me last week about my essay in the book Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, my experiences as a writer-mom, and the reading I'm doing next week with fellow writer Katy Read at Monkey See Monkey Read in Northfield, MN. Here's the interview; enjoy, and please come to the reading if you live nearby!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Going Overboard

Last night I was up after the girls' bedtime, filling the Easter baskets. I had so much stuff I was forced to save some for next year. (Not candy--other things. I know candy doesn't last a whole year. Not least because it would end up in my craw long before then.)

I don't usually go overboard with gifts. Quite the opposite, I usually follow (and preach) a philosophy devoted to modest expectations. Setting the bar a little low, if you will. Because, you see, personally I don't like consumerism; I feel uncomfortable with too many things (though you wouldn't know it by my recent drooling over the perfect handbag and the fact that I am the new owner of an iPhone, good Lord, help me, it's so complicated, I don't even know how to answer a call). I detest clutter; I aspire to simplicity.

Well...simplicity plus salon hair services and expensive skinny jeans and cute running gear.

And setting the bar low with small children is really smart; when they're tiny, a pack of sidewalk chalk makes them happy, so why buy them an American Girl doll? They'll be plenty of time for that later, when they won't be happy with a pack of sidewalk chalk. You know what I'm saying?

So usually Easter baskets in our house have a little candy, some--yes!--sidewalk chalk, stickers, things like that. Maybe one larger outdoor spring/summer toy like a bouncey ball or a jump rope.

But this year things got a little bit away from me. First, long long ago, before anyone should really be thinking about Easter, I happened upon the most adorable china mugs and bowls in the grocery store Easter section (of all places). Two dollars each--white, with little yellow or pink chicks on the outside, and the corresponding solid color on the inside. I bought a pink set--bowl plus mug--for Julia, and a yellow set for Genevieve. Then bought some candy with which to fill them, thinking of how I'd nestle the bowls amongst the Easter grass in their baskets, settle the mugs inside the bowls. Then I bought a chocolate bunny to sit in the center of each mug, surrounded by the loose jelly beans and chocolate foil-wrapped eggs. Then later on at Target I picked up some egg-shaped sidewalk chalk. And a packet or two of stickers. Fine. More than enough.

Time passed.

I forgot I'd bought the chalk and the stickers.

A friend gave me two giant Easter sticker books and two packs of twelve Easter pencils, because she had a surplus.

I went to Target again and saw butterfly-shaped sidewalk chalk in the dollar section: adorable! Bought it. Happened upon the cutest thing ever, not even in the Easter section: single-serve packs of cheddar crackers, but instead of goldfish, they were chickadee-shaped. Come on; are you kidding me? Who could resist?? Bought two bags.

Then Genevieve came with me one day to the pharmacy and spied a little teddy bear with silky soft fur, on sale even, and hugged him and stood below me and gazed up at me with the sweetest face imaginable and said, "PLEASE, MAMA. PLEASE." And this child never, ever asks for things in stores.

So later on I went back and bought two of the bears, to sit in the chick-printed china mugs. Because I had forgotten about the chocolate bunnies.

You see where this is going.

My daughters were thrilled to death on Easter morning. Such joy; those bears! The chickie mug, with which to drink their milk! The chickie bowl! The chickadee crackers! The pencils and jelly beans and butterfly-shaped chalk! The chocolate bunnies and foil-wrapped eggs! Heaven.

And upstairs, in the hidden drawer, I have other chalk, and more pencils, and two giant sticker books, for next Easter.

Someone remind me, oh, about next March or so? (Please, I'm begging you; someone REMIND ME.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Susan Gives Me Handbag Style Advice

Susan Wagner over at's the working closet blog is writing this week about me and my longstanding quest for the perfect mom handbag. Check it out! Oh, and thanks a million, Susan! I LOVE that gray hobo bag!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Personal Trainers

Excerpts from the running commentary that accompanied my workout this evening, as my four- and six-year-olds joined in while I did day five of Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred:

Why does that teacher look mad?

My arms are already strong. How do you make your hands stronger?

This does not feel relaxing.

When do we get to sit down?

Is this "Friday Night Lights"?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Selling the Strollers

Last weekend a friend of mine let me bring our three strollers to her moms' group garage sale to sell them there. Which reminds me, back when I was pregnant and doing things like thinking about strollers, I could not imagine owning more than one stroller. Truly, I was baffled. It seemed like the most egregious example of upper-middle-class-parent excessive consumerism. What would you need more than one stroller for?

Oh, long-ago pregnant me. You were so silly. And ignorant.

We had a single stroller, a jogging stroller (also single), and a double stroller. Because when you have babies two years apart, you need a double. After already owning the single. And if you're a runner like me, you may want a jogger. (If I'd really been lucky, I'd have owned a double jogger, too. Alas, ours was a single, so didn't get much use after 2006.) A long time ago, we even had an old secondhand umbrella stroller, because those can be nice to keep stowed in the trunk of your car for those times when you suddenly need a bare-bones stroller for something unexpected or brief--a quick zip into the mall, for example, or walking through the airport. But I didn't keep that one for long. We never really needed it.

But still. Three strollers. All very necessary.

I knew I'd be selling the strollers this spring. Genevieve's four, and though she's small, she'll be five in August and goes to kindergarten in the fall. That pretty much takes her out of the stroller-riding category. And Julia's almost seven. Seven-year-olds never ride in strollers. But it was hard to let them go. Even last summer, when the girls were just-turned-six and almost-four, we used the double a few times. Not for Julia, really, but to go on super-long treks just for fun, to a far-away park or on an after-walk picnic, when the distance was just way too far for three-year-old legs, and I could use the spare seat for all our gear--our picnic lunch and picnic blanket and water bottles and sunscreen and sand toys. The double stroller was like my pack animal. Genevieve would walk or scooter as long as she could, then when her legs gave out I'd plop her in the stroller and we'd go on. I think once or twice I gave in and let Julia climb in when it was really hot and we'd gone a long ways, then I pushed about 75 pounds of children plus the weight of the stroller and the gear the rest of the way. I had nice muscles.

We're done with strollers. We're not having any more babies, and our babies are four and six, turning five and seven this summer. And I sold all three in a matter of minutes, for a good price, to moms who will get good use out of them I am sure.

But I still teared up when I yanked the last one from our SUV and rolled it into the church last Friday morning to be tagged and parked by a table of for-sale goods. It felt so light as I steered it through the church parking lot and up to the door, empty of passengers, cargo-less.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Not Following the Rules

Why yes, there IS snow on the ground where I live, thank you for asking! Are you asking about my sanity, too? Because that has been reduced to a tiny shred, a shred that is frantically thinking about moving to Oklahoma City or San Antonio. Swear to God, the only thing holding me back is the scorpions they have down there.

However. There are not six inches of snow on the ground, as once predicted. There is a slight dusting of snow on the ground. Although keep in mind, THAT DOES NOT MAKE IT ALL RIGHT. It is April 20th, after all. And it is 33 degrees out. With a 70% chance of more snow today.

I said to my husband yesterday that what really makes this weather egregious (and by that I meant, what really makes this weather cause me to want to sob, all day, every day) is that every week that the weather is like this--cold, meaning NOT WARM, not spring-like, not comfortable to be lounging around outside with small children in--is one less week before this weather starts ALL OVER AGAIN. And truly, only a mom who spends all day every day with young children--picture the long, dark, frigid months of stir-crazy-making, mostly-indoor play; picture the marathon of bundling up in snowpants and parkas and boots for every errand, every walk to the bus stop; picture the times when playing outside in the snow lasts for a shorter time than it took to dress them to go out into the snow--really knows what that means.

OMG. O...M...G.

Yesterday Genevieve stood at the window looking at the snowflakes pelting through the sky and yelled, "Winter, it's NOT YOUR TURN anymore!" No freaking kidding.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mark Your Calendars for Upcoming Book Reading!

Announcing a local reading and book signing for Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood.

If you live in the greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, join fellow contributing writer Katy Read and me at Monkey See Monkey Read in Northfield, MN on Wed. May 4th at 7:30 p.m. Katy and I will be reading our essays about our crazy stay-at-home mom lives, and hopefully enjoying a lively audience discussion and Q & A about the challenges and conflicts faced by all kinds of moms struggling to balance work, career, babies, family, marriage and our sanity.

Come early to get a good seat, buy a copy of the book at the store, and stay for refreshments afterward. And be sure to say hi!

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

Yes, I started the 30 Day Shred yesterday. Strangely, even just doing day one made me feel better. Of course it helps to have comrades-in-arms. You don't want to have to think you're doing all those push-ups on your own.

So it's day two of the Shred, and because the pool is still just around the corner even though a snowstorm is currently on its way (kill me), and because Susan has inspired me by BUYING A BIKINI OMG, I'm going to work on cleaning up my diet for the next 30 days as well. As in, no more evening snacking. Extra seven pounds, be gone!

But, I can't leave you all out in the cold now can I? So since I will not be eating it, I feel compelled to share with you the recipe I made for my husband's birthday last week, because it is so good you will think you've died and gone to heaven as you eat it, and yet it's so easy anyone can make it.

This is a chocolate chip cookie pie. No, not a pie-shaped giant chocolate chip cookie. A pie that is made from sort of a chocolate chip cookie dough/batter. Even though it sounds really good, it tastes even better. There are no words. Totally addicting. I have been thinking it for a week.

A note: this recipe is from Babble's Family Kitchen blog. However, I substantially reduced the baking time. My pie was deeply golden brown, and yet the inside (when warm) was still a little gooey, but in a good way. Trust me, it was fabulous. BUT then we chilled the leftovers in the fridge overnight and had the pie the next night too, when it had firmed into a dense rich chocolatey buttery treat so divine I almost want to advise you to chill the pie first, then eat it. Except it's so good fresh and warm you'll want to try it that way too.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
8 to 12 servings

1 unbaked pre-made pastry pie crust
2 large eggs
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 sticks softened butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Spray or oil a 9-inch pie pan and unfold your piecrust into the pan, pressing firmly.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy. Add in the two sugars, flour, and salt, and beat until totally smooth. Add in softened butter and beat until smooth again. Then stir chocolate chips in by hand.

Pour batter into pie pan and bake for about 45 minutes, until deep golden brown. If the center looks a little un-set, that's okay. Let pie sit and cool a bit before cutting and serving with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Store leftovers in fridge and enjoy chilled the next day. You will probably not be able to stop at just one piece.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Once You're a Parent

Touching and true quote found on a Facebook friend's page today, by the author of the book Marley and Me, John Grogan:

"They {the kids} defined our life now, and while parts of us missed the leisurely vacations, lazy Saturdays reading novels, and romantic dinners that lingered late into the night, we had come to find our pleasures in new ways- in spilled applesauce and tiny nose prints on windowpanes and the soft symphony of bare feet padding down the hallway at dawn. Even on the worst days, we usually managed to find something to smile over, knowing by now what every parent sooner or later figures out, that these wondrous days of early parenthood- of diapered bottoms and first teeth and incomprehensible jabber- are but a brilliant, brief flash in the vastness of an otherwise ordinary lifetime."

Can Jillian Save Me?

The snow melted over the weekend, although it never got past the low forties in temperature. Today on the radio they're talking about the winter storm that is heading our way tomorrow and Wednesday. I'm not joking.

My part-time freelance writing job has become unpredictable, even as the price of gas and groceries goes through the roof.

There are other sources of stress and anxiety of course. Life is full of them, right?

Unfortunately, I react to endless (literally!) winter, constant sickness (yes I have another cold), and money/work/career stress by attempting to drown my misery in sugar. Guess what? This coping strategy does not exactly work. I know; big surprise, isn't it.

I don't know about you, but when my life is a chaotic mess of stress, depressing weather, and too much ice cream, I like to throw myself into some sort of project I can actually control. And if that project makes the prospect of the city pool re-opening in exactly eight weeks a little less terrifying, all the better. Which is why I am--for real this time--starting the 30 Day Shred over again, beginning today. With Rita (who talked me into it, basically) and Lori (who has already been doing it but is going to START OVER in order to do it with me, how's that for a friend?).

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Plus Three of Us Came Down With "Winter" Colds. Winter Can Suck It.

It snowed last night. I mean REAL snow--the kind that is now blanketing the landscape and frosting the evergreen trees at the top of our backyard tree like a Christmas card. I want to kill someone. So does my 6-year-old daughter, who wrote a note to "Mother Nature" that says,

"All right, Mother Nature! I've had it with you! Winter needs to get out of here! right NOW!!! I want to hula hoop! You're MEAN!"

My note would have used adult language, but basically, yeah--what she said.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Now = Now

Last night the girls and I finished Little House in the Big Woods. I had been reading them a chapter each evening, as often as we were able--the old paperback copy from my own childhood, the one with the lovely Garth Williams drawings. I was always planning to read the Little House books to my girls, eventually, but started them now strictly on the basis of this post by Catherine Newman--my favorite mama-writer of all time. Once I had read her bittersweet description of the last scene in the book, there was no waiting, for me; plus the girls had been asking about it for a long time. The paperback was on the bookshelf in the playroom; they'd seen it and had been waiting to be old enough. I don't know if four and six is really old enough, but we've enjoyed it.

And, you know, she is so right--that last scene of the book, Laura snuggled under the quilts in her trundle bed, the winter coming, listening to Pa play his fiddle and sing "Auld Lang Syne" softly in the dark, and thinking about how that moment is now; it will always be now, and now can never be long ago-- Well, Catherine Newman is right; it's very zen. It's kind of amazing, really, and it's truly lovely. I highly recommend it.

And what about THIS now? Well, at the risk of being called negative, it could be a little better, actually. I could do without the terrible weather today. I could do without the forecast of snow. I could do with a little more zen, and a little less everything else.

But I won't go into all that now. There's always something better around the corner, anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Last Payment

Today I made my last preschool tuition payment. Ever. (We pay a month in advance, and nursery school ends early, in May.)

I can hardly believe the baby is almost done (forever) with preschool. Remember when I agonized whether to send her, at age three? And now here it is two years later and she's just about done.

This was Genevieve on her first day of preschool in the Threes class, two autumns ago:

She was just a baby back then, wasn't she? Look at that baby face.

This was Genevieve last autumn, on her first day in the Fours class:

She cried shortly after this picture was taken. She didn't want to go.

This is Genevieve now:

With Julia, at the elementary school literacy festival last week.

really gets me is the difference in her face between the first day of preschool at age three and the first day of her second year at age four. It's like the baby-ness fell right off her during that year, shed like a skin. I didn't notice it when it was happening.

I guess pretty soon I will be shedding my own "preschool mom" skin. After four years of being one, it's hard to believe this role is almost over for me. You never go back to these early years, you know. Once you're done with toddlers and preschoolers, never again is your life defined by strollers and naps and playgroups and preschool pick-up and that slot between 9 and 11:30 a.m. It's all different after that.

But I'll have a little more money in my back account every month now. I'm sure it will go for driving lessons and movie money in another blink of an eye.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Read. Write. Draw. Repeat.

My older daughter is cerebral. She prefers to sit and read chapter books over doing just about anything else there is. Well, maybe draw elaborate pictures that illustrate events from her chapter books: Ma and Laura and Mary making cheese, for example, the morning after we read the chapter in Little House in the Big Woods about cheese-making. (Which, by the way--ugh. I realize that pioneer life was hard. But did I really need to know how cheese was made, with the lining of the young calf's stomach and all that?)

But mostly she likes to sit as still as possible, and either read, think, or pretend.

This is wonderful in one respect; who doesn't want a brilliant, imaginative, curious, academically-advanced child? That's the way she is, the way she was born, and she has many talents that involve sitting still. However, her intrinsically sedentary personality also proves a challenge. Because, as we all know, children need to move their bodies also. They need exercise. They need fresh air. They need to practice physical skills so that they one day learn to ride a bike (please, God, please with the bike! someday! before high school!), and throw a ball, and catch it, and swim. So I encourage her every day to play outside, to run around, to be active. I model physical fitness to her so she accepts it as a normal, everyday part of life. We have a T-ball set and a mini-tramp and a plastic slide and little soccer nets and balls. We have hula hoops and jump ropes. We have bikes and scooters and ring-toss games, and ice skates and sleds in the winter.

Most every afternoon after school, when she's had her snack and done the first part of her homework, I send her outside to play with our next-door neighbor girl. They love to play together and this has been a great way to promote more activity; Julia is always up for running around with her buddy. So yesterday when she went out to play, I stepped into the yard for a moment to pull the soccer nets from their place behind the patio set and stand them up in the yard, with a ball nearby. Hoping they'd run and kick the ball for awhile. You know. Move their legs, be a little active. Then I went inside to finish making dinner and wrap up a quick freelance piece.

A little while later I glanced outside and what did I see? Julia and the neighbor girl, sitting happily in the grass at the top of the hill with our soccer nets, using them as walls so they could play house. Pretend-cooking and tending to babies and supervising pretend-children's homework.

And who knows, maybe making cheese.

I love that girl.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Welcome, Monday

So I already fell off the Shred wagon.

I started the 30 Day Shred, as previously discussed, on Friday. The trouble is, I'm also a runner. And I'm not Lori. So, for me, running a lot and doing the Shred is a very hard combination.* I was able to run five miles and do the Shred on both Friday and Saturday. But couple that with two VERY busy housewifely/writerly days, and you get an exhausted mama. By Sunday afternoon I was so tired I took a 90-minute nap. (!) That revived me enough to do my usual long run on Sunday evening. I ran 7.5 miles, but the weather here was NUTSO. The wind was gusting to 40 mph and beyond, and at one point on my running route, out on the edge of my subdivision bordering the countryside and wide open farm fields, the wind was so strong it actually caught me mid-stride and pushed me into the curb of the street on which I was running. Another time it fully halted my forward momentum, stopping me in my tracks.

After all that hard physical work, there was no way I could add the Shred into the mix when I got home on Sunday evening. Also: running 7.5 miles in 40 mph winds should really, in all fairness, cause you to instantly lose five pounds, wouldn't you say? And yet it does not.

I'm tired, you all! And it's only 6 a.m. on Monday, which I'm pretty sure is the definition of the beginning of the week. As in, there is a lot of activity to come, all of which requires energy. There are truly not enough hours in the day. I don't think I've ever been busier than now, when I'm a full-time stay-at-home mom and a runner with a part-time freelance job and an active book project.

What about you? Is your schedule kicking your ass, too?

[*This is not to say I don't think that, with only two months until the city pool opens, adding the 30 Day Shred to my running regimen isn't a very good idea. Because no doubt it is.]

Friday, April 08, 2011

Poetry Reading & the 30 Day Shred

My first-grader did her first poetry reading last evening! It was at her school's annual arts and literacy festival, which ends with a program of readings by a selected few children from each grade. Julia had been practicing for a week or two and did a great job. You could hear and understand every word of her poem about her blankie, and she didn't look nervous at all. Granted, she's so tiny you could hardly see her head behind the microphone even though she stood on the stack of gym mats set up as a little stepstool, but she was all dressed up in her birdie dress, new ruffle ankle socks and new mary janes, with a braid in her hair on the side, and her little bottom teeth missing, and, well...let's just say she was the cutest poet there. And after she finished, Genevieve squealed loudly, "She did a TERRIFIC JOB!", which was pretty cute as well.

And in totally unrelated news, I'm toying with the idea of doing the 30 Day Shred again. Yes! Can you believe it? For those of you who weren't reading me back then, I jumped on this self-torturous workout bandwagon a couple of summers ago and actually completed all 30-straight-days of it, even though there were times I thought it was going to kill me. But I haven't really done all that much strength training since, and let's just say that, after a long, starch-heavy winter, my muscles could use some, ahem, improvement. Like, proving that I even have any. Actually I blame my friend Lori, who is doing the Shred right now, while training for a marathon. Which sort of makes the rest of us look just a little lazy, doesn't it now? But I am a little scared to commit, because 30 straight days is quite a commitment. Especially when I don't want to decrease my running, since I only recently began accomplishing my goal of increasing my mileage. And I don't know if my legs can handle both.

But then all I have to do is remind myself that the city pool opens in two months (OMG TWO MONTHS!) and suddenly the Shred seems like a pretty smart idea.

Because doesn't this look like a super cute swimsuit?*

*(Sorry, I tried to upload an image of it but my computer said it was corrupt. You'll have to click over.)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Video Trailer for the Book!

This is turning out to be an exciting week for me. First, my book reading for Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood has been set (locals: mark your calendars for Wed. May 4th, 7:30 p.m., at Monkey See Monkey Read in historic downtown Northfield). I'll be joined by writer Katy Read, which is a real honor for me, since she's got a writing resume full of publications in places like Salon and Brain, Child. Impressive!

Then, yesterday a column I wrote about adjustment to stay-at-home motherhood was published on BlogHer. Woo-hoo!

And today, the video trailer for Torn came out! Editor Samantha Parent Walravens did an awesome job distilling the essence of the book down to a two-minute clip. And while I'm not one of the moms in the video, other writers from the book are, and I hope it whets your appetite for the stories that you rush out and buy the book! (And, if you live nearby, that you come to the reading on May 4th!)

Here it is!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Published on BlogHer!

Hey everyone, head on over to the BlogHer Family page to read my latest syndicated BlogHer post, about adjustment to stay-at-home motherhood. Because we all know it's a wild ride.

And if you're no longer a new stay-at-home mom, I'm willing to bet you can still use some tips on, for instance, coping with at-home-mom burnout, valuing yourself, and avoiding stress-eating all the chocolates in your pantry on those days when the thought of wiping even one more bottom or doing even one more load of laundry makes you want to cry. Because you know I'm an expert at that. Right?

And if you're not a stay-at-home mom at all? it anyway?

Coming Soon

Read more about the upcoming launch of the second book in which I've had an essay published, at the Coffeetown Press website, here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I Think It Might Be....

Is it spring? OMG. Is it?

Our family just returned from a four-day trip to see family and celebrate my dad's retirement. Unfortunately, said family is 300 miles north of here, meaning that it was definitely still winter up there. When we left our town on Friday, most of the snow here was gone; our block was completely grass. When we pulled into my parents' neighborhood, the banks were knee-high, easily. There was a LOT of snow. Sigh.

However, when we pulled back into our own town yesterday, we noticed that the snow here--ALL the snow--appears to be GONE. Also? The sun was out. And it was 45 degrees. (I heard we missed the truly nice day over the weekend.) Even better, the temperature forecast for this entire week has the number "5" in it. Hallelujah!

Yes, so, Spring Break is over, such as it was, all cold and decidedly non-spring-like. But I am convinced that we have turned a corner here--in weather and mindset and mood and, what the hell, let's throw in a few more things like, oh, I don't know, productivity and writing and luck consumption of carbohydrates? Surely spring is finally here, and things are looking up.


(Evidence: tomorrow I will have a second piece published on the homepage of BlogHer. Did you miss my first? It's here; check back often tomorrow and I'll let you know the second it goes up. Because I'm JUST A LITTLE EXCITED.)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Letting Them (And Myself) Eat Cake

We're gone, folks. And all I've got for you are a few bullet points about this, the last weekend of Spring Break.

  • 6-hour road trip with kiddos
  • Northern town with tons of snow
  • Prairie church
  • Hotel pool
  • Kids and cousins
  • Grandpa's retirement celebration, including lots of chocolate cake with buttercream icing
  • Pizza and Oreos
  • Kiddos in hotel room = very little sleep
  • Coffee, coffee, more coffee
  • Treadmill run
  • Did I mention, cake?
  • No freelance work
  • Too much cake?
  • Not worrying about it