Sunday, July 31, 2011

Hat Chat

Tomorrow my four-year-old daughter begins her three-week, daily, all-morning, kindergarten-preparedness program at the elementary school. To tell you the truth, I'm more concerned about the need to leave my house -- dressed and fully groomed, and with two dressed and fully groomed children in tow -- by 8:15 a.m. every day than I am about leaving Genevieve at the school. After all, we went to the Open House last Thursday evening, and we had to drag her away when it was time to go. (The fact that the hired teachers for this particular program are not strangers but rather her preschool teacher and her older sister's beloved first-grade teacher from last year -- the kid-friendliest, most comforting, and least intimidating people one could ever choose -- helped a lot.) But it's been seven weeks since I've had to leave my house that early in the morning.

Genevieve's birthday is in two weeks. For months she'd been saying she wanted a "Cat in the Hat" birthday party. She watches that cartoon on PBS Kids every morning, and leave it to Genevieve to fall head over heels not for some cute little animal cartoon or anything sweet and cuddly, but a loony tune like the Cat in the Hat.

For a long time I assumed there wasn't any such thing as a Cat in the Hat birthday party; that you can't just walk into Target and wish for any random thing you like and have birthday party supplies appear in that theme. I mean, Dora, Tinkerbell, the Disney Princesses? Of course. But Dr. Seuss? He's great and all, but I've never seen any paper plates with his drawings on them.

You may now have a great laugh at my expense.

You have to understand: I do not go into malls, party supply stores, or large craft emporiums.

I also am not a huge fan of planning kids' birthday parties. I prefer to put them out of my mind, do nothing, and then about a week or so beforehand, go to the Target birthday party aisle and pick up some Fairies plates, napkins, and favor bags. I am a bit of a birthday party underachiever, truth be told.

Genevieve kept insisting on a homemade Cat in the Hat cake. I figured this was a pipe dream and that by August we'd have moved on to a Strawberry Shortcake theme, or something else equally amenable to underachievement in the cake-baking department. (I do insist on homemade cakes and homemade buttercream icing, but I'm not one of those moms who knows how to make cakes shaped like anything other than a cake, decorate giant confections with marzipan made to look like the ocean or a bed of flowers, or somehow insert an impressive surprise into the center of the cake, only to be revealed upon cutting.)

But not that long ago, I idly Googled "Cat in the Hat birthday party" and discovered that OF COURSE THERE IS SUCH A THING AS A CAT IN THE HAT BIRTHDAY CAKE.


Friday, July 29, 2011

ABC Summer Report: C and W

showing off the ammunition

notice the mid-air balloons off to the right of the frame

Didn't I say I was going to rock the ABC activities this week? Well, it turns out, C and W are easy letters for kids' summer activities. Who knew? Here's what kept us busy this week, between soccer, the pool, and Mama's blood pressure checks:


baked Cookies
made Chocolate-zucchini bread
played "Cootie" (game)
watched our favorite cartoons, "Curious George" and "Cat in the Hat"
ate Corn on the Cob
went on a (super fun!) tour of Cub (our regional large supermarket)
went to the beach in Cannon Falls
visited Cocoa Bean (our town's ice-cream/Candy shop)


did Watercolor painting
did Water painting/Water play outside
had a Water balloon party in our friends the Kleins' backyard

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Life's a Beach

Wow has this week been busy. Between work, my daughter's activities (both ABC Summer-related and other; more details in my weekly report tomorrow), and my ten million clinic visits, I've barely had time to eat and sleep. Today alone, we've already had soccer and then immediately afterward we drove to a nearby town to meet friends at the beach. We spent a few hours there in utter bliss, then all packed up and left with gaggles of sweaty, sunscreeny, sandy, sticky, sleepy children, empty picnic bags, stray ants -- driving home for naps. Later today we have an Open House for Genevieve's special pre-Kindergarten program that starts next week, so she can meet the teachers and see the room. This evening I'll attempt a short run and tackle a pile of freelance work waiting for me.

Best of all, tonight I'll be working my way through the first round of editorial feedback of my book. My editor finished reading the manuscript recently and sent me an e-mail earlier today with her professional and editorial reaction, in preparation for a phone meeting we have scheduled tomorrow afternoon.

I was sweaty, starving, tired, dehydrated, and gritty with beach sand when I stood at the counter in front of the laptop to check messages, having just tucked my daughters into bed for much-needed naps. I was preoccupied and harried. But then I read her first sentence, which included the words, "...Mama in Wonderland, my new favorite book!" and I may have jumped up and down with joy in my kitchen. If my daughters had not been napping, no doubt I would have squealed in excitement.

Motherhood -- with all its grit and sweat and sleep deprivation -- has given me some amazing book material. Material that's going to see the light of day beyond my hard drive.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Add Cute Flat Sandals and a Simple Necklace.

So here's what I've learned about my health in the past few weeks.

First, if the nurse gives me five minutes to sit still and catch my breath upon entering the exam room for a check-up rather than taking my blood pressure the second I straggle in with two children in tow and straight from a string of other activities and errands, my blood pressure reverts to its previous, typical, ultra-low, runner levels -- i.e., 110 over 60 or some such. But if she takes it right away, it will scare everyone and cause them to advise me to come to the clinic twice a week for three weeks' straight (children in tow) to monitor it.

Second, I can go to physical therapy once a week and do a total of 40 minutes of prescribed stretches and exercises each day (YES, FORTY MINUTES. Because I have so much extra time in my mornings and evenings) for TWO MONTHS in an attempt to treat my nagging running injury, only to realize that my level of pain and distress from my running injury follows a seemingly random pattern that has nothing to do with any treatment anyone is giving me whatsoever.

However, if I start skipping most of my PT stretches; revert to my own, mostly made-up, previous running stretches; start running a small amount now and then; and START STANDING UP WHEN WRITING ON THE LAPTOP rather than sitting for hours each day in my dining room chair, my nagging running injury may actually start to feel better. Although I still need an MRI at a clinic in a different town one day next week, because guess what? X-rays show nothing wrong, and physical therapy/massage/stretching/not running isn't doing a thing, yo.

Lastly, all you have to do to convince strangers that you are pulled-together and chic rather than hobbling and old is wear a flattering black sundress to watch your daughter's swimming lesson at the outdoor pool rather than, say, whatever else your first impulse told you to wear.

Not that the last one has all that much to do with my health. Mental health, maybe.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Halfway Point

I've been panicking lately about how much summer has already past, but this morning I took down the calendar, counted, and discovered that we're actually at just the halfway mark. My daughter got out of public school six weeks ago; and they both go back to school six weeks from now. Woot! You have no idea how happy this makes me.

I've never been able to understand those moms who count down the days until the kids go back to school; maybe I will, later -- when my girls are older and bicker with each other even more than they do now. I can imagine pining for some quiet time in that situation. But honestly? Summer isn't nearly long enough for me. I'm never ready to send my daughters to school when it's time to do so. I mean, seriously -- that early bus stop? the morning routine? homework? Gah! What's not to like about planning your own schedule, doing what you feel like doing, spending hours at the pool?

Well. That's just me.

Next week Genevieve begins a three-week half-day program offered through our school district, to help certain vulnerable children prepare to start kindergarten. Of course, Genevieve's not vulnerable academically. She reads at the third-grade level (no joke). But she's very, very young for her cohort. (She turns five in mid-August, and the cut-off in MN is September 1. In general, it's the norm here to hold children like that back a year before starting school. But you all: READING AT THE THIRD-GRADE LEVEL.) And she's socially-emotionally young. And she cries when I leave her places.

I think one of the reasons I was feeling like summer is almost over is because of this program. It's basically summer school, in a way -- it starts early in the morning; it runs for half the day; it meets daily (except Fridays). To me, it feels like school sort of begins next week. That makes me sad, even though I know that if I can actually get Genevieve to go, she will benefit from this program. It is made for children like her.

As usual, I wish I could stop the clock.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

ABC Summer Weekly Report: E, K, and U

It's sunflower season at the farm.

I'm not sure how this week ended up with three assigned letters; I think my friend Kathy did that for some reason unique to her schedule, and I just followed along. You'd think with THREE letters this week, we'd have done a ton of ABC Summer activities. But you'd be wrong.

This week pretty much kicked my summer ass, people. Not that there weren't plenty of fun moments; there were. But our power went out three times, two of which were for MANY HOURS. This not only created a lot of extra work for me (think: dealing with refrigerated food, for example), but it also wiped out a couple of days of productive freelance work. My daughters had soccer and swimming lessons again, so we were out of the house every morning. We -- like many of you -- experienced a record-breaking heat wave. I had more physical therapy and blood-pressure-monitoring doctor appointments, all of which I had to take my girls along with me to. We attended two family dinner parties. It was our farm share pick-up week.

I may have drowned my power-outage, health-problems, no-running, heat-wave sorrows in too many mini ice cream sandwiches.

You get the picture.

We were BUSY, you all. Which is why our ABC Summer report this week looks like this:


ate Eggs (Please: Be kind. I said I was busy.)


made fruit Kebabs


made U-V ray prints*

So, OK, not my best work. But I'm going to rally tomorrow. I'm determined to rock some ABC Summer activities, keep my BP low, bravely face more sports medicine doctor appointments, run if I can, swear off ice cream sandwiches, and get more freelance work done so I can earn enough money to replace my daughters' falling-down bookcase with the dollhouse-shaped one that matches their beds and nightstands and which I've been promising them since May.

Lofty goals.

*Take brightly/dark-colored construction paper; place outside on the ground in bright sun; put a few objects with nicely defined shapes on the paper (we used turtle, fish, and flower-shaped beach/bath toys); leave outside for a few hours; then check on them and remove the objects to see the prints.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Work-at-Home (And Everywhere Else) Mom

You'll be happy to know that the heat wave broke overnight, but not before my hometown (five hours north of where I live now) achieved the dubious status of being the hottest place on the planet for an hour on Tuesday night. Yes. Northwestern MN beat out, apparently, the Mojave Desert. And everywhere else, too. This morning when I got up at 5:15 a.m. it was 65 degrees here. Sixty-five! That feels like winter compared with the last five days.

You'll also be happy to know that I am slowly inching toward acceptance of the fact that my youngest child begins (half-) daily school in the fall. This may be related to the fact that I am drowning in freelance work and can't seem to find a free minute during the day EVER to complete any of it. And there are only so many hours in the evening. Consequently, I've been running around like a chicken with its head cut off this week, rarely home, rarely seated, always busy, but not doing the sort of work that brings in a paycheck. Although, honestly -- if anything deserves a paycheck, it is sitting outside for an entire morning in a 110-degree heat index, first watching children's soccer while attempting to occupy one hot and cranky child and then watching preschooler swimming lessons while attempting to occupy the other.

What was my point again? Oh yes, that as my to-do list becomes ever longer and my blood pressure spikes here and there, I keep reminding myself that the good thing about kindergarten is that I will have five child-free afternoons every week once it begins, during which to work FOR PAY. Oh, wait--I'll be volunteering in both children's classrooms. Good Lord, OK, I'll have three to four afternoons free each week to work. Not counting all the time I'll no doubt have to use for things like doctor and dentist appointments, grocery shopping, running errands for my family, cooking, and cleaning. It's still more than I have now, and more than I've ever had before.

Maybe I'll finally get through one daily to-do list.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heat Wave

I love summer. Seriously, I've always been a fan of the warm season, but since becoming a stay-at-home mom, my preference for summer has been magnified many times over. Life at home full-time with small children is infinitely more enjoyable when you don't have to spend most hours of the day cooped up inside, and when going outside does not involve a minimum twenty minutes of bundling small, wiggly, inept bodies in snowpants, boots, parkas, hats, scarves, and mittens. Only to have to take them all off again ten minutes later when the children come to the door saying they're too cold and they want to come in.

Plus there's the whole issue of how in recent years winter has threatened to abscond with my mental health. Oh, did I say "threatened to?" I meant, DID.

And how I'm a runner, and running outdoors year-round in Minnesota is a recipe for frostbite. I know, because I've gotten it, twice.

So I really do love summer. Sun and warmth make me happy. However. The last few days have been about 100 degrees where I live, and so humid that the heat index (how hot it actually feels outside, because of the high humidity) has been around 110*, and it's supposed to be this way for at least three more days. My daughters have outdoor soccer (Julia) and swimming lessons (Genevieve) this week. (Lessons during which I SIT OUTSIDE IN 110 DEGREE WEATHER, OMG.) You can't play outside in this weather. (Except at the pool.) And last evening, due to the heat wave and extreme demand for electricity to power everyone's air conditioning more than usual, our electricity went out at just after five, and stayed out for several hours.

I looked it up, and that means we should probably trash our perishable groceries today. Our milk smells sour. The eggs and mayo and yogurt look fine, but have an air of death threat about them. Of course I'm testing out the half-and-half even as I type. Because I'm not going to drink my iced coffee black, people!

So I'm dragging my girls to the grocery store today, after soccer and swimming, for emergency food replacement.

At least the grocery store is cool. Unless they lose their power too.

*[Yes, it's true: I live in a state where it can be thirty below zero in January, still snowing in April, and 110 degrees in July. The seasons here are EXTREME.]

[Edited to add: It suddenly occurred to me that, if I replace my groceries today, and the heat wave is supposed to go on for a few more days, the power could go out AGAIN. Spoiling yet more groceries. Perhaps I should wait? Sigh.]

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sleep Is For The Weak. Or For Dads. Whichever.

They're cute and I love them. But it would be
nice not to see their faces while the moon is still up.

During the last school year I set my alarm for five a.m. so I could get a few things done before the children got up. Usually I worked on my freelance gig(s) a little bit then. Now that it's summer, I don't set my alarm anymore, but I tend to wake up when dawn creeps in, around 5:15, and I force myself to get up then, ALWAYS, not because I'm getting so much work done at that time of day -- although I should, because my freelance work doesn't have a summer vacation, you know what I mean? -- but because, in some cruel twist of life as a parent, my children actually get up earlier than they did during the school year. Meaning, they arise before six a.m., and an adult needs to get up then, too. We're talking Saturdays and Sundays too, people. I can't even remember the last time I slept even as late as seven a.m. on a weekend.

Since getting up at the same moment as my children makes me want to punch something (because they're begging for food and whining and calling my name while I'm trying to at least just brush my teeth before I do something for anyone else, is that so much to ask?), I'd rather get up at 5:15 so I can at the very least make a cup of coffee before children attack me. So to speak.

But awhile back I got so tired of seeing my children at the ungodly hour of before six a.m., I told them they needed to stay in their room until the digital clock started with a 6. There may have been threats involved.

This worked for awhile, sort of, only I kept forgetting to reset their digital clock to make it run...ahem...a little SLOW. And they were always at the top of the stairs at the crack of 5:57. Which just seemed so....early. And this was even if they'd stayed up late the night before. It didn't matter how late we put them to bed; they were always at the top of the stairs at 5:57.

They were always super cranky too, so that breakfast was a barrel of fun involving me swigging strong coffee and trying to write while they bickered with each other over their peanut-butter toast.

I got so tired of the crankiness (accompanied by yawning) that I revised the rule to -- gasp! -- 7. The clock had to start with a 7. Now, I knew they wouldn't sleep till seven, but I know lots of parents who have a rule that early-rising kids stay in their rooms and do something else -- read in bed, for example, or argue with each other -- until a reasonable hour.

It didn't work. They kept coming out at about 6:10, begging. They'd say "it's too hard." And "we can't do it." And "we're hungry."

So I amended the rule to a compromising 6:30. The clock needs to start with a 6, and a 3. The second number can be anything higher than a 3, also. Although there's really just 4 and 5.

One time they made it to 6:27. Now they just disregard it completely. Today I had barely made it downstairs (I slept late; 5:40 a.m.) when their little feet trotted down the staircase and there they were, asking for eggs and toast, at 5:45.

Older parents I know tell me that when my children are teenagers I'll be throwing wet washcloths at them to try to get them up before eleven on non-school days. I say I'll be there waiting, wet washcloths in hand, by 5 a.m. every day.

It's only fair.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Can't IMAGINE Why My Blood Pressure Is Up, Can You?

*Warning: This post may be disturbing to some readers.

I didn't sleep well last night. I spent much of the time a.) lying in bed vividly imagining someone breaking into my house to murder me and then thinking that I watch too much "Law and Order" and "48 Hours Mystery"; b.) having a heart attack when my 7-year-old woke up screaming at 2 a.m. from a bad dream; and c.) having horrible dreams myself, related to the Brooklyn little boy murder, the parents who let their unsecured (the cage was NOT LOCKED, OMG), unfed, nine-foot-long python escape and strangle their baby in her crib and then told authorities they had no idea the snake was a danger to their child, and the Casey Anthony case.

[Side note: NO MORE WATCHING THE NEWS, EVER. I am not kidding. This kind of stuff will give you vicarious PTSD symptoms, people. I swear to God, I want to un-hear every single word of every one of those stories. The snake one, I heard right before bed and I swear to you, if I could take a pill to no longer know about that incident, I would.]

I know; such restful nights I have, don't I?

Truth be told, most nights I sleep just fine. This was a particularly bad week for sleep, and for safety. A bad week for faith that children can be safe in this world, and that evil isn't walking around personified and able to strike at any time.

The rest of the night -- when I wasn't engulfed in probably physically dangerous levels of anxiety -- was spent attempting to come to terms with two things (things that seem despicably inconsequential in light of the horrors above, I admit). One is that I'm clearly not going to be a runner this summer. My injury began ten weeks ago, and nothing's really changed. It's better at times, and I become hopeful; then it's as bad as before, and I realize that things aren't better. If you had told me ten weeks ago that I'd still be in this situation in mid-July, I would have been horrified at the thought but would have never believed you.

Running may not seem like that big of a deal, but think about whatever you have in your life that keeps you going no matter what, that gives you the most comfort out of anything else, that carries you through. Maybe that's going to church, for you, or a particular person, or travel. Maybe it's yoga or meditation or gardening. Or even something less noble but just as integral to coping at times for some people, like medication or alcohol or, I don't know, going out with your friends. Well, running is that to me. And the best part of all that is summer running on the trails and hilly roads near my house, at sunset, surrounded by wildflowers and trees and birds and sky. That is my going to church. I wait all year for it. It's passing by, right now, and I haven't even begun running, yet, this summer. I could cry.

The second thing is that the thought of sending my youngest daughter to school every day -- she starts kindergarten this year, even though grandmothers at the playground STILL mistake her for three years old, and gasp when I mention her being a kindergartner in less than two months -- fills me with dread. Or, maybe more of a crushing sadness rather than dread. Dread of the crushing sadness? I don't want her to go. Not even one part of me wants her to go. Summer is going by so fast, and then I have to send her. Every day. I can't stand it.

I don't expect non-runners to understand, and I don't expect non-mothers to understand. But this is the state of my head (and my heart) right now, and why I didn't sleep last night. I was far too busy worrying and crying.

I can't help feeling that, were I able to run, I'd be doing a lot less worrying and crying. Insert sad face here.

End of self-pitying rant.


ABC Summer Weekly Report: G and J

making jam

This was a fun ABC Summer week, as its letters were also my daughters' first-name initials. Win! They loved the week before any of the activities even began.

We got off to a slow start, and were super busy already because every morning was booked with summer first-grade soccer "lessons" and summer four-year-old swimming lessons, not to mention my regular drop-in blood pressure checks at my doctor's office and the fact that I was solo-parenting all week (read: no spare time, ever), but as it turns out, you can't do ten things every week. You don't have time, nor do you even want to. You also want time to go to the pool, play in the yard, read books, draw, ride bikes, and enjoy the daily special surprises Mama concocted to make the week extra-fun while Daddy was away on business (making S'mores, special TV show, indoor camping, movie).

Here's what we did:


made homemade Granola bars
fed the Geese at our downtown river
played board Games


Jumped rope
ate Jelly beans
made homemade strawberry Jam
listened to Justin Roberts music

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fancy Lessons

Last week Julia taught fancy lessons. Genevieve and I were strong-armed into signing up, although since they were free, it was a pretty good deal.

Here's the poster she made to advertise her lessons:

"Learn to be fancy with lessons from Julia!"

Did you notice this part?

"I would prefer to have boys in class, but they aren't fancy at all."

Ah, yes. Well. What to do?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Want an Honorary Ph.D. in Mothering.

Yesterday I wrote five (FIVE! Who needs sleep?) freelance health articles for (still catching up from my post-vacation week when my schedule went all to hell), took my children to a.m. summer soccer (in the rain) and outdoor swimming lessons (in the rain), ran a few errands, stopped in to my doctor's office for a quick BP check (children in tow, of course) -- which, Hallelujah!, was totally normal, only proving that clearly it's the busiest, craziest, most solo-parenting mornings that apparently keep your blood pressure nice and low, if you're a mom -- fielded some work/book stuff, did laundry and other housecleaning, made homemade granola bars with my kids, took them biking to the playground, made dinner, surprised them with after-dinner homemade indoor S'mores (over a candle, you all! I can't decide if that's resourceful and ingenious or sad), and exercised to a workout DVD (the Shred!) after both girls were tucked into bed.

It amazes me that, when I have back-up help and more time, I can fritter away the day and be comparatively unproductive; yet when there is no other option I pound it out like nobody's business.

Reminds me of graduate school, actually.

Only with more babies and less recreation.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Improv Exercise

So, many of you know I've been largely unable to run this summer (sob) due to a nagging -- VERY nagging, in fact -- running injury. [Side note: since turning 40 I have developed a totally atypical nagging running injury, apparent seasonal affective disorder, and mysterious (and even more atypical) high blood pressure. WTH, body?! This is what middle age is all about?? I don't approve.]


Pairing my running injury with certain solo-parenting demands this summer means I've been seriously challenged when it comes to getting out of my house to exercise. And while these particular circumstances may not apply to you, I'm willing to bet that, if you're a mom to young children, you probably have times when getting away by yourself for a solid cardio session is next to impossible. So how do you stay fit at times like these? Here are my best tips:

  • Put in a workout DVD. Whether strength-training, cardio circuits, yoga, or all three, a workout DVD allows you to exercise in your own home on those days and times when you're not allowed to leave. (Um, like the baby's naptime.) Plus, if your kids are beyond babyhood, they can even join in. So to speak.
  • Stand, don't sit. This may seem minor, but it's really not. Sitting still is really bad for you. New research has found that sitting still for multiple hours per day (not a typical at-home-mom day, I know, but applicable to many working moms, and consider those hours in front of the laptop while the kids are watching Dora or engrossed in a playdate, for example) SIGNIFICANTLY increases your risk of heart attack and death, even if you're a regular exerciser at other times. Gah! Get up!!! Standing also burns more calories than sitting, and those little things really add up. When you're doing the mom thing at home, try to consciously stand up when you can. It matters!
  • Walk, don't stand. Walking burns more calories than standing, and once again, those little calorie increases add up over time. At those moments when you'd normally stand in one place (while talking on the phone, maybe, or when you're lecturing your kids on putting away those damn Legos that keep attacking the tender bottoms of your feet when you enter the playroom), pace the floor. Why not?
  • Embrace housecleaning. Gah, ugh, blech, I know. I hate cleaning too (although I LOVE a clean house). But you can't deny its calorie-burning potential. Sure, it's not a five-mile run, but vacuuming, mopping, hauling laundry this way and that, and running up and down stairs putting toys and clothes away in far-flung bedrooms all count as physical activity. Get on that.
  • Push that stroller, mama! This one works for years, till your kids are at least three, in my book. If you're free to leave the house (both your children are up from naps, for example, and it's not raining), strap those kiddos in and get outside for a stroller walk (or run). You'll get a great cardio workout with kids in tow, with bonus arm and shoulder toning. And if you're pushing multiple children up hills in a double (or triple?!) stroller, your workout will move beyond "solid" into "superhuman" territory. Go, you!
I'm sure there are more great at-home-fitness strategies out there, and maybe you even have a few faves of your own, so let me know if I've missed something obvious. Sometimes you've just gotta do what works, even if it's not ideal or your usual m.o. Moms know that, and we're pros at it in every other area of our lives. (I know I'm not the only one who's changed a diaper on a jacket or used baby wipes as a makeshift shower, you all.)

OK, go to it. I will if you will.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Keeping Up

My seven-year-old and four (though not for much longer) -year-old are learning to ride without training wheels during the same summer.

Friday, July 08, 2011

ABC Summer Weekly Report: F

picking strawberries at the farm -- July 5th, 2011

This week was a short one, and a single-letter week. My mom friends and I assigned 'F' to this week, for the Fourth of July, but in the end, my family spent the Fourth locked in a car for the entire day, driving back from Michigan. Even so, we did a few activities that began with F between Tuesday and today. The week went by too quickly -- and was too busy with post-vacation chores and catch-up work, not to mention other non-F-related excitement such as hanging out at the city pool and attending our town's annual outdoor Justin Roberts kids' concert -- to squeeze everything in; we never got to making homemade Finger-paint, for example. But see below, and check back next week for more ABC Summer fun.


visited the Farm
taught/took "Fancy lessons"*
made Fun Fishy Snack Mix (i.e., homemade Chex-mix-type snack with Goldfish crackers)
traced Footprints

*(Julia taught; Genevieve and I were the students. In case you were wondering, "yellow" is plain, and "gold" is fancy. Likewise "horse" vs. "pony," "caterpillar" vs. "butterfly," and "hot pink" vs. "fuchsia." Good to know!)

They Won't Always Be This Little and Willing to Hang Out With Me.

On the schedule today: Toddler Time at the pool (I like to pretend that my 5-year-old-sized 7-year-old is still a toddler), picnic lunch, making homemade Goldfish cracker snack mix (mmm, must include white-chocolate chips somehow), share pick-up and U-Picking at the farm (I need a fresh vase of flowers, people!), pizza, popcorn, Family Movie Night.

Can a summer day even hold that much fun? We're about to find out.

I'm having this brand-new experience where I regret the fact that my daughters start soccer (Julia) and swimming lessons (Genevieve) next week. For the next three weeks in a row, our mornings are scheduled with structured summer lessons. I don't go for lots of structured summer activities -- and in fact, this year is the least we've ever done; in the past we've done swimming plus one other activity per child, as well as weekly playgroups with friends -- and three weeks of soccer and swimming is nothing compared to all the stuff plenty of families I know sign their kids up for. But I find myself feeling very protective of my time with my girls this year; we're having a lot of fun, and summer goes by way too fast, and I sort of wish I wasn't handing them (and our mornings) over to lessons this month.

Even worse, right after soccer and swimming, Genevieve starts three weeks of a.m. "pre-kindergarten" -- a free school-district program for separation-challenged incoming kindergartners, to help her get used to the elementary school before school actually begins.

All of which means our unstructured, laidback-fun, hang-out-with-my-little-girls summer is fading fast.

I guess I'll have to make the most of our afternoons. Daily ice cream cones, anyone?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hot Enough For You?

So remember how November through May just about killed me, up here in Minnesota? How we had a RIDICULOUSLY bad year, weather-wise, and I kept fantasizing about moving to Oklahoma City, where my friend Rita lives?

Well, now it is time for Rita to wish she lived in Minnesota. Because it is 105 humid degrees in Oklahoma City every day right now (omg! 105!), and here in Minnesota it's in the glorious, sunny, summery 80s.

Seriously, can you imagine living in 100+-degree heat and humidity for weeks on end? I can't. How would I run? (Of course, this year, I'm not running up here in MN, either, despite the PERFECT WEATHER, damn you stubborn running injury, you make me want to throw things.)

OK, I don't want to move to Oklahoma City right now. However, I told Rita, the only logical conclusion is that I need to winter in OKC, and she needs to summer in MN. Perfect!

How's the weather where YOU live? Maybe you live somewhere that Rita and I could move to and stay year-round! Because clearly we both live in punishing climates. It's just that hers punishes her in the summer, and mine punishes me in, um, November through May.

But right now I've gotta go enjoy the weather.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Doing Something Nice for Yourself

Just before we left on our vacation-- oops, I mean family trip -- to the far north Lake Superior region, I ordered myself a new handbag. A very nice, very expensive handbag. And why I -- a one-income, one-car-household, tightly-budgeted housewife with two small children to feed and clothe -- did it was this: I deserved it.

I'd been coveting that particular bag for months, but I'd been searching for the perfect stylish, functional, mom-friendly but chic, bag for years. YEARS! Then I found out that the exact bag I wanted -- in the color I wanted -- was out of stock all over the place. Then I found one -- ONE! -- left at an online store I happened to check when I was losing all hope of ever seeing that handbag again. And they were having a sale. And I found a promo code for 25% off. Which was set to expire the day we were leaving on vacation. And I got free shipping. And free returns. (Not that I'm going to return it.)

One left, you all. With two days' leeway to grab the discounted price. What would you have done?

I have my gorgeous, buttery-soft, last-forever, expensive mom handbag. The bag to take the place of the inexpensive bags I buy every year or so at Target, which eventually add up to the price of the high-quality, gorgeous bag anyway. I love it so much I want to sleep with it.

But here's the important thing. Moms don't often treat themselves to much of anything. Or, at least, the moms I know don't. Maybe you do! And that's great. But often, moms take care of and maintain and pay for everyone else's needs and appearance and happiness, and then they go around with whatever's left, which sometimes isn't much.

I bought myself this bag, even though I have a credit card to pay off and the doctor appointment co-pays keep adding up and we just spent a boatload of money on gas and hotels and pet-boarding, because this year I scored a book deal, with a small advance, which is a major accomplishment. (My biggest life's dream after becoming a mom, actually.) Because although money will always be tight, I did a lot of freelance work in June. Because I endured a total of roughly 20 hours in the car with my children, who never stop talking and never sleep, and a several-day stay with my in-laws, and nights in a hotel with children who, uh, never stop talking and never sleep. Because almost every hour of every day I am working in some capacity. Because I deserve something truly nice.

As do you.

I'm not telling you to go bankrupt yourself, but if you're a mom who carries the lion's share of the work around your home and family and puts everyone's needs before your own most of the time, you might want to think about whether you ever do something nice for yourself. Really nice. Not just manicure, iced-coffee, or drinks with the girlfriends nice.

Think about it.

Summer Snaps

I'm not usually one to be speechless. And, really, it's not that I don't have anything to say. But sometimes certain things seem too large and layered to talk about, and certain things seem boring to anyone but me, and certain things may be best left alone.

We had, overall, a great vacation. As with most things when you have small children, it was challenging in a way vacations simply aren't when kids aren't along, or around yet. The drive made me reconsider ever going on vacation again. But, mostly, good.

We're back now, and now that it's July, summer weather has finally begun here, seemingly for good. It's about time, too. At last we can bake in the sun at the farm, and live at the pool. If my running injury ever heals -- seriously, you all, does physical therapy even do anything? I don't know anymore. -- I'll be able to summer-trail-run again.

Summer is going by way too quickly.

How is summer going where YOU live?

Monday, July 04, 2011

July Vacation

Children, beaches, sand castles.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

The Drive Home Will No Doubt Call For Another Ice Cream Cone.

Hey, you all. I'm way up here in the northern wilderness where it's light outside till almost 11 p.m. and the Internet connection is unreliable, but I wanted to send a quick message out to all my readers to say Happy 4th of July! Hope you all are having a wonderful holiday weekend.

Because I still haven't figured out how to get the photos off my iPhone (yes, I got all your messages. I can't e-mail them to myself because I can't get my e-mail set up on my phone. argh, gah, modern technology, etc.), I can't show you things like my daughters playing on the beach of the canal, posing on scarily wide-open boat slips right by dangerous deep rocky water while I have heart attacks, or holding my hand by a giant stuffed moose. YET.

But I will say this: 10.5 hours in the car with my daughters is a long, long time. Particularly when my youngest says, 40 minutes into our drive and when we're only in the nearby suburbs, "This drive is boringer than I thought." TEN HOURS TO GO, KID. Gah! Kill me.

Once we survived the killer-long road trip and the hotel switch when hotel #1 gave us a reserved room that smelled of cigarette smoke but had no other free rooms so we had to get back in the car and find another hotel, things settled down and everyone started having fun. Not at night, though. Another thing I will say: my daughters are unable to sleep together in the same bed in a hotel room. Well, at least until after about two hours of fighting, yelling, crying, and screaming. (Kill me.)

You see why I'm so hesitant to travel.

But sun, water, pine trees, hills, the beach, Oreo ice cream cones, boats, swimming in the hotel pool, numerous desserts, plenty of coffee, and a giant glass of red wine have helped offset the 10.5 hour drive and the bedtime fussing. Which I hope is something you can say, too.

I'll see you later, after tomorrow and another 10.5 hour drive.