Friday, September 30, 2011

I Need to Keep My Hair Long Enough to Get My Professional Head Shots Taken

One my favorite mispronunciations by my kindergartner Genevieve is the way she calls my daily to-do list my "today list." Yesterday she thought the printout of my book manuscript--some 200 pages or so--was my "today list."

"Mama, is that your today list?" Yes, honey. Yes it is. Or it certainly feels like it.

Actually, my "today list" has been shorter than usual this week, because my freelance job is on an unexpected hiatus. About ten days ago, the assignment list disappeared and therefore so did my income. Since then, there has been occasional word that work will re-appear at some point, but in the meantime I am broke, beset by doctor bills, and FREAKING OUT. And it's not like there's a plethora of other jobs just waiting around to be filled, you know? Gah. (If you know of anyone who needs a writer, e-mail me. That's pronounced TASS-uh-vuh. Thank you.)

So, let's take stock of the rest of the week, shall we? I successfully finished jury duty without being called in a second time. Also, my book manuscript entered its final stages of editing before proofing and designing. (Woot!) Julia got sick and missed her first day of school, which was torturous for all involved. (Still undecided as to whether she'll be home from school again today. Dear God, no.) My running injury left, and then returned. Left again, and returned. I'm clearly either going to have to quit running altogether for, like, six more months and hope that will finally clear it up for good or just say to hell with it and run despite the injury and live with the residual pain. Because obviously nothing else is working with any kind of consistency. And not running has caused me to gain five or six pounds recently, which is what happens to me when I don't run much but continue to, you know, EAT.

And lastly, once again--I guess because it is autumn--I am LOSING ALL MY HAIR. I swear there is something seasonal about this. My hair seems to fall out every fall. This time it's more alarming than usual. As in, I'm seriously worried about baldness. I'm not kidding or exaggerating; you really can see my scalp in places if I pull my hair back the wrong way. As you may remember, last autumn I cured my hair loss with supplemental protein--I'm sure of this--but this year that can't be it. I'm still consuming my protein powder every day, and my diet is full of fresh organic produce from our CSA farm, so I know I'm getting plenty of nutrients. Thus, as an explanation for my hair loss, we are left with a.) stress or b.) unknown mystery ailment. Let me tell you, one is not any better than the other.

On the plus side, I just made homemade applesauce (OMG so good), I have a book coming out soon, and last week I had my brows and lashes tinted by the best aesthetician you can imagine, at a salon in my town that I'd never visited before--and now I am in love with getting my brows and lashes done by this aesthetician at the salon in my town. Remember that I am losing all my hair. I need all the help I can get, people. I plan to get on her monthly schedule. I will find the cash somewhere.

And now I am off to tackle my "today list." Send any hair-loss tips and cures my way.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mama Essentials, Bonus Part 5

Apparently I should make this Mama Essentials series an ongoing, open-ended one. I keep remembering products I want to tell you about. (Note: I am not being compensated by Johnson & Johnson for this post.)

Today's Mama Essential is Johnson & Johnson Baby Oil Gel. (FYI, I use the aloe vera and vitamin E formula pictured above, not the original version pictured in the product link, though I'm sure they're similar.) I adore everything about this product. First, the packaging is great. The shape of the bottle is a perfect fit for hands and even though it's designed to stand upside down, it doesn't leak all over your bathroom cabinet.

What do I use baby oil gel for? Well, not for any babies. I like this for removing stubborn eye makeup (particularly waterproof mascara) and for moisturizing feet, elbows, and cuticles.

I also dab a bit around my eyes before bed as a super-intense eye "cream." Yes, it's greasy and oily, but I don't need any more crow's feet than I already have, do you? Applying this under and around my eyes and letting it absorb as I sleep makes my delicate skin feel plumped up and healthier the next day, especially as the drying autumn winds start to blow.

Lastly, because my hair is of the super-dry, extremely fragile, easily damaged variety, I have even massaged a drop of this uber-moisturizer into my parched ends to smooth frizzy strands and add a touch of shine. (Warning: anything more than a drop is likely to be too oily; in addition, stick to ends only, and only if your hair is dry. Otherwise you're likely to end up more greasy than glossy.)

There you have it: my latest Mama Essential. Go forth and moisturize.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Best Parent TV Ever.

I tend to get a little obsessive about TV. I mean, objectively, I don't watch that much TV. We don't even have cable anymore. I admit I like to turn it on after my daughters are in bed as background noise/company while I do my boring freelance work, so you'd be excused for thinking I watch a lot of TV, but in all honesty, there are only a few television shows I truly care about. When I find one, I tend to become addicted to it and talk about it a lot. (See: "So You Think You Can Dance"; "Glee"; "Friday Night Lights".) Then I try to convince everyone I know to watch it.

So, have you seen this new NBC comedy, "Up All Night"? It stars Christina Applegate and Will Arnett -- both of whom have recently become parents in real life, by the way, no small factor in this show's super-realistic feel -- as a thirtysomething married couple who have just had their first baby. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I have yet to see an entire episode; it premiered two weeks ago and due to various other commitments I have only seen parts of each episode so far. However -- and this should say a lot considering that I haven't even seen a whole show yet -- each time I have caught a clip of it, I have literally laughed until I cried.

These two are FREAKING HILARIOUS. OMG! Who knew? Seriously, I had no idea Christina Applegate and Will Arnett were so funny and so likable. I adore them. They are like the parents you would be friends with if they were real people and lived in your town. And the show is so true-to-life it's as if they were filming my own household when my girls were babies. Well, with a few minor differences, since in "Up All Night," Will Arnett is the stay-at-home parent and Christina Applegate returns to work. But beyond that, I recognize pretty much every moment portrayed, and unlike real life, "Up All Night" makes each of those moments hilarious rather than hysterical. Because, let's face it, in real life when you have a newborn and aren't getting any sleep you tend to cry a lot more than you laugh.

Here's the show trailer. It's about four minutes long. Go ahead, you can spare four minutes for some good laughs.

Full episodes from the last two weeks are available on the "Up All Night" website. It's only a half-hour show, so I know you can make the time commitment involved. "Up All Night" airs Wednesday nights (that's tonight, holla!) at 8 p.m., 7 p.m. Central.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Keeping Kids Busy

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I've got a column up for the Tuesday Toddler Activity series over at The Education of a Stay at Home Mom. Thanks for the opportunity, Sarah! Sarah's got a wonderful site, so after you've read my guest post, you should really check out everything else she has to offer! Oh, and even if your child is beyond toddlerhood, I guarantee this fall activity will be both educational and fun.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mothers Who Complain

Every now and then, I get a nasty comment here about how I complain too much. On this blog. About my life, which is to say, about my life as a mom.

Few things enrage me more. These comments are always anonymous, but I am convinced that they are left by either a.) dads; or b.) childless people. In other words, people who don't know a thing about which they're speaking.

My friend and fellow contributor to Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, writer Katy Read, tackles the issue of mother-complaining and the backlash against it in the new issue of Brain, Child. Her article is a thoughtful analysis of the shifts in mothering culture over the decades, past and current reactions to mothers' honesty (or dishonesty) about their lives as moms, and the amazing truth that motherhood can be both the best thing that's ever happened to you AND full of suckitude at the same time. (I know! Shocking.)


"...If I were the conspiracy-theory type, I might imagine a sinister plot behind efforts to keep mothers from complaining. After all, mothers perform the lion’s share of unpaid housework and child care—and pay a steep economic price for doing so, on average making less money than fathers or childless people and suffering from a higher rate of poverty. What better way to keep mothers from rebelling against those circumstances than to discourage them from voicing any objections? It’s ingenious: convince women through cultural conditioning that mothers are blissfully content—or ought to be, anyway—and penalize those who contradict that image by lashing back with criticism dripping with contempt."

It's a must-read. Lucky for you, the entire thing is available online.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Everything Happens at Once, Have You Noticed?

For any of you who didn't see the comments in my last post, I served on the jury for a personal injury trial that took 1-1/2 days and concluded late afternoon Tuesday. Since then, I have not been called in again, although I definitely could be, anytime this week or all of next. Just because you've served on one jury does not mean you are exempt from being called again during your two-week duty. The bailiffs said it happens all the time.

I really, really, really hope I do not get called in again, but in the end, I was glad to be a part of the case for which I was a juror. I feel like the system worked for the woman involved, and I was proud and relieved to be able to do right by her. And it was a very interesting and educational experience too. However, there's no doubt that jury duty was (and continues to be) significantly difficult for me, given my current circumstances. Everyone else on the jury either left an office for a couple of days -- with no negative consequences because of course you are legally required to serve on jury duty if you get called, and workplaces are required to allow you to do that -- or were retired and so had no schedule conflicts with work. I mean, I'm not saying no one else was inconvenienced, but at least they didn't have to stress about who would take care of their children while they were there. That worry can be very distracting when you're serving on a jury.

So, I'm glad I did it, but that doesn't mean I want to have to do it again.

The other two things that have swallowed me whole right now are: a.) the fact that I'm currently sick; and b.) the rewrites on my book are scheduled to be completed this week. Between those two things and jury duty, my week is a black hole. I'm barely keeping my head above water, and I've been largely out of contact with most everyone. Sorry, everyone!

Hopefully my life will return to normal soon, and I'll be back to more frequent (and more interesting) writing than this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Civic Duty

Of course I got impaneled on a jury! Of course I did. I can't tell you anything about the case, so you'll just have to use your imaginations. You can also imagine me freaking out about childcare, falling behind on work, and earning ten dollars per day for my service. As my friend Connie said, "You're finally getting paid to be a stay-at-home mom!" And as I said to her, "HA. HA."

By the way, the vast majority of my fellow jurors are retired. I think there is one other non-retired adult on the jury with me. He is not married and has no children. He works for his parents. In other words, no one there is stressed out about being there (or so it appears) except me. In fact, they seem to be having a lot of fun. I resent them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lice vs. Jury Duty: Lose-Lose?

So, the first cold virus of the school year has hit our family. It actually hit last week--the second week of school. Sounds about right. (Sigh.) Along with the first notice about head lice making an appearance in one of the girls' classrooms. Second week. Have I ever told you my philosophy about lice? Basically, it's that once you have children in school, lice is inevitable. It's a "when," not an "if." I'm serious. It seems like everyone gets it at some point or another during the elementary school years. I figure if I just accept it now, I'll be better off later, when I'm faced with it. Of course "later" could be a lot sooner than I think.

Also: jury duty. Do you know how jury duty works in my county? You call at 4:30 on the Friday afternoon before your term. Then the recording tells you to call a DIFFERENT number on Monday, BETWEEN 11:15 AND 11:30 A.M., to find out if you have to report to the courthouse (in a town 30 minutes away) at 1 p.m. No, I'm not making this up.

Seriously, Rice County? Seriously? THAT'S your jury duty protocol? That's the best you can do? A 15-minute window of time on a weekday morning, to find out if you have to be in a different town for the rest of the day, starting in 90 minutes? And apparently I will have to do this every day for two weeks? AND I HAVE A CHILD TO TAKE CARE OF? WTH? That has got to be the most ridiculous policy I have ever heard. I mean, what happens if you call at, say, 11:31? Are you in contempt? What if you can't find on-the-spot childcare, and you can't make it to the other town by 1?

Oh, and what's with the hundred different phone numbers involved? Seriously, that's just silly. My form gave me two phone number choices to call at 4:30 on Friday, and then later I discovered TWO DIFFERENT phone numbers printed at a different place on the form. Then when I listened to the Friday recording, it gave me two entirely different phone number choices to call between 11:15 and 11:30 today. Numbers that are different from all four of the other numbers.

Come on, now. Surely some of the organizational brainpower involved in figuring out the six different phone number possibilities could be harnessed to determine a better, more timely way to alert jurors that they need to report. You know, other than the FIFTEEN-MINUTE WINDOW IDEA.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mama Essentials, Bonus Part 4

How did you like my three-part Mama Essentials series? After I posted Part 3, my friend Connie reminded me that I am obsessed with whey protein powder, and that I'd better add that.

This Mama Essential will definitely not be essential for every mama -- which is probably why I didn't think to include it the first time around. If you are a meat-eater or anyone else who consumes plenty of protein and has no particular dietary needs, carry on. However, I am a (95+ % of the time) vegetarian. Normally this is no problem; I've been one for decades and am well-versed in plant-based protein cooking and eating. But, you see, I have this alarming history of having my hair fall out -- do you remember? Yes, it seems anytime my head gets wind of extreme stress, weight loss, or nutrient deficiency, it begins to shed hair. And, people, I don't have very much hair to begin with! This is an emergency!

Last autumn when my hair began its next cycle of saying goodbye to this cruel world, I suspected it was protein-related. I'd seen the documentary film "Food, Inc." and had sworn off what little animal protein I was then consuming, I was running more than usual which involved missing dinner a few times a week, and had fallen into the busy-lazy habit of downing quick things like a bowl of cereal for dinner rather than assembling and heating up leftovers of whatever balanced meal I'd prepared for my family beforehand. I knew I wasn't paying attention to my protein intake, and was likely significantly deficient.

So I started adding a scoop of protein powder to my breakfast smoothies. (I use the whey kind; it's the most easily digestible and some say the purest and most concentrated form of protein supplement.) Each scoop provides about 25 grams of protein -- about half of what I should be getting in an entire day. It's low-sugar, low-fat, all-natural, and contains about 140 calories per serving. It comes in different flavors (I did chocolate for a long time but am a recent convert to vanilla). It blends right into smoothies, milk, etc., and I am convinced that it cured my hair loss at the time.

It also keeps you TOTALLY full until lunchtime -- 25 grams of protein will do that to you, ladies! So it's a boon for dieters or anyone who normally gets the munchies despite a cereal breakfast and finds herself eating cookies at 10 a.m.

Of course right now I am losing my hair yet again. It could be a bit of slacking on the protein smoothies, or it could be forces beyond protein-intake control (does my hair hate autumn?).

But that doesn't change the fact that this product has been awesome for my nutrition and my daily life. If you're light on the meat, too busy to cook, or nutritionally challenged, you might want to try it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Try It, You'll Like It

Yesterday I spent the afternoon -- and it took the WHOLE afternoon -- while my girls were both in school getting a fancy spa manicure and pedicure at a salon in my town, courtesy of my sweet husband who gave me a gift certificate last Valentine's Day. Yes, it took me eight months to pamper myself. Big surprise.

It was awesome.

I never get manicures, and I only get a salon pedicure about once every year or two. (And always with a gift certificate, now that I think about it.) I do my own toes in between, and I never do my fingernails. But I've always wanted to have tidy, lovely, cared-for hands that look like I give a damn. Because, honestly, I do.

Of course, I got a very pale, luminescent, barely-there color on my fingernails, because as a stay-at-home mom who uses her hands all day in and out of water and cleaning products and playground gravel and whatnot, I'm certainly not going to waste a salon manicure on a color that's going to broadcast the first chip that shows up on day two. (Although this manicure is amazing; I don't think it's going to chip anytime too soon.)

But on my toes, as usual, I picked a vivid, cheery, Barbie/bubble-gum pink.

My girls went nuts when they got off the bus and saw the results. And I have to say, my nails look gorgeous. It's nice to get a little lift every time you spy your fingers or toes.

A salon mani-pedi isn't something I would ever spend money on normally, which is why it's nice to get one as a gift on occasion. I highly recommend it -- even if that gift is from you to you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Parade Candy Translation

On Sunday, Christopher took the girls to a parade -- part of a huge annual festival that takes over our town every September -- by himself so I could do some major rewrites on my book. Of course the highlight of any parade is the fact that the parade participants toss candy to the kids. Julia and Genevieve came home with plastic bags full of jawbreakers, bubble gum (both of which I confiscated due to choking potential), lollipops, Brach's Royals, Laffy Taffy, and the like.

Apparently there were also Bottle Caps available. It took me awhile to figure that out, because Genevieve kept calling them "Bubble Stops."

Honestly, five-year-olds can be so adorable.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I Need a Vacation. And No, Jury Duty Does Not Count.

Life is seriously crazy, with ongoing book edits and a ton of freelance writing and my daughters settling into school. Because I have outstanding bills for my running injury plus a many-hundreds-of-dollars fee due this month for the renewal of my psychologist license -- and my husband just got laid off from his extra part-time job -- I've been very focused on earning money. Therefore, last week I set a goal to more than double my typical week's worth of freelance output. I was successful, but I literally worked from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day. My plan was to repeat that goal this week and next, and get the bills totally paid off, but a.) I'm not sure I have the stamina; and b.) starting next week, I'm on jury duty for two weeks.

Yes. Jury duty. In a different town. And we have only one car between us. And I am a FULL-TIME STAY-AT-HOME MOM, yo. With no alternate full-time childcare (which means my husband would need to take vacation days if I get called in).

This jury duty spell is rescheduled from my first call, which I received last April, before Genevieve was in school for even the daily half-days she's in now. I requested a waiver of my duty in April, citing that I am full-time caregiver with no alternate help. I know this is a valid reason in many states. The county gave me a postponement instead, and assigned me to mid-September. Here it is mid-September.

I said it back in April (to much controversy on Facebook), and I'll say it again. How is a full-time caregiver of small children supposed to just up and serve on a jury all day every day (potentially for two weeks)? (I know it's statistically unlikely that I will be called in for more than a brief time, but the fact is, the call is for two weeks.) I don't have extended family in town to take both my children after school and Genevieve every morning until 12:30, to get them to and from the bus stops, to be available for the additional weekday activities and obligations. It's not a small deal for my husband to take off from work so I can serve on a jury; that's two adults' work affected for one person's jury call. Last spring, people who most likely weren't parents scoffed at my concern and told me to bring my daughters to one of those drop-off childcare centers.

A.) My town does not have any drop-off childcare centers; and B.) Are you insane?

I am not saying that we all -- including me -- shouldn't have to fulfill our civic duties as Americans under our justice system. What I'm saying is, I know there are people out there who are not currently taking care of two small children and working from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day to earn enough money to pay their bills. I know those people are more available than I am. I know they exist. And I swear, if one of those people took my turn for me now, I would do it for some other over-extended stay-at-home mom of small children later on, a few years down the line, when both my daughters are in school for the entire day and it would be far simpler to arrange substitute care for them for a couple of hours a day without me.

Of course, my county does not care about any of this.

So, next Monday, please send get-out-of-jury-duty vibes in my direction. Because if I thought last week's schedule of nonstop caregiving + working was busy and hard, can you imagine how jury duty would fit in?

Friday, September 09, 2011

ABC Summer Weekly Report: Odds and Ends

Given that school started this week, I suppose summer really is over. Still, our ABC Summer project still had A and Y to address. Plus, we never did do much for I or N, back in August. So this week we added a few more fun activities to our list, with plans to perhaps fit a couple more in next week too; Y, in particular, was neglected this week and I have hopes of thinking of something more for that (yarn collage? books about yaks? collecting yellow leaves?).

Here's what kept us busy this week when we weren't going to school or throwing fits:


Went for a hike in our town's Arboretum
Made homemade soft pretzels in A shapes


Made homemade soft pretzels in Y shapes


Ate ice cream cones


Went on a Nature hike (see A, above)

Mama Essentials, Part 3

Lastly, in my series of essential life-changing products for busy moms, a very recent discovery: Garnier Fructis Style Sleek & Shine Flat Iron Perfector Straightening Mist. (Once again: Garnier is not compensating me for this post.)

In looking for a heat protectant spray at Target the other day, I happened to see this non-aerosol pump in the hair products aisle and thought I'd give it a try. I flat-iron my hair any day that I wear it down, because although my hair was naturally stick-straight prior to my pregnancies, ever since the hormonal maelstrom of pregnancy, nursing, and weaning, it's been a crazy mix of some-straight, some-wavy, all dry, and all frizzy. Nice.

Simply put, this spray is AMAZING. I'm used to the flat iron, but this product takes it to another level. It truly gives you sleek, shiny, Gwyneth-Paltrow-straight hair. And the effect lasts a few days, too (assuming you don't wash your hair every day -- which we all know I do not do). I had to touch it up a bit after the first day, but for the most part, my hair still appeared straight and non-frizzy, even after a busy day and sleeping on it all night. Wow!

If you're one of those lucky people who wakes up with nice-looking hair or can let your hair air-dry without scaring the people around you, you won't need this product. But if you're like many moms, your hair needs a little help and your mornings are insane. A product that makes your styling tools work better and their effects last longer (read: so your subsequent few mornings may be somewhat less insane) is a boon to any mom who wants to look just a little more like Gwyneth Paltrow. I can't be the only one, can I?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Day Three and I'm Already Exhausted

So everyone's had fine days of school so far. When Genevieve got off the bus with Julia on Tuesday afternoon and I asked her how she liked kindergarten, she shrieked, "It was GREAT! I LOVE IT!"

Surprise after-school ice cream cones to celebrate the first day of school weren't bad either.

Of course from about four o'clock on, Genevieve was a maelstrom of yelling, pushing, hitting, screaming, wailing, and teeth-knashing: the hurricane that is known by parents everywhere as "the way small children behave at home during the adjustment period of starting school." In other words, it takes so much mental and emotional energy and stamina to make it through the school day that when you come home and it's safe to do so, you unleash your stress on those you love the most. Also hate. But really love.

And it's been that way ever since.

Yesterday, day two of the new school year, was really up and down for me. It began with the horrible screaming tantrum about the new school outfit -- you know, the one Genevieve ASKED ME TO BUY for her (to match Julia's) with the school-clothes money from grandma and PICKED OUT THE NIGHT BEFORE as the one she wanted to wear on Wednesday. Because clearly, on Wednesday morning, that outfit represented all that is wrong with the world.

Of course, by afternoon kindergarten bus stop time, all that was forgotten.

Killing time waiting for the bus. She's got the need for speed.

Can't you see the clothes? The horrible, offensive new clothes?

But before kindergarten time rolled around, Genevieve accompanied me to my physical therapy appointment. I was super excited because after taking a six-day course of oral cortisone medication in an attempt to shock my hip injury into a state of surrender after four months of pain, I was on day three or four of no real pain at all, and had even gone for a 100% pain-free run the night before, which felt about as miraculous as seeing the face of Jesus on a piece of toast.

I guess I should have kept the good news to myself, because clearly the fact that I went and told my physical therapist about my improvement explains why this morning I woke up with a sore hip again. Because, you know, superstition and all that.

Hmmm, do you think it's a coincidence that my hip started hurting again AFTER I started to do new physical therapy exercises? Following weeks of slacking on physical therapy because it had no effect whatsoever? I DO NOT.

Anyway, we came home from PT and I sent Genevieve off to school and proceeded to spend the entire afternoon doing nonstop freelance work in a frenzy of catch-up from the day before. It was short day at school because of weekly Late Start (for the teachers' continuing education time) so I really had to rush.

The second day of school went fine as well, and after school let out I made homemade soft pretzels in letter shapes with my daughters. In between them poking, yelling at, pushing, and arguing with each other, that is.

I basically spent the rest of the day and evening frantically trying to do as much paid writing as possible, alternated with yelling and making threats because my children were behaving so atrociously. There may have been a piece of pie and some ice cream thrown in there at some point, but only because pie and ice cream are the recommended treatment for reaching the end of your mothering patience. Did you know?

Then I collapsed in bed and started it all over again at five this morning.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Mama Essentials, Part 2

Are you ready for my review of life-changing product #2? (Reminder: no one is compensating me for this series of posts.)

Today: Dandy Blend.

This is a caffeine-free, instant, herbal coffee alternative, made from dried dandelion root, chicory root, roasted barley, and beetroot.

Stay with me, now.

Never in a million years would I have believed that a drink made from dandelions would be tasty, nor that I would give up coffee -- and the bulk of my caffeine intake -- in favor of this concoction, with no caffeine-withdrawal symptoms whatsoever, and yet, both things are true. Trust me on this. Dandy Blend is great, and no doubt my body and brain are a lot better off without a ton of caffeine coursing through my veins every day. Plus, dandelion and chicory are full of nutrients and have a ton of healthy properties! Bonus.

So does it taste like coffee? Kind of. It tastes nutty, coffee-ish, and good. I like it, both iced and hot. I tend to use a lot of the powder to make my Dandy Blend strong; this makes it taste richer and more like coffee. It's not bitter or off-tasting like coffee can sometimes be. And it's great both with a splash of half-and-half (my preferred coffee addition) and without.

Like Revitalash, Dandy Blend is pricey. However, I have chosen to view it as a medical expense. Because with my history of mysterious high blood pressure, random anxiety, and stress-related hair loss, let's face it: a stimulant is not what I need.

My only problem with Dandy Blend (other than the price) is that there's no quick and easy way to refer to it. I mean, you can't really say, "Wait till I drink my herbal coffee alternative." Or, "I need to grab a mug of herbal coffee alternative." But if you say "Dandy Blend," no one's going to know what you're talking about and also it sounds....bizarre.

Next up: my miracle hair product. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Day of School 2011

This morning my firstborn daughter started 2nd grade. Which is really crazy because she was just born, like, the other day.

She was super excited and full of energy and joy. We went outside bright and early to take some photos before heading to the bus stop.

Our friend and neighbor, on her way to work, even stopped and got out of her car to run over and offer to take a photo of our whole family.

It's a good thing she did, too, because up until today we didn't have anything to use for our Christmas card. And you know that's what you're thinking about on the day after Labor Day.

After Julia got on the bus with her two grade-school buddies, Genevieve and I went home to hang out. I didn't do any work because I figured I'd have all afternoon while she was at kindergarten to get work done.

Genevieve said she didn't want to go to school, but she sure was excited to put on her new puppy backpack when the time came.

Adorable! Tiny! Adorable! Tiniest, most adorable kindergartner ever.

The kindergarten bus was late. It was hard to wait. For me, I mean.

When the bus finally pulled up and the driver opened the door, I could hear little-girl voices calling joyfully, "Genevieve! Genevieve!" Her very best friend in the whole world was waiting for her, along with two other little girls she knows, one from preschool and one from the summer pre-K adjustment program.

Genevieve didn't cry. She didn't cling to my legs and sob and wail and refuse to get on the bus. I walked her up the steps, chatted for a second with the kindergarten bus driver who I know from two years ago when she drove Julia home from morning kindergarten at lunchtime, and watched Genevieve settle into the second seat next to her best friend. Four little faces smiled excitedly at me from behind the tall seat backs. Four little girls on the giant school bus, all friends. (Afternoon kindergarten is mostly the walkers. Our neighborhood is the only part of town with bus riders in the afternoon.) If they were nervous, it was OK, because they had each other. All four of them waved at Christopher and me as the bus pulled away -- four little faces in the front two bus windows.

As the bus drove off to round the corner and circle back behind the block to head down the road to school, I saw my friend -- Genevieve's best friend's mom -- down the street in her Jeep, waiting, ready to fall in line behind the school bus and follow it to school for the first day, as she did for her older child, Julia's classmate, two years ago when our firstborns were both starting kindergarten. That's when I cried just a little behind my sunglasses. It was such a relief to see her familiar car, to know exactly what she was doing, to wave all the way down half the block so she could tell that I knew, to realize that in this small town everyone looks after everyone else; you know all the kids on the kindergarten bus and your friends watch your babe as she gets off the bus at school just as they watch their own.

Within five minutes of the bus driving off, I had already left the house to run a solo errand. Because that's how stay-at-home moms with both kids in school roll, people.

Then I came back home to do all the work I planned to do this afternoon. Instead I uploaded and edited photos, created a Facebook album, read all my friends' Facebook posts about sending our children off to afternoon kindergarten, e-mailed a bunch of people, talked to two mom friends on the phone to check in on how our five-year-olds had done at drop-off, and wrote this post.

And now the school bus comes back home in one hour.

Dang! I have a feeling this is exactly how the year is going to go.

We survived it, you all! I sent my last baby off to kindergarten today, and I'm still standing, I'm not crying, and I'm just as distracted and behind on work as always. As my best local mom-friend said this morning, "The passage of time makes you sad if you think about it for too long." So the lesson is, don't think about it for too long.

Here's to a new era for this stay-at-home mom! I certainly hope I get more work done this year than I have today.

Keep Calm

In light of this first day of school in Minnesota, I'm giving you this little reminder. Because if your school mornings are anything like mine, you may need it -- particularly if you're sending any little honeys off on the school bus today for the next phase in their little lives.

More news later, after the kindergartner photos are taken and the 12:21 school bus takes Genevieve off on her big adventure.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Traditional First-Day-of-School Breakfast

Distracting myself from my sorrow over school starting tomorrow by preparing the homemade chocolate-chip cornmeal scones I serve my daughters each year for breakfast on the first day of school. Because chocolate and butter make everything better, right?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Mama Essentials, Part 1

I don't usually have a lot of faith in commercial products. I just feel like manufactured products are generally poorly-made and disappointing; their claims are extravagant and designed solely to get you to buy. But there are three products I've purchased recently that have been life-changing. Life-changing! So much so that I thought I'd share my experiences in case any of you want your life changed as well.

I'll review one product at a time, starting today. Tune in later this week for the next two installments. (None of the companies involved is compensating me for these posts. I'm just sharing my experience because I think this information could possibly make you happy. You're welcome.)

First, Revitalash lash conditioner (now called Revitalash Advanced). This is the non-prescription, much cheaper counterpart to Latisse -- a serum that encourages your lashes to grow thicker and longer.

Now, you have to understand, I am a fair Scandinavian blonde. My eyelashes are not only invisible, they are short and sparse. Even with mascara, my lashes leave a whole lot to be desired. So when my friend Lori told me about eyelash conditioners, I was intrigued but skeptical.

Revitalash takes awhile to show its effects; it's supposed to start working in several weeks to a few months, so you have to be consistent. But for me, effects didn't show up for six months, maybe more. (Yes, I really did keep using it all that time. Why not? I wasn't going to waste it!) And it's pricey. However, one tube lasted me almost nine months, far longer than the three months advertised (I may have forgotten to use it now and then in the beginning).

But, people! I now have eyelashes! Particularly when I wear mascara (which is anytime anyone else would see me, frankly), my lashes are definitely noticeably longer. I am AMAZED -- and also a lifelong devoted customer. I will hand over my credit card anytime to keep reaping the rewards of lashes that actually resemble those other people have had their whole lives. Imagine what Revitalash would do for you if you ALREADY had fairly long and lush lashes! You'd resemble Kim Kardashian!

Of course Kim Kardashian isn't a mom (yet). But as any busy mom will tell you, time for beauty prep and good grooming is scarce, especially when the children are young enough that they still need help pouring their milk and combing their own hair without leaving a giant untouched mass in the back. Any product that helps you look a little less like you've just rolled out of bed is a winner, in my opinion.

If you've tried Revitalash, let me know how it works for you! Did it take six months for you, too?

Friday, September 02, 2011

ABC Summer Weekly Report: O and X (also a little N)

Well, our ABC Summer is winding down. Next week the girls start school. However, we do have one more week of ABC activities, because we just couldn't fit all the letters in any other way. So there are a few ideas yet to come.

This week we struggled with X. You try thinking of children's activities that start with X! It's not easy. We did our best. We also added in an N project, since we had never gotten around to doing N the week my mom was in the hospital.

noodle collaging

The highlight of our week was definitely our visit to Fireside Orchard earlier today. Although it's just a few miles away on a highway we take frequently to get most anywhere outside of our town, we'd never stopped to visit before today. But I'd heard earlier this week that apples were available, and Orchard is a great fit for O week. We didn't pick apples ourselves, since it was a wet and rainy day (we will do that later this autumn), but we did ogle all the wonderful goods in their store, visit the pond and rose garden, ring the antique school bell, taste-test apples, and buy a peck of new Zestars, a half dozen ears of sweet corn, a hunk of homemade fudge, and a bag of freshly-made sugared apple doughnuts. Holla!

At Fireside Orchard


set up an Obstacle course
attended on Outdoor movie party in the backyard of some friends
went to Fireside Orchard


played "X-treme" hopscotch (giant squares and/or up to a very high number)
did plenty of eXercising (walking, biking, hopscotch, running)


made Noodle collages

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Parenting is an Endurance Sport.

There are times when I write here less frequently than usual because there's not much going on and I don't have much to say. This is not one of those times. Rather, there's too much going on these days.

One of those things going on is Kindergarten Angst. Or maybe you could call it Pre-Separation Anxiety.

Genevieve is NOT happy about the upcoming first day of school, and she would like you to know it. The way she has decided to tell you (and by "you," I mean "me"), is by throwing even! more! tantrums! than usual, hitting her sister, pushing her sister, screaming at people, rolling around on the floor wailing and screaming, running away when the Welcome to Kindergarten letter arrives in the mail, grimacing when the school bus information card arrives in the mail, and throwing leaves at you if you happen to mention kindergarten while outside chatting with your next-door neighbor.

Today is the beginning-of-the-school-year Open House. Should be a barrel of fun.