Friday, September 28, 2012

Solo Parenting 101

I always say that, when solo-parenting on a weekend, the key is a busy schedule. No sitting around complaining about being bored, arguing with one's sibling, or otherwise making the solo parent sigh heavily and pine for a replacement and a brief respite.

Which is why we have four special things planned for Saturday: a trip to the weekend outdoor market, a playdate at our house, attendance at our local alpaca farm's annual open house, and an inaugural visit to Cherry Berry, a frozen yogurt chain that just opened a branch in our town.

Oh yes. Frozen yogurt in numerous flavors and a whole bar of mind-boggling, eye-goggling toppings to choose from. I am down with that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Good Riddance.

As long-time readers of this blog or readers of my book know, my family struggles to maintain our one-income, stay-at-home-mom-household status. Because money is tight, we tend to buy the inexpensive version of just about everything (except my husband's Apple electronics and his bikes. Of course).

So anyway. I've had this set of cheapo nonstick cookware for several years (before which I had other, cheapo sets of nonstick cookware). Over time the 12-inch skillet--the pan I use most often, almost every day in fact--has become more and more warped and wrecked. And I love to cook, you all. I cook a LOT. Every day. And cooks need operable tools. But I don't have high-quality tools for that part of my housewife/mom job, because we could never afford them. Really good cookware costs hundreds of dollars, any way you slice it.

This horrible pan became more and more horrible, and every now and then I'd say to Christopher, "We should start buying one high-end piece of stainless cookware at a time, like once a year for my birthday or Christmas, to gradually replace our horrible cheapo nonstick set." I'd done my research, weighed the merits of hard-anodized vs. stainless, All-Clad vs. Calphalon and all the rest, and I knew what I wanted. But then some new bill or expense would crop up, and I'd say, "Screw it. We can't afford it right now. We'll have to do that later." And I'd just keep cooking as best I could with my wrecked, sticky, warped, possibly-carcinogenic "nonstick" saute pan that I used almost every night to make dinner.

Every now and then I'd have a truly maddening experience, like the time I literally could not make pancakes for my family because my pan was so warped that every time I poured a circle of batter into the pan it would run off to the one corner of the pan that still met the cooktop surface. And the thing is, over the years I could have bought the good stuff--which lasts forever, guaranteed--with the money I'd spent on serial cheapo nonstick cookware sets that eventually wore out anyway.

One night last week, Christopher was out on a cycling club ride in the evening. Vivi was inconsolable about going to bed without Daddy home, so to make her feel better I promised I'd make something special for breakfast, like French toast.

The next morning it took me a full half hour to cook four pieces of French toast in my horrible skillet because the pan was so peel-y and sticky and warped and wrecked that the bread kept sticking completely to the pan, and also not really cooking, because the pan's surface didn't evenly sit on the burner anymore, and I had to keep doing it over. It was a school morning, time was tight, and all I could think was, All I want to do is make French toast for my daughters, and I cannot, because of this piece of *&!# pan. Enough!

When Christopher came downstairs I held up the pan and said, "I don't care that we really can't afford it and that we have loads of bills; I am a housewife and a mom and a cook, and I DO NOT HAVE THE TOOLS I NEED TO DO MY JOB. I'm going on Amazon* TODAY and ordering a Calphalon Tri-Ply stainless steel 12-inch saute pan with lid, even though it's crazy-expensive and I will have to put it on my credit card, because I CANNOT USE THIS PIECE OF &#!* PAN FOR ONE MORE DAY."

I believe he backed out of the way and nodded. [I did need to use it for another day, however; in fact more than one, because I had to wait for my pan to come via UPS.]

Yesterday my pan arrived. Here is my nice, new, expensive, lifetime-guaranteed, Calphalon stainless steel (read: will never warp or peel, does not give off carcinogenic nonstick fumes and particles) 3-quart saute pan.

 You guys! So pretty.

Here is my old, crappy, cheapo pan.

Even more disgusting and useless in real life, I promise. And no lid!

Which I promptly walked over to the trash bin in the garage and tossed.

$103 plus shipping has never been better spent.

*[I am conflicted about ordering from Amazon rather than buying from small local shops, but I do it all the time anyway. Again, a matter of personal economics as well as geography; I can usually find great deals on Amazon, far cheaper than at an independent shop, plus we live in a small town with few shopping options. In this case, we have a kitchenware shop downtown, but the other thing was that this pan, the one I really needed and wanted, is no longer being sold individually (only as part of the large set, which I don't want because I already have a stainless stockpot I got long ago as a gift) but you can still find a few through Amazon. And thus ends my explanation of my shopping actions for those who care.]

Monday, September 24, 2012

Documenting Family Life and Love

Over the weekend my friend and neighbor Angel offered to take our family portrait. She wanted practice doing a family shoot for the first time, the weather on Sunday was perfect, we knew it wouldn't be warm and lush in the woods and on the prairie where I was hoping to shoot for very much longer, and the girls and I had just had our hair cut. In other words: DO. IT. NOW.

We're still working on choosing, changing, deciding, and finishing, but here's a little taste of our family's photo shoot. Enjoy!

Didn't Angel do a fantastic job? And she's not even a pro! I think she should start a little side business, don't you? You know, in all the spare time she has as a full-time stay-at-home mom to three children under ten.


Hi, friends. I've been busy with mundane, wonderful family life.

I spent the weekend making squash-and-Swiss-chard lasagne at 5 a.m. (there's a backstory there, but it's not very exciting), eating apple pie and drinking wine in celebration of a friend's birthday, browsing my town's weekly Saturday-morning RiverWalk Market (a farmers' market/craft show on our town's square by the river) with my family, walking around downtown and stopping at the library for new books, drinking coffee, running a lot (6 miles on Friday, 6 miles on Saturday, 7 mile on Sunday, go me!), baking dark-chocolate marble loaf cake for the first time (a gift for a friend), making homemade kale-white bean-potato soup, watching Downton Abbey on DVD with my husband, eating Ben & Jerry's while watching Downton Abbey (one of the perks of running that many miles), taking my daughters to swimming lessons, and getting our family portraits taken.

Which is why I had no time to write, and still don't, really.

What did you do over the weekend?

(Sorry--real post coming soon.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Post-Summer Makeover

This morning I was uploading pictures from my phone onto the computer, including this accidental one, taken haphazardly and for no reason by my daughter. I think this one should be titled, "Please don't let me ever go so long without touching up my highlights ever again, because clearly they are so, so worth it."

An alternate caption might be, "Those Crest WhiteStrips are completely awesome and totally work."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I'll Stop the World and Melt Down With You.

In happier times (like last Tuesday) at the college where their dad works.

 You guys! I just can't maintain my pedometer streak. (I promise I won't start talking about pedometers all the time now.) I wore it Monday, and racked up over 13,300 steps despite no walk and no run, but yesterday I wore a dress (remember? design flaw!) so couldn't clip it anywhere.

This morning I woke up sick (again--or...still?). I'd been feeling basically fine since Monday, and so without even thinking about it I'd been extreeeeeemely busy. Like, multiple errands, a 6-mile run, a Jillian Michaels strength workout (ouch), a ton of housecleaning, planning and arranging details for getting our family portrait taken this weekend, scheduling kids' haircuts and carpet cleaning, cooking up a storm, ETC. Plus I keep inexplicably waking up at 4:30 in the morning (hormones? who knows). Then yesterday after school Genevieve had the meltdown to end all meltdowns--one that included throwing herself onto the floor and wailing, and which went on for nearly an hour, even after I sent her to her room--because (are you ready for this?) I offered to drive them to the park to play after school since their next-door neighbor buddy was at gymnastics and wouldn't be out in the yard. Oh, and both girls had wanted me to take them to the park after school the last time I spoke to them.

There was no intermediate interaction. There was just me, saying, "So which park should we go to?" and then Genevieve crying, yelling "no", and throwing herself onto the floor. Ah, parenting. What would we do without all the excitement? My life would be a boring hollow shell without it. (Actually, that's sort of true.)

Then I got called "the meanest mom in the whole world" a few times. For offering to take her to the park.

I know. Child Protective Services ought to start an investigation right away.

After feeling fine for two days, I woke up today with a return of the raging cold symptoms that had faded by Monday.

I blame the meltdown.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Pedometer Diaries

image courtesy

Last time I wrote, I told you about my recent pedometer purchase. Specifically, I bought this one from Amazon (pictured above).

As I said last week, I suspect my metabolism is not quite as speedy as it once was, my kiddos don't require nearly as much chasing after as they did when they were a little younger, and I spend a lot of time in front of the laptop, blogging and writing books.

I wondered if I was as active as I thought I was (or wasn't), or as active as I "should" be (according to health experts), during the times when I'm not running or otherwise getting formal exercise. I had just read Drop Dead Healthy, by A. J. Jacobs (a very entertaining read, by the way), and in it, the author learns a lot about the serious health implications of sedentary behavior--even if you're an avid exerciser during your non-sitting hours of the day! (Crazy, I know. But have you heard about those studies on the news and whatnot? The evidence is disturbing and compelling.)

OK. So, last Monday I clipped on my pedometer for the first time and gamely plunged into my attempt to reach the physician-recommended 10,000 steps per day.

I learned some very interesting things in the next few days--and since this pedometer thing is still fairly new to me, I am continuing to learn and assess things as I go. What follows here are just some preliminary experiences.


Day 1: I didn't get the pedometer programmed until halfway through the day, so I didn't start my step-counting until 12:45 p.m. By the time my kids got home from school at 3:30, I was seriously wondering how anyone could ever get up to 10,000 steps per day. So, after dinner I took a brief walk around my neighborhood for the express purpose of upping my steps.

In the end, I amassed almost 7,000 steps by bedtime--and that didn't count my 7.75-hours-long morning (I get up at five on school days) which happened to have included a 2.5 mile run, a trip to the supermarket (many steps!), and errands to Target, the bank, and the library (the latter two of which I walked a couple of blocks to/from). Suddenly I realized that if I can get 7,000 steps from 12:45 to 9 p.m. without even counting a morning like that, most likely I take 10,000 steps a day, easy. But is every day like that?

Day 2: I've read that the average American adult takes only 3,000-4,000 steps per day. How is this possible?! I've taken 6,800 steps by 11 a.m. This included another short walk, but no running. I'm learning that stay-at-home motherhood is NOT a sedentary job. Not even when you're a stay-at-home mom to two children who are in school.

My pedometer instruction booklet says the pedometer does not count going up or down stairs. Since I run up and down the stairs in my house approximately a million times a day, this does not seem fair.

By 2:15 p.m., I'm at 9,000 steps, and I've hit the magic 10,000 by the time my children get home from school. At the end of the day, the little screen reads 14,000-some steps. Wowee!

Day 3: I didn't wear the pedometer on this day. That was because I was spending an uncharacteristic two hours driving and two hours in a salon chair getting my hair cut and highlighted--not a remotely typical day for me--plus I wanted to wear a dress, and there's no good way to clip the pedometer on a dress (design flaw for me). Day 3 was a wash.

Day 4: Wearing a pedometer makes you do weird things, like walk laps around your house while drinking your breakfast smoothie, for instance, or pace the floor when talking on the phone, just to increase your number. It's kind of fun! I felt like I was in competition with myself and wanted to do everything I could to see how many steps I could get in.

On Day 4, I did my usual 6-mile run. Even though the pedometer says it's for walking, it counted all my steps from my run, putting me at 12,500 steps by 11 a.m. Score! I ended up with roughly 17,000 steps that day. I always knew I was active on running days, but was surprised it added up this high. Awesome! At least it helped average out the day before, when I sat for four hours straight.

This was an odd week for me; on three separate days I ended up driving out of town for parts of the day (on Days 3, 5, and 6). I didn't bother wearing the pedometer on those days. Normally, I leave my town very rarely--I'm a total homebody, seriously--so these days do not reflect my usual daily life. I'm almost never in my car that long. Also, on Day 5 I got sick (and have been for the three days since). Obviously while sick my goal was to do as LITTLE activity as possible, so as to rest up and kick the virus; so again, I didn't bother with the pedometer then. Thus, I haven't worn it since last Thursday and I've only worn it for four days total so far.


What have I learned during this preliminary experiment? Well, clearly my typical SAHM days are super-active. Not just on my running days--although those involve crazy-lots-o'-steps--but even on days I don't run. Apparently, just running a household and managing a family takes a lot of physical activity. Stay-at-home moms rarely sit down, in my experience, and my pedometer confirmed this.

But even though last week had some unusual days, it's also clear that most likely my days vary considerably. True, I don't always drive out of town every few days and spend hours in my car or getting my hair done; but things like this come up, and I do get sick at times, and there are no doubt other days I spend the majority of my time on my rear--or at least a lot more time than I did on some of those days last week.

I'm going to keep using my pedometer whenever possible because the immediate feedback is super-motivating. I mean, sometimes I paced around my living room/dining room/kitchen area while watching TV, just to get an extra few hundred steps in (which is very easy and goes very fast, by the way). I realize that sounds crazy; but listen, I dare you to buy a pedometer, wear it, and NOT want to do things like that.

I'm not being compensated in any way by the pedometer manufacturer for this post, but I am very happy with the model I purchased. My only complaint is that it's fairly bulky, and is not easy to disguise under most of my tops. (Oh, and the dress problem.) But other than that, I love it. It was very easy to program, is easy to use, re-sets itself to zero at midnight every day, and stores your steps in its memory so you can compare one day to the next if you want.

But really, any pedometer would work as incentive to walk more, sit less, and be more active. If you have any doubt about your activity level or any desire to be more active in your daily life, I definitely recommend you try one! They're fun.

Bottom line: housewives do not sit around watching daytime TV and eating bonbons. In case you didn't know that. In fact, apparently stay-at-home moms are roughly three to five times more active (when they're not traveling or sick) than the average American doing the average paid job. I have electronic proof.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Moving your Fingers on the Keyboard Doesn't Count as Activity.

Get moving.

Wow, I'm really phoning it in here this week, aren't I? Would it help to know that I've already had one sick child, and now I've caught it from her, too? (Not bad enough to stay home from school, but you know how it is when you've got a cold--it sort of drains energy from everything else for awhile.) Mainly we're still bouncing around trying to get into a solid school-year routine. It's always an adjustment period.

One of the strangest things for me has been missing my kids. In the eight years I've been a mom, I have rarely (we're talking once or twice) had the opportunity to miss them--you know, seeing as how I've been physically with them for pretty much every minute of every day. Even when Julia started school, I still had Genevieve with me, which kept me distracted from missing Julia. Now they're both gone every weekday and it's a completely new experience to have feelings of missing them. It makes me extra-happy to meet the school bus every afternoon and hear all about their days.

This week I've been experimenting with this new pedometer I recently purchased. Everyone knows that experts recommend adults take 10,000 steps a day for optimal health; and lately the health news is overrun with stories about studies that show that even if you're an avid exerciser, if you sit for several hours a day (can't remember; is it six?), all the other exercise you do doesn't do a thing to negate the deadly health effects of those hours of sedentary behavior. (What the what, now? That hardly seems fair.) We're all supposed to sit at our desks and computers (and on our sofas and in front of our televisions) a whole lot less each day, and move around a whole lot more.

Even though I'm a runner, I wondered if I was really all that active during the other parts of my day, or on my non-running days (I only run 4 days a week)--especially now that my kids are old enough that I don't need to chase after them all day or carry them on my hip. Mothering babies and toddlers is way more physical than mothering school-agers. Plus, I sit at the computer and waste time on Facebook--oops, I mean write--an awful lot, you know? We all know that's not burning any calories. I'm getting older, my metabolism is slowing down, so I thought I'd better find out exactly how many steps I take on a typical day, and probably try to increase it. Hence the pedometer. Well, it's been a fascinating week with this little machine and when I have time I'll tell you all about it. Maybe it'll even spur you to buy your own pedometer.

Onward to the weekend. We've got a little family day trip planned, plus the girls start swimming lessons again, so we'll be busy. As always.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Wholesome, Healthy Pumpkin Bread

I wish I had a photo of this bread before slicing; it comes out with the most gorgeous 
shape and a domed top that cracks into the perfect tender-yet-crusty crown. Truly.

You know I'm a muffin addict: they're so packable, so portable. I bake them all the time. But sometimes you just want to make a nice, hefty, gorgeous loaf of bread.

My friend Tracy asked me for my "healthier" pumpkin bread recipe the other day, so I thought I'd put it up here for you all, too. This recipe is based on one from Good Housekeeping magazine a few years back; I've tweaked it a little here and there and it's my new favorite pumpkin bread recipe for sure.

This bread boasts vitamin-rich pumpkin, unsaturated (read: good for you) fat in the form of canola oil (you could also use coconut oil, melted to liquid consistency; if you do this, make sure the rest of your ingredients are at ROOM TEMPERATURE rather than cold), plain yogurt for protein, and whole-grain flour for fiber. If you use egg whites instead of a whole egg, you'll have a cholesterol-free loaf, too. Either way, you've got a tasty, wholesome, moist and yummy treat that's great for breakfast, after-school snack, or even packed in a lunchbox.

*Note: you could likely reduce the sugar amount here to 2/3 cup; I have not tried it, because I've already reduced it down from 1 cup in the original recipe. But if you try it, be sure to let me know how it turns out. Usually a modification like that is just fine.

Healthy Pumpkin Bread
16 slices


3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 large egg whites OR 1 whole large egg
1 cup pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling); if I'm using canned, I just use 1/2 the can and  don't bother measuring
1/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup non-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose white OR Ultragrain all-purpose flour (I like to use the Ultragain to get more whole grains in there; check your supermarket)
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a standard-sized loaf pan with nonstick baking spray (the kind with flour inside works best).

In a large bowl, use a wire whisk to combine the brown sugar and egg whites or whole egg. Add pumpkin, oil, yogurt, and vanilla and beat with wooden spoon to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Add this flour mixture to the wet mixture; stir just until combined and do not over-mix. Pour batter into greased pan.

Bake for 30 minutes; then check to see if the top is getting really brown. If it is, and it probably will be, tent a sheet of foil over the pan to prevent further browning, and bake bread for 10 to 15 more minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack, then invert bread out of the pan onto the rack to cool completely.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I'm Sparing You Any Photos; You Should Thank Me.

As soon as the girls left for school this morning I went off to run a bunch of errands. I wanted to get them done as early as possible because Genevieve came down with a cold yesterday and I was afraid I was going to get a call from the school at some point today asking me to come get her. I wanted to get all the shopping and errands out of the way before that might occur (it hasn't, by the way; she must be doing okay). I was running around getting groceries and returning books to the library and whatnot, and at one point during my various stops I was struck with a sudden, dramatic pang of loneliness. I thought, Oh, I really miss having company on my errands. It seemed really sad, all of a sudden, to be doing the shopping without Genevieve along, like she was all last year (and the year before, and...). It was just me. No little somebody in the back seat to chat with. No little someone to click in and out of her carseat, or let pick out a cookie at the grocery store bakery case, or have help me put the purchases up on the checkout counter. I've hardly done those things alone at all, in eight whole years.

A friend of mine said that she'd recently run into a fellow stay-at-home mom with kids older than ours, who had asked my friend how she was liking this new business of having both children in school all day. My friend responded that she thought it was going to take awhile to figure it out. She told me that this other mom said to her, "It will. And when you do, you're going to love it."

I think that mom was right; there are already some things about it that I love. (Exercising during the daytime, for instance, and having the time to cook and bake really good meals and snacks and treats for my family on an every-day basis rather than just when I can fit them in between my kids' activities and bus stop runs and all the rest.) But it's definitely strange, too. I definitely have not figured it all out yet.

In other news, over the weekend while I was blazing through a trail run as fast as possible because I was solo-parenting but both kids were at playdates and I wanted to get my run in while I had the chance, I tripped on a large, unseen root (I run on pretty rough trails at times) and flew through the air, landing on my front on both hands and both knees/shins. I hit the ground so hard that my phone stopped working for awhile (it's fine now) and my whole body ached for more than 24 hours afterward, even when I sat motionless with ice packs on my bruises. Most notably, I look like I got into an altercation with a porcupine, or, um....a gravel/dirt/rocky running trail...and my legs and knees are covered in scratches, scrapes, and bruises. I'm trying to come up with a really dramatic, impressive, exciting (false) scenario to tell people when they ask me what I did to my legs.

Let me know if you have any good ideas.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Best Letter Ever Written.

Love wins.

 You guys. Gifts come from the most unexpected places sometimes, as my friend Jen says.

Last night I was feeling kind of crummy about a super-negative online review of my book*--I won't even link to it, not because I think everyone on earth should love my book, but because the review itself was one of those ranting, semi-anonymous, spewing-bile pieces of prose that go on and on and are all wrapped up in their own anger and insults and say a lot more about the writer of the review than they do about the actual book in question. And it got so many things just flat-out wrong about me--not just my intentions as a mom and writer, but actual facts about me and this blog and my book and the writing of my book--the kinds of things you just want to correct and defend yourself over, you know? It just made me mad and sad, even though I knew it was ridiculous. And I was on my own, parenting, because Christopher was gone for an out-of-town bike race, which made me want to be an even better mom because I'm doing it alone, but I was also tired, which made me feel bad about not being a better mom--whatever that even is, because I know I'm a good mom and so do my daughters.

This morning I woke up--super early as always--with my children, got them breakfast and supervised homework, still feeling tired and low, like you sometimes do. I was browsing around online and went to read Glennon over at Momastery, which right there is like being led to just the right thing, because you know, Glennon, right? How her entire life's motto is Love Wins? How her whole philosophy about the world is that even the crazy, cranky people are there to teach us how to respond, how we can learn a lot from the people that make us want to scream or cry (I'm sorry if I'm getting it at wrong in any way, Glennon). Love wins. Responding to mean people with love and charity, wins. Refusing to get caught up in their anger and insults--that wins. That's how everyone wins.

So that alone was kind of cool. That I went to Momastery. But then, somehow, I can't remember how, from Momastery I clicked around and ended up at this. This letter. This letter to stay-at-home moms. And not only did it validate everything I wrote in chapter 1 of my book, but it said the kindest, most generous, most loving things about stay-at-home moms--from someone who isn't one. Have you ever heard of such a thing?? How often does that happen?! I'll tell you what: not often. And it made my day. This letter just blew me out of the water. I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude over this letter.

See? Love really does win. And gifts come from unexpected places. (Also from expected ones of course, like my friend Margaret, who is a wise woman indeed and who always, ALWAYS makes me feel better about myself and about this hard and wonderful job of being a mom when I need her help, even when it's via Facebook at nine p.m.--thank you, Margaret.)

You deserve that letter, too. You deserve unexpected gifts. We're all in this together, and we should support and love each other as moms, not strive to make each other feel as badly as possible about our experiences of and reactions to motherhood. Glennon knows this, and so does Nicole Unice, the author of that letter. So do my friends Margaret and Jen (and many others).

[*Edited to add: I should mention, because I know some of you are going to write me and advise me to not even look at reviews, that I don't normally read anonymous (or anonymous-ish) reviews of my book by random members of the vast reading public; I can't remember the last time I even saw or thought about one. This time I was responding to a public speaking request and was clicking around online getting links for the organization in question, and don't even know how this one caught me by surprise. So, don't worry about me. I learned long ago--back when a certain psychologically disturbed troll who shall remain nameless but with whom I am well familiar dogged me on the B&N site and put up scads of fake horrible "reviews" as fast as he/she could set up different accounts and type them--that these types of reviews aren't worth the time it takes to skim them. That does not mean I don't appreciate, with every fiber of my being, the real, heartfelt reviews that other moms have written, posted, and sometimes even sent to me with genuine love and gratitude. I truly love my readers. I really do.]

Have a wonderful Saturday, friends. Remember: love wins.

Friday, September 07, 2012


The girls and I had a successful first week of first grade, third grade, and new-phase-of-at-home-motherhood. Whew! What a lot of events and emotions packed into a short week! We celebrated the end of the first week of school with a visit to a nearby apple orchard, where we bought Honeycrisps, ate mini sugared doughnuts fresh from the fryer, and picked out squares of homemade mint and peanut-butter fudge, which we sampled outside by the rose garden before a walk around the pond. It was a lovely afternoon, capped off by a cartoon movie and a cozy bubble bath. It may sound mundane, but life is good. So much of motherhood appears mundane from the outside, but means so much where it matters.

I'm not the only one mom who traversed the sometimes-rocky seas of back-to-school this week, so I hope you all made it safely to the shores of Friday afternoon, too. Love you, mama friends! The kids are all right.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I Don't Think I'm Resting Enough.

So how is it going, these first few days of the new school year and of my inaugural week as a stay-at-home mom with kids in school all day? Well, I'm so exhausted that last night I went to bed at 8 p.m., before it was even dark outside, so I must be doing something wrong.

No, really--a few nights before school began, I spent 3-1/2 hours in the middle of the night wide awake and wracked with mama-anxiety insomnia over school starting, and never caught up on that sleep. Then, every night since, I've accidentally woken up ridiculously early (like, 4:30 a.m.), been kept awake by thunderstorms in the night, or both--and because this week is stressful and new, once I'm awake, I can't fall back to sleep. In other words, by the time my children go to bed at night, I'm ready for it myself.

Not that there is truly anything to lie awake and worry about. Things have gone fine so far. Julia isn't sure the third grade is going to be much fun, since so far it seems to be largely not that much fun, according to her; and Genevieve collapses in exhausted meltdowns each evening at about 6:30, but I take those things in stride. You can't possibly love everything about third grade in two days' time; and new first-graders always have meltdowns at home in the evenings, because they're so exhausted from holding it together and working hard for seven or more hours each day at school. This is all completely normal.

As for me, the days have gone by too quickly for me to be too lonely. On the first day of school, I didn't sit down for more than a half-hour all day; yesterday, not much more. It's not that I'm working too hard; it's more that I'm working like I always do: I'm doing all the things I've always done (minus the kids' activities, of course; no, I'm not sitting alone at the playground!), and guess what?--those things do not include sitting around. I'm cooking, baking, cleaning, doing laundry, running errands, etc., all of which keep me busy and on my feet. The new addition to my daytime schedule is exercise--a luxury, getting that done during the day--and that does not include sitting around, either.

Ah, but it's only day three. Life is still fresh and new. The weekend is coming, when I will take the girls to the apple orchard and make them popcorn while we watch a movie and let them play as long as they want in a bubble bath in "Mama's big tub," because Christopher will be busy with a bike race, and we'll need fun things to do. We will relax and celebrate the first week done. We will rest up. We will go to birthday parties and playdates. We will eat dinner outside in the still-warm weather.


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Sending the Baby to All-Day School for the First Time: Back-to-School 2012

I know you all are waiting, but I just can't do it yet. Not ready to write about the first day of school.

I've been reading everyone else's posts and seeing their photos on Facebook this morning, and it's making my heart hurt even more than it did when the bus pulled away (minus our extremely beloved, now apparently former, bus driver Ed, who knew all the kids by name and made every day special; he's unexpectedly gone and that's just another reason to cry today!), and my mama-friend Angel gave me a hug. She's still got a toddler at home with her, though, so right now I'm feeling a little envious, here in my lonely quiet house. Oh, right, I forgot--having another baby won't exactly solve this problem, only put off the inevitable.

This morning I ran my errands and got home and it wasn't even ten a.m. yet. I had sworn I'd take this whole week easy, take some half-"vacation" while the kids are at school during my first full weekdays alone in eight years, rather than jump full-throttle into tasks and jobs and all the things I didn't have time to do over the past eight years. But the house was so lonely and still, I ended up tackling some psychologist-license business, after all--the first item on my "when the kids are in school" to-do list. And I'm currently considering sanitizing the jacuzzi tub sprayers. Truly. Is that sad or what?

I know I'll find plenty to do, at least at first. It takes a lot of work to run a family, and I'm super excited about the chance, finally, to get my workouts done during the day so that once my kiddos are home from school, I don't have to leave them in the evenings anymore to go running. Ditto with haircuts, the eye doctor, etc. And, I'm excited about being able to cook dinner and bake in advance, so that after school I'll be free to take them to the park every day if they want! We also have a bedroom and bathroom that need painting, light fixtures that need scrubbing, carpet that needs the pros to come in and steam-clean--a bevy of tasks that you just can't attend to when you've got small children at home with you all the time.

So, there are things to do. But I know it will take me awhile to get my footing, and I don't know yet what these school hours will feel like---more than enough? too much? just right? in need of something? in need of nothing more? I hope you will stick with me while I figure it all out. My ship is unmoored. I'm bouncing around out on the sea right now like a cork. Stay with me while I find my balance, I'm begging you, because I dearly need the company.

As for my babies, they went off to school this morning in a flurry of mixed excitement and nerves, but mainly happiness and positive energy. There were just fine. There's really nothing more to say. I pray that their sweet teachers in this wonderful school will take good care of them and love them for me between 8:15 and 3:15. I know they will be okay. I think they will be more okay than I will.

Well, will you look at that? I wrote about the first day of school--my part of it, at least. And my heart still hurts. But I trust that it won't stay that way forever.

Special Breakfast for a Big Day

This is what I made for my daughters' traditional special First-Day-of-School breakfast today. Yeah, yeah, they have white chocolate in them. If you can't have (pseudo-) chocolate on the first day of all-day school in your entire six-year-old life, when can you? And yes, I did use real cream, as the recipe suggests. These kiddos have to go five to six hours between breakfast (they are early risers, remember?) and school lunch. They need real cream.

Recipe, here.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Broken Heart, No Regrets

This photo is from last year. Saying goodbye on the last day of the pool.

I was going to avoid writing here until after tomorrow (the first day of school), because I just didn't want to face or talk about the first day of school on this last, holiday summer weekend...but it turns out I'm too heartbroken to stay away. I'm hoping someone will comment here and make it all better. You know, like, magically turn the clock back to June 1st for me or something.

Yes, it's the end of summer. For REAL this time. Last night we had our last "Sunday Picnic Dinner at the Pool" with the families with whom we've enjoyed this ritual for two summers now. The sun was noticeably low when the pool closed at six. It looked so different from how it looked in June (when, by the way, we could stay much later than six, because the pool was open till eight back then).

I thought I was tired, ready for the break from constant kid-interaction that comes with back-to-school. And, truly, I'm sure somewhere deep inside I am. But today it feels like June 1st was YESTERDAY. Those early days at the pool? They seem like minutes ago. Genevieve's kindergarten graduation? Seems like it JUST. HAPPENED.

Tomorrow I will send them off--both of them, for the first time ever--up the bus steps at 8:05 a.m. Summer is over, and so is an entire period of my life as a stay-at-home mom. No little hand will rest in mine on the walk back to the house. No one will accompany me on my errands. There are no more weekday-morning mama-daughter coffee dates. That part of my life is done.

It's crazy, really. I'm so thankful that my friend Tricia is hosting a morning coffee at her house later this week, for my circle of best local friends--we at-home moms whose daughters have all been together since before preschool--since baby-toddler classes, even!--and who are starting first grade this week. She said she'll be too upset to do this right away tomorrow morning, but she needs friends to come cry with her by Thursday. It's going to be a tough week for most of us, and that's when you really need your tribe.

It's been a GREAT summer. I have no complaints. My girls and I spent every minute of every day together, and with the help of two of my mom-friends, I packed each week with ABC Summer activities that were both fun and educational. With these and other friends, we played and swam and picnicked like crazy. We soaked up so much sun; we lived each day to the fullest--I really believe that. And it's a blessing to end a summer with zero regrets.

Good luck tomorrow, mamas--those of you who send your babes to school in the morning. (Many of you have already done this, and I've cherished reading your posts about it!) Check back here for a photo or two of my big kiddos, and to hear how it all went down--for them and for me.*

*[Edited to add:
I just had to come back on here and mention--lest some of you think I am a crazy mama for being so sad and freaked-out about my youngest child starting all-day school--that I am not the only one (so I can't be all that crazy). A friend of mine (who shall remain nameless for all sorts of obvious reasons, least of all that who knows what her husband might think of such a revelation) told me the other day that she'd been so upset about her "baby" going off to school that, in a fit of middle-of-the-night-insomnia-induced hysteria, had actually decided the solution was to have another baby. She even picked out baby names. This from a woman who has never, EVER wavered in her decision to be done having children. She admitted, however, that eventually she realized that any new baby would one day get big and go off to school, and then she'd have to have ANOTHER baby. Argh! Dammit. This would not work after all!]