Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Slow Progress

A couple of days ago, I finally got all the blue painter's tape removed from the newly-painted master bathroom, and last night I finally finished touching up those little painting mistakes that inevitably occur unless you're a professional painter. For those keeping track, that's about 3-1/2 weeks after I painted the bathroom. In other words, the entire process took almost a month. (In my defense, I did go back and give it a second coat. But I haven't even started the "redecorating" part of the project, which includes replacing our raggedy towels with new bath linens to match the paint, installing a robe hook, and procuring and hanging new wall decor.)

Remember how I told you that when my girls were toddlers, it took me five weeks to paint the guest bedroom? And things go so much faster now that they're no longer toddlers? Hmmm. Well...apparently other things arise that take up one's time. Ha.

Of course, now I have the master bedroom left to paint. Let me tell you, if the bathroom took me 3-1/2 weeks, the bedroom might take me a year. I'm scared. I think I need to take a break and think on it for awhile.

In other news, our ice skating pond melted. It has rained for a couple of days now, and it was 39 degrees for awhile, and well....the pond is again a pond. I saw ducks swimming in it yesterday. Listen, anyone who doubts that climate change is real need only come live in Minnesota for awhile. The winters of my childhood--piles of snow, weeks of sub-zero temperatures, regular snowstorms--are no more. Now, we get snow and sub-zero temps sometimes, but in between crazy things happen like 39 degrees and rain in January. To a native Minnesotan, those phenomena are so strange that they border on the eerie and scary. Maybe not even "border on."

I was going to write about a little family project I have going on with my girls for 2013, but I'll wait on that and give it the solo post it deserves. Check back soon for details. I think you'll like it. In the meantime, cheers! Have a great day. January is almost over, and that's generally a good thing.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Guess it's Not So Brief After All.


Readers have been e-mailing me with comments. It seems there is still something wacky about the Blogger comment feature here. I apologize, you all, but I cannot go back to the Anonymous comment setting. Seriously, I was getting something like 50 or 60 comments a day about Cialis and other crazy things, and I was spending half my day deleting them. For some reason they were not getting blocked as spam. I'm sure this is reason to get off Blogger and move to my own hosting on WordPress at last, but people...I just do NOT have time for all that. At least not now. Please feel free to e-mail me anytime ( if you are not able to leave comments here. Or even if you are!

Moving on!

It's a school vacation day, so this will be brief. I have kiddos at home with me. There's not a whole lot to say, anyway. Just a few little updates:

* My eight-year-old attended her first sleepover last night. It was a birthday slumber party for one of her oldest pals. This year she wholeheartedly wanted to stay for the night, and--hurrah!--it went great. No midnight phone calls to come pick up a homesick child. Whew! What did I learn from this experience? That we waited until she was ready, and she was truly ready. Also, that she needs a "real" sleeping bag (vs. the preschooler-sized Princesses one she got for Christmas several years ago). Yeah, sometimes you just can't keep up with everything in this motherhood gig. "Buy big-kid sleeping bags that aren't licensed-character-themed and are long enough to fit them through high school" was one of those things. I'm sure there are many others.

* I did a book reading for a moms' group last week. A full year after the release of the book, it's still fun to go read from it, sign copies, and chat with other moms. I had a great time. Thanks, moms at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Eden Prairie, MN!

* I saw the film version of "Les Miserables," and I loved it. I'm a "Les Mis" aficionado and I grew up doing musical theatre, so I like to think I know of which I speak, and in my opinion, Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway deserve Oscars FOR SURE, they both have great voices (there were a few strained moments for Hugh, but seriously, WHO can truly rock the range required in that show?!? It's insane!), Russell Crowe was fine--perhaps a bit too calm for the character, but not bad--and it was impressive through and through. I didn't love the director's artistic choice to film most of the movie in extreme close-up, but listen--it was really, really good. Also, OMG, the crying. I cried my eyes out. I don't know anyone who can see any version of "Les Mis" without crying; the overarching themes are just overwhelmingly moving. But something about seeing it on the big screen moved me even more than usual.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. I could go on and on.

That's enough for today. E-mail me! Tell me what you've been up to! I need some vicarious excitement.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Think He Would Bring Flowers and Send Valentines.

So the other day Genevieve and a little pal were having a playdate at our house, and they decided to draw pictures of their "pretend boyfriends." (Wha....? They're six and seven years old. Genevieve's a total tomboy who has never even mentioned the slightest thing about boyfriends--or girlfriends for that matter. I have zero idea where this idea even came from, but it sure was funny.)

They even gave their "pretend boyfriends" names. Genevieve's friend's boy picture was named Austin. Genevieve named hers Jake. (To my knowledge, there is no real-life Austin or Jake on which these drawings were modeled.)

As my friend Laura said, don't you just love his dazzling smile? Note also the track pants. Jake is sporty.

I believe his skin is orange because we lack a skin-colored marker---not because he's been putting in a bit too much time at the tanning salon.

Seriously, if I met someone that bright-eyed and dazzling-smiled (perfect teeth, too, you all!), with his arms thrown out in joy or enthusiasm, I'd probably want him for my boyfriend too.

The orange skin might give me pause, however.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The People Up Here are TOUGH, You All. In Case You Didn't Know.

On Friday, just after lunch, Christopher and I picked the girls up from school early and we all hit the road to drive 300 miles north to my hometown for a previously rescheduled trip to see the grandparents. Because when the weather is forecast to be 20 degrees below zero, you really want to be five hours NORTH of where you currently are. Where the weather is FORTY degrees below zero.

Ha! Ha!

In reality, those were the WINDCHILLS. The temperature was a balmy 10 degrees or so below zero here, where we currently live, and some 20 degrees below zero up north. But, as every Minnesotan knows, it's the windchill that matters. Especially when the wind is gusting to 50 mph. As it was up north on Saturday.

Good Lord Almighty.

However, you have to understand: when you grow up in a northern plains town such as the one in which I grew up, and your entire childhood is dotted with winter days of 40 below zero windchills, and/or if you are one of the people who still live up there, you just go about your normal business in weather like that. I mean, you don't send the children out to make snowmen, but you still drive around town, run errands, do the shopping, go to movies, get gas, and all the rest. Even on Saturday, when the wind was blowing streams of snow from the fields cross-wise across the roads, creating finger drifts (if you don't know what those are, Google it; also, don't ever drive right through them if you can help it. which a lot of times you can't), the whole town was busy with people running around doing all their normal Saturday things. We took the girls out to a huge sporting goods store across the river, where there is a giant Ferris wheel IN the building (yes), and then over to Barnes & Noble to use some gift cards they'd received for Christmas, and the traffic was ridiculous. It was like the whole town was out shopping. In 50 mph winds, with a 40-below-zero windchill.

It was so cold that, because we forgot to plug our SUV in overnight on Sunday and were parking it in my parents' driveway, on Monday morning when we packed up to leave, we discovered that the car wouldn't start. Not only would it not start, the battery was completely dead. As in, we needed a new one. Which we discovered after an hour or so of trying to give it a jump, which wouldn't take.

Yes, my husband and dad stood outside in 40-below windchills (or so) fiddling under the hood of their cars for an hour (or so), trying to get ours to start.

After which my husband had to go to WalMart and buy a new battery. And take out the old one. And install the new one. And then let the car warm up for 15 or 20 minutes. After which we finally started home, 3-1/2 hours later than planned.

On the up side, at least the girls and I got to watch the Inauguration on TV while we waited!

On the long, looooong drive home, we did what any normal native-Minnesotan (well, 3/4 of us at least) family would do in such a situation: we stopped for ice cream at the McDonald's in Sauk Centre.

Mmm-hmmm. That's how we roll up here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I've Got Bigger Fish to Fry.

I have had children in the neighborhood elementary school for 3-1/2 years now, and I've yet to figure out the school's online access feature for parents. Okay, so, it could be for lack of trying. Basically I'm hoping that both children get out of elementary school before anything bad happens as the result of me not taking the time to figure it out. (Although...then I have to figure out the middle school one. Or maybe they're all the same system? Gah!)

It was bad news from the start. Way back when Julia started kindergarten, I was barraged (as parents are) with forms and emails and papers about all sorts of administrative things, including contact options and whatnot. Back then, and since then, I've gotten emails related to the online system, but they lose me with all the names for it. Skyward? Family Access? Which is it? Are they the same? Why do I not know my password? Was I told what my password is? I have no idea.

I guess I did some of it right, because if school is cancelled due to a snowstorm, I get an automated phone call at five a.m., an e-mail, AND a voicemail on my cell phone. And when Julia's lunch money account was running low, I heard about it via multiple channels as well. (Once that happened, I stopped worrying about it. Obviously, the system was going to let me know when the money was running out!) However, because I had zero idea how to add money to the account via the online system, I just sent a check to school with Julia in an envelope labelled "Mrs. J_____." (A check! I know. This is me. I prefer the old-school route and I'm not ashamed to say so.) I guess it worked because I didn't get anymore messages about it. Not that I've actually checked the status just to see how much money is in there. I know I can do that (online), but I don't know how.

What? It's been working for me for 3-1/2 years, I'm sure it will work for another 4-1/2. When both girls will be graduated from high school.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Moms Who Cook

Image courtesy Black bean-spinach enchiladas. I'm making these for dinner tomorrow.

Because I just do not have time to waste doodling around on Pinterest, my bookmarks bar on the computer is overflowing with recipes I've found online and am dying to try. Some of them I actually have tried, but most are just there so I don't forget about them forever. The trouble is, I seem to not have time to try them all. Much like the thousands and thousands of recipes I have collected over the years and that now pepper my kitchen in various binders, notebooks, and messy loose-leaf piles.

Here are the things I'd be making if I actually tried all the recipes I have bookmarked right now. Don't they sound amazing?

Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies (made with coconut oil; I have made these, they are delicious.)
Healthy Peppermint Patties (also made with coconut oil)
Easy Overnight No-Knead Yeast Bread
Baked Cinnamon-Sugar Doughnuts (omg! could you die?)
Easy Baked Spaghetti Squash
Slow Cooker Chicken Curry (made. delish.)
Berry White Chocolate Scones (ditto)
Peanut Butter Honey Fudge
Crock-Pot Chicken & Stuffing (made. family loved it.)
Spicy Peanut Butter Chicken (ditto)
Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes (is anyone seeing a pattern here? we really do not eat all that much chicken.)
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pancakes
Easy Individual Cherry Cheesecakes (made for Christmas dinner dessert. yum!)
Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Chicken (gah! chicken again!)
Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas (and again! my husband went nutso over this.)

...and then a couple of pages with collected recipes, like five homemade breads, the Pioneer Woman's fave soups, and a list of "the best" vegetarian slow cooker meals.

My theory regarding all the chicken is that, having been a mostly-or-all vegetarian for over 20 years, I'm well versed and well stocked in recipes and cookbooks of meatless meals: the bean, tofu, lentil, and chickpea entrees, the whole grains and root vegetables. You know. But the family, especially the husband, they like the meat now and then. And I'm not particularly skilled at thinking up something to do with chicken.

So what about you? Do you actually make all the recipes you collect, or are you drowning in them like I am? Sometimes I imagine purposefully and methodically making my way through every recipe I own. Can you imagine? I guess it would take more years than I'll be alive.

What would you most want to make (or eat!) from that list, above?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Paint Bathroom? Check.

You guys! I painted the entire master bathroom yesterday. Let me repeat that with appropriate emphasis: I PAINTED THE ENTIRE MASTER BATHROOM YESTERDAY.

I seriously can hardly believe it. Well, the fact that my arms and shoulders are so sore that I can hardly move them makes it much easier to believe that I did in fact paint an entire fairly large bathroom by myself in one day.

Let me just say: standing on the highest rung of a ladder with half that ladder standing inside the tub and half on the floor is NOT my most favorite sensation in the world. Same with doing that in the separate shower. You guys, I thought I was going to suffer an unfortunate accident.

Also: if you are a regular person and not a professional painter, you will not be able to paint behind the toilet. You just won't. You'll have to do your best to get as far in there as you can, and leave the rest. And the part around the above-mirror light fixture will be pretty dicey. You will have to hope no one looks very closely up there.

Several years ago, when my daughters were toddlers, I painted our guest bedroom by myself and it took something like five weeks. True, I did two coats that time, and there was a lot of furniture to move (by myself, you all), but I think the main difference is that my daughters were toddlers. You would not believe the difference it makes when your children no longer need you every ten minutes all day long.

The only other things I did yesterday were make vegetarian bean-and-sweet-potato chili in the slow cooker for dinner, and do a six-mile run. You know how I was saying yesterday morning that it had been so warm that it had been raining and all our snow had melted? Well, turns out that while it was warm on Friday, and yes, all the snow melted, yesterday was POLAR ICE CAP-COLD. I ended up running six miles in 25-mph winds with a 2-degree windchill. Um yeah, that was cold.

So what's on tap for today? Taking my girls to swimming lessons, nursing my sore muscles, drinking lots of coffee, and baking these. (Yum, right??)

Happy Sunday, dears!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Winter Hat

You guys. It rained yesterday. RAINED.

What kind of crazy state do I live in, anyway? Normal winter weather for sledding on Thursday, 40 degrees and rain on Friday? We woke up this morning to find that most of our snow is gone. Our hill out back is grass now; no one will be sledding back there for awhile.

Although under normal circumstances I might not mind such mild weather--I'm not a big fan of winter, remember, and it's far more pleasant to run outside in 40 degrees than in 5 degrees with a windchill of -10--but the truth is, it's hard on moms because the kids can't play outside in melt-y, drench-y rain. And then what do you do? Winter days but with no opportunities for skating, sledding, or building snowmen? The kids go stir crazy. Plus, for runners, this type of weather is dangerous. It gets wet and rainy, but then it freezes at night: the streets become instant ice rinks. Kind of dangerous. (For driving, too.)

So right now we badly need a big old-fashioned snowstorm to replenish our snow pack and cover the grass. Remember this?

(OMG, you all! Look at that little 3-year-old face! I'm crying now.)

My plan for today? Paint the master bath. It's all taped and prepped and I've got all my tools. I've got my slow-cooker dinner recipe chosen, so I don't have to be tied to the kitchen later on. If possible I'll take a break for a run at some point.

Let's just see how many times my kids come in to see what I'm doing, ask for a snack, or tell on each other's questionable behavior. Also how many times my hair gets in the paint.

Onward! I hope you have a good Saturday, friends--whether it involves paint, snow, or none of the above.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ho-Humming Along

So, painting the bathroom isn't going all that well. Specifically, I taped most of one wall on Tuesday and then had to stop because a.) I couldn't reach the rest of the wall because it was over the tub and the stepstool/ladder didn't reach that far OR fit in the tub for me to reach it that way, and b.) this obstacle seemed like a convenient excuse to stop and take a break. Which lasted the rest of the day. In my defense, I was crazy-busy on Tuesday and this was just one small part of my day.

I had big plans to tape more yesterday, but after cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, cooking, and volunteering--with plans to take my kiddos sledding after school still to come--I felt like I'd worked hard enough for one day.

However, my unstoppable friend Kathy happens to be painting the playroom in her house at this same time, and since she's a total dynamo, she's practically done even though the room she is painting is much bigger than the one I am supposed to be painting but haven't even taped yet. This makes me look really bad, so I'd better get going. Good grief. It's hard having young friends. They have so much more energy than I do.

I took the kids to the big hill by the school to sled after school, and it was perfect. The wind had calmed down, a bunch of mom friends and their kids were there too, and the littles sledded until the sun sank behind the trees across the field. It wasn't cold at all--maybe 30 degrees--and no one had any major meltdowns on the hill. Success in my book. (The minor meltdowns don't even count for us experienced moms.)

We've been busy this week. Skating or sledding every day after school, and plans to go run around at an Open Gym thing for elementary-schoolers at the downtown Armory this afternoon, because it's supposed to rain. RAIN. In January. What the...? That is just crazy. At any rate, I'm glad we'll have somewhere to go to burn off some energy today, if we can't skate or sled or play in the backyard in the rain.

Sorry for these ho-hum posts this week. Sometimes life just hums along and it's busy and engaging but doesn't make for good copy for anyone else to read. Thanks for hanging in with me, anyway.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A Day in the Life

Because I took two weeks off from exercise when I had a virus over Christmas, I have been slowly working my way back up to a normal length run, and yesterday I reached my normal mileage for a weekday workout. Then after school the girls wanted to go back to the pond to skate. This time no one else showed up, but we skated laps for a solid hour before going home for dinner. Earlier in the day I had been prepping the master bathroom for the painting I'm going to do this winter--standing on a ladder and blue-taping the ceiling and woodwork and whatnot. So, to recap: 2-1/2 hours of skating laps around the pond within the past 24 hours. Running six miles. Paintwork prep.

Yeah, I was pretty much one giant sore muscle by bedtime. But boy did I sleep well last night. There's nothing like physical exertion to send you into that deep, solid, drugged sleep that feels so good and restorative.

I love running, I love skating, I hate painting. But it's good to have a project, too, you know? Although the other project I'm interested in this winter--learning to bake my own homemade wheat bread--sounds like a lot more fun than painting the bathroom.

Today I go to the girls' school for some volunteer work. I'll do more painting prep, make some BBQ pulled chicken in the slow cooker for dinner, take the girls sledding at the big hill by the school in the afternoon. A good, respectable day. And "Nashville" is back on tonight, holla! I'm a total dork over that show. Love it. Too bad I cannot stay up late enough to watch it when it airs, and end up having to watch it online the next day. Considering the fact that the show is on at nine p.m., ending at ten, which is a perfectly reasonable time to expect an ADULT to be awake, I'm even more of a dork. Ha! Oh well. We all have our quirks, and I've been falling asleep before ten o'clock since college (at least), so I guess that's (one of) mine.

What about you? Do you have a dorky (or not dorky) TV show you hate to miss? Why? I like "Nashville" for the music (yes really!), the drama, and because I adore Connie Britton. I mean, her hair alone is plenty of reason to tune in.

Have a wonderful winter day, friends.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The Lottery Prize of Days

Yesterday began with someone who hadn't known my age prior to reading the Star-Tribune article Facebooking me to say that she was shocked to learn I'm in my forties and that had she been asked, she would have guessed my age was around 35....and ended with a magical after-school skating session with my kidlets on our corner pond, which happened to also draw, unplanned, about five or six other families we know, and which lasted until darkness fell and one by one the moms called to their kids, "We have to go! Dinner and homework!" and everyone trudged up the snow-blanketed banks of the pond and slipped away under the brightening moon to walk or drive home for the night.

(And smack in the middle of the day, there was Thai food at a restaurant with three girlfriends!)

So, you know--one of the very best days.

I sincerely hope your heart is smiling as much as mine was yesterday. And still is, actually.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Ladies Who (Don't) Lunch (Very Often)

Regular readers here know that I love using running as a mood regulator, and also that summer makes me far happier than winter. As a psychologist, I fully believe in the power of exercise to successfully moderate mood and reduce feelings of depression, stress, anxiety, and irritability--research supports it, and I've seen it work in the lives of my clients. And I experience it myself, of course, all the time. Not long ago, I was interviewed by Katy Read of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the "winter blues," lightbox therapy, and exercise as a tool for fighting seasonal mood changes. You can read the full article here.

In other news, today I am going out for lunch with some fellow stay-at-home mom friends (we're actually meeting another friend who just started a new, part-time job after 8 years home full-time with her children and gets off work around lunchtime) for the first time since my youngest started full-day school. OK, I know that was only four months ago, but still. You'd think I would have run out that very first week and met some other stay-at-home moms of school-agers for lunch right away. I mean, hello! For the past 8-1/2 years, "going out for lunch," if it ever happened, meant taking the kiddos to the pool with a packed picnic! You cannot imagine the giddy excitement my friends and I are experiencing today. I hope I remember how to eat lunch at a restaurant, enjoying food I did not prepare and feeding only myself.

Have a good Monday, friends. Love to you.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Do You Resolve?

Are you a New Year's resolution person? I'm typically not. I don't smoke, I exercise regularly, I eat tons of vegetables, so the typical resolutions are out. Not that we can't all improve ourselves, of course; it's not as if I wouldn't benefit from any behavior changes.

Sometimes I sort of halfheartedly promise to reduce my intake of processed foods. I make virtually all our meals from scratch using healthy foods, but I love my Diet Coke, readily snack on boxed or bagged foods, and drink those ready-made "weight-loss-" or "protein shakes" on the recommendation of a dermatologist because of my hair loss history (NOT for weight loss purposes, obviously--I'm definitely not trying to lose weight at present--but because they're an easy way to get a convenient and quick extra shot of major protein and much faster than making my own all the time; I'm sorry, but sometimes you just need something fast and easy, processed food or not).

I also use things like jarred pasta sauce--when I've used up my frozen homemade sauce from farm-share tomatoes--, deli sandwich meat, pre-made broth or bouillon, bottled BBQ sauce, etc. But I don't really stick with the "fewer processed foods" resolution, I think because I'm never fully committed to begin with. I think I consider my diet healthy enough as it is (although reducing or eliminating sugar would certainly be a good idea--I'm sure by now you've read Robert Lustig?).

But a lot of people's main New Year's resolution is to be more active. This is a great goal, but not always easy when you're a busy mom and/or you live in a cold climate and/or it's winter. Even so, you'd be amazed at how little things can really add up to extra activity. I really learned this in September, when I started using a pedometer to track my daily steps on days I didn't run. Back then, I easily hit 10,000 steps a day pretty much all the time, but now that it's winter and I'm not going for walks all the time or running around in the yard with my daughters, it's much more of a challenge. But it's not impossible.

Over on my professional website, I'm blogging about some easy ways to sneak extra steps into your daily life, even if you're a busy mom. Head on over there to read a few tips on moving more, and you can keep your resolution to be more active in 2013.

And I'll be over here trying to wean myself off Diet Coke.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Eight Good Things for January

It's January! Are you ready for it?

January can be a difficult month for us far northerners: the short days (yes, they're getting longer, but you can't tell yet), the brutal wind, the frigid temps. Plus, it's a long month with nary a holiday between New Year's and the onset of February. (MLK Day is nice, but it doesn't typically involve decorations, special meals, or parties.)

But this year, believe it or not, there are some things I'm psyched about right now, in January--some more trivial than others, but all on my mind these days.

Downton Abbey. (Or, as my girls call it, "Downtown Abbey.") Christopher and I started watching the back seasons of this wonderful PBS series on DVD this past autumn, and are primed and ready for the premiere of Season Three on actual television beginning January 6.

image courtesy

Good cooking. There's nothing like brutally cold weather to make cozy, hot suppers feel like the best things ever. It's like giving my family a warm hug at the end of the day (in addition to the actual hugs, I mean). Plus, after the nutritional-desert, sugar-overload of the holidays, healthy and nourishing food is more appealing than ever. I'm excited to make all sorts of hearty new recipes and old favorites: chicken enchiladas, corn and cheese chowder, gypsy soup, homemade rolls, huevos rancheros, spinach quiche and vegetarian chili with cornbread crust. And, because I wouldn't want anyone to suffer complete sugar-withdrawal-shock, and because I believe in homemade desserts, I'll probably throw in the Pioneer Woman's strawberry oatmeal bars and my friend Trish's amazing-sounding sweet-and-salty gingersnaps at some point. (An aside: I have four friends named Tricia or Trisha. It is very confusing.) Because a family cannot live on nutrient-rich dishes alone, can they?

Painting the bathroom. OK, I'm not at all excited about the work involved in painting our master bath, which has needed painting since, um....the house was built 11 years ago. (We've lived here for seven.) It may be more accurate to say that I'm psyched about having painted the bathroom, when I'm all done doing it.

This great book my friend Connie gave me for Christmas. I've been reading the short essays about life in Alaska by author and NPR commentator Heather Lende, and they are charming and entertaining--just what one needs to curl up with next to the fireplace on a chilly winter evening. Not only does Alaskan weather make January in MN seem remarkably temperate, Heather Lende writes beautifully about the daily domestic and community activities that make up the life of a stay-at-home mom of school-aged children in a small town.

This book gave me a boost of validation about my life as an at-home mom, and about the fact that I feel called, as Heather Lende does, to do the work of raising a family and running a home. With all the spending, bills, and tight money of the holiday season, along with the fact that a couple of my mom friends are either returning to work in some way or actively planning for it, I've been feeling anxious about loving my life as a non-income-producing at-home mom. But who wants to feel anxious about loving their life??? That's just wrong. Even though Heather's book is about much more than motherhood and family life--and you definitely don't have to be a mom or housewife to enjoy it--it's a much-needed reminder that a homemaker's work takes time and energy and is worthy of great respect, even if it doesn't draw a paycheck and even if the larger world doesn't always respect it.

 image courtesy

This other great book that my friend Connie lent me last month. Wow, just wow. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett, is a big book, and it took me a long time to get through because I don't have tons of time to read. I made my way a few pages at a time. But it is jaw-dropping and marvelous. This is the kind of novel I cannot even imagine dreaming up. How does someone even think of a story like this? I do not know. And yes, I've already read it, so I guess technically I can't be psyched about it for January. But I'm psyched about it for you. Because I highly recommend that you read it. Now.

Ice skating on our pond. The pond at the end of our street--just a few houses down from us--isn't actually our own, private pond. But it feels like it, because it's so close, and because a couple of local dads cleared it off for ice skating (we do that in Minnesota), and they even put a bench at the edge for sitting and lacing up skates. As a lifelong skater, I love the idea of being able to take the girls skating after school any afternoon we like--and have the rink be just seconds away.

Running--some of the time. Listen, running outdoors in January in Minnesota is killer. I do it, but it's an exercise in toughness (both mental and physical). But there are times when the snow is falling peacefully and the temperature isn't too deadly, when a winter run is lovely. And the fact that I've been away from exercise for a good ten to twelve days due to a cold/flu virus means that I'm itching to get out and do my favorite activity. I'm also looking forward to taking my girls to the indoor track at the college where my husband works--we get into the rec center there for free, as staff family--to run around when it's just too cold to go out and the kidlets are going stir crazy. Circling a track is a lot less boring when you're doing it as play with your kiddos.

Les Miserables--on film. You all, I'm one of those musical-theatre-geek, Les Mis-obsessed people who have seen the show many times and can sing the entire soundtrack by heart. From the second I heard that Les Miserables was being made into a film--one true to the show, with 100% sung dialogue--I've been dying to see it on the big screen. The fact that it's getting a ton of Oscar buzz--and that it stars Hugh Jackman--is all the better. It opened on Christmas Day, but I haven't seen it yet because my virus interfered with our family's planned trip to the grandparents' (who were going to do babysitting duty so we could go to the movies). But we've rescheduled, the free babysitting offer stands, and I'm counting on this movie still playing when we drive north in a few weeks. I have a box of Kleenex ready. I can't wait.

Those are the things brightening up my winter days this month. What would you add to the list?

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year!

 A HUGE thank you to all my readers, friends, commenters, family members, neighbors, and everyone else I connected with in 2012 via Mama in Wonderland and/or my book. You truly made 2012 a grand success for me, and I love you all.

My biggest and best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year! May it be filled with all the things, big and small, that bring you joy. That may or may not include sunflowers you gathered yourself on a Minnesota farm under windswept summer skies, but either way, I hope you squeeze every possible drop of joy and love out of the coming year.