Thursday, October 31, 2013

Number One in the Adorableness Department

The other day I took the girls to the dentist right after school. When we were done in the exam room and Julia and Genevieve were putting on their coats and hats to leave, one of the receptionists who had never met us before kept going on and on about how adorable Genevieve is and how much she looked like "that cute little girl in "Despicable Me"!!!" We just saw "Despicable Me" at the end of the summer at our friends' Outdoor Movie Party, so we knew right away who she meant.

Edith:


Vivi:


Maybe THAT'S who Genevieve should have dressed up as for Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Doing Something Right



Sometimes when I've written openly and honestly in my book and on this blog about the "downs" of stay-at-home motherhood--the stress and the money worries, the sleep deprivation and tantrums, the difficult labors and colicky postpartum periods--I get mean feedback from anonymous people out there on the Internet accusing me of being too negative or a complainer or mentally ill (yes, I've gotten that) or ungrateful or just a plain old bad mom. When I write a chapter in my book about healthy eating or mention a running injury or a winter cold on my blog, or even just complain casually about the typical extra pounds so many of us middle-aged moms battle while child-rearing, I get accused by anonymous commenters of having an eating disorder or running an excessive amount (hilarious), or, once, of being too fat and eating too much chocolate and not exercising ENOUGH. (Can't win.)

And sometimes even the hardiest and healthiest of us cave to those comments occasionally and wonder, Am I a bad mom? Am I too cranky/a nag/too fat/too thin/not fun/ungrateful/pessimistic/neurotic/making my daughters grow up with negative memories of me rather than the loving, happy memories I want them to have of me as a stay-at-home mom?

I guess that's what mean people on the Internet want you to think, when they make comments like that. It's a shame, honestly. I don't know why people feel the need to knock someone down like that. What's the point, really?

But I'll tell you something. Yesterday after school, seven-year-old Genevieve came in from playing outside and began writing a book. She showed me the first chapter later on. It's called "Mom." It reads:

"My mom is very nice. She takes care of the house and the family, and cooks me DELICIOUS meals. My mom is an author. She also HELPS others. My mom is always joyful and full of laughter. My mom packs me special treats in my lunch. My mom is a runner. She stays FIT and healthy. On rainy days, my mom does her workout DVD or the elliptical inside. My mom will always be my mom. I know that. I always will. I love you, Mom!"

Around the words are little cartoon drawings of me giving flowers to our elderly next-door neighbor ("Here are some flowers for you, Mary." "Oh, thank you!"), comforting a child ("What happened? Are you okay?"), packing school lunches ("Oooh, yummy!"), and lifting weights in front of a TV screen showing a workout instructor.

And I'm reminded that I'm doing something right. A lot of things, really. I bet you are, too.

Have a wonderful day, fellow mamas in wonderland.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nine-Year Napping

image courtesy target.com


I know, I've been MIA lately. It's like I got back from Canada and jumped back in the mommy race and haven't stopped running since. In random order, a few things I've been doing/thinking about lately, not all parenting-related:

Over the weekend we went to the local college's annual Halloween carnival for townie kids and families. My girls went as Hermione and Dumbledore from Harry Potter (probably didn't need to add that reference, did I?). Genevieve's paper beard is pure awesomeness. I haven't uploaded my pictures yet so you'll just have to wait until later this week to see.

*****

I do not understand people who do not like candy corn. What is not to like? Do you like sugar? OK, if you don't, I understand. But if you do, wha....???? But listen. As all true candy corn addicts know, one must eat only the original Brach's. ("Made with real honey!") Any other brand is completely inferior in both texture and taste, and then it really does stray into the "not worth eating" category. Also, the chocolate kind with the brown stripe at the bottom? No.

*****

For the first time ever, I am not helping with either of the girls' school Halloween parties. That is because, since I already helped with the Walk-A-Thon and am leading weekly book groups in both classrooms starting next week, I feel justified in passing this little opportunity on to other moms (or dads). Which makes me very happy, because leading a small group of advanced readers in book discussion in a quiet corner somewhere sounds ten million times more appealing than running game and cookie-decorating stations for sugar-charged grade-schoolers in costumes. Gah. The boys, especially, get so crazy and hyper. Despite several years doing just that, I am not cut out for that job.

*****

All day yesterday the local news people kept talking about how it was supposed to snow/rain/sleet overnight and leave a half-inch or so of slush on the ground this morning. I wanted to scream, "Noooooooo!" every time I heard that, and not just because I had completely forgotten to have my daughters try on last year's snow pants and also to cut down our flower beds. Oops!

(No worries. Didn't happen.)

*****

I have been semi-looking for a part-time job outside the home. I even went on an interview and have also considered re-opening a small solo therapy practice. Then I think, "....Hmmm." :(

Part-time jobs that fall only within the hours of children's school days are few and far between (as in, pretty much non-existent). And who's going to take care of them in the summers and on school vacations? Opening a practice is expensive and, particularly in the current economic and health insurance climate, very risky.

More than anything, I often realize that my passion lies in what I am doing now: running my household and raising my girls. I wake up each morning happy with the job ahead of me that day, and isn't that a rare thing? I really think people should (if at all possible, which it not always is, of course) love what they do. Life is too short, you know? Well, I love what I do. I'm not sure where to take that. But there it is.

*****

Speaking of the above, have you read the novel The Ten-Year Nap, by Meg Wolitzer? This book came out a few years ago, and was a New York Times bestseller, but I only discovered it recently. So, so good. It's about a group of friends, all stay-at-home moms with school-age kiddos but with disparate family and personal situations, and the life questions, choices, and transitions they experience as their children grow older and their stay-at-home mom status is questioned. I swear Meg Wolitzer articulated entire conversations I've had with my bestie this autumn.

I loved this book and cried at the very end. I won't give anything away, but on the final page, the owner of a diner where the friends have met regularly for years after school drop-off notices that he doesn't see these regulars--the four moms in the back booth on weekday mornings--anymore. Meg Wolitzer writes, in the thoughts of this man, "The world had taken them. He knew that this could suddenly happen. One day you woke up in the morning and there was someplace you needed to be."

And no few sentences have ever so precisely and poignantly summed up exactly what happens when a years-long stage of motherhood ends, whether you're ready or not, and everything around you changes.

Read it. Especially if you're a stay-at-home mom. I think you'll like it.

*****

And now I'm off to make my specialty chocolate cake for a friend's birthday brunch I am co-hosting tomorrow. I promise someday soon I'll come back with something less random (sorry!) and more interesting (I hope?) to say.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Canadian Mysteries

Some of you who live in or near Minneapolis have asked me where you can find a print copy of Savvy magazine. I believe you need to just keep an eye out for it at local (especially southwest metro/suburbs) shops, cafes, upscale supermarkets, and the like. You should see it by the door or at the counter. It's free to pick up, although mail subscriptions require payment. I don't even have my own print copies yet so I'm as antsy as you to see it in real life. Thank you for your support and enthusiasm!

Moving on...

(some photos shamelessly stolen from my travel companions Laura, Beth, and Tonya)

I'm still trying to catch up on my sleep after my trip to Toronto. Spending four nights with three other women in the same hotel room, an hour out of your own time zone and off your usual schedule, does not lend itself to getting a whole lot of sleep. (TOTALLY worth it, though, obvi.)


Very VERY excited to be awaiting our Niagara Falls tour 
bus at 7:45 in the morning. Or, perhaps too much coffee???

As I settle back into normal mama life, complete with the tearful, meltdown-heavy after-effects of my absence courtesy of my 7-year-old,  I continue to ponder some notable aspects of life in Canada. Or, at least, some things that made me go, "huh?" while I was visiting there.

Such as...

How crazy is it that Laura and I traveled all the way to Canada only to find that "our" subway stop (i.e., the one by our hotel that we used coming and going each day) boasted the same unusual name as the tiny village right next to our Minnesota town that houses our KMart and Menard's?

No, Laura is not doing a wall squat in the subway. She's scrunching down so the name is visible.


And...

Why are they called REESE peanut butter cups in Canada, instead of REESE'S?

Also...

Why is the Niagara Falls tour boat called "Maid of the Mist" when what riders actually encounter is to "mist" like "great white shark" is to "pet goldfish"? Shouldn't it actually be called something like "Maid of the MONSOON"?

Beth captioned this photo, "Mayhem!" and that's about right. I had water IN my clogs.


As well as...

Do they all actually like poutine? Or what? (Full disclosure: None of us ate poutine. Nor did we want to.)

And...

Why is it "the Toronto Maple LEAFS" instead of "Maple LEAVES"?

And finally...

Why was it so much warmer in Canada than it is at home in Minnesota?? (Seriously, it's like 30 degrees here right now. I had only worn a coat once so far this season when I left for Canada, and now I'm digging out gloves and hats.)

.....

I'm not sure I ever actually told you some of things we were doing/did in Toronto. Laura planned lots of great touristy adventures, and since it was her birthday trip after all, the rest of us pretty much happily let her.

We visited Casa Loma (incredible!), the Bata Shoe Museum (fun and interesting), the CN Tower (where we ate a fancy dinner at the revolving 360 Restaurant at the TOP), Niagara Falls/Skylon Tower/Diamond Estates Winery/Niagara-on-the-Lake (the latter where parts of "It's a Wonderful Life" were filmed), Second City (where we scored FRONT-ROW SEATS), Little Italy (where we enjoyed the best pastries ever at Riviera Bakery after a delicious Italian lunch at a picturesque cafe), Honest Ed's (a crazy, indescribable, gigantic remainders-type store that sold everything from kitchenware to bulk groceries), and the huge downtown underground shopping mall (I forget the name right now).

The view just off my shoulder in the revolving glass restaurant at the top of the CN Tower.


Pastries in Little Italy

We did LOTS of walking (as well as plenty of subway-riding), which was great considering the great food we were eating (we covered a variety of ethnicities in this diverse city, including Vietnamese, Indian, and Italian) and the fact that we weren't doing any other exercise while there (who wants to use the hotel fitness center when you can be either sleeping or sightseeing??).

My trip to Toronto with Laura was a ton of fun, but, as every mother will understand, nothing I did or saw in Canada was as wonderful as the moment I hurried up my front walk on Sunday night and saw Genevieve's face at the window, and then opened the door to find my daughters jumping up and down and squealing with joy over my return. The squeezed-tight, full-body hug Genevieve gave me when I came home topped it all. But that's what it's like when you're a mom.

The little urchin who missed me the most.



Monday, October 21, 2013

As if That Wasn't Exciting Enough...

Um yes, that's me. 
 
Image courtesy Savvy Magazine.

So I come home from a milestone girls' trip to Toronto and find out that sometime while I was gone, the new issue of Savvy (a MN women's lifestyle magazine, for those of you who missed the backstory to this saga) came out. The November issue. With me on the cover.

If you live around these parts, watch for the print issue available now around the Twin Cities. If you don't, you can read the digital version here. Once you click on that link and get to an image of the November cover, click on the arrow on the right of the screen to turn the pages. There are more photos inside, too (I like the one on the table of contents page the best, actually--loved that jacket!), and a sweet shout-out from editor-in-chief Britt Johnsen in the Editor's Letter on page four.

A huge thank you to everyone at Savvy for making this happen!

Home Sweet Home



 I'm back, you all. And I had a FABULOUS time.

I have more stories and photos than any of you care to hear or see, but for now I'll just give you a few tastes.

Poor little Vivi had a very hard time with me being gone for five days, and sent me many texts on her daddy's phone along the lines of, "Mama, please answer me. I miss you so much. Please come home. My heart is broken", which, when you're a tiny 7-year-old who hasn't really been away from her mama before, are not at all manipulative but are instead very heartbreaking. But I'm home now and all is well.

In an attempt to take away the sting of my departure, I left the following surprise for my daughters when I left for the airport on Wednesday (for them to find when they got home from school that day):


Not sure it worked, but they did enjoy the treats, I heard later.

My dear friend Laura, for whom this trip occurred (to celebrate her 40th birthday) and with whom I traveled, was clearly thinking along the same lines as I was, and presented me with this as we waited to board our plane:



It was pretty funny. Yes, I'm sure the flight staff and my fellow passengers did wonder why I was eating pills by hand straight from the prescription bottle. (In case it's not clear, those are M&Ms.)

Here I am before boarding, excited but also hoping we wouldn't die in a plane crash:



And here are Laura and I the next morning, on our first full day in Toronto, in the lobby of our very nice hotel, waiting with the other two awesome women who made up our merry band of four to go to the subway and begin our sightseeing adventures:


Then we were off, and we didn't stop for four more days. So. Much. Fun.

I missed my babies terribly, and it was hard to be gone from Vivi especially for that long, but it was an absolutely wonderful trip all in all.

Now I'm home, exhausted, and ready to do all the laundry, restock the groceries, hunt for the swimming goggles Julia lost while I was gone, quickly find heavier jackets and thin gloves for my kiddos to wear to school because the weather turned cold in my absence (the heat is on in our house for the first time this season), and generally re-organize my household and daily life. Christopher did great while I was gone but you know how it is.

Have a wonderful week, friends, and I'll be back in this spot soon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday Short Story

...Because that's all I have time for today!! I leave for Toronto in two days and life is rather CRAZY right now. [Break for minor panic attack.]

What have I been up to, other than making pumpkin muffins and homemade applesauce, eating candy corn, trying not to freak over preparing and packing for a five-day trip to another country, and loving up my kiddos (especially the littlest kiddo, who is saaaaaad that I am leaving for five days) [Insert another panic attack]?

Well, I've been festively chalking on the driveway with my little mini-me in stripes:




I've been running through the woods and the prairie in the golden light of autumn sunset, just me and the little family of deer (two mamas, two babies) I see at the same point along the trail just about every time I go.




I've been going to the pumpkin farm with my family and our besties, where the requisite annual photos must be taken:


 A nearby onlooker asked us, "Cousins?" We get that kind of thing a lot with these four blondies.

this shot will be their future band album cover


I don't remember what else I've been up to lately, because my brain is currently too addled with everything I need to do before I go on my trip, but I will leave you with this: a column from the Huffington Post about stay-at-home mothering, written by a (non-stay-at-home) husband and dad, which I strongly feel everyone--parent or not, home or not, working for pay or not--should read. [Amen, Matt Walsh! Love you, man.]

I'll see you all on the flip side of my travel adventure. Pray for me. I'm excited for a fun time with some awesome ladies, but I'm NOT excited about flying or (especially) leaving my babes for five days. If I get through the five days without crying it will be a MIRACLE. Onward, though, you all. Right?

Monday, October 07, 2013

Class

two years ago

Two years ago, when Genevieve was newly five and had just begun kindergarten, she began "teaching her class": her solo version of playing school. She had an imaginary class of young children (kindergartners? it wasn't clear then, but this is what she says now).

From the very start, she was extremely involved and detailed regarding her class. She kept lists of the students' names: six or seven children at first, all with fairly typical names like Rachel, Alex, Kristy, Olive, and Oliver--and then there was one child named Unit.

Sometimes Genevieve would teach her class for hours, several days in a row; and then at other times it would be forgotten for days or weeks at a time. Out of the blue one day she'd say, "I need to go teach my class," or I'd hear talking in the other room and would find her with a stack of books, reading a page and then holding the book out open by her side, showing the picture to an imaginary audience, and she'd explain, "I'm reading to my class." It amazed me how absorbed she could get when playing alone like this, and how long she would do it at any one time. Sometimes I'd hear the teaching go on and on, from subject to subject, from lessons to lunch to recess and beyond.

Over time things became more complex. New students came, and the class group grew to twelve. Vivi asked me for old empty file folders, and she labelled each one and called them her students' "take-home folders." She made each child a "book box" and put "just-right books" in each one, at the appropriate level for the reader in question. Sometimes, if we were going on an errand or other outing, the class would come along as a field trip. Sometimes I'd hear her disciplining Unit, who was a handful.

Now it is two years later, and Genevieve still has her class. She has added last names to her students' folders, so now there is Alex Nemmel and Olive Seshr and Lily Walker and Unit Monro.

She tells me Unit has dyslexia, and often needs extra help. (Julia has taken on the job of teaching assistant, and sometimes takes Unit aside for one-on-one lessons.) She has made staff badges for Julia and herself, to wear around their necks when they are at "school." She has created piles and piles of small homemade picture books for "Book-in-a-Bag," stapled and filled with easy plots and penciled illustrations.

The greatest boon for Genevieve and her students was when, earlier this fall, she spied a huge unfolded sheet of cardboard in the garage from something Christopher had acquired, and begged me to carry it upstairs to the playroom. She clearly had a vision, and nothing would stop her from realizing it.


"I need it to make my school," she told me urgently. She used the cardboard as walls, and made herself an actual classroom (which, as you can guess, has become a permanent feature of our square footage).

There are "carpet squares" for the children to sit on. There is a toy corner. There is a clock, and a posted sign of guidelines for "how to pick a just-right book," and one that outlines the school values. (Julia helped with these.)






There is even a chart for monitoring Unit's behavior. He's still a handful.


How long will Genevieve's class exist? I can't imagine. But I know, and I feel a pang when I think of it, that one day when something reminds us, we'll suddenly exclaim to each other, "Oh my gosh, remember when Genevieve had her class? Remember how it went on for years? Remember Unit Monro??"

Life rolls on.