Monday, December 22, 2014

Does Santa Bring Tamiflu?

The theme of the past week at our house.

Somehow this happened though, so we did have some success this past weekend.

You guys. The past couple of weeks! Have been insane. Just....there are no words, really. Except these.

As I mentioned the other day, my town has been taken over by influenza. Also strep and stomach flu, but mostly influenza. It has only gotten worse since the last time I wrote here. Last week one kindergarten class at my daughters' school was down to seven children in attendance. SEVEN. There were over 100 kids out sick each of the last few days of school before holiday break started (Friday was the last day). ONE HUNDRED. There were so many staff out sick that there weren't enough subs, and some absences went unfilled. (That means random staff people filled in here and there for an hour or two in places where there weren't any subs.)

I can think, off the top of my head, of two families we are close to who have not fallen ill. Everyone else has been stricken by something. Every day someone else is on FB or texting me, saying, "And now we're down too." It is cray-cray times one thousand.

I went back to work last Friday, and Genevieve back to school, for the one day before Christmas vacation started. I wanted to make an appearance before the two weeks' away, and I also wanted to save THREE sick days (as opposed to two) for the remainder of the school year, oy.

It was kind of depressing, actually. School sort of felt like a ghost town. Out of the seven boys in the autism program (where I work), only two were there. The rest were out sick with influenza. So I didn't even get to see or say goodbye/happy holidays to the others before the long break. Meaning it will be three weeks since I've seen them--because I was out sick too--when we all return in January. It just feels too long.

After one full day back, both Genevieve and I were wiped out again for the weekend. Influenza does not go away in three days, or four, or even a week. We napped most of the weekend and didn't get dressed at all. We ran out of groceries. We got nothing done for our holiday travels this week. It was survival city and that's it, friends. And hoping Santa would take care of the rest.

Today Genevieve and I woke up and felt better. More like ourselves. Enough energy to get dressed. Which is a good thing because we have haircuts to get, errands to run, and suitcases to pack today. No more time for influenza. But as I've been busy around the house doing things like combing my hair for the first time since Friday, I've gotten texts from two friends telling me that they're down for the count (still, again, or finally). All over my town, kids are feverish on couches and moms are panicking about fitting in last-minute doctor appointments.

This, too, shall pass, and in the future we'll all have the stories about December/Christmas 2014, when half the town was sick and absent from school and not ready for the holidays. How our town ran out of Tamiflu and it got warm outside and the snow melted and it RAINED on still-green grass, after a November of snow and below-zero temps. Maybe it's all related? The crazy-backward weather and the influenza/strep throat/stomach flu epidemic?

I don't know, but I date the beginnings of the sicknesses to just after Halloween, when my three-week virus that turned into a sinus infection began, and then Genevieve got the stomach flu, and then strep entered our household, and then influenza, etc. etc. etc. It's been early November since I exercised with any regularity and the kids were making it to all their Tae Kwon Do classes and swim lessons.

We are rallying today, though, like I said, because Christmas is almost here, and I've decided that this year Christmas might be about Just Showing Up. Grab the unwrapped presents, stuff the car with clothes and gifts and treats and Christmas CDs for the drive, and just go.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and may good health be with you this week! Or at the very least may your city not run out of Tamiflu!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Down and Out.

Sooooo.... Like many other parts of the country, my town is currently experiencing a scourge of influenza. There are also waves of the stomach flu and strep making the rounds. It has gotten so bad at my girls' school (where, as you know, I also work) that there aren't enough subs to fill the various staff absences each day, and yesterday 94 kids were out sick. NINETY-FOUR. This is a small school, people--500-some children enrolled--so 94 out sick is a huge number.

Every child I work with individually in my job as a special ed assistant for the autism program has been felled by either influenza or the stomach flu. So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that two weekends ago Genevieve caught the stomach flu, Julia had tummy troubles one day last week as well, this past Saturday Genevieve came down with influenza, I caught influenza from her a day or so later (not sure when it began for me; I started coughing on Saturday night but pushed through and went to work on Monday only to collapse when I got home on Monday afternoon), on Monday we found out that Genevieve also has strep, and on Tuesday Julia caught strep as well.

Bottom line: barely limping along over here. I am literally using up almost all of my entire school-year's worth of sick leave but there's nothing I can do, all the Christmas-related tasks I planned to be doing this week are undone, we missed the last day of the fall Tae Kwon Do session, and this last week of school before Christmas break--usually a fun, festive week--has become simply a string of school absences. The school even cancelled all the classroom's annual holiday concerts and cookie parties this week and rescheduled them for January.

Boo. Hiss.

I've never had influenza before, but when they say it makes you feel like you've been hit by a truck, THEY ARE NOT KIDDING--whoever they are. I have never felt so sick. I think I may have bruised or fractured a rib from coughing (this actually happened to a friend of mine a month ago) and just going up the stairs takes every ounce of energy I can muster.

So, it's back to bed for me now, with fervent hopes that Vivi and I will recover in time to finish out this last week before holiday break (Julia is already back at school today) and prepare for Christmas as planned (hello, the gingerbread men are not going to make themselves!!). Here's hoping you and yours are staying healthy, wherever you are.

Over and out.

Monday, December 08, 2014

You Can't Really Go Wrong with Butter, Sugar, & Almond if You're Scandinavian and it's Christmas.

So we're full-tilt into the Christmas season and here I haven't yet shown you this:

I mean.

And then the day after Thanksgiving we went to the downtown shops of our own little Bedford Falls and Julia spied this:

...and told me to get it for Daddy for Christmas. Yes, I'm sure he'd love that.

Meanwhile, I've decided that these are my all-time favorite Christmas cookies:

cherry-almond chocolate kisses 

 Make that my all-time favorite cookies of any kind, for any occasion, period. Holy yum.

Sadly we're also full-tilt into germ season, and as of last Friday at my daughters' school/my workplace, there was the stomach flu, influenza, pneumonia, and strep all racing through the building from one family to another, one grade to the next. Two of the four students I work with daily went home sick, and by Saturday evening Genevieve was throwing up and feverish. Gah! Needless to say, I have not made much progress in resuming my regular exercise schedule after my pre-Thanksgiving 2.5-week sinus infection. Because, what? You're not gonna go out running when your baby needs you, are you? And when you're watching everyone else (including yourself) with an eagle eye for signs of being the next one down?

Today I stayed home from work with sick Genevieve, and by 11 a.m. I was texting my closest work friend, the fellow mom with whom I compare notes on the daily about how far behind we are on laundry, how many times we've recently misplaced important items due to busy-induced absentmindedness, and our lack of time to cook, saying, "I've done all the laundry, made a huge kettle of soup, and am currently CLEANING THE COFFEEMAKER. What the WHAT?!" She answered back with proper reverence for my unexpected at-home-mom day. Think what she would have said if I'd texted again later to tell her I finished my Christmas cards and made a second batch of the cherry kiss cookies.

Deck the halls, you all! Christmas is coming. And Lord knows it's not really about the shopping or the cookies or how fast you send your cards out. Well, OK, it IS about the cherry chocolate kiss cookies. That, joy, and love. It's all about love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I may not be 100% recovered yet (um yeah, tried a 2-1/2 mile WALK on Monday evening and got my sore throat and cough back in exchange), but thanks to an Urgent Care/pharmacy run on Sunday, I've got mega-dose antibiotics and am ready to tackle cleaning the house today before my mother-in-law arrives this afternoon for Thanksgiving. I forgive the germy children at my job who gave me this cold that morphed into a severe sinus infection, and I am knocking on wood that I DIDN'T (nor did my girls) catch the rampant stomach flu that was flying around school Monday and Tuesday. (Is it too soon to say that? Perhaps. Yikes?)

What a week. And it's only Wednesday morning.

The girls and I are off school/work today (it's a teacher workshop day, but holla, I'm not a teacher!), so THANK GOD there is time to catch up in time for company and the holiday. The children will be cleaning their bedrooms and putting away the piles of laundry they'd rather ignore. Oh, and accompanying me to the supermarket to pick up all the things I naturally forgot when I bought all the Thanksgiving groceries last Saturday. In my defense, I was siiiiiiiick and not thinking clearly. I forgot that, in addition to Thanksgiving food, we also need normal things like milk and eggs and ingredients for something for dinner tonight. Seeing how Grandma is coming, we probably can't eat PB&Js or bowls of cereal like I've been feeding my kids for dinner lately. Ha.

But now if you'll excuse me, "Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas" is on PBS Kids right now, and the girls and I watch it every year. Make fun if you want, I love it. :) Oops, I know it's not Christmas yet, but there isn't a "Very Monkey Thanksgiving" special.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, friends, fellow parents, new mamas, and all the rest. This week I am thankful for antibiotics, all of you, my daughters who make my world a better place every day just by being here and being mine, health and safety, food and shelter, and the best job I've ever had (other than my other job of "mom").

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to set your scale back ten pounds tonight before you go to bed. ;)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Green Belts in the House

Popping on here to say that, although I'm still reeeeally sick (hmmm, going out for recess duty at work all week in below-zero windchills probably isn't the best for a virus that has settled in my chest, throat, and sinuses! fun times!), am barely holding it together over here, and yes of course, still have to get all my Thanksgiving groceries because I am hosting and cooking the dinner next week, the good news is that my girls passed their Tae Kwon Do test for their green belts on Tuesday night! Also, Julia sang in a lovely school choir concert last evening. So, it's been a good week in those respects. TGIF, you all! Take your zinc and stay warm, wherever you are.

P.S. We are out of milk. What house with kids actually runs out of milk?! That's the kind of week it's been. ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bus. Wheels. Off.

When school and work began in early September and I first transitioned from full-time stay-at-home mom to full-time working mom, every week around Thursday it sort of felt like the wheels started to fall off the bus, so to speak. You know? Like each week started off in a burst of forced energy and pure determination, and it was a total rat-race, but I could do it all--every single homemaking and household-running task I did before I started working full-time outside the home, plus working 7-1/2 hours a day, plus all the taking of the children to their lessons and activities and doctor and dentist appointments, plus doing the farm pick-up on Fridays after work, plus hosting weekend playdates, plus still running 20-25 miles and completing two 60-minute strength training workouts per week, just like before--but by Thursday every week, things kind of felt a little frayed around the edges.

It has become clear that mid-November is the "Thursday" of my first year as a working mom. So to speak. In other words, I've held things together pretty well since September, but in the past week I've noticed a wheel or two rolling away, out of sight in my side-view mirror.

So to speak.

Last week I burned an entire batch of oven-baked bacon I was making for dinner. I'm talking burned--black beyond the way you like it all nice and crispy, TRUST ME. A couple of days later I burned a whole pan of homemade corn-tortilla chips, once again all the way to black and inedible. I was so busy doing a million other things at the same time as I was cooking dinner that I forgot to check the oven until my food was burned to a crisp.

A couple of days after that (on a Thursday!), right after work, with kids in tow, I went to our fall storage-share pick-up at the farm and, while attempting to mix-and-match a 5-lb. bag of root vegetables for my half of the share, I put in and then took out a head of cabbage TWICE before realizing what I was doing. I mean: I chose a cabbage, then realized there was more cabbage elsewhere down the line so I should choose something else for the mix-and-match, so I put back the cabbage, then milled around a bit considering the various baskets of veggies, then obliviously put the cabbage back in my bag. Then walked on and saw the other giant crate of cabbages, and realized I'd put the mix-and-match cabbage back in my 5-lb. bag. After purposely taking it out of my bag to choose something else, instead of cabbage. Are you getting all this?

In addition to the dementia-like moments described above, I also served my family the following dinners all in the same week: PB&Js (yes really), soup (canned) and sandwiches, and hot dogs. All in a row, actually. Because there was exactly zero time to cook dinner on any of those three days.

Lastly, I saved an email from my mom in which we were discussing Christmas gift ideas for my daughters, for the sole reason that I feared I would otherwise not recall the things I'd decided to give my girls for Christmas.

Do you see what I'm getting at here? I said to my BFF Connie, This is what happens when you are essentially holding down two full-time jobs. You lose your freaking mind. Apparently.

I finished off the week with kiddos and errands on Friday after work/school, put away a car-full of groceries and cat litter, went through all the children's school papers and forms, collapsed onto the couch giving thanks for the weekend, and....promptly got sick. Because that's what happens when you're depleted and run-down, of course.

Listen, you all. I love my job SO MUCH. I wouldn't change things for the world. I'm having so much fun at work; I have the perfect supervisor, colleagues, work hours, dress code, setting, proximity to my children, and nature of the work itself. There is not a day when I wish I didn't have to go to work, and when have you ever had a job like that? My job is awesome; it's the perfect job for me. But there is no doubt that when you have one full-time job (and I consider stay-at-home motherhood and the running of a household and raising of children to be a full-time job) and then add another entire full-time job onto that, it is exhausting. You might find yourself burning dinner and having a recurring can't-live-with-you-can't-live-without-you relationship with an organic cabbage.

In the end, it's all good. I'd take this over-busy, under-rested state of controlled chaos over an empty nest any day, after all. And I assume that, much like with parenting itself, going back to work full-time while still mothering young children and running a household carries with it a steep but natural learning curve of stamina. You acclimate, right? What feels horrendously cold in October feels balmy in March, after all. It's like that, isn't it?

I'll leave you with words and thoughts much more lovely than mine, in the form of a new essay by my favorite mother-writer Catherine Newman--not about being a working mom or about exhaustion or burning the bacon, but relevant nonetheless, in that oh, me too! quality of her writing, that way she voices what we all feel and think and do as moms, that way she makes you want to stop time right now, this instant, in the middle of the crazy chaos of the wheels falling right off the bus.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's a Different World

How my life has changed since I started my full-time job:

1. First and foremost, I have been able to pay off my credit card. Holla! Take THAT, trips to Target and tae kwon do classes and children's birthday parties and new contact lenses and running shoes and school clothes for growing children and J. Crew pants found on clearance!

2. My weekends are no longer "free" (ha! ha ha ha ha ha ha. excuse me as I laugh good-naturedly at the idea of a free weekend since the first child was born a decade ago). They are now spent grocery shopping, cleaning, attempting to cook an actual meal, and trying to conquer the endless. mountain. of. laundry.

3. I still clean during the week, but I never actually complete any one task. I figure I get credit just for starting.

4. I have developed a love-hate relationship with my slow-cooker. On the one hand, yay! A way to make a hot, homemade dinner even while gone from the house all day! On the other, oops! My slow-cooker is too powerful and all my recipes are too short to leave dinner cooking for 8-10 hours, even on Low. Hello, burned dinner!

5. I am as scatter-brained as a sleep-deprived, night-nursing new mama. I guess it's because I've got a million things on my plate at any one moment (work. housecleaning. farm-share pick-up. errands. kids' health and well-being. kids' activities. kids' homework. groceries. cooking. field trip permission forms. dentist appointments. shopping. laundry. baking. child's choir concert. child's school safety-patrol schedule. yardwork. flu shots. holiday planning. and on and on and on and blathering on...). This means I'm constantly (constantly!) starting something, getting distracted by something else that needs doing, leaving the first thing to do the second, completely forgetting about the first, branching out to tasks three and four in similar fashion, and forgetting the names of my children, the day of the week, debit card PIN numbers, and my own birthdate. Oh and meanwhile that very first thing I was doing but got distracted from? It never gets

4. I have no time to bake, I am not home to snack, going to bed early nixes any evening sweet-tooth habits, and my job happens to be more physically active than even the full-time mothering of toddlers. Therefore, full-time work has meant that I've lost weight and can't even wear those awesome J. Crew pants I found on clearance just before work began. You know, those pants I bought for work? Insert Marge-Simpson-esque irritated growl here. But hey! A lot of other, smaller clothes I haven't worn in a year or more now fit again. So I guess it evens out? Plus, the holidays are coming. (= more eating, less exercising, the cookie exchange!, and much winter hibernation.)

5. Life is fuller than ever, and all those crazy changes above are totally worth it. It's all just an interesting ride. Thanks for coming along for it. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Six Weeks In.

Ahhhh, here it is, the last day of school (work) before much-discussed MEA (i.e., Minnesota school break, always a 4-day weekend in mid-October).

So, has my adjustment to full-time work taken all the way until MEA? Am I still really, really tired? Well, yes and no. The adjustment part has gone much quicker and more smoothly than I anticipated. The tired part? Every damn day, you all.

I love my job. LOOOOVE it. This part makes the adjustment much, much easier. But I'm beginning, now at six weeks into it, to miss certain things about being a stay-at-home mom. I miss having time to bake. You all know how much I love to bake! These days I try to crank out a recipe or two on weekends (you can't go an entire autumn without apple crisp or pumpkin muffins, after all!), but it used to be a near-daily occurrence. My family misses that part too, ha.

I also really, really miss being able to exercise during the day. I suspect I'll start to miss that part even more in the upcoming few weeks, as the temperature begins to plummet and the blustery fall wind becomes cold and--gulp--we turn the clocks back so that it's dark at dinnertime. Gah. The thought of COLD runs in the dark, DARK evenings gives me chills--of both kinds. Yes, I've done it hundreds (thousands) of times before. (Remember when the babies were actual babies? And not yet in school? That's when I ran, all winter long.) But it's been a long time now, and I'm not thrilled about doing it again.

But other than that, working-mom life is going fairly well. I mean, I've lost control over the house. Not the dirt part; I'm still cleaning on the daily. But the clutter part. I have no time, anymore, to pick up and put back and regularly cull and purge. The kids' clutter is beginning to take over our (small) house, which is making me a little claustrophobic. And also, I've accepted that the jokes in this post are actually pretty accurate (read: not jokes): I have no time to chat with friends or socialize in any way. Even weekends are solidly filled with family time, all the household shopping, catching up on cleaning and laundry, cooking and baking, and squeezing in a daylight run here and there. That, or (and/or) I'm too exhausted to do anything more. (Friday nights, for example, I am a complete ball of exhaustion and good for nothing more than pj's, TV, and bed. And sometimes not even the TV part.)

But. We've made it to MEA. On the balance, everything's good. The first six weeks have been an adventure, for sure--a positive one. Now, four days to "relax" with the kidlets and then off on the next leg of the journey--during which I'll be really, really tired, I'm sure, until Christmas break. :)


Sunday, October 05, 2014

Last Weekend the Sprinkler, This Weekend the Fireplace.

I had the craziest week, you all.

It started out with Genevieve catching a virus (that she hasn't yet kicked 100%, 8 days later) that necessitated a day home from school (and thus a day home from work for me), and ended with my girls' school's annual Walk-A-Thon on Friday, which also happened to be a gray, drizzly, verrrrry windy, and verrrrry cold day (er, 40+ degrees colder than it had been last weekend when Julia played in the sprinkler with friends, hello Minnesota in autumn).

The Walk-A-Thon would have been no big deal at ALL in any other year, but this year it meant going out to walk at different classrooms' times with different autistic children (some of whom also have ADHD and are highly impulsive), know...challenging. ;)

Friday may have been the longest day ever, since after the super challenging work/school-day, the girls and I still had a Target run and farm-share pick-up to accomplish before collapsing in front of the fireplace with blankets, dinner, The Muppet Show on DVD, and frozen custard for dessert.

Or maybe the week actually ended yesterday, when I caught Vivi's virus on a solo-parenting weekend (another bike race, natch) but still managed to shepherd all three of us through homework, chores, guitar practice, grocery shopping, a visit to the apple orchard, and a post-dinner stint at the college rec center for jogging (Julia), walking (me), and shooting basketballs (Genevieve).

To tell you the truth, despite feeling under the weather and being on solo-parenting duty, I found yesterday with its busy slate of activities to be completely calm, smooth, and relaxed. My girls are almost always super-cooperative and calm on these solo-parenting weekends, and we generally manage to have a lot of fun despite chores and obligations. Of course the best part is having two cuddly girls in my bed at night. We pile it high with pillows, extra blankets, and stuffed friends so it's extra cozy, and this time no one kicked me in the night and everyone slept well. :)

All right, friends, onward into a new week. I'm praying for a warm-up and some SUN after last week's rain and chill; a reprieve from virus attack; and maybe even some time to bake these, which my friend Kathy says are beyond delicious. Have a great week, everyone!

p.s. Obviously I have no time to take pictures anymore. Sorry for the boring no-photo text.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rat Race Days

Don't you always pose for photos in front of autumn trees in your tae kwon do uniform? 
(this was actually for a school project; the uniform was unintentional 
and just because we were coming home from TKD class)

If we weren't battling germs, viruses, and the odd bee sting reaction in this house, I'd say things are going great. My daughters' school has been hit hard by every manner of germ, it seems, unusually early this year, and we've been felled by a number of them just like everyone else. I think someone in my household has been sick every single weekend since school began, and Genevieve's on her second sick day today in only one month of school.

The second day home from school means my turn to stay home to be with her, so I'm missing work today for the first time. Although it's only been a month since I started my full-time job, it already feels incredibly strange to be at home on a weekday. There is plenty to do, but it doesn't seem like I should be here right now doing it.

My new daily life is a true challenge: So far I've been doing virtually everything around the house that I always did before, when I wasn't working outside the home 38 hours per week. (Exceptions: Last week I asked Christopher to clean the master bathroom and vacuum for me when I just could not fit it in; and one other time he did the weekly vacuuming for me too.) But I've recalled that I have always been drawn to challenges.

In order to juggle everything I did before, add in exercise and take the girls to their activities, while also working outside the home full-time, my life has become somewhat of a constant race (and a test in efficiency/time management/multi-tasking like never before). But I've discovered that I'm good with races.

I've always liked to be busy; I prefer to be active and my natural inclination is to stay moving all day (now that I'm no longer sitting at a computer writing a book--remember those days?). This is no doubt part of why I enjoy my job so much; it's truly a job that requires a LOT of running around. It's also why I loved--despite the challenges--those years of stay-at-home motherhood with babies/toddlers/preschoolers. (You don't know the meaning of the word "busy" until you've experienced that job.)

But life as a stay-at-home mom with two school-agers isn't as busy, between 7:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., as it was with wee ones at home. It's no wonder I've found myself with a job during those hours that keeps me as busy as I was during the baby years. It just means I'm busier than ever during the time before and after those hours.

And so fall marches on. We've had glorious, summery weather where I live--that stereotypical golden, glowy, blazing-leaves type of autumn that you see in calendar photos. We've been trying to enjoy the heavenly weekends but it's been hard with so much illness in the house. On Saturday we had to come home early from a college football game, and yesterday I stayed home with Vivi from the annual Alpaca Farm Open House, something we haven't missed since the girls were toddlers.

Ah well....none of it is anything serious and there is still time for the pumpkin farm, the apple orchard, more football games.

Carry on, friends! And take your vitamins.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Windy City

I think the proper descriptor for what my life is like right now would be whirlwind. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I wake up at 5:30 and do not sit still--other than a short time for dinner and not even that on all nights; depending on the evening's schedule, I may be eating dinner standing at the counter or wolfing something down post-run after my family has eaten--until I'm in my bed between 8:30 and 9:00.

My FitBit (wrist pedometer; I traded up when Genevieve begged for a pedometer for her birthday and I gave her my waistband-clip model) tells me that between wake-up and home-from-school/work, I typically take between 10,000 and 12,000-some steps each day. That doesn't count my normal workouts (yesterday I topped 23,000 steps for the day, after my evening run).

Before school/work is a blur of getting myself and the girls ready to head out the door at 7:45 and doing whatever daily chores I can squeeze in. After school/work is a blur of going through school bags/papers/forms, helping with homework, cooking dinner, doing laundry, and supervising kids' activities. When Christopher gets home from work it's a blur of squeezing in my workouts, packing next days' lunches, kids' lessons, baths and next-day prep, and runs to the supermarket. At nine I turn out my light and get ready to do it all again the next day.

The amazing part is how much I am LOVING it. My job is fantastic. I love it all and each day goes by in a speedy---well---whirlwind. I see my daughters in the halls on and off all day and take a short walk over lunch so I don't miss out on too much of the autumn sun and nice weather, because I'm not used to being inside one building all day long. I meet my girls after school and it's always a joy to see their waiting faces.

What's also funny is how it all seems surprisingly doable and smooth, how aside from the lack of usual autumn homemade desserts around the house--there is no time for making apple crisp and pumpkin muffins these days--it feels like I'm managing everything just fine, even with being occupied with a new activity for roughly 38 hours per week that I wasn't before.

But then I remember that I haven't been able to even fully read and comprehend the flurry of emails peppering my inbox re: the start of this year's mother-daughter book club--it didn't help that Julia and I missed the first meeting due to sickness--and then my friend Kathy writes to ask something about our 5th-grade daughters' schedules and I answer her that I have no idea, that "I'm barely eating three meals a day and getting the correct children home with me each afternoon." And I realize that starting a new full-time job is a much larger adjustment than it feels on the surface sometimes, when I'm focused merely on running this way and that and getting everything done each day before lights-out.

So: frenzy, whirlwind, fever. In a good way. If that makes sense?

Life's so crazy/funny sometimes. So far, so good.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Meet You in the Cold Medicine Aisle?

The second week of school and all three of us who spend our days at an elementary school have been, or currently are, sick. Oy!

Overnight Monday I caught a cold virus. Woke up Tuesday and knew I was in for it. So far I've been powering through anyway--too early to use sick days, you all! so many potential kid sick days to cover in the next nine months!--but Genevieve's class has already had one case of pinkeye and one case of strep. STREP. THE SECOND WEEK OF SCHOOL.


During the course of each day, I work with four different autistic children. All of them routinely wipe their noses with their fingers and then hold my hand. There isn't enough hand sanitizer in the world, you guys.

Last night I dropped my girls at Tae Kwon Do and then went to Target and bought: zinc tablets, Emergen-C, Mucinex, Excedrin, Children's Nighttime Could & Cough, and multivitamins. These are products I generally don't even think about until October or November.

But! The good news. Here I am done with two weeks of working full-time after the ten-year-nap that is a decade of at-home motherhood (and here we use the word "nap" to actually mean: not much sleep at all), and things are GREAT. Yes, I'm getting up before dawn to do laundry and clean bathrooms before work. Yes, it's true I have zero time for socializing or reading for pleasure. Yes, I'm surrounded by little-kid germs every second of the day. But somehow, it's all working out so far.

Not the getting sick part. But everything else.

And get this: Today my supervisor put out a basket of local orchard apples, packets of mixed nuts, and dark chocolate truffles on the space where we educational assistants all keep our schedules and supplies for the day, with a note that said, "We're off to a great start this school year, and it's thanks to all of YOU!" with a smiley face.

I'm still rolling around like a tumbleweed half the time, trying to find my direction and control my speed. But it's all good. Things will shake out little by little. And hopefully my immune system will stage a coup. In the meantime, I'm just keeping on keeping on. You do the same, friends.

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Everywhere I went this week, people asked how my new job was going. Yesterday afternoon, people wanted to know how the first week had gone. It's been great, really. Exhausting (new-job-induced insomnia, extra-early alarm clock to get household stuff done before work), but great. The kids and I are tired from the first four days of a new school year--by farm-share pick-up at four yesterday afternoon, I could barely keep my eyes open--but the first week was a success. Don't ask me how we're going to do next week when we add twice-a-week kids' Tae Kwon Do classes into the equation, however. I got by this past week on caffeine and adrenaline.

And then poor Genevieve came down with a stomach virus today, during a solo-parenting stint while Christopher is gone on a bike-race trip. At least that happened AFTER the girls and I went downtown for a children's parade in our town this morning.

In sum: job = great. We = tired. Vivi = sick. But job = great.

More in a few.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

First Day

Yesterday was the first day of 3rd and 5th grade for my girls:

And the first day of my full-time job at their school:

Aside from no one sleeping the night before, everything went awesome yesterday. I saw both my girls during the day, as well as at least seven of their closest friends; my new supervisor is incredibly organized, understanding, and nice; the weather was so gorgeous that I got outside for my lunch break; and I finished up the day around 3:30 with more than 9,000 steps on my pedometer. Um, yeah--not much sitting down/still at this job. Just how I like it. ;)

Here's hoping YOUR first days went well for all your kiddos too, those of you who started a new school year yesterday.

Soldier on!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


It's here: the heartaching end of summer. Every year, I can hardly stand it.

It helps a bit to know that I've always got writer/mama Catherine Newman on my side in this annual grief. Come August I always know she's no doubt writing something about how awful it is, how weepy we feel to see summer fade and our kids grow yet farther up, out, and away. It helps to know you're not the only mom to feel this way at this time of year. (Of course I already know it; my bestie and I suffer yearly in it together, and I know plenty of other moms do as well.)

This year I did laugh out loud, though--that sharp laugh of recognition and bonding over something trying--when I read one of the comments from a like-minded mama on Catherine's blog in response to her latest post, about being sad at summer's end. The commenter wrote,

"This morning my husband said that for 15 years he's been trying to help me feel more hopeful and joyous about the summer/fall/school transition (even from before my kid was born when I was a teacher), and I've finally managed to pull him down to my glum ways."

--and, I did, I laughed. My glum ways! Love it. Say it like you mean it, you know?


Having said all that, starting a new full-time job--especially one at my daughters' school--is definitely tamping down the usual sadness. For one thing, my brain is preoccupied; and for another, I'm going to be near my kids all day, every day. These two factors make it hard to be too terribly sad about summer's end, and for that I'm profoundly grateful.

Don't get me wrong--I still felt an actual pang in my heart today when we left the pool for the last time, and I can't think about it too much.

Friday: our last weekday at the pool.

But that's just it: there's no room to think about it too much anyway, because I'm starting a full-time job IN JUST ONE MORE DAY.

Today at the pool my BFF and I discussed my goodbye to stay-at-home motherhood and entry into full-time working-mom status in great depth, and amused ourselves by mishearing "MEA"--which stands for "Minnesota Education Association" and is regional shorthand for the long weekend in October during which teachers attend a professional conference and everyone else (including staff like me) gets a break from school--as "May" (i.e., the end of the school year). As in, "Someone told me to just accept that I'm going to be really, really tired until MEA." "You're going to be tired until May? Good God." And, "We've got to get all our talking in RIGHT NOW, because after this there won't be any talking until MEA." "Ha ha ha ha, yeah, you're probably right, we probably won't have any time to talk until May!!!" "No, I said MEA! M...E...A!!"

This cracked us up endlessly, and actually drove away her husband, who was sitting by us but decided to go home, and no doubt made mine roll his eyes behind his book and sunglasses more than once.

But you have to laugh, you know? Because otherwise what would we do, cry with nostalgia over the past 8-1/2 years we've spent as stay-at-home moms together? Life goes on. So let's talk about something else.

Over the weekend I went out to our CSA farm to pick cherry tomatoes, green beans, and edamame.

The rows of flowers were so brilliant and bursting that I couldn't resist adding fresh flowers to my haul.

This is the giant bucket of flowers I brought home. Those colors!

The farm continues for another two months, a comforting constant in this time of transition. Friday farm-share pick-ups go on.

And just for fun and because why not, in order to end this post on a random and completely frivolous note, check out this photo of me wearing the other color of the J. Crew skinny zipper pants I ordered at a bargain price a few weeks ago, and tell me this: Does this look like "light amethyst" to you? That's what they call it at J. Crew. Hilarious. It's basically khaki-ish/gray, or some other nondescript neutral. (Actually in this photo they pretty much look white, but they're not.) J. Crew: it's not purple. (Which is good because I did not want purple pants, light or otherwise.)

(Oh, and by the way: the coffee stain did finally come out of the white version. Clorox Bleach Pen for the win!)

You guys. I'll see you on the other side of becoming a working mom. We can do it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Starbucks Iced Espresso is Apparently Impossible to Remove From Clothing.

I spent yesterday at an 8-1/2-hour training for my new full-time job as an educational assistant in the neurobiologial special ed program at my daughters' elementary school.

Despite the fact that the hours were longer than a normal school/work day will be for me (I left at 7:15 a.m. and was done around 4, then ran a quick errand and got home around 4:45), my lunch break was twice as long as it will normally be (a full hour yesterday as opposed to the half hour I'll get at school, meaning that I got the never-to-come-again chance to zip home and even throw in a load of laundry over lunch), and my kids weren't nearby (school does not start till the day after Labor Day--one week from today!), in a lot of ways yesterday felt like my first day as a full-time working mom.

(Spoiler alert: despite what follows, the workday itself was great and left me feeling VERY positive about the upcoming year.)

In a nutshell, here's how it went down. I hope none of this is an omen of things to come.

Sometime in the morning, I had a very strong premonition (seriously!) that my youngest was sick with a stomachache. Around lunchtime, I spoke to my family and found out that my youngest was sick with a stomachache.

(Yes: first day of work, youngest child gets sick during the day--check.)

I found out that, despite having been told upon my hire that I wouldn't have to, I actually DO have to work on three or more late-start school mornings (starting next week) during which my children now need childcare.

(Last-minute childcare scramble--check.)

The tree trimming company with whom I'd contracted in June but who hadn't yet fit us into their schedule unexpectedly showed up at the house to do a large job about which my husband knew basically nothing, with a bill we could no longer afford due to having our air ducts cleaned in July. (After a few frantic minutes on my cell phone, it was determined that the very nice tree guys would do half the job now, half later, and invoice us rather than ask for payment yesterday. These guys are the father and uncle of one of Julia's classmates. Gotta love small-town living and Minnesota-nice treatment!)

(Household management chaos--check.)

My work day ran late and I ended up serving my family frozen pizza for dinner.

(Cliche of working-mom dinners--check.)

On my hurried drive home, the iced coffee I'd sympathy-purchased myself at the Starbucks in Target after running my quick post-workday errand leaked onto the brand-new, PERFECT white pants I had just ordered on an amazing sale from J. Crew for work.* (You guys, I just have to add this: these pants were originally $98. I got them for TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS a few weeks ago!)

(Random stains on work clothes during mad rush--check.)

It is a testament to everything about this job situation of mine that even after all that, I still ended the day feeling excited and great about the year to come. The day was crazy---but the year is going to be a good one.

Now it's time to fully enjoy the last seven days of summer.

*Three washes later and the stain is still there (though lighter). What in the world is in Starbucks coffee?!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ends, Beginnings, & Questionable Ponytails

So. It has been jungle-y here lately! And by that I mean dew points in the 70s and humidity levels so high you start to sweat just by stepping outside. Whew! August in Minnesota! I am not complaining, since you all know how I feel about winter, but...August. ONE WEEK left of the pool! We'd better hit it hard this week.

Yesterday it was way too humid to run outside (my usual exercise), and too rainy to go to the pool (theirs), so while the girls and I were home alone in the afternoon, we improvised and set up some cardio circuits. It was really fun. I wanted to do my killer Jillian Michaels cardio DVD, which is almost an hour long but split into warmup, seven exercise circuits, and cooldown. We decided that while I did the DVD, the girls would rotate between our mini trampoline, my elliptical machine (which they love), self-practicing their Tae Kwon Do, and doing the DVD with me. They rotated every six minutes, when my DVD circuits changed. It was awesome and so fun. I've got to remember this one for wintertime!

Before our workout, I pulled my new short hair into the tiniest ponytail ever seen.

Is that even a ponytail? Let's just say yes.

In other news, on Friday the girls and I discovered that the flowers at our CSA farm are exploding. Seriously, you should see the flower section of the field at our farm; it's a mass of cheerful color. So gorgeous.

I got five vases-full for the house and another for our dear 92-year-old next-door neighbor.

Oh, and there were lots of tomatoes, too.

Also in other news, this year (unlike last) I remembered to bring my girls in for their annual summer well-check appointments with our pediatrician, and they were thrilled to find out how much they've grown. True, Vivi has yet to officially tip the scales into the 50s, but both girls are in the four-feet-or-over height range (Vivi just barely; she's 48 inches even!), and we are solidly out of the single-digit growth percentiles, and for the most part even out of the teens. (Julia's still only at 16th percentile for height.) Growth spurts, here we come. Maybe they both won't be the smallest kids in their grades this year, ha!

Tomorrow I go to an all-day training for work, and on Tuesday we go to Back-to-School Meet-the-Teacher day. This is the last week of summer break for us, and everyone's simultaneously excited and a little sad. It's funny; I've been reading These Happy Golden Years, the 8th Laura Ingalls Wilder book in the Little House series, and just last night I came upon this quote:

As Laura went down the stairs she thought: "The last time always seems 
sad, but it isn't really. The end of one thing is only the beginning of another."

It felt like I was meant to read that quote right now, at this time and stage of our lives. I'd better put it on repeat in my mind for the next week or so, wouldn't you say? Major end coming up, huge beginnings.

And I'll talk to you soon. Enjoy the end of summer!

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Kids Don't Recognize Me.

So the other day, when looking at/for old photos of Genevieve as a baby, I noticed/remembered that my hair used to be basically all one length, and that I loved it that way.

It was a lot easier to style back then. (Or so I remember. Maybe I forget?!)

Over the years, after getting side bangs cut in, I sort of gradually ended up with more and more layers in my hair. It was fine at the time, but lately they've been driving me bananas.

The problem is, to get your hair all (or mostly) one-length again, you have to cut off some of those layers eventually, to get rid of them....and then grow it all again from there.

So last night at the salon, I told my stylist to make some major inroads in this process. Gulp.

Presenting the "long bob" (otherwise known as the "lob" in the hair/style industry (apparently), a term I refuse to use):

 The side bangs remain.

Here's the back view:

All one length back there! Hooray!!!

That's 4 to 5 inches gone, people!

Unfortunately I forgot to warn my family that I was going to do this before I left for my appointment. Consequently, Julia's first reaction upon seeing the result was, "Ohmygosh!!! Why did you do that to your hair???"

Here's how it looks from the front when I'm not in my car attempting to take selfies to text to my children to warn them in advance about what I'm going to look like coming through the door:

Not the most flattering lighting, but fine.

OMG, you all. New job (in one week!!!), new life, new hair, apparently.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Who Will I Sit Next to at Lunch?

I decided that returning to full-time work after 10 years as a stay-at-home mom calls for (requires?) a new lunch bag and water bottle of my very own.

Wouldn't you agree?

My daughters helped me pick them out at Target yesterday.

I'm so ready.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Out of This World

Over the weekend we hosted Genevieve's birthday party for a few little friends. Everything went great and the party was a grand success, according to the birthday girl.

Kid birthday parties in our family are pretty simple. We always have them at home, with homemade cake, simple decorations, and classic party games. (I was validated in my belief that this is all kids really need when, on Julia's homemade Mother's Day project she made at school last spring, among the ten things each child was supposed to write as their favorite things about their moms, she wrote, "Makes birthday parties awesome!")

Before the party, my girls made their own paper planet/space decorations and taped them up around the house.

The black sign at the bottom of the door says, "Halley's comet," in case it was unclear 
what that sideways-microphone-looking thing is above the paper Earth)

I had also found some cute "dizzy danglers" space-themed decorations to hang over the table:

We served yellow-cake cupcakes frosted with homemade chocolate buttercream and decorated with star-shaped marshmallows and star cupcake picks, along with Capri Suns (get it?):

For activities, I had the kids paint suncatchers and frost and decorate star-shaped sugar cookies (baked ahead of time) that I then wrapped up for them to take home. (The cookies are visible in the middle photo above, on the stars-and-moon plate we just happened to already own).

We also played a few games: "Ring Saturn," a version of ring toss that involves tossing a hula hoop over a big ball in order to "put rings on Saturn"; as well as two non-space-themed indoor games that my party assistant, Julia, so helpfully led. (Simple classics: "Telephone" (remember that?) and the game where you see who can transfer the most M&Ms from a baking sheet to their own Dixie cup via a straw.)

Favors (besides their cookies and suncatchers) were star-printed cellophane bags filled with: fun-sized Milky Ways, Starburst candies, mini-packs of Orbit gum, star-shaped straws, and stickers of planets, moons, and stars.

It's not shown here, but we displayed the favor bags by the front door in a big star-shaped glass dish/plate that was a gift from Christopher's boss a couple of Christmases ago. Each child took one as she left the party.

So: not Pinterest-worthy, but perfect. :)

And now she is eight! And, just for fun and nostalgia, here is a photo of Genevieve at her 4th birthday party:

And, once again, now at age eight (this is from her family birthday dinner on her actual birthday; sorry for the blurs):

Sigh. As usual, time is persisting on marching forward.

Last two weeks of summer before school and work begin! We plan to enjoy every minute.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Time Lapse

So yesterday on Facebook I posted a couple of old photos of when Genevieve was a baby (the first at two months old, the second at 20 months) in honor of her birthday, a trip down memory lane kind of thing. Here are the pictures.

I wrote, "These moments seem like yesterday in some ways, but then again, why do I look about 20 years younger than I am now in that second photo??"

My friend Margaret (whose daughters are in college and high school) responded with a comment that made me laugh out loud. She wrote, "Because children keep you young, but first they make you old."

True that, Margaret!

Today is kid-birthday-party day which obvs means I will age at least a few years in the hours between 1 and 3 this afternoon. Ha!

See you soon, friends.


Friday, August 15, 2014

The Beginning of Eight

Today my fiery, hilarious secondborn turns eight. Here's how her birthday morning began.

 message on the driveway

 annual homemade birthday sign on the front door

birthday waffle

It's still hard to believe that this little honey bun has grown to be eight years old.