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.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Orange Belts and Oreo Ice Cream

The kiddos are now Tae Kwon Do orange belts!

So proud of my punching, kicking dynamos. Tae Kwon Do involves a lot of skill, memory, balance, concentration, and energy, and I'm continually impressed with all my babes have learned in the past nine months or so of classes (thanks largely to an incredible instructor; we're so lucky). Plus, don't they look cute in their uniforms and belts?

And here a few additional unrelated and semi-random photos from the last few weeks' adventures.

I took the girls up to our fave Minneapolis neighborhood for our annual Linden Hills afternoon of fun, which included all the usual: a picnic lunch at the Linden Hills playground, a bout of browsing and shopping at Wild Rumpus children's bookshop, ditto at the toy store (not pictured), and, of course ice cream cones at Sebastian Joe's. Yum!

Only one of them still fits through the "fairy door" at the bookstore. Sob!

Oreo ice cream cones: perfection.

Lastly, look at these gorgeous flowers we cut the other day at our CSA farm to give to our next-door neighbor for her 92nd birthday this weekend.

Aren't we so lucky to have this kind of beauty in our daily lives?! Love.

OK, sorry for the sparse/random. I'm assuming the Grams appreciate whatever they can get, if no one else does. Ha! Happy August and all that. Back soon.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Here's What's Up

Hey, y'all. I've been re-(re-re-re-re-?)watching the entire "Friday Night Lights" canon on DVD (yes we own the entire run), and have made it all the way to the final season (5). So you'll have to excuse the occasional Texan-ism, since it's on the brain right now.

What else is going on around these parts? Well, we must avoid as much angst as possible and simply refuse to voice the obvs., which is that summer is waning, shhhhhhhhh. So, you know, truth be told, we've been school supply shopping. And gym shoe shopping. And going to an employee meeting regarding one's job contract for the upcoming school year, with the kids and their snacks, books, and writing tablets in tow.

The girls tested for the next level in tae kwon do on Tuesday--their orange belts. We find out tonight if they passed, which I'm sure they did, because they rocked it. One more week of summer TKD and then we're off for a few weeks, which as much as we love TKD, will be a nice break from twice-a-week evening classes. Such a scramble, sometimes.

We've been cutting flowers at the farm, watching hummingbirds in the backyard, going to the pool most days, and planning Genevieve's upcoming 8th (!) birthday party (she's been obsessed with astronomy for almost a year now, so it's space-themed). I've been teaching Julia (verrrrrry incrementally) how to do laundry. We go to Target approximately ten thousand times a week. The usual.

More soon, what with orange belt and birthday photo opportunities coming up. In the meantime, I will leave you with two delightful links. First, an amazing-looking grain-free zucchini brownie recipe (read the comments at the bottom; people are going nutso for these brownies!).

And second, this charming Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros video for their song "That's What's Up." I promise, this will delight you. I'm in love.