Thursday, December 24, 2015

Over the River and Through the Woods

We've been busy making merry, baking goodies, growing bigger every day (well, the littles, that is), and enjoying everything the holiday season has to offer--even if this year, in our town, that did not include snow until yesterday.

Over the river and through the woods we go, and to you, I wish the merriest of Christmases. I know I haven't been around much this past year; life is moving too fast and I can hardly keep up half the time. But I think about you--all of you out there!--so often. We are all in this mothering job, on this journey, together. Every year that passes is another year of growth and memories. Every Christmas is precious and a reminder of another mother and another baby long ago, on a miraculous journey of their own.

Love to you and yours, and have yourself a merry little (or big) Christmas. xoxo

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I wanted to post a photo here of Julia with the giant 15-lb. Blue Hubbard squash she won from our CSA farm by correctly guessing its weight at storage-share pickup last week, but iPhoto is refusing to import new photos from my phone right now (siiiiiigh........), so I will instead give you this pic I snapped a month ago on a trail run near my house: the prairie vegetation, the field, the sky. Nowadays there is more gold and brown and less green, but we have had an incredible long, warm, lucky autumn. Snow is supposed to come today for the first time--just a lovely sprinkling inch or so--even though yesterday it was 50 degrees where I live (the temp dropped 20 degrees overnight).

My daughters and I are off to run our town's Turkey Trot (5K) this morning before all the Thanksgiving dinner cooking begins. (Actually, that began last night, of course, with the pie and the assembling of the stuffing. Much more to come.) It has been a completely insane fall--working-mom life is crazier and busier than EVER and I have often wondered how to do it all and where the time is going--but that is all the more reason to thoroughly enjoy this day.

I wish you a day full of food, love, and thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Growing Up

One of the best things about having an 11-year-old: Every time the Macklemore song "Growing Up" (a letter of advice to the artist's then-unborn daughter Sloane) comes on the radio, when he gets to the line "And every day, give your mama a compliment," Julia calls out from the other room or the backseat of the car something like, "You're a good runner!" or "You're a great cook!"

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Fall Back

Yes! I am still alive. Busy, but alive.

Long overdue: my daughters on the first day of school (a month ago now! sheesh).

Sixth grade (that's middle school, yo!) and fourth grade, if you can believe that ridiculousness. I mean. I was just taking pictures of them on their first days of PRESCHOOL, after all.

The first month of school and work has been as expected: crazy-busy, full of ups and downs, warm and sunny, challenging, tiring, and mostly good. The transition to middle school is no joke, people. I could say a lot more if I had the energy (ha!).

Work is awesome and exhausting, as always. The most interesting part, to me, about returning to full-time work this fall is the comparison to my first transition to full-time work a year ago. Even though I'm just as busy (more so, actually, because my kiddos have more activities this year and now one of them is at a different school, which doubles the schedules/requirements/procedures/policies/obligations I have to think about), I've clearly acclimated to some degree because I no longer find myself comatose by 6 p.m. like I did last autumn. I mean, don't get me wrong: I'm going to sleep at 8:30 each night, have missed more workouts in the past month than the entire summer combined, and am deeply indebted to whomever invented convenience dinner foods like frozen chicken tenders, but I'm not quite as completely knocked flat like I was when I first began this whole full-time-working-mom gig in September 2014.

And, although Julia and I have already caught the first cold virus of the school year, we have also managed to squeeze in some fall fun:

(Not pictured: high school football games, a parade, numerous playdates, the zoo...)

I love my job, I really do. This is a big relief because I wondered, would I feel the same way about it this year? Would it be just as satisfying? So far I do, and it is. But I do still miss being a stay-at-home mom sometimes, too. Especially after being home full-time over the summer, it seems impossible now to do all the home-family-mom stuff while never being home during the day. I find myself missing the days when I could run, grocery-shop, clean, cook, bake, and run errands at times other than evenings and weekends. Now that I can't, my weekends are a marathon of doing all that, and I never feel like I get to rest or recover from the workweek.

For some reason I feel like I was more efficient and productive last year than I am this fall. Maybe the panic of such a big change caused me to overcompensate last fall, or maybe it's just that this year is harder and more complicated, with a child starting middle school. Whatever the reason, I'm struggling more this fall with fitting in runs, staying in shape, cooking real dinners, and generally getting everything done. Gah. It's an ongoing struggle, isn't it, mamas?

A co-worker with teenage children told me the other week that the only jobs that are feasible once you have kiddos in middle and high school are ones that mimic your children's school schedule (i.e., our jobs as educational assistants at the elementary school, ones for which we are vastly overqualified and underpaid but which include no demands on our time once school is out each day and from which we are off on all days our kids are off from school), or being a stay-at-home mom. Another work friend, with kids ranging in age from 10 to 17, mentioned not long ago that her husband is lobbying for her to return to stay-at-home motherhood because life is just too difficult without a parent at home and available to manage all the household tasks and kids' activity schedules. I get it, I really do.

On a completely different note, but speaking of stay-at-home guys, every single month I am stunned and inexpressibly grateful when I continue to receive a book royalty check. I am utterly AMAZED by this. My book on the stay-at-home-mom-life was published almost four years ago, and it continues to actually earn me royalties. You cannot imagine how unexpected this has been to me. I can only reiterate my extreme thanks to all of you, any of you, who have supported and continue to support my writing in this way. Love you guys!!

And so, here we go into a new week, in a new month, with all its complexities and challenges and moments of sweetness and exhaustion. The leaves are turning, the kiddos are busy and growing, the days are speeding by and getting shorter.

As for me, I'm just trying to hang on, make a good decision every now and then, feed my babes, get some sleep, and soak up any available sun. The evenings are short, there is no doubt now. Life isn't easy in the fall; everyone knows what's ahead. It's time to prepare, take stock, shore up, gather your strength. Runs will be cold. Nights will be long. All we can do is keep on keeping on!

Let's do this.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Day Three

Just dropping in quickly to say we're doing OK so far, three days into the school/work year. Some bumps in the road, but hanging in, just trying to get to Friday afternoon when we are all looking forward to a trip to the bakery after school on our way to farm share pick-up and then crashing at home with popcorn and a much-deserved movie. Last fall I always said Thursday was the hardest day of the week in terms of adjustment and exhaustion. So, we're gonna power through it! Thank goodness for sunny September days, good friends and neighbors, home-baked treats, kind teachers, and lots of coffee (adults only). I even got in a solid run on Tuesday night and a short one last night (just couldn't do more than three miles yesterday; sooooo tired.) :)

Power on, peeps! Hope your school year is going well.


Friday, September 04, 2015

Home Stretch

August flowers from the farm

 Sigh......home stretch of summer.

So this week has been the hottest and most humidly oppressive of the season....and the pool has been closed since Monday. GAH! It has always been open all the way through Labor Day, right up until the first day of school, but this year Labor Day is a week late, and the lifeguards all had to go back to college, so..... Yep. Closed.

It's been all 90+ degrees with dew points of 75 (FYI: that's like jungle humidity), and we've been all, Um.....what is there to do, exactly?

Luckily (?), what there's been to do this week is all the back-to-school (& work) activities. I had a training day on Monday, all nine hours of it; then it was elementary-school Open House and Middle School Parent Night and the new 6th graders' half-day orientation/welcome event. And now we're up to Labor Day weekend, and we're still sleeping late and staying in our pj's far too late and ignoring the fact that in just four short days, we'll be getting up at five (me) and six (them). Oh myyyyy.....

I've been psyching myself up to return to work/school by musing on the things I love about doing so (rather than on the five a.m. wake-up and the never-home insanity). For instance, Fridays take on a whole new meaning when you're NOT a stay-at-home mom. All day Friday--even when you love your job--you can relish the fact that at the end of the day you get to grab your kid(s) and come home to crash and RELAX. (Oh right, you never really relax when you have kiddos, but COMPARATIVELY SPEAKING.) Gotta love Friday afternoons.

And: the paychecks! The paychecks I get at this particular job are miniscule--however, they are money.

I'm sure there are other things that will come to me. ;)

Happy holiday weekend, friends! Soak it up. Next week life gets crazy. :)


Monday, August 24, 2015

Ready, Set, Go

Well, my friends, it's a tough time of year for this mama, as you well know. I'm not even going to bother hyperlinking to all the past examples of my late-August melancholia; you all know how this goes down. You know I'm not like Jen Hatmaker, self-proclaimed worst end of summer mom ever, counting the minutes until I can send my kiddos back to school; I'm like dear Catherine Newman, shaking my fist at the universe that anything but summer even exists (why? seriously, WHY?), mourning every single summer flown like I'm mourning every increment by which my girls grow farther up and out. Which, of course, is exactly what the passing of one more summer means.

Well, that and the end of glorious, warm, comfortable, blissful, lovely weather. Gahhhhhhhhh........

This is partly why I have avoided writing here this month. Who wants to write about preparing for the first day of school, about shopping for school supplies, about MIDDLE SCHOOL ORIENTATION?? Not this mama.

And yet we are the lucky ones (in my world, anyway). School has not started yet where I live; it's still two weeks away! We live in the glorious state of Minnesota where there is an actual law forbidding school to begin prior to Labor Day, the better to preserve the vibrant tourism economy of lake country. (Full disclosure: some districts apply for a waiver; mine does not, woot!) Middle school orientation isn't until next week; same with middle school parent night, elementary school open house, etc. etc. etc. And yet. The wheels are in motion.

The upside: just like last year, the fact that I am going back to work as the girls go back to school is an immense comfort. It is distracting; it leaves one far too busy for sentimentality; Genevieve will be with me. The downside: only Genevieve will be with me. The fact that Julia will be going on to middle school this year and no longer under the sweet, small elementary school roof with Genevieve and me every day makes my throat seize with tears.

My bestie reminds me--so wisely, so right--that within a week--probably within a few days!--it will all be routine again. The school year rush. The alarm clock. The early mornings. the frenzied after-school afternoons with the homework, the mail, the feeding of the cat, the snacks, the chores, the cooking of dinner, the sports classes, the music lessons, the nonstop schedule of working-mom life during the go-go school year. What seems sad and terrifying right now will be nothing more than normal by three days in. I believe her! It's happened so many times before.

And I must admit that despite the world-rocking culture shock of suddenly working full-time outside the home while also juggling everything else I always had, and the almost humorous exhaustion that colored September 2014 as a result, there are snatches of lovely memory from last autumn that jump out at me, too, when I envision life in two weeks: the somehow soothing predictability of routine, even when that routine was insanely busy; the weeks I squeezed chilly evening runs into the hour of my girls' Tae Kwon Do classes, dropping them off and then taking off down Maple to get to the trails as fast as I could, turning around just in time, coming back for the last ten minutes of class, chilled and strong; those wild afternoons after school with NPR on and candles lit and the smell of leaves coming in the windows on the breeze all the while a mad dash was going on to get everything done in time and I was fueling myself with one last iced coffee to get me through until bedtime; the comfort of going to work every day and being able to immerse myself in something else all day--and with grown-ups to talk to, to boot!

These days I am a messy mix of both those things: the aching sadness of summer's end, of sending one child to a new school, of another year of my babes growing up, and the invigorating anticipation of the journey we are about to begin, again.

In the middle of all this, our fam took a vacation up north, the girls tested for and earned their purple belts in Tae Kwon Do, I took them on our annual summer day trip to Linden Hills in Minneapolis, Genevieve turned 9, and all the rest. For her birthday, I found a real gem: a girls' t-shirt with the Shakespeare quote, "Though she be but little, she is fierce" on it, from an etsy shop I discovered in one of those weird, tangential, Internet ways, as you do. 

 Truer words were never spoken (written).

With every t-shirt order, the shop owner/shirt designer sends a handwritten thank-you note, on which she writes her shop's motto--the Bible verse Hebrews 12:1, which reads: "Run with perseverance the race that is set before us."  

So that is my guiding mantra for the upcoming weeks and months, as summer ends and a new race begins.

This is the job of us all: to run with perseverance the race that is set before us. That's how it goes. That's how it will go.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer Wonderland

Ahhhh....summer. So perfect.

The girls and I have been hanging out at the pool:

and picking produce at the farm...

We went to St. Paul on a sunny Friday and saw the sights along Summit and Grand (my college stomping grounds):

We've been hiking in the Arboretum:

and exploring new playgrounds...

and shooting lots of baskets.

Oh, and by the way, shout-out to the 30-Day Squat Challenge (250 squats per day, anyone?) for the legs and glutes...

I do so appreciate it. Zillions and zillions of squats for the win!

And that's all for now.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blissful Summer Adventures

Heyyyyyy, everyone.

I am the worst. I keep meaning to update the blog but iPhoto has changed into something unrecognizable and therefore I keep neglecting to upload all the summer photos on my phone (errrrrr.....actually all spring long.....I used to be so good at keeping up on the full-time (ha!) job of maintaining and updating the girls' and family (physical, not digital) photo albums, and now I have not printed out photos since.....Valentine's! GAH! Um, in the meantime, we've had spring break, Easter, zillions of school activities, the last day of school and my 5th grader's graduation from elementary school, one child's birthday, the 4th of July, and all our summer adventures! Um, yeah).

I got a new iPhone a few weeks back and am still doing things like accidentally activating features I didn't even know it had. Uh, I'll figure it out eventually.

The girlies have been busy with summer basketball, tae kwon do, and off-road biking classes; math practice; shooting hoops in the driveway like little maniacs; frequent playdates and pool dates; and the like. Summer. Heaven. Nothing better.

Last week Daddy was out of town the whole week, so we had lots of girl adventures, and on Friday I took the girls to St. Paul for the day to see my old college campus and the sights along Summit and Grand. I pointed out the basement-level apartment I lived in and the preschool I worked at right after graduation; the bakeries, coffeehouses, ice cream shops, gift stores, running routes, and restaurants I used to frequent back in the day; the governor's mansion and all the rest of the historic mansions along Summit Avenue; and the church childcare center where I worked part-time my first fall at Mac. We had so much fun and it was the absolute perfect day, topped off with movie night and a popcorn dinner at home in our pj's when we were all tired from the day and clean from bubble baths.

I promise I'll post some photos soon (eventually). :)  

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Around Here...

Well, the end of the school year has come and gone and I was too busy dealing with the logistical (teacher gifts, end-of-year parties/field trips/performances/ETC.; Julia's 11th birthday/party; visit from grandparents) and emotional (Julia's graduation from 5th grade/elementary school, with its heartstring-yanking ceremony in the gymnasium complete with big-screen photo slideshow set to Echosmith's "Bright" ("Days are good/And that's the way it should be...") (GAH the 5th-grade teachers were trying to kill us; all the moms cried); end of first year at amazing job I love like no other/saying goodbye to beloved kids/co-workers/boss for the next three months; sweet last-day-of school pics that make a person stand stock-still in dreaded realization that another grade is over and the kidlets are another year older now... intricacies to even THINK about writing any of it down.

Are you still with me? Did you successfully navigate that play-by-my-own-rules collection of parenthetical statements? Thanks.

And, even, two weeks of summer vacation have passed, and they have been as glorious--gloriouser!--as they ever are. I have experienced a new mental phenomenon, even as I run all over with my kiddos doing things like riding bikes, going to the pool, getting books from the library, working on jigsaw puzzles on rainy days, going to the movies, hiking in the Arboretum, shopping at Target, picking strawberries at the farm, having friends over to play, eating frozen-custard cones on a sunny Saturday, going to basketball, inventing arts and crafts, and the like: after nine months of working outside the home 38 hours a week and still doing all the home stuff, JUST doing the home stuff feels like...doing almost nothing.

It's CRAZY. Summer as a SAHM used to feel like the busiest time of all--the kids out of school and with me full-time, no solo grocery-shopping or exercising time, partners in crime along with me for every single chore and errand. But this year? I HAVE NEVER FELT SO NON-BUSY.

Of course the irony is that I'm as busy as I have ever been in the summer. It's just that my frame of reference has changed in the past nine months.

Summer life in Minnesota is blissful in a way that can be hard to put into words. When you live with roughly six months of cold/unpleasant weather each year, the three that constitute summer become over-the-top precious. The sun and the technicolor-green lushness of the woods and the perfect sky that looks like fake painted scenery, the impossibly cheery and melodic birds that remind you of an old-school Disney film, the sunrises and sunsets, the pool and the warmth and the smell of the air.... there's nothing better. Most boring paragraph ever, but sorry.

Life is good. ("And that's the way it should be...") Summer on.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Reflections on the Past Year as a Working Mom

Well, my friends, the school year is almost done. It is so hard to believe. I remember last September so clearly and how nervous I was on the first day of school, my first day of being a full-time working mom--wondering if I'd like it, wondering how I'd do it all, wondering if I'd regret taking it on.

I'm here to say I don't regret a moment. It was Crazy with a capital C, and the moments of harried insanity were many, but I loved it.

A few reflections on my first year as a full-time working mom...

My intuition was right, as usual. When I made the decision to take the full-time offer, I was scared to death but I also had this gut sense that it was the right thing to do. Moms are famous for their intuition, and in my experience, those gut feelings exist for a reason.

It was tiring. So very tiring. At the beginning of the school year, when I was just starting to shoulder a second full-time job in addition to my existing full-time job of mom and housewife, I was frequently too exhausted to even chat with my mom friends at my daughters' evening Tae Kwon Do classes. By 6 p.m., I was sort of in a zombie-like state. Fortunately I have wonderful friends who completely understood when I did things like stare at them blankly when they asked me a question or forgot entire conversations we'd previously had. However, interestingly enough, one does acclimate. It's funny to me now to look back on last autumn and recall how utterly fried I was at the end of each day, because, even though of course these days I'm still tired, I'm no longer unable to read, move, or speak in complete sentences after 6 p.m.

The structure and routine of an outside job is a wonderful thing. This was sort of an abstract, amorphous feeling, so forgive me for not being able to clearly articulate what it was all about. But it was very important, and something I could never have predicted.

The notion of 50/50 household-responsibility sharing is pretty much bull#!*#. A work friend of mine and I used to call this the "Spouse too Used to the Luxury of Having a Full-Time SAHM Wife for the Past [insert appropriate number] Years Syndrome." (Errrr...yeah, just roll with it.) In other words, we were both still doing our entire previous jobs of stay-at-home moms, roughly 95% of all household/family tasks, even though we were now also working full-time outside the home. Sometime around April, my husband began doing some vacuuming. Other than that, if there were things that needed doing around the house, there seemed to be an unspoken assumption that it was my work to do. Plenty of us have nice, upstanding, good-father husbands--and this still goes on in some of our houses. Welcome to 2015, you all.

I'm very glad I waited to return to work until my kidlets were older--old enough to be independent in many areas, such as getting themselves ready for school, preparing their own breakfast, and getting into their outside gear to leave the house. I can't imagine trying to get ready for work each morning, or organized at home at the end of each day, if my girls hadn't been capable school-agers who could easily do things like pack/empty their backpacks, put on/take off snowpants, get the mail, set the table, and do their homework without my participation.

There is nothing better than working under the same roof, on the same schedule, as my kiddos. This made up for the fact that I'm working at job for which I am a million times overqualified, for an hourly wage that wouldn't even pay for housing on its own. I got to see my daughters multiple times during each work day, which was worth more than any amount of money in the world. We were always together during all off-school hours. It was a perfect equation after ten years of full-time stay-at-home motherhood, because it allowed me to still be a stay-at-home mom before school, after school, and on all school-vacation days.

That whole prediction about not having time to talk to my friends was pretty much spot on. For the past nine months, I've barely socialized at all, and I've found that this is true for my other mom friends who likewise returned to work this year. When you're working full-time outside the home, shouldering the majority of the tasks at home, raising children, and attempting to occasionally exercise, you simply run out of time. Maybe this gets easier, but since there are only 24 hours in a day and I need eight of those to sleep, I simply did not have enough time to see or talk to friends (much, anyway). My co-workers--whom I adore--became my daily confidantes, because they were the only ones I ever saw or had time to talk to.

Having said all that, every single challenge of my first year as a full-time working mom was worth it, a hundred times over. It was an awesome, fantastic, exhausting, interesting year. I will enjoy my summer off with my daughters wholeheartedly, for sure--just one more week of school and work! But yesterday I found out that I have the job again next school year, so I'll be back in the fall.

Maybe year two will be easier. Maybe not. But it will be good either way.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Happy Mother's Day. Keep on Keeping On!

In honor of Mother's Day weekend, I feel compelled to trot out two little re-shares. They're both so good they deserve many repeat views. Happy Mother's Day, you all! For all we do, here's (1.) a big laugh, and (2.) a heartfelt wish.

First, the by-now-famous post by blogger Jen Hatmaker about the hell that is mothering at the tail end of the school year. Get ready to laugh until you cry.

Seriously, when this post was initially published two years ago and I read it for the first time, all I had to do for a long time afterward was glance at the photo of Jen's son in that ad-hoc Ben Franklin costume--that game expression on his face!--and I would literally laugh out loud, over and over again. It was especially fitting at the time because I had a third grader in the middle OF THE EXACT SAME PROJECT (although she was Abigail Adams, not Ben Franklin).

Now, I have another third grader in the middle of this same project (Albert Einstein), so once again that part of the post is particularly true-to-life for me. But honestly it's the whole thing. This is parenting elementary-school-age children in May. The chaos is unrelenting. The end-of-year field trips, programs, projects, special events, concerts, and ceremonies are endless. It feels like years of school special events and activities are compressed into the last five weeks of school. Why? Whyyyyyyyy.

Second, once again, Kelly Corrigan's Mother's Day wish for all you mamas out there. You'll love it, and we all deserve it. Enjoy. (If you can't watch it here, click over to the youtube link and watch it there.)

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

April Showers

Friends! It's been too long.

What have we been up to over here? Other than spring break and Easter, I'm not really sure, but I do have a (very) few photos.

The week before break, I took a personal day from work ONLY because I get two per year and if I don't use one, I lose it (I can carry over the second). It says something about my job that I wasn't really even very interested in taking a day off, but it just seemed like I'd better do it. I mean, who gives up a "free" personal day? At any rate, I cashed in the gift certificate for a mani/pedi that my dear friend V. in Texas sent me for my birthday. She had called a local nail salon in my town and made arrangements. It was lovely:

Since I used the rest of the afternoon for my annual mammogram, the salon treatment sort of saved the day. I loved it. Thank you, V.!

Spring break was not at all spring-y, but we did escape the ten inches of snow that attacked our town mere hours after we left to drive north to visit my folks. (Yes, we drove 300 miles NORTH, but the weather was LESS wintry up there. Which is not to say it was nice, just that it did not snow ten inches. Ha.)

One day during some shopping, Julia and I happened upon this wall plaque, which Julia wanted me to buy for my bestie for her upcoming birthday. I did not, but I texted her this photo (I'll let you guess her hair color):

After our trip north, we still had some days left on break, so I took the girls to the Science Museum of Minnesota to see the big new Space exhibit. I forced Julia to stand in this astronaut scene so I could take a photo of the two of them:

You can tell from her face that she's basically saying, "I'm humoring you, Mama." Which is fine!

We didn't have any plans for Easter this year, but I cooked my ham dinner (the girls love it and look forward to it), including this pretty dessert which was a big hit with a little vanilla ice cream:

What's not to like, right?

And last night was Julia's last elementary-school choir concert. She "graduates" from 5th grade in less than two months (gah!), which means she's on to the middle school in the fall. SIGH...... No, I am not ready.

As usual, spring has been crazy-busy and also cold. In addition to spring break, Easter, and the choir concert, we've also had parent-teacher conferences and in upcoming days/weeks we have the school's annual arts/literacy festival (Genevieve is reading an original poem), the 3rd-grade's annual Famous Americans program (Genevieve is going to be Albert Einstein, love it), and I've got two work events and the middle school parent meeting, plus four birthdays and planning for the rest of spring (read: elementary school graduation, Julia's 11th birthday, grandparents visiting).

Somewhere in there I will find out whether or not I have this job again next year. Since right now there is no sign of any new ASD-diagnosed kiddos joining our school in the fall, and one of our current students needs less classroom support than he did at the beginning of the year, at least one of us may be out of a job. (This kind of position is dependent on the number of students who need special ed services of each type, each year.) I'd be fine with dropping down to part-time (which every mom I know who works full-time as an educational assistant would prefer, truthfully--we are always talking about how crazed we feel trying to manage everything at home in addition to working full-time), but if my job is no longer after the first week of June, I will cry. Truly.

But for now, onward! The last two months of having both my babes at the same neighborhood school--where I work, even!--is upon me. That is not lost on me. I'm savoring every day.

I hope you are, too!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

March Madness

 Oh, hey there. Yikes, it's been quiiiite awhile.

Clearly, my new-ish life as a working mom and the act of writing do not exactly go hand in hand. As in, I don't really have time to write.

Seeing as it's almost spring break (for the kiddos and for me), and the last time I wrote here was, what, Valentine's Day or something?, well, there's no way to fully fill you in on 4+ weeks of mothering life. You probably wouldn't even want me to. So, a few moments that stand out from my memories of mid-to-late winter around these parts:
  • I experienced WAY too many barely-above-zero and/or windchill-below-zero recesses at school/work. The ONLY part of my job I dislike: recess duty in January/February. Good Lord Almighty humans should not be outdoors in that kind of weather.
  • The girls played a lot of indoor basketball on frigid boring weekends. A LOT.
  • This has been the first winter (in the NINE winters we have lived here) the little hill in our backyard has not been used for sledding. I could cry, just typing out that realization. Because the KIDS ARE GROWING UP. 
  • I gained my usual deep-winter ten pounds. Gah. Meh. Extreme winter in the northlands = carbs & lethargy = ten extra pounds. What are you gonna do? Sigh. Not even my active job could keep these pounds away, apparently. Note to self: fewer cookies, more running.
  • My arthritis flared up, leading to more skipped runs than usual (see: the gaining of ten pounds, above).
  • Work = happiness. I love the structure and the kiddos and the social connections and the comfort of a familiar place where you are needed and others are happy to see you every morning no matter what else is going on in the world at large. Thank God for that.
  • It was spring for one week, when it reached the 60s and all the snow melted. (Last week.) Now it's late winter again, albeit with no snow. But the temp is once again CHILLY.
  • I fell in love with Zach Braff's little Kickstarter-funded indie movie from last summer, "Wish I Was Here," and its hypnotic soundtrack. So I'm approximately seven months late to this particular experience. Better late than never.
  • Starbucks unsweetened chilled coffee for home (cheapest at Target! fyi!); Lena Dunham's memoir (hide from the kiddos, much adult content); Girl Scout cookies; these yummy chocolate bars (which come in lots of other flavors too); weekend days doing childcare for Genevieve's best friend and thus temporarily having three daughters; lazy dinners; coooold walks. 
Parenting school-agers continues in all its confusing, rewarding, confounding glory and chaos. Never, EVER a dull moment, you all. Chins up, soldier on.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Holy Moly Me Oh My

Hey, you all! I apologize in advance for the randomness that will be this post. Much like my brain, it will jump all over the place in a potentially annoying fashion.

So it was my birthday this week. Thankfully, much ado was not made over my continued aging. Just the right amount of ado, actually: friends stopping by with coffee and unexpected and unnecessary gifts, my daughters picking out cupcakes at the local cupcake shop, a free hoagie for dinner with my fam at our town's favorite sandwich place (which gives you a free sandwich on your birthday if you show them your driver's license--ouch). I also squeezed in a six-mile run, which occurred immediately before I gave up all exercise for the remainder of the week due to ridic cold weather and a crazy busy life that drains my energy on the regular. Oh, and then the next day after work I had a surprise gift waiting for me on my car's windshield (love small towns!!), left by a girlfriend who knows my car, knows where I spend my working hours, and knows that I park in the exact same place on the same street by the school every single day--ha. :) SO NICE.

This week also included the girls' Valentine's parties at school and a field trip for my 5th grader. Of course, seeing as how I'm working all day, I did not volunteer at either party nor chaperone the field trip, BUT I did shepherd a few of our special ed kiddos through their classroom festivities, and popped my head into Genevieve's next-door 3rd-grade classroom at one point to see what was up and give her a quick kiss. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE working at my girls' school?!? Nothing better.

Julia started Saturday basketball, swimming lessons continued, and tae kwon do resumed after a week's break plus one lesson that had to be cancelled because of a winter storm. We are not lacking for things to do.

Every time I see something like this (or this), I wonder why the heck am I not wearing bikinis every day at the pool in the summer? Because whatever my particular body dissatisfactions (we all have them!), I have discovered over the years that I have been blessed with a belly that shows no sign of past pregnancies/childbirth and that this is fairly unusual. Who knew?!? Moms don't go around comparing their bare bellies. BELIEVE ME, I think Cindy et al are gorgeous and perfect as-is, and BELIEVE ME, I have other body "imperfections" that I despise, but my midsection is not one of them, and it suddenly occurred to me that THIS WILL NOT LAST. I'm getting old, people. (See: previous discussion of birthday.) Why am I not wearing a two-piece while I can?! Good grief. I should have been happily baring my belly for the last ten years.

And lastly, are you crushing on the Glee version of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes' song  "Home" as much as I am? If not, you should be!

Carry on.

Monday, February 02, 2015

No Time for Rest

Just popping in to show you this dollop of awesomeness:

This is the Old Navy activewear top I just ordered (because I was also ordering a new tunic to wear with leggings to replace the one that got irrevocably stained at work (see: work at elementary school), had a bunch of credit card rewards dollars, plus got my entire order (which included another needed item too) on sale for 40% off, which meant a final bill of $4.90, omg).....

Because, seriously, HOW COULD I NOT ORDER THIS. It's the theme shirt of my full-time-working-mom life!

Happy Monday, you all.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wait for It.

Oh, my dear ones. I am so falling down on the job. This will be my remembered refrain of the 2014-2015 school year: "I am falling down on the job!"

Not the ACTUAL, paying job, of course; I feel (and hope I am right) that I am performing that job quite well. It's the other job, the one of mommy and household manager/CEO, whose tasks I cannot seem to get done or stay on top of. (Clearly I can no longer stay on top of grammar, either, given that last sentence.)

I have not printed out photos for our family albums since the first day of school. Nope, not from Halloween or fall field trips. Not from the 5th-grade fall choir concert or Thanksgiving. Not from CHRISTMAS, nor New Year's, nor the school Winter Sings. Nothing. I do not have time to sort and cull and decide and order. I have tried, and yet, it has not been done.

This is just one example, of course. Life continues to be insane. I dropped mother-daughter book club after failing to obtain the month's reading selection for three months' straight. I consistently run out of groceries before finding the time to replenish; I can't count how many last-minute gallons of milk I've procured. I skip household chores on the daily and then have to catch up at some other, dirtier time. I rely too often on freezer convenience foods for my growing girls, eaten fast between homework and Tae Kwon Do lessons. I have yet to figure out anything regarding new guitar lessons for Julia, although I gave her a bigger-kid, "real" guitar for Christmas.

(Let's ignore the fact that she begged and begged for one and has not touched it since she received it. GAH..... But there is no time for regret.)

True, January has probably been the worst month, a somewhat atypical example, for all this, due to Christopher's numerous absences for bike race trips. It's a hard month to solo-parent: all the putting away of the holiday decorations, the purging and re-organizing the small house to accommodate new possessions received as gifts, the harsh weather that discourages outings and outdoor play, the low light, the cabin fever. Things will likely improve as winter wears on and life changes bit by bit by bit, again.

But still.

The good news is that I love my full-time job--the paying one, the one that's turned my mom-and-housewife life upside down--immeasurably.

Oh, this job. This job may be the savior of my mental health as I enter the dark years of tween parenting. As I said to my friend Kath the other day (another full-time SAHM-turned-working-mom, who also works in a school now), it is a blessing, when your children seem to fight with each other nonstop during every waking moment of the day and you swear you can actually feel your blood pressure rising as a result, to be able to go somewhere else every morning where you can (and need to) turn your attention away from your own children/home/life and instead focus 100% on other children, with other needs, and other everything. Who knew?!

Nothing makes me happier than showing up at work each day to the smiling faces of my supervisor and co-workers, and to spend the next 7-1/2 hours in a busy whirlwind of elementary school children and teachers and classrooms and the six busy boys in our Neurobiological program. Love it love it love it. Hallelujah. How did I get so lucky.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Solo Parenting in the Arctic

So! No, we haven't dropped off the face of the earth. We DID all finally recover from the illness Armageddon that was Christmas break. And, the New Year is off and running in all its usual frigid glory. If you call -35 below windchills glory.

Last week we all returned to school (= work for me) and it was so unfathomably cold that the kiddos had indoor recess the entire week. And we have hard-core recess weather rules, too, people. A week of indoor recess means that for five straight days, the windchill was colder than 10 below zero. Because, believe it or not, the kids (and playground supervision staff! which would be me!) go out if it is, say, nine below zero with the windchill. Which, um, I believe is what conditions are going to be like TODAY. Lord help me.

I've been on my own for a week, while Crazy Biker Husband (as in bicyclist, not as in motorcycle gang) does a 200K winter wilderness trail bike race in Idaho. In case you are wondering, 200K means you're biking for, like, 28 hours straight.

The last time he did this bike race, I was a stay-at-home mom. It was challenging and tiring being a solo parent for a week in the winter, but now that I'm doing it as a full-time working mom, I look back on that week last year and think, OMG whyyyyy did I think that was hard??? Because I had all day while the girls were in school to get everything else done that no one was around to do but me.

This time around it's not all that different from regular life--trying to fit everything in around work hours, juggling the kids' activities and the shopping and all the rest--because I do all that all the time anyway, but it's more like nothing ever slows down or ends or really gets done when there's only one adult around. Sometimes you really, really need someone ELSE to run to the store at the last minute to get more children's ibuprofen, you know? Luckily, I have some of the best friends on the planet, who have my children over to play and help me out more than anyone should be expected to do.

But. The girls and I still make a pretty good team when we're on our own. After surviving the week of one-parent at home and frigid cold at school/work, we went out for dinner on Friday night and, naturally, got ice cream for dessert. Because that's what you do when you're Minnesotan, apparently. We managed the homework and chores and a freak child accident/injury (all is OK) and the usual bedtime angst and the start of a new swimming lesson session, and survived the weekend intact, if just barely. We'll survive another frigid January week too, of course--what choice do we have?

But inside we're all dreaming of summer afternoons at the pool.

And with that, I'll leave you with this favorite poem that I may have shared with you in previous winters, one that seems fitting right now:

I Heard a Bird Sing
Oliver Herford

I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.

(Sorry for the wonky text placement; cannot for the life of me figure out why it's doing that and it won't change.)

Soldier on, my shivering friends!


Sunday, January 04, 2015

Let It Snow

Today is the last day of winter break. Tomorrow the girls and I go back to school/work.

It could have been better. Like, NOT being sick for most of break would have been a lot better.

But it could have been much worse, too. Isn't that right? Most of the time, bad situations could honestly be so much worse. I try to remember that while holding back the hair of a child who is on her 15th (or so) bout of vomiting in the middle of the night in my bed.

Here are a few of the good moments.

Christmas Eve, before leaving the hotel for candlelight church service:

Opening presents on Christmas Eve with the whole fam:

Tired littlest one on Christmas Day morning (after opening their stockings but before she got sick!):

Time to gather and regroup. Tomorrow we charge into a new school session--new snowfalls, sub-zero windchills, solo-parenting stints, cold-weather runs, and all. We can do it!

Be healthy and well!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Ring in 2015!

So much to say, so many photos to upload from my phone, but not a lot of time. The talking points: we have been sick for all but 3 of the 12 days of Christmas break so far; Genevieve came down with the stomach flu (norovirus) ON CHRISTMAS DAY at grandma and grandpa's (astute readers will realize that this was her 2nd bout of the stomach flu in a few weeks' time; our pediatrician called us unbelievably unlucky) and Julia caught it shortly thereafter. For those keeping count, that's 1 sinus infection, 2 bouts with strep, 3 bout of norovirus, and 2 cases of influenza for this fam in the past 6 or 7 weeks. GAH. I officially cried uncle a long time ago but it does not seem to matter.

Having said all that, Christmas EVE (and day) was great: no one was sick (finally/yet); the girls swam in the hotel pool; and we went to Christmas Eve church, had holiday dinner, and did our all-family (13 of us!) Christmas celebrating that night. Fun and festive.

It's a new year. For now, Happy New Year to you, and if you want something cozy to make today, try this lovely recipe for homemade chai for you and your kiddos (and anyone else you like). I'm going to make it soon.

Enjoy your beginning of 2015! As my friend's doctor-husband said to us last night, have a HEALTHY New Year!