Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

This MiW has been MIA, but I'm still here, mothering and working and generally just trying to get through each day with the children fed and at the right places at the right times. It's been a crazy, crazy fall/early winter, with a job I still adore but which has been seriously overwhelming this year (enrollment changes, overworked staff) and two kids in travel basketball. (That's two different teams, practices at least twice a week at two different times and two different locations, and away tournaments most weekends.)

A few glimpses into our days:

Genevieve (age 10) was asked to be the elementary-student speaker at the annual all-school-district employee appreciation breakfast for my work on the day before Thanksgiving. She gave a speech about the highlights of her elementary-school years to a packed auditorium of adults (teachers and school-district administration and staff) and wowed everyone to such a degree that people are still stopping me at work now and then to tell me how amazed by her they were. I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "She is really something!" or "I can tell she's got a big personality!" or "She is a force of nature!" (or, my favorite, "I bet it's a daily adventure, being that one's mom!") Um, yes. I could not have been more proud. Afterward, I took the girls out for milkshakes at Caribou to celebrate.

We ran the Turkey Trot again this year!

Only Julia had time to train at ALL, so it was all the more exciting (to us only, no one else cared ;) ) that all three of us ran the entire thing with no walk breaks. We had so much fun, as always.

Oh, "Hamilton." I'm obsessed. Just as obsessed as every other obsessed fan you've ever heard of or met. People discover this show, this star, and they are absolutely gone. It's inevitable. It's universal. Does anyone discover "Hamilton" and not go absolutely crazy for it? Lin-Manuel Miranda has my heart. I have been listening to the soundtrack nonstop since October. My family is sick of it. My children have learned allllllll the swear words because of it. (Oops! But they're funny, and context-appropriate.) I'm embarrassed to admit how many times my neighbors have probably seen me out for evening walks with earbuds in, wiping away tears because "It's Quiet Uptown" just played and only a statue or a robot could hear that song and know the context behind it and not cry. Neighbors: I'm OK. I'm just listening to "Hamilton." 

What happened was, I was at home alone redoing my daughters' bedrooms  and PBS aired a brilliant, beautifully-produced documentary about the musical. By chance, I had it on in the background while I was putting together furniture. I went nutso for it. Game over. Unfortunately for you, the documentary is no longer available for online viewing without a PBS membership. I watched it three times before it went away and, because it's likely the closest I'll ever get to procuring tickets to the actual musical (so many good clips from the show!), I have seriously considered becoming a PBS member solely to gain access to this documentary again. I would probably watch it daily, though, and I don't have time for that, so....maybe not.

In support of my obsession, my friend Rob gave me a copy of the amazing, best-selling biography of Alexander Hamilton that started it all. It's 800 pages long. I'm working my way through it a few pages at a time, routinely shaking my head in disbelief at this man's life. Who knew? The guy on the ten-dollar bill! WHO KNEW. His life story is insane. I have cried reading this, and I'm only 200 pages in. It has helped me cope with the results of the presidential election. No joke.

And with all that, I will leave you with thoughts of holiday sweets, full Christmas stockings, and happy hearts. There is a lot of tragedy in the world--impoverished orphans left to their own devices at age 12 and Trump being the new U.S. President, to name a couple--but sometimes those tragedies turn into something else, years later. See Hamilton, if you want an example.

Keep the faith! Carry on! Merry Christmas.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Football, Rain, and Other Diversions

So the day after the Labor Day holiday weekend, the girls and I went back to school and work. I didn't get any good first-day-of-school photos because it was raining like we needed an Ark and everything looked gloomy and full of shadow. We tried not to worry that the weather was an omen about the upcoming school year. Of course it wasn't! 

I do have a few other good autumn photos, however....

Just before school began, Genevieve played in a fun 3-on-3 charity basketball tournament. Doesn't she look cute? OK, I'm biased. Obviously.

We've been going to college and high school football games when our schedules allow. Which isn't often enough, in my opinion. I love going to football games.

We watched our river and downtown flood after torrential rains in September. Yikes.

We went to the annual Alpaca Farm Days Open House that we've been attending since the girls were preschoolers. Love.

And that's all I have time to say right now. Seventh and fifth grades this year. Year three of working full-time with autistic children at Genevieve's school for me. Ups and downs, ins and outs, leaves changing and falling. 

More when I have a chance. No telling when that might be. :)


Thursday, September 01, 2016

Getting Ready

 birthday breakfast
 birthday cake

So sometime in the month since I last wrote here, my baby turned ten. That seems fairly crazy. I'm barely keeping up here! But time marches on and all that. We had a huge kid party the weekend after her actual birthday, with ten girls squeezed into our small house, and it was chaotic but fun. This child has the sweetest, brainiest, sportiest friends. A girl gang for the modern world, all obsessed with science and athletics and books and math. Love them.

I went to a bunch of work trainings in preparation for back-at-it next Tuesday. I have mixed feelings this year. Being back at school made me feel all warm and fuzzy about seeing my fave work friends, my fantastic supervisor, and the anticipation of seeing the kiddos in our special ed program soon, after 12 weeks apart. I truly love and miss them. And September is always--and is already!--warm, sunny, golden, and glorious in these parts. It's impossible to think of past Septembers without remembering the good feelings that come with these gorgeous, perfect days.

But. As is always the case, THIS. The sadness is overwhelming at times. Last night before I fell asleep, I had the sudden panicked realization that summer is over and we never went to the popcorn cart on our town square. A summer tradition, and yet this year, with older kiddos who do more stuff on their own, with friends, and often parent-less, etc., WE NEVER WENT. I almost sat bolt upright in bed. I experienced a very real, physical pang somewhere in my chest. We are going to the popcorn cart tomorrow. But I could cry.

What else, you all? What else is going on? I'm restarting the sprint-interval running program, from week one. I'm redoing bedrooms on a budget of zero (sigh). I'm still binge-reading Elin Hilderbrand. All in all, it has been, of course, a good summer. The Black Hills trip, summer basketball, breaking boards in Tae Kwon Do, several day trips of pure fun (the zoo & Rainforest Cafe for the girls with a dear, dear girlfriend I rarely see because she lives across the country from me; fun city neighborhood jaunts for our girls' field trips; the movies)... There is no such thing as a bad summer.

And, once again, we warrior on into autumn and another school year, my last with a child in elementary school. Life takes fortitude, for sure, and especially if you have one of these fragile hearts that not everyone seems to have.

I will be thinking of all of you, my fellow mamas, next Tuesday on our first day of school. I know some of you have already sent your kiddos back to school, but it's next Tuesday for us, so I'll still think of us all then, as if we're in it together. Because honestly, we are!


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Unsucessful Denial

It's the last day of July?! WHAT HAPPENED. ??!!??!!!?????

Gah. Can't deal with that trauma. Won't even think about it another second. Onward. Denial, you know? It works. For awhile.

Actually, I have done (most of) the girls' school supply shopping. (Why do we always forget at least one item on the school list, why?????? Maybe because the list is so long and the font is so small?????) Oh God, remember the Flair pen??? Thank God there are no Flair pens on the list this year.

I know. It's CRAZY. I bought the school supplies in July. (Recall that in MN, school does not start until the day after Labor Day. Hence, school shopping in July is crazy early.) This would seem to contradict the notion that I am in denial regarding the fact that summer is 2/3 over. However, I have learned to do it early so as to then put it out of one's mind for longer. Of course, there is still the backpack shopping, and the shoe shopping, and the clothes shopping, so..... never mind.

In another contradiction of the theory that I (successfully) practice denial when it comes to summer's fleetingness, lately I have become beset with paralyzing attacks of grief regarding my past autumns as a full-time stay-at-home mom. More specifically, I recently realized that I only had 1-1/2 years of sending my daughters to all-day school while remaining a full-time SAHM. (I started working part-time at my girls' school halfway through Genevieve's 2nd-grade year, then moved to full-time the following fall.) I only experienced two Septembers (those glorious, sun-drenched, still-warm days of early fall!) of sending the kids back to school and then reaping the blissful productivity of full autumn days at home---time to preserve the farm produce, time to clean the closets, time to run during the day and grocery shop and manage the children's and the household's myriad needs, time to bake homemade breads and cookies and pies and full dinners!

Just two times this happened. This makes me so, so sad. I miss those days terribly. I miss having time to get so much done, I miss not feeling like a frantic hamster running on a wheel but never getting anywhere. I miss the more relaxed pace of my life back then--coupled with, at the same time, a better handle on family projects and my kiddos' needs. In my mind, I think I felt like I was home forever, maybe because there was pressure to get out there and contribute financially to the family. But honestly, there was only a year and a half that I was home with both children in full-day school. That's not very long in the grand scheme of family life and parenthood.

And honestly, as I've said many times, I do love my job at the school. If it paid even half a living wage, it would be the PERFECT JOB for me, as far as jobs go. My first full-time year, I literally never once missed being home full-time, never once regretted working. However, by midway through last year--when, I guess, the novelty was wearing off and the sense of being constantly behind on everything at home was increasing with each passing month--my work-BFF and I had begun sniffling together on our afternoon breaks about our past SAHM lives and how much we felt that role was our true calling and what our families truly needed.

So, it's hard. I love that school, those kids, my co-workers, my supervisor, the schedule, the work. But I still pine for those two lost Septembers, and I try really hard not to notice how fast the summer weeks go.

In other, less depressing news, my Elin Hilderbrand obsession continues. I'm on book six now. (The Rumor, Barefoot, The Matchmaker, The Island, Summerland, Silver Girl.) Thank God she's so prolific. I can feed my addiction for months to come! Hurrah. At least I can live in permanent summer via E.H. novels.

And as for now? I've planning Genevieve's 10th birthday (already! gah! August!), I'm taking the girls on day trips here and there and to all their activities (including Tae Kwon Do, where they both earned their brown belts and BROKE THEIR FIRST BOARDS this month, omg), I'm scheduling my pre-school-year work trainings (no comment; or rather, see above for numerous comments) and the girls' pediatrician well-checks, I'm running when it's not 92 degrees, I'm hosting playdates and eating ice cream cones and listening to the birds sing outside my patio door.

August is lush. The corn is high. The flowers are electric pink and red and yellow. Focus on that.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

July, in All its Glory

Ah, summer. Is there anything better? Doubtful.

It's a different sort of summer for me. My girls are old enough to be dropped off at the pool; no more do I spend every afternoon on a lounge chair with a book, dipping in when I get too hot. That said, I am still at the pool plenty of afternoons.

Elin Hilderbrand for the win

It is the summer of Elin Hilderbrand novels. Oh, my. One of my favorite friends, a work bestie, introduced me to her recently, and I'm now officially addicted to her books. Her women characters--they are mostly women protagonists--are charming but flawed; thus, they are so relatable. Note: these books are sometimes referred to as romances, or as beach reads, and while I would agree with the latter (in the best sense only: absorbing, summer-set, beachy, warm), the former really isn't quite right. Yes, there is often romance of some sort. But Elin Hilderbrand's themes--as far as I've read so far, anyway, which is just three: The Rumor, Barefoot, and The Matchmaker--are more complex than simple romance. Because life is complex! Motherhood, infidelity/divorce, cancer: These are Hilderbrand themes (beyond the largest and most obvious theme of Nantucket/summer/beach). I could read one after the other nonstop, like eating popcorn or those unwrapped miniature Reese's peanut butter cups that come in the stand-up bag.

It is the summer of girl projects and greater self-sufficiency. Children grow, after all.

A summer of fewer trail runs, more interval runs--because they give me smokin' legs, of course! (I can't sprint in the woods--too paranoid of tripping on a rock or a root and wiping out.) I miss the trails but love the results. I also highly recommend this 30 Day Squat Challenge, which I did last summer and again this past April, and have kept up since then (not every day, but I do about 350-400 squats [in sets of 50 with a short break between sets] a few days a week, and nothing has benefited my rear view, or my weak running hips, more, ever, so there's that).

Speaking of legs, here are the shorts I picked up on a Target run the other day, that my youngest said were "pretty good, but kind of look like pajama shorts."

I wore them anyway.

My girl! Who is she to talk? She'd wear pajamas all day if I let her!

So, we took a family trip to the Black Hills/Badlands. The South Dakota Wild West, you all! It was fantastic.

That was just a tiny fraction of what we saw of course. You'd hate me if I uploaded every photo.

We are home now, and back to basketball, Tae Kwon Do, mountain biking class (them); and interval runs, many squats, and Elin Hilderbrand novels (me). We are back to wishing every perfect summer day would never end.

Friday, June 10, 2016

So, This Happened

So. Here we go. A semi-random, rushed (sorry! I have 7 girls coming to my house later today for a birthday sleepover & a milllllion things to do before that!), incomplete rundown of What We Did, Spring 2016 Edition, Possibly Accidentally Including Some Things From Winter?, the working-mom version (which means, essentially, the photos are too few & unedited).

We went to a Timberwolves game!

We (meaning they) earned their blue belts in Tae Kwon Do!

 We made Easter cookies, and...

We tried to look springy on Easter on the prairie!

Julia joined the 6th-grade girls' track team!

We put our 21-year-old kitty to sleep :( .....

Julia turned 12. TWELVE.

Genevieve set a school historical record & got special recognition at a medal ceremony for running a total of 198 miles during recess throughout the course of the school year in the 4th-grade running club (the club's highest challenge was to get to 100 miles)!

....And, on Wednesday, the last day of school (& for me, work) came:

If you need me, I'll just be over here huddled in a corner preemptively crying over the fact that I only have one year left with a child in elementary school.

Happy Summer, you all! It's the very best time of the year, and I plan to soak up every drop. I'm starting with hosting this crazy girl sleepover. Ha! ;) When that's over, I plan to resume hot lush trail runs and sunny afternoons at the pool. I wish you the very best summer ever.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Are You Sure?

Have you been wondering why I have not had time to post here since late April, during these last six weeks of the school year--not even a token birthday post when my oldest turned 12 on Friday, nor anything about being rehired at my current full-time job for next year, nor notes about my youngest setting a school (or all of history?) record for running a total of NEARLY TWO HUNDRED miles during recess over the course of the school year, when the goal for the running club program is 100 miles (and most kids don't even make that), nor a word about completing this eight-week, kick-ass interval running program app that almost killed me at first but left me with the most awesome leg muscles and a typical (non-sprinting) mile pace nearly a minute faster than my previous usual (runners: try it!), nor a thing about Julia's first-ever middle-school track season, nor a word about the upcoming nine-girl sleepover birthday party at our house this coming weekend?

Well, this. This is why.

For those of you on my schedule, enjoy this last (half-)week of school, if you can, amidst the 50 picnic lunches (permission slip required) that are somehow still scheduled (sack lunches needed! drinks in non-glass bottles! disposable/recyclable everything!).

Cheers! You can do it, mamas.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Random Spring Notes


It is ridiculous that I have not written here since mid-February. FEBRUARY. What the ever-loving?

I'm terrible.

I'll spare you a paragraph about how CRAZY BUSY I have been and all the usual excuses about having NO TIME TO WRITE. Just consider it already said.

It's hard to sum up nearly 2-1/2 months of mothering life in a few paragraphs. Truth be told, I can't even remember mid-February. Were we done with Genevieve's travel basketball tournaments at that point? Not even sure. What was going on with work? No idea. The good news is that back then, it was winter, and now IT IS SPRING. Does anything else even matter?

So, spring. Easter up north at the grandparents', Julia joining the 6th-grade girls' track team and thus initiating us into the world of daily after-school sports practice (and four-hour WEEKNIGHT meets), interval runs via this new-to-me app (no, I have not lost weight with it, by the way; turns out you actually have to, I don't know, adjust your diet? for that to happen), the annual elementary school arts festival (squeezed in before Tae Kwon Do class, yikes, the fam schedule is tight at times), playdates, birthday parties, and other social busy-ness.

And now here we are at almost May. The girls are taking this session off from Tae Kwon Do due to Julia's track schedule, but will start again in June. Genevieve's well past her school running club's record for most miles run at recess during the course of the year, with 6-1/2 weeks of school still to go. Within the past few months our front door deadlock, dining room overhead light fixture/switch, garage door opener, and girls' bedroom blinds have all broken/malfunctioned. (Have any of the above been fixed yet? Ha ha no.) Our 21-year-old kitty has shrunk to five pounds or less and we are facing an imminent goodbye.  Life goes on, each day a speeding train just like the one before it.

I'll come back, before 2-1/2 more months go by, I swear. I'll post some photos. Happy Spring!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Few Recommendations

Random, I know, but in the dark depths of winter I find that it's helpful to find a few things you love and then latch onto them obsessively. All the better to distract yourself from the fact that you can't go outside without 42 layers of clothing and snow gear, and spring is a good six weeks away.

Here are some recent discoveries that have been floating my old creaky boat lately:


* The Children's Crusade, by Ann Packer. This book had been on my to-read list for several months (it was published last year and in every book-review magazine column I encountered for awhile there), but I'd forgotten all about it until it appeared before my eyes during a browse at the public library a few weeks ago. It's a big, fat, emotional novel--the literary equivalent of a long, rich dinner with many courses--about a family of grown siblings returning to and reuniting with one another, remembering and reliving and flashing back to their childhood together and the complicated, often unhappy marriage of their polar-opposite parents. I couldn't put it down.

* Wish You Were Here, by Stewart O'Nan. Another expansive-family-life novel, a decade-plus old (published 2003) but still spot-on in its depiction of everyday dynamics and exchanges between grown children and their aged parents, fortysomething parents and their school-ager kiddos, middle-aged husbands and wives with each other. So real it felt like listening in on actual conversations and true-life family moments--that are a lot like mine and everyone else's I know.

* What Comes Next and How to Like It, by Abigail Thomas. An beautiful essay-ish memoir of both the dramatic and mundane experiences of this acclaimed writer's life. Not to mention, the best title I've heard since I Was Told There'd Be Cake. 


* "Fire and the Flood," Vance Joy. I fell in love with this Australian singer-songwriter's 2014-2015ish hit, "Riptide," first because it was catchy as hell on the pop-music radio station while driving my kiddos to the pool and back all summer, and then I fell even harder later when I heard the song described as "a ballad [not at all, actually] of unrequited love" and I finally really got it. (Plus: the ukelele! So good.) Then "Fire and the Flood" came out and the fact that it was so cheery-and-in-love after all that "Riptide" heartache just made me--as corny as it sounds--so happy for him. Like, the song actually makes me smile. I imagine this sweet dude is finally happy, and writing about it. ("Late at night, when you can't fall asleep / I'll be lying right beside you, counting sheep.") Good on you, Vance! Plus it's got all sorts of great hooks and Vance Joy's interesting voice.

* "Out of the Woods," Taylor Swift. Hold up now. Listen. I hated Taylor Swift. I mean, the radio had overplayed her annoying top-40 hits so egregiously in the past year or few that I'd developed a probably unhealthy level of hatred toward T.S. Not just her music; it had become about HER. Gah! All her humble-brag lyrics about how cool and sexy and stylish and irresistible she is to boys. Ugh! Hate her! It was a little irrational, I admit. But anyway. This song was released and it was....different. And I love it. It's got that driving, desperate chorus and those relentless drums. It's an awesome running-playlist song.

* "Shake it Out," Florence and the Machine. Yeah, this is about ten million x better than that OTHER song with a similar title--you know, the TAYLOR SWIFT (see hatred, above) one? I was never a big Florence and the Machine fan. But this song popped up on the radio not long ago and the lyrics grabbed me by the throat and slayed me. Wow. Another good run-as-fast-as-you-can song.

Happy reading and running, you all.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Snow to the Rescuuuuuuuuue!!!

So IMMEDIATELY after I wrote that last post about having no time at all, ever, we had a teacher-workshop day off from school, and then a giant blizzard brought a foot of snow and howling, white-out winds to my little town, which resulted in....TWO SNOW DAYS. After a three-day weekend. Yessssssssss.

It was if God heard my exhausted pleas for extra time to get something--anything!--done, and said, I'll help you out here. How about two unexpected days off from work, the children's school schedules and homework, and sports activities? The kiddos will play for hours in the snow with their friends, and no one will bother you because everyone's snowed in, and you can roast your giant squash and finally catch up on the laundry and mop that slush-covered floor. Would that help? And I was all like, I WILL TAKE THAT, THANK YOU.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Three Million Steps Counts for Something, Right?

The other day I got an email from FitBit detailing my "stats" for 2015. FitBit says I took 3,408,590 steps last year, covering 1,399 miles. (And that of course does not count the days I forgot to wear my FitBit or the week or two when it malfunctioned and I was waiting for the company to ship me a replacement.) Thank God for that email, because it allows me to feel like I accomplished something tangible at some point.

Not that I think I failed at 2015. I just mean that the majority of the time, as a working mom, I feel behind on EVERYTHING. I'm sure all the other working moms out there know how I feel. I may generally get meals made and the house semi-cleaned, but there are still all the other things I do not seem to have time for: figuring out the middle school online communication system that I suppose I should learn now that it is halfway through the school year; printing out photos for my daughters' photo albums (which I have not done since last June); roasting the damn 15-lb. Blue Hubbard squash my daughter won in November when she correctly guessed its weight at our CSA farm's fall storage-share pick-up and which has been languishing in our unheated laundry room ever since (next year: no one in my household is allowed to guess, got that?); replacing the ripped window shades in two bedrooms; hanging the towel hooks in the girls' bathroom (which I bought about six months ago. maybe more. but they require a drill. and no one is offering to help me with that.); organizing my nightmare of a recipe "collection"; making some freezer meals for busy weeknights (aren't they all, though? my freezer is not big enough for that); running more; I could go on and on and on..... And sure, some of it is perhaps nonessential; but lots of it (trust me) is just the stuff of life, of running a household and raising a family--and needs to get done.

Most of the time I don't even feel like I have time to be a very good parent. I mean, basic needs are being met, yes. And I do things with my girls, of course--all the time. But I have this sense that the down-and-dirty details of parenting daughters through emotional (read: all) development takes slow time. I can't articulate this quickly and I don't have time to write more, but maybe you fellow mamas out there already know what I mean. How do you talk about puberty or social ups and downs or self-esteem or disappointments or commitment or an overall approach to the difficulties of life, on the fly?--as you're rushing out the door to school or helping with math homework before sports practices or getting groceries with two helpers in tow who are mainly interested in the free cookie samples in the bakery section? Sigh. I don't know, and I feel like I'm failing a little (or a lot), every day. And it never gets better, it just keeps getting worse.

And with that, I'm off, because I'm an hour late for a workout and my to-do list for today is a mile long. You?


Monday, January 18, 2016

Hooray! Winter Photos!

I finally got iPhoto to upload the many photos on my phone onto the computer. Hooray! Now maybe I can order prints for the girls' (hard copy) photo albums. I'm only about, or eight months behind. OMG.

You guys! I got six inches cut off (the back of) my hair last week, without telling anyone or even thinking about it much beforehand. It was a spur of the moment thing. What the what?!

I had had a horrible day at work, the weather was nightmarishly cold (still is! only colder! ha!), and I needed something fresh to focus on. Mission accomplished.

Oh and hey! There is a movie being filmed in my town right now. Yes! Seriously. It's the craziest thing. I know that when you live in NYC or Toronto or Los Angeles (or even Chicago; I remember a time or two when neighborhood streets on the north side were blocked off for a movie crew), movies being filmed where you live is a fairly commonplace occurrence, but I live in a small, rural, southern-Minnesota river town. Sure, it's home to two elite colleges and is famous for its picturesque charm, but...movies aren't filmed here every day. It's kind of a big deal. I wonder what the movie crew thinks of our 15-below-zero temperature and 25-below-zero windchill.

Genevieve's 4th-grade traveling basketball team got 2nd place in their first-ever tournament...

Julia made it into the district middle-school spelling bee (coming up this week), and today we're off school and work for MLK, Jr. Day. (Hallelujah! Needed a day off, big-time.) We went ice skating with friends (not outside! we'd be icicles!):

That's what it's all about when you live up here in the frozen north--finding friends to hang out with and make the most of winter. Staying active, making homemade soup, watching kiddos play basketball. Monitoring the movie-making progress. Sometimes chopping off all your hair just to get your mind off the fact that it's January.

Stay warm.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

New Year, With or Without Sweets

A new year, friends! I haven't even accidentally written 2015 on anything so far, how about you? Small successes.

My girls and I went back to school/work on Monday, feeling not ready and ready (well, them 100% not ready, ha) at the same time. Our break sped by, since we were out of town for much of it. This made it seem short because we didn't have lots of luxuriously empty at-home days to decide what we felt like doing: sledding? skating? movies? playdates? We did get some of those days near the end, but not as many as we would have liked. Ah well. There is also comfort in routine and a schedule, after all. I am always amazed at how quickly everyone adjusts and gets back to "normal." Within two days it all feels familiar and fine.

We are back to EARLY morning wake-ups, homework, and having no time to keep up with the household stuff (me). The girls are also back to Tae Kwon Do after taking autumn off for other things. That feels reassuring and right, also. Their instructor is a gem who deftly and gently inserts life lessons and values into every class in a way that draws the kiddos in; he starts out talking about, say, determination or respect in relation to Tae Kwon Do practice, then generalizes that to how one (should) behave at home with one's parents, or how they apply themselves at school. Gotta love it.

What else? It turned cold and snowy just before Christmas, so we are finally doing things like skating on the corner pond, building snow forts, and running gingerly on icy streets. Since we did get an extra bonus month of non-winter weather in December, I can't really complain. I just hope this doesn't mean winter is going to tack an extra month onto its end and stay cold until June. It hasn't been bad so far, but this weekend the high temp is supposed to be minus two, so there you go. January.

After the hedonistic holidays, I'm back on the wagon of eliminating (= minimizing) sugar and flour (really, most grain-based carbs, which act like sugar in the body) from my diet in a successful attempt to treat my longstanding joint pain. It has worked like a true miracle; I have been absolutely amazed. My hip joints were bothering me so much in the fall that I felt like an old lady and was fairly desperate. (You have to be desperate to voluntarily give up sugar.) After a week or so off sugar, they felt about 75-80% improved. Another week and the pain was gone COMPLETELY and did not return until I'd been chowing down on treats during all of Christmas break. How clearer could that message be from my body, right?? Hello, sugar is a KNOWN inflammatory. It only makes sense that avoiding it would effectively treat joint pain. I'm not perfect, and it's not easy, but it's going pretty well so far and being able to get up in the morning without having achy, creaky hips (not to mention being able to sleep fine at night without tossing and turning because my hips hurt)---and having the arthritis in my toes not even bother me at all---is so, so, so worth it. It's a quality of life issue, for sure.

I think that's about it in terms of life updates. Thrilling, I know.

Truth be told, one of the reasons I haven't posted here much lately, other than having zero time, ha, is that for some mysterious reason I can't get photos to upload off my phone into iPhoto, and it seems boring and off-putting to publish a post that's just a long string of text with no photographs. I'm sorry. I'm sure this is as boring as it gets. I think my mom is still reading, though.

I hope your new year is off to a good start! Give thanks every day for what you have, find joy in some part of every day, and be optimistic about the coming year. It's a clean slate and an open book! Onward.