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.