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. 


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.