Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Down and Out.

Sooooo.... Like many other parts of the country, my town is currently experiencing a scourge of influenza. There are also waves of the stomach flu and strep making the rounds. It has gotten so bad at my girls' school (where, as you know, I also work) that there aren't enough subs to fill the various staff absences each day, and yesterday 94 kids were out sick. NINETY-FOUR. This is a small school, people--500-some children enrolled--so 94 out sick is a huge number.

Every child I work with individually in my job as a special ed assistant for the autism program has been felled by either influenza or the stomach flu. So it should come as no surprise when I tell you that two weekends ago Genevieve caught the stomach flu, Julia had tummy troubles one day last week as well, this past Saturday Genevieve came down with influenza, I caught influenza from her a day or so later (not sure when it began for me; I started coughing on Saturday night but pushed through and went to work on Monday only to collapse when I got home on Monday afternoon), on Monday we found out that Genevieve also has strep, and on Tuesday Julia caught strep as well.

Bottom line: barely limping along over here. I am literally using up almost all of my entire school-year's worth of sick leave but there's nothing I can do, all the Christmas-related tasks I planned to be doing this week are undone, we missed the last day of the fall Tae Kwon Do session, and this last week of school before Christmas break--usually a fun, festive week--has become simply a string of school absences. The school even cancelled all the classroom's annual holiday concerts and cookie parties this week and rescheduled them for January.

Boo. Hiss.

I've never had influenza before, but when they say it makes you feel like you've been hit by a truck, THEY ARE NOT KIDDING--whoever they are. I have never felt so sick. I think I may have bruised or fractured a rib from coughing (this actually happened to a friend of mine a month ago) and just going up the stairs takes every ounce of energy I can muster.

So, it's back to bed for me now, with fervent hopes that Vivi and I will recover in time to finish out this last week before holiday break (Julia is already back at school today) and prepare for Christmas as planned (hello, the gingerbread men are not going to make themselves!!). Here's hoping you and yours are staying healthy, wherever you are.

Over and out.

Monday, December 08, 2014

You Can't Really Go Wrong with Butter, Sugar, & Almond if You're Scandinavian and it's Christmas.

So we're full-tilt into the Christmas season and here I haven't yet shown you this:

I mean.

And then the day after Thanksgiving we went to the downtown shops of our own little Bedford Falls and Julia spied this:

...and told me to get it for Daddy for Christmas. Yes, I'm sure he'd love that.

Meanwhile, I've decided that these are my all-time favorite Christmas cookies:

cherry-almond chocolate kisses 

 Make that my all-time favorite cookies of any kind, for any occasion, period. Holy yum.

Sadly we're also full-tilt into germ season, and as of last Friday at my daughters' school/my workplace, there was the stomach flu, influenza, pneumonia, and strep all racing through the building from one family to another, one grade to the next. Two of the four students I work with daily went home sick, and by Saturday evening Genevieve was throwing up and feverish. Gah! Needless to say, I have not made much progress in resuming my regular exercise schedule after my pre-Thanksgiving 2.5-week sinus infection. Because, what? You're not gonna go out running when your baby needs you, are you? And when you're watching everyone else (including yourself) with an eagle eye for signs of being the next one down?

Today I stayed home from work with sick Genevieve, and by 11 a.m. I was texting my closest work friend, the fellow mom with whom I compare notes on the daily about how far behind we are on laundry, how many times we've recently misplaced important items due to busy-induced absentmindedness, and our lack of time to cook, saying, "I've done all the laundry, made a huge kettle of soup, and am currently CLEANING THE COFFEEMAKER. What the WHAT?!" She answered back with proper reverence for my unexpected at-home-mom day. Think what she would have said if I'd texted again later to tell her I finished my Christmas cards and made a second batch of the cherry kiss cookies.

Deck the halls, you all! Christmas is coming. And Lord knows it's not really about the shopping or the cookies or how fast you send your cards out. Well, OK, it IS about the cherry chocolate kiss cookies. That, joy, and love. It's all about love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I may not be 100% recovered yet (um yeah, tried a 2-1/2 mile WALK on Monday evening and got my sore throat and cough back in exchange), but thanks to an Urgent Care/pharmacy run on Sunday, I've got mega-dose antibiotics and am ready to tackle cleaning the house today before my mother-in-law arrives this afternoon for Thanksgiving. I forgive the germy children at my job who gave me this cold that morphed into a severe sinus infection, and I am knocking on wood that I DIDN'T (nor did my girls) catch the rampant stomach flu that was flying around school Monday and Tuesday. (Is it too soon to say that? Perhaps. Yikes?)

What a week. And it's only Wednesday morning.

The girls and I are off school/work today (it's a teacher workshop day, but holla, I'm not a teacher!), so THANK GOD there is time to catch up in time for company and the holiday. The children will be cleaning their bedrooms and putting away the piles of laundry they'd rather ignore. Oh, and accompanying me to the supermarket to pick up all the things I naturally forgot when I bought all the Thanksgiving groceries last Saturday. In my defense, I was siiiiiiiick and not thinking clearly. I forgot that, in addition to Thanksgiving food, we also need normal things like milk and eggs and ingredients for something for dinner tonight. Seeing how Grandma is coming, we probably can't eat PB&Js or bowls of cereal like I've been feeding my kids for dinner lately. Ha.

But now if you'll excuse me, "Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas" is on PBS Kids right now, and the girls and I watch it every year. Make fun if you want, I love it. :) Oops, I know it's not Christmas yet, but there isn't a "Very Monkey Thanksgiving" special.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, friends, fellow parents, new mamas, and all the rest. This week I am thankful for antibiotics, all of you, my daughters who make my world a better place every day just by being here and being mine, health and safety, food and shelter, and the best job I've ever had (other than my other job of "mom").

Happy Thanksgiving! Don't forget to set your scale back ten pounds tonight before you go to bed. ;)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Green Belts in the House

Popping on here to say that, although I'm still reeeeally sick (hmmm, going out for recess duty at work all week in below-zero windchills probably isn't the best for a virus that has settled in my chest, throat, and sinuses! fun times!), am barely holding it together over here, and yes of course, still have to get all my Thanksgiving groceries because I am hosting and cooking the dinner next week, the good news is that my girls passed their Tae Kwon Do test for their green belts on Tuesday night! Also, Julia sang in a lovely school choir concert last evening. So, it's been a good week in those respects. TGIF, you all! Take your zinc and stay warm, wherever you are.

P.S. We are out of milk. What house with kids actually runs out of milk?! That's the kind of week it's been. ;)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bus. Wheels. Off.

When school and work began in early September and I first transitioned from full-time stay-at-home mom to full-time working mom, every week around Thursday it sort of felt like the wheels started to fall off the bus, so to speak. You know? Like each week started off in a burst of forced energy and pure determination, and it was a total rat-race, but I could do it all--every single homemaking and household-running task I did before I started working full-time outside the home, plus working 7-1/2 hours a day, plus all the taking of the children to their lessons and activities and doctor and dentist appointments, plus doing the farm pick-up on Fridays after work, plus hosting weekend playdates, plus still running 20-25 miles and completing two 60-minute strength training workouts per week, just like before--but by Thursday every week, things kind of felt a little frayed around the edges.

It has become clear that mid-November is the "Thursday" of my first year as a working mom. So to speak. In other words, I've held things together pretty well since September, but in the past week I've noticed a wheel or two rolling away, out of sight in my side-view mirror.

So to speak.

Last week I burned an entire batch of oven-baked bacon I was making for dinner. I'm talking burned--black beyond the way you like it all nice and crispy, TRUST ME. A couple of days later I burned a whole pan of homemade corn-tortilla chips, once again all the way to black and inedible. I was so busy doing a million other things at the same time as I was cooking dinner that I forgot to check the oven until my food was burned to a crisp.

A couple of days after that (on a Thursday!), right after work, with kids in tow, I went to our fall storage-share pick-up at the farm and, while attempting to mix-and-match a 5-lb. bag of root vegetables for my half of the share, I put in and then took out a head of cabbage TWICE before realizing what I was doing. I mean: I chose a cabbage, then realized there was more cabbage elsewhere down the line so I should choose something else for the mix-and-match, so I put back the cabbage, then milled around a bit considering the various baskets of veggies, then obliviously put the cabbage back in my bag. Then walked on and saw the other giant crate of cabbages, and realized I'd put the mix-and-match cabbage back in my 5-lb. bag. After purposely taking it out of my bag to choose something else, instead of cabbage. Are you getting all this?

In addition to the dementia-like moments described above, I also served my family the following dinners all in the same week: PB&Js (yes really), soup (canned) and sandwiches, and hot dogs. All in a row, actually. Because there was exactly zero time to cook dinner on any of those three days.

Lastly, I saved an email from my mom in which we were discussing Christmas gift ideas for my daughters, for the sole reason that I feared I would otherwise not recall the things I'd decided to give my girls for Christmas.

Do you see what I'm getting at here? I said to my BFF Connie, This is what happens when you are essentially holding down two full-time jobs. You lose your freaking mind. Apparently.

I finished off the week with kiddos and errands on Friday after work/school, put away a car-full of groceries and cat litter, went through all the children's school papers and forms, collapsed onto the couch giving thanks for the weekend, and....promptly got sick. Because that's what happens when you're depleted and run-down, of course.

Listen, you all. I love my job SO MUCH. I wouldn't change things for the world. I'm having so much fun at work; I have the perfect supervisor, colleagues, work hours, dress code, setting, proximity to my children, and nature of the work itself. There is not a day when I wish I didn't have to go to work, and when have you ever had a job like that? My job is awesome; it's the perfect job for me. But there is no doubt that when you have one full-time job (and I consider stay-at-home motherhood and the running of a household and raising of children to be a full-time job) and then add another entire full-time job onto that, it is exhausting. You might find yourself burning dinner and having a recurring can't-live-with-you-can't-live-without-you relationship with an organic cabbage.

In the end, it's all good. I'd take this over-busy, under-rested state of controlled chaos over an empty nest any day, after all. And I assume that, much like with parenting itself, going back to work full-time while still mothering young children and running a household carries with it a steep but natural learning curve of stamina. You acclimate, right? What feels horrendously cold in October feels balmy in March, after all. It's like that, isn't it?

I'll leave you with words and thoughts much more lovely than mine, in the form of a new essay by my favorite mother-writer Catherine Newman--not about being a working mom or about exhaustion or burning the bacon, but relevant nonetheless, in that oh, me too! quality of her writing, that way she voices what we all feel and think and do as moms, that way she makes you want to stop time right now, this instant, in the middle of the crazy chaos of the wheels falling right off the bus.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

It's a Different World

How my life has changed since I started my full-time job:

1. First and foremost, I have been able to pay off my credit card. Holla! Take THAT, trips to Target and tae kwon do classes and children's birthday parties and new contact lenses and running shoes and school clothes for growing children and J. Crew pants found on clearance!

2. My weekends are no longer "free" (ha! ha ha ha ha ha ha. excuse me as I laugh good-naturedly at the idea of a free weekend since the first child was born a decade ago). They are now spent grocery shopping, cleaning, attempting to cook an actual meal, and trying to conquer the endless. mountain. of. laundry.

3. I still clean during the week, but I never actually complete any one task. I figure I get credit just for starting.

4. I have developed a love-hate relationship with my slow-cooker. On the one hand, yay! A way to make a hot, homemade dinner even while gone from the house all day! On the other, oops! My slow-cooker is too powerful and all my recipes are too short to leave dinner cooking for 8-10 hours, even on Low. Hello, burned dinner!

5. I am as scatter-brained as a sleep-deprived, night-nursing new mama. I guess it's because I've got a million things on my plate at any one moment (work. housecleaning. farm-share pick-up. errands. kids' health and well-being. kids' activities. kids' homework. groceries. cooking. field trip permission forms. dentist appointments. shopping. laundry. baking. child's choir concert. child's school safety-patrol schedule. yardwork. flu shots. holiday planning. and on and on and on and blathering on...). This means I'm constantly (constantly!) starting something, getting distracted by something else that needs doing, leaving the first thing to do the second, completely forgetting about the first, branching out to tasks three and four in similar fashion, and forgetting the names of my children, the day of the week, debit card PIN numbers, and my own birthdate. Oh and meanwhile that very first thing I was doing but got distracted from? It never gets

4. I have no time to bake, I am not home to snack, going to bed early nixes any evening sweet-tooth habits, and my job happens to be more physically active than even the full-time mothering of toddlers. Therefore, full-time work has meant that I've lost weight and can't even wear those awesome J. Crew pants I found on clearance just before work began. You know, those pants I bought for work? Insert Marge-Simpson-esque irritated growl here. But hey! A lot of other, smaller clothes I haven't worn in a year or more now fit again. So I guess it evens out? Plus, the holidays are coming. (= more eating, less exercising, the cookie exchange!, and much winter hibernation.)

5. Life is fuller than ever, and all those crazy changes above are totally worth it. It's all just an interesting ride. Thanks for coming along for it. :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Six Weeks In.

Ahhhh, here it is, the last day of school (work) before much-discussed MEA (i.e., Minnesota school break, always a 4-day weekend in mid-October).

So, has my adjustment to full-time work taken all the way until MEA? Am I still really, really tired? Well, yes and no. The adjustment part has gone much quicker and more smoothly than I anticipated. The tired part? Every damn day, you all.

I love my job. LOOOOVE it. This part makes the adjustment much, much easier. But I'm beginning, now at six weeks into it, to miss certain things about being a stay-at-home mom. I miss having time to bake. You all know how much I love to bake! These days I try to crank out a recipe or two on weekends (you can't go an entire autumn without apple crisp or pumpkin muffins, after all!), but it used to be a near-daily occurrence. My family misses that part too, ha.

I also really, really miss being able to exercise during the day. I suspect I'll start to miss that part even more in the upcoming few weeks, as the temperature begins to plummet and the blustery fall wind becomes cold and--gulp--we turn the clocks back so that it's dark at dinnertime. Gah. The thought of COLD runs in the dark, DARK evenings gives me chills--of both kinds. Yes, I've done it hundreds (thousands) of times before. (Remember when the babies were actual babies? And not yet in school? That's when I ran, all winter long.) But it's been a long time now, and I'm not thrilled about doing it again.

But other than that, working-mom life is going fairly well. I mean, I've lost control over the house. Not the dirt part; I'm still cleaning on the daily. But the clutter part. I have no time, anymore, to pick up and put back and regularly cull and purge. The kids' clutter is beginning to take over our (small) house, which is making me a little claustrophobic. And also, I've accepted that the jokes in this post are actually pretty accurate (read: not jokes): I have no time to chat with friends or socialize in any way. Even weekends are solidly filled with family time, all the household shopping, catching up on cleaning and laundry, cooking and baking, and squeezing in a daylight run here and there. That, or (and/or) I'm too exhausted to do anything more. (Friday nights, for example, I am a complete ball of exhaustion and good for nothing more than pj's, TV, and bed. And sometimes not even the TV part.)

But. We've made it to MEA. On the balance, everything's good. The first six weeks have been an adventure, for sure--a positive one. Now, four days to "relax" with the kidlets and then off on the next leg of the journey--during which I'll be really, really tired, I'm sure, until Christmas break. :)