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!