Thursday, January 29, 2015

Wait for It.

Oh, my dear ones. I am so falling down on the job. This will be my remembered refrain of the 2014-2015 school year: "I am falling down on the job!"

Not the ACTUAL, paying job, of course; I feel (and hope I am right) that I am performing that job quite well. It's the other job, the one of mommy and household manager/CEO, whose tasks I cannot seem to get done or stay on top of. (Clearly I can no longer stay on top of grammar, either, given that last sentence.)

I have not printed out photos for our family albums since the first day of school. Nope, not from Halloween or fall field trips. Not from the 5th-grade fall choir concert or Thanksgiving. Not from CHRISTMAS, nor New Year's, nor the school Winter Sings. Nothing. I do not have time to sort and cull and decide and order. I have tried, and yet, it has not been done.

This is just one example, of course. Life continues to be insane. I dropped mother-daughter book club after failing to obtain the month's reading selection for three months' straight. I consistently run out of groceries before finding the time to replenish; I can't count how many last-minute gallons of milk I've procured. I skip household chores on the daily and then have to catch up at some other, dirtier time. I rely too often on freezer convenience foods for my growing girls, eaten fast between homework and Tae Kwon Do lessons. I have yet to figure out anything regarding new guitar lessons for Julia, although I gave her a bigger-kid, "real" guitar for Christmas.

(Let's ignore the fact that she begged and begged for one and has not touched it since she received it. GAH..... But there is no time for regret.)

True, January has probably been the worst month, a somewhat atypical example, for all this, due to Christopher's numerous absences for bike race trips. It's a hard month to solo-parent: all the putting away of the holiday decorations, the purging and re-organizing the small house to accommodate new possessions received as gifts, the harsh weather that discourages outings and outdoor play, the low light, the cabin fever. Things will likely improve as winter wears on and life changes bit by bit by bit, again.

But still.

The good news is that I love my full-time job--the paying one, the one that's turned my mom-and-housewife life upside down--immeasurably.

Oh, this job. This job may be the savior of my mental health as I enter the dark years of tween parenting. As I said to my friend Kath the other day (another full-time SAHM-turned-working-mom, who also works in a school now), it is a blessing, when your children seem to fight with each other nonstop during every waking moment of the day and you swear you can actually feel your blood pressure rising as a result, to be able to go somewhere else every morning where you can (and need to) turn your attention away from your own children/home/life and instead focus 100% on other children, with other needs, and other everything. Who knew?!

Nothing makes me happier than showing up at work each day to the smiling faces of my supervisor and co-workers, and to spend the next 7-1/2 hours in a busy whirlwind of elementary school children and teachers and classrooms and the six busy boys in our Neurobiological program. Love it love it love it. Hallelujah. How did I get so lucky.

xoxo
S




Monday, January 12, 2015

Solo Parenting in the Arctic


So! No, we haven't dropped off the face of the earth. We DID all finally recover from the illness Armageddon that was Christmas break. And, the New Year is off and running in all its usual frigid glory. If you call -35 below windchills glory.

Last week we all returned to school (= work for me) and it was so unfathomably cold that the kiddos had indoor recess the entire week. And we have hard-core recess weather rules, too, people. A week of indoor recess means that for five straight days, the windchill was colder than 10 below zero. Because, believe it or not, the kids (and playground supervision staff! which would be me!) go out if it is, say, nine below zero with the windchill. Which, um, I believe is what conditions are going to be like TODAY. Lord help me.

I've been on my own for a week, while Crazy Biker Husband (as in bicyclist, not as in motorcycle gang) does a 200K winter wilderness trail bike race in Idaho. In case you are wondering, 200K means you're biking for, like, 28 hours straight.

The last time he did this bike race, I was a stay-at-home mom. It was challenging and tiring being a solo parent for a week in the winter, but now that I'm doing it as a full-time working mom, I look back on that week last year and think, OMG whyyyyy did I think that was hard??? Because I had all day while the girls were in school to get everything else done that no one was around to do but me.

This time around it's not all that different from regular life--trying to fit everything in around work hours, juggling the kids' activities and the shopping and all the rest--because I do all that all the time anyway, but it's more like nothing ever slows down or ends or really gets done when there's only one adult around. Sometimes you really, really need someone ELSE to run to the store at the last minute to get more children's ibuprofen, you know? Luckily, I have some of the best friends on the planet, who have my children over to play and help me out more than anyone should be expected to do.

But. The girls and I still make a pretty good team when we're on our own. After surviving the week of one-parent at home and frigid cold at school/work, we went out for dinner on Friday night and, naturally, got ice cream for dessert. Because that's what you do when you're Minnesotan, apparently. We managed the homework and chores and a freak child accident/injury (all is OK) and the usual bedtime angst and the start of a new swimming lesson session, and survived the weekend intact, if just barely. We'll survive another frigid January week too, of course--what choice do we have?

But inside we're all dreaming of summer afternoons at the pool.

And with that, I'll leave you with this favorite poem that I may have shared with you in previous winters, one that seems fitting right now:

I Heard a Bird Sing
by
Oliver Herford


I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.
A magical thing
And sweet to remember.

"We are nearer to Spring
Than we were in September,”
I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December.


(Sorry for the wonky text placement; cannot for the life of me figure out why it's doing that and it won't change.)

Soldier on, my shivering friends!

xoxo
S

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Let It Snow

Today is the last day of winter break. Tomorrow the girls and I go back to school/work.

It could have been better. Like, NOT being sick for most of break would have been a lot better.

But it could have been much worse, too. Isn't that right? Most of the time, bad situations could honestly be so much worse. I try to remember that while holding back the hair of a child who is on her 15th (or so) bout of vomiting in the middle of the night in my bed.

Here are a few of the good moments.

Christmas Eve, before leaving the hotel for candlelight church service:




Opening presents on Christmas Eve with the whole fam:



Tired littlest one on Christmas Day morning (after opening their stockings but before she got sick!):


Time to gather and regroup. Tomorrow we charge into a new school session--new snowfalls, sub-zero windchills, solo-parenting stints, cold-weather runs, and all. We can do it!

Be healthy and well!
xoxo
S

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Ring in 2015!

So much to say, so many photos to upload from my phone, but not a lot of time. The talking points: we have been sick for all but 3 of the 12 days of Christmas break so far; Genevieve came down with the stomach flu (norovirus) ON CHRISTMAS DAY at grandma and grandpa's (astute readers will realize that this was her 2nd bout of the stomach flu in a few weeks' time; our pediatrician called us unbelievably unlucky) and Julia caught it shortly thereafter. For those keeping count, that's 1 sinus infection, 2 bouts with strep, 3 bout of norovirus, and 2 cases of influenza for this fam in the past 6 or 7 weeks. GAH. I officially cried uncle a long time ago but it does not seem to matter.

Having said all that, Christmas EVE (and day) was great: no one was sick (finally/yet); the girls swam in the hotel pool; and we went to Christmas Eve church, had holiday dinner, and did our all-family (13 of us!) Christmas celebrating that night. Fun and festive.

It's a new year. For now, Happy New Year to you, and if you want something cozy to make today, try this lovely recipe for homemade chai for you and your kiddos (and anyone else you like). I'm going to make it soon.

Enjoy your beginning of 2015! As my friend's doctor-husband said to us last night, have a HEALTHY New Year!


Monday, December 22, 2014

Does Santa Bring Tamiflu?

The theme of the past week at our house.


Somehow this happened though, so we did have some success this past weekend.


You guys. The past couple of weeks! Have been insane. Just....there are no words, really. Except these.

As I mentioned the other day, my town has been taken over by influenza. Also strep and stomach flu, but mostly influenza. It has only gotten worse since the last time I wrote here. Last week one kindergarten class at my daughters' school was down to seven children in attendance. SEVEN. There were over 100 kids out sick each of the last few days of school before holiday break started (Friday was the last day). ONE HUNDRED. There were so many staff out sick that there weren't enough subs, and some absences went unfilled. (That means random staff people filled in here and there for an hour or two in places where there weren't any subs.)

I can think, off the top of my head, of two families we are close to who have not fallen ill. Everyone else has been stricken by something. Every day someone else is on FB or texting me, saying, "And now we're down too." It is cray-cray times one thousand.

I went back to work last Friday, and Genevieve back to school, for the one day before Christmas vacation started. I wanted to make an appearance before the two weeks' away, and I also wanted to save THREE sick days (as opposed to two) for the remainder of the school year, oy.

It was kind of depressing, actually. School sort of felt like a ghost town. Out of the seven boys in the autism program (where I work), only two were there. The rest were out sick with influenza. So I didn't even get to see or say goodbye/happy holidays to the others before the long break. Meaning it will be three weeks since I've seen them--because I was out sick too--when we all return in January. It just feels too long.

After one full day back, both Genevieve and I were wiped out again for the weekend. Influenza does not go away in three days, or four, or even a week. We napped most of the weekend and didn't get dressed at all. We ran out of groceries. We got nothing done for our holiday travels this week. It was survival city and that's it, friends. And hoping Santa would take care of the rest.

Today Genevieve and I woke up and felt better. More like ourselves. Enough energy to get dressed. Which is a good thing because we have haircuts to get, errands to run, and suitcases to pack today. No more time for influenza. But as I've been busy around the house doing things like combing my hair for the first time since Friday, I've gotten texts from two friends telling me that they're down for the count (still, again, or finally). All over my town, kids are feverish on couches and moms are panicking about fitting in last-minute doctor appointments.

This, too, shall pass, and in the future we'll all have the stories about December/Christmas 2014, when half the town was sick and absent from school and not ready for the holidays. How our town ran out of Tamiflu and it got warm outside and the snow melted and it RAINED on still-green grass, after a November of snow and below-zero temps. Maybe it's all related? The crazy-backward weather and the influenza/strep throat/stomach flu epidemic?

I don't know, but I date the beginnings of the sicknesses to just after Halloween, when my three-week virus that turned into a sinus infection began, and then Genevieve got the stomach flu, and then strep entered our household, and then influenza, etc. etc. etc. It's been early November since I exercised with any regularity and the kids were making it to all their Tae Kwon Do classes and swim lessons.

We are rallying today, though, like I said, because Christmas is almost here, and I've decided that this year Christmas might be about Just Showing Up. Grab the unwrapped presents, stuff the car with clothes and gifts and treats and Christmas CDs for the drive, and just go.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and may good health be with you this week! Or at the very least may your city not run out of Tamiflu!

xoxo
S

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.