Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Windy City

I think the proper descriptor for what my life is like right now would be whirlwind. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I wake up at 5:30 and do not sit still--other than a short time for dinner and not even that on all nights; depending on the evening's schedule, I may be eating dinner standing at the counter or wolfing something down post-run after my family has eaten--until I'm in my bed between 8:30 and 9:00.

My FitBit (wrist pedometer; I traded up when Genevieve begged for a pedometer for her birthday and I gave her my waistband-clip model) tells me that between wake-up and home-from-school/work, I typically take between 10,000 and 12,000-some steps each day. That doesn't count my normal workouts (yesterday I topped 23,000 steps for the day, after my evening run).

Before school/work is a blur of getting myself and the girls ready to head out the door at 7:45 and doing whatever daily chores I can squeeze in. After school/work is a blur of going through school bags/papers/forms, helping with homework, cooking dinner, doing laundry, and supervising kids' activities. When Christopher gets home from work it's a blur of squeezing in my workouts, packing next days' lunches, kids' lessons, baths and next-day prep, and runs to the supermarket. At nine I turn out my light and get ready to do it all again the next day.

The amazing part is how much I am LOVING it. My job is fantastic. I love it all and each day goes by in a speedy---well---whirlwind. I see my daughters in the halls on and off all day and take a short walk over lunch so I don't miss out on too much of the autumn sun and nice weather, because I'm not used to being inside one building all day long. I meet my girls after school and it's always a joy to see their waiting faces.

What's also funny is how it all seems surprisingly doable and smooth, how aside from the lack of usual autumn homemade desserts around the house--there is no time for making apple crisp and pumpkin muffins these days--it feels like I'm managing everything just fine, even with being occupied with a new activity for roughly 38 hours per week that I wasn't before.

But then I remember that I haven't been able to even fully read and comprehend the flurry of emails peppering my inbox re: the start of this year's mother-daughter book club--it didn't help that Julia and I missed the first meeting due to sickness--and then my friend Kathy writes to ask something about our 5th-grade daughters' schedules and I answer her that I have no idea, that "I'm barely eating three meals a day and getting the correct children home with me each afternoon." And I realize that starting a new full-time job is a much larger adjustment than it feels on the surface sometimes, when I'm focused merely on running this way and that and getting everything done each day before lights-out.

So: frenzy, whirlwind, fever. In a good way. If that makes sense?

Life's so crazy/funny sometimes. So far, so good.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Meet You in the Cold Medicine Aisle?

The second week of school and all three of us who spend our days at an elementary school have been, or currently are, sick. Oy!

Overnight Monday I caught a cold virus. Woke up Tuesday and knew I was in for it. So far I've been powering through anyway--too early to use sick days, you all! so many potential kid sick days to cover in the next nine months!--but Genevieve's class has already had one case of pinkeye and one case of strep. STREP. THE SECOND WEEK OF SCHOOL.


During the course of each day, I work with four different autistic children. All of them routinely wipe their noses with their fingers and then hold my hand. There isn't enough hand sanitizer in the world, you guys.

Last night I dropped my girls at Tae Kwon Do and then went to Target and bought: zinc tablets, Emergen-C, Mucinex, Excedrin, Children's Nighttime Could & Cough, and multivitamins. These are products I generally don't even think about until October or November.

But! The good news. Here I am done with two weeks of working full-time after the ten-year-nap that is a decade of at-home motherhood (and here we use the word "nap" to actually mean: not much sleep at all), and things are GREAT. Yes, I'm getting up before dawn to do laundry and clean bathrooms before work. Yes, it's true I have zero time for socializing or reading for pleasure. Yes, I'm surrounded by little-kid germs every second of the day. But somehow, it's all working out so far.

Not the getting sick part. But everything else.

And get this: Today my supervisor put out a basket of local orchard apples, packets of mixed nuts, and dark chocolate truffles on the space where we educational assistants all keep our schedules and supplies for the day, with a note that said, "We're off to a great start this school year, and it's thanks to all of YOU!" with a smiley face.

I'm still rolling around like a tumbleweed half the time, trying to find my direction and control my speed. But it's all good. Things will shake out little by little. And hopefully my immune system will stage a coup. In the meantime, I'm just keeping on keeping on. You do the same, friends.

Saturday, September 06, 2014


Everywhere I went this week, people asked how my new job was going. Yesterday afternoon, people wanted to know how the first week had gone. It's been great, really. Exhausting (new-job-induced insomnia, extra-early alarm clock to get household stuff done before work), but great. The kids and I are tired from the first four days of a new school year--by farm-share pick-up at four yesterday afternoon, I could barely keep my eyes open--but the first week was a success. Don't ask me how we're going to do next week when we add twice-a-week kids' Tae Kwon Do classes into the equation, however. I got by this past week on caffeine and adrenaline.

And then poor Genevieve came down with a stomach virus today, during a solo-parenting stint while Christopher is gone on a bike-race trip. At least that happened AFTER the girls and I went downtown for a children's parade in our town this morning.

In sum: job = great. We = tired. Vivi = sick. But job = great.

More in a few.


Wednesday, September 03, 2014

First Day

Yesterday was the first day of 3rd and 5th grade for my girls:

And the first day of my full-time job at their school:

Aside from no one sleeping the night before, everything went awesome yesterday. I saw both my girls during the day, as well as at least seven of their closest friends; my new supervisor is incredibly organized, understanding, and nice; the weather was so gorgeous that I got outside for my lunch break; and I finished up the day around 3:30 with more than 9,000 steps on my pedometer. Um, yeah--not much sitting down/still at this job. Just how I like it. ;)

Here's hoping YOUR first days went well for all your kiddos too, those of you who started a new school year yesterday.

Soldier on!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


It's here: the heartaching end of summer. Every year, I can hardly stand it.

It helps a bit to know that I've always got writer/mama Catherine Newman on my side in this annual grief. Come August I always know she's no doubt writing something about how awful it is, how weepy we feel to see summer fade and our kids grow yet farther up, out, and away. It helps to know you're not the only mom to feel this way at this time of year. (Of course I already know it; my bestie and I suffer yearly in it together, and I know plenty of other moms do as well.)

This year I did laugh out loud, though--that sharp laugh of recognition and bonding over something trying--when I read one of the comments from a like-minded mama on Catherine's blog in response to her latest post, about being sad at summer's end. The commenter wrote,

"This morning my husband said that for 15 years he's been trying to help me feel more hopeful and joyous about the summer/fall/school transition (even from before my kid was born when I was a teacher), and I've finally managed to pull him down to my glum ways."

--and, I did, I laughed. My glum ways! Love it. Say it like you mean it, you know?


Having said all that, starting a new full-time job--especially one at my daughters' school--is definitely tamping down the usual sadness. For one thing, my brain is preoccupied; and for another, I'm going to be near my kids all day, every day. These two factors make it hard to be too terribly sad about summer's end, and for that I'm profoundly grateful.

Don't get me wrong--I still felt an actual pang in my heart today when we left the pool for the last time, and I can't think about it too much.

Friday: our last weekday at the pool.

But that's just it: there's no room to think about it too much anyway, because I'm starting a full-time job IN JUST ONE MORE DAY.

Today at the pool my BFF and I discussed my goodbye to stay-at-home motherhood and entry into full-time working-mom status in great depth, and amused ourselves by mishearing "MEA"--which stands for "Minnesota Education Association" and is regional shorthand for the long weekend in October during which teachers attend a professional conference and everyone else (including staff like me) gets a break from school--as "May" (i.e., the end of the school year). As in, "Someone told me to just accept that I'm going to be really, really tired until MEA." "You're going to be tired until May? Good God." And, "We've got to get all our talking in RIGHT NOW, because after this there won't be any talking until MEA." "Ha ha ha ha, yeah, you're probably right, we probably won't have any time to talk until May!!!" "No, I said MEA! M...E...A!!"

This cracked us up endlessly, and actually drove away her husband, who was sitting by us but decided to go home, and no doubt made mine roll his eyes behind his book and sunglasses more than once.

But you have to laugh, you know? Because otherwise what would we do, cry with nostalgia over the past 8-1/2 years we've spent as stay-at-home moms together? Life goes on. So let's talk about something else.

Over the weekend I went out to our CSA farm to pick cherry tomatoes, green beans, and edamame.

The rows of flowers were so brilliant and bursting that I couldn't resist adding fresh flowers to my haul.

This is the giant bucket of flowers I brought home. Those colors!

The farm continues for another two months, a comforting constant in this time of transition. Friday farm-share pick-ups go on.

And just for fun and because why not, in order to end this post on a random and completely frivolous note, check out this photo of me wearing the other color of the J. Crew skinny zipper pants I ordered at a bargain price a few weeks ago, and tell me this: Does this look like "light amethyst" to you? That's what they call it at J. Crew. Hilarious. It's basically khaki-ish/gray, or some other nondescript neutral. (Actually in this photo they pretty much look white, but they're not.) J. Crew: it's not purple. (Which is good because I did not want purple pants, light or otherwise.)

(Oh, and by the way: the coffee stain did finally come out of the white version. Clorox Bleach Pen for the win!)

You guys. I'll see you on the other side of becoming a working mom. We can do it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Starbucks Iced Espresso is Apparently Impossible to Remove From Clothing.

I spent yesterday at an 8-1/2-hour training for my new full-time job as an educational assistant in the neurobiologial special ed program at my daughters' elementary school.

Despite the fact that the hours were longer than a normal school/work day will be for me (I left at 7:15 a.m. and was done around 4, then ran a quick errand and got home around 4:45), my lunch break was twice as long as it will normally be (a full hour yesterday as opposed to the half hour I'll get at school, meaning that I got the never-to-come-again chance to zip home and even throw in a load of laundry over lunch), and my kids weren't nearby (school does not start till the day after Labor Day--one week from today!), in a lot of ways yesterday felt like my first day as a full-time working mom.

(Spoiler alert: despite what follows, the workday itself was great and left me feeling VERY positive about the upcoming year.)

In a nutshell, here's how it went down. I hope none of this is an omen of things to come.

Sometime in the morning, I had a very strong premonition (seriously!) that my youngest was sick with a stomachache. Around lunchtime, I spoke to my family and found out that my youngest was sick with a stomachache.

(Yes: first day of work, youngest child gets sick during the day--check.)

I found out that, despite having been told upon my hire that I wouldn't have to, I actually DO have to work on three or more late-start school mornings (starting next week) during which my children now need childcare.

(Last-minute childcare scramble--check.)

The tree trimming company with whom I'd contracted in June but who hadn't yet fit us into their schedule unexpectedly showed up at the house to do a large job about which my husband knew basically nothing, with a bill we could no longer afford due to having our air ducts cleaned in July. (After a few frantic minutes on my cell phone, it was determined that the very nice tree guys would do half the job now, half later, and invoice us rather than ask for payment yesterday. These guys are the father and uncle of one of Julia's classmates. Gotta love small-town living and Minnesota-nice treatment!)

(Household management chaos--check.)

My work day ran late and I ended up serving my family frozen pizza for dinner.

(Cliche of working-mom dinners--check.)

On my hurried drive home, the iced coffee I'd sympathy-purchased myself at the Starbucks in Target after running my quick post-workday errand leaked onto the brand-new, PERFECT white pants I had just ordered on an amazing sale from J. Crew for work.* (You guys, I just have to add this: these pants were originally $98. I got them for TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS a few weeks ago!)

(Random stains on work clothes during mad rush--check.)

It is a testament to everything about this job situation of mine that even after all that, I still ended the day feeling excited and great about the year to come. The day was crazy---but the year is going to be a good one.

Now it's time to fully enjoy the last seven days of summer.

*Three washes later and the stain is still there (though lighter). What in the world is in Starbucks coffee?!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ends, Beginnings, & Questionable Ponytails

So. It has been jungle-y here lately! And by that I mean dew points in the 70s and humidity levels so high you start to sweat just by stepping outside. Whew! August in Minnesota! I am not complaining, since you all know how I feel about winter, but...August. ONE WEEK left of the pool! We'd better hit it hard this week.

Yesterday it was way too humid to run outside (my usual exercise), and too rainy to go to the pool (theirs), so while the girls and I were home alone in the afternoon, we improvised and set up some cardio circuits. It was really fun. I wanted to do my killer Jillian Michaels cardio DVD, which is almost an hour long but split into warmup, seven exercise circuits, and cooldown. We decided that while I did the DVD, the girls would rotate between our mini trampoline, my elliptical machine (which they love), self-practicing their Tae Kwon Do, and doing the DVD with me. They rotated every six minutes, when my DVD circuits changed. It was awesome and so fun. I've got to remember this one for wintertime!

Before our workout, I pulled my new short hair into the tiniest ponytail ever seen.

Is that even a ponytail? Let's just say yes.

In other news, on Friday the girls and I discovered that the flowers at our CSA farm are exploding. Seriously, you should see the flower section of the field at our farm; it's a mass of cheerful color. So gorgeous.

I got five vases-full for the house and another for our dear 92-year-old next-door neighbor.

Oh, and there were lots of tomatoes, too.

Also in other news, this year (unlike last) I remembered to bring my girls in for their annual summer well-check appointments with our pediatrician, and they were thrilled to find out how much they've grown. True, Vivi has yet to officially tip the scales into the 50s, but both girls are in the four-feet-or-over height range (Vivi just barely; she's 48 inches even!), and we are solidly out of the single-digit growth percentiles, and for the most part even out of the teens. (Julia's still only at 16th percentile for height.) Growth spurts, here we come. Maybe they both won't be the smallest kids in their grades this year, ha!

Tomorrow I go to an all-day training for work, and on Tuesday we go to Back-to-School Meet-the-Teacher day. This is the last week of summer break for us, and everyone's simultaneously excited and a little sad. It's funny; I've been reading These Happy Golden Years, the 8th Laura Ingalls Wilder book in the Little House series, and just last night I came upon this quote:

As Laura went down the stairs she thought: "The last time always seems 
sad, but it isn't really. The end of one thing is only the beginning of another."

It felt like I was meant to read that quote right now, at this time and stage of our lives. I'd better put it on repeat in my mind for the next week or so, wouldn't you say? Major end coming up, huge beginnings.

And I'll talk to you soon. Enjoy the end of summer!