Monday, August 29, 2011

No, I Did Not Take the Time to Shower.

farm flowers

I often wonder if every other mom in America feels as constantly harried and time-pressured as I do. Every day my to-do list is a mile long, and I never complete it. I just roll the items onto the next day's list. And yet, I get up at six a.m. (if I'm lucky) and generally don't stop moving until eight or so at night (if I'm lucky). Then usually at eight I'm sitting with the laptop, doing freelance work.

I'm not trying to imply that I've won some sort of Busiest So Therefore Most Important Mom Award. And I'm not trying to bore you with a self-pity-fest. I truly want to know: Does everyone else run around like a dervish all day -- cooking, cleaning, caretaking children, running errands, managing appointments, shopping, meal-planning, baking, and working -- and rarely (if ever) enjoy a truly relaxed chunk of contented, non-whirling-dervish, recreational time? Does anyone out there lounge on the sofa reading magazines, ever? Any moms, I mean?

Time is all about priorities and choices. Because feeding my kids organic, locally-grown produce and cooking from-scratch meals is important to me, I spent six hours yesterday -- from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. -- first at our CSA farm picking cherry tomatoes, edamame, green beans, basil, and fresh flowers, and then roasting and freezing the tomatoes; trimming, washing, blanching, and freezing the beans; making a stromboli with homemade bread dough, farm tomatoes and basil for dinner; steaming edamame for dinner; and slicing and freezing a chocolate-zucchini bread that I baked the other day. And those were six hours I couldn't spend freelance-writing, or revising and rewriting parts of my book, or working on my psychologist's license renewal application, or doing necessary work for my developing wellness coaching website, or performing my physical therapy stretches, or spending time with my kids, or spending time with my husband. All things that made me feel guilty and stressed, because those are things I needed to be doing too.

When I sat down with my family for dinner at 5:20 p.m., I realized that I literally had not sat down -- unless you count the five minutes it took to drive to the farm, and the five minutes it took to drive back home -- since I climbed out of bed at 6:20 that morning. I even had my morning coffee, breakfast, and lunch standing up, while doing other things.

If I wasn't working part-time on top of being a full-time stay-at-home mom I wouldn't be this busy. If I didn't care deeply about the food I feed my children, and served convenience foods more often or ordered pizza or went through the drive-through or got take-out for dinner I wouldn't be this busy. But I am, and I do, and it along with everything else eats up every hour of my day. I know I'm not the only mom in this situation.

Of course, in situations like this, something has to give. There are always things you don't do as often as you should -- or maybe you don't do them at all, even some things that are really important. Because you're only human. But then you're constantly thinking, Is everyone living like this? And is anyone out there lounging on the sofa? And you're thinking, Dammit, I didn't get to everything on my list today. And also, I'm tired.

How are you all making out, fellow moms? Who's figured out the trick? Do any of you have actual free time? What do you do -- not sleep? Tell me. I really want to know.

Stress Management

This is what I posted on Facebook this morning:

"
Between my psychologist license renewal (always an exercise in stamina for bureaucratic nonsense), my running injury, the upcoming start of school, Genevieve's separation anxiety, my upcoming rescheduled jury duty, my book rewrites, my lack of time to do freelance work but my associated need for income, and the fact that my license renewal costs $550, I am a stressed-out WRECK."

Let's just say that late August is generally not my favorite time of year. There's something about falling behind on every single task that you're supposed to be doing because you just don't have enough time that kind of rubs me the wrong way.

Then again: in one week I'll have three kid-free hours each day in which to do them. I assume I'll suddenly complete all important projects in a day or two and then spend the rest of the kindergarten year with my feet up watching The Dr. Oz Show every weekday afternoon.

Right?

Am I right?

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Chocolate-Zucchini Bread, Muffins, Cake, or Cupcakes


My friend Heidi has asked me to put up this recipe multiple times, and I'm finally remembering to do so. After all, it's zucchini season, right? What better way to use zucchini than in something chocolate?

This recipe is moist, rich, chocolately, and delicious. You will not taste, or care about, the zucchini. Children will call this chocolate cake. It was originally formulated for a loaf pan, and I make it like that all the time. But it also works well in a muffin tin.

What makes this recipe so great is its versatility. It's such a moist "bread" that you can easily cut it like pound cake, top it with sprinkled mini chocolate chips, whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream, and serve it like cake. Similarly, if you want something more dessert-like than muffins, you can sprinkle mini chocolate chips on the top of each muffin before baking, or dust them with powdered sugar once baked and cool, and serve them as cupcakes.

Of course you can also just conceive of and serve this recipe as "bread" or "muffins," for a yummy snack or extra-special breakfast. Yum!

Chocolate-Zucchini Bread (Muffins, Cake, or Cupcakes)
makes 1 standard loaf or 12 muffins/cupcakes

Ingredients:

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini

1 cup all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3/4 cup mini (or regular) semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees for a loaf pan or 375 degrees for a muffin tin. Grease a standard-sized loaf pan or a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, oil, two types of sugar, vanilla, and grated zucchini. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Combine until fully incorporated, but do not overmix. Add chocolate chips if using. (Or save them to sprinkle on later.)

Pour batter into loaf pan or fill muffin cups. If desired, sprinkle chocolate chips on the top of the raw muffin batter in each cup.

Bake the loaf pan approximately 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. For muffins/cupcakes, bake about 14 to 18 minutes, checking often, until toothpick comes out clean or mostly so. (Do NOT overbake!)

Cool in loaf pan for at least 10 minutes on a wire rack before removing bread from pan to cool completely. For muffins/cupcakes, let sit in the pan for 10 minutes to cool before removing if you did not use cupcake papers. If you lined the tin with papers, you can remove them immediately. Either way, let them cool completely on wire rack after removal.

Once cool, you can dress up your "cake" or "cupcakes" as suggested above, if desired.

Friday, August 26, 2011

ABC Summer Weekly Report: T and Z

At Zollman Zoo/Oxbow Park, rural southeastern Minnesota

Last week we skipped ABC Summer. My mom was in the hospital, and I didn't think "visit the ICU" was an appropriate summer activity for "I week."

But this week we're back on track, and while we didn't do a ton of ABC activities, we did do some fun things. We revisited a favorite place we first went to last summer, the Zollman Zoo, which is a rescued-animal zoo of native Minnesotan creatures within Oxbow Park, a county nature preserve and recreational area in rural southeastern MN. The zoo is awesome; for one thing, it's free, and it's impeccably kept, with beautiful grounds and landscaping. Because it's small, it's the perfect size for small children. You can easily see the entire zoo in a morning. We went with four other families; there were five moms and twelve children between us, and we caravanned (possibly not a word?) the hour's drive there and had a picnic lunch together after our morning of touring the zoo. Perfect.

Here's the rundown:

T

had a Tea party
painted our Toenails

Z

went to Zollman Zoo
made chocolate-Zucchini bread


See? Not a whole lot, but just enough for the week after the Week of Crazy.

Summer is winding down, have you noticed? Pretty soon our ABC Summer will be over. I'm glad my kids will have their ABC Summer binders to page through in the future and remember all the adventures we had.

The Last Friday Morning at the Pool


...Until next summer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Personal Supply List Includes Excedrin and a Glass of Wine

The other day, girls in tow, I ventured into the eighth circle of hell, otherwise known as school supply shopping. Because we also did (some) shoes and (a few) clothes, it took us literally HOURS. You may not think that spending hours shopping for school gear is all that unreasonable, or any big deal. But moms of small kids know that dragging (bored) very young children around any store for hours is painful for all involved, and worthy of some sort of medal for Mothering Stamina -- let alone hours in the school section, debating the merits of Prang vs. Crayola watercolors and the pink vs. the purple backpack.

Some school districts I know have parents write out a check at the beginning of the year; then the teacher goes and buys what he or she needs for the classroom. But in my district, we get one of those Lists. Oh, the List. The long, long, long, expensive, horribly specific List. Why do you taunt me so, strangely specific List, with your promise of school supplies that seem to not actually exist? The eight-pack of (only) black dry-erase markers, regular point? The blue (has to be blue!) two-pocket folder that is sold out because I wasn't doing this shopping in July? The pencil box "large enough to hold all crayons, markers, pencils, and erasers," which happens to be not the standard pencil box size? THE FLAIR PENS.

By the end of the afternoon I was randomly tossing anything that even remotely resembled the requested school supply into my cart: the Crayola watercolor set instead of the mythical Prangs, multi-colored dry erase markers instead of the elusive all-blacks.

And then I handed over my debit card and visibly winced when the cashier rang up my shockingly high total. (And that was without the Flair pens.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Addictive Whole-Grain Zucchini Muffins


Last week I made a batch of these muffins to bring to the hospital and to our dear friends who helped us so much by watching our girls while my mom was in the ICU and letting Christopher sleep at their house for two nights.

When my friend got home from work that day, she texted me that she had just eaten three of the muffins in a row and that they were "addictive." When someone calls a muffin made from a vegetable "addictive," you know you're onto something. So, this recipe is for Kristi -- and anyone else who wants a moist, tasty, low-fat, low-sugar, high-protein, veggie-filled muffin recipe that really is addictively delicious. I promise.

Addictive Whole-Grain Zucchini Muffins
makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola or other versatile vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, OR 1/2 cup milk mixed with 1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup whole raw oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
1 to 2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 T. ground flaxseed (optional)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line it with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, mix the egg, oil, buttermilk or mik/yogurt mixture, oats, brown sugar, and grated zucchini.

In a separate large bowl, mix both flours, optional flaxseed, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Combine wet and dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix until thoroughly combined, but do not overmix. (Batter will be stiff, especially if you used yogurt.) Spoon into greased or lined muffin tin.

Bake 13 to 15 minutes, or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the muffins comes out clean or mostly so. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before storing in a well-sealed container or in the freezer.




Monday, August 22, 2011

Mama Style: Sprucing Up for Fall

If I buy the shoes, I'll automatically get the hair, right? No?

As much as I'm famous for dreading the end of summer, I have to admit that every year the beginning of school brings out a pleasing sense of renewal. Oh, and I don't mean just for my daughters. Procuring all my girls' necessary school supplies and new clothes stresses me out, but each year at about this time I do enjoy sprucing myself up a bit. There's something about a new school year that just begs for a little infusion of grown-up preppy.

Every end-of-summer I make myself feel better about the beginning of another school year by treating myself to a few wardrobe pieces that revitalize what I already own and give my mood and appearance a little lift as I shepherd my girls into September. I've learned that just like stay-at-home mothering is a real job, it also deserves a work wardrobe. After all, you're not going to make a great impression on your child's teacher if you show up to Open House in wrinkled shorts and a tee you last wore camping. You're a competent, capable mom; you deserve to look the part.


Similarly, the pants will make me this tall, yes?

The other day I ordered some slim, cropped chinos from J. Crew, perfect for the whole summer-info-fall season of back-to-school night and the school bus stop and volunteering in the classroom. (I've been without chinos that fit for over a year, people!)

I'm good for bright scarves and lightweight cardigans and boots, but I've saved my perfect handbag to bust out in September, when we're done with the muss and mess of the playground, the soccer field, the pool. I've got my eye on a great pair of suede driving mocs to replace my beloved cheap-but-stylish-and-comfy Isaac Mizrahi for Target pair from four years ago, which I've worn so much they've developed a hole in the toe. I'm poised to finally book the salon massage and pedicure I've had a gift certificate for since last Valentine's Day, and maybe I'll get my brows and lashes done while I'm at it.

What about you? What are your favorite fall pieces -- or beauty treatments -- for life as a busy mom? Do you buy anything for "back-to-school" for yourself? Or do you save your cash for the members of your household who will grow out of those new mary janes by November?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Treadmill

My day so far:

Get up at six a.m. to work -- I have a lot to do today, including overdue rewrites on my upcoming book.

But first: Feed the cat. Feed the children. Supervise a project with my daughters after breakfast. Help with a craft kit one daughter wants to do. Empty the dishwasher. Clean the catbox.

Realize I'd better blanch and freeze those fresh-picked green beans from Friday so they won't go bad before we can get to them. Do so. Remember I still need to turn out the frozen cups of homemade tomato sauce from yesterday into a freezer bag. Do so. See the large zucchini from farm-share pick-up and decide I should quickly make some whole-grain zucchini muffins for healthy snacks for my daughters; otherwise the zucchini will probably go bad before I can use it. Make the muffins while blanching the beans.

Supervise daughters' morning chore completion. Sweep the floor in the master bathroom. Do physical therapy stretches (well, some of them, for a few seconds). Supervise daughter's birthday thank-you note writing. Run upstairs to get dressed; get distracted by daughters taking off their pj's and grab the opportunity to make them try on last year's school clothes to see what still fits, what gets handed down, and what needs to be donated. Sort clothes and take notes for school-shopping list. Realize still haven't eaten breakfast.

Run downstairs and make a focaccia for lunch because we have all these farm-share veggies that can be used for sandwiches if I make a focaccia to go with them. Slice and prep the lunch vegetables.

Realize I'm still in my pajamas, I still haven't had breakfast, and I still haven't done any of the work I got up at six a.m. to do. And it's noon. Oops.

Well, there's always the afternoon. Right?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Neglect: It's the New Style.

It seems I have given up washing my hair. Not to alarm you.

So, the good news is, my mom is being discharged from the Mayo hospital later this morning and my parents are heading home to northern Minnesota. My mom's surgery went well, the tumor was completely removed, and there was no other spreading of the cancer. The bad news is, I have fallen so far behind on my life that even basic hygiene like washing my hair has become optional. I mean: does it involve feeding children or keeping the cat alive? No? Then it can wait.

My new style statement: the Family Medical Emergency Updo. It involves unwashed hair, dry shampoo, and a hair clip. Go me.

"But Shannon," you say, "the emergency is over; can't you shower now and attend to the most basic of all grooming tasks?" Well, one would think that, wouldn't one? But then one would be forgetting the fact that I have no groceries, a pile of neglected work a mile high (figuratively, of course), two children who need attention, the remnants of one child's birthday to put away/clean up, dry flowerpots, untouched school-shopping lists, our CSA farm-share to pick up, nothing cooked for real meals (as opposed to Goldfish crackers and PB&J), my psychologist's license renewal to complete, book rewrites to do, ABC Summer to revive, bed linens to change, and a body that needs, ahem, some exercise before it forces me to pack away my swimsuit prematurely before the city pool closes for the season.

Of course the good news is far more important than the bad.

But still.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fellow Writer on "The Today Show!"

If you didn't see the fourth hour of "The Today Show" yesterday, you may not know that Hoda and Kathie Lee interviewed one of my fellow writers in the anthology Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, Darcy Mayers, about the effects of stay-at-home vs. working motherhood on children. Darcy did a great job and though the conversation was quite respectful, I don't know that I agree with the statement that, if you choose to go back to work as a mom, you've made "the right choice" regarding your children's development, as stated by the psychologist Stacy Kaiser, who argued the pro-working-mom side of the "debate." There are a million reasons to think the opposite, frankly, and one particular study is never going to tell you what is best for YOUR child and YOUR family (not to mention your sanity).

In a funny twist of fate (again!), Torn editor Samantha Parent Walravens originally asked me to consider being the stay-at-home mom interviewed for this story. The evening she did so, after I had at least two heart attacks but before I agreed, our router broke, my e-mail box filled up and started returning people's messages, and our power went out. In the end, Sam went with someone else, and considering what happened to my mom this week and the fact that I spent yesterday at the Mayo Clinic's St. Mary's Hospital, I'm pretty sure that I was meant to miss out on that opportunity. Can you imagine me trying to cancel with The Today Show between Sunday and Wednesday, with my mom in surgery and my kids in tow? Ugh.

Anyway, you can watch the clip here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What to Remember in Times of Crisis

This week is a bit of a blur. My mom was in surgery and recovery all day yesterday. She had to have a tumor in her stomach removed immediately, the one found on the tests they ran on Monday. I've been driving back and forth between our town and Rochester, MN, where the Mayo Clinic hospital is located, with my girls every day. Christopher's been staying overnight with local friends there, to be the hospital point person and help take care of my parents. The medical team have gone to him with every question and result. He's handled it all, while I've handled the girls, the house, our schedule, the food. My mom's surgery went well, but she has several days post-op at the hospital ahead and she's 350 miles from home. It's overwhelming.

Because I've been mostly away from home and the computer and my normal schedule since 6 a.m. on Sunday, a lot of things have gone by the wayside. There is no ABC Summer this week. Genevieve's missed some of her kindergarten-adjustment program. I haven't worked on book rewrites for the past two weeks (in a strange twist of fate, last week I was busy holding vigil for my paternal grandmother's death and being with relatives who came to town because of that; but she's still alive and then this week happened). I haven't worked at my part-time freelance job in a week (so my checking account is running dry). I haven't done the rest of the school-supplies shopping. I haven't figured out which of my daughters' clothes still fit for this school year, and how much we need to buy -- the tennis shoes for P.E., the new jackets and mary janes.

I haven't talked much or even thought about Genevieve starting kindergarten. And she's not even remotely ready (other than academically). She seems like a toddler to me. She cries when I go down the hall at the hospital to use the restroom even though I'm back in less than five minutes. She cries at pre-K if I'm not at pick-up ten minutes early when they file out to the playground, even though I'm at pick-up at pick-up time.

But I've learned a few things, about times of crisis. Maybe some of these will be helpful to you, when you find yourself in a time of crisis one day. We all do, don't we?

In no particular order:

  • The chores and cooking and cleaning do not matter. You think you know this already, and truly you do know this, but it's good to remind yourself.
  • Facebook is a godsend. A GODSEND. (Thank you Lori, you were totally right about that.)
  • Healthy meals and snacks are a luxury. You may not get them for awhile, nor will your kids, but that's OK. Crackers, dry cereal, cookies, and all-fruit strips are fine for now. They're not perishable and they travel well.
  • Hospitals are cold. Bring cardigans for yourself and your children every day.
  • The best thing a friend can say to you when you're stressed and freaking out about everything going on and everything that's being neglected is, "One day at a time." Keep that in mind for when you need to say something to someone else in a time of stress.
  • Simple, non-wrinkling, comfy casual dresses are the best outfits you can wear for going back and forth between home and the hospital, being busy and harried. At least if the weather is warm. A dress automatically makes you look pulled-together and competent, even if you've slept approximately six hours total in two or three nights and have not washed your hair in almost five days -- and it takes about five seconds to get yourself dressed in one. Pull it over your head and you're done. Add a pair of sandals, pin up your hair, and grab dark sunglasses and you're set.
  • Keep your faith in fate, a religious power, whatever. Amazing things happen even in times of need. Purely due to chance and timing, I found my mom in time to most likely save her life on Sunday morning. Had she been downstairs alone much longer, losing more blood, we may very well have lost her. Because of a decision my husband and I made in about 30 seconds at our town's ER, my mom ended up at a hospital with the best care in the world, in a town where we have close friends to help take care of us, and where my parents' pastor just happened to be with his own wife, who goes there periodically for long-term care for a chronic medical condition -- and this pastor ended up staying with my mom and dad for most of two days, providing invaluable comfort.
See you on the flip side of this crisis. Thank you for all your support, so many of you wonderful friends.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Endeavor!

Amidst all the drama in my life right now, a cool new project I was invited to join has launched: The BlogHer Life Well Lived initiative, from BlogHer.com. I'm on the panel devoted to tips for living with more joy and happiness -- not because I'm always joyful and happy, but because, as a psychologist with a book coming out soon on self-care for moms, I have a few tips to share.

The "Getting Happy" portion of the project -- "Looking Your Best" and "Getting Organized" are other topics -- just launched, so check it out here to read tips from me and others for getting your day off to the right start. Then bookmark the site because it's going to be fun!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Unexpected Birthday Occurrences



Today Genevieve turns five years old. Over the weekend, she had her birthday party with her little friends. Three little blonde girls came over for cake, ice cream, and games in the backyard, and the blonde/cuteness level was overwhelming.

And yes, I did make a Cat in the Hat cake.



She loved it.




Last week, I said that life had been a little crazy: extended family in town, a death vigil for my paternal grandmother (who is still hanging on), more medical appointments for me, and the like. But that was nothing compared to this week.

My parents were visiting over the weekend for Genevieve's birthday party, but before dawn yesterday my mom ended up in an ambulance headed for our town's ER, and then transferred by ambulance to the Mayo Clinic hospital, one hour away. (Our small town hospital does not have all the capabilities of a larger facility.) And so we ended up throwing kids and my dad and snacks and cell phones in two different cars and speeding to Rochester, where we spent the day with the help of our close friends who live there and who watched the girls all afternoon for us.

My mom was in the ICU all day for sudden and extreme intestinal bleeding. She was transferred to a regular room last night, is stable, and undergoes test procedures today. So we will spend Genevieve's birthday on an adventure that involves driving back and forth between our town and the Mayo Clinic, opening presents in a hospital room, and blowing out her candles who knows where and when. We are trying to make it fun for her anyway.

Genevieve still has pre-K "school" this week, and I have an MRI on my spine. We don't know how long my mom will be hospitalized and my folks will be away from their home (they were due to go back yesterday afternoon). I haven't slept in two nights. (The previous night, Genevieve revived her past night-waking tendencies and woke us up numerous times overnight. Maybe she had a premonition that things were about to get scary.)

I'm thankful my children, my husband, and I are healthy; that my mom is OK; that I have so many amazing friends who have offered to help, that we will figure things out.

But I'm still amazed that my baby is five.

We'll have a more normal birthday next year.

Friday, August 12, 2011

ABC Summer Weekly Report: R and V

note the close-at-hand canister of Wet Ones

Considering the fact that I have a local elderly relative who is nearing death and therefore have had multiple other visiting relatives in town for the past week; spent several hours at a sports medicine appointment for my running injury, getting yet more X-rays and being scheduled for yet another MRI (this time on my spine, yay me!); and am preparing for my daughter's birthday, for which the party is tomorrow and grandparents arrive today, it's a miracle we did any ABC Summer activities this week at all.

What I'm saying is, cut me some slack.

Here's what went down for R and V this week:


R

painted Rocks
went to Red Barn Pizza Night (you should really click the link and check it out; it's so cool)
did plenty of Reading

V

did Vegetable print painting


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Complicated Information


This morning my four-year-old's kindergarten-readiness program held a parent-visit event. The first part of the visit was a presentation for parents only in the media center (that's the LIBRARY to all you old-schoolers, like me). The pre-K kids were still in their classroom doing their usual activities while two of the kindergarten teachers gave a little mini-lecture on what kindergarten is like to the visiting parents. Of course I already know what kindergarten is like; I've had one child go through it already.

Julia was along with me, which was fine for the second half of the event but was pretty boring for her during the lecture. After all, she knows all about kindergarten, too. Mostly she read a Junie B. Jones chapter book and squirmed. But she heard the part where one of the teachers said that by the end of kindergarten, the children will all know a set of 19 "sight words" and be able to recognize them in print -- common, important words like "a," "an," "the," "this," "you," and the like. Of course they may know far more by the end of kindergarten, but they need to recognize at least these 19.

Julia tapped me on the arm and looked at me worriedly. She leaned over with big eyes and whispered loudly, "Mama, what about Genevieve?? She knows, like....'information' and 'complicated.'"

What, indeed. I suddenly had a flashing thought of how sometimes things happen in life that you could never have expected to happen before -- things you would never have believed could ever happen -- and then you look back after they have, and you recall the times you said, No way would that EVER happen! or I could never do that in a million years! and you shake your head and chuckle at your previous statements.

And I thought of all the times people have said to me, only half-jokingly -- about Genevieve's potentially genius intelligence and the fact that she's going off to kindergarten knowing most of what children know in second grade and reading books children read in third and fourth, and how will a typical elementary school ever know how to truly service a child with that level of atypical intellectual ability -- that maybe I'll end up having to home-school this one.

No way would that EVER happen. I could never do that, not in a million years.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Blame Turning 40.

Tomorrow I'm going to a new doctor about my running injury. That's because the sports medicine P.A. to whom I was originally referred by my primary-care nurse practitioner no longer knows what to do with me, apparently.

On Monday I got the results of last week's MRI. The cartilage around my hip looks healthy, which is good. But I still have bursitis of the hip, and the tendons that lead to two of my glute muscles are inflamed and show what sounds like some sort of wear-and-tear abnormalities, I'm not really sure.

All of this is happening after eight weeks of physical therapy, which had no discernible effect. On Saturday I got a bill for the physical therapy. After insurance, it comes to over five hundred dollars. Here you go, hospital, here's five hundred dollars for nothing. Because I have five hundred dollars sitting around that I have nothing to do with. (Truth: I do not have five hundred dollars, let alone five hundred dollars that I have nothing to do with.)

I'm starting to feel like I could do better trying to treat this thing on my own. At least I wouldn't be out more than $500 (not to mention all the co-pays).

And another thing: it's starting to get difficult to maintain my self-delusion of in-shape-ness. For awhile I told myself that I'd magically be able to keep the same body I had, and eat the same number of calories I was, when I was running 22 miles per week and doing the Shred, even though I am now basically doing next to nothing, exercise-wise, due to my injury. Then lately I've just been eating ice cream and becoming depressed about not being able to run 22 miles per week.

Send me good vibes tomorrow, that this doctor will have some answers, before I lose what's left of my muscle tone and my sanity.


You Would Really Think That by the Second Year of All-Day School, You'd Have the Lunch Box Thing Figured Out.


The other day an old friend posted on Facebook, "August is the Sunday evening of summer." And I thought, so true.

I hate August. Or, rather, I'd love August, if there weren't constant forces at play urging me to think about the start of school. Seriously, people -- in Minnesota, school doesn't start until the day after Labor Day, i.e., when the lake resorts close for the season. When August 1st rolls around, we still have a solid four or sometimes even closer to five weeks left of a twelve- or thirteen-week summer vacation. Which makes me want to say to the advertisements, commercials, and stores: Why you gotta be ruining the last third of my summer?!

And let's face it: these days, the back-to-school ads start right after the 4th of July. You know, when we've been on summer vacation for about three weeks. Nice.

I realize that now, it's almost mid-August. But I don't want to be thinking about back-to-school! I don't want to make any decisions about backpacks and lunch boxes (oh Lord, the lunchbox dilemma...)! I do NOT want to go to Target to have my kids try on shoes. I do not want to go through the last-year's clothes to see what still fits, what I can salvage, what can take the place of new outfits so I can stretch my dollar just a little farther. And most of all, no -- the school supplies list? Just NO.

I'm still excited about ABC Summer and the pool and outings for ice cream and to the zoo. I'm still focused on sunshine and children who swim and run around the farm and play house in the backyard with their dolls under the trees. I'm still wondering if I'll be able to run -- really run -- at all this summer. (Most likely not.)

The worst part is that all around me, super-organized superstar moms are getting organized and shopping their lists. Several friends of mine are already way on top of this. Whereas I would like to get everyone on board with me and have them join me in ignoring all this back-to-school stuff until the very last minute.

Who's with me?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Monday, August 08, 2011

A New Phase of Life

I just scheduled my annual eye doctor appointment for a weekday in October, AT ONE P.M. One in the afternoon, people! Not after five on the one day a week they take late appointments. The middle of the day.

This whole thing about both children in school every afternoon this year? It's going to be a whole new world.

Getting Ready for Kindergarten

Over the weekend my family spent some time with out-of-state extended relatives we don't often see. We were chatting about what my girls are up to these days, how old they are, how big they've grown. I told my aunt about Genevieve's kindergarten-readiness program she's attending right now, going to school four mornings a week for three hours at a time, as a way to help prevent major separation issues when kindergarten actually starts. The first week was a little rough. She did fine in the beginning, but by the final day, Genevieve was worn out and teary, begging not to go. I had to drop her off and walk away even though she was crying.

My aunt and I talked about how this program is good practice for her, getting used to such a big transition: being away from home and away from mama for half of every day. And then my aunt added that it's good practice for me, too. I guess she's right.

Friday, August 05, 2011

ABC Summer Weekly Report: L and Q

Oh my. We really dropped the ball on ABC Summer this week. I mean, in my defense, Q is a tough letter. BUT STILL. Seriously, this is what we did this week:

L

made Lemonade pie
*edited to add: went to the Library (I forgot!)

Q

went to Dairy Queen

Can you believe I took my girls to Dairy Queen and called it an ABC Summer activity? And then left it at that? Sigh.

Well. The key to a successful ABC Summer, Shannon-style, is to be laid-back about it, informal, and flexible. That means that, if at some point it's the first week of all-morning, Monday-through-Thursday, kindergarten-preparedness "camp," and you have an all-afternoon visit to an MRI clinic in a different town on one of the days, and it's super hot so you go to the pool three days in a row, and your book rewrites are due to your editor at the end of the week so you spend every spare moment working, well -- you may not get many alphabet activities done. So be it.

To distract you from my slacker performance this week, I will leave you with the pie recipe. Enjoy.

Pink Lemonade Icebox Pie*
serves 8 to 10


Ingredients:

one standard graham-cracker crust
one 8-oz. brick of cream cheese, at room temperature
one 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed to liquid
one 8-oz. container of whipped topping, i.e. Cool Whip, thawed as if ready to use
red food coloring (optional)

Put cream cheese and condensed milk in a large mixing bowl. Beat with mixer until smooth. Add pink lemonade concentrate and entire container of whipped topping. Fold into cream cheese mixture with a spoon (not the mixer). Combine well. If your filling is still white, as mine was, add a few drops of red food coloring (go slow! you want it pink, not red).

Pour filling into pie crust. Place in freezer for 4 hours or overnight, until frozen. To serve, take out of freezer and let soften a bit before cutting into slices.


*Note: I found this recipe on the Family Kitchen blog at Babble.com.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Continuing With the Pink Theme

It's going to be a gorgeous day here. The heat and humidity of the last several days (weeks?) have broken -- seriously, I have the windows open right now, and because it's 5:45 a.m. and still dark and about 62 degrees, I'm actually cold -- and it's going to be clear, sunny, and gorgeous today, the perfect summer day. And although I'm swamped with work, my girls and I will be taking advantage and doing some fun summer things today. Nothing dramatic; just going to my favorite park with friends, and making this pie:

pink lemonade pie

I feel like I should have bought two graham-cracker crusts, and made two of these pies. Because OMG yum. How delicious does that look?

In other news, Julia and I went to Target yesterday while Genevieve was at her little pre-K program, where we bought the dollhouse bookcase I've had my eye on for two months and which was on sale this week, as well as some Cat in the Hat party favors from the dollar section. I wish I'd checked the Target dollar section earlier, before I'd ordered all my other Cat in the Hat birthday party supplies off a website that charged more than a dollar. Who knew??

I will make this fit in my daughters' tiny shared room. Yes I will. If it kills me.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

It's Pink; It's an Oreo. Win-Win.

So, yesterday I brought Genevieve to pre-Kindergarten in the morning. She didn't look thrilled to be there, but she didn't cry either, so that's an improvement upon previous similar experiences. Julia and I were going to the grocery store after we dropped her off, so I asked Genevieve if there was something special she wanted us to buy, to have at lunch after pick-up, as a special treat for the first day of pre-K. She said pink cookies.

Turns out, Oreo has a new cookie out, pink in the middle and called Berry Burst Ice Cream Oreos. Um, yes, those will do.



Yum.

Thankfully, Genevieve's morning went fine. She was quiet and tired when we picked her up at lunchtime, but smiley and happy. She said she liked everything, and she was proud that her teachers served the snack donation we had brought that morning. Oh, and the storytime book was The Cat in the Hat. Gotta love those awesome teachers.

In other news, I spent the entire afternoon getting a specialty MRI in a nearby metro suburb. This included driving directly into a very scary storm, complete with black, raggedy clouds, sheets of rain, and tornado sirens blaring. Did I mention that it got so dark that I could not read my directions? And that I had to pull over on a highway? After all that, the MRI itself was quite relaxing. In a sad "this is the only relaxation time I get all day" sort of way. I mean, I got to lie still for 40 minutes in the middle of the day. Holla!