Thursday, May 31, 2012

Goodbye, Kindergarten






All the Sibley School afternoon-kindergarten moms held it together pretty well yesterday, at least during the ceremony part of kindergarten graduation--when the kids marched in wearing cardboard mortarboard caps that I happened to be in charge of helping them paint, on my last volunteer day; sang some little songs; recited original poems chosen from their Poetry Books; and received colorful diplomas.

My theory about our emotional fortitude is that the ceremony itself tends to be more entertaining than sad. I felt this way two years ago as well. I mean, yes, I teared up a little at those lyrics, above. But when the kindergartners read their poems, their teacher projected onto the screen the text of each--and in kindergarten, the kids are allowed to write phonetically (meaning, however the hell they think things are spelled in their little five-and-six-year-old minds). Which meant that, for example, you get things like this up on the screen during kindergarten graduation:


OMG!


Let me tell you, Christopher and I were in the front row, right in front of the screen, and we were in fits of silent giggles waiting to hear what the second line of that poem was really going to be. Thankfully, the child-poet recited, "She cooks me BROWNIES."

(Also: no pork was involved.)


 
Unfortunately the ceremony was situated directly in front of a set of doors, hence the poor lighting.


So I was woefully emotionally unprepared when, after the ceremony was over, we all retired into the classroom for a slide show. Perhaps I should mention that Julia's kindergarten teacher, two years ago, was--while an excellent teacher, and very good for Julia at the time--not exactly the emotional, effusive, or sentimental type. In contrast, Genevieve's bubbly teacher had created a slide show of photos she had taken throughout the year, adorned it with graphics and type, and set it to music. We all sat and watched the slide show up on the SmartBoard screen at the front of the room, and saw our children's entire kindergarten year pass by in front of our eyes. The field trips, the holiday celebrations, the Writers' Workshop, the art projects, the playground recesses, the reading, the learning.

Then, at the end of the slide show, set to some quiet and poignant song with lyrics that had something to do with someone (your mama, maybe?) loving your little self so much--forgive me, I believe my brain was frantically trying to block it out at this point--this teacher had included a photo of each child standing against a colorful wall, holding a large sign she had written herself, saying what she wants to be when she grows up. Grinning with pride. Eager. Joyful. Showing off the little-kid handwriting.


When I grow up I want to be a fire fighter.
When I grow up I want to be a teacher.
When I grow up I want to be a grocery store owner.
When I grow up I want to be a scientist. (Genevieve's.)
When I grow up I want to be a mom. 


And then all the moms died inside. 

Torture, people! The little faces! The printed words! OMG, THE SONG. There was something so touching and poignant about seeing those aspirations written out like that, held under those glowing baby faces. When I grow up, I want to be...  

What was it about those photos, exactly, that broke all the mamas' hearts? Was it the idea of our kiddos growing up? Was it wondering which of those dreams really would come true, and which wouldn't? Was it thinking about those little bundles of pure potential, launching out into the world? Was it the damn song?

I don't know, but I died. DIED. It was horrible. And wonderful. So horrible. So wonderful. I can't stand it.

And that's all I can really say about Genevieve's kindergarten graduation. It was a truly wonderful year. This teacher--wow, amazing. (You should see the Kindergarten Memory Book she sent home for each family--full of artwork and writing from the year, including paint handprints she had done for every child at regular intervals throughout the year, in seasonal colors, so now we have a visual record of how our children grew from September to May, and which we had no idea she was even doing.) 

I know the non-parents of the world can never grasp the real mourning that occurs at times like this--I know I didn't, before I became a mom. But I also know that every mom reading this knows exactly how I feel today, and her heart probably hurts a little bit in sympathy for mine, too. And I am so very grateful for that.

 


Getting Dressed to Go Somewhere and Cry (Real Title: Dressing on a Budget)

So. I'm still (sort of) doing Susan's 30 Day Get Dressed Challenge. I say "sort of" because I'm basically been dressing like I always do, which isn't really a challenge. Susan's original goal was not just to challenge everyone to get dressed in real clothes each day ("real clothes" = not pajamas and not workout clothes), but to actually wear those cute outfits or pieces that often hang in the closet waiting for the "right" occasion. The challenge was to avoid conserving cute outfits for an occasion that rarely (or never) comes, but instead view your daily life as worth looking nice--and dressing nicely--for.

The truth is, I get dressed in real clothes every day, unless I'm sick. And I don't have many (any?) items of clothing that I save for something special. That's probably because, as a stay-at-home mom for almost a decade now, I don't invest in dressy clothes that I won't wear frequently. I don't have any reason to. It's also because a.) I don't own that many clothes, and b.) I'm ten pounds over my "usual" weight over the past few years or so, and therefore some of my "cute" clothes don't fit. So I keep wearing what I usually wear--and right now a lot of that is clothing I've had for several years (before the post-weaning weight loss).

It's both good and bad, people.

But what I really wanted to do today was show you what I wore yesterday, for Genevieve's kindergarten graduation.


This, apparently, is what you wear to go out and cry. Details: dress, Kohl's, from about five years ago; cardigan, Old Navy, at least three years old; necklace, gifted; riding boots, JCPenney, about four years ago.

See? You CAN incorporate the spring 2012 trend of color into your daily style even if all your clothes date from your daughters' toddlerhoods.

And also: you can be a polished and pulled-together mom on a budget. Nothing I'm wearing up there cost more than $50, and that was the boots, on half-price clearance sale. The dress and cardi were under $20 each.

Are YOU getting dressed each day? How is it going?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Don't Be Scared. Or Sad.


 Today is kindergarten graduation. Do you remember what I had to say the last time I attended a kindergarten graduation?

...It's a journey, people. We don't remember it anymore, but it's a monumental journey, starting school at age five and coming out nine months later at six, familiar now with the new world of elementary school. There are a million little moments of learning and experience that make up that journey; we could never count them all.

And, come to think of it, that description is just as applicable to the journeys of us new school-ager moms. We started off the year--well, I did anyway--thinking the bus seemed huge and the room wasn't childlike enough and the rules seemed harsh and the teacher seemed too no-nonsense. Then, via a million tiny moments of learning and experience from September to June, we learned how to be moms of elementary schoolers: that the bus driver is sweet and knows them all by name; that the room is just fine--different from how we remember kindergarten, maybe, but really, just fine; that the rules work in our favor as parents; that the teacher holds a perfect balance between loving and strict and can keep 23 five-year-olds in line without losing her temper, which, as parents, we know is an amazing skill.

Come to think of it, I learned an awful lot in kindergarten this year.


(Full post, here.)

Kindergarten was different this time around, as a mom who'd been through it before, no longer an elementary-school newbie. It's easier when you know what to expect, sending your little one off on a big bus to a big building without you each day. But then again, it's harder too, when you know it's the last time, the last year you'll have a wonderful, little-big five-year-old--the last time anyone in your house will be in kindergarten.

It has been a magical year, full of learning and fun, morning playdates and afternoon school, books and art. One of the best things about this year, unlike when Julia was in kindergarten, was that Genevieve's afternoon-kindergarten class included the children of all my closest mom friends. Our children are all best friends, too. We all experienced it together. Which means that, this afternoon, I'll be sitting at kindergarten graduation with all my BFFs--which no doubt makes everything both sweeter and sadder. We're all in it together, and we're all crossing over to the next stage of this parenting journey at the same time. Our hearts will be holding hands, looking right and left, whispering, "1...2...3...," and taking this next parenting leap together, at the moment our kindergartners become big kids and prepare to leave us for full-day school for the first time next September.

Remember, fellow mamas: "Don't be scared."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review at Surprising Sweetness!

 
So, I have this friend down the street, Angel. She writes the blog Surprising Sweetness, and every day she amazes me with her sense of humor, patience, positive attitude, and huge heart full of love. And today she wrote a beautiful review of my book, The Essential Stay-at-Home Mom Manual: How to Have a Wondrous Life Amidst Kids and Chaos. I am so flattered! Please read it, and then bookmark her blog on your computer because she is a great writer herself--not to mention a gorgeous amateur photographer. Thank you, Angel!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Week Begins

the first day of school, September 2011

 Today marks the beginning of what is arguably the simultaneously most exciting and saddest week of the year: the last week of school. It starts off with a holiday--hooray!--and ends with a half-day last day of school, which we usually celebrate with ice cream cones outdoors after the school bus drops the kiddos off (and which, this year, coincides with grandma and grandpa's arrival for Julia's birthday weekend--double hooray!). In between there's the always-fun school talent show and picnic, the last 2nd-grade field trip, kindergarten graduation--a whole parade of exciting events, each marking the end of a wonderful school year.

For me, this week is joy-filled because I can hardly wait for summer vacation to arrive--no more 8 a.m. school bus! No more homework to supervise! No more school lunches to pack! I love summer. I love the sun and the warmth and being outdoors and going to the pool as often as possible. I love trail running in the evenings. I love planning all sorts of fun summer activities for my children. I love our CSA farm. I love it all.

But at the very same time, the end of another school year is melancholy for moms. The passage of time feels harsh, cruel. Your babies are getting bigger, like it or not. And of course you do like it, quite often, for many reasons. No one wants to change diapers forever, for example. But oh, it feels like it will kill you, too, this slipping away of the facts of their little-ness.

So I am sending you hugs and strength this week, other mamas, during this bipolar week of joy and tears. Focus on the joy. Take lots of pictures.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

There is No Stopping.



The most challenging aspect of parenthood by far is the fact that sometimes you just want to be able to stop everything and take a break from all the action and forward momentum, and it's not possible. This takes two forms: sometimes you want a break from parenting because you're exhausted and simply need a vacation from the duties involved--you just want a day or two off, but it's not possible--and other times the break you crave involves the stopping of time, because your children are growing and changing too quickly and it's breaking your heart and you love them and your life so much just how it is, and you wish you could freeze it like that.

Both feelings are agonizing in their own way, but it's the latter that will truly break your heart. It's like watching time-lapse photography of a flower blooming or of clouds forming; you can no more stop that fast-moving film than you can stop the world from turning. And your job as a parent is to observe and accept it and then move forward with gladness, because you've really no other choice. You have to pick up and dust off and wrap up your own heart, because this is the way it is, and no one can change it for you.





Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wake Up!

I've been a mom for almost eight years, and you'd think that by now I'd be completely unfazed by the fact that my children wake up at an ungodly early hour each day. By now it should be totally A-OK with me that every morning, no matter the season, their activities the day before, the weather outside, or how tired any of us actually are, my children emerge from their room around six a.m.--and only that late because I forbid anyone to come out prior to six. They are often awake by 5:45--or earlier.

I won't go into all the discussion about how, save for a very rare occurrence perhaps once or twice a year, this early-waking phenomenon is unrelated to their bedtime. Just please trust that, as a smart, adult, experienced person, I have tried everything, and no, it does not help to let my daughters stay up later at night. They go to bed early because that's when their bodies conk out, and if I keep them up later, they still wake up before six a.m., only everyone's even crankier than usual because they've gotten even less sleep than normal. That may not be true of your children. It is true of mine, though. Enough about that.

But my point is, I am tiiiiiired every morning, people. I go to bed so early compared to most adults, and it's never early enough when it's time to get out of bed in the morning. I purposely get up an hour before my children--otherwise I'd never get to drink a cup of coffee in peace or get any writing done at all--but if I had kids who slept until a normal time, I certainly would not be willingly getting up at five. I'm a morning person, yes, but is "morning" really five a.m.? That seems like "still nighttime" to me.

Every morning when my girls pad down the stairs at 6:01 (which is about 5:57 on the clock downstairs, a fact that annoys me, because, well....it's NOT SIX NOW IS IT?), I am newly shocked and horrified. They are sick to death of hearing me say, "I can't believe you two are up so early! I thought for sure you'd sleep a little later today!" (Clearly I'm delusional.)

Summer vacation starts in a week and a half. I LOVE summer with my children; I truly live all year for it, dream about it, crave it. And the good part is that, on school vacations of any sort, I typically allow myself to sleep as "late" as my children do. There's no big rush to get ready for the day, after all, and I can drink my coffee and catch up on e-mail while they watch morning cartoons later, unlike the school year when life is busier. But even so, it sort of kills me that by and large our summer schedule is no different from any other time of year when it comes to sleep. Unlike yours, my daughters will not be sleeping in, not even a little bit, when school lets out. No one will emerge from her bed, rumple-headed, at seven or eight on those lovely, lazy June mornings. Mark my word, on June 4th they'll be awake at 5:35, and poking their heads out of their room at 5:58, and I'll be groaning and swearing to myself that I'll go to bed EVEN EARLIER that night.

I love summer. But it's been eight years of motherhood and I'm still chronically sleep-deprived. Some mornings I want to cry. Instead, I feed my coffee habit. You gotta get through the day, after all!

Maybe someday I'll have time to nap.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Get Dressed: Week Two

Yes, I'm still doing the 30-Day Get Dressed Challenge. I mean, sort of. It's not always fancy. Saturday, for instance, when I was in charge of four small children all day, supervising multiple outdoor activities in 85-degree heat and 40 mph winds, all "getting dressed" meant was a pair of chino shorts and a halter tank. I admit that for most of the day yesterday I just wore jeans and a PeaceLoveMom tee. I mean, it was cute, and I wasn't in pajama pants or anything truly slovenly, but...not exactly a well-curated outfit.

Today I'm on my own, running errands and cleaning and cooking and planning a birthday party. When I got dressed this morning, I didn't want to have to think about it. So I threw a dress over my head, added sandals and a bangle, and I'm set. I'm serious when I tell you all that dresses are perfect for busy moms. Trust me!



And now I am off to the SAHM's second home: Target. See you there?

"So, What Do You Do All Day?"

It's a big day, my friends. A BIG day. No, not my younger daughter's first elementary-school field trip, an all-day affair to the Como Zoo in St. Paul. (AN HOUR AWAY--which is why my husband is chaperoning. I do not allow my daughters to go on field trips in other towns without one of us chaperoning, and since I do the weekly school volunteering, he takes vacation days from work to do the field trips.)

I mean, yes, it is that. Genevieve is crazy with excitement. She gets to ride the school bus IN THE MORNING, along with Julia. (Normally she catches the afternoon-kindergarten bus at 12:18 in our driveway.) She cannot wait.

But no, fellow mamas, that's not what I meant. It's a big day because today, for the first time ever,  I will be a stay-at-home mom with both kids at school (or on a field trip) the entire day. From 8:04 a.m. until 3:27 p.m., both daughters will be gone. At school. Away from me. For the whole day.

It's like practice for September!

OMG.

People have been asking me since my daughters were born nearly six and eight years ago what I'm going to do with myself once they're both in school all day. Well, today we'll all get to find out.

You know what I'm going to do all day? All the family errands I saved for today because I knew I'd have time to do them, focused mainly on the necessary arrangements for Julia's 8th birthday party coming up in two weeks. I will also be catching up on the housecleaning chores I did not have time to do yesterday, because yesterday I was too busy conducting the required planning for this year's "ABC Summer" project I will be doing with my girls over summer vacation, as well as doing the grocery shopping and returning the library books and DVDs and going to the post office to mail a package. And, I will be cooking something from scratch for dinner, and baking a loaf of cinnamon-rhubarb bread to deliver to a friend.

Somewhere in there I suppose I should update my professional website, post to twitter and Pinterest, and send out a few book-promotion PR pitches in hopes of selling more books, although, truth be told, it's often hard to fit those things in to a typical SAHM schedule and workload. Everyone who does this job knows it's a full-time-+ job in itself.

In other words, today I'm going to be doing all the things I do every day--the work of running this house and this family--only without a small child at my hip for half of it. I will probably get more family work done than I usually do because of that last fact. But I won't be sitting around sipping a cold drink and wondering what to do with myself.

Although, just for one day, maybe I should be.




Sunday, May 20, 2012

We're All in This Together.

 
Yesterday was soooo busy. Everything went great, but you may remember I was alone with my kids all day (from pre-wake-up to post-bedtime) while Christopher did a 100-mile bike race in southeastern MN with a friend, plus I took my friend's daughters for eight hours of that day as well, as a belated birthday gift to her and her husband. I made sure to plan lots and lots of activities for the kids beforehand; the key to having a day like that go well is having plenty of ideas at the ready. I also set up little separate play stations throughout the house, so if anyone got tired of or cranky toward anyone else, they could take breaks from each other and get some space. Lastly, I checked out a DVD of "Olivia" cartoons from the library for "quiet time." I was READY.

So what did we do all day? Luckily, the weather was hot and sunny. We went to the park and played at the playground for a long time; we watched a large goose family (lots and lots of goslings), three mallard ducks, and a great blue heron at the pond on our way back from the park; we played house and dress-up and Little People farm and school; we watched our "movie" and ate popcorn; we played in the splash pool and ran through the sprinkler in the backyard and enjoyed Popsicles in the heat; we glued pasta onto cardboard to make brilliant macaroni masterpieces; we made chocolate-chip cookies together; we colored and drew; we each created our own mini-pizzas for dinner. We did everything on my list except the homemade clay sculpting. We had a wonderful day. But I was busy and occupied with one kid thing or another from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. By bedtime, the children weren't the only ones who were wiped out.

I have to admit my head is spinning a little bit. The flurry of May is upon us. As every mom knows, the last month of school always brings a rush of extra events and activities--all fun and exciting, but all filling up the calendar and making the days and weeks seem to speed by even more than usual. We are busy these days with school field trips (three of them!) and chaperoning stints, 2nd-grade Field Day, the school talent show and picnic, teacher gifts, and my usual weekly classroom volunteering. In addition to the school stuff, late spring also brings, to our house, birthday party-planning and -attending, upcoming grandparent visits, and planning for our 2nd ABC Summer. (Yes, I'm doing it again this year! Come along for the ride!)

In a way, I'm glad my head is spinning with busy-ness, because it keeps my mind off the reality of the end of the school year. The end of the school year means that my daughters are done with 2nd grade and kindergarten. I know I say this every year, but the fact of these milestones absolutely blows my mind. Words don't accurately express my utter shock that the school year is over already, and my children are DONE WITH SECOND GRADE AND KINDERGARTEN. I literally get a stomachache (and a heartache) just from typing those words. I could cry, cry, cry. I have adored Julia's 2nd grade teacher, and am heartbroken that our time with her is done. (I hope Genevieve gets her when she enters 2nd grade.) Kindergarten is a magical year, and the last year I'll have a child home with me for half of each weekday. I can't believe it's almost over.

I'm so glad that all my fellow moms out there understand how I feel. I know you all do. I know we're all in this together. Thank God.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Get Dressed, Even if it's in the Same Pants You Wore Yesterday

Who's getting dressed???

The black V-neck top is, believe it or not, a Bella Materna nursing tank from eight years ago. (I think? Can't remember which postpartum period this was from...) I've worn it ever since as a regular top. It's the most comfortable shirt I've ever worn and is made from a super-silky, wicking material that makes it cool in the summer. I have it in a soft blue as well.

Pants, Old Navy Perfect Khakis. Belt, Old Navy. Target leopard-print ballet flats, not shown. WeWood oversized maple-wood watch added later.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why Wavy Hair is Perfect for Moms

So have you heard that waves are the new uber-popular style for super-stylish celebrities with long hair? Sure, we've seen gorgeous, pin-straight locks on Reese, J-Lo, and Gwyneth for years, and we've all used our straightening irons to death and all that. But you may have noticed that lately, the trend is long, loose waves--in fact, some might call them beachy waves. Just in time for summer. Score!




Elle, Meg, and Jennifer: waves galore. Yes, I know Jen is not a mom. 
But she does have great waves going on here.


Even I've been jumping on the bandwagon lately. I know you're used to seeing my hair straight, like this.



That's because when my hair began to wave and curl up in places when it grew back in after the babies (side explanation for the uninitiated: during pregnancy your hair gets very thick; then right after childbirth it falls out in heaps--and often re-grows in waves or curls or otherwise altered texture), I straightened it when and where necessary.

But lately I've been letting it look more like this.




Not super-wavy, mainly because these photos were taken late in the day and things had drooped a little, and maybe you can't see it completely here, but there are definitely waves going on in there.

So, what's so fab about waves, particularly for moms, particularly for summer? There's a reason Elle, SJP, and numerous other stylish mom celebs embrace the long loose waves! The key is that they're low-maintenance.

Think about it: unless your hair is impeccably straight and smooth naturally, it's often a bit of a battle to maintain perfect sleekness throughout the course of an active mothering day. The running around outside, the wind, the errands in and out of weather and air-conditioning or heat, the amount of time spent in the company of steamy water (children's baths, dish-washing, boiling macaroni, laundry), the fact that the baby seems to think your hair is a teething toy... It all adds up to a fair amount of fighting reality. The reality that your hair does not care that you are trying to look like Gwyneth Paltrow; it wants to curl and kink and frizz up, dammit! Embracing the current rage for wavy hair means less time trying to undo what your hair does naturally and more time looking like the glamorous mama you are. 

Oh, and in the summer? No one needs to tell you that keeping long hair smooth and perfectly straight during a day at the pool (or the beach) with the kiddos is next to impossible. Plus, who wants to straighten her hair before going to the pool? Go for trendy loose waves this summer and you can lounge pool-side (ha! who am I kidding? I mean "splash in the kiddie pool with the baby") secure in the knowledge that, even though you didn't slave over a hot flatiron, your locks are completely in style and you're looking good.

Just like Elle, Sarah Jessica, and all those other hot mamas out there.


One quick note on achieving the loose wavy style: no one's hair looks exactly like this without a tiny bit of help. A little shine serum, smoothing oil, or styling cream applied to damp or dry ends and a quick blow-dry if you've just washed your hair is the way to start; then you'll likely need to use a curling iron (yes!)--either the old-fashioned kind or the new, "clamp-less" curling wands--and wrap some or all sections of hair around the barrel for a few seconds, to polish ends, smooth layers, and give your natural bedhead waves some definition and structure. This shouldn't take long, and it's totally doable, gorgeous, and worth it--plus it lasts more than a day for the lucky. Rake your fingers through the curls or lightly comb to loosen the waves, and you're done. Beauty blogger Sarah James has a great video tutorial on the perfect loose wave technique, here.

Stylish summer hair. See how perfect for a busy mom?


Get Dressed Challenge: Better Late Than Never

So today I didn't get dressed until three.

But wait! I have an excuse.

I woke up feeling decidedly unwell (there is a very short-lasting upset-stomach/headache virus going around my social circle and my daughter's kindergarten class). I stayed in yoga pants and a tank top all day, called in sick for volunteering, sent my kindergartner to school, downed some Tylenol, and took a long nap.

When I woke up, I felt better and the bus was due to come in a little while, so I pulled on chinos and a super casual and comfy, boho-style baby-doll top and stepped outside for the first time all day....into humid 80-degree hazy sun and 40 mph dusty winds. OK, then! On my way out I hastily snapped this pic in the bathroom mirror. Can't see the sandals. Can hardly see the chinos. Oh well--better than nothing, right? And better late than never?

Hand-me-down top, origin unknown; Old Navy Perfect Khakis, Merrell sandals (not shown)

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Quinoa Vegetable Salad with Orange-Garlic Vinaigrette

My family is mainly vegetarian. We eat a lot of plant-based proteins, vegetables, and whole grains. Even so, it took me until just the other week to try quinoa (pronounced "KEEN-wah") for the first time. Quinoa is a whole grain similar to bulgur and barley, but it happens to be the only grain that's also a complete protein. In other words, it's fabulous for you in many ways. Inspired by a standby recipe in Jeanne Lemlin's Quick Vegetarian Pleasures cookbook (my copy of which is about 15 years old and totally falling apart), I made this entree salad on a recent warm day for a cool, hearty-yet-refreshing dinner. Leftovers are great the next day, too. Serve this yummy entree with popovers or corn muffins and a green or fruit salad on the side.



Quinoa Vegetable Salad with Orange-Garlic Vinaigrette
serves 6

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups dry uncooked quinoa
3 cups water
1 tsp. garam masala (an Indian spice mix) or turmeric
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
2/3 cup chopped walnut pieces
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 to 2 cups fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive or grapeseed oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
rind of one orange, grated (avoid white pith)
2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste

Place quinoa and water in a large saucepan and bring to a full boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Stir in garam masala or turmeric and raisins or cranberries; let sit 5 more minutes.

Transfer cooked quinoa to a large bowl. Add walnuts, chickpeas, scallions, and tomatoes. Fold into quinoa mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, orange rind, basil, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine well, until oil is emulsified. Pour dressing over quinoa-vegetable mixture; stir well to coat.

Refrigerate for at least half an hour before serving.

Mother of Mulitples (for One Day)

So...have I told you that on Saturday my husband leaves at six a.m. for a 100-mile bike race and won't come home till after bedtime?

Now, can I add that I am giving a dear friend her birthday present that day, which is a full day of babysitting so she and her husband can spend the entire day having fun together, kid-free?

It's true. On Saturday between ten a.m. and six p.m., I'll be alone with four kids under eight (and alone with two of them for the hours prior and after, as well).

Have I gone insane, you ask? What am I thinking? Why would I offer to have my friend cash in her childcare gift certificate on my bike-widow day?

Well, I'll tell you. Our kids are five and seven now. This means that, believe it or not, it is frequently easier to care for four of them together than two of them alone. Sounds crazy to the childless and parents of younger kiddos, I know, but at this point they entertain each other, which frees me up to--well, not have to be the entertainer all the time.

Oh, of course, when it comes to an eight-hour day caring for four children, I'll definitely be on active duty. I'll be cooking two kid-friendly meals and one snack, including setting up make-your-own-mini-pizzas for dinner. I'll put out the sprinkler if it's hot outside so they can run through it in the afternoon. I'll be wading through a playroom floor covered in Barbies and Polly Pockets and play food by the end of the afternoon. I'm planning the structured activities (some of my ideas: pasta art, Play-Doh or cornstarch clay sculpting, painting outside, making cookies). I'll have to field crankiness and break up arguments at times, I'm sure. I've already decided that at one p.m., when my daughters still usually have "Quiet Time," I'll be putting in a cartoon movie and making everyone settle down with pillows so I can have the hour of peace and quiet to which I am accustomed at that time of day.

But for the most part, I'm happy to have company on my long, solo-parenting day, to help pass the hours and occupy the children. And I hope my friend and her husband make the most of every hour. But, at 7:30 p.m. when my kids are finally in their beds, you can bet I'll be collapsed on the sofa in front of mindless TV. Maybe I should pick up a bottle of wine when I go to get that cartoon movie.

In Minnesota "Fahrenheit" Really is a Bad Word Sometimes.

Overheard the other day while Genevieve was outside playing with her next-door neighbor playmate:

Genevieve: "I don't know what the bad 'S' word is."
Friend: "Me neither."
G.: "Or the bad 'F' word. There's a bad 'F' word too."
Friend: "I know."
G.: What is the bad 'F' word, anyway? Is it 'Fahrenheit'?"

(Me: laughing my head off inside the house.)

[An aside: It disappoints me that my five-year-old even knows there are such things as "bad 'S' and bad 'F' words". I don't even think my seven-year-old should know that. Although I guess I should be thankful that they don't, as of yet, know what those words actually are.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Challenge: Getting Dressed

Speaking of style, are you participating in mom-style-blogger Susan Wagner's 30 Day Get Dressed Challenge? I am! It all started here, and we're only on day three, so if you want to join, you really should jump in.

The challenge is all about truly getting dressed (which doesn't necessarily mean getting dressed up) for 30 days straight--wearing those cute pieces we all have stuck in our closets but so often pass by for old jeans or yoga pants because "all I'm doing is taking my kids to the park or doing laundry all day." Well, who says you can't look cute while doing laundry? Get dressed, mamas!

I won't go back and post my photos of my days one and two outfits, because the quality of those pictures is so ridiculously horrendous, but this morning Genevieve took the photos, and they're somewhat better (other than the over-exposure factor, yikes), so here you go. Keep in mind that I use my phone for taking pictures, don't know how to use Instagram yet, and don't know anything about photography, which is why the lighting is so terrible. Ignore that and focus ON THE CLOTHES. The clothes, people!


Target blouse, Old Navy cardigan, Land's End jeans, Target flats, J. Crew bangle


Again: so sorry about the lighting. In real life I am not that wan. Almost, but not quite. As you can see, my pieces are nothing special. They're budget-conscious basics, punched up with a little color here and there. I'm not exactly blazing any fashion trails here. But that's kind of the point. Dark jeans and a bright cardi may be just a notch above yoga pants and an old nursing top, but they're still above, so if you choose them, you can feel good about getting truly dressed--even if you're a stay-at-home mom with no meetings to go to beyond a park playdate.

So there you go. Getting dressed. It's fun! (Ask me again on day 28 or so...)

OMG! Mom Style at "Already Pretty"!

Hey, you all! If this isn't a great way to re-enter the world of full-on, working-computer life, I don't know what is: a guest post at the fab style blog Already Pretty!

If you don't know about Already Pretty, you are in for a treat. Minneapolis style blogger and writer Sally McGraw's brain-child, Already Pretty is a site dedicated to the discovery, exploration and enjoyment of personal style and body image. Sally and I recently got connected through a mutual friend (another super-stylish lady, Minneapolis jewelry designer Karin Jacobson), and decided to collaborate on a couple of guest posts. Sally confided that she gets questions all the time from busy moms looking to up their style quotient or simply find outfits that work for the active-mom life, but that, not being a mom herself, she is hesitant to wade into those waters. Therefore, she invited me to write a post for Already Pretty on "style formulas for busy moms." Woo-hoo!

Head on over to read my post today, and stay tuned in coming weeks, because I plan to wrangle Sally into applying her trademark thoughtfulness and impeccable style to a guest post for Mama in Wonderland on body image and dressing for the body you have NOW (yes, even the mom-of-two body).

Simple and Delicious Family Cooking: Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Rhubarb Bread

Holla, readers, I am back! For reals this time! This mama has a working computer again, and all is right with the world. Please don't remind me that the last time I said that the computer broke again within hours.

So what have you been up to? I feel like I've been gone for a year. I have so much to say. But let's ease back into things, shall we? I've been doing a lot of baking lately--as usual--and since it is spring, I'd like to share with you a particularly spring-y recipe I developed last week after cutting some rhubarb from my neighbor's little patch. (She told me I could. I did not stalk her rhubarb and steal it under cover of night.)

This bread is truly delish. Enjoy it for breakfast, serve it to your kids for after-school snack, put it in lunch boxes for a sweet yet healthy treat.

 

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Rhubarb Bread
16 slices

 Ingredients:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1-1/2 cup white or Ultragrain all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh, washed, diced rhubarb stalks (could use frozen although I've never tried it)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large loaf pan with baking spray.

In a large bowl, mix sugars and oil until smooth. Add egg, vanilla, and buttermilk and mix well. In a separate large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture. Stir to combine but do not overmix. Fold in rhubarb.

Bake about 60 minutes or until bread is browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. You may need to lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the pan partway through baking if bread becomes brown before it is done on the inside, to prevent burning. Check occasionally. Adjust baking time as needed.

Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool. Let cool completely before slicing, although it will be hard to wait that long to eat it.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

There Are No Words. Just Smoke Signals.

Originally I wanted to repost a couple of things from past years for Mother's Day. But since I still don't have a working computer and am doing all online activities via tapping painstakingly on a smartphone screen, that's not very feasible right now. Maybe later this week I can put up a belated Mother's Day post. So last week our computer was supposed to be fixed between Wednesday and Friday. That was still over two weeks since the original malfunction. On Friday, with still no computer in hand, we found out that the shop had mistakenly ordered parts for the wrong computer, and would need another three to five days to get the correct parts and do the repair. This puts us at three weeks or more without a computer at home. All I can say is, if you are waiting on me for an email, a blog post, a book review, a photo, an essay, a book PR pitch, some coaching info, a website update--pretty much anything, this is why. I do not have a computer. I can't do all that stuff from my phone. Smartphones are wonderful and have numerous capabilities; but as a busy stay-at-home mom, there is no way I have time to use my phone for things like that. It takes ten times longer to do anything on a tiny screen and keyboard--OMG, the painstaking pecking and correcting of typos, it's seriously crazy-making. I'm going crazy right now, even as I write this. So, dear moms, I'm still living prehistorically up here, thinking of all of you and all the emails and posts and replies and comments and info I owe you, and wishing you a wonderful Mother's Day. You might consider contacting me via carrier pigeon if you need me. Or smoke signals. Love and miss you!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Incommunicado

I'm wondering how long a writer, blogger, and small-business operator can go without a functioning computer before she officially wins some sort of Patience Award. Or at the very least, a commendation for not yet ending up in the loony bin. Would two weeks cover it? How about almost THREE? So much to say, such a microscopic little phone screen on which to attempt to say it...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

What the...?

My computer malfunctioned again. This is not as surprising as you might think since it never actually got fixed the last time. The Apple Store guys never witnessed the problem, so in the end they sent it back home with us. It was just like when your car is making a funny noise only it won't do it for the mechanic. Anyway, this is my way of telling you that I am once again computer-less. Maybe I should start calling it "computer-free". You know, like it's my choice and all. I prefer to be without a computer. Because its so fun typing on my phone, gah! The good news is that this time the guys at the computer shop have indeed seen the problem with their own two eyes, and seem to know what to do about it. Hopefully by the end of the week I'll one again be a fully-functioning mommy-blogger. Thanks for your patience, you all!

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Another Reading, and a Great List

Hi there. Just an ordinary day.

This morning Genevieve and I are off to a moms' group in a Twin Cities suburb, where I've been invited to read from my book. Because she's not in school until the afternoon, Genevieve has to come along, but she's done this before. I pack her a little tote bag of coloring books, plain paper, markers and pencils, a snack, and the like, and she sits nearby and keeps herself busy while I read. (I would have arranged childcare with a friend for her this morning, but I'm not sure if I can get back to town in time to assure that lunch and school drop-off won't get messed up for others; I'm bringing a lunch along for her to eat in the car just in case, and if I have to bring her to school late, I'll do that.) Even though she's good at entertaining herself, this isn't her favorite thing to do. I bribed her with a treat from a coffee drive-thru as soon as we're done.

The truth is, I'll really miss my little adventure buddy next year when she's in school all day.

Over the past couple of weeks when, due to computer troubles, I wasn't blogging very much, I did indeed still surf the web on my iPhone when bored or otherwise unoccupied. I saved up my best discoveries to share with you this week, and since I'm a little too busy today to compose a real post, I'll leave you with some of them today.

An amazing, heart-touching essay by Glennon at Momastery (who, if you're not reading already, you really should). Note: definitely follow the link in the post to read the essay she asks you to read before you finish the current post. There's a reason, and it will blow your mind.

Cookie dough recipes designed to be eaten as...cookie dough?! What the what?!

The most amazing nail polish color I have ever seen, from essie, of course. Style blogger Susan Wagner wore it to speak at last weekend's Mom 2.0 conference, and when I saw the photo of her with that manicure, I swooned. Truly. Those nails! Love.

A fantastic mommy-blog full of activity ideas for kids and families. This mom is unbelievable! She really has a talent for showcasing the most joyful and fulfilling aspects of motherhood, and stay-at-home motherhood in particular.

Oh, and how could I forget this amazing Philippines mama and her brilliant blog for work-at-home (and other) moms? Martine is currently reading my book and will post a review soon, and has connected with me via Facebook, so I'm enjoying getting to know her through her site. Check it out!

Lastly, friends, stay tuned--because I've been working on a fun guest post for the fabulous style site Already Pretty, whose author Sally McGraw is from nearby Minneapolis and has quite the following. I'll let you know when that goes up. Squee!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Rainy Days

It was a rainy weekend. Time to break out the kids' activity ideas! Remember my book? There's a whole chapter of these. Admit it: sometimes you'd kill for a list of easy ideas for keeping your kids busy.




One day I'll learn to take good photos with my phone. Or I won't. 
I don't really care that much one way or the other.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

SAHM Life

Much more coming soon, but in the meantime I can't resist posting a link to one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time, particularly funny because my husband sent it to me with the line, "This seems like a pretty good description of stay-at-home mom life."

Click here and chuckle.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

I'm Back!

Hallelujah! I'm back. Or rather, my computer is back. I won't even tell you the ridiculous ending of the broken computer saga. It's too ridiculous to even spend further time on. Just know that for a week and a half, I had no computer, but now I do. So, I'm catching up on a few things.

I wanted to post these photos five days ago, of course, so they are late; but for my readers to whom the May 1st (May Day) tradition of May baskets is a foreign concept, here are a few pictures for you. I know the one with all the May baskets in my countertop wire fruit basket is silly, but I wanted to show you all what May baskets (can) look like, and I was too lazy to construct some sort of pretty still life.


We used a few different May basket containers, including cardboard party hats like this one, turned upside down to form a cone. (Others: small-sized spring-themed Ziploc bags printed with bunnies and flowers, plastic Cat in the Hat tumblers.)




The aforementioned silly still-life. Maybe you can't see too well, but this was part of my daughters' May Day haul: Dixie cups, flowered gift bags, plastic cups, and paper cones, filled with things like bubbles, Tootsie Pops, Starbursts, Hershey's kisses, sidewalk chalk, and flower seeds. (The next morning we also discovered a pansy seedling in a miniature flower pot outside our door, with a Happy May Day! note attached.)
 



At school, the 2nd grade made paper May baskets for each other and exchanged them; Julia made me a May Day card and put it inside the basket she received at school, presenting it to me when she got off the school bus. The card says:

"Mama, Have a very happy May Day! You are gourgeus, gracious, loving, and caring. [Only you can change us!--Julia]

Um, yes, I will be keeping that forever. (And no, I don't know for sure what that last sentence means.)

Friday, May 04, 2012

Plans for the Future

I tell you, people, when I get a working computer back I'm going to post all sorts of fun things like photos and guest posts and features on the best at-home summer activities for kids and mama must-haves for May and links to my new favorite bloggers and products and posts. But we're on day 11 with no laptop, you all (no other computer, either--the office loaner went back days ago), and I'm scarcely more adept with my iPhone than I was when this whole debacle began. So you will have to be patient, and for that patience I am truly grateful. And I am off to return to my regular (non-computer-related) activities of baking fresh rhubarb muffins, soaking up as many UV rays as possible, babying my fussy running injury, keeping my five-year-old busy through the morning hours before afternoon kindergarten, and contemplating my future. We can talk about all of that later. I miss you.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Withdrawal

I just wrote a whole post on my smartphone about my continued broken computer and consequent unavailability, and then after I previewed it, it disappeared. That is sort of how things are going around here. Day ten without our computer. I'm considering running away to the country somewhere and giving up all computer and Internet-related technology. Of course it would have to be just me and the kids, since my husband would be on board with that about NEVER. Still, it's kind of peaceful to contemplate.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Happy May Day

Oh, you guys, I still don't have a working computer! Other than this loaner from my husband's office, I mean, which is limited in its usefulness to me because, of course, it doesn't have my bookmarks and my photos and other things on it. So, I'm continuing to largely do other things instead of work (or play) on the computer, which for the most part has actually been very refreshing. But it's still sort of a pain. Especially because I have an exciting collaboration with Sally at Already Pretty coming up, but I need my own computer to work on it. (I'll let you know when it happens.)

Moving along, it's May Day today! Now, if you're one of those people who responded to this post with, "Whaaa....?" you may want to read it again to refresh your memory of what the heck I'm talking about. As a Minnesotan mom, May 1st means that at some point today I'll be taking my daughters to sneakily deliver May baskets to neighbors and friends and run away before they answer their doors. (In reality, since we drive to some of our friends' places to deliver, they always see us because we have to return to the car, climb in, buckle carseat straps....all of which hinders the whole "quick, run as fast as you can before they see us!" element.)

It's pretty fun.

I've got a million and one things churning around in my brain and my life at the moment, and I miss talking to all of you, I do. But I'm not really in a position to sit down and do a lot of writing and communicating right now, so forgive me. In the meantime, remember that Mother's Day is coming soon, and my book sure would make a perfect Mother's Day gift for you or a sister, friend, cousin, or sister-in-law expecting a baby or already a mom of young children, staying at home with her kids full- or part-time or even just considering stay-at-home mom-hood or wondering what it would be like, and especially any mom you know who could use some encouragement and guidance in taking better care of herself and thus living a more fulfilled life as a mom. I will love you forever if you buy a copy.

Happy May.