Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year Our Family Exploded

I love, love, love the New Year season.  I love the reflection on the last year, the resolutions, the goals, the projects, and the plans.  I've reflected a ton of different ways in the past, but looking back on the day-to-day is why I blog (and Instagram).  To see what my family was to from January to July, check out Simple Girl.  To follow us from July to December, check the archives here.  

For my own personal wrap-up to the year, I used these questions from The Art of Simple.  I highly suggest this exercise; it took me a little over an our, but it was completely worth my time.  Even though I live in a constant state of recording the important and mundane facts of my life, there were plenty of things I would have completely forgot about without the prompting.  Even if you don't get to it until a week into the new year, take the time to answer these questions.  Or pick one and answer it in the comments! 

20 questions for a New Year’s Eve reflection

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
Elliott was born, strong and healthy

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Elliott was born, strong and healthy

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
When Milo began communicating, using words and adding to his vocabulary

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
Milo's speech delay

5. Pick three words to describe this past year.
Crowded, routined, home

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.
Home, strong, busy 

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their year—again, without asking.
Tired, busy, double-love

8. What were the best books you read this year?
I really wanted to take more time to track my reading, but I was terrible at it this year.  
I know I read Anna Dressed in Blood and the sequel, Girl of Nightmares at some point.  I mostly read blogs and magazines and unexciting parenting books.  I was rereading Goblet of Fire right up until I pushed in labor with Elliott.  At the end of the year I finished Game of Thrones, which I really loved, and binged on The Fault in our Stars and Divergent on my Kindle.  I did not read enough fiction.

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
Ben and Laurel

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
The obvious is going from a mother of kid to a mother of two.  I've written before that the difference is more complicated than one more mouth to feed, one more sleep schedule to work out.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
I went from loving one to two.  I started working on letting go of some of the "mommy guilt" that creeps in around staying home, going to work, using daycare, letting my kids watch TV, etc.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
I started getting interested in religion in general, as opposed to RELIGION in a right/wrong/obligitory format.  I taught myself a tiny bit about the different meanings of Buddha statues and got into collecting little icons and meaningful trinkets.  By meaningful I mean meaningful to me.  I am beginning to trust myself to believe in big and beautiful things while letting go of the guilt and judgement that I relate to most organized religion.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically?
I began toying with the idea of good foods vs. calorie counting.  I tried very hard to "snap back into shape," with Weight Watchers and Wii exercise games and rules and meal plans.  Only when I stopped trying very hard did I lose a little weight, but I'm definitely taking a different approach with year.

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
Being a stay at home mom for eight months of the year let me see a different side of day-to-day life.  It was extremely hard, and I got to meet other moms who were home during the day, which opened me up to new friendships.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Going back in September was exciting because teaching is so incredibly routined and I love routines.  I'm also on an excellent teaching team and working with them for the past four months has taught me so much about best practices, planning, and relying on each other.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Fitting everything in is harder now that I'm not at home during the day.  When everything is going right, work/daycare/grad school/family time are perfectly proportioned, but when anything is off (someone is sick, a project is due, there is bad weather, I fall behind in any way) then I struggle with guilt and become quickly overwhelmed.  The choice about
whether the boys are sick enough for me to stay home with them is easily the hardest thing about being a working mom.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Social media.  I love participating, posting and discussing things, and that's not the problem.  It's the obsessive CHECKING, mostly on Facebook, which is fine to be checked twice a day.  When I'm home, I can easily spend up to an hour checking and clicking on things before becoming devestated that I've wasted so much time.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
Taking pictures and taking the boys places.  Our house is small and I'm antsy, so whenever we're home (with and without Ben), I'm usually scheming an adventure.  This year alone we went to five different playgrounds, Davis Farmland (season pass, we went a ton), the Acton Discovery Museum, the Boston Children's Museum, the Holyoke Children's Museum,
 two different indoor playspaces, three different beaches, Florida twice, Vermont once, and the library a ton of screamy crazy times.  I also take 5-15 pictures a day, more if we're
adventuring, and try to limit myself to only posting 4 per day on Instagram.  Sometimes I go over.  I adore every over-gram, because it's the coolest way to go back and relive all the things I almost instantly forget because I am fried.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
Being a parent is a hugely flawed process.  Having just one kid didn't kill my holier-than-thou parenting stance.  I knew how to be a good parent, obviously, because I had read all the books and blogs and hasd a perfect schedule/routine/feeding pattern worked out.  Adding another life into the mix threw light on the fact that parenting is informed SURVIVAL, and 
kids do not CARE about your studies or best practices.  Yeah, there's stuff I swear by that worked for us, but the key words are WORKED FOR US.  The ebb and flow of our crazy little family is exhausting and amazing and I know for sure that I want more children before we're complete.  That's what I learned this year.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
This was the year that our family exploded. We have more people and are more exhausted than ever before.  Our adoration is deeper than we thought it could go, we're more committed than ever, and we're more supported than we could have hoped.  None of our feelings can be measured, and even if they could be, we're too worn out to do anything but smile and watch the kids crawl all over each other.  

The Art of Simple has these questions available as a PDF, as well as similar goal setting exercise.  If you answer the questions and feel comfortable sharing, leave a link to your answers, or, like I said, find a question that speaks to you and leave the answer in the comments.  I'd love to see what you come up with.  Happiest of new years.

(Image credit here, quote added by me)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

at the moment I'm // no. 2

...home.  We went to Florida for Christmas.  We DROVE to Florida for Christmas.  Call it temporary insanity, call it compromise for my travel-weary husband, but we did it.  There were entire days of the journey where it went better than expected, and other chunks of time where it felt like a literal spilled-sippy-cup-poopy-diaper hell.  I'm putting together a post of details and things that made driving 1200 miles in two days with a one-year-old and a two-year-old possible.  And things not to do.  Spoiler alert: don't feed them nothing but pouches of apple sauce for snacks.  Just don't.

...up.  We got home last night at 11:30.  The kids needed fresh clothes and milk.  I needed a shower (consequences of the applesauce-only diet in the car).  We didn't get to sleep until close to 1am.  And yet I set my alarm for 5:20.  This is my commitment to my early-morning me time, and after a week of vacation,  I was desperate for it.  Elliott woke up and I put him in his seat with some toys and PBS cartoons.  Nothing was keeping me from coffee and reading/writing time today.

...antsy.  I want to take down the ornaments from our dead and wilted tree.  I want to put everything Christmasy out of sight.  I want to sort through the mountain of toys and set up the system (plastic box with a lid for each category: cars, food/dishes, balls, etc) I've been dreaming of.   I want to wipe down our mostly-empty fridge and stock it with healthy food.  I want to tackle our smelly, trash-filled car and scrub the poor car seats that took so much abuse.  I want to get a pedicure and go to the gym and see all my friends for breakfast every morning.  I need to pump the brakes so I don't overwhelm for disappoint myself.

...ready.  Ben and I spent some time in the car talking about our plans for 2014.  I'm going to write a  post about the word we choose a guide for our family.  This morning I will pick new wallpaper for phone home and lock screens, and my laptop background.  I need to hang our new, yet-to-be-purchased family calendar. This week we'll pick out a movie theme for New Year's Eve and we're going to decide on one year-round-up tradition that we can do while we wait for midnight (I'm torn between making a family year book for 2013 or a mason jar family time capsule that we can display).  Bloggers go crazy for goals, resolutions, and fresh starts, so there are tons of great articles to read about getting ready for the new year.  I live for this shit.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

at the moment, I'm // no. 1

At the moment, I'm...

...glad I've instituted an extra-early wake up time.  I wake up between 5 and 5:15, either by alarm or a small wave of children shifting into my bed.  I make a pot of coffee and have breakfast.  This morning I've read some blogs, bought Ben a Christmas present, and dreamed on Pinterest a little.  I feel human. 

...thinking about Jesus, religion, children, and parenting.  A lot.  I thought I had made my mind up about the role religion would play in my family (minimal and kid-directed) but as Milo gets older I find myself surprised that I want him to know about baby Jesus, and how praying can make you feel safer when you're scared.  There's so much to think about, though, because religion can be confusing and stifling if you get into big questions of RIGHT and WRONG and which gods listen and which gods are false and you override your natural judgement of morals with a fire and brimstone view.  I'm starting slow by playing with a fisher price nativity scene and taking the family to church on Christmas eve.  There's more to be said here.

...pleased with our Christmas DVD collection, which we've been building slowly for 5 or so years.  In December we watch a Christmas movie every night, and Saturday nights are double features with a big pillow fort, a kid movie, and then an adult one.  Last night I stayed awake for an entire viewing of Scrooged, which Ben introduced me to and has become a favorite.  It felt like a date night.

...settling into the feeling on an "imperfect" Christmas.  The top half of the lights on our Christmas tree went out.  The wire is connected to all the other working lights and woven under tons of ornaments that I'm simply not taking down.  Three ornaments have already been broken.  The kids are terrified of my singing Herbie the Elf- he had to be put away.  I don't think we can afford to print Christmas cards this year, and Ben and I had to majorly scale back our gift exchanges to be able to pay for everything else.  I thought these things would bother me more, but I either don't have time or I'm actually growing out of some of my selfishness.  My favorite things this year have been dancing with the boys to Pandora Christmas songs, teaching Milo to say "Santa" and "Christmas Tree," and our plans for a drive to look at lights in our PJs.

...studiously ignoring the fact that my tiny squish butt baby Elliott is going to be one in only a month.  When Milo was a month out from one, I had his entire huge party planned and was designing invitations.  I know Elliott's party is going to be more low key- poor second baby.

...craving a tattoo on my wrist so badly.  I found my grandfather's business card that has the logo for tree farm he owned with my dad.  My favorite part is the awesome font for "quality trees" across the bottom.  I definitely want this for my next tattoo, and I'm the last daughter who does NOT have a memorial tree tattoo. There's no money for it right now, but I'll save up.

...dreaming about another blog overhaul.  Sorry, it's true. Sometimes I want to write about being a mom in Massachusetts, but other times I so don't.  I've been thinking of keeping this address, design, etc., and making some tweaks to the name and about page.  No matter what happens, I'm keeping my little corner to talk and talk and talk and talk my brains out.

(this post inspired by Kerri at Your Wishcake, who writes so beautifully about life in such a gentle way)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Self Care for the Most Hassled Time of the Year

(credit for my favorite picture ever, found via pinterest)

I remember the moment I realized self-care was needed in hectic seasons.  It was my first year teaching kindergarten, and I was throwing a pumpkin carving party for my students and their parents.  It involved a skit, roasted pumpkin seeds, cutting and cleaning pumpkins, pouring cider, and ushering in/out an astonishing number of family members who showed up.  The day of, I was too busy getting party supplies to prep for the school day.  Instead of my bottled water and packed lunch, I picked up a huge iced coffee full of pumpkin syrup and ordered food from a nearby Chinese restaurant as a treat.  Running to get my order meant that I missed my time to eat AS WELL AS my time to organize myself before the parents came.  I ended up being more rushed than I wanted, gulping coffee on an empty stomach.  The party was fine, but I recall a moment after everyone had gone home, standing over a trash can and eating a terriakyi skewer that I didn't even want anymore, thinking, "This is the one day I  needed healthy snacks and extra water.  I feel gross."

Usually, when situations are really stressful or busy, I justify a trillion cups of coffee or an avalanche of fun sized candies by telling myself that I deserve it, when honestly the only way to make myself feel better is to reach for water and almonds more often than not.  I've gotten more deliberate about my choices during holidays and other busy times, but I can always use reminders; here are some steps we're taking right now to stay sane.

1. Routine rules

When friends visit, when special movies are on TV, when I'm exhausted and want to walk around Target for an extended period of time...these are all examples of when our school night routine gets thrown out the window.  During our Thanksgiving break, we had my sister with us, which meant an enormous help with dishes, babysitting, extra tickle fights and silliness.  It also meant late bedtimes and tons of sweets and having company over meant pie for breakfast....over and over again.  Monday was our first day back into the rhythms of our normal home life, and it was boring.  Boring felt good.  We do a little play time, a little cleaning, a few shows, then dinner, baths, books, and bed.  It's a lot of work to keep that flow going, and typically either Ben or I is doing it by ourselves, but it pays off when everyone is in bed by 7:30, dinner in their bellies, teeth brushed and their heads full of bedtime stories.   If I follow all the steps, I also end up with lunches packed, clothes picked out, and a wiped down kitchen. That is money in the bank.  I've heard that a good morning/evening routine has 3-5 repeatable steps; sketch one out for yourself or your family and rely on that autopilot when things inevitably get insane.

2. Water, water, water, water

I've been drinking more water.  I'm aware that this isn't breaking news, but, once again, it makes me feel good.  I've been reading about creating simple morning and evening routines for ourselves as adults, and one of the suggested things to add to your routine was "drink a glass of water."  Simple is beautiful; I jumped on that one right away.  I have a glass before breakfast and a glass before bed, as well as at least one 24 ounce bottle during the day.  I started making a cup of herbal tea when my students go to their specials at 1pm.  I'm trying to resist the urge to pick up a coffee EVERY time I'm out doing errands- I rarely finish them if I'm out with the boys, and I'd like them to feel special again. I get the boys into it by being obsessive about having water cups and teaching them how to "cheers" each other.  Even in the midst of the grossest tantrum, I can get a sip out of Milo if we clink water bottles dramatically first. Basically- we're made of water, and winter is a dry season, so drink up, my friends.

3. Do You

This is a bit of a revelation for me, but I'm not going to feel very good unless I'm making the effort to do things I enjoy.  For instance, I really love to read- blogs, novels, magazines, on the Kindle, in the bathtub, on the elliptical machine, in bed- but I can get away from it and go months without picking up a book.  If I fall asleep on the couch every night, I miss my chance to get in a chapter before I sleep.  If I get a spare 15 minutes and waste it rereading Facebook statuses, I've lost the opportunity to check in with some of my favorite pretend friends who live in my blog reader.  I've had to work to get reading back into my every day life.  Yes, I'm busy, working full time and taking care of very young children and going to grad school, but the truth is, I have time for lots of movies on the couch and Vine binges, so reading can fit back into my life, too.  Right now I'm reading Clash of Kings (from the Game of Thrones series) when I go to the gym, Insurgent (from the Divergent series) before bed or in the bathtub, and I'm waking up at 5 am to read blogs and write for myself.  This takes work, and a commitment to occasionally go to the gym, but, keeping with my theme, IT IS WORTH IT.  Pick one thing that is defining of you, and let it feed you when things are really busy.  Whether it's running, taking cool photographs, cooking special meals, or holding themed movie marathons, there's no need to reinvent the wheel if something already exists that makes you feel even more like yourself.

The ironic thing about self-care is that none of it is really a mystery.  We know that water and healthy food and a good bedtime are important, but sometimes most times it's easier to stay on the couch for one more rerun of the Simpsons than to do the right thing.  These tips are also chronically boring; picking water over a holiday sugar-bomb coffee is never very thrilling, and sometimes almost feels un-American (I mean, it IS Christmas, right?).  Still, this is the prime time of year to go completely overboard while everyone around you cheers you for it, so being deliberate about at least one of these tips might save you from having to start COMPLETELY over in January.  I'm far from perfect- I still over sleep or get too lazy to wash the kids bottles before they dry all crusty or fall down a rabbit hole into high-school friends' Instagram feeds. But I'm trying.  Here's to a slightly calmer, slightly more hydrated December.  Cheers!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November Holidays You Might Not Know About

I am super, super excited for Thanksgiving.  I love that the week of is straight-out holiday fun (2 days of 1/2 day, parent teacher conferences, then 3 days off) and I love the little traditions I have on Thursday- getting the paper and looking at Black Friday ads while we watch the parade, crying when Santa gets to the end, bustling around not really knowing what I'm doing in the kitchen.  There's a lot of controversy about such a "greedy" time of the year, and I while I do love to eat more than necessary and Black Friday (ONLY THE MORNING AFTER) is fun for me, there is a lot you can do celebrate this week that's so wholesome, you'll forget you elbowed someone in the face for an iPod.

Friday is a big shopping day, but it's also The National Day of Listening, put on by Story Corps, one of my favorite organizations humans have ever created.  Story Corps records stories.  Sounds simple.  It's amazing.  National Day of Listening is the day after Thanksgiving to let you capitalize on family time and asks you to sit down and record a conversation with a relative.  They have questions to get you started, tips on recording, and you can listen to other stories.  I remember sitting with my Grandpa Kauffman while he told me about the summer after high school, traveling across country with 3 of his best friends, getting to California and spending the summer sharing a small room in a boarding house, working shifts in a factory, and exploring the opposite coast.  WHY DIDN'T I RECORD THAT?  Because it feels weird and unnatural.  But I would trade those few awkward seconds to be able to listen to him telling me that story today.  Head over to the website and check it out.  Don't wear any eye makeup while listening.

On Saturday, small businesses shine.  Small Business Saturday is nationwide initiative to support small businesses during the holiday season.  In the past I've spent the day trying to visit local businesses and buying from small online shops.  Lots of stores are having events, and Etsy (my favorite online shopping experience, run by individual craftspeople) is usually hopping with sales Friday through Monday.  Some of my favorite local places include Magpie in Davis Square, the Gardner Ale House, and The Great Escape Play Cafe.  I'd love to hear some of your favorite places, let me know where you shop local!

This is not a particular holiday, but I'm starting a new tradition with Milo and Elliott this year.  I recently came across this really beautiful picture book about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the balloon artist that helped start the floats.  Balloons Over Broadway is so pretty and quirky, I'm not positive why but the parade is really the most important of Thanksgiving for me.  It's something I feel really good about adding to our Thanksgiving week.

Are you going to participate in the National Day of Listening?  Hit up any small businesses on Saturday?  Adding anything new to your holiday routine?  I hope you have a beautiful week counting all the things you're thankful for!

(image credit)

Monday, November 11, 2013

28 While I'm 28

I updated my birthday list for the year I'm 28!  See what we're getting into here.

(image credit)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Living in a world where there are Octobers

Two Octobers ago Milo was just-born.  Last October I was quite pregnant and quite grumpy.  This year, even though the boys are small and Ben had a movie shoot and life has been jam-packed, and I really feel like we've been living it up, autumn style.  Here is some of what we've been up to.

I turned 28, which I love because I'm really feeling like my 30s will be when I hit my stride.  We had a campfire at the house and some friends came over to help us celebrate.  It was the boys first campfire and it made me want to have them all the time.  Elliott loved to stare into the flames and cried whenever the fire died down.  Milo ran around like a completely insane person; without Laurel corralling him, he probably would have ran right into the fire.

Milo turned two and we had his birthday party at Sholan Farms, a local orchard.  It was one of the most overcast weekends in the month, but we bundled up and the party was really fun.  I suggest outdoor parties for toddlers- they can run and make noise and when everyone starts melting down families can easily slip away.  Both sets of grandparents were there and everyone got a cupcake, a cup of cider, and a bag of apples to take home.  My baby is two.

The next day was the last day of the Topsfield Fair.  We never miss a year, so even though we were wiped from a full weekend, we loaded up and took in the sights.   The weather was perfect and I loved watching the boys completely zone out and take in the insanity of the crowds.  Milo liked the animals and got scared of the haunted house.  Elliott and I hung out and shared an apple.

The following weekend, the boys and I went to North Adams to visit my two best friends from high school.  Adrienne and her boyfriend live in North Adams and Jen lives in Rochester, so we met up for a day of fall fun.  I had never been down the Mohawk Trail before, and I loved the view so much.  The trees and hills were insane, but the old-school kitschy attractions were even better.  We spent time catching up and then drove out an apple farm just 20 minutes away (but actually in Vermont!) to share a picnic and get donuts and pick out pumpkins for carving.  We ended the night with dinner and a birthday cake to celebrate our fall birthdays.  I love Jen and Adrienne so much; I need to see them again soon (maybe with a little more wine and a little less kids, both on my part).

Besides all our weekend adventures, Elliott is crawling and eating real food, Milo has learned the concept of "scared" and talks about ghosts a lot, and Ben and I had a nice date last weekend.  We've been watching horror movies, Top Chef, South Park, and New Girl.  We're very busy getting our Halloween costumes ready, but until then, I will continue to drink cider, pick apples, and live the shit out of my favorite part of the year.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Milo is TWO!

My sunshine butt-boy is two.  I'm so happy and proud of the thousand things he's learned this year.  I love him as a little buddy, I love him as a big brother.  He and Elliott are my greatest accomplishments to date.

I need to say thank you to the huge network of love that keeps our family floating, wrapped together.  Milo's family is huge, with people spread over the East Coast.  Traditional family like his auntie and godmother, my sister Laurel, who we consider the fifth person in our nuclear family.  Like his Mimi and Grandpa, who send holiday care packages and have weekly FaceTime.  Like Nona and Grampy, who come in with treats and special cars and send Mama off for blessed alone time (always right when it's needed).  Cousins and aunties and uncles who send cards and special stuffies and love.

But then there's the family that I've found in Leominster.  I'm so lucky to have people who love my children like I do, who know a pediatrician or a shoe store or a preschool that would be a good fit.  People who welcome me into their homes for a play date, who come an babysit long enough for me to grocery shop alone, who are available whether I need help when I go into labor or whether I just need a break.  People who pass on entire wardrobes of clothing.  People who stop by with pizza and a case of beer because they know I may never get out for a drink again.  People who leave little toys for Milo in my mail box at school.  People who have taught me what real community is, and made me realize how special it is that I've found it.

And then there is the internet community- all you glorious people who let me ramble on about our little family and all my hopes and fears and true confessions and just listen, let me know you read it, indulging me so kindly.  The people who endure the flood of pictures that I can never stop posting.  The people who chime in when I need suggestions for medicine or transitioning to the big boy bed or anything that crosses my mind.  Thank you for making me feel like there is always someone friendly just a click away.

Lastly, thank you Milo.    You made me a mama, and it's my favorite thing that I've ever been.  Happy birthday, baby.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Good, good things

(via pinterest, original link)
1. Having friends over after school for pizza and beer.  Messy and crazy afternoons don't have to be secretive and lived in your house by yourself. (This was spontaneous and I'm going to plan more deliberately soon)

2. Pumpkin coffee, pumpkin muffins, apple cider donuts, hard cider, pumpkin beer, jack o lanterns, apple picking, hay rides.  

3. Balance. I feel like Ben and I truly split the parenting and housekeeping 50/50.  He's home for dinner and bedtime at least 4 out of 7 nights a week, and gets the kids out the door to school five days a week with no help from me.  I do dinner and afternoon activities pretty often.  We split time off for sick kids and speech therapy appointments.  I think this is rare in modern families.  I feel really lucky to be experiencing it.

4. A freshly washed Brita pitcher with a brand-new filter installed.

5.  Health. Elliott had a health scare this week.  He had what I thought it was a seizure and scared the shit out of me.  I called 911.  We went the ER.  He is fine (he had a breath holding spell, apparently) and everything is back to normal.  I take for granted that my children will always be vibrant and healthy, but it's a blessing.  A good, good thing.

6. Neighbors who pour into the street to support us at any sign of trouble.

7. Friends who text, call, help with sub plans, leave coffees on my desk, check in, send love, and never tire of hearing me complain.

8. Magazines

9. Going a little crazy in Barnes and Noble and turning up with books for all my kids (Milo, Elliott, and Room 27).

10. Walgreens prints Instagram pictures directly from your phone and they come out square (4X4) so nothing gets cut off.

11. The new iPhone update, which feels like a completely new phone you get for free.

12. Getting older.  I'm loving my late 20s, but I kind of feel like my 30s are when I'll start shining brighter.  Almost there!

13. New Girl is back.

14. Baths in the dark, lit only by candles and the glowy luster of Pinterest on the Kindle.

15. The triumph of having both boys' fingernails cut.

16. FaceTime with family.

17. Birthday season.

18. Babies who wake up singing.

19. Lazy Saturday mornings

20.  A sister who endures about 4 hours of travel in a single day to sit in my living room, hold my babies, eat pie, and convince me that life is good and we'll all be okay.

21. Friends who read my silly ramblings, never mock the indulgence of writing about your life on the internet, and take time out of their day to acknowledge what I'm doing here.  It makes me glow to hear that people follow along; I'm so proud to have you as an audience.  Thank you.

Please, please, please tell me your "good, good things" in the comments.  Being a person is hard, but we're doing a really good job.  Lets celebrate.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tuesday Morning Real Talk

I'm stealing 15 minutes for real talk.  This shit is hard.  Super duper awfully hard.  Harder than last year.  Harder than being home.  And being home is HARD.  But...I'm having a harder time than ever.  And sometimes I feel like that's a new normal, which defeats me.

I'm stressed because teaching is so much more work than I remembered.  There is always something else to plan, ALWAYS something new to implement, and routines to master, and so many meetings.  I also forgot how great it is to bond with a class and start to love them, so that helps.  But honestly, loving them means I put more emotionally into the room.  And after exercising patience and coming up with logical consequences and being kid-friendly all day, coming home and doing the same thing for Milo drains me.  I went from loving 2 kids to 22.  That's one curve.

Then I started grad classes, and they're GRAD classes, so there is a lot of work and discussion posting.  It's a class about families and their influence on children's lives and how to involve them in the classroom community, which I find so interesting.  My first project is a brief genealogy and lifestyle analysis of the last 3 generations of my family!  I would do that for fun!  But I have NO TIME to devote to this, at all.  If it wasn't required for my license, I would definitely take the  classes a little later, when my kids needed me less.  I keep picturing myself walking in the spring, taking pictures with the boys in my robes, trying to visualize my way out of this one..  But nope.  It's at the bottom of my priority list, but undroppable.

There has been a mix up with daycare, and this is the biggest thing throwing me off.  There were some situations with paperwork and a terrible illness in the family of the lady who watches the boys, and until everything is sorted out, the boys are not going to daycare.  Instead, a neighbor related to the daycare family has been coming to watch the boys at our house.  It sucks.  Ben used to have a small window of free time in the mornings and on Mondays while the boys at school; he did chores and ran errands and got groceries.  That window is gone.  The boys aren't playing with friends, they're here all day in their same boring house, and avoiding that is one of the main things that made me feel good about being a working mom. Ben and I can't take any more time off work than we already have to make going to classes and stuff work, so we're stuck with this solution right now.  It's supposed to be temporary, but it's already been two weeks, and it's wearing on us.

The boys aren't sleeping.  Elliott is teething, or something?  Milo knows how to get out of his crib and does it CONSTANTLY.  We moved Elliott back into our room.  Again.  When Elliott freaks out, Milo stays up because he's scared about his brother crying.  Most of the time, both of them end up in our bed.  We are exhausted.

Honestly, writing our situation out helps me realize that we're doing okay.  I'm focusing on the concept of balance, long and short term.  This part of our lives will be busy and crazy.  There will be other times when we'll miss the chaos.  This month might be awful, but maybe November or March will be more settled.  I know others have it worse.  We're all fighting something.  But right now, I'm wiped.  I'm worried about how wiped Ben is.  I'm looking forward to some sort of break for our family.

Pictures are from this weekend.  We're tired but quite adorable.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Two-Under-Two Review: Sholan Farms

Last weekend we checked out Sholan Farms for the first time.  It's city-owned, volunteer-operated, and completely adorable.  I've lived in this area since 2003 but never seen this little farmland in the middle of our city.  We loved it so much that we're going back for Milo's birthday party in October.

Laurel came with us.  We picked apples, went on a hayride, bought treats at the farmstand, and played in a pretty epic sand pile in the parking area.  There were portapottys, a shaded picnic table area, and tons of helpful volunteers full of information.  

They hayride was the best part of the afternoon.  It's actually a "wagon ride," since there is no hay, and it's ACTUALLY a guided tour, giving information about farming practices, history of the space, and uses for the grounds.  They have a community garden section where you can rent a plot for only $25 and garden all season.  The other thing that got me choked up was a row of young tress along the back of the property: memorial trees.  I can't even.

The boys had an awesome time.  I even ended up feeding Elliott a bottle in the middle of the orchard and it was so peaceful that we bothered no one.  Milo went INSANE for the apples.  He's always liked them, ever since my Grandma gave him his first taste during our last visit with her.  This time, he ran like a madman, crouching under trees, sorting through all the fruit on the ground and saying "appa, appa, appa!"  He ate half of about seven apples and threw a ton of rocks.  

Weirdly, the Gala apple row we were trying to pick from seemed like it changed to different variety halfway down the row, but there were about eight trees with the most delicious apples; they were an absolutely perfect pink.  Normally I struggle to use up all the apples I pick, but our bag is already gone one week later.

It was such a good day and really right in our backyard.  I love living here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Back to School Outfits (and feelings)

One week of school is down and I am feeling SO many feelings.  When am I not?  It's been five days of daycare, three days in front of students, one extended long weekend, and I can barely remember my stay-at-home days.  I spent some TIME on Saturday, going through my pictures from this summer and updating a completely shameless album called season of the stay-at-home mama.  It's basically 250 pictures of my kids, and nothing else.  Posting the pictures helped me put it all to bed, and I feel really energized about this awesome new year.

I've stepped up this year, really wanting to present myself professionally at work.  I've been putting thought into my work clothes and getting myself very prepared the night before so I can give myself time to look the way I want to the next morning.  Only once did I fall asleep on the couch before packing lunches, checking the spare clothes in the backpack, and presetting the coffee maker.  The next morning sucked, so I won't do that again.

This is what I wore the first day back to work.  The shirt is from Old Navy, the skirt is from Mod Cloth, and I probably never would have tried the belt form Ann Taylor Loft if my sisters hadn't convinced me it would look good.  I felt really cute and put together all day.  Pennants are the theme for my classroom, so my necklace was a finishing touch.  This was the first time many of my coworkers had seen me since January, so I wanted to present well.

This image quality is really, really, REALLY terrible, but there was no one around to help me capture this cute outfit.  The skirt is dark denim from Old Navy, the shirt is from Ann Taylor Loft, and the cardigan and shoes are from Target.  I love this skirt and will wear it all the time, and I thought the whole outfit together looked professional but casual.  I wore it to our district's "opening day," and a grant I had helped write and submit was awarded to us at the huge meeting, so I was glad I liked what I was wearing in front of every teacher and administrator alive.

This is what I wore for my first day with my students.  It's another grainy, before-sunrise kitchen picture, but I love it.  Eshy is the perfect picture-taking accessory.  The skirt is WILDLY comfortable and from Old Navy, the t-shirt is from Target, and the belt is the same from before.  I need more belts- this tucked and belted look really works for my figure.  I've worn this skirt two other times, to a party and to Ikea.  It's magic.

After this, life got even crazier and I forgot to keep taking pictures, but I did two dresses with cardigans for the other two days of the week.  And then, after school on Friday, I changed back into yoga pants and took the boys for ice cream to celebrate our new routines.

There's more to be said about balance and routines and how Elliott is adjusting to being out of the house, but for now I'm just celebrating that we made it through a week.  It will get harder and harder, when the novelty wears off and lesson planning gets more demanding and grad classes kick in.  Until then, I'm just enjoying my return to the world of working mamas.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Life, take 3 (or 4, or 7)

By the time you're reading this, I'll be on my way to my first day of the 2013-2014 school year.  I haven't been in a classroom since January, and I haven't been starting the year un-pregnant since 2010.  Back then, I worried about my outfits, my case or work load, and how often Ben and I would get to have dinner together.  I was usually agonizing about whether or not to take a class for fun at the community college (how to sew or cooking 101) and putting off grad classes for my degree.  I can honestly say I worked myself up to feel every bit as busy as I do now, which makes me question my ability to define "busy."

Things aren't hugely different.  My sisters helped me pick out a week's worth of outfits last night, and I've been pouring over my class list.  I'm meal planning for the first week of school and saving the good ones for nights that Ben is home.  I'm registered for my fall classes and I feel all bustly and busy.  I just have the addition of two small fries who need to have their shit organized, too.  I've bought and delivered daycare supplies, typed out the van schedules for Milo's transportation to and from his speech groups, and had a power meeting about our new daycare-included budget with Ben while we fed ourselves and two sticky, yelling children breakfast.  It should have been really overwhelming, but I felt kind of awesome that we were making a plan and laying it out for the family to hear.  I'm better at this than I was without kids; this post that I wrote for a good college friend (Patrick's Quarterlife Crisis Series is definitely worth checking out) was my first realization that motherhood improves me.

This isn't easy for us, but we can't ignore our help.  We've gotten financial, emotional, and physical babysitting support from our "village" of parents, sisters and brothers, best friends, and bosses.  Ben was able to shift his schedule so I could go to my classes.  I was able to attend meetings for school and even date my husband because generous people took turns babysitting.  When it seemed like there wasn't another penny to stretch, many more pennies turned up. It's not unique to have a small family with two working parents, but it's still foreign ground to us. I can't let the help we've had go unmentioned.    Beyond lucky, beyond blessed.

I'm always giddy at the beginning of the school year, and this time, even more so.  Every new year over the past 3 or 4 has brought completely new challenges, and I love the fresh start to do with as I please.  Working mama of two, wife, sister, daughter, teacher, gym-goer, book-reader, fledgling cook, social media junkie, storyteller, family historian, writer.  Here we go!

Here are my thoughts on the eve of a new school year last year.