Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties, Suddenly, Five

Dear Anna,

Today you are five years old.  Five!  Can you handle it?  Can you? (Trick question.  I know you can. You've been counting sleeps until your birthday for weeks now.)

Such a momentous occasion deserves one step further back down memory lane.








I'm not going to do that thing I always do, which is lament the passage of time. Five years have gone by quickly, that is true.  But now that we have come upon five, it seems clear to me that all those parents before me knew what they were talking about when, as I struggled through the baby years, they said the best was yet to come. You're a little lady now, your own person.  And what a beautiful person you are.

A little about you:  You are So. Much. Fun. Everything you do, whether it's walking to the park or reading your books at night, or going to school, or spending time with your friends, or even a trip to the supermarket, it is done with what I can only describe as Anna Joy.  You love everything.  You love everyone.  You trust everyone.  You see beauty and happiness in everyone and everything.  

It is a sight, Bubbie, because I have bad news for you.  You know those movies you don't want to watch, because you're scared there might be a bad guy that might give you bad dreams?  Well, those movies aren't nearly as bad as the real world can be.  Someday, I'll tell you the week you turned five was a week of global tragedy.  Of cruelty, disaster, and then more cruelty on top of that.  Being a woman in her thirties right now, a mom of two beautiful children, I'm torn between the world in which we live and the world in which YOU live.  I used to get frustrated when, as a teacher, I would see parents shielding their children from the world.  But now, I get it.  I completely get it.  I want you to live in five-year-old bliss for as long as possible. 

Slowly but surely, I'm starting to understand that I'll never master this parenting thing.  I will never be a perfect mom, a perfect wife, a perfect woman for that matter.  But I can promise you one thing: whatever ups and downs the world has in store for us, YOU-- exactly the YOU you are-- have been a blessing beyond anything I could have imagined for my life.  I'm so proud of the wonderful little person you are.

So happy, happy birthday to my fun-loving, silly-song-singing, fart-joke-loving Bubbie Bubba Roo. Your happiness is infectious.  Your heart is generous.  You are everything hopeful in this messed up world, and because of you, I have hope for the future.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties at the Apple Orchard

Ain't no place like Minnesota in the fall, and this fall has been beautiful. So I'm going to post some pictures from our visit to the Apple Orchard today, while I talk about some other stuff.

A friend's daughter died tragically last Sunday, and our community has been grieving deeply for her and her family.  We feel the loss of this child as if she were our own.

Anytime something like this happens, I notice a few things. The first thing is the need to do something.  Anything.  I am a woman in her thirties who does not obsess over details, but I found myself this week a part of an army of friends and neighbors calling florists, plotting maps to strategically place balloons, and stressing about meal-delivery schedules for the family.  Yes, all of this is a show of love for a family going through the unthinkable.  Of course.  But none of it will bring this little girl back to her parents, and as we ran around town like busy bees, this knowledge stung.

Also, the goodness of people.  I would love to say this is Pleasantville-specific, but honestly, I don't think it is.  People are, for the most part, so damn good.  They are so giving.  For every kind act I witnessed this week, there were countless more kind acts behind it. 

Because when something horrible happens, people often say, 'I can't imagine'.  But they are wrong.  Of course they can imagine.  Especially if you are a parent, a friend, a neighbor... you can imagine what it would be like to lose the things-- the people-- most precious to you.  That imagining is what springs you into action, whether it be balloon-tying, meal-preparing, or good ol' fashioned prayer.  It humbles you to the point of submission.  You fall to your knees, despite yourself.  

This whole week, I was struck by how vulnerable we are, every single day.  Call it whatever you want, but whatever sense of control or security we have over our lives is false.  Laughingly so.  Why do we live as though silly things matter?  Why do we let people's opinions of us determine our happiness?  I am just as guilty as anyone else of this, but maybe after this week, I will be less so. 

There is nothing we can do to make ourselves less vulnerable to loss.  We could shut ourselves in, I guess, but that is a loss of its own.  To live is to be vulnerable.  To love is to recognize our small blessings and large miracles.  If not for ourselves, then for those who hurt alongside us.

Monday, October 5, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties Writes the Damn Blog

I've prided myself on being a woman in her thirties who finishes what she starts.  Says what she means. Means what she says. Doesn't make excuses.


I have no less than FOUR blog posts recently that have lingered, unfinished, somewhere in cyberspace.  Why? Well, I can't be sure. It's not that the posts themselves are bad, or that there's anything specific keeping me from writing.  I just haven't felt the blogging ju-ju lately, which is sad, because my kids are SO cute and hilarious, and I have lots of great things to say about them, at the very least:

Aaron, on ice skates for the first time.  I mean, hilarious!

Ain't no shame in stealing someone else's creative writing idea (umm... on second thought, maybe there is...), so I'm going to do that whole five on fifth thing, to get myself caught up on the happenings of my own life.  Here goes:

1.  School is cool

We are back in school, and let me tell you how happy I am about it.  A long summer break makes zero sense to me, and why we don't all embrace year-round school is a mystery.  That is a rant-worthy post in the making, but let's just say the world is spinning with a whole lot more sanity now that we're back in learning mode.

2.  Walking in the rain is also cool

Anna's pick up time is 2:45, which gives Aaron and me two options: we can either get in the car and drive the two minutes to her school, or we can walk and enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasts.  Guess which one we pick, almost always?

 There's a little free library on our way, and we pride ourselves on grabbing all the good books the second they appear.

 While my hair does not appreciate walking in the rain, the kids find it totally thrilling. So, sorry hair! 

Aaron always brings Sharkey, and always brings a snack. Most of the time he falls asleep mid-bite and drools the snack all over himself by the time we get to Anna's school.  Good times.

3.  I published another book

This one has been an emotional journey, even more so than the first.  That is another post, and then another after that.  You can buy a copy here! (Only if you want, no presh, obv.)

4.  Pleasantville is so pleasantly Pleasantville 

When we moved here, so many people told us how great a place this is to raise a family.  I've seen that countless times over the seven years (!!!) relocating, and now that the kids are getting older (how it is possible I have a three and four year old, by the way?) I can really see it.  And appreciate it.  Even though you-know-what is coming.

Anna, posing with the firefighters who came to hang out at our neighborhood block party.  One of four or five parties of the summer... I lost count. 

Aaron doing is favorite thing in the world- going to the lake and throwing rocks in. 

5.  After school activities are for the birds

I've been struggling with balancing our new school lives since September. I am a classic over scheduler, but I'm trying to take control of that.  I heard a writer speak last Friday about the importance of living in the moment, about how fleeting all these times are, and when we're shuffling and hurrying about, we miss it.  So, with that mentality, I've been getting better at saying no to things. We all need to (okay, especially I need to) take the time to stop and smell the roses.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Woman in Her Thirties' Summer List (for next year)

Well, Summer, as of this week you are over. It's been a great, busy, fun summer, as evidenced by my lack of postings. Sigh. To quote myself countless times over the last few weeks, 'I'll be much more organized when the kids are back in school'.

I was talking to someone recently about how I'd done some things 'wrong' this summer.  She has older kids, so she encouraged me to write down the things that I did right and the things I did wrong so I can remember for next year.  (When, of course, the kids will be an entire year older and much different than they are now.)  I like this idea, so here goes:

1.  Don't overschedule. And for the love of God, don't underschedule.

I am an overscheduler by nature, and this has unfortunately extended into my parenting.  There were many days this summer-- many days-- where we were running all over creation from wake up to sleep time.  In some ways this was good, especially when it came to camps and classes.  But in other ways, it felt like half of our summer was spent rushing in car.

Here are some of our scheduled activities:

(Anna's summer camp- worth every penny.  Well structured and enough time for mom to get a break.  Next year, Aaron can go with her instead of wistfully waiting on the playground for her to be done.)

(Ballet.  This was the first on my list of activities that were going to have to go once I realized just how badly I'd overscheduled our summer.  The only reason it worked was because J and I figured out a ride share/babysitting situation.  Anna loved it, of course.)

(Theater camp.  I mean, obviously I love theater camp. And I LOVED that Anna loved theater camp.  But the drop off/pick up times caused me untold anxiety this year, so I've got to figure out a better way for next year. Because she WILL go next year.  Obv.)

(Book buddies.  This was a bit of a dud for us this year, but since Aaron only just turned three, was our only option for him.  He did not love it, so of course I didn't love it.  Thankfully next year he'll have more options.  IF he stops pooping his pants.)

(Swim lessons.  Our lessons this summer were Saturdays at... wait for it... 8:00am. Let me tell you how many people gasped in horror when I told them that.  But I don't have children who sleep in, and I certainly don't sleep in, so 8:00am swim lessons worked out great for us.)

(Little Gym.  Forgive the horrible picture, but it's the only one I took.  This was the only place I could take both kids at the same time and actually sit in a waiting room and wait for them.  I brought my iPad and got some work done.  Then we went to Panera for dinner.  This class was awesome, for all of us.)

2.  Downtime

Based on the pictures above, you're probably wondering if we ever had a day where we had nothing on the schedule.  We did!  And those were hard days for me, because this momma loves a good schedule.  But here's how we filled that time.

(Swimming.  Lots of swimming.  Our favorites were Sunday afternoons when Daddy could come too.  Anna jumped off the diving board! And Buddy finally stopped drinking the pool water.)

(The zoo.  God bless the family pass to the zoo.  The Minnesota Zoo is awesome and we went lots.  The last two pics were at shark class, and it was really fun!)

(Is there anything better than walking around Lake Harriet in the summer? Not really.  The second pic is probably my favorite of the summer.)

3.  'Gardening'

(BCK got my very first 'garden' going this year, which is to say she started some tomato plants for us.  This is our first cherry tomato, and we've been enjoying the 'harvest' all summer.  And by 'we' I mean me, because I love tomatoes, and no one else in my family really does.)

4.  Vacation

There was simply not enough vacation time this year, but we did do our annual Dirty Dancing trip up North with our friends.  It was just as fun as last time, despite much cooler weather.  Here are some highlights:

5.  The State Fair

No summer post would be complete without a post about our annual State Fair gorge-fest.  This time, however, we were joined by my esteemed sister-in-law and her equally food-fun husband.  She blogged about our experience in depth, so I won't recount it here.  Let's just say... fried olives.  And then let's just say cheese curds.

(I would insert a picture here, but my computer has given up on me.)

I'm looking at my post so far and realizing something. Yes, it was a busy summer, but how could I possibly complain?  We had no illnesses, L's travel was totally manageable (it won't be, starting this week), and look at all those smiles!  So yes, logistically, I'll probably do things differently next year. But even if I don't, if that's how happy we wind up, I'd say a woman in her thirties is doing pretty great. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A "Working" Woman in Her Thirties*

*Disclaimer:  This post is about my experience teaching for the last two weeks.  This is my first time as a 'working' parent since Anna was born. I do not pretend to understand the true trials of a working mom, however I did get a taste.  A small taste.  An amuse bouche, if you will. However, if you feel yourself getting hot under the collar that I would dare to talk about the ups and downs I -a mostly at home mom- faced in the last two weeks, relax. I know that I don't know.  Hao ma?

There's a place here in Minnesota called The Loft. I've tried to explain it to people out of state, but they usually don't understand what it is because it really doesn't exist anywhere else that I know of.  Basically, it's an organization that funds, sponsors, teaches, and collaborates with local artists, specifically writers.  It's kind of paradise, at least to me.

Last year I applied to teach there in the summer, and my application was accepted.  My class was a Young Writers Workshop, where for two weeks, two hours a day, I worked with kids to create, outline, and draft short stories.  Then they read their work, and we had fancy snacks. I had been looking forward to teaching this class for a long time, and it didn't disappoint.  It was awesome, professionally speaking.

Most of my class- I loved them all.

Personally speaking, it was eye opening.  I've 'worked' plenty in my time home with my kids, but most of that has been in my own 'free' time, at my own discretion.  This was downtown, a place I had to commute to, and I had a whole lot of people counting on me to make the class successful.  And it's summer, and so much going on, and yeah, I had two little kids to figure out in order to make it happen.

Here are the things I took away from my two weeks as a 'working' mom:

1.  Reliable childcare is the most important thing in the whole world

This was a two week class, people.  TWO WEEKS!  And I had it set and planned down to the minute, months in advance.  But then you know what happened?  Life.  Cancellations.  Frantic calls to my mother-in-law to pretty please come over for a couple hours, because I'd been let down. I can't tell you how many times over the last two weeks that I prayed that my kids would stay healthy, because I had no idea how I'd figure out a sub.  God bless our teachers who are parents, as I can only imagine this is a daily occurrence in their homes.

2.  Traffic will turn even Mother Teresa into a fire breathing monster

My commute was into downtown Minneapolis, a drive that can take me 10-15 min.  Some days it took me that long.  And some days it took me 3x that.  Know what I did on those days?  I said some really horrible things to myself, about the people around me.  Namaste my butt-- MOVE IT PEOPLE!!!  MY KIDS ARE WAITING FOR ME!

3.  I'm really good at teaching

It has been a long time since I've been in a formal classroom setting, with Powerpoints and new students and the bit.  I'm really good at that stuff.  And it was so great to feel really good at what I do, because, let's face it, as a mom I often feel sub-par.

I know I shouldn't. But I do.

4.  Paychecks are awesome

I was paid for this job.  It's that amazing?  I went to work, worked, and THEN GOT PAID.  I love my work as a mom, obviously, and there are certain things you can't put a price tag on....
But did I mention I got PAID?  For working?  That feels pretty good.  I'd forgotten.

5.  Mom guilt: It's a thing

I'm sure this was magnified because my kids have never known a life where their mom goes to work every day.  But pretty much every day after the first, when we sat at the breakfast table, Anna asked, 'Mom?  Why do you have to go be a teacher today?'  And then I answered, in my head, 'Bubbie, why do you have to stab me in the heart?'

6.  If something can go wrong, it will

Guess what happened on the second day of my class?  My computer broke.  Of all weeks, of all days, my computer crapped out on me when I actually needed it for work.  Thank you Jesus, for creating the iPad.  And thank you, brother, for helping me figure out how to use it in my classroom.

And thank you, good old fashioned white board.  You've never let me down.

In the last four and a half years at home, there have been plenty of days when I've fantasized about going back to work, for all different kinds of reasons.  Some of those fantasies have been warranted-- there are some AWESOME things about working outside the home.  

And yet, of course, there are wonderful things about staying home, too.  So I guess my biggest lesson over the last two weeks is that there's no easy way to have a family.  Being a parent-- specifically a mom-- means sacrifice and choice and acceptance of life, as it is.  A woman in her thirties does that, and no matter how many hours a day she spends with her kids, makes time to teach them to accept life as it is, too.