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. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Woman in her Thirties has a Weight Problem

Last week I took Aaron for his three year check up.  As I already blubbered about in his birthday letter, Aaron is awesome in every category, if you ask me.

The doctor agreed, except in one.  His weight.

A few things before I begin.  One, Aaron is a peanut.  Always has been.  When he came home from the hospital he wasn't even ON the chart in terms of percentiles, and in the last three years has hovered in the single digits, at least weight-wise.

And two, food has ALWAYS been a struggle in parenting for me.  From breastfeeding agony to pickiness to downright refusal to eat certain foods, neither of my children have been good eaters (though Anna has made significant improvements-- she's eaten salmon the last two nights!).

I consider myself above average in the mothering department, but the food issue is a major sore spot. It feels like a constant battle, even though I know that seeing it that way is only perpetuating the issue.  I seethe with jealousy when I see other kids eating whatever their parents put in front of them. In the last couple of months, L and I have gotten more serious about the 'they'll eat when they're hungry' philosophy, and that worked a bit, if only to tone down my own neurosis about constantly being worried my kids weren't eating enough.

But then, last week, the doctor told me that Aaron hasn't gained a single pound in six months.  And when he's already so little, this is concerning.

I think most moms would take this information and say, 'Oh.  Okay.  More calories.  Thanks, doc!'  But for me, it was a punch in the gut.  I big, fat one (pun intended), that brought tears to my eyes.  My child is too skinny.  Not, 'oh, isn't it cute how skinny he is?' but 'um, getting him more calories needs to be your focus.  We want to re-check him in four months and make sure he's gaining.' Ouch.

Feeding my children should be among the most primal, basic needs I provide for them.  I felt like giant mom-failure.

The doctor could see how upset I was, so she tried to make me feel better.  'Just give him more ice cream!' she said, trying to make light of it.  But that only made it worse for me.

Aaron doesn't like ice cream.

In fact, every high-calorie suggestion she gave me just made me more frustrated.  He doesn't like butter; he doesn't like a lot of cheese.  I'd love to put some more calories in his smoothies, BUT HE DOESN'T LIKE THOSE EITHER. He likes yogurt, cereal, and Z-bars.  He likes apple sauce and Veggie Straws, but only when he's in the mood. He's not a junk food junkie in the least.

He just is far more interested in playing than he is eating.

Did I cry about it?  Maybe.  But a woman in her thirties doesn't let her emotions obstruct her better judgement, so after a good hour or so of feeling sorry for myself I set a course of action.  Here it is:

1.  Get a second opinion
The doctor we saw isn't our regular pediatrician who knows Aaron, his history, and us.  (Let's face it, people, L and I aren't destined to have big babies.)  If SHE is concerned, then I'll get more concerned.

2. Smother things with peanut butter
Thankfully, Aaron loves peanut butter.  So for the past few days he's been getting big, sticky spoons full of it, whenever he wants. Same goes with whole milk, granola, and pretty much anything else he'll take.  Eat, child, eat!

3.  Chill out
I'm working on this.  Sure, he's skinny, but he's hardly emaciated.  He's also got enough energy for ten toddlers.  Something is working.  So chill out, mama, and let him eat in front of the TV once in awhile because reasons.  On the wide spectrum of things to bother myself with, this should probably not be top priority.  Everything is going to be fine.

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Woman in Her Thirties in Five Short Days

All of my trips back to the Bay Area are too short, but this last one was particularly so.  Not only was I only gone for five days, but two of those days were spent on the Peninsula, and not in the East Bay. To say the trip was a whirlwind would be an understatement, but we had a great time.  Here are some day-by-day highlights:


We flew into SFO.  The flight was... barf-baggy.  Any tips for preventing airsickness would be very much appreciated.  But we finally got to our hotel in Burlingame and were excited to snuggle in our huge bed:


We woke up and walked along the Bayshore trail.  Windy bliss.

We met Mom and Uncle J in San Bruno and took BART into San Francisco.  I thought this trip would be fairly magical, but my kids didn't love the BART train the way I thought they would.

When we got to the Embarcadero, I realized that when I'd said we were going to the Ferry Building, Anna thought I meant "Fairy" Building. It was packed, and a beautiful day for June.

That night was my wonderful Aunt and Uncle's 50th anniversary party.  Aaron was... overtired.  So I don't have a lot of great pics of the night, but here are a couple:


After meeting my cousins for breakfast, we drove back to Walnut Creek and played outside.  I saw one of my old friends for a BBQ at his house that night, and marveled at how great it is to be able to go grocery shopping AND pick up alcohol in one stop.

Mom, of course, had a birthday cake for my birthday boy:


We went to the Oakland Zoo.  I have many fond memories of going to this zoo when I was a kid, but I honestly can say it had been at least 25 years since I'd been there.  Still magical:

Monday was my Mom's birthday, and I had a dilemma.  I really wanted to see my cousins on my Dad's side, but knew that if I tried to organize something that my Mom would be anxious about it (I come from a long line of worriers.)  A woman in her thirties is a good problem-solver, so I decided the best thing would be to surprise my mom and keep her in the dark about what I had planned.  It was a total success: a beautiful night spent catching up over cupcakes.


Anna was already crying Tuesday morning when I told her we had only one more day left with Grandma.  

Thankfully, we had a good pool-distraction.  I met several (but not enough) of my girls in Martinez for splash-paddery.  We got lots of sun but not a lot of pictures.  Here are a few:

It's always amazing to me when I hang out with my friends and their kids.  I just want to go back to the days when we were watching Alyssa Milano's Teen Steam video in someone's living room and tell them just how incredible our lives are going to look down the road.


Time to come home.  The ride home was... barf baggy.  But we made it:

My trips back 'home' always leave me emotional.  I love the Bay, but it has changed so much. It is 'home' to me, but I also feel like I don't fit in there anymore.  Regardless, I was so happy I made this trip happen.  There are some things you can't put a price tag on, spending time with family is one of them.  'Till next time, California!