Category Archives: motherhood

Five Nights/Six Days

My babies left tonight. I dropped them off on a chilly soccer field as it was growing dark. I hugged and kissed them goodbye on the way there, because I’m aware of what’s socially acceptable for these boys. And after I waved goodbye, the older one ran after me for a final hug.

We’ve had six days and five nights of bliss together. Normally our schedule is 2-2-3, meaning two nights with me, two with their father, three with me (including a weekend), then it switches: two nights with him, two with me, three with him (including a weekend).

It’s a lot of going back and forth. And it’s hard. And it’s hard to keep track, sometimes — “Whose night is it tonight, Mama?”

But this long stretch? It was gorgeous. Relaxed. The three of us were calm and happy. There were none of the usual transition challenges, no anger, no tough behavior, no fighting between the boys that didn’t also involve a lot of laughter. We all just settled in happily for our extra days together, and it’s been beautiful.

There were two days of school, of course (today was a holiday — Happy New Year!). And they got to choose what we had for dinner (“Sloppy joes!”, declared one, but the other wanted a burger, but since both involve ground beef and buns, everyone got what they asked for). They did their homework. We had hilarious drawing sessions. They made a new neighborhood friend and spent hours outside with him (and other kids). We ordered pizza in the next town and wandered around in the rain waiting for our dinner to be ready. We finally had our first movie night in this new apartment.

We bought pumpkins and made lunches together and went to the trampoline park with friends. We spent a few hours in the woods, hiking and climbing around and listening to a red-tailed hawk screaming in the distance. We lounged around together on the couch, all in a pile, laughing and sometimes reading. Some mornings I woke up to find both or just one in my bed, snuggled against me. Other mornings, I woke alone, finding they’d stayed in their own beds all night, warm and snug.

They’re gone now, at their father’s for the next two nights. Their room is dark and empty, and the apartment is quiet. I kept up on the dishes like a pro for the past many days, but now that the boys are gone I’ve already fallen into a kind of ennui and the sink is already piled up. I don’t care. I’ll have the place clean and tidy before they return.

For now, I just listen to the crickets outside, all of my apartment dark except for the kitchen, and feel so, so glad my boys and I had a long stretch of time together. We all needed it.

 

Fitness at Home: Work Out in Your Living Room

I care about fitness. I care about having a functional, strong, healthy body. Also, I need to move and be active and challenge myself. And running for hours or doing a hard workout or spending 60 or 75 minutes doing yoga is fun for me. I’m really connected to my body, and often I stay centered through fitness. And, yes, the endorphins sure help a lot!

When the Kids Are at Their Dad’s

On my days without the kids, I go to the gym before work or go for a run or do a boot camp-style workout with a friend. Or, okay, sometimes I wake up early and then just lie in bed reading The New York Times on my phone. That’s nice, too. If it’s a weekend, I’ll meet my trail group for a run in the woods or go to yoga. Or, you know, lie in bed reading on my phone.

Single-Parenting Workouts

When the kids are here, however, I obviously can’t go for a run, and by the time I drop them off at school and get downtown there’s no time to get to the gym. My boot camp friend could come over and work out with me in my yard at dawn, but sometimes one (or both) of the kids gets up  and climbs into bed with me at quarter past it’s-anyone’s-guess. And I fear that if I’m not in the apartment but instead out in the yard, the child would search everywhere for me but not think to look in the yard (because when you’re half-asleep and needing Mommy, why would you check the backyard, especially if it’s barely light out??).

I’m just now getting to the point where 1) my hip is recovered enough that I’m ready to return to regular workouts and 2) I’m finally ready to get up early and work out on the days the kids are here. I’m tired lately, people. And that’s OK. Lying in bed reading before the day starts is a luxury.

Wednesday

This week, there was one day I got up early, ready to rock, except there was nothing to rock. I couldn’t leave the apartment. And I’m terrible about working out on my own. I know what to do. I could easily do an hour or more of yoga or circuit training or a boot camp-style workout or whatever. But alone — unless it’s running (and even then I like company!) — I’m not terribly motivated.

There. I’ve said it. I’m a very unmotivated fitness freak. I’m an introverted extrovert athlete. I’m a hermit until it comes to working out, which I can do for hours on end as long as I’m with other people.

Whatever.

I realized it was early and I should make good use of the time before the kids got up. Full disclosure: Ben had climbed into bed with me at 4:30 a.m., waking me at exactly the point in my sleep cycle at which I cannot go back to sleep, and then his small body somehow took up most of my bed. I had somehow nearly dozed off again when he started laughing in his dreams. I love that sound. Max used to laugh in his sleep all the time (maybe he still does). To hear Ben laugh in his sleep was delightful, if not terribly restful. It was, by then, nearly 5 a.m., and I gave up.

Scones

Anyway, there was a scones recipe I’d been wanting to try (more on that later).

Scones in the oven, I still had an hour before the kids would get up I had to get the kids up for school. I was so antsy to move.

chocolate chip scones with whole wheat flour; sort of a fitness treat?

Not necessarily your typical fitness treat, but they’re really good whole wheat chocolate chip scones.

Fitness Online

I’d retained enough of what I’d seen C and the kids do with the TV that I knew there was some kind of yoga or fitness channel somewhere. Long story short (wow, I’m getting more and more like my father every year — love you, Dad!), I found it is possible — very possible — to get in a good workout in your living room even if you’re an unmotivated/socially-motivated fitness slug like me.

I found my workouts on the Gaia channel (don’t ask me, maybe it’s a ROKU thing? I don’t really know how to work our TV except to use that device).

First workout: Kate Kendall, Flow Barre: Spicy Buns, 19:27. Kate Kendall is a lovely person who does these yoga/barre workout videos. You usually need a mat and a chair, and she’s filmed in some lovely location (a garden in Thailand? I have no idea). She’s approachable, friendly, knows when it burns, and will get you to the burn point in this nearly 20-minute workout before you’ve quite realized you’re going there. Go, Kate. She has a few other videos on the Gaia channel; I’ve done one other before “Spicy Buns” which is, as its name implies, a hip/glute workout.

Second workout: Rebekah Sturkie, The FIRM: Get Chisel’d: Kick It Into Gear, 14:29. Rebekah Sturkie is all business as she took me through a cardio/kickboxing routine. Mostly I could keep up (I’m terrible with learning new steps). She kept it simple, named the steps, and warned in ample time if a new step was coming up. She was relatively easy to follow, and the sequence got progressively more active (side kicks, knee-up, punches, front kicks). It definitely got my heart rate up and a sweat going. I would love an hour of that workout, but the almost 15 minutes was all the time I had left before I had to jump into the shower and then wake the kids. It was a really good and efficient workout, considering it was only 15 minutes.

So there you go. There are plenty of online/TV resources if you’re stuck at home and want to work out. I know Rebekah Sturkie is on YouTube if you don’t have Gaia.

And dangit, now I have no excuses, right? These people are just so personable that working out alone doesn’t feel so…alone.

Three cheers for learning how to use the remotes!

[This is not any kind of promotional post. I’m just trying to share what I found one morning when I wanted to work out at home. I’m sure there’s lots more out there, and I’ll share it as I come across it. Enjoy!]

On “Annie” and Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

I took the boys to see “Annie” tonight. I’d been tossing around the idea of taking them to the Big Apple Circus, which is an excellent circus (creative, funny, with all kinds of exciting acrobats, and they’re kind to animals and have sensory-friendly shows for people who can’t take a lot of noise and flashing lights and such).

But we’d missed all the “buy one get one free” ticket dates. And the last time we went, I was there to review it, which meant spectacular seats, which are not quite in the budget right now. Plus, I wasn’t up for schlepping the kids by T all the way into Boston, getting home late (or getting home right in time for an afternoon of soccer and T-ball with no time for lunch).

I was sorry to have to miss the circus, but then I found out the local middle school was putting on a performance of “Annie Jr.” tonight. I have no idea why it is called “Annie Jr.” It was basically “Annie,” the musical. I haven’t seen it since I was five or so (and no, I’m not going to do the math for you on how long ago that was), so maybe there’s more to the story, but let’s just call it “Annie.”

Of course I made the boys hit the bathroom before the show. And there was the “Boys’ Restroom” and “Girls’ Restroom” and then this:

IMG_7926

Yay, Ottoson Middle School!

 

We headed right for it.

The boys had some questions about this. Why did they have this bathroom, which was a good-sized single-room bathroom? Who would use it? Why would anyone need it if there’s a girls’ room and a boys’ room?

“Well,” I began, “some people might not feel comfortable in the boys’ bathroom or the girls’ bathroom.” Never mind the wheelchair accessibility issue, which I completely overlooked in this conversation; bathroom rights are on my mind.

“Why?” Max asked.

“Well, they just might not feel comfortable in there, or going to the bathroom in there.” Wow, I am lame.

“But why not?” Max persisted.

“Well,” I began again, “some people who are born as boys feel more like they are girls, and some people who are born as girls feel more like they are boys. And so they might not feel comfortable in a boys’ or girls’ bathroom.”

“Oh, you mean ‘transgender,'” said my wise second grader. “So a boy feels more like a girl.”

Right, thanks, yeah, that’s the word I was looking for, child.

“Yes,” I said. “Well, not exactly. It could be a girl who feels more like she’s a boy. Or someone who feels like they are either or neither, they’re a person without having to be a boy or a girl.”

And then, in a rush, I remembered the middle school years and all that might happen there — periods, having to take a dump at school, weird body stuff, whatever.

“Oh,” I added, “and sometimes people just want to be in the bathroom by themselves. Do you ever want to use the bathroom by yourself at school?”

My children looked confused. “No. Why would anyone want that?”

Nope. I am not going to get into early menstruation here.

“So where did you learn about transgender people? And do you have any questions about it?” They did not, and they ran off down the hall toward the theater. We’ll talk about it more another time.

And then we miraculously got pretty good seats in the middle school gym, and when we found out we still had another half-hour before showtime, we played tic-tac-toe and I bought the boys some candy and we had a grand old time. It’s nice to see them so happy.

When the show began — this middle school production easily on par with the community theater I once performed with up in Maine — the boys were mesmerized. I wasn’t sure they’d be into “Annie,” since they’re so into “Star Wars” and wars and battles and Nerf guns and are definitely not into singing and not entirely comfortable with dancing and here they were at an entire musical about little girls and everyone’s singing and dancing.

They loved it. They loved it all. They were as rapt as they’d been at the circus, in fact.

After intermission, as we waited for the second act to begin, Ben said, “This is boring!” and I tensed but then realized he meant the intermission.

Best part, maybe? He clapped. This is a kid who hates when I applaud at any event. It bugs him, and he tries to block my hands. Tonight? He clapped. After every song. And so did Max. They’d close up their push-pops (don’t judge) and applaud.

So. Congratulations, local middle school, for an excellent and full-hearted production. And extra congratulations, local middle school, for your gender neutral bathroom and the conversations it brings up.

Applause.

 

 

Without the Kids

We’re all still adjusting to the new schedule, but we’re coming along. Some things haven’t changed much: I still pick the kids up from school every day, for example. And we’re all together each weekend for T-ball and soccer, plus we all see each other on soccer practice nights during the week.

My first weekend without the kids, I kept busy. Very busy. I transformed my living room from an unlit space with merely a chair, a rug, and a TV to a warm, inviting, somewhat stylish place with a couch, a side table, lamps, and a plant (thanks, IKEA and the woman whose moving sale I happened across on my way home from a trail run!).

The weekdays are just busy, anyway, what with work and school pickup and trying to get done what I can and figuring out who has the cleats and which house has the favorite pajamas and do the kids have pants for tomorrow. Tonight felt like the first real night of being without the children.

I brought the boys to meet up with C at a sporting goods store to get baseball gloves for the boys (alas, C and I couldn’t find any for ourselves at a reasonable price). Then in the parking lot I handed over their backpacks, kissed them goodbye, and headed off. Without them. It was jolting and freeing but mostly, at the moment, jolting.

Stay busy. I went to the grocery store and then home. The night’s plan for a coconut curry veggie soup had to be postponed because I wanted to get to a meeting. My road running club is trying to find a new location for their annual ultra, and I want to participate.

But home alone, making dinner (well, reheating leftovers from when I grilled on Saturday night — and ask me if I have finally mastered the charcoal grill. Yes, yes, I have. I’m very proud of this after an adulthood of gas grilling), I felt a great aloneness. It wasn’t terrible. But I realized that so many people live alone all the time, not just part of the time. They eat all their meals alone. I know it can be satisfying sometimes, but that seemed a little lonely to me, to have to eat alone most of the time.

Me, I ended up pretty happy to eat dinner and read the paper and then brush my teeth and head out. Would I have been so sanguine if I didn’t have somewhere to go? I don’t know. I would have found something to do, I’m sure. But I’ve had constant chaos and noise and movement for the past almost eight years. For me, the quiet and the not-being-in-charge-of-everything is not terrible. It’s hard to talk about what all of this is really like without sounding disloyal or unmotherly or… let’s just say that as a Capricorn introvert, this new quiet in my home is interesting.

Yes, keeping busy is my M.O. for now, and that’s OK. There’s plenty of time for meditation later. It’s OK to stay busy as we get used to this.

I met the group to brainstorm possible race locations, discuss pros and cons, and figure out next steps. I met new people. I laughed. I was asked for my opinion. I came up with ideas. I felt useful and independent.

And then home again, home again. On my kid-free days I can leave home super-early to get to the gym before work, but tomorrow I might try to get to a 6 a.m. yoga class instead. I’m not sure that will quite be possible, as it’s more than a mile in the wrong direction.

I’m always lugging lots of stuff to work: gym stuff, my laptop, shower stuff and work clothes (for after the gym), breakfast and lunch (in reusable containers, of course, so I lug it all home again). That’s a lot of stuff to lug. I don’t mind, but I’m not sure I can add a yoga mat and bike helmet to it all.

So it’s off to the gym tomorrow, and I’ll probably meet my running club for the track workout tomorrow night, mostly because I can.

Being alone sometimes is OK.

 

Why I Look Haggard

Here’s how a typical night goes for me, though there are many variations:

Lights out by 11 p.m.

Husband wakes up around 3 a.m., goes to the kitchen for a snack. The sound wakes me up.

He comes back to bed. Cat comes in meowing. I pretend I’m asleep. So does my husband. He ignores the cat, who’s keeping me awake. I ignore her too. She swats at my toes a few times and stalks out.

I hear her push open the door to the kids’ room and meow fruitlessly at them. She clicks across the hardwood to the living room.

My husband is snoring by now. I tell him he’s snoring. Sometimes I hiss at him or shove his shoulder to wake him but on this particular night I simply tell him. He stops snoring.

Now I can sleep again, but there’s the creak of a door and little footsteps and here comes a child to snuggle in with me. “Why are you in here?” I ask, even as he curls up against me and I pull the covers over him.

“I was too cold to get under the covers,” he murmurs. I tell him I can bring him back to his bed and will put the covers over him. He’s already asleep again in my arms.

It’s nice, this snuggling, but there is so much breathing in this room. Child’s breathing. Husband’s breathing. Here comes the damn cat again.

I don’t have the energy to carry the child back to his own bed, so I leave him in mine and get up and go crawl into his bed. But first I must move my cell phone and charger, so the alarm will wake me (hah!) and unplug the filter of the fish tank in the kids’ room, because the noise keeps me awake, and turn off their nightlight.

Ah, bed. I forgot his pillow is hard and hurts my jaw because I like to sleep on my stomach. I don’t have the energy to get up and get my own pillow.

Tick, tick, tick, tick. The wall clock. It is loud. I try to incorporate the sound into relaxing back to sleep.

I give up and check my phone. 4:26 a.m. I might still fall back to sleep. I won’t give up yet.

4:55 a.m. Furnace kicks on directly below me. I might still go back to sleep!

5:23 a.m. I give up. I just give up. I might as well get up now.

I get up. And let the cat out.

Hello, Monday.

 

Creating A Star Chart for Kids

We’ve needed a star chart for a long time. “Just find clip art!” someone (a teacher? therapist?) told us brightly. “Just make one!”

For tired and overwhelmed (and hey, design-challenged) parents, “just finding clip art” can be a daunting task. What clip art? Where do I find it? What do I need to put on the chart? Also, our brief experience with a potty training chart hadn’t been encouraging (not the chart’s fault).

This has, of course, come up again in a recent meeting. Last year the preschool had a neat chart they’d put together. They wouldn’t give us a copy, despite all the meetings and tuition payments and looks of defeat on our faces. Nope, we had to come up with our own.

Fast-forward a year, and we’re told the teacher might share a “home-school chart.” I started to think, again, about all the times we could use a star chart. The morning hell. The after-school routine. Bedtime bedlam. General behavior, table manners, the few small chores they have. WHERE DO WE START?? We also don’t want to have charts everywhere like some kind of maniacal control freaks. Just one small chart to start, please … but one that really meets our needs.

I hit the Internet harder than ever. And found the solution. It’s a site called GoMommyGo.com and frankly it’s kind of a noisy site. But it is extremely useful. You can either download one of the pre-made charts on the site or give the site your email (that’s right — that is all you have to do) and download your own customizable chart. Yes. For FREE you get a word document with a chart format AND a ton of clip art, organized into topics, that you might need. Everything for the morning routine! For after school! Chores! Bedtime! Prayers, washing windows, feeding the cat –you name it, there’s clip art here for you to use!

The chart we downloaded has five rows. That’s good. That’s all a kid can handle sometimes. We settled on a morning routine chart, since 1) mornings are a really hard right now and 2) if we start the day well, maybe the rest will be better?

I made and printed the chart (had already bought shiny star stickers at Staples, but you can probably get them at any drugstore or office supply store). Then we went over it with the kids. If you do something (get dressed, brush teeth) after being told only once, you get a star (you get two stars if you do it without being told). If you get ALL your stars in a day, you can have iPad time or some other child-suggested-in-advance treat after school. If you get all your stars in a week, you can have —

— “A HAMSTER!!!!!” Ben shouted.

Aw jeez no. He’d stopped mentioning it months ago but I guess he still wants one. Ugh.

“Uh, we were thinking some other kind of special treat, like an ice cream party at home, or going out for slushies, or going to see a movie,” I suggested.

“Yeah, a hamster might be after three months of all your stars,” said C.

“No, a week!” said Ben.

“Maybe three weeks,” I said.

[NOTE: SORT THIS STUFF OUT WITH YOUR SPOUSE BEFORE YOU INTRODUCE THE STAR CHART TO YOUR KIDS. Also, don’t forget that if you turned on the boiler fill valve before you started a load of laundry, make sure you TURN IT OFF before you forget all about it and come back upstairs to go over the star chart with your family, unless you really love wasting water, flooding your basement, and hauling buckets of water to drain the boiler. Trust me on this. Also, our boiler turned out to be fine — as our neighbor said, noticing me pouring five-gallon buckets of water on the lawn in the dark, “it’s like an enema for your boiler.” Yes.]

First day, Max tried hard to do everything without being told, which is pretty normal for him. Ben, on the other hand, thought he should get a star for “get dressed” even though C dressed him after we’d spent 25 minutes trying to get him out of bed, because … well, I’m not sure why he thought he should get a star for that, honestly. I still don’t.

The next day went better, as did the day after that. And tonight before bed they reminded me to print a new chart for tomorrow.

Wow. So easy. The chart, and getting them to follow it. Maybe we should also introduce a bedtime chart. The site makes it very easy to make one.

So if you think you need a star chart and don’t know where to start, try gomommygo.com (and ignore the site noise). It’s so helpful!

 

Talking to Strangers Like I Talk to My Kids

I seem to be just coming out as myself all over the place lately. As in, I don’t hold back. Maybe I don’t socialize enough anymore. I used to at least be able to count on the twice-a-day adult interaction at drop-off and pickup from school, which helped in remembering how to delineate child-interaction from adult interaction.

My job, much as I like it, does not involve much interaction with others. Editing is not exactly like being a concierge, or being in sales, or some other interact-with-other-people sort of profession. It’s solitary, even in an open office.

So maybe my boundaries are slipping, or maybe I’m just turning into that grumpy “Get off my lawn!” old person I’ve always been inside.

Cases in point:

1. To the Host Child

Max was invited to a pool party at his friend’s house this weekend, and siblings were invited (YAY forever grateful for that, thank you!!), and of course to maintain the one-adult-per-child-in-the-pool ratio, C and I both went. (In swimsuits, of course….the only adults who showed up in swimsuits. And the only adults who got in the pool, because Ben insisted one of us swim with him, and the only adults who said a hearty, “Yes, please!” to the rainbow cake while all the other adults politely declined. We normally are more socially appropriate, but I was famished and C likes cake. As do I.). Anyway, the host child was sitting next to me, filling up water balloons, and ran out of water. “Mom!” he yelled. “MOM! I need more water!” His mother was halfway across the pool, deep in conversation with another parent.

I turned to him. I’d been tying the balloons for him. “Don’t yell,” I said. “If you need something, get up and walk over and talk to her. Don’t just sit here and yell ‘Mom.”

Readers, it just came out of my mouth. He looked so surprised. Not upset. But like it hadn’t occurred to him — or maybe like no one other than a parent had spoken to him like this before. Then he got up and trotted over to his mother and asked her to get him more water.

I was possibly even more surprised that I’d just spoken like that to someone else’s kid. I guess we don’t do that anymore–parent other people’s kids. It was really quite normal back when I was a kid, from what I understand. But not today. And he’s not even one of the kids we’re used to seeing around our house, one of the kids mine have grown up with or are always over.

2. On the Bus

I was on the bus in the morning, headed to the subway. A guy got on with luggage and stood in the aisle near the front. That’s fine — people do it, and the bus wasn’t that crowded, and he wasn’t blocking anyone.

But then he launched into a massive explanation to the driver about why he was there and not moving to a seat, because he didn’t want to impede people with his luggage, and on and on, and the driver was listening very politely even though I think he should have just been driving, and finally I said to the guy, almost automatically, “Please stop talking,” but I didn’t say it loud enough for him to hear me, it turns out. It’s what I say when Max talks over me or keeps talking when he’s supposed to be getting his shoes on or something. His own talking can distract himself sometimes. I know “Please stop talking” sounds kind of rude but sometimes, really, you need to just stop talking to either get something done or let someone else get something done.

Maybe I should lose that phrase. But there you go. It came out.

3. Why Are You Driving Like That? 

This evening, I had to bring the kids with me to pick up our CSA. Usually I pick it up on the way to track but for various reasons, including an irritated hamstring (“cranky hammy,” if you will), I opted out. And C had to be somewhere, so I brought both kids with me to pick up the CSA and then we stopped by the bike shop for a tube for Max’s bike.

Related: I foolishly went to the farmer’s market 3 days before our CSA started, leaving me overwhelmed with greens from the get-go. I have been eating mizuna, kale, and lettuce twice a day (and making my family eat it at least once a day) for the past 11 days and brought a huge kale salad to a party this weekend. No matter. I am behind in greens in week 2 of our CSA season. Wish me luck.

Anyway, so we’re on a one-lane, one-way street, and the light changes, and we creep forward across the intersection. From our right, a car turns left to face the same direction as us, but they crept around to my left side — as if they were going to somehow go around us?

I turned my head toward them. “Where are you trying to go?” I asked them. “We’re all going the same way. There’s no room. We’re all trying to go here. I don’t know what you’re doing.”

Seriously, only then did I really look at them — male driver, female passenger. They could have cursed, flipped me off, shot me, rammed my car. I think my mom tone threw them for a loop. They muttered to each other. They waited their turn. Once we started moving again, they waited for a space and ended up two cars behind me.

It’s a little bit refreshing, to be honest, this whole “speak my mind” business. I might just keep it up.

And you, there. Get off my lawn.

Scurrying: The Things That Used to Be Mine

I’ve had so much to say these past few months, and a list of posts to write (and some half-written). But I’m always, it seems, scurrying. Scurrying around in the morning to drink coffee and kiss my sleeping children goodbye and head out to the train by 7 a.m. (Except on the days when I run to work, when I drink coffee and eat a quick bowl of cereal, then put on my packed-the-night-before running backpack and leave at 6:10 or 6:30 and run an hour to get to the office, arriving happy and calm and feeling good.)

Sometimes on the train I have room to crochet the blanket I’m making for my friend’s baby; sometimes I just have room to read a book. Scurrying the half-mile from train to work. Planted solidly at my desk all day (all day, all day — no on one my team has time for actual lunch breaks). [This past week I finally, for the very first time in my three-and-a-half months at this company, took a lunch break, almost an hour, in which I changed, ran 3.2 miles, picked up the fastest closest lunch I know of, scurried back to the office, showered, dressed, and was back at my desk 3 minutes shy of an hour. I felt like such a fucking rebel…and so much better.]

Is this what you all do at work? Is this a normal work life? I could say a ton more about that but I will not.

At exactly 5 p.m I rush from my desk, race-walk to the train, hope I can pick the fastest line down the stairs to the train (Why are you walking in the middle, so slowly, with your big bag? Move right!!), and get on such a packed car that sometimes all I can do is just read my phone, because there isn’t room to hold open a book. Then a half-mile scurry from train to home, arriving home at 6 p.m., quick low-down from the sitter while I’m starting dinner and listening to variously shouting children and changing out of work clothes, then I try to feed them and ask about their days.

They want to stay outside playing, totally normal if you ask it. It’s summer. It’s light out. Kids are still out, and life is fun. Why come in and wash hands and sit and eat and start the bedtime routine?

After the dinner-to-bed mayhem wraps up sometime by 8:30 or 9 p.m., we do laundry, clean the kitchen, etc. If I’m running to work the next day, I pack my clothes and plug in my Garmin and make sure I’m ready to go.

We’re so behind on everything, and so very tired.

I do not like this pace, not at all. Soon my office will move, in less than a month, to a location that gives me the chance to do necessary tasks such as buy shoes or go to CVS over my lunch break (Lo! I will start taking an occasional lunch break!). My commute will also shorten, thank goodness.

We are just emerging from Birthday Madness, in which we celebrate both boys’ birthdays in less than two weeks, which involves a ton of baking and present-procurement and wrapping and inviting and parties. And hosting parties involves a ton of house-cleaning and shopping and planning and set-up. Not used to hosting actual birthday parties, since until this year Max didn’t want to invite more than 2 kids over, we could have done a better job with his party this year (as in, if you invite a bunch of kids who don’t know each other, a sponge bomb battle might be a terrible idea). For Ben’s party yesterday, I was so organized with so many activities that we only got through two of them (seltzer-can bowling and pin the tail on the donkey — total success!), and though this time we were ready for a post-party BBQ (taking notes from Max’s party), everyone announced (when they arrived) that they had to leave before we’d start grilling.

Come over, all of you readers. We have a ton of food.

Today we had nothing scheduled. Well, except my morning long run with a good friend, and Max’s soccer tournament (who’s happy soccer season is finally over? WE ARE). Then we went to the beach, which seemed like such a brilliant idea this morning (right? we need to relax, it’s hot, soccer tournament in the sun) but the beach was freezing and windy and everyone else was in jeans and hoodies and Max was worried the salt water would hurt the scrape on his knee). The water was OK but the wind froze us, then we went out to dinner and there was a disaster with the haddock [do not try to serve me bad haddock, ever] and we were there an extra hour because of it, so it was a late and stressful evening again, the opposite of what we wanted.

Max was mad, two days ago, when he found out that grown-ups don’t get summer vacation. Apparently he thought we’d finally have some time together as a family.

It’s the first I’d really heard him admit to missing having me around.

We are so very tired, and there’s little room for error. Our sitter is away next Friday and Monday, and we can’t well drop the kids into camp for one day here and there, so C will take Friday off. My mom might watch them Monday but if not I will have to take the day off work, which is not ideal for a million reasons.

I read a few pages of my book every night but there’s otherwise so little downtime right now. I don’t think this is good for any of us. I was supposed to run to work tomorrow but I need some extra sleep and that will throw off my running schedule for the rest of the week.

I can’t care about that right now. I am so racheted down to work, feed kids, get kids to bed, work, feed kids…There seems to be little space for creativity or beauty or friends. I miss my friends. I miss my blogging friends. I haven’t seen them in months. I haven’t seen other friends in even longer. I miss the events I used to go to. I miss going out on weeknights. I miss being bored. I miss finishing my New Yorkers. I miss the Sunday paper.

I miss playing with my kids. I miss the other parents at school. I miss having any control over their lives or taking them to their dentist and doctor appointments now (that generally falls to C these days, not a bad thing 7 years in, but still. I miss doing it).

I don’t know what the answer is, but this isn’t it. Not at all. I miss my kids. I miss my life. I know I am glad to be back to work full-time, but the balance is so far off that this is not sustainable at all.

That’s why my blog has been so quiet for so long. I hate to say that I’m barely hanging on, because I’ve said it before and then whoomph, holy shit, did I think I was busy then? Because now I am super-busy!

We’re going to win this. I just don’t know what the path to winning looks like right now. The end result will be more family time, more flex-time, more time for creativity and errands and life and a slower pace. How we get there, I’m not sure yet. If I have to move us all to Pennsylvania or Maine, I will do it. In a heartbeat.

What I do know is that I am sick of the inglorious scurrying. And of the way it kills calm and creativity and community.

I can change that. And I will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast Pace, Slow Legs

Happy Mother’s Day! It’s actually supposed to be a day of women uniting for rights, I think, not a day about brunch and flowers. We don’t do the brunch-and-flowers thing here, which is fine with me, though the boys usually make me cute cards. And yesterday we had a great day of biking to breakfast and the library, buying the boys new shoes, checking out a new birthday bike (shhhh!) for Max, napping on the couch, and grilling.

My usual Mother’s Day tradition is to go run a local 5K, and my family meets me afterward. This year I’m going extra-early to volunteer at the race. Though I’ve placed in my age group more than once at this race, these days I am SLOWWWWWW as molasses and will be embarrassed about my time because I will probably be 4-5 minutes slower than usual (for a 5K!! That’s like more than half a mile at my usual 5K pace!! Hey, legs, what is going on??).

I’m actually going extra-extra early to meet a friend for coffee before the race, since we never see each other anymore and only have contact via Gmail chat or sometimes texting.

I’m swamped these days, people. Swamped. I got up at 5:30 today to post for a new sitter, since our sitter situation is quickly unraveling. That’s not what we need. We just have to muddle through for another month and a half, somehow.

What I should have been doing, up at 5:30, is working on a presentation I have due on Tuesday (my first presentation since…. a brief stint in a sustainability graduate program in 1998? Unless you count literary readings in grad school, 2003?). And it will be my very first-ever PowerPoint presentation — to about 80 [teleconferencing] people (who thankfully will only see the screen and hear my voice but not actually see me, though my team will see me present).

But it’s been a long work week and I feel a need for a break this weekend. Those of you wondering why I haven’t been blogging, answering emails, or otherwise “responsive,” it’s because I am swamped. If I’m not commuting, I’m working. If I’m not working, I’m taking care of the kids for 3 intense hours when I get home from work. If I’m not doing that, I’m prepping meals/lunches, doing laundry, or cleaning up the kitchen (yes, so is my husband–we are both getting our asses kicked right now by the general nonstop-ness of it all). And this week I’ve then been working in the evenings, too (OK, this was also his week to pack lunches, and he took care of the evening kitchen clean-up, since I was working).

And then 6 hours later the alarm goes off and it all starts over.

So I haven’t had time to hire a sitter, but yesterday I finally got a crocheting book from the library and have made excellent progress on a baby blanket for a pregnant friend (I apparently have only 3 more weeks to finish it, and it’s not something I can work on during my hour-long commute because the trains are so packed). [Justine, if you’re reading this, do NOT look at the picture–it’s a surprise!]

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So far, so good, right? It’s really easy!! and yes, the “bobbles” got a little out of alignment, but that just gives it character. [Justine! I said not to look at the picture!]

So at least I’m making something, and I do get a lot of reading done on my commute, and I even managed to write a letter once when I went to work extra-early and had room to sit and write on the train!

I have yet to write my Boston Marathon recap (in short: AMAZING) and talk about my current state of running (dreadful).

But now it’s time to get ready to go to the race. Here’s hoping another afternoon nap will happen later!

 

 

Today Is My Birthday

Today is my birthday. I’m 43 years old.

In a former life (or alternate universe), I’d take a break from my amazing and fulfilling job and go to yoga, then out for a really good lunch (sushi, or that new ramen shop, or oooooh maybe to a Korean place), then dinner would involve lots of laughter, a platter of nachos (with a Bruins game on in the background, maybe), and a really good cake, all while reflecting on the upcoming fabulous year.

However, I am unemployed, the kids have a half-day of school (alas, no time for lunch out), and Max’s final piano lesson/recital is tonight, smack in the middle of the time we’d be having cake and such, meaning we have to postpone my birthday cake until tomorrow. And I’m fine with all of that, because I am already having an awesome day.

I woke up too early, a little hungry, with my warm snuggly teddy bear—I mean, my son Ben—by my side. He likes to climb into bed with me in the middle of the night, because he gets cold (and, um, in the summer, too, because he gets….warm?). I was going to get up soon, anyway, to work out in the frozen field next to my house, so I decided, after an hour of lying awake in bed listening to Ben and my husband breathe, that I should just get up.

The workout is from some fitness website I came across while looking for a “figure skating workout.” I recently took up skating again (if hitting the rink a few times and then spending an afternoon on a nearby frozen pond counts as “took up skating again”), and I was actually looking for (don’t laugh) YouTube videos to teach me how to do some to of the spins and jumps I could do as a kid.

Instead, I found this excellent full-body workout, which naturally I printed out, laminated, and brought to the field at dawn the other day, where I met my friend for our morning routine. This workout is a good one: I know, because by last night I hurt a lot (yeah, that is how I measure a good workout). My upper body and core really took a beating, which is great, so this morning we’re meeting at 6 a.m. to do it again (but not the single-leg rotating hops, because I am not an idiot. I’m not going to risk blowing a meniscus doing single-leg rotating hops in an uneven frozen field, for chrissake).

Also as part of today’s plan I’m going to make kimchee, because I like kimchee and haven’t made any in awhile.

Since I am still ragingly unemployed, I’ll probably also finish my holiday cards (what? It’s never too late to get mail from me, right?).

The kids have a half day today (thanks, school!), so I’m picking them up midday and taking them (and hopefully some of their friends) to the town pond for an afternoon of skating. I’ll feed the kids an early dinner, take them to the recital (where C will meet us), and then C and I will eat a late dinner while watching Louis C.K., and we’ll have birthday cake tomorrow instead.

I might take the boys out for ice cream this afternoon, though, after skating.

So that’s what’s up for my 43rd birthday, and I am most looking forward to this morning’s workout, an afternoon on the pond, and Max’s recital (in part, I confess, because it means the end of this session of piano lessons, and I believe we all need a little break from it). And tomorrow, kimchee and cake!

What do birthday celebrations look like for you these days?